What Goes Into Making a “Free” Stereo Work

One of the symptoms character traits of a person with Asperger’s syndrome is fixation on a single project, to the exclusion of everything else.  I am currently enjoying the fruits of such a fixation as I type this.  Currently, I am listening to the soundtrack from the movie FM: The Original Movie Soundtrack (MCA 2-12000).  The album is pretty much a glorified K-Tel compilation album, featuring the music from the movie FM (1978).

About two weeks, a woman posted on the 43202 – Freecycle/Buy/Sell/Trade Facebook site that she was giving away a combination turntable/dual cassette deck/AM-FM receiver.  The only caveat was that one of the cassette doors was defective, and that it did not come with speakers.  I sent her a private message, and the next day, after work, it was mine.  (She left it behind a big Rubbermaid tub on her front porch.)

Once I got it home, I went to another Facebook site, Vintage Hi-Fi and Stereo Equipment.  I subscribe to it, but rarely post.  Normally, I’m content to sit and look at the equipment others have displayed, much like a 10-year-old mooning over the centerfold in Penthouse.  I was almost ashamed of the model I posted (a General Electric 11-6025A, the type you would have bought for a teenager), and asked what type of speakers would be best.  This led to a heated discussion and comparison of notes.  I got a crash course in ohms (My Buddhist friends, feel free to chime in with some puns and jokes here) and electric impedance.  I learned the wrong model could blow out the speakers, and finally everyone came to consensus (after I posted the pictures of the output jacks) on what equipment I needed.

Next step, I went online and bought a pair of brick-sized Pyle speakers.  (As it turned out, I bought two pair.  I misunderstood the text of the ad, and thought the speakers were packaged singly.  I learned differently with the FedEx Ground guy dropped off the box, and I saw that I had bought two pair.)  Late this afternoon, I sent the extra set back, and they’ll credit my debit card once they receive them.  (They’re going by FedEx Ground to Oklahoma City, so it’ll probably take the rest of the week.)

At the suggestion of a friend online, I bought a speaker cable online from Radio Shack.  This came in today’s mail, but I found out that it had the right male RCA, but the other end was female, and would not plug into my speakers.  These will be going back to Amazon.com by the end of the week, when I have time to go to UPS and ship them.

So, tonight I went to Radio Shack (after seeing off the extra set of speakers at FedEx Ground), described my situation, and lightened my wallet a little more by buying two sets of audio cable, with a male RCA plug on one end and with the other end stripped.

When I got home, I had to do some rearranging in order to find a berth for the stereo.  (People are moving out of many places in this neighborhood, as the summer semester at Ohio State is nearing its end.  This means that the sidewalks and alleys are a smorgasbord of discarded–and almost all 100% fully functional–appliances and furniture.  It is a definite mitzvah that this place is smaller than the one on E. Maynard.  I’ve been able to resist the temptation to bring in more furniture just because I can.  I’m no interior decorator, but I don’t want the place to resemble Fibber McGee’s closet, either.)  I already own two turntables–a Crosley that I bought several years ago, and another Crosley a friend gave me–but this is the only one with speakers that can really project.

The finished product, and the end result of about two weeks of trial and error, and many hours on audiophile Websites.

The finished product, and the end result of about two weeks of trial and error, and many hours on audiophile Websites.  Just below the light switch, behold my General Electric 11-6025A!

I never had a desire to become a serious audiophile.  I saw several when I was in high school, because I had a stereo store, Sound Solutions, on my newspaper route in Marietta, and I learned about all the high-end brands, such as Fisher, Akai, B.I.C. (I learned the hard way that you pronounce this bee-eye-see), and Technics.  I learned about woofers, tweeters, and midranges.  Other than the financial angle, I did not yearn for expensive stereo equipment because I bought most of my records second-hand (as I do now), and I did not want advanced technology to show off all of their flaws.

I also learned about high-tech equipment around the time quadraphonic stereo had its brief moment in the sun.  This involved four speakers instead of two, and most people put one in each corner of the room.  I understand why this craze was short-lived; when I go to a concert, I have no desire to sit with the orchestra.  It is overkill.

When I bought my first cheap (but not cheap to me, not then!) stereo at Sears, I tried to look “cool” by taking off the cloth screens.  My dad pointed out that if it was “cool” to let dust get into your speakers, it was totally on me; he would not give me any money to replace them.  So the screens remained.

My first exposure to stereo came from, of course, my parents.  Even for the mid- to late 1960s, their equipment was rather primitive.  It was a Magnavox console that took up most of one living room wall.  It was a wedding present to them, so the latest it could have been manufactured was 1959.  Until I was about nine or 10, it was off limits to me, except for the radio, which I could not break.  (I dialed it incessantly, especially after dark, when lower-powered stations had signed off for the night, and kept a notebook of AM stations I picked up, such as KMOX (St. Louis), KDKA (Pittsburgh), WBZ (Boston), WKWK (Wheeling), WCBS (New York), and–miraculously one clear night–KOA in Denver.)  Possibly the fact that it was off limits to me was what sparked my interest.

Even to my too-young ears, the Magnavox produced sound far superior to my little orange and white mono phonograph, which was a step above a Kenner Close N’Play.  My dad made me a Dave Brubeck fan, and whenever he was playing Dave Brubeck’s Greatest Hits (CBS 32046), I badgered him to skip straight to “Unsquare Dance”.  I would sit with my ear at one speaker, loving the drum beat that alternated channels, and I would always get a kick out of hearing drummer Joe Morello’s relieved laugh at the very end of the song (relief that they had gotten through the last chorus).

Thanks to my parents, I learned to become a fan of some artists most people of that era disdained, such as French conductor Paul Mauriat, The Lettermen, The Four Freshmen, and guitarist Charlie Byrd, all of whom did vocal or instrumental covers of popular songs.  My parents were shocked when I used birthday money to buy a record called Presenting the Very Talented Peter Nero! (RCA Camden CAS2416), a 1970 release by the very famous pianist and conductor.

So now, with three turntables, two dual cassette decks, and two compact disk players, I may actually have “the wall of sound.”  (Marietta High School’s band bore that nickname, and I’m thankful for that, because the phrase does not conjure the image of that freak Phil Spector.)

I am not tempted to “pump up the volume” with this new system. There are many in this neighborhood who pick up that slack for me, and the police have never been even-handed in enforcing it.  Near campus, I remember an officer issuing a ticket to a guy one Saturday afternoon.  The guy was in front of his house washing his car, and he had his car speakers blasting music.  Down the street, some guys were sitting outside their fraternity house, throwing Frisbees and grilling on a barbecue.  They had concert speakers out on the porch and in the yard, blasting music that made windows and nerve rattle, and the police officer did not make a move toward his ticket book for them.  When I lived in Weinland Park, one of the constants were clowns who thought their car stereos were no good unless the bass registered on the Richter scale.

I was not fixated on this stereo and these speakers to the exclusion of all else.  I walked quite a bit these past few weeks (I accumulated more than six miles just last night), went to work, went to yard sales, et. al.  Foremost in my mind, however, was trying to figure out just what combination of components and cables I needed to make my “free” stereo work.

Now what do I do for an encore?

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