Monday, June 11, 2012

The sound and the beauty

Leave it to me to be a hi-fi geek staring into the abyss of whole generations now come of age hearing the world as a low-bitrate MP3 through cheap earbuds connected to an iPod.

Yes, my generation had crappy transistor AM radios we listened to with cheap earphones. But we also had stereo systems with killer tuners, wall-shaking amplifiers and loudspeakers the size of a Smart car.

And before I yell at you to get off my lawn -- punk -- I'll just say that back then, FM sounded great, AM sounded really good, and most consumer audio allowed you to hear that. Not only that, some of our "stereos" or "hi-fis" were stunningly beautiful, even. Above is the REL "Precedent" FM tuner, circa 1954 . . . some seven years before my time, I hasten to add.

Some vintage-audio aficionados say the Precedent -- in all its monophonic glory -- was the best FM tuner ever made. I don't have the expertise (or experience of it ) to be able to say. But I do think it might have been the prettiest.

My trusty old Marantz 2226 receiver, though, surely has a place on the prettiest stereo gear list somewhere. I've had it since I was 16, and that's it at left . . . aglow in the dark.

Then again, I am an anachronism. I value the spectacle, and the experience, of hearing good music nearly as much as the music itself. IPods and MP3s have their place today, of course. But for me, they are a utilitarian concession -- not the crème de la crème of a generation rendered tin-eared by a utilitarian age.

For this relic of an age long past, alas, there is nothing left but to offer a futile protest against the times in which I must live --
non serviam. Now find a jazz station somewhere on FM and crank that tube amp up to 11 for me, will you?

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