For those of us who worship at the temple of the Most Holy Bouncing Light In Time To Music Phenomenon, it’s a good time. Every software music player has some sort of swirly visualization that morphs in time to the music. It used to be more of a trick to pull off. The Atari Jaguar video game console could do some colored patterns driven by the music spooling off of a CD, but to enjoy that you had to have an obscure game system with few good titles to justify keeping it around.
Atari knew from its earliest days that it’s fun to “see” you music in action, so they developed the venerable Atari Video Music (yes, mine is hooked up to my contemporary flatscreen) which we’ve written about more than a few times here on Retro Thing. Yes, these are all very fun ways to get your eyes going as well as your ears, but sometimes visualizations can be practical too.
Radio Shack’s APM-200 is about the simplest form of music visualization there is, i.e. two VU meters bouncing along in time to the sound coming out of your amp. This unit has speaker terminal inputs because you’re meant to install it inline with your speakers (which involves some cable splicing, or stuffing a few too many wires into those spring terminals). The meters show how much wattage is actually making it out of your amp and going into your speakers.
Retro stereo covet these units, but fortunately it’s not an expensive covetousness. These can be hand on Ebay for around $20-25 with some regularity. You can even get different styles depending on the era of your system. The APM-100 is more or less identical, except it has (drumroll) woodgrain on the sides. The APM-500 is a bit more 80s Knight Rider in its design sense. Sleeker, smaller, with an all-LED display pulsing out from the center of the unit while you pump out the sweet jams.
These are not a bad idea whether you’re a connoisseur or not. If you’ve got a high-powered amp, it’s good to know just how much signal you can pile on to your speakers before they distort, or worse yet… start smokin'. It’s also a good way to actually see whether each speaker is getting an equal level of your stereo output. Mostly though, any of these units are a cool way to pay homage to the Most Holy Bouncing Light In Time To Music Phenomenon.