X’s Personal Experience On The Evolution of Stereo Equipment

Way back in the day when X was a pimply faced adolescent and cared about nothing except the change in his pocket and where his next junk food fix was coming from, he became aware of music.

Not that he was a stranger to music, X took piano lessons for several years and started playing in the band when he was 11 years old.

He was given a transistor radio from his gramma that ran on a 9 volt battery. He hardly used it, but one day for whatever reason, he got caught up in a conversation with some fellow mini-biking buffs about a song going round on the radio. He knew nothing of it and inquired about how to ‘tune in’ his gateway to the world of radio.

After he figured out that there was an entire world out there, and more than one station, he was hooked.

The first song he ever really liked was I Am I Said by Neil Diamond. This is mentioned only for a time reference.

He soon learned that songs on the radio could be purchased and played on a 45, which he did not own. Additionally, he learned that usually, a song was part of an album.

At 13 years old, X did not have a job, nor did he want to return to the ill-rewarding job of delivering newspapers. All he had was $5  week for allowance, and that meant doing chores. Vacuuming, folding laundry, mowing the yard, washing dishes, and countless other menial tasks were require to obtain the paltry $5.

At his confirmation at church, he received a wad of cash from various aunts and uncles, and spent his money on an AM/FM digital clock radio. Well lemmee tell you that X thought this was downtown.

There were no rock FM stations in that part of the country, so X was still stuck with AM. He didn’t care. He got real serious and started using the family cassette recorder to record songs off the radio onto a cassette and he could listen to what he wanted when he wanted.

X recalls once when he had the mic sitting on the radio recording a jammin’ tune, that his younger brother by nine years wandered into X’s room (a major infraction of the rules by itself) grabbed the mic and uttered a few seconds of gibberish into the mic, thus ruining X’s recording.

Upon playback, one can hear a loud ‘thud’ and a scream as X frogged little brother in the arm, followed by a loud and sincere “OW!”.

The evidence was there. X had to decided whether or not to keep the guilt-ridden recording thus losing the song. Regrettably, he did exactly that.

X was OK with the clock radio. X got a job in the following summer fixing lawn mowers, and he saved his cash, and purchased a stereo.

Ah yes. $169.90. A Magnavox stereo system; turntable, 8-track, AM/FM stereo and two speakers. X even picked up a set of headphones. The first 8-track he bought with the system was 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was all the stereo store had and it was free with the purchase.

He joined record and tape club. Now the tunes started piling up.

He started driving the next summer, and learned to chemically alter his perspective of music and really started appreciating some harder rock.

X had that stereo until he was 21 years old. The 8-track still worked, as did the radio, the turntable require a ‘spin start’ to get it going, but it did work. One of the speakers had been replaced after he blew the voice coil after getting high and passing out while blasting Humble Pie Smokin’ for several hours.

X’s first real car was a Camaro; stock 327, 3-speed stick. Gold with a black vinyl roof. He didn’t care. It had an 8-track deck; an Automatic Radio to be precise. It was an under dash unit that slid in and out. It really jammed.

X had so many 8-track tapes that he just crammed them into the glove compartment. Once it was so full, that he could not open the door and had to cut the bottom of the compartment with his knife to remove said tapes.

He graduated to a tape box that soon filled with The Who Who’s Next, Deep Purple Machine Head, The Door LA Woman, Rare Earth, Cheech and Chong, The Guess Who, The Beatles, The Moody Blues, and more. Some custom recordings in there too. 8-track recorders were rare back then, but a buddy had a reel to reel and did some recording from LP to 8-track for X.

X had trouble with the Automatic Radio, not knowing that the problem was just a slipping belt, his girlfriend picked up a Craig deck. She said it cost $80; used. What a piece of junk. The track changer button did not work. After running a while, something happened to the sound and it had a loud buzz over the music. It never got fixed, and X just learned to live with it.

He wired his car radio into the stereo…bad idea.

He tried new speakers. To no avail.

In those days, we rated car speakers by the weight of the magnets. Jentzen speakers were popular. “Oh, you got 20 oz magnets? Far out man!”

X sold the Camaro in ’77 and got a Toyota pickup with no sound system. Those were the dark times.

Times were hard, but he did get a free car radio from a buddy. X bought a speaker from the local auto parts store and forced it over the pegs inside the dashboard. Then realizing that radios were not universal fit. He rigged some brackets from the control knobs utilizing the nuts to squeeze and  hold the radio in place. It was better than nothing..barely.

In 1977, X had $700 to spend on a home stereo and went shopping at Dillard’s.

He compared a Pioneer to an MGA, a Mitsubishi system. X decided on the MGA because of the more pronounced bass.

What a beautiful system. It came with separate turntable, tuner, cassette deck, stand, and speakers finished in a nice rosewood burl. X recorded many, many albums with that system. A couple years later, he purchased a Pioneer RT-707 model reel to reel for $500. With a special switch, he was able to utilized both the cassette deck and the reel at the same time.

X had the reel to reel until 2008. The last component of the original MGA system was the tuner and it died in 2002. That was a sad day. Still, not bad.

One of the guys at work knew a guy who knew a guy that was selling a pair of Bose 901 Series V speakers for $600. X jumped on that but needed a system other than his MGA to utilize the Bose speakers, do he decided to spend some real money on a dream system. By accident, a buddy from work came across a little known stereo shop down town that had some outstanding state of the art stuff.

X traversed with said buddy as it was walking distance from where they worked.

X was introduced into a new world of high end stereo equipment.

His first purchase was a Yamaha MX-1000U power amp. This amp had outputs for three sets of speakers. One could run two sets at the same time, but one set was amplified separately from the others. 400W per channel at peak. $1200.

To use this properly, X next bought the matching Yamaha pre-amp. X forgets the model but it was every bit of $800. It had more inputs than X could have imagined. It had three separate turntable inputs for types of cartridges.

X ordered a pair of Infinity SM-120 speakers. They were three way with adjustable tweeters. $700.

A new  Sony turntable, a Yamaha cd changer, and he was off. He also had a Sony cd changer as well with two outputs.

X hooked all this hit up and it was so loud with the Infinity speakers, that X had to turn it down; a feat that he thought not possible.

With the Bose speakers, he was introduced to a new low. One of X’s disks by Robert Palmer has a song called Riptide (reprise) and it has a note that is so low that it will almost make one crap in one’s pants. (In a later system with an Altec Lansing powered subwoofer, X was able to amplify the 5 Hz note even louder).

The system filled the wall of X’s bedroom.

X ran pre amp out wires from the pre amp to the living room where he now kept his MGA system. He connected the pre amp outs to the MGA and had sound throughout the house. He further ran speaker wire from the MGA into the garage with some Yamaha speakers and whatever he played on the cd player in the bedroom, he could listen to in the garage.

He also purchased a speaker system for the living room called Cambridge Soundworks; a three way system with a subwoofer. He wired that into the new JVC TV in the living room. He was right popular in the ‘hood with that.

It was a long way from recording onto mono cassette tape from a clock radio.

Back in the early eighties, X bought a brand new Toyota Corolla, stripped. No a/c, radio or cover on glove box. He did purchase a/c for the car after a year.

He installed a Sony cassette deck with AM/FM. It was to be the finest stereo system he would ever have in a vehicle. It didn’t need an amp as it was loud enough. A pair of 5×7 speakers and he was set.

During X’s brief stint up river, he managed a business and was invited to a stereo store grand opening. They showed him a Nakamichi cassette deck for a rack system. It was beautiful; black with real gold trim…$5000. X passed. It was a dual well deck that had separate amps. One could play one side while recording on the other.

Over the next few years, he put in several decks in that car. An Alpine system was also in for a while. He did buy a power amp that hooked in series between the speakers and deck. It was so loud X could not turn it up all the way. Heaven.

Later in the eighties, X purchased a Jeep Comanche pickup. That system was the most expensive as he had a cassette deck, power amp, graphic equalizer, door speakers, and speakers in the walls behind the seat. Those just did not work. X was sure it was the physics of the speaker housing, which had no acoustic qualities whatsoever. He suffered with just the door speakers until a solution arose.

The door speakers were such that the grilles were behind the door opener handle, and X had to pull out the handle to pass it by the corner of the grille. Eventually, the elevator gear broke inside the door that rolled the window up. He tried to pull up the window with a pair of pliers and it shattered. The pieces just rolled around inside the door until the window was replaced. $300.

That system did not ever have enough volume. X eventually put speaker boxes behind the seat. They were pretty loud. It’s different when the sound comes at you through your  back.

X had to sell his beloved Jeep in the early nineties when he moved to Colorado. He was forced to drive a Ford Escort wagon as he became a family man. He did eventually install a system from Crutchfield in that car. Again, cassette deck with power amp; door speakers and speakers in the back inside the rear strut housings. It wasn’t bad either. Just can’t get sound in a wagon unless one drops a ton of money on amps and speakers.

X had that car until he moved back to Texas. Now with his stock Ford Ranger  which has a cd changer. It’s loud enough. Extended warranty replaced the changer at no charge at one time.

The last thing X purchased before he left Colorado was a stereo system. He worked for a company that sold high end electronics, and was able to get everything at cost. A Sony 36″ flat screen CRT TV, Sony 200 watt per channel 5.1 receiver/amp, cd/dvd changer, Altec Lansing powered subwoofer, Infinity speakers and a center channel speaker. He used his 150W Yamaha speakers for the rest of the 5.1. Rockin? Damn right. Man, there ain’t nothin’ like a powered subwoofer.

X dumped all the stereo equipment in 2008 when he and the wife musta got drunk and decided to have an estate auction. Yep, gonna get rich…not.

X has a really good relationship with his wife, but bring up the subject of said auction and they almost go to blows.

X now has settled for a Yamaha package 5.1 system for his 50″ plasma, and yes it has a powered sub.

For a while in the early nineties, X subscribed to a mag called Stereo Review. He was introduced to Carver and McIntosh tube amps. X could never afford something like that, but they haunt him.

X recalls a cd changer system that used chain drives and lifts to move a 100 cd library into playing position before the carousel was invented. Remember the cd magazines that Pioneer used? Maybe they still do…I don’t know. The carousel is very effective and now there are mp3 that one can play for hundreds of hours with a USB stick in a car or pc or portable device.

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