The Stereo in My Studio

If you have read my blog or Jennifer‘s blog more than twice, you know by now that I work from home on my own. For any of you who have met me in person, you have probably noticed that I’m extremely social. So much so in fact, that this personality trait is often a bug rather than a feature. It really bothers me to be alone. So, I decided that I needed some background noise while I work. Just something simple, you know? I started playing music from my laptop and installed text-to-speech extensions on Firefox so I could listen to peoples’ blogs and gun forums while I work. I had an old no-name stereo receiver (Acoustic Dynamics by Tanglewood?) that my great aunt gave me that I streamed my laptop through to get a little more oomph out of it.

Years ago, in this same space, I had The Hydra – a three-headed, double CPU monster of a computer system with 21-inch CRTs. I do miss the big screens, but they had to go for what I’m doing now. Alas, all good things and all that… At the time, I wanted to get a cheap but decent set of speakers to run on that old receiver hooked to The Hydra. I ran across a pair of Cizek Sound Windows (circa 1980-1982) at a garage sale. They are ugly as all heck, but darned if they don’t sound incredible! You have probably never heard of Roy Cizek unless you are a serious hi-fi nerd. This blind man was arguably the father of all hi-fi speakers. It’s probably because of his lack of sight that he made the Sound Windows so ugly now that I think about it. He didn’t make his own speakers for very long before his company folded and he went to work as the sound engineer for Altec Lansing in Oklahoma City. Yes, Roy Cizek > Cizek Speakers > Altec Lansing > John B Lansing Co (JBL). They are not only a great set of speakers, they’re also an important piece of audio history. This system is starting to look a little less simple than I original thought though.

A few months ago, I ran across a Marantz 2220B (circa 1979) at a garage sale. We bought a couple of Ott lamps at the garage sale and the seller lady threw in the receiver for free. Let me say that it is a massive improvement over my old no-name stereo receiver. The Marantz has clarity and definition like I didn’t think you could get out of a solid-state amplifier. Its sound is crisp and clear and the distortion level is practically nil. With the old Tanglewood, I’d remember to shut it off at the end of my day because its subtle fuzz was a reminder. When the Marantz is at idle, it produces no such noise, even with the volume knob turned quite high. I connected the Cizeks to the Marantz with some 16-gauge oxygen free copper speaker wire that I purchased at yet another garage sale. the receiver has some burned out light bulbs in the display panel that I may eventually replace, but that doesn’t bother me so much.

Then I started shopping for a decent CD player. I didn’t necessarily want a changer, just a quality deck-style CD player. At first, I searched pawn shops. I don’t think pawn shops take in such things anymore. I was about to resign myself to picking up a used DVD player to run in my workspace when I ran across three Technics SL-PG440s (1994) at Mikey’s Eternal Garage Sale. I paid Mikey $10.00 for one of them which turned out to be a lemon. When I took it back to him, he gave me the other two in exchange. I’m now running one of them in my studio and the other in Wee Bot’s room. I didn’t realize you could get this kind of sound out of CDs. And that’s really saying something, as our home theater system is certainly no slouch! On a subsequent trip to Mikey’s Eternal Garage Sale I found a 6-foot RCA cable from Monster. I know that interconnects do make a difference in sound, but that may have been the single most impressive upgrade to the system.

My only complaint about the Sound Windows (besides their atrocious looks) is the fact that they are a little anemic in the low end. So, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for a decent little subwoofer to add to the system. This weekend, I spotted a Klipsch KSW-10 (circa 1998) that I stole for a mere $30. This little box is exactly what the system was asking for. A twelve to fifteen inch subwoofer would simply be too much bass. The ten has a satisfying thump that blends well with the old Cizeks run through the Marantz. When I crank it up loud, it will knock stuff off the walls, but turned down low it maintains a nice, whisper-level boom or rumble in all the right places.

So, let’s see how I did with my bargain hunting…

Marantz 2220B – Paid: $0 vs. Estimated street price: $150
Cizek Sound Windows – Paid: $10.00 vs. Estimated street price: $75.00 (sorry, no source)
Technics SL-PG440 – Paid: $5.00 vs. Estimated street price: $75.00
Klipsch KSW-10 – Paid $30.00 vs. Estimated street price: $300.00
Monster RCA Cable & speaker wire – Paid: ~$1.50 vs. Estimated street price: ~$40.00

Totals – Paid about $46.50 for about a $640.00 system. The sound is simply unbelievable. Oddly, this is not what I wanted. I just wanted something to produce a little background noise. Somehow I wound up with a vintage audiophile monster. It’s the 800-lb gorilla of a workspace sound system. I’m scratching my head and wondering how in the world this happened. Maybe I need to add a turntable now… If I could track down a second set of Sound Windows I could hook them up on the B-channel. Or possibly some Model Ones… As much as I like the Marantz, I’d really love to go with a vintage tube amp instead…

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