Friday, May 31, 2024

Insight: Hi-fi remorse and new beginnings

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Throughout my life, I’ve heard that you never really miss something until it’s gone. I’m here to tell you it’s true, and I’ve decided to do something about that.

A refurbished Sansui G-3500 receiver is the cornerstone
of Ed Pierce's new stereo system. COURTESY PHOTO
This story started a few years ago. A fellow who worked in the same building was creating a stereo system for the warehouse he worked in. I happened to have my old stereo sitting on my back porch for several years gathering dust. I asked him if he wanted it, and he said yes. I boxed it up and hauled it to him a few days later. He thanked me and I left.

The next time I saw him during the following week, I asked how the stereo was working for him. He told me it was not something he wanted so he had thrown it in the dumpster, and it had been hauled away. I was upset and it’s eaten away at me for two years.

About a month ago, I told my wife that I was going to try and rebuild my system if I could find the components. When I started looking online, I found a few good deals. Someone who lived about 10 minutes away was selling a Bose Acoutimass 3 speaker set. But instead of paying $1,000 like I had for the exact same set at Best Buy in 1991, this set was slightly used, but only cost $75. I then purchased the same model Sansui CD player as I had previously owned for $40 on eBay, and that’s also where I found the same model Sansui cassette deck that I had purchased in Germany in 1979. This time though instead of $250, I paid just $50.

Back in 1991, when I was relocating across the country, I had also made the decision to ditch my turntable as record albums were not only heavy to move but were becoming a thing of the past as CDs were all the rage. At that time, it was devastating to part with more than 500 record albums, but I gave them all away. I had been collecting albums since I was first in college and many of them are now considered to be classics and worth a considerable sum if I still had them. But I had made my decision way back when and after moving it was years before I saw new record albums for sale anywhere.

When I first obtained my stereo system from the Base Exchange while serving in the Air Force in Germany, a particular kind of turntable had caught my eye, but in 1978 I simply couldn’t have afforded it on my Air Force salary of $360 a month. It was a Technics linear turntable without a tone arm. The turntable’s stylus is contained in an electronic unit that sweeps across the album and senses precisely where the tracks are.

This time, however, I was able to find a pristine Technics linear turntable from about 1982 in near mint condition. That set me back $200, but when it arrived carefully packed via Fed Ex, I was over the moon. About the same time, my wife had found an old box left in the basement by the previous owners of our home twice removed or so. We opened the box and inside were about 150 old 45 rpm records from the 1960s and 1970s, including some from The Beatles, The Four Seasons, Neil Diamond, Linda Ronstadt, and Elton John. That led me to order a 45-rpm adapter for my new linear turntable.

The last piece of the component puzzle for me was the biggest challenge. I wanted to find the exact same Sansui receiver as I had previously owned. I searched for weeks on eBay without much success. That type of vintage Sansui receiver remains in hot demand from stereo enthusiasts worldwide and the few available on eBay were selling for $1,000 or more.

After a lengthy search, I found the one I wanted up for sale at a stereo shop in Massachusetts on a website called Reverb. The shop’s technicians had cleaned it thoroughly inside and out and reconditioned it to work as if it were brand new. I paid $500 and am looking forward to having it shipped to me this week.

Finding vinyl records to play on it is a different matter though. Since I last purchased a vinyl recording in the 1980s, the price seems to have almost quadrupled. What used to be $7.99 is now $29 and $30. I’ve recently visited two Goodwill stores looking at the vinyl albums they have for sale and found two that I purchased for a total of $2. One of those was a 1965 pressing of Gene Pitney’s Greatest Hits. But most of their selection on display were albums my father would have preferred such as Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass or the Ray Coniff Singers.

I plan on researching smaller nearby second-hand record shops to see what vinyl treasures I can find there. I’m also now looking for a stereo stand to put my components together and hook everything up.

Of course it may not be the same, but hopefully even better this time. <

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