Way to upgrade old music system

Possible if nostalgic sentiments attached, says Sandeep Acharya

I FOUND myself falling through my memories when I stumbled across this today! It was once-upon-a-time a high-end sound processor alias my Sonodyne Uranus amplifier with matching bass reflex speakers which I had got it decades ago at a time when digital technology just entered into the acoustic space replacing the analogue system. This had indeed induced nostalgia quickly and easily.

During that era, premium home stereo systems that ruled the Indian market were now the defunct Akai-Bush, Sonodyne Uranus, Philips Monster and Norge among others. Real high-end products such as the legendary Bose 901 Series Home Theatre System, Denon, Onkyo, Adcom, Marantz, Quad, Yahmaha, Tannoy, Gale, Luxman, etc., were available too, but only in the grey market with a prohibitive price tag or for those lucky ones who had a US or foreign-returned relatives.

I can recall a couple of my friends in Shillong who had a penchant for such great stereo systems – Jonathan (Joe) Chittaranjan and Michael Pariat. It was my association with them where I got to see, listen, feel and analyse some of the well-known sound systems of the world.

At Joe’s place where we used to spend hours together listening to music and creating mix-tape mixer cassettes for various occasions will always remember his high-end Technics and Sony stereo systems. Although Sony had just entered the market with an Indian partner – ‘Orson’ (later known as ‘Sony Orson’) but, the system which I had seen at Joe’s place was a very high-end one and not available at any of its retail outlets throughout the country. Yes, I still remember his matching Technics stroboscope belt-driven turntable too which had a real stylish hydraulic automatic self return tone arm and pick-up cartridge!

Michael lived at a picturesque place surrounded by lots of pine trees. It was equally a treat visiting him taking the steep ups and downs drive-way contours towards his house. A pleasing personality, Michael was considered a ‘music bank’ during the university days – give him a list of your favourite songs and he would record them for you in a cassette with utmost precision. He would take note of the average cassette players owned by most of us and accordingly would adjust the sound level, enhance the high frequency, bass response, midrange and perfect balance for equal output from both speakers. His recorded cassettes always had the clarity like a compact disc since the annoying hsss… sound was eliminated and this was his signature!

It was at Michael’s place where I got to see for the first time the legendary Bose 901 Series Home Theatre System. This killer sound machine with mind-blowing sound effects absolutely carried me off. Perhaps, Michael was one of the few people in the country to own such a system at that time – It was just like owning a Lamborghini or a Ferrari car! The Bose 901 speaker, the one that was originally introduced in 1968, is still in production today.

Whenever after returning home from these two friend’s place, I used to rigorously clean the head of my player with an after shave lotion and adjust the alignment with a small star-head screwdriver to enhance treble effect as the sound always seemed to be muffled in my ears! Inspired, I had also created my own version of home theatre system by fixing a 10 inch speaker in a tea chest and multiple old radio speakers of all sizes in earthen pots with cross-over network circuits! Ha ha ha, those were the crazy good-old-days. And trust me, though I have now physically grown old but, I am still the same and crazy like before as far as acoustics and home sound systems are concerned.

Both Joe and Michael were very lucky to have a decision maker in the family who were very interested in high-end music systems. Joe’s dad, Late HS Chittaranjan, ex-DGP of Assam and Meghalaya was extremely tech-savvy. Infact, uncle Chittaranjan was very young at heart and always kept pace with technology. Michael, who comes from a very refined background, had a family member settled in the US who brought such goodies whenever he visited India.

Coming back to my amplifier, I was wondering what to do with it now? With the digital boom electronic junk has become very common in every household taking up valuable space and I was seriously considering to get rid of this too.  Had just cleaned the system with a damp cloth then connected the speaker cables and mains. Oh-my-god! the LED function key came to life and a mild humming sound from the speakers could be heard. Next, I connected it to my laptop using a 3.5 mm stereo jack and the other end with flower jack to the Auxiliary input of the amplifier. Played a track and guess what? The mere 16 watt RMS (Root Mean Square) device sounded so good and refined in this digital age comparable or even better than many systems currently available in the market. Push opened the front panel of the amplifier to adjust the bass, treble, balance, loudness and filter/scratch controls that sounded even pleasing.

Looking at it for a while I was wondering one of the downsides of this amplifier – it does not have a remote control. After doing a market and internet research, I came across a solution. A USB player is available in the stores which can be integrated with the amplifier through an Aux cable. It is a small devise which has provisions for memory cards as well as pen drives, play audio/video files, FM radio and a remote control that enables the entire function of the system. The USB player commonly available has only a pen drive provision which cost less than Rs 400 while the one which is smaller and sleeker has memory card and pen drive slots is close to Rs 900. It comes in F&D, an imported brand.

So if anyone of you are having a good old system and have nostalgic sentiments attached to it, think twice before you consider to get rid of it. You can still enjoy the bass and mids of Santana’s Black Magic Woman to high notes in Adele’s Skyfall or Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven including thud of bass in Bollywood songs without investing much for a brand new music system in this festive season.

(sandeep.avian@gmail.com)

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