20th Century Stereo Man

It seemed so simple.

I had finally grown tired of going all the way down to the floor in order to play my records. I’m older, my knees are shot, and I’m not in the best of physical shape. All I wanted to do was buy a component stand that would allow me to move my receiver, CD player, record player, and PlayStation3 (which I use solely as a blu-ray player and streaming device) to more convenient positions. Simple, right?

Not in this day and age.

I’m starting to think I’m one of about a dozen people left on this planet who still relies on a home stereo system. It’s not that I can’t embrace modern technology. In some ways, I have. But I’m also pretty “old school” in a few ways. I still collect CDs and LPs, because I want to hear the music coming through my 280-watt Cerwin-Vega speakers, which I have had for 20-plus years. They sound wonderful, and I don’t see the point in going in another direction. I’ve seen bluetooth speakers in the same size, but I’ve also heard them. There’s no comparison.

I haven’t even gotten around to getting a 5.1 surround system yet. But given all the box sets and remixes I have collected, I have changed my mind about getting one. But it will have to wait until after I move late next year, and I actually own my home. I have a Playstation4, but the audio out does not accommodate stereo sound. As much as I appreciate HDMI, I have to rely on a sound bar — connected to my television — to hear what’s going on. I hate my current sound bar. I’ll be upgrading soon, but it still won’t ever compare to those big “college dorm room” speakers. It just won’t. This is problematic.

And then tragedy struck. My PS3, which does have stereo output capabilities, suddenly stopped playing discs. I say “suddenly,” but the machine is in fact 11-plus years old. I took good care of it, and it worked tirelessly with no issues. And then it didn’t. Just like that. I looked online to see if I could troubleshoot the problem. I got a couple of good tips, and tried each of them repeatedly. No soap. My machine was dead. At least, I couldn’t play movies any more. Given my love of movies (to say nothing of the DVD and blu-ray audio discs I had collected from all those box sets), this was a serious problem. I now needed to figure out a way to get my PS4 to bring its sound through my dorm room speakers.

There was another change on the horizon, albeit a good one. I decided the time had come to take the plunge and go the new fiber route for my internet connection, as opposed to DSL. AT&T made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, combining both internet and television services. I wasn’t happy with my cable company, but for a while they appeared to be the only game in town. Then this new opportunity presented itself, and I jumped at it.

So for those keeping score, I was aiming to: 1. Change the way I watched television and surfed the web; 2. Move my components into a more convenient position; and 3. Get my PS4 to talk to my stereo.

No big deal.

The easiest thing to do would be to get the component stand. Or so I thought. I love wandering through IKEA, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I live down the street from a Target. Surely they would have something I could use. Not so much. Best Buy didn’t have anything, which I found really surprising. I also live 10 minutes from a Wal-Mart. While I don’t particularly enjoy going there, the store’s website showed exactly what I was looking for. I bit the bullet and headed over. I found the right section, and looked around. I couldn’t find any component stands. I finally gave in and asked an employee where they were. They were only available for order online, he told me. I was annoyed, but not surprised.

Speaking of online ordering, I actually looked at the Amazon website before I started driving around. But I figured why order it and wait a couple of days, when I could just go to the store, buy it, and bring it home? Shows what I know. In the end, I wound up on Amazon, ordering what I needed. My stand would arrive on Monday.

As it happened, the AT&T guy would arrive the same day. He was due between 9 a.m. and noon, and arrived at around 10:30. The installation went relatively smoothly once my guy was able to get the access he needed from my landlord. I’m adjusting to learning new channel numbers, but other than that, the system appears to be working beautifully. AND my U-Verse box has a stereo output! The fiber internet connection is nice and smooth, too. It made me quite happy to “fire” my cable company.

While the installation took place, I got an email from work. A large package had arrived at my office, right on schedule. Once my fiber installation was complete, I was off to the office to pick up my component stand. Assembly was painfully easy, and the components went where I needed them to. It was also less labor intensive to take my system apart and put it back together than I thought it was going to be. An added bonus! Since my PS3 was now out of the picture, I had a couple of open shelves. Seemed like a good place to put my Batmobiles, which had been gathering dust on my bedroom windowsill.

The look is relatively clean, and well organized. On the whole, I’m pretty happy with it.

 

Two issues were resolved. Now came The Big One. Once again, I relied on Amazon.

I found an adapter that would take my HDMI sound and convert it to stereo. Admittedly, I had bought a couple of these before. Neither really worked to my satisfaction. That’s how I wound up with the crappy soundbar. Perhaps the third time will be the charm. I hoped.

The package arrived on schedule. Its box didn’t do much for my optimism. But the device I found inside was much sturdier than the ones I bought before. Maybe there was hope, after all. Installation was easy, so I was ready to test things rather quickly. Bingo! Things seem to be working just fine. I know I’m not getting the full benefit of digital sound, which I can achieve with a modern receiver and an optical connection. It’s on my list for future purchases. But for now, things seem to be back to my version of normal.

I know I’m still behind. I’m a 20th Century Stereo Man watching the world of modern fidelity race out ahead of him. Once the move is complete, I’ll take mammoth strides to catch up with optical cables and surround sound. I might even invest in another pair of speakers.

Being old school isn’t so bad, even if it has its challenges.

#cirdecsongs

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Check out my book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears. It’s available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers.

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1 Comment

  1. Glad you got a set-up that works for you. It’s not getting any easier.

    My den-room bluray stopped reading discs after 10 years of loyal service, but since then most new players only come with an HDMI plug – no phono connections. In the end I had to resort to Bluray – HDMI cable – Television – TV Headphone port – Stereo cable -Hifi phono sockets. It works well enough for a small room.

    When that hi-fi goes, it’s current model has now got an optical cable input, so that should improve things with a direct audio signal.

    We had the same problem with the cinema set-up in the living room. Blu ray player came with a built in amp and 5.1 speakers – all in one kit. But once the player stopped playing, that meant losing the player AND the amp/speakers.

    Fortunately, my wife was already pushing for a bigger screen, and it was an easy sell for me. She wanted a 4k telly to replace our ten year old, so it was a no-brainer to replace the bluray with a 4k player.

    We very nearly opted for a soundbar and subwoofer, but then jointly came to the conclusion that such a cool picture needed the sound to complement it. So we added a modestly priced 5.1 amp and speakers.

    We even had fun working together to wire it all up – a problem halved and all that.

    Soundbars are fine for the space and budget-conscious, but no match for a 5.1 set-up. And you’d be surprised how discretely you can hide the wires and position the speakers.

    And it’ll be a blast rediscovering all your favourite movies – with the possible exception of Star Wars. (For some reason, Disney/Fox insist that the engineers downmix the cinema mix to a compressed stereo mess for bluray/dvd, purely to sell more copies to the soundbar audience.)

    But at least you’ll have your uncompressed Wilson 5.1 mixes to enjoy – To The Bone is stunning.

    Liked by 1 person

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