Anachostic

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Tag Archives: buy buy buy

So, Are YOU A Collector? Clearly Not.

As I posted recently, I went on a CD safari and ended returning with 20 CDs.  15 of those were purchased from two flea market vendors, both of whom said they were collectors. 

In the first booth I went to, I felt I was in a hurry for time, so I scanned the discs very quickly, looking for smooth cases.  However, I saw one CD that I had scored on my last flea market trip that was a valuable find.  The CD wasn’t in a a smooth case (actually a shitty, flimsy case), so I was curious what a normal edition of that album looked like.  When I opened the case, I was surprised.  Similar to my previous reaction to finding gold, I said, “Oh, it’s a red-faced Polydor.  Nice.” 

Only a real geek would say “a red-faced Polydor”, right?  That’s a statement that would come out of the mouth of an orthinologist.  Like, you should log that in a bird-watching book along with the time and location.  But, I didn’t log it, I bought it.  WHY?  I already had one and it was a valuable one at that!  Sometimes, you can’t explain these things to collectors.  Different is good.

When I got home and cleaned the CDs all up, I researched what I had purchased.  Now you may recall the post about my $300 find for $3.  Well, this time, I paid $5, and wouldn’t you know it?  Someone has paid over $500 for this CD.

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I now have both of these CDs.  What’s the difference?  100% appearance.  These are the two CDs.  They have the same music.

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And when I say they have the same music, I checked.  They DO.  I posted this on Relative Waves.  It’s the same.

That’s two waveforms overlaid on each other.  There’s no green or white peeking out anywhere.  That means no differences. SAME SAME SAME.

Anyway.  So now I have a new most valuable CD.  Again, by a large margin.  In fact, my collection value went up by over $1000 from this last trip.  After all, I did find a bunch of other rarities.

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Safari 2018

A little over a year ago, I went on a CD hunt, and I recently chose to indulge myself again.  This time, I would travel to a remote metro city with a whole new, fresh collection of thrift shops to plunder.  The trip would be two hours to get there (and coincidentally, two hours to get back).  But that’s quite ok, because driving is something I do.  The MX-5 has 263k miles on it right now and shows no sign of giving up.

I plan on making a couple of alterations to the car before this road trip.  The first is removal of the Zune integration with the stereo.  It’s been fun, but as time wore on, and Zune support in Windows went away, it’s less of a thing now for me.  I’ve gotten back into CDs, which seen to have more fidelity than the Zune audio pumped through a 3.5mm cable, even when the files are lossless.

While I have things disassembled, I also plan to implement the traffic power cable for my GPS and hide the ugly bits behind the dash.  Right now, I have a frankencable coming up from my center console and up the dash.  It doesn’t provide a traffic antenna for the GPS and said GPS bitches about it every single time I start it up.  It will be nice to be rid of that stupid alert and also to have the traffic info for better routing.  This will involve purchasing an add-on 12v socket that I’ll hide behind the dash and plug the GPS power cable into it.  I can’t understand why they don’t design GPS power cables to be either plug-in or hard-wired.  Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve torn the interior of my car apart.  I used to do it on a monthly basis.

And then, a trip like this is something that must be done solo.  I can’t imagine the mind-numbing boredom of sitting in a car as a passenger for hours on end, then slogging around dingy shops for a full day.  I have a list of 20 locations to hit in the remote area, including one bona-fide music store.  I’m not sure if I will have time to hit the flea market while I’m there, but I’ll certainly try.

Friday after work, I spent a couple of hours fighting in the car, routing the power cable for the GPS and removing old audio stuff.  That was a success, or so I thought until I went out for dinner that night.  Now I have an alternator whine in my front right speaker, so I’m going to have to take the dash all apart again and be a bit more cautious with my power cable and audio cable routing.  Worse, it means my Saturday trip (two hours each way) will be in silence.  Oh fucking no.

I headed out early in the morning and made it to the flea market just as it opened.  I found two large CD sellers and spent more than I usually would at a flea market.  I paid more per CD, but I think I got some good items.  (Wait for the post on this.  You have no idea!)

The rest of the day was pretty sad compared to the flea market.  Many thrift shops were closed or out of business.  The music store I went to had outrageous prices, like $8 for used CDs, and nothing remotely collectable.  Well, that’s not true.  I treated myself to a Gold CD for $50.  I’ve said before, you can’t really go wrong with those.  They keep their value.

I finished the day at an old favorite Thai restaurant, which was amazing as usual.  Just like the good old days when you would judge how good the food was by how long your tongue would burn after the meal.  And it was a while.

The traffic feature on the GPS did its job and told me when construction was coming up and when I would be delayed by traffic and for how long.  At one point it was counting down when the traffic jam would end and almost as soon as it said it was over, we started speeding up again.  Amazing.

So tomorrow is car stereo repair time.  And tonight has been cleaning, logging, and ripping.  I’ll do some relative waves posts with some of the new editions I picked up tonight as well.

Listen To This Story

Amin_Bhatia_The_Interstellar_SuiteOn a regular CD shopping run last week, I picked up a random album.  I didn’t know the artist, much less the album, but the name was intriguing: The Interstellar Suite By Amin Bhatia.  Peeking inside the case, the liner notes stated: “The orchestral textures on this recording are a complex blend of synthesizers.”  Well, consider me sold.

The tracks of the album were named very specifically and initially it somewhat bothered me.  Songs named explicitly like, LAUNCH: Mission Control and Liftoff/Jumping to the Speed of Light. Another one was: BATTLE: Planning the Attack/Return Fire/The Last Missile.  I wasn’t entirely keen on being told what I should be thinking about as the songs are playing.  Despite that, I did review the track names as each song came on.

So let me say first off that this is an amazing album for many reasons.  The music is exquisitely composed and performed.  It is extremely orchestral and melodic and that’s made even more impressive because it’s done on a collection of synthesizers circa 1987.  The first track reminds me strongly of ELP’s Pirates and has a lot of John Williams influence, which isn’t a bad thing.  The thing that makes this album stand out from a Star Wars soundtrack, is the addition of sound effects, including some minor character dialog and atmospheric sounds.  And maybe it’s just the geek in me, but space ship launches and flybys and missiles and lasers and explosions, all rendered by 80’s synthesizers… consider me a fan.

I have probably played this a dozen times on repeat; it does not get old for me.  And that part is what is most interesting to me.  This particular album is what is termed “program music”, which I had not been exposed to before.  With program music, the songs are meant to conjure up specific imagery in your mind as you listen to them.  And this album does that amazingly well.  To carry the example of Star Wars, when you hear the Star Wars themes, you can visualize the scenes in your head, you’ve seen this before.  But there’s no movie with this album, all you have are the song titles, which I originally thought were too much.

Something about me is that I don’t re-read books.  I also don’t re-watch movies (except concert videos).  So, I find it peculiar that this album is very much like a movie or a book in that it tells a story, but unlike books and movies, I can leave it on repeat.  In fact, I’m playing it right now.  It’s a soundtrack for a movie that was never made or a book that was never written.  It’s also theme park music.  If you’ve gone to any Disney or Universal park, there is atmospheric music playing all the time that keeps you in the theme of the sub-park you are currently walking though.  This music would not be out of place in the slightest.

Hearing this music has made me think of a couple things.  I have a project limping slowly forward that involves a musical soundtrack.  Hearing this suite of music has given me serious reservations of calling my music a soundtrack.  Despite that feeling, I also realize that I have done something similar to this before, although nowhere near as grand.  It was a short-lived time where I wrote two multi-track songs I called Spy Song and Airlock.  The first was a short little song that could be considered intro/chase scene/romance scene/intro reprise.  And Airlock was just a short scene of someone trapped in a space ship and eventually ejected into space.  Neither of these little songs would be useable for any projects just because they’re too short – a couple minutes or so.

So I now have a whole other genre of music to explore now.  I used to buy random CDs at pawn shops when I felt my listening habits were getting stale, but I haven’t done anything like that for a long time.  And sometimes you get really lucky when you do that.

In Retailiation

AK: “When are you ever going to blog again?”

Me: “I just posted yesterday!”

Much later…

Also Me: “When am I ever going to sleep again?”

Still Also Me: “You have to post something today.  Post now, sleep later.”

Today I got to visit a couple houses of insanity, each made further insane by the current season.  The inimitable Pier 1 Imports and its evil cousin Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  In the former, I was searching for holiday placemats specifically.  In the latter, I was searching for a secret Santa gift.

Let’s start with Pier 1.  This store has a very unique atmosphere.  I’ve tried to figure out what uplifting, empowering message they are trying to convey and the best I’ve come up with is: “There are many things you can buy in this world, some are cheap, some are not.  Here’s as many of them as we could fit inside this building.”  I’ve never been to a true “bazaar”, but because bazaar is so phonetically similar to bizarre, I envision that Pier 1 is similar to a bazaar.  Shopping there makes me feel like I have ADD.  It’s impossible to get through the store quickly, because there is always something somewhere attracting your attention.  And at the same time, because you can’t focus on any one thing, you want to get out of there because it’s so overwhelming.

So, thank god I found some decent placements within the first two minutes of walking in.  But as I was standing in line, the ADD hit me and I had a thought of a product I knew they sold that would be a nice stocking stuffer.  I broke out of the line and walked the store, looking for this item.  I never found it.  After checking out, I found I had spent almost 20 minutes in the store.  How the hell did that happen?

Later in the evening, the GF and I went to BB&B.  As we were walking the parking lot to the store, the power turned off in the entire plaza.  That’s not a good omen.  We stood outside the store for a minute or two and determined this wasn’t just a small power blip.  So we moved on to another shopping plaza and came back later.  Power’s back on; we’re good to go.

The atmosphere in BB&B is slightly different than Pier 1.  They are both packed to the gills with shit, but the difference between the two would be, Pier 1 is “chaotic” and BB&B is “claustrophobic”.  BB&B is nicely organized into departments, BUT, there’s a whole bunch of shit that doesn’t fit into any standard department.  That stuff goes in the aisles.  It’s everywhere!  The specific thing I am looking for is one of those aisle things, I assume, because it would be classified as a “beyond” product.  I have to walk all the aisles, which is a misnomer, because there’s only one aisle that loops the store.  So, I make a loop around the store and constantly dodge other people’s shopping carts.  Like Pier 1, the aisles are organized utilizing using the excellent sorting algorithm, “shuffle”.  There’s no rhyme or reason to anything, which means you have to look at everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I love treasure hunting.  Ross, TJMaxx, Bealls Outlet, even flea markets.  That’s all fun.  But when I want something, I want to be able to find it quickly.  And neither of these stores are made for such precision.

And as it turned out, the product I wanted at BB&B was not stocked in store.  It was online-only.  Which makes you wonder why retail stores are having such a hard time against online shopping.  I really wonder why.

Random Music

So, Woot, I’ve said I’ve been done with you plenty of times, but still you suck me in.  This time, you made me buy this thing.

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And you know what, you jerks?  It’s not the first one of those I’ve bought.  I bought not one, but two from you last time.  And this time I bought not one, but two, again!  If you care, I plan on taking one to work to try and drown out the stupid noise leaking from all these cubes.  My desk fan is effective, but having a range of potential sounds is also very attractive.

But that’s only a lead in to what I was going to post about.  I’d been thinking about this for a while, because it’s been happening for a while.  It’s kind of a recent thing, too.

One day, I was explaining this noise device, the LectroFan, to AK and I was saying, “It’s weird.  Sometimes when this thing is running and I’m lying in bed, I hear…” and AK interrupts, “voices?  Do you hear voices?!”  No, it’s not voices. (“awww.”)  It’s music.  But it’s not exactly music.  It’s very similar to turning an analog tuning dial on an old radio, except there’s no points of static.  It’s just microseconds of what sounds like songs constantly cycling in my head.  And sometimes, it kind of makes sense, like “I’ve heard that before, what is that song?” but it’s gone in a flash and replaced by another song in another moment.

The LectroFan does not use sound samples, it generates white noise.  White noise is a random waveform that is constantly morphing with no predictability, as I said, random.  And songs are music, full of tones that overlap and interact, and those tones are made of waveforms.  Another blog I manage, Relative Waves, actually focuses on the difference in sound between albums by comparing waveforms.  For example, one comparison looks like:

All sound is waveforms, and you would think there is infinite variation in waveforms as sound, but in everyday practice, you will encounter sounds that remind you of something else or trigger a memory.  And you also might think that white noise is just noise, that it couldn’t be mistaken as voices or music or anything else, but in small enough bites, yes it could. 

This phenomena doesn’t happen often, but it isn’t a single isolated occurrence for me, either.  It’s a very curious effect, and I find myself trying to make sense out of what I’m hearing, which of course is impossible.  But it also makes me wonder if there are people out there that are not as logical and analytical to study the sounds and understand how they are tricking the ear.  These people may be the ones becoming obsessed with “hearing voices”.  Seems like there’s more of that nowadays? 

The Envelope Please

Yesterday, I picked up a new keyboard.  I found it at a thrift shop.  I suppose most people would be like, why would you want a grungy old keyboard?  Just go to WalMart or Best Buy and buy a new one.  Well, this keyboard was $100.  And your reaction is probably, what the hell keyboard costs $100.  And I’d keep feeding you clues.  It’s 20 years old.  Is this some sort of vintage IBM mechanical clicky monstrosity?  The kind that annoy everyone in the room?  Nope, it’s a keyboard.  An Alesis QS8.

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A picture doesn’t do this thing justice, only because you have to pick it up to appreciate it.  The case is solid steel.  The ends?  Solid oak.  55 pounds of wood and steel.  88 keys of weighted piano action.  It’s a monster.

It’s not the first monster I’ve had.  The predecessor to this Alesis QS8 was a General Music Equinox Pro.  Another 88 key steel anchor.  I have a whole story about the disposal of that anchor that will probably never get posted, but it did involve me getting very belligerent with a sales person at Guitar Center.

Although the news that I now have a second 88-key keyboard is cool, that is not what I really wanted to post about.  I had a revelation tonight.  I may have mentioned I am participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year.  This is week 2 and I’ll be honest.  It’s not as much fun anymore.  And that led me to my revelation.

If you have ever programmed a synthesizer, you probably know about the ADSR envelope.  If you have ever participated in NaNoWriMo, you are living through an ADSR envelope.  If you’ve done both, you are probably nodding right now.  For those that don’t know what an ADSR envelope is, I will explain it very quickly and it will make immediate sense.

This is an ADSR envelope:

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ADSR means: Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release.  And these four points of the envelope correspond to the weeks of NaNoWriMo.  You’ll need to replace “Amplitude” with “Daily Word Count”.

You have your first week, where you are full of energy and ideas, so your word count skyrockets.  The second week (where I am now), your output drops to a more realistic level.  Week three is the grind (I’m going to expect this will be true), where you have to force yourself to keep going although you are sick of seeing words on a screen.  The final stage, if you make it, and if you’ve plodded along consistently, is coasting to the finish line, putting in filler text and additional dialog that fills in the blanks until you collapse at the finish line with one word left to go and you find that one character who never had a line of dialog and make him say, “Fuck.”  Just because.

So, welcome to Decay week of NanoWriMo.  Next week, we all Sustain.

Grow On…

A while ago, I had done a mega-run on thrift stores (28 of them!).  Last Saturday, I made another full day of shopping – 8+ hours.  Unlike my previous run with netted 4 CDs, I ended the day with, oh… 35.  Ok, wait.  Let me explain.  Of those, I really only wanted less than 10.  The majority of them were purchased for their cases.

The CD jewel case is, in my opinion, a wonder of industrial design.  The fact that its design has gone relatively unchanged in 30 years is testament to its perfection.  However, it has changed over the years.  The primary change has been to make it lighter by using thinner plastic.  A modern CD case is pathetically thin and brittle, which does little for the case of presenting a CD as a premier product.  The thin, cheap case instead affirms that CDs are cheap and disposable.

Early CD cases were heavier and instilled a sense of quality.  You can identify these cases because they have smooth sides instead of the ribbed sides of cases today.  Of course, you could also easily tell just by picking up a case.  It is a noticeable difference.

So, that’s what I was after.  The first stop was a pawn shop where I found a couple of CDs I would enjoy.  I asked how much they were. “25 cents.”  Well, that changes things.  I’ll take every smooth-sided CD there, including Willie Nelson and Ray Stevens.  That was all of $2.75.  At a later thrift store, I pulled out 10 smooth cases, mostly of classical music, for $1 each.  I was a little bummed because they offered 50% coupons on a mailing list and I didn’t have one.  Maybe next time?

The final stop to end my day was at a non-thrift store – my local used record store.  I treated myself to a collectible CD, a 24k gold disc for $20.  You usually can’t go wrong with these because they typically sell for $$$.  This CD has two current listings online for $94 and $133.  They haven’t sold for that amount (I’m not dumb), but still.

Sunday was spent cleaning cases and swapping out some of my more prized CDs into smooth cases.  My fingers are so sore from using my nails to pry apart cases.  Then the ripping and cataloging… My new CD tower from not too long ago is filling up at a dangerous pace.  Soon, I may need to bring the old one back into service.  And, I also need to start selling the CDs that have been replaced or upgraded to better editions.  I must have about 30 of those.

Not What I Wanted, But…

In my last similar post, I picked up a cheap “vintage” stereo system. It was going to just a holdover until I released the major funds for a new full stereo system.  That release is probably being held up by the future planned redo of the living room.  And that’s a few rooms later, where I’m currently stuck in the master bathroom.  But anyway…

The new cheapo stereo ($28 to buy and $30 to repair) gave me radio and cassette tape capabilities.  To get any use out of it, I had to start buying cassettes.  That’s not really something I wanted to get into, but there I was.  I really wanted a CD player and had been looking for one that would match the style.  It needed to have a silver face to match and ideally have plenty of buttons.

That search was not as fruitful as I’d hoped, so I compromised and said I’d pick out a stand-in player until I found what I really wanted.  Today, I finally made that purchase.  It was all of $10, the same price as the tape deck.  It was a brand that I’d heard was well respected in that era, but one I’d never experienced before.

This is my new-to-me Onkyo DX-701, circa 1992.

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I have to say, when I first powered on the CD player and the display panel lit up, I grinned like an idiot.  It had been so long since I’d seen old-school digital displays like that.

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That might have even exceeded my fascination of playing cassettes and staring at the level meters.

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But, back to the CD player, the thing is built solid.  I’m sure everyone is used to the CD tray in their computer, a flimsy piece of crap.  The CD tray on this device is smooth and wobble-free.  It’s substantial.  The whole player was a little dirty, but I cleaned the heck out of it.  I took the cover off and found the insides to be completely dust free.  This was not a neglected piece of equipment stuffed in a closet or garage and I’m glad to give it a new life.

One little thing of note is that all three of these devices have physical power buttons.  You know how everything now is a soft power button – push it and it toggles the power, no tactile difference between on and off?  These devices all physically move metal contacts in a switch to toggle power on and off.  You feel the detent when the button is on (it remains in) and you feel it spring back out when you power it off.  It’s a minor thing, but it’s also something you don’t experience anymore.  It feels like quality.

Sonically, it’s incredible.  If I plug into the headphone jack on the player itself, dead quiet.  My MCS amp has an audible noise floor, but to its credit, I can’t turn the volume past about 5% without serious discomfort.  With great power comes a great hissing noise floor, apparently.

So, at this point, I can relax and wait for the right silver-faced CD player to cross my path.  And, where can you get a full stereo for under $100?

Prognosis: Guarded

As I previously mentioned, I bought a vintage stereo and one channel in the receiver was dead, which made having a stereo that couldn’t play stereo pretty worthless.  But I had only spent $10 on the receiver, so what.

Well, I contacted my local vintage sound establishment, selling vinyl, CDs, 8-tracks, even reel-to-reel music, as well as old stereos and speakers.  They have a repair tech on staff, which is pretty awesome.  I explained my situation to him and what I had done so far.  He said if my initial diagnostics were correct, repairs of that sort usually ran $75-$125.  Hmmm.  There’s a bench fee of $25 whether or not I choose to fix it.  Hmmm.

So here I was in a position that could have me spending over 10x my purchase price to have a functional stereo receiver.  Hmmm.  I have a small problem with admitting defeat, especially if success is attainable.  I like the stereo quite a bit and admittedly, I have the funds I could spend on it.  But that’s exactly why there is a word called “spendthrift”.  Blah blah blah, ROI, foolhardy, 10x expenses.  But I like it, doesn’t that account for anything?  And what of waste and our disposable society?  Shouldn’t I make an effort to repair instead of replace?

To convince myself… actually, I was already convinced.  To make myself feel better, I thought up an analogy to my situation.  What if you found a kitten and took it to the vet.  The vet charges you a bench fee to look at this kitten, then says it looks like your kitten has worms.  If it does, you’ll need to spend about $100 in meds to get it back to health.  What are you going to do, put the kitten down?  Throw it away?  It’s perfectly repairable and would provide years of happiness.

Yesterday, I took my kitten to the shop and today I got the diagnosis.  It was just a blown fuse – a cheap fix.  Totaling about $30, nearly all of which is covered by the bench fee.  The doctor offered a warning, though.  Fuses usually don’t blow without a reason, but being a 30-yr old device could play a part.  Fuses guard electronics against larger damage.  So a blown fuse may indicate a bigger problem, which may manifest in the coming months of regular use.  If that’s the case, it will require further troubleshooting.  Or, I can just keep changing out fuses until I get sick of doing that.

So, hooray for me.  Now I begin the hunt for an aesthetically compatible CD player.  I have a couple options, one of which I just saw yesterday.  If it’s still there, I’ll snag it until I get a better one.  The other, better-looking choice is much less common.  I’ve seen it on Ebay for $100, but I can hold out for a cheaper opportunity if I have a workable system for the near-term.

What I Wanted, Not What I Expected

On a thrift store run, I had a disappointing experience searching for CDs – nothing of interest at all.  On the way out, I dropped in to the electronics section of the store.  I scanned the shelves for nothing in particular until a cassette deck caught my eye.  It was totally vintage, probably from the 1980’s.  It had buttons and switches and analog level meters.  Very cool.

I’ve planned to get a stereo for a while and I have picked out the stereo components I want already.  But for a while, I had considered going the vintage route.  Not so much for the sound quality, which could be hit or miss for its age, but for the aesthetics.  It’s an early era of “wow! technology!” that originally morphed into visual insanity before being left behind in favor of minimalistic design (thanks, Apple).

While I was ogling this vintage tape deck, I realized, I didn’t have anything to plug it into.  And, I only had one cassette tape in my house.  So, why bother.  I put it out of my mind and kept on scanning the shelves until my eyes bumped into a stereo receiver – the matching component of the tape deck.  That device was even more vintage looking, with rows of buttons and sliders.  This receiver solved the problem of having nothing to plug the tape deck into.  Soooo, after verifying I could afford all this equipment, I bundled up both pieces, paid for my treasures (a wallet-busting $18), and cheerfully packed them up in the car.

Before I made the purchase, I did a cursory check as to whether the components were even worthy of owning.  The brand is MCS, an acronym for Modular Component Systems, which is a house brand of JC Penney.  The internet indicated a small appreciation for MCS because the components were manufactured by reputable Japanese brands of the era like NEC and Technics.

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The receiver I picked up is an MCS 3237, which seems to be made in 1986 or after.  It’s got a digital AM/FM tuner with 16 presets, seek, and scan. There’s a good number of inputs: phonograph, tape, video, and auxiliary.  It’s got buttons for High filter, Low filter and Loudness, and sliders for Bass, Treble, and Balance.  It can drive two selectable sets of speakers, which is neat.  This supposedly is a 35W amplifier, which sounds weak when you hear about 800W home theater systems now, but owners report a very good sound from those watts.

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The tape deck is an MCS 683-3543.  It doesn’t have any fancy features like auto-reverse and only has Dolby B noise reduction.  But it does support Chrome and Metal tapes, which I would think elevates it above the lowest consumer decks.  However, more research shows that it suffers from poor speed accuracy.  Entry level specs at best.  Luckily it’s not meant to be the centerpiece.  I’m still sticking with CDs.

Without any speakers, this stereo will be used with headphones, which should be a pleasant experience.  I should be able to find a silver-faced vintage CD player to mate up with the system to complete the setup.  I won’t be getting into vinyl, so I have no need for the phonograph input.  With a planned budget of a little under $1000 for my future stereo system (that doesn’t include speakers), it’s kind of ridiculous that I can get some sort of satisfaction for under $20.

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I get the devices home and do a thorough cleaning on them.  They’re in pretty good shape.  I plug them all in and grab a set of headphones.  It took me a while to find the only cassette tape I had for testing.  All systems go!  Wait, no.  One of the channels is dead.  No sound from the left side.  Output meter is indicating nothing.  Also, it seems the tape deck is dropping signal on one channel randomly.  Ugh.

I don’t have electronic contact cleaner, so I grab a can of CRC Mass Airflow Sensor Cleaner and shoot all the switches and dials and buttons.  (MAF cleaner is pretty much the same thing)  The volume knob is amazingly smooth now, but it made no difference to my output problem.  I’m not a person who can troubleshoot electronics, so my choices at this point are pay to have it fixed, or pitch it.

I ran the tape deck through my mixer in my office (I guess I did have something to plug it into) and got no channel drops for the entire duration of my test cassette.  Very odd.  When I was listening though headphones, the output dropped and the VU meter fell, too.

I guess I’ll start with the amp.  At least get a quote and see how much more than $10 I’ll need to have a working system.