I like music since I was pretty much a kid. I could vaguely remember that I used to spend one or two hours in front of my tape recorder, playing my favorite cassette (80’s western love songs) again and again. I distanced myself from music when I was in junior high school, because it reminded me of the unpleasant electone course I had to take (more on this later). Again in my high school years, I often drowned myself in loud music (mostly L’arc en Ciel and Coldplay) to quench my uneasy mind, to forget all the unpleasant things I felt from being high school’s outcast. My time spent with music has been slightly reduced again since then, but now I almost always listening to some music when I’m in front of my laptop (well, I spend about half of my awake time with my laptop).
As technology shifted, so did my audio system. Here’s a summary of all audio systems I have, from the oldest to the newest. I also recounted my mistaken decisions, most of them stemmed from my haste when I already want to have something.
Kindergarten and Before
JVC radio cassette recorder (type unknown)
My old man’s. He used it when teaching English class to high school students. Its output was still mono, but it was a high-quality mid-end product manufactured in Japan. I remember its clear and loud voice, and its stout build with thick casing and stainless steel linings. I also remembered that I’ve ever urinated and dumped sh*t on it, once.
Fate: sold as wreck.
National mini-compo (type unknown)
This was originally my uncle’s. Unlike its predecessor, it was a stereo mini-compo, and it was a local product – the younger sibling of the famous Gobel radio series. It also had clear output. This is my first audio system with equalizer in it, and I liked to experiment with the equalizer, and this was when I got to know ‘rock’ equalizer setting (one that shapes like ‘V’).
Fate: unknown, perhaps sold as wreck too.
Clarion car speaker
It was a three-way speaker system, mounted with a self-made wooden cabinet. I asked it from my cousin. It had clear output but somewhat lacked kick in low-frequency range. Since I didn’t have stereo amplifier, I just connected it in parallel with one of National mini-compo’s speaker.
I asked my Dad to buy me after seeing it at my neighbor’s. It came with a cheap echo microphone. Compared to previous two cassette players, this one was a failed product. Several days after it was bought, a problem occurred with its power cord. Several months later, its motor mechanism malfunctioned, and many of my cassettes got their winding loose, some of them became unplayable because the winding got too big that it filled up the magazine. It was soon fixed, but soon the playback head became corroded (or magnetized, I didn’t know the exact cause), causing sharp attenuation in the high frequency range, rendering the playback output almost unintelligible.
Actually it had a good amplifier, which sounds brighter than my National mini-compo. It is still the best radio receiver I have. I plan to add a 3.5mm input and reuse it as stereo amplifier for my digital music players.
Fate: still functioning, with crackling volume knob and almost-dead playback head
This was my WORST buy ever. That time I wanted a walkman – with built-in recorder, because I really wanted to record Gundam opening theme which I instantly fell for the first time I heard it. I didn’t hear shop owner’s recommendation to buy a Sony walkman instead, without recorder function.
- It sounded like crap
- It was mono
- When I opened it, the PCB was the one of the cheap DIY-with-schematic kit you could cheaply buy from an electronic store.
- I spent $8 for this junk
Fate: stored somewhere, waiting to be scrapped for its various components.
Jonsa VCD Player (type unknown)
Another bad decision. A cheap Chinese product with weak optics, too weak to play an mp3 data CD. But the worst part is that I bought this player at the end of VCD era. Not long after the purchase, DVD players started appearing and got cheaper day by day. If only I were patient enough.
Fate: stored somewhere, fully functioning.
Spirit Active Speaker (type unknown)
The shop owner cheated me. I already selected a middle-end, small active speaker with standard treble and bass tone control knobs, but the shop owner pushed this crap on me. I fell into his trap, chose this one because ‘it comes with a graphic equalizer’. Well, it turned out that the one I bought has really poor sound reproduction in higher frequencies, and horrible noise problem. The volume knob is also poorly calibrated so that a slight turn in it triggers drastic increase in volume. I suspected that it was actually an unsold product being thrown to me.
Fate: fully functioning, I don’t care
Desktop PC, on-board soundcard
Now this was the transition to fully-digital music. Forget about analog-elitist faggotry, a layman in a developing country like me could never afford an LP player or tube pre-amp. At first a standard 128 kbps mp3 was enough to satisfy me, even I still accepted 96 kbps ones, and FYI, 128 kbps is much better than analog cassettes, so I was really grateful when I found this new audio format. Later on, as I gathered 320 kbps files, I began to acquire some sensitivity. Now my ‘threshold of audio transparency’ is possibly between 224-320 kbps for lossy audio files.
Not much to tell about this PC itself. For the software, I used JetAudio, and Windows Media Player sometimes. Oh, I also began to prefer flat equalizer configuration.
Fate: leased to a cousin, now defunct (possibly total hardware failure)
2.0 + subwoofer PC speaker
Another crap thrown on me, luckily I paid a reasonable price this time, and it was not all that crappy. This is a poorly executed imitation attempt on the popular Simbadda 2.0 + subwoofer speaker models. It has a really weak subwoofer which gives almost no impact to overall sound output. Well, the manufacturer – in order to cut the production cost – just connected the subwoofer in parallel with left speaker, without any low-pass filter and additional amplification. The amplifier circuit itself is almost as horrible as my cursed walkman. Thanks to its high-quality satellite drivers, I didn’t hate this speaker. In fact, if an average listener didn’t notice the subwoofer’s existence, I’m pretty sure that it would score as perfect low-budget product for them. I planned to build my own amplifier circuitry, with a low pass filter and dedicated amplification stage for the subwoofer.
Fate: defunct (after I took out all the electronics circuitry), waiting for rebuild.
Ooops, seems that my post has grown quite long. ‘Kay, I’ll stop here, and continue on the next post.