I'm in the middle of a quite major living-space reorganisation; and all because I needed to make room for some audio equipment.
Some time early last year, my old eighties-vintage hi-fi unit, which I'd been using as an amplifier for the computer's audio output, finally gave up the ghost. Everything bar the amp had died long since, so playing vinyl was summat I hadn't done for simply ages, even by then. And so my music-listening has, for well over a year, been accomplished via the not-exactly-satisfactory medium of a pair of basic desktop PC speakers.
Mind you, even that shows how far audio technology has moved on since the long-gone days of my yoof. Back when I were knee-high to a nibbet, speakers that size—barely an inch and a half in diameter—would have produced a tinny, squeaky sound, reminiscent (without too much exaggeration) of the overspill from your inconsiderate train-neighbour's earphones. The sound you get, these days, from a cheap pair of PC speakers is—and, Gentle Reader, I kid ye not—not a huge amount worse than that which we would have expected from a cheap all-in-one music-centre; although we would have expected more volume.
I had one just like the above. It's slightly better than bottom of the range, having a five-band graphic equaliser and twin cassette decks; useful not only for copying music-tapes, but also for copying the then ubiquitous tape-borne computer games. (Ah, Chucky Egg, how I miss you!) It's probably got a whopping ten Watt amplifier too(!) which might, if you were lucky, make a poorly fitted window vibrate mildly. Bottom of the range would have had bass and treble twist-knobs, a single cassette deck, and a mighty four Watt amp, along with speakers about a third of the size of those pictured, and a bass-reproduction which was frankly awful; especially for rockabilly, with its extremely truncated bass-notes. (A common trick was to fit the speakers into bigger boxes, which boosted the volume somewhat, and also slightly improved the bass sound.) Oh and you might notice that it's pre-CD. When compact discs came out, we shelled out for a bloody gert box, not much smaller than a VCR, known as a CD player, and plugged it into the aux-sockets on the back of the music-centre. Although most bottom of the range units wouldn't have aux-sockets, so many people on the poorer end of the income scale, who bought the cheapest units and couldn't afford to replace them with new ones equipped with a CD deck, kinda lost out when the music industry rushed to phase out vinyl. (And the industry that had, for years, been moaning that "Home-taping is killing music," thus guaranteed that home-taping would increase.)
So, anyway, back to my speakers. Having, for the first time in a long time, a large-ish chunk of disposable cash (fifty quid; a pound-for-every-year birthday gift from my Dear Old Mater and my sister), I took a wander into a local second-hand shop which always has a lot of electronic equipment and I picked up a little amplifier-and-speakers set. (And I didn't even spend all the money. Yay!) It's a Typhoon "multi-media" amplifier set, comprising two satellite tweeters and a sub-woofer. The (rather silly) PMPO rating is four-hundred Watts. The more sensible RMS rating is seven point five Watts each for the satellites and twelve Watts for the sub-woofer; and all I can say is that the Watts-to-Decibels ratio must have seriously improved, since I bought that old system (as a replacement for my one like the above, as it happens) back in the late eighties—I got it up to about three-quarters of its volume-scale and gave up for fear of liquefying my brain. Next time Born To Be Wild shuffles its way to the top of my random-play list, the neighbours are gonna be extremely pissed at me.
But more importantly, I can now play vinyl again, though I had to route the turntable through my old disco mixer-board, in order to utilise its pre-amp. Which is fair enough I s'pose, since the turntable came from the same source.
[Click picture to enbiggen]
My audio shelf in all its wire-entangled glory. Sorry 'bout the quality; I couldn't find the USB lead for my camera, so this is off my phone.
And vinyl, all of the above rambling notwithstanding, is what this post was supposed to be about. One aspect of playing a vinyl album is that you hear all of the tracks, not just your favourites. Whereas with digital media its easy to just pick out your favourites, or to skip tracks that you don't feel like listening to right now, with a record, that takes effort; not to mention that every time you pick the needle up and put it back down, you chance creating a tiny click which can never be erased. And, okay, that's sometimes an advantage of digital media, but sometimes tracks grow on you, or your taste will change so that a track you've been avoiding for years suddenly seems like the best thing ever. And, of course, many tracks which were never the highlight of the album can still be pretty damn good. So being "forced" (though that's probably too strong a word) to listen to those second-stringers, possible-growers and so on keeps you, I think, more open-minded about your own music-collection than do the "totally-top-favourites" playlists and such which digital media make possible. (And speaking of music in the days of my youth, I also miss boom-boxes in public places, even the ones playing stuff I didn't like. Music is best when it's out in the wild, a shared experience; headphones are an audio-prison. But that's a rant for another time, maybe.)
So, as you may have guessed, I've been wallowing in my now playable-again vinyl collection over the last few weeks. And also, as you may have guessed, I thought I'd share a few numbers which I've rediscovered or found to be better than I'd remembered.
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