A Story listening to Hifi Systems

  • Thor 

In the Mid 70’s growing up in Germany, before Walkmann, most kids i knew played music with mail order mono Tape Player,

I remember that my Granddad spend about 40 DM more ( every Deutschmark Mark counted then ) for ITT Schaub Lorenz Recorder that looked and sounded a little different. My Granny’s Kitchen Radio was from the same Brand. Gentler sounding compared to much bigger more expensive Stereo GhettoBlasters. It had a Silver Metal finish and Recording with mike that did not leave mostly the sound of the Motor on Tape. There was a also Din in and output to connect with a amp. My 1rst Mono was the Tape Player connected with good sounding 60’s Valve Radio with Build in Speaker that had a 3 pin round mono Din input. My pride and Joy for many Years.

A Red plastic Record Player with the Speaker in the Lid at my Granny’s being confronted with my big Brothers Emmerson Lake & Palmers self titled Album did set focus on the endless pursuit of perfection. in music re production. This kind of music was asking clearly for a total different translation.

So I spent a lot of time looking at the mail-order Catalogues for Specs and guessing what they mean and would it be the right gear to re produce Bombastic Church organs, and give enjoyable depth to this plain wired progressive music..

My mother did run a Music pub few years prior and I remember as toddler some bar staff having all these dark posters of Hairy Rock Bands on the wall. They seem far away in a different World , but now they came closer.

Until my teens I grew up in different circles.

Living in a small City with a big university also Teaching Philosophy, Soziologie and Religion, with active Christian & even Communist networks and the freedom to roam in the 70’s had its perks. As kid I could “ visit “ the big community flats of Students play, go to with them to the markets and eat porridge, and of course listen to music.

A Christian presented me tape copy’s of Manfred Man, Supertramp and maybe Ufo i was listening on my carefully chosen budget bulky walkman copy. I am still grateful for the long hrs diving into the world of Progressive Rock.

My longest going times as young teen was with what is what would be considered Intellectuals, and so are were their friends. This meant a lot of top stereos, Uher, Revox and so forth. a refined music taste. Genesis was the news then and I still have a lot of time for Peter Gabriel.

I checked every music system I was allowed to touch. Clever Rock was even in the in the charts, ready to be Recorded on my mono System.

Sadly i felt something changing in the Air on German mainstream Radio, as a Hyped Song was just a endless Intro followed by a simple drum beat made NR 1. in the Charts.

I got back to live with my Grand Parents, now 15 years old. My 1rst Stereo System, was a ITT 3500 Receiver, for then 80 DM, with a Sansui SR-222 plain Turntable and the addition of 3 way Speakers spotted miles away in a wholesale.

That formed my hearing of music until now. It was little dated looking even back then, but dipped boards sound just great.

I have the same Receiver now in the workshop again and it is as good as I remember. At least 2 Engineers asking were is the sub located 🙂

The next amp i owned was a Dual CV 1100.

This amp was good to bring to a party, but with only 2 x 25w and a THD of 0.5% i knew there was better out there.

Now earning some money it was time to upgrade, the Separates.

A Onkyo a35 was sold for b stock in well watched hifi shop, for over half  a months complete earning of 350 DM. left me a little Disappointed by the lack of grip in the low end.

My grand dad was carpenter and made me two 10” Bass extension Cubes Connected with the low Speaker in the 3 way Cabs and used as Speaker stands. The future was in Separates.

The Tape was a basic but reliable Sharp RT 100 Tape Recorder with only a Din output from the sales that lasted me hard working over 20 years. The 2 mike inputs got some use much later.

This setup got well used & refined with self made Xovers in the Subs , while doing a few years apprentice in electronic until I left Germany nearly 20 years later .

Tapes got sold in many Shops at big Displays just like sweets in many places.

Thick 60 min.the most common 90 min and the thin Fragile 120’s that were no good for constant usage. The Noisy Ferrite, had drive in low end, Chrome for top end clarity, Chrome ferrite i found lacking style, and the Expensive Metal tapes that required contrary to many Metal Buttons on cheap tape Players, a very High End Tape Deck to perform high gain recording over + 6db to leave the Noise Floor way below the Music.

All the Generic names, some bargain some just bad. The big brands with the matching price tag. There must have been hundreds of types and all had different Characters and performance, and loaded the Space of imagination. I upgraded the Tape Deck to much more refined sound with a TEAC V 770. later and the sharp moved into the Practice room.

The Reel To Reel Tapes in the Picture below were just Useless.

Separates were now all the Fashion in the 80’s, and the pride of many. For all the CD sound, EQ’s, Buttons and Lights & towering Black Boxes, Most of the Systems sold together in a stack with Amp, Radio, Tape & CD Player featured fancy but useless technical features and a low Quality stylus on the engraving machine leaving the CD Player to shine. Most sounded little tacky and lifeless due to the Printed Boards and sharp focus only on the Style compared with the Big soundscape of the exclusive purpose build high end 70’s Systems with the plain functional Turntables, sometimes with the high light of a Reel to Reel playing back 1rst time played Records. To Copy Music in High Quality on tape was just possible with Recorders that featured a Price tag above the Cost of most complete Stereos. But most Tapes were destined for the Car and just fine for that.

The Digital Changeover

The Digital Converters used in CD Players sound all a bit different from brand to brand plus with slight variations in the pre Amps. They are actually the same now for over 30 years. For all the many imperfections, even the best record Player has inherently, the bit rate used on CD has not changed since the 80’s , and the common resolution played now got even lower with the commonly used mp3 streaming. It is like looking at a High Resolution big flat screen with 720p. There was some super audio CD’s and players about in 2000 for a while, but were Exclusive and Rare. Blue ray DVD did sell but are not common for Music.

Back in the 80’s I remember driving with like minded to friends houses to see how Saga outstanding power sound of the Worlds Apart record shook the Speakers here and there. The brainy Girls liked more soft Rock like Barkly James Harvest, Chicago and so forth.. Rock was in the Air of the the American Radio stations for the stationed Forces all around.

Then came from my Brother Electronic Music with the likes of Depeche mode or Kraftwerk for a while, but later the 2nt side of black celebration left me looking for something different.

That came with drinking, with some metal heads one evening in the pub and the many long afters in different flats.

Now into the record shop getting what I thought starter essentials. Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell, Doggen’s tooth and Nail, something with good sound and some melody, Rainbow Rising, Slayers show no mercy Accept for the German Music and of course Venom’s black metal, They left me checking if the needle was damaged. But I got very accustomed to them.

The 3 way speaker now also in mobile usage driven by a amp booster making music from the back or Roof of a Orange Scirocco mk1.

Another great find for free at this time was a Uher Royal Tape Machine left out for Collection together with over 20 Reel’s full of the wired late 60’s early 70 music with the likes of the Byrds live, Eric Burdon the first Depp Purple, Supertramp Albums and some stuff i never found out.. I got a new head fitted and it is still with me to this day.

Now in Ireland the Onkyo did show signs of getting just worn out. After a a short period of time working as mechanic, I worked in the sound Section and installed Audio in Waterford. One of the reasons i got the Job was that I could set up a turntable and so imported a lot of usable DJ gear for the company right at the start of the Hobby DJ craze.

That stopped being interesting with the Stanton logo on look alike cheap audio Gear with with sound Quality and specs straight from the 80’s plastic mono players flooding the Sales shelf, ( 67db noise signal ratio on the mixers ! Short straight Arms playing the Records mostly sideways. I was disgusted ) this was killing off the chances of my Customers pleasing the Ears with the art of beat matching. The Most Main DJ Brands had deals with other shops.

The Home cinema Craze also turned slowly into must have Clutter, with Speakers you would not use in a car. Rudolf’s TV stations Inciting all day long the breakdown of Society, Sue everybody, sell Your Home for Your Kids and Gambling all day long every 15 minutes. The promotion of the Survival of the fittest, i think is the live form after Civilization

But most 5.1 Amps paired with decent Speakers performed better then the basic Marantz and Rotel Stereo Separates on offer after the Year 2k. I often recommended Dennon back then. A reminder of the good times is a Thorens 321 Turntable upgraded with Rega Arm from a trade in.

I use currently back to the 530, before a Ortofon Blue, Yellow Rega and a Ortofon OM with Chico 20 needle, back then a bargain.

The Cartridge i enjoyed most was fragile Ortofon 540.

I was playing around with a Crown K2 P.A. Amp, It was very good but the look was just like bringing the Work to Home.

A set double 6” Mission floor stand Speakers were best Value in store and a Massive early 90”s Dennon I think that was the model PMA-1315R Stereo Amp with Digital input from Ebay Germany .

Great system, so good in fact that as we had visit of Friends, I was offered a swap of the Speakers and Amp for a bare Musical Fidelity 270 power amp. It was the older model, not the one in the picture.

Now this is was a monster. Class a using 100w at stand by leaving the immersion on when leaving the House got another additional worry.

It felt it could explode, start a fire or just sink into earth with the sheer weight. Now paired with pair of Klipsh RP 8000 from a visit to Fred Zahn a German audio Shop, I always admired as kid. This system was fast, demanding so much attention that you could not have a conversation, iron the Clothes or even Think. But it offered you to dive into the Music.

I did try a few pre amps i can not remember, but a passive EC1 Pre amp from Electrocompanjet was the missing piece and put a leash on the Crazy horse amp with less gain to pop the Speakers. I would have this exceptional System still, if I was not given a well used & lived old pile of history I own now from an architect in Waterford. A Sony TA 2000 pre amp and the matching 3200 f power amp looking like late 70’s but build actually from 1967 to 1971.

It was brown, no sound, and not much hope, just in the work shop for having a look. I started Cleaning and gave up, so thinner came out and the finish was actually bright silver the writing did not wash of. The power amp cleaned inside ahem.. with Carburetor cleaner, started making noise again.

Don’t try this stuff with plastic or print around. The Pre amp had a lot of problems and got a quality time in Galway paid and some volunteered from Cyril for repair. Back here for a shoot out with the 80’s on steroids, the sound was tamer, a slight roll of treble and not so pricing clear & fast, but the styles and detail of the recording are all there, and now with a nice 70’s Vibe.

I was really contemplating to add a Transcriptor Turntable offered for a very good price, or what is considered a good price to be honest. It would have completed a set of Art. According to audio reviews the old Transcriptor Arm alignments do not stand up to my the Thorens 321 with Rega. The function of this system is playing music and not just looking at it. But the look would be outstanding. Missing still the shoot out…

The only addition since is a re conditioned Benchmark DAC returned from a customer that had to be recapped with a Optical link to a Newhenk Media Player for Airplay or Internet Streaming and wood panel are back.

Now some streaming Services offers some High resolution Audio finally. This could give the 70’s Record sound a hard time to survive, again.

Thank You for sharing the Fun..

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