Chasing Sound


This post is a boiled down version of my side of an email exchange which was had recently. Sorry if it is difficult to follow without all the other players. It should be entertaining enough though. Enjoy!

I was in junior college and an IT geek when digital first came out. Myself and friends were _always_ trying to get the same sound from cassette tape as we could from our vynyl. We tried everything. There was a time when the only currency we recognized was a Maxell UDXL-II 90. Gospel truth, I still have half a wood rack that are still in original shrink wrap.

Oh, we tried everything. Metal tape, Enclosures. One of my friends worked in the electronics department at K’s Merchendise Mart and had for a while so he got awesome discounts on the latest audio gear. He had a sound system which consumed half a breaker box of power. You just couldn’t quite do it.

0626161635bThen we would make the mistake of putting those tapes in our car stereos which really ruined them. Moving cassettes between players causes them to stretch differently which distorts the sound. Yes, parking your car in the sun doesn’t really help them either.

0626161646The reason I bought my Fisher stereo system from Fretter (gotta be old to remember those guys) actually wasn’t because of the turn table but the incredible range of the speakers for a really cheap price. The second reason I bought it was the 6-disc CD-changer which has long since died due to too many moving parts being moved to too many apartment/corporate housing units. The stereo now rests permanently in my office.


You see, Bruce Hornsby had just released “The Way It Is” with an electric piano. This was the first time digital media sounded better than traditional because Bruce used an electric piano which seemed to be mated to the sampling rate for CD/digital media of the day.

From day one that Fisher has had a bit of a volume problem. When one turns it down to a power level of 2 lit LEDs one speaker will randomly stop playing. I took it back to Fretter every week until the chain went under. The speakers are so efficient that much above 2 lit LEDs is a volume level well above background-still-able-to-work. It’s just fine if you are peeling out a copy of “Back in Black” but way too much for NPR News Hour.

Teenager note: One really needs the space of a large farm machine shed before attempting to turn that system all the way up. Even at peak volume I’ve never heard the speakers crack, snare, or distort sound. At low volume yes, it loses channels maddeningly but at college party volume it’s clean.

It’s really odd we are having this exchange. During my last office cleaning binge a few (maybe 6) months ago I held that half rack of Maxell UDXL-II’s in my hand, looked over at the Fisher turn table and thought “I really should make some compilation tapes.” My 06 Avalon has a tape deck, actual deck. Last model year which had an actual tape deck if I remember correctly. Oh, by that I mean the tape unit is self contained in its own spot, not part of the stereo, an actual component. I thought about making some tapes again 2 weeks ago when I picked up my 02 Grand Cherokee Overland because it has an integrated tape and seems to have good sound.

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