FACT: Your Crooner Is A Bonafide HiFi Vinyl Junkie

Some of you might relate to this. And fact is, I enjoy sharing my hobbies, interests and passions with my fans. This rediscovered interest of mine has brought me a lot of fun and joy the past 2 years. So… here we go…

It all began over 36 years ago. My Sophomore year in high school. I decided I wanted to deejay our high school dances. I cobbled together a big enough sound system, a couple of record changers, a small mixer from Radio Shack which I cherished for YEARS, a handful of 45’s and cassettes, some crappy homebrew DJ lights… and away I went. This is where life was gonna take me. I was bad, I was nationwide.

It’s interesting how moments like that dictate the rest of your life.

For the next 30+ years I hauled that stack of vinyl, a considerable collection of 12″ and 7″ records, mostly from the 80’s, around with me most everywhere I lived… just owning enough gear to play the stuff… a middle class turntable, a mediocre receiver, a pair of palatable speakers, while simultaneously ogling the sweet high-end gear created by such giants as TEAC, AKAI, Kenwood, Yamaha, McIntosh… and salivating through the annual Radio Shack catalog boasting pure gold, including a couple of reel to reel machines. Gear like this was unattainable to a kid like me.

I’d scoop up an album here and there… and oh wait we cannot exclude mentioning CASSETTE. I made MANY a mixtape back in those days, because you needed tape to jam out the Craig cassette player in my old 1972 Chevy Nova (I momentarily stepped back to 1982 again).

Never owned an 8-track. Just missed it.

OK… so let’s get back on track… and fast forward to less than 3 years ago.

My stereo gear arsenal, even after all these years, hadn’t really improved much. I still just had enough to get by sonically, and perhaps pop on an album from time to time. I had recently stumbled upon a “Vintage Hi-Fi and Audio” interest group on Facebook. Fellas (and a few gals) obsessed with finding vintage gear in thrift shops, at garage sales, on Craigslist, estate sales… you name it. These people were addicted for sure… bonafide nuts! And the equipment they were finding… sweet Lord.

Artisan created, vacuum tube driven JOY. Turntables and other machinery seething with the sex-appeal precision of German, Swede, Asian and any other exotic heritage. Man this stuff was pure CELEBRATION. Interest groups all over the web providing 3000 combined years (ok I am exaggerating) of experience on every level. I was finding myself sucked in for sure. The trigger had been pulled.

How’d I miss all this? And I thought I was an audiophile… not even close.

So I find myself cruising through Craigslist… “TEAC A-6300 Reel to Reel – $300” Ooooh… looks nice. I got a bit of dialogue going with the owner by email. He didn’t live far from me. Cool guy I could tell. Told him I would love to see it. He told me he’d have it hooked up for me to review. By now we had exchanged a few emails and the rapport was nice. Told him I would come by around 4:30PM. Upon arrival the kinship was off the chart and after hearing this sweet looking and sounding machine from the early 1970’s, I couldn’t hand him the 3 Benjamins fast enough. He gave me a tour of all the other amazing gear he had stashed in his extensive basement of pure gold vintage.

To make a long story short… I left his home around 10:30PM with the first reel to reel I’ve ever owned (at 49 years old) after sharing stories, playing music and enjoying some outstanding fellowship. Carson is now a friend for life. I’ve bought several components from him since as well and we continue to mutually enjoy the enthusiasm and love for music and old gear with more stories and visits.

The fellowship with this old, wonderful Hi-Fi hobby is amazing.

And my vinyl collection… good grief. I can hardly pass a Goodwill without dropping in for a quick driveby. If you were to convey the measurement of vinyl albums in inches horizontally… I began with about 20″ worth of music. It has since expanded, in less than 2 years to, well… look at the photo below of my existing setup and it’ll speak for itself.

 

Oh and also, my renewed love of recorded music rekindled my brother’s love for it as well. We are only 2 years apart so he was deeply embedded in HiFi during his army tour in Germany while I was in the Air Force. He now has all the Carver and Polk Audio gear he always wanted in his twenties. AND, one of my closest friends Jake, who is 34 years old, had never experienced such musical bliss this stuff can emit. Growing up in the earbud and iPod age, it was a complete unknown to him.

I recall him mentioning “I want to hear your system sometime soon.” Upon arrival he was astounded by the visual charm these ancient devices boasted. I then sat him down in the big chair, strategically positioned front and center on the sweet spot… and dropped the needle. Within seconds, he looked up at me and smiled like a 7 year old kid.

I then stated, as if I were Obi-wan Kenobi… “Your life will never be the same Jake.”

Since then, I have built a system for him, which he has since sold and upgraded… with my guidance of course. We plan regular “attacks” on the incredible record stores located throughout Pittsburgh such as Jerry’s Records, Attic Records and others. Amazingly there is still very much original old vinyl to be had out there, and the playback quality is astounding. I have found gems for as little as $1.00 which were visually and sonically incredible. My Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Andre Previn, Dave Brubeck and George Benson collections are unreal… just to mention a few. Man, I am even snagging titles of lore and giving them as gifts. You can’t help but pay it forward in this joyous interest!

Whether you’re dropping the needle into the groove, or simply pushing “play”… the hands-on, one-on-one, VERY physical pleasure of this now resurging era of music is quite zen-like and satisfying. Scuse, me… but it’s time to flip the record over.

2 Comments

  1. Pete Nichols

    JEB,
    The best thing about playback equipment is it doesn’t matter if you’ve spent $300, $3,000, or $30,000 on your gear…What matters is it sounds good to you. You embody the true spirit of an audiophile; you dig music from all eras, listing to it on all sorts of devices, and you help other people experience the joy of discovery & ownership when you find, repair, and sell vintage technology. I’m just glad you’re part of the revolution!

    Pn
    Founder, Host & Mix Master Supreme
    On Vinyl as God Intended
    facebook.com/groups/OnVinylasGodIntended/

    Reply

    • John Eric Booth Post author

      Thanks much Pete! Isn’t it something? I’m just so amazed I breezed through so many years before rediscovering this terrific niche interest. Such fun. I have a needle dropping most everyday these days. While others are closing a CD drawer, I’m either winding a tape or cleaning dust from a stylus… LOVINGLY. 🙂

      Reply

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