Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Midcentury mesmerized

This little Realistic vacuum-tube FM tuner, circa 1956 and manufactured for Radio Shack by Harman-Kardon, kicks serious audio booty.

Fifty-six years old. Monophonic -- in '56, there was no FM multiplex stereo yet. And it sounds like a little bit of heaven. It's just stunning when you get a strong signal into it, particularly on classical music.

The less overprocessed the station's audio is, the better . . . but 56 years ago, that really wasn't a problem, was it? The FM "loudness wars" still were decades away.

I plugged this little gem -- the first to bear the "Realistic" brand -- into my Soundcraft mixer in the Revolution 21 studio, and I'm running it through a Crown D-75A amplifier for now. It really is amazing; the sound just jumps from my Electro-Voice studio monitor speakers.

I'M KIND OF afraid to hook this mono mini (it really is very small) up to the stereo multiplexer -- it might never leave the studio if I do, as opposed to what I have planned for it.

Think I'm exaggerating? Here's a 44-minute MP3 of the thing tuned into the local classical and classic-rock stations. Dear God.

I ALSO got the matching Realistic five-tube, 10-watt amplifier (manufactured by Grommes), which is a real beauty. See?

I've yet to hook that up -- eventually, the Realistic tuner will be paired with it to make a complete 1950s hi-fi system.

If anyone would like to donate a vintage 1956 hi-fi floor speaker. . . .

For now, I'm "making do" with an early-1970s University Sound floor speaker. (Note ironic quote marks. Nothing about a vintage University floor speaker constitutes "making do.")

You'll note the tuner and amp say "Radio Shack Boston." In 1956, there was one Radio Shack, and it was in Boston.

This concludes Your Daily Geek for Tuesday, July 10, 2012. Live long and prosper.

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