I Refuse to Let Go of My Retro

Sunday, February 13, 2011
Posted in category Music

I was leisurely making my way through my iTunes library and playlists this afternoon, juggling around some of my music for the purpose of relaxation, with a bit of productivity thrown in. I came across one song that reminded me of why I love music so much, and why music that sounds extraordinary is so essential to me everywhere I go.

To begin, I am an audiophile of sorts, though acutely imperfect as far as that definition goes. Wikipedia defines an audiophile as one who is a “hobbyist who seeks high-quality audio reproduction via the use of specialized high-end audio electronics.” Wikipedia goes on to say, “Audiophiles can purchase special recordings made with extra attention to sound quality, some being special audiophile-oriented reissues, as well as recordings in high-resolution formats such as Super Audio CD or DVD-Audio. Many modern audiophiles also take advantage of lossless file formats such as WAVFLACWMA Lossless, and Apple Lossless.” I suppose – or maybe I just hope – the last bit qualifies me as an audiophile, but also as one who does not believe in going broke on tons of high-$$$$ home stereo equipment just to listen to music that sounds as close to perfect as possible.

I am an ipodophile, because going digital has saved me space, money (on equipment and maintenance), and time. And I can also share the joys of my large music collection with others with little effort. Clicking and dragging and burning in iTunes is far more efficient than the old ways. I have five iPods and an iTouch. Plus I have a DroidX and a Nook Color, both of which hold lots of music and play Pandora radio. The days of spending hours to produce one high-quality cassette or mini-disc or recorded CD – on a full-blown CD recorder – are long over. I still have my vast collection of cassettes, both recorded and blank, and the photo below shows just a small assemblage of some of the old recording medium I haved stored for many years.


Note the Denon MG-X metal cassettes – those were $15 blank tapes. The Sony UX-Pro, Denon HD and HDM, and the Maxell XL-II S – they were all top-notch tapes for recording music that could enable Ella to break the glass. The mini-discs? I, like the Japanese, was convinced they were the right medium for the time, and I still cling to those, too. I still have my Sony mini-disc player/recorder, my $1,000 1986 Nakamichia CD player/changer, my Denon 3-head cassette recording deck, and my Sony CD player/recorder. I never did get a Nakamichi Dragon, which was a teenage dream of mine. I yearned for a Dragon for years and years. Those still go for $1,500 & up. And as to Ella – if you are not old enough, here is that memorable and great Ella Fitzgerald commercial for Memorex.

I still have my Fisher Studio Standard (1980-ish) amp and tuner, and they work perfectly. I only added a “modern” Yamaha surround-sound receiver (still, an older, 1st generation style) to drive my Bose AM5 Series II satellites and subwoofer for watching movies. I still use a late 70s model Realistic (Radio Shack brand) graphic equalizer. My 1982 Technics turntable took a dive, but I will get it fixed.

I love the retro look, feel, and sound of my old stuff, and I have no desire to change my setup. Plus, my Dad, who ran his own electronics repair and rebuild business, rebuilt some old equipment for me, including a really kickass 8-track deck. And yes, I saved some of my 8-tracks. I can still go on Craigslist in my area, look in the electronics section, search under “vintage,” and an abundance of great stuff comes up for sale.

Now, back to that one song and why it is so important. The one song that I think turned me toward an eclectic taste in music and equipment is “Rock ‘n Rolly Jelly” by the jazz bass and guitar virtuoso, Stanley Clarke. It was 1978 and I was fourteen years old. I was at my best friend’s house (my 3rd cousin) and her father – who I called Uncle Ted – and older brother Mark, who were audiophiles, were playing some music as I walked into the living room. They had just bought a slightly used Teac reel-to-reel recorder, and this thing was the most beautiful piece of equipment I had ever seen. A big, beautiful, shiny piece of stereo equipment with glistening reels, and a huge and fascinating instruction booklet that I couldn’t wait to absorb. They were playing “Rock ‘n Roll Jelly” and it sounded so perfect. I was already an avid 8-track and album collector at that time, but this moment made me realize that I had a desire that my music should sound as true to its natural form as possible.

My equipment was junk – I decided I’d get a job and save my money to buy some real stereo equipment, just like my cousins. I moved out of the house at 19, and I quickly realized that my away-from-the-parents life could easily accommodate a 5-tier stereo rack and a pair of huge, booming Cerwin Vega speakers that took up one-third of my living room. Who needs a room for a couch when you are 19 and need nothing more than loud music and room for hundreds of albums?

So I worked hard and bought some cool stuff. Home, car, and portable, it all had to sound good. My coaxials were ditched in favor of tweeters, woofers, and midranges. I tossed the all-in-one radio-turntable-phonograph in favor of a separate pre-amp and power amp. Over the years those pieces changes, but only gradually.

Considering all the equipment I have and the various means I use to enjoy my music, I definitely would not be able to play in the same sand box as a real audiophile. I am more of a retrophile, or someone who relies on modern technology for the heart of my music collection, while the soul of that stockpile is my old stuff that kept me so satisfied for so many years.

The last retro piece of mine I want to share – or joyously laugh at – is the one thing that had me learning what it was like to get into credit card trouble. The piece below was the mother of all walkmans at the time – the celebrated Toshiba that had the removable radio, or tuner pack, that was built like a cassette. I liked this gadget because most walkmans at the time were all plastic, with clunky buttons and plastic parts on the inside. The Toshiba was all steel, and it was solid and beautiful. I was starting to appreciate fine equipment just a bit too much. In 1981 (or thereabouts) this cost me $200.

My motto of, “Have Hudson’s $200 credit-limit credit card, will spend” soon became, “I’d better work a lot of overtime hours to make these payments.” And so I learned. And I like my equipment so much more the older it gets. Don’t laugh, it’s all paid for.

P.S. – follow me on Twitter @karendecoster.

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10 Responses to I Refuse to Let Go of My Retro

  1. Iluvatar says:

    February 14th, 2011 at 1:30 am


    Here is some (small) advice.

    And I am going to be polite.

    I am speaking from a MUSIC LISTENER pov – only.

    We ALL need to undertstand the DIFFERENCE between BEING ECLECTIC in music vs. being FOCUSED in MUSIC.

    We ALSO need to understand the tremondous differences involved in being a player of music vs. being a collector of hardware, i.e. AN AUDIOPHILE (the two ARE NOT the same!).


    An audiophile delights herself in her HARDWARE@!


    A Musical listener delights herself into the MUSIC!

    Big distinction.

    I am no audiophile and I am certainly not eclectic.

    I am focused into Prog (Progressive Rock), Jazz Fusion, and hard rock (can you say AC/DC or Rush (just bought back 2 of their discs 2 months ago (Hell yeah Man – “Working Man”!- out of Toronto no less!!!!).

    Here are the defintions – AUDIOPHILE: a collector og musical HARWARE. A musical collector – A COLLECTOR OF MUSIC!!!!

    And here is where we are certainly DIFFERENT – I DO NOT celebrate MY HARDWARE!

    I celebrate the MUSIC – PERIOD!

    While I do care that I have “4-on-the-floor” (4 Klipsch speakers for the stereo: to wit: a Mitwubishi amp from `78 & 2 Klipsch “Cornwalls” & 2 Klipsch “La Scalas”) & “6 on the floor – Klipsch SF1 series for the 5 channels and the subwoofer – but htat is for the DVDs on the TV!).

    And trust me on this one – when I want to rock the ‘hood? I do so! And it is absolute THUNDER!! (This is no joke, the house THUNDERS!!!) (The kids love it – music is to DIE FOR NO? – but dancing is good too – ala Mark Sisson! shiite, I certainly do!).

    But we need to get the distinctions down – you can buy hardware & you can buy music. What will take care of your soul FIRST?

    My guess, the MUSIC!!

    Peace brothers, Jesus said I needed to say this – I agreed, peace! Kant agrred; but then Nietsche got typically hyperbolic – screw him! (lol!!!!)

    P.S. Just listened to Pete Gabrie’s “Growing UP” tonite – excellent!!!

    Other GOOD Jazz fusion to listen to:

    Return To Forever: Romantic Warrior (that is just a start), the orther single albums by Stanley Clarke (Voodoo Princess?), and Pat Methany’s (As Falls Wichita, so does Wichita Falls), or how about Jean Luc Ponty via “Cosmic Messenger”?


    Please get the notion of a musical collector straight from an audiophile! They are not the same!

    P.S. LOVED your Booker T and the MG’s.

    That was to die for!!!!@!@!@!@

    Peace, brother….

  2. Iluvatar says:

    February 14th, 2011 at 1:54 am

    Hey Karen?

    Can you delve into your thoughts about being an ANARCHIST?
    I have some thoughtd building into that. And they date into the day I was 17 – not much has changed since-. Would really like to get you r take that way – gosh it is late! bon nuit tout le monde!!!

    Mes aplogies! (Hey? that wasn’t French you jerk@@@!!!

    Nope, it sure wasn’t…

  3. Alex says:

    February 14th, 2011 at 10:30 am

    You’re 1000% correct in not paying a ton of money for good equipment. Pawn shops across America have classic equipment for the taking. Don’t forget to add a USB turntable to your collection if you haven’t already! I have very eclectic musical tastes so much of what I look for in “old music” isn’t available on iTunes. Plus some of the prices I’ve seen for used CDs for out-of-print works are ridiculous. The turntable saves a lot of money. I was looking for one out-of-print album, and someone wanted $100 for the CD on Amazon. A few weeks later, found a pristine vinyl copy of the same album at a used record store for a buck! Nothing like buying old albums and converting them to digital on the PC.

    I’ve grown to despise Apple products as a user (not investor) because of the iTunes program. I consider it a nuisance to have to go through a software “third party” to load up music on a device. Anything that isn’t USB-connect-drag-and-drop is…a drag. My iPhone 3Gs takes four times as long as my Droid X to load gigabytes worth of music. I also like the fact that I can switch out the MicroSD card in the Droid, so you can save back up all your music on several cards and then just switch in the one you want at any time.

    Finally, in terms of Stanley Clarke albums, I’ve always loved “Journey to Love” (with Jeff Beck) and “School Daze” (the opening riff being the first thing I learned to play on the electric bass).


  4. Thad Robinson says:

    February 14th, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    When I was a kid, my dad had a Kenwood tube amp that sounded better than anything I have today. My first roommate out of college inherited his dad’s old Marantz system, which also had that gorgeous warm tube tone that made our heavyweight vinyl LPs sound like they were being performed in the living room. My landlord at the next place I lived had a rather interesting life in the sixties and seventies, and I found his old Telefunken receiver in the garage, covered with a thick layer of dust. Still worked fine, though, and sounded like a dream after the tubes warmed up.

    I’m still kind of mad I didn’t talk that Telefunken out from under my landlord.

  5. Tim Rusling says:

    February 14th, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    I loved your story and the video clip. I’m a retrophile too. I’ve two Nakamichi 600 cassette decks, a Nak MR-2 professional deck, a Nak Cassette Deck 2, a Nak BX-125 deck, a Nak 660ZX deck and a Nak compact system. I’ve a Nak 610 Control Pre-amp and a Nak 620 main amp. To augment that is a Nak AV-2 Receiver and Harman-Kardon table. The speakers are a combination of Klipsch RB-3 and Angstroms. I’m crazy about the sound everything collectively makes and I don’t have an I-pod. I’m glad you wrote this. Thx! TR

  6. Iluvatar says:

    February 15th, 2011 at 12:44 am

    Those previous posts were AWFUL!

    I wanted to make 2 points only.

    Too frequently music collectors call themselves “audiophiles” – and that is incorrect – here is Wiki’s definition:


    Audiophiles pray to the altar of the Hardware!

    Music collectors pray to the altar of Music!

    I PRAY to the altar of the music.

    But, as I stated before, I am NOT an ECLECTIC – as a matter of fact, I am VERY NARROW (3 genres of music and that’s it – I want to gain expertise in those 3 genres and that’s it).

    Now, this is sort of a shamful thing to have to admit, but it was a hard point for me to be TOLD I was not an audiophile:

    It was around `88 and I decided to check out a high-end audio store (and gawd, don’t you just hate those snobby puke-sh*ts in the store?), I asked politely where were your Klipsch speakers – all I see are Magna-Planars (thin film speakers standing 6 feet tall and requireing a separate POWER supply for those highly inefficient beasts!)?

    Answer?: “I am sorry, Klipsch are LOUDSPEAKERS. They are not audiophile quality.”

    Talk about being cut off at the knees!

    Talk about being humbled into DUST!

    I walked out of that store w/ a resolve to NEVER BE an audiophile again!!

    As an electrical engineer, and based on the circuital advive I have received over the years – the story has remained the same – put your money into the TRANSDUCERS (those thingies that convert musical power from one form to another, e.g., the turntable, the tape deck, the SPEAKERS).

    Well, I did that.

    when I played my albums (until I broke it moving it about 6 Super Bowls ago), I used a Beogram 3404 turntable built by Bang & Olufsen (sp?). You could turn that sucker up 45 degrees and it would still track to an album – they quit the business in the late `90′s. I also had a Teac reel-reel tape deck that got busted on bad tape in the basement in the mid-90′s.
    End of reel-reel. (I am still crying over these losses).

    But then, I also payed attention to the end-game: speakers.

    So I got a pair of Cornwalls (Klipsch) in `85 (“little boys”), then a pair of La Scala’s in `95 (also Klipsch) (“the grand-pappies”).

    They are still with me now. Period!

    And the amp ain’t no Mitsubishi (fro crying out loud Iluvatar! how drunk were you?!?!?!), it’s a Sansui AU-717 I got in a trade back in `78 from my college housemate (I MADE OUT!@).

    Now am I an audiophile?

    Not even close.

    As the snob in the high-end store said: “Klipsch are LOUDSPEAKERS”.

    Well, ok, fine (& f*ck you too).

    But , now that I am down to CDs only, (until I replace my dear B&) turntable), I am still ROCKIN’!

    My work colleagues are equally dsimissive of my speakers (won’t even come over for listening session (= boys drinking beer!), and say that Klipsch have too much of a “megaphone effect”).

    Well, here is my answer: Oh yeah? Go pound sand! – these dudes are SUPER-present (they sound like the band is in the gawd-damned room!). And guess what?

    They pump out around 100-120 dbA (decibels acoustic) whilst being powered by a stingy 50-100 Watt/per channel amp!

    Boys, that is what we call EFFICIENCY!

    As an electrical engineer, at least I got that point (I really want MAgna-Planars that require a separate power supply? C’mon man!@!!!).

    And yes, about 2 times a year I let these guys ROAR! (Ahem, beer is usually involved in that exercise). I light up the WHOLE block with the windows open (you can hear me a block away – LOUD & CLEAR).

    Usually playing Yes’s “Relayer” or “Tales from Topographical Oceans” (the track called: “The Revealing Science of God” – my FAV!!!), of Spirit’s “12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus” (“When I Touch You”), and lately, by Liquid Tension Experiment, 1st album, “Three Minute Warning” (personal warning! DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS IF YOU SUFFER FROM HEART ISSUES).

    But despite all this, I have been shamefully relegated to the point of a “NON-audiophile”.

    And I am ok w/ that, since, in all truth, it ain’t about the hardware – it is about the MUSIC.

    I choose to pray to a different ALTAR.

    And for many men (women as well?? – certainly not my wife@!), MUSIC is the DOOR TO THE SOUL!

    peace brothers, I hope this rectifies the obvious gaffe of the 1st post (I should never drink 6 beers after filing the taxes – I am such a woose in that regards – or, out of practice – my apologies mates).

    Bon nuit!

  7. Iluvatar says:

    February 18th, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Hey Alex:

    thanks for that post.

    I wanted to amplify your thoughts on Stanley.

    I have the following (sitting in my lap): Stanley Clarke (solo/untitled) that has “Vulcan Princess” (LUV THAT ONE!) + “Spanish Phases for Strings & Bass”, next one is: “School Days” w/ “School Days”, ” “Desert Song”. and ” Life is Just a Game” – is that the one you have?????.

    Then I have “Children of Forever” which is real good. But then we AMP IT UP w/ “The Clarke/Duke Project” – check out “Wild Dog” & their cover of “Louie Louie” – to die for!!@!!.

    ok, putting those guys back and puttin’ RTF in my lap – wait a `sec… ok back agin’

    RTF: “Return to Forever – No Mystery”, “Where Have I Known You Before”, “Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy”, “The Leprochaun” – Chic solo, AND THEN (ta-da!!!!) the MASTERPIECES!: “Romantic Warrior” & “Musicmagic”!!!@!@!@!

    Also check out: “The Rite of Strings” by Clarke, Di Meola, & Jean Luc Ponty – you will NOT LOSE $ on that deal!

    OK, putting the CDs back again, hold tight for a sec.//

    I also forgot RTF’s “Light As a Feather” which I have on album but did not buy back since it was mostly classic Jazz (but still good! I am a man of limited means!@!@!).

    Also, Al Dimeola’s singles were quite good too; holler back if you have an interest – I have a few.

    Lastly, I would highly recommend the recent DVD (2008) – hold tight, I just bought it – oh, here it is in the “UNFILED” pile – it is a DVD – “Return to Forver – Returns” Live at Montreux, dated circa 2008 (I saw their concert in `08, and Stanley BLEW UP THE BASS in that concern – it was AWESOME@!!).

    The reason I purchased it? Was my feeling that these guys were getting so old – it mighta been their LAST venture! But, that DVD is SOLID! It is worth the bucks.

    Hey Alex? Hang tough in IL ok?

    The articles I am reading indicate that the IL population is getting ready to get slammed w/ higher taxes in a state that is broke! (Mish’s web site) – be good and I hop all works out for you & your beloved(s).

    Peace man…

    ok, I have already made a big enough fool of myself on this post (Karen, if you want to, please go ahead and delete my first 2 posts here – I AM SO ASHAMED!!@!@!)

    I will send another post after this one…

  8. Iluvatar says:

    February 18th, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Hey Karen?

    The 2nd post was actually DEAD SERIOUS.

    I would actually like to learn about Anarchy (def’n: the ABSENCE of GOVERNMENT).

    As an Existentialist & Pantheist (jesus-based, that is – check out the Nag Hamamdi scrolls on the Web #88), I come at this from a different angle – but that’s cool. We come to our god-concepts in many different ways (the Sufi’s par example).

    And yet, the notion of Anarchy still intrigues me, but tugs at my life cords (as it should!!!).

    I always arrive at a conclusion that for an anarchy to foster (& I am talking about a peacefulc anarchical society), some key things MUST HAPPEN:

    1) there must be a COMMON set of tenets among the WORLD’s population (i.e., we have to have CORE beliefs), 2) the world’s population MUST by IN to being self-responsible – WE MUST be responsible for OURSELVES (we can’t continue to look to “Government” to SOLVE our ills), 3) we have to resolve identity issues: We, in America, have major identity issues (I think the same holds true for the rest of the world)- we can’t seem to be comfortable unless we can IDENTIFY w/ something (some group, some town, some state, some country) – and yet, we FAIL to understand that we ARE ALL brothers – across ALL boundaries – and the common tie that BINDS US ALL – is LOVE!@!@!

    B/c that leads us all down a path of helping each other.

    But what bothers me, is that that the exercise of identification ALWAYS results in a SELF-LIMITED exercise – DUDES!@!@!, get with the program! We are ALL living members of this planet!

    We (USA) can’t seem to get around these boundaries (Ken Wilbur – “No Boundaries”). We, as a people, can NOT seem to be able to survive WITHOUT BOUNDARIES OR IDENTIFCATION!

    And that is very sad, since, to live my life, I only NEED TO KNOW WHO I AM!

    I don’t need to be in a club!

    I NEED TO KNOW MYSELF and then my fellow man.

    I already know that my sense of self extends BEYOND my skin-wrapper – I get this – took awhile, but I got it. To form a prefect union, requires that EVERYONE ELSE gets it too!

    Hey look, as a 30-something, I am very proud that you wheel and deal w/ the Libertarian Elite (LRC, Mises, et. al.).

    But should you ever engage in a serious debate about a “practical” Anarchy w/ your friends – can you copy this to your site? – Just a small favor to ask – I don’t run w/ the BIG DAWGS after all….

  9. clark says:

    February 22nd, 2011 at 12:53 am

    I can relate to an audiophile, but I’m not even close to being one. I have owned Memorex cassette tapes (it was real) and TDK was “high end” in my circle.

    I never experienced much loudness like what Iluvatar gives his block, I think my town was a Footloose sort of town, loud music all too often was grounds for arrest.


    Hey, Iluvatar, welcome to the, “I don’t need to be in a club!” club.

    Also, there was an article I wanted to post that addresses your quest to learn about Anarchy, but I couldn’t find it, however; this might do, below is from the comments:

    “…Instead, I’d rather you answer it yourself. You see, when people are confronted with the anarchist solution, one’s mind often wonders to what they consider the “worst case scenario” that justifies government. And they want an immediate answer to that question or else anarchism is just fooey.

    Well, the problem is that answering a question like that is like trying to teach calculus to somebody who never learned multiplication. You’ve got to learn the basics first. And the basics, my friend, are in the book For A New Liberty by Murray Rothbard. It’s available for sale in my STORE section as well as for free online at the Mises Institute. Read it and you will be able to answer that question yourself…”


  10. Iluvatar says:

    February 22nd, 2011 at 6:39 pm


    Thanks for the tips on anarchy. I’ll look into them when I get home (not allowed at work).

    And as to “welcome to the I don’t need to be in a club” club – priceless! (really big grin).

    I think I’ll steal that line from you…


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