shock of the old

Although I frequent web boards where vintage audio equipment is obsessed over, I’m not much of a vintage guy myself – I’m particularly interested in gear that is in the small to tiny range, which vintage isn’t.

Also, there just isn’t that much vintage available in my little town.

But browsing a thrift store Saturday, I came across a Technics cd player from the mid-80s. I haven’t owned a strictly cd player for a long time – I use Oppo’s fine universal units. But for $6.99, I figured I could give it a try.

My first reaction: it’s better than my Oppos. That flies in the face of what we know about digital, that newer is almost always better because of improvements in technology, especially dacs.

I have moved away from the very subjective world of audiophilia, and generally believe – especially with digital – that it is what it is, and above a certain minimum the differences in sound can be small. But a couple of hours with the Technics had me thinking in audiophile terms – there was a sense of rhythm and pace to the cds I was listening to that I don’t think I hear with my Oppos. Maybe I’m just fooling myself, though at the very least, the Technics clearly sounds different from the Oppos.

Anyway, it’s cheap fun and becomes part of my ‘listening on the cheap’ experiment.


The point of cheap listening is to buy music you want to hear, not to assemble a definitive collection of cds. Unless you’re lucky, persistent and in a place big enough, chances are you won’t (or won’t quickly) get to build up around one particular artist. For instance, you won’t find ‘The Beatles In Stereo’ cd set at thrift store prices. You’ll be lucky to find scattered earlier issues, maybe the red and blue two cd sets or ‘One.’ If you want the Beatles, that’s your entry point.

Ditto for other artists: today I found Radiohead’s ‘The Bends’ and Joni Mitchell’s ‘Hissing of Summer Lawns’ as a two for $10 purchase, and the Guided By Voices best of for $7.99, but no ‘Kid A’ or ‘Mingus’ or ‘Bee Thousand.’ (I actually ‘paid’ for the items with store credit.)  Still, two of the albums were completely new to me and one, the Mitchell, I had only a glancing familiarity with, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them this afternoon – being a cheap listener means being happy with what you have.


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