This might sound a bit odd, but when I was about 8 years old my school snack shack started selling old army surplus ammo boxes. These days, that would probably trigger an immediate lock-down. But back in the cold war I simply plunked down most of my meager allowance for a green metal box wrapped in torn brown paper. It was battered and worn, yet perfect for lugging around my most important childhood possessions.
Fast-forward three decades and Thomas Spaans has created the A-BOX, a a high quality portable iPod amplifier integrated into a fifties design M2A1 ammo box.
He says, "The iPod/mp3 player can be connected on the outside of the A-BOX as well
as the inside so you can listen to your tunes while running around with
the A-BOX for example or just protecting your iPod from bullets and
the A-BOX comes in 2 models: the light version with 2 x 25 watts rms amplifier and woven glass fiber speakers (carbon color) this model will cost 350 euros. and the heavy version sporting 2 x 70 watts amplifiers and woven kevlar speakers (the yellow material used in bullet proof vests) this version will be selling for 475 euros.
both versions have indication lights in the bass tube which will indicate the status of the battery with white, orange and red colors. the heavy version however has an extra feat, indication lights behind the speakers which will warn against distortion when driven too loud."
Martin sent us a link to Stereophile's 1983 review of Sony's CDP-101 player. It's a fun read filled with the usual audiophile nonsense about "almost unbelievable freedom from strain" and "pervasive dryness." In the end, reviewer J. Gordon Holt was suitably impressed by the pricey digital box, even though it had no knobs to twiddle knowledgeably.
"Our long-awaited laser-audio disc player (usually called the CD, for "Compact Disc") finally arrived, along with a real bonanza of software: two discs—a Polygram classical sampler of material from Decca, Deutsche Grammophon and Philips, and a Japanese CBS recording of Bruckner's 4th Symphony, with Kubelik."
Holt expressed concern over the $1000 price tag and the lack of "audiophile-quality fare" in the pipeline, "At this price, John Q Public isn't exactly going to embrace the CD with open wallet. Its market (besides a few wealthy individuals who'll buy it for the status value or out of admiration for the high technology it represents), will be serious audiophiles, and its potential success in that quirky marketplace is going to depend on how good it sounds and how much software (program material) is available for it. In fact, the software situation may be the biggest deterrent to its immediate acceptance by a public already primed by the slick magazines to expect perfection from digital audio."
The early eighties staff of Stereophile would never have believed that Walmart would eventually sell a rainbow of tacky Sony CD Boom boxes for only $28. Nor would they have been comfortable with the notion that the CD player would be obsolete within a quarter century, replaced by millions of cordless telephones made by Apple.Read the complete Sony CDP-101 review at Stereophile
It's hard to dodge accusations of being a codger when you write a site called Retro Thing. Honestly, the only time I actually do feel like an old man is when I have to repeatedly ask my neighbors to keep the noise down. A lot of students live in my building, so I'm the "some old guy" they hiss about behind their doors when I complain about the racket. I like music and parties and happiness, but prime time around here is a ludicrous 4 a.m., and is dotted with the "subwoofer shootout" video game, band practice, and the mysterious nocturnal shifting of lots of furniture.
At any time other than 4 in the morning (and admittedly even then sometimes) I'm actually fond of strange noises and laughter. I've even been known to produce both, despite my advanced age and decrepitude. The Okeh (a record label known for its "race" records among other things) "Laughing Record" is a famous novelty recording from all the way back in 1923. The record consists of a man playing a cornet (I think), a woman braying at him, and the man sputtering and laughing as he tries to get back to his very serious music.
Bizarre? Yes. Funny? Yes. I'm not sure at what point in the party you put this on, but it's pretty great. So popular was this record, that is was re-released in several countries for decades. Since there are no spoken words in the record, it translates well to the humor of other lands. We've all had noisy neighbors playing wonky brass instruments, right?
25 years after its release, the recording became fodder for the last cartoon directed by the indefatigable animation pioneer Tex Avery. In "Sh-h-h-h-h-h", the Laughing Record is the soundtrack of some noisy neighbors, while a long-suffering nervous type does everything he can to avoid exploding with rage. I know exactly how he feels nearly every night. So it looks like the cartoon and the Laughing Record have given me the answer to my noisy neighbor problem. Anyone know how to attach my stereo speakers to the ceiling?
The Crosley Revolution was obviously inspired by the iconic Audio-Technica AT-727 Sound Burger record player.
Like its predecessor, it runs on batteries and features a 3.5mm headphone jack. Unlike its predecessor, it incorporates a USB port for ripping vinyl to computer. The $150 unit is slated for a summer release.
CassetteMaster is a frequent YouTube poster, sharing his many analog tape machine finds. He's adept at getting them working, and equally adept at finding some rather obscure machinery. This video shows off the Dormiphone, an early endless loop tape machine (similar to the later 8 track format). There's a clock on the face of the Dormiphone with lots of switches. This was to set the timings of automated playback throughout the day, much like an appliance timer that turns lights on and off when you go on vacation.
He says the machine is likely from the 50's, and was probably intended to loop short phrases for the subject to memorize while they sleep. In a fascinating footbote, there is also some evidence that machines like these were used for ESP and mental telepathy research. In the video he plays back an original tape that he found with the machine. The delivery of the person testing out the recorder so many years ago is quite stilted, amazed at the capabilities of this new dcevice. Though to me it sounds a bit like one of many ghosts captured by this machine.
Bill Berry writes, "Koss headphones were the very first headphones I'd ever seen as a kid. And I remember listening to Grand Funk Railroad's 'We're An American Band' on my dad's Marantz through those headphones. While these are not the same model my dad had, I'm sure his were not as close to the top of the line, they come as close in look and feel as I'm going to find. Especially new."
Theses particular 'stereophones' are very workmanlike in construction. They're made of a particularly difficult to describe greenish khaki color textured plastic. The plastic is a kind of dense poly-whatever. These are clearly made to be Functional and Durable. In Caps.
The sound is quality, but not astonishing. Not as bass-y, as I would like, moreso with no EQ on iPhone (3G). These won't knock your socks off, but they'll probably outlive your socks. These are the kind of headphones you brandish at friends and intone, 'In Soviet Union, headphones listen to you!'
These are probably not suitable for what I purchased them for, for travel 'phones on the plane and in the airport. Enclosed headphones, 'cans', can shut out ambient noise without the bells and whistles of noise cancellation. But these phones are bulky and heavy. Maybe not something you'd like to lug around an airport."
The original Pro-4AA stereophones stayed on the market for over 15 years. In fact their discontinuation in the late 1980s caused such an uproar that they were reintroduced in 1988. They've been a foundation of the Koss line ever since. The Pro-4AAs carry a reasonable list price of $99.99, and you can find them for less without much effort (FYI, Amazon has them for slightly less, with free shipping).
The Pioneer CT-W606DR is a double auto-reverse cassette deck. It would be right at home in the early 1990s, except that it sports a set of decidedly modern 20-bit analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters.
Still, its other capabilities are right out of my 1989 Christmas wish list: Dolby B/C noise reduction, Dolby HX-Pro, high speed dubbing (with digital noise reduction), CD-synchro recording and high-speed song search (which plays the first couple of seconds of each track before zipping on to the next).
The big question, of course, is why anyone would part with $229 for a cassette deck in the 21st century. Off the top of my head, I can come up with three potential markets:
1.Folks who love to record radio programs and are allergic to computers.
2. Former teenagers with a massive collection of mix tapes hidden in their parents' basements. They secretly long to listen to their old bootlegs of The Smiths and The Cure just a few more times before the irreplaceable hand-decorated tapes disintegrate.
3. Loony half-deaf audiophiles who claim that cassettes are "much more musical and open, with a precise soundstage that allows each instrument to breathe with effervescent succulence."
Poor Pioneer. With a potential market like this, they'll be lucky to sell a thousand units next year. Still, I doubt it costs much to keep a heap of CT-W606DRs in the corner of a dusty old warehouse. After all, perhaps the day will come when cassettes are hip again.Pioneer CT-W606DR Double Auto Reverse Cassette Deck
I love old boom boxes, especially when they've got something unusual about them. Usually, boom boxes differentiate themselves with different features, but occasionally it's some manner of personalized "customization". I dream of one day finding a boom box that's been airbrushed like the ones you see in breakdancing movies of the 80's, but mostly customization comes from the prior owner using a Sharpie to scrawl a name on the device itself. When I do find one like that, I usually christen the boom box with that name as a reminder of its prior life. Maybe I'll tell you about good ol' "Jasker" one of these days.
There's not much unusual about the Emerson CTR 965. It's somewhat typical of 1980's boom boxes. It gest loud, dubs tapes, sports an entirely useless equalizer graph painted on, has unmistakably 80's square speakers (Surprise! It's just the grille cloth that's square.) The interest lies in the extensive customization job someone has done on this CTR 965. Nearly every button has a little tag taped on where the prior owner neatly typed out each function - this in the days before spellcheck, of course...
I guess today's whipper-snappers with their YouTubes and their Borats will laugh at such a fuddy-duddy move, but peeling back one of the tags I can see that the original labeling is quite difficult to make out. The text is all quite tiny, and the icons for each button are chrome on chrome rendering them visible only from a narrow angle. I especially don't want to laugh because I suddenly notice that my girlfriend had done the same thing to our bookshelf stereo. Again the fancy chrome detailing obscures the embossed function of each button (complicated by the device's control scheme being maddeningly non-intuitive).
While this could be a testimony to my own ocular decrepitude, I think it's more of a cry out to manufacturers. Do authentic human beings test products before they ship to consumers? When I have complained to a manufacturer, they brush me off saying that I'll get used to it. I'm the type of person who evalulates purchases very carefully, and I want to be in love the moment I open the box. It's similar to how I fell in love with this unique boom box & it's hand-crafted additions at the first moment I saw it. In my mind's eye, As for the original owner, I've got an image of an older guy buying this boom box despite it's being intended for a younger crowd. Maybe the guy really wanted to blast "Just a Gigolo", okay?
The Emerson CTR 965 is actually worth a couple bucks on the collector's market, but I think I'll leave the old boy as-is since it has so much personality. One day I'll be grateful that I can still hear music on the radio, let alone play my Louis Prima tapes at ear-splitting levels.
The Logitec AM/FM USB radio stick is proof that vintage technology isn't always the best solution for the 21st century. The receiver plugs into your notebook so you can listen to (and record) old fashioned terrestrial radio.
The FM/AM stick can receive most strong FM stations, but you'll need to plug in the 3m external antenna to get a good AM signal. It's got a magnet on the back, so you can string it above your seat and fasten it to conveniently exposed metal while riding the bus. There's also an optional coax hookup should you wish to run an extension cable from your TV. Kinda defeats the whole idea of having a portable computer, doesn't it?
This ridiculous replacement for a $10 portable radio can be yours for an unspecified price, starting in early December 2009.
Pete Verrando wrote with news of his latest creation: "I just finished this, and thought it looked nice, so I thought I would show you. I do a lot of vintage restorations and mash-ups such as this. Some of them are on the main website under 'Radio Room.'
Inside the vintage cabinet is a 10 watt integrated solid-state amplifier, and a high quality Blaupunkt 5 1/4" coaxial loudspeaker with a massive ceramic magnet. The cabinet is air-sealed and fiberglass blanketed to create an infinite baffle enclosure. The inset side panel offers bass/treble controls, left and right RCA line inputs (sealed), and two 1/4" jack inputs, hot enough for a microphone or electric guitar. Also included is an iPod dock/charger that plugs in directly to the side panel.
The cabinet is a vintage Philco Dynamic Tester, from 1946. Known then as a Signal Tracer, which is just a small amplifier/speaker combination with an external probe for fixing audio equipment."
Since the introduction of egg shaped chairs in the late 60's, many different styles occasionally appeared in movies depicting the future, or perhaps a scene showing some high style culture maven. In the "Men In Black" movies, egg chairs were even included on the movie posters. I've only seen actual egg chairs a few times in person. The most remarkable might be a 1970's flavor that had been removed from a Playboy club. It was a 2 seater, featured a yolk-colored corduroy interior (blech), and featured speakers built into the sides so that you and your bunny-eared companion could listen to some smooth jazz in relative comfort.
If the thought of decades of horn-dog conventioneers having use the seat before you is a little creepy, there is an all-new version of the audio-equipped henfruit being introduced in just a few months. The Sound Egg features 5.1 surround sound (though it can be configured for stereo), and comes in a variety of colors for the outer shell as well as the sound-proofing foam within. While originally developed as a mini-environment for testing audio gear, the remarkable chair generated enough interest to encourage manufacturer Acousticom to hatch it as a new product.
The market is flooded with heap seats with built-in speakers that are aimed at avid video gamers. This chair gives the anti-social game player a fuller audio experience via the surround sound speakers built in (the subwoofer is built under the seat), while minimizing disturbance to others. Of course movies and music are an obvious candidate for critical listening within this self-contained chamber. At $1450 the Sound Egg isn't exactly a mainstream product, but is positioned to be surprisingly in reach by more than just the Austin Powers audiophile set. Just so long as the listener doesn't mind looking a little like Mork from Ork.
This is the $59 Sangean PR-D7. It seems strange to write about an old fashioned AM/FM radio in the iPod Age, but there's something incredibly convenient about a good old terrestrial wireless receiver.
For starters, there are no monthly subscription bills and you'll never complain about paying 99 cents for a single song. Local radio also offers a sense of community that you don't get from a sanitized iPod playlist - listening to NPR / CBC / BBC can be an unpredictable and enjoyable experience.
The PR-D7 measures 8.5 x 1.5 x 4.5 inches and weighs about 2 lbs. It requires 6 x AA batteries for portable use, but don't despair - there's a nifty little "alkaline / rechargeable" switch on the back that lets you use NiMH cells and recharge them with the included AC wall wart.
Apart from that, there isn't too much worth special mention. The radio features digital PLL tuning and 10 station memories, along with a backlit LCD display and alarm. There's also a stereo headphone jack.
The set has been on the market since 2008 and receives excellent reviews, so it's a safe buy. Best of all, this little portable should still be alive and kicking in 10 years. I doubt I'll be able to say the same about my iPod.
Japan’s first miniature transistor radio, the TR-55, was introduced by Sony in mid-1955 at a price of 19,900 Yen ($55). It was available only in Japan and achieved modest success. However, Sony's second transistor radio was much more interesting - especially for DIYers.
The TR-2K radio kit was released a few weeks after the TR-55 at the bargain price of only 5,700 Yen ($16). They achieved the low cost by eliminating the internal speaker and amplifier and making buyers do all the assembly work themselves.
The company struggled for a couple of years until the international release of their TR-63 “Transistor Six” shirt-pocket radio in 1957. Instead of shoehorning in traditional components, the TR-63 was designed around all-new miniature devices. It was the smallest radio ever manufactured, selling over 100,000 units in four different colors. More importantly, it established Sony as a credible international brand.
I wonder if anyone still has an unbuilt TR-2K kit sitting around on a shelf? Assembling one could result in the best unboxing video ever.
Shav La Vigne recently sent us some photos of a tiny Sony TR-8 radio with a plea for more information. For once, we didn't have much to say. All we know is that it was Sony's first micro radio, released in 1963.
Sony managed to cram 8 transistors onto the tiny hand-soldered circuit board in an astounding display of miniaturization for the early sixties. However, I suspect the tiny size made it extremely expensive to manufacture.
If you can tell Shav more about this diminutive receiver, please leave a comment.
Classic Retro Thing