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I hate to be a party pooper, but keep in mind that no quantity or quality of playback equipment will make bad music good.

When I was in college in the early 70s most of my male friends were very much into those classic Marantz receivers, and I was dazzled by their blue glow. I did not have much money back then, but I’ve always been kind of picky about technical stuff (computers, cameras, and audio), so my first stereo components were a low-end Kenwood KA-2002A amplifier (about 10w RMS per channel) and a Dual 1216 turntable. It wasn’t until 1978 that I got a (still low-end) Yamaha CR-220 receiver and a Technics SL220 turntable. It may be a sad statement that I don’t have a nice stereo at home any more (everything went to my spouse in the divorce 8 years ago), but I did splurge to put a very nice stereo in my car.

Where I tend to accumulate vintage technology is with Apple Macintoshes, as I bought one of the first 10,000 ever made and have kept my retired machines (original 128K, LCII, IIcx, 8500) plus one or two others. I want to get the software / hard drive cleaned up on a Mac Classic II I inherited so that I can play some of the old Mac computer games (primarily Arkanoid and Super Tetris). I keep all my original software disks and manuals. However, this project is on a far, far backburner.

Regarding the Befriend a Forgotten Camera challenge, your post has already done what you’ve intended at least in one person’s life, Mike. For several months recently I’d toyed with the idea of buying an old Kodak Retina IIIc, as that was the model of camera my parents had and was the only 35mm camera I had access to while I was growing up. Your challenge motivated me to buy one on eBay, and I’m now in the process of shooting a test roll. Using this camera does bring back a lot of memories from when I was a kid. So I thank you for starting this challenge.

I have extra rolls of film, so I guess I’m also going to have to test the Nikon F100 I bought on Craigslist in February. I’ve been way too busy for that.

At this stage in my life I’m *trying* to let go of stuff -- to give away things I no longer use -- so I’m having to figure out if I’m hanging on to (or accumulating) stuff for its sentimental value, collector value, or practical value -- and what I can actually live without. Things that are simply nostalgic might not be worth the added clutter to my house and garage. I’m still trying to figure all this out.


It's funny you should write about the Marantz, I recently passed on a Marantz 2218 at the church rummage sale. I am always on the outlook for stuff at our sale having furnished my workshop and darkroom systems with Denon and NAD equipment with B&W speakers. Every year I upgrade to older equipment and donate back the previous years stuff. I probably should of grabbed the unit but how much stuff do I need? I really don't need racks of Marantz receivers cluttering up the basement, although it would be fun.

Very nice.
I've made a comment and expansion: [eolake_blogspot_com]

I left behind my audiophile nerdiness behind a long time ago when I got rid of my second-hand Dyna pre-amp and power amp and the AR fully manual turntable, all purchased with funds earned sccoping ice cream. I'm just about your exact age and, until quite recently, lugged around about an equivalent size LP collection every time I moved.

I also have large collections of reel to reel tapes and cassette tapes which contain marvelous mixes put together by a jazz-guitarist friend of mine starting from when we were about 14 years old. I've kept them not just because his sense of melange was brilliant, but some of the music is no longer available and I felt I had a duty to posterity to archive it.

However, I no longer owned a reel to reel deck; seldom listened to the cassettes, since after a painful period of adjustment my ears were converted to CD-sound, I now found old cassette sound remarkably muddy and hissy (or maybe it's just their ferric oxide molecules deteriorated over the course of 30 years); and putting on my LPs required making everyone, including children, creep aroung the house in gum-soled shoes.

So under threat of a 50% rent increase and an imminent move I bought a $50 device that would allow me to digitize anything off my stereo. It took a while to figure it all out and find a place I could plug in a laptop near enough to the stereo that everyone wouldn't be tripping over cables (Manhattan apartment, you know, no den in the basement). So then your hit the pause record button on your screen, drop the needle, check your levels manually (remember that?) with an on-screen slider. Then reset the arm at the beginning and release the pause. 20 minutes later, after making sure no one has run across the floor, hit pause, flip the album, drop the needle, un-pause and guard the floor for another 20 minutes. When this is all done you have a gigantic WAV file. The software has a built in "cut estimator" which tries to figure out (based on amplitude?) where one cut ends and another begins but it has a hard time with slow quiet passages and since my collection includes a lot of instrumental jazz I basically had to manually find where each cut begins and ends. When that's done you get to convert the 10 new WAV files into MP3 files. And of course, they contain no metadata, so you get to type in all the discography, 1 cut at a time. Takes about an hour and a half per LP.

My wife, who has the patience of a saint for the teenage-boy carapace I drag around with me, was growing testy. I went through our LP collection and got rid of all the crap - albums we'd picked up from ex boyfriends and girlfriends along the way, our parents cast off monaural classical albums, Charlie Brown's Christmas, my wife's girlhood favorite Monkee's Greatest Hits, the demo album a fiend had cut in 1976, and put all of them on Craigs List. A nice opera singer from Brooklyn bought a few but expressed real interest in the good stuff. I told him, call me in a few months - after I move I'm digitizing them all; then you can have them.

Next. I'd been paring down the reel-to-reel tape collection for some years so that all that was left was the really essential stuff. After we moved I bought a Teac 3300 on eBay for $85. All the text had been worn off the buttons and guages by use. I scoured the internet for readable images so I'd know which buttons were which. I cleaned the heads lovingly with cotton swabs daubed in witch hazel. Guess what? All those ancient shamrock tapes sounded like crap. Also, at some point the quartered looseleaf sheets with my jazz friends copious discography had obviously been mixed up. The tapes I had were not the essentials listed on the sheets; they were Simon and Garfunkel and other readily available stuff.

By then we had moved, months had passed; the opera singer called to tell me he was going on a South American tour and would be gone for months - was I ready to sell? No, I told him, give me a few more months.

Nothing has happened. So when he returned I let him come over with a friend and, at $0.50 each, I sold him virtually every album I still owned. I gave the Technics auto-turntable to my mother, who's still listening to the scratchy monaural classical music of her youth. The tape deck and the tapes still sit athwart the living room floor gathering dust - out of inertia I have failed to get rid of them.

In the meantime, for my 50th birhtday my brother and sister bought me a Logitech Wireless DJ. It gives me an iPod-like remote control that lets me play my iTunes music collection wirelessly over my stereo. It's far from perfect, but yesterday afternoon while wife and daugher were out, I cranked up the Mahavishnu Orchestra's Inner Mounting Flame (circa 1971) and relived the 14-year old inspiration I had with those soaring guitar lines; then followed up with the more mature The New Classics from Herbie Hancock. In the meantime, I've held on to all the discographies and I trawl the net for them. Every few months, I recover another old treasure - most recently a Bill English Vanguard re-release.

Mike, this could be your future. I know it may sound sad, and a great loss; but as with cameras, I now try to spend more time taking and making picutes than worrying about whether I have the best gear (that's why I read your blog more often than DPReview!). Just listening to my music is more important to me now than doing it on the right equipment. This represents a loss, but also a gain (in maturity?)

Now does anybody know where I can get Joe Byrd and the American Metaphysical Field Hippie's album online?



Very nice post - I really enjoyed reading it, this Sunday morning here in California. I am sure I understand how you feel about giving a new life to these old machines - I think of my 2 old Zeiss microscopes, my Mac Pismo.

When I was young (that's getting to be a longer and longer time ago heh), and before college, I knew I wanted to be a scientist. Well, I got a bottom-of-the-line Zeiss microscope, my dad gave it to me as a gift.

We went to the dealer (that was in Sao Paulo, Brazil) and he was this big German guy, speaking (Portuguese) with a heavy accent. He seemed so immensely proud of the microscopes. He showed we how to adjust the achromatic condenser in the one I was buying.

It was really expensive, and I wanted a mechanical stage, you know, the plate with knobs where you put the microscope slide, that thing is built like a micrometer, smooth, precise... but that was way beyond what my dad should spend on my first microscope anyways - and the German said so. He didn't try and push _any_ accessories. We trusted him.

Anyways, to make a long story short, a year ago I saw on ebay (by "casually" browsing for Zeiss parts) a stage which was exactly the one I lusted for. So, I bought it, for a fraction of what it would have cost back then.

Am I using the microscope again? Nope, I plan to, but not quite yet. But it is sitting on my computer desk (a huge Anthro) and I glance at it every now and then, and I feel _really_ good about "it." It seems happier than ever.

Just like your Marantz. Someone still loves them. Hm, do mechanical gadgets have a soul?

mike c

Well, that does it. I am snapping up the very next Campagnolo Record equipped 57cm Masi Super Corsa I see on ebay.

Mike, maybe this is irrelevant, but you didn't comment on the sound quality of the Marantz.

I am with Adam on this. Unless you have serious money, you cannot do audio and photography. While I still subscribe to Stereophile, I realized a long time ago that I can either take pictures and deal with photography, or I can mess with audio. They are parallel obsessions, with the difference that there is no active side to being an audiophile, other than becoming a repairman. Photography gets you out of the house, audio is an especially dangerous addiction when you live in places where staying in the house is easy. Vinyl is the worst, those folks are never happy and phone cartridges cost more per gram than cocaine.:-)

Going fishing does not mean shifting obsessions. Go out and take some pictures.

Still have and use as our main stereo the JBL 88's and Marantz1120 i bought from Stereo Warehouse in San Luis Obispo in 1973. Quite a step, both moneywise and trust for me back then. The only things you bought through the mail were from Wards, Pennys, or Sears!
So when my wife and I built our shed a couple of years ago out to EBAY i went for another, well it turned out to be two, 1122 and a pair of JBL 100's, yeah it turned out to be two pair of those as well! THEY WERE SO CHEAP! and they sound great! I have my computer wired in and cant believe how good streaming internet radio sounds but you swich over to a cd.... WOW my seven year old daughter frequently tell me to Turn it Down Daddy. No i-pods or ear-buds for me. Which brings up another issue, the multiple generations of kids who have grown up listening to music "alone" ear-buds and who are experiencing photographic images only on a monitor.

"that there is no active side to being an audiophile, other than becoming a repairman"

Sure there is - being a studio musician, a recording engineer, a producer. And if you think photography is an expensive hobby check out professional recording equipment.

What has always struck me as the disconnect between audiophiles and people who make records is that, save for a few small audiophile labels, ultimate audio quality is relatively low on the list of priorities among record makers. That unfortunate fact is due to the brutal shrinking of recording budgets in the last twenty-five years. Other than the very biggest-selling artists, budgets are a fraction of what they used to be. An albums' worth of 2" analog tape can cost $6,000.00 or more. If the choice is that or $400.00 for two hard drives, how do you justify the difference to the label? That difference could pay for another day or two in the studio with good musicians. We try to make the best-sounding records we can, but often it's a struggle just to finish 10 or 12 good songs. It can be frustrating to read reviews of how a $25,000.00 album sounds on $70,000.00 speakers.

Mike -

Fortunately for me (I think) and much to the dismay of my wife of 38 years, I still have my first audio system on a shelf in the basement, so I don't have to go looking for a Fisher X-101-B integrated amp, HH Scott LT-111 FM tuner, Dual 1010 changer and Utah 12" coaxial speakers in home made enclosures.

Occasionally, I have the urge to set the old system up and play it, but then I think about the possibility of having to clean up the mess of newly ruptured old electrolytic capacitors and decide to leave it for another day.

Anyhow, enjoy your new old audio system.

------------- Bill

Mike: Find a young, eager and poor audio enthuiast who is handy and will treasure the VPI. Sell it to him or her for what is comfort for both of you. Good karma makes for good music.

Mike C: “Well, that does it. I am snapping up the very next Campagnolo Record equipped 57cm Masi Super Corsa I see on ebay.”

Ah. Inspired by this, I need to keep my eyes open for a 56cm Miyata 1000 touring bicycle. I’m still brokenhearted I wasn’t able to buy one back in the 80s. I settled for a cheap (but not to me) Miyata 215st, which I still own.

Oops. I misattributed my quote earlier. Should have been Chris Y. Sorry, Mike/Chris.

First: - So very glad you're feeling better Mike.

Second:- You don't need a new turntable, just change the pickup cartridge for an Ortofon MC with tiny Ortofon transformers rather than a MC preamp.

Third:- For anyone considering a TLR for their Forgotten Camera project - look for a 75mm lens rather than 80mm, then don't be afraid to crop to whatever size & shape seems best for the image.

Cheers, Robin

Thanks for the memories, Mike. My first "real" stereo system was a Marantz 20 watts/channel receiver (don't remember the model number), a low-end Marantz turntable, and a pair of Advent bookshelf speakers, all purchased for my dorm room back in 1978. The receiver and turntable were sold off long ago, but I still own and use the Advent speakers (and they still sound great!). The photo of the Marantz receiver brought back some sweet memories!

What another wonderful trip down my college years, great my case it was a Dual turntable, Pioneer amp and preamp, JBL L100s also. Loved those speakers for over 20yrs until the foam grills and woofer surrounds started rotting off, and connector wiring started failing, there they stood for several years without use, until my wife finally had me haul them outside for a garage sale...she never told me but they sold for like $5 to someone...I couldn't watch...

Still love audio, but do have a surround system, albeit not Class A from stereophile, but better then I deserve with a more serious photo hobby. It is not the same, but it isn't too bad either, found out too late that those L100s could have been repaired back to like new shape...:-(...

For me the fascinating thing about this is not the audio equipment itself, but rather the realization that an era, sadly, seems to have passed.

For the baby boomers who came of age in the 60's and 70's music was much more important than it has been for subsequent generations.

Having a cool stereo was of course a very important thing in those days. Everyone had to have one, and when you weren't talking about music and the latest album by so-and-so, or who was coming around on tour, you argued about audio equipment.

I remember when I was in college my apartment was burglarized and the loss of my stereo caused me to walk around in a state of mourning for about two weeks.

When it came time to replace it, I wanted one that would sound good, but my budget was only $200. At first all I could afford was a receiver and two speakers. I borrowed a turntable and then had to wait a few months before I could get my own. I still have the stuff stored away, along with two big boxes of vinyl LP's.

Nowadays, there are too many other "must haves" out there. Computers, ipods, cell phones. I don't think an audio system is really even on most people's lists any more, unless it's part of a home theater system.

Talk about nostalgia! Great post! I still use my Pioneer SX9000 receiver and Sansui SP2000 speakers which I purchased at the PX in Vietnam in 1970. I did give away to a friend the Akai GX365 reel to reel tape deck and Dual 1219 turntable, so I am limited to CD or Sony MD input, but as I'm not a very knowledgeable afficionado, it sounds great just in my small minilab setting. When I recently took the receiver in for repair (a local VCR repair shop), the elderly gentleman at the desk looked at it and commented "finally, a real piece of electronics to work on". I have a picture of about 6 or 7 tape decks linked together dubbing tapes from the original, one evening in our hootch in Vietnam (luckily, our area was relatively pacified then); the most popular music then was CCR, Buffalo Springfield, The Beatles, and some classical.

I hate my iPod. It seems impossible to get consistent levels, even with "Sound Check" on (setting individual track levels in iTunes is hit and miss). There are no hard buttons so you have to wake it up to perform any functions, like turning it down when the next track tears through your ear drums. The battery life sucks (older 15GB hard drive version) and it's starting to skip a lot. It's convenient for camping when I plug it into an external speaker system, but that's all I like it for.
Sony's MiniDisc system was brilliant. High quality audio in digital format, the mini players run forever on one AA battery, easy to make mixes direct from your home stereo. My DJ friens still swears by the system! I broke my original player and thinking I was getting a good deal, bought a refurb off eBay, only to find it's anew one that has no line out and only works with Windows software. So now I can only play from my existing discs.
My Dj friend agreed to make a mix for a friend and put it on her iPod Nano. After he was all done and plugged the iPod into his G4 it told him that the nano was incompatible and he has to upgrade the OS! I said "I'm glad I'm buying records again!"
And this is the truth. Last year my girlfriend got me a turntable for my birthday. It's an American Audio DJ direct drive unit, similar to a Technics 1200. I'm neither a DJ nor an audiophile but when I drop the needle on my 180 gram reissue of "Fear Of A Black Planet" you can't tell me that the sound pumping through my B&W 303s isn't sweeter than any CD or MP3!
Best of all, no compatibility issues! Turn on stereo, put record on platter, hear music! And records are cheap! I'm picking up really nice pressings (usually 150 or 180 gram) brand new for $9-$19.
Having said all that there are some really nice sounding CD remasters out now. I've been enjoying the Rhino releases of the first Chicago albums.
I have also long believed that audio and photography are traveling parallel lines. This weekend I was shooting with a Canon G7 and kept getting frustrated because I was always inadvertently pressing buttons when I was just trying to hold the damn camera! After many unwanted menu accesses and being forced to hold the stupid little thing by my fingertips the battery finally died and I said "screw this" and got out my 40-year-old Leica. No compatibility issues. Just put in film and take pictures!

I enjoyed your ruminations on audiophilia. I currently treasure a Harmon-Kardon HK-590i receiver, only 45 watts per channel, but a good phono stage and excellent tone controls. It matches well with my AR-ES1 with a Shure V15, microridge pickup. The Klipsch Fortes make a pleasant sound. All this gear is 10 years old or older, save the Shure. Someday I may resurrect the EICO tube gear languishing in the garage.... I also enjoy my Pentaxes, a K-1000, a ME-super, a MX and a LX. Plus the K10D. Nothing is cutting edge, but to echo a comment you made on Luminous Landscape, its just...good enough. Good enough so that I can't blame poor pictures on the equipment. I'm not planning on "up-grading," but learning to get the most out of the gear, and whatever talent I might have. Keep the faith, Mike.

In my opinion, lovers of audiophile gear and (analogue) photography are in about the same position: both are (very) mature technologies and the last real advances were made several years ago. Yes, there are differences between a hifi setup from the 1970s and 2008 (remote controls, a special input for the cd player), but most, if not any new features are there to make the thing cheaper (replace expensive multi-pots with one cheap chip) or to follow fashions like dolby surround sound (has nothing to do with music). Similarly, medium fast cameras with manual focus were replaced with slow working AF cameras (I don't talk about the latest 35mm Canon EOS, but the typical point-and-shoot cameras).

So, one has nothing to lose and much to gain when buying (once) very expensive audio gear from ebay for a few coins. By now, I got a nearly complete lineup of TOTL Yamaha gear from the 1970s and my cupboard is full with Leica-, Zeiss- and Rollei gear from yesteryear. Ok, after several years of usage, a CLA is usually required, but there is nothing like the build quality of better gear from yesteryear.


good article

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I love the old equioment from the 70's. I recently picked up a '73 Pioneer and cleaned it up. That old sound and retro look just adds to the right room.

I bought a 1973 Pioneer receiver a few months ago and like you said there's a fun aspect to picking up the old quality equipment and breathing new life into it.

Thank your for display me so fantastic notion as part of your blog. I am really gree with you. Your viewpoint is amazing. In our lives, there's nothing can beat us.

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