I got back into vinyl because Maura picked up a near complete run of Time-Life’s Swing Era box sets at an estate sale. They’d been on my retro wishlist since I first stumbled across an ad for them during by first read-through of LIFE‘s original run and the happy occasion was enough to convince me to pick up a deck I could spin them on.
Money and shelf space were short supply at the time, so I settled for a low-end Jensen jobber with built-in speakers. It was garbage, but it fulfilled its primary purpose — so much so, in fact, that I started pulling old favorites down from the attic archives and began to seek out new acquisitions on the secondhand marketplace.
By the time the fall of 2017 rolled around, my modest assortment of “most favored” albums had grown into a precariously stack that brushed against the bottom of the wall sconces in our living room. I was in desperate need of a permanent storage solution, but also realized I ought to attempt something grander than a short term fix. If record collecting and listening was going to be “a thing” for me again, I should invest in a better sound system. And, if I was going to try and make the space for that, then I should probably reconfigure the hand-me-down jumble of shelving units that had passed for our living room’s entertainment center since November 2004.
The plan had begun to gel by last Christmas, but was hung up by several false starts and logistical dead ends. The dream was to either dredge up the set of components my mother gave me during my teenage years or recreate them with similar chrome-and-digital relics of the Reagan Era. Unfortunately, I discovered my grandmother had tossed out my old set of gear (with the exception of the turntable, which I’d passed onto Lil Bro) and my go-to consignment shops didn’t have much worth the risk or expense of purchase.
Maura found Magnavox cabinet model from the late Eighties somewhere, and I spent a month of two trying to figure out how to make it fit into a theoretical set-up before realizing its wired speakers had succumbed to years of abuse and neglect. I realized would never get the damn project done unless I stopped equivocating and just committed to it, so I ordered a current model Sony 100 Watt receiver and pair of bookshelf-in-name-only speakers along with some Ikea shit that seemed — after hours of measuring and re-measuring — like it would fit in the available space.
The last of the components arrived at the end of last week, so I spent the past two days doing the sweaty and dust-disturbing labor turning a long-harbored dream into reality.
“Are you happy with it?” was the first thing Maura asked when she saw it after arriving home from her Sunday errands. I am, for the most part. The weird open layout of the House on the Hillside’s first floor doesn’t leave much in the way of obstructable wall space, so a few compromises had to be made.
The original plan was to use my old H.H. Scott turntable, but it has apparently given up the ghost after thirty-five years. Fortunately, I had an Audio-Technica model lying around in storage since the late Aughts. (It was a Christmas present from Maura, back when I had grand plans about ripping some rarities in our collection to mp3.) It has been a while since I’ve owned an actual stereo system, having spent the past fifteen years getting by with boomboxes and digital files played via Winamp.
I knew exactly which track I’d use to test the rig…
…and was more than pleased with the window-vibrating, floor-rumbling results (which were satisfactorily repeated across multiple Sixties soul jams and side one of Crystal Method’s Vegas).
It was also nice to finally have the space to integrate my SNES Mini Classic console into the set-up without having to unbox and wire it whenever the urge to play Super Metroid overtakes me. I will have to invest in dust covers for the other game consoles, though that’s pretty much a must in our critter-packed abode anyhow.
The project gave my the opportunity to take an inventory of what records I had purchased over the previous eighteen months (most of which I did manage to recall while populating my Discogs page) and organize them in a logical-to-me fashion — K-Tel, compilation series, gothy stuff, ska, soundtracks, et cetera — with the top shelf…
…given over to especially cherished artists and albums.
Now that this project has been completed, I look forward to swamping it with even more shit I don’t have the shelf space to contain.