Furnishing The Man Cave: 1964 Magnavox Astro-Sonic Stereo Hi-Fi
By James Grahame
[Long-time Retro Thing reader Nash Rambler shares his quest for the perfect retro stereo... - Ed.]
After signing a two-year lease I can fulfill my man cave dream: to have a place where style and taste are dictated solely by me. I am a pack rat by nature, and my treasure pile is not inconsiderable. Every treasure repository needs a stereo, right? My bookshelf unit from college had died before the latest move, and after ten years of storage dad evicted my hi-fi gear, records, cassettes and spools of magnetic tape reels. Time to put together a classic stereo system, one that can play all those forms of audio media I painstakingly collected/saved from the landfill.
Unfortunately, I lacked a few key components. My ELAC Miracord 50H turntable needs a new cartridge and stylus (anyone know what to replace it with and where to get it?), the Sony solid-state amplifier I have is nice but lacks a radio receiver, and the crappy mid-80s Realistic speakers I originally used had turned to dust in the intervening decade.
So, I needed a working turntable, some speakers and a receiver. After shopping around for the various components, a Craigslist ad caught my eye.
"Vintage 1964 Magnavox Astro-Sonic Console Stereo - Normandy Provincial - $60 Reply to: sale-XXXXXXX@craigslist.org
Date: 2008-08-24, 8:00PM
Here is a 1964 Vintage Magnavox Astro-Sonic Solid-State Console Stereo. The style is called Normandy Provincial in a fruitwood finish. 48"W, 30"H, 18"D.
It features two 12" side-firing woofers and two metal horn tweeters for a total of four speakers. The controls have been cleaned and lubed; pilot lamps replaced, phono idler wheel replaced; phono motor disassembled, cleaned, re-oiled and reassembled; the metal escutcheon trim pieces on the front panel have been reinstalled. All functions in good working order and 100% fully functional and sounds great! It has older-style screw terminal connections for your own external speakers, with a switch to operate the internal speakers, external speakers, or both internal and external speakers. The deluxe version of the Micromatic changer (made in England) features a large 11" turntable platter and plays all four speeds: 16, 33, 45 or 78 rpm. 45-rpm adapter included. There are internal connections on the chassis for auxiliary or tape input and record out. An iPod or CD player could be connected to play through this unit."
Some quick web research showed that Magnavox made quality stuff until being bought by Philips in the seventies. A console stereo would kill three birds with one stone, and as glowing as the ad was, the words "Astro-Sonic," "auxiliary input," and "$60" really stood out for me. It was cheap, I could hook up my other stuff, and we all know adding the word "astro" to any name only makes a thing better.
The pictures looked good but after seeing it in person I was stunned at the condition. There were a few minor scratches but none of the sun-fading, cigarette burns or huge gashes these things normally suffer in their lifespan. From more than two feet away this console looks like it just walked off the showroom floor. What the seller didn't mention was the documentation that came with the unit. The owner's manual, the 5-year warranty tags, it even still had the paper insert for the turntable, warning the new owner to unlock the arm and unscrew the retaining bolts!
Needless to say, I bought it after testing everything out and kicking the, er, fruitwood finish. There are a few odd features I have not seen anywhere else. Twisting the "treble" knob powers it up, and there is a curiously small red light near the bottom of the façade when the unit is on.
The receiver powers up with a comforting hum, and my heart leaps when the little "stereo" icon lights up on the strong FM stations. The turntable also works flawlessly, with the arm traveling and lowering smoothly. It does do a curious little side-tapping to test if there is another record on the spindle, but I chalk that up as an endearing character trait. Overall the Astro-sonic sounds terrific and looks great in the cave garnished with jazz LPs. Now if you will excuse me, I have to slip on a smoking jacket, pour myself a Manhattan and throw some Dave Brubeck on. -- Nash Rambler