Man does this thing bring back some memories. We never had a lot of money as I was growing up. We were never very stereo orientated. My brother never had a stereo except in his car. I didn't have one until a neighbor was moving and gave me his old Soundesign turntable (with an amp) and receiver/8 track player (also with an amp) and two 5" speakers in a box. I was really thankful. I bought a few 8-tracks from Goodwill across the street and I had a few 45's which I used to play on my brother's portable GE record player. That was it. We never were high fidelity kids. The Soundesign crap I'd been given for free was the closest thing to HI-Fi I'd own. I did get all high tech with a Hitachi boom box (which will be featured in a future junk blog) so I could play back my growing tape collection. That was decent. I also started listening to a lot of 80's radio. Pretty soon I was bringing home LPs from the library to record on my boom box. It was that time that I've coined the phrase "Kneedeep In The Hoopla Is The S*IT" as yes, I enjoyed that Starship album, or the radio told me to enjoy it.
After a bit of use, the turntable amp gave out and that BSR turntable with Soundesign guts gave up the ghost. The amp in my stereo was also a bit wobbly, and that's when I started looking at all of the "modern" Soundesign "rack systems" that Zayre and other discounters had. They were shiny. Some of them had a lot of blinky lights. I don't think any of them were more than $299 with most in the $100-$200 range. They were the best that Zayre had to offer. I think there was even one that came with a television, and that one was expensive. I got this one for Christmas. It cost $149. It had "high speed" tape dubbing. It had an "aux" input. It had two large speakers which were 6" drivers. It had an integrated turntable, but was separate from the stereo. I bought a double LP "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" (movie soundtrack) for $1 from Camelot Records and Tapes in Westgate mall. It played records but sounded like it was. A rock stylus immediately wearing on the cheap record. The tape deck dubber wasn't quite as good as my nice Hitachi boombox, but it played tapes better because of bigger speakers. Believe me, we went through all this in the 80's, 90's and Oughts until cell phones and computers made all of this junk obsolete. Of course, there is much better equipment. I'd say that in the 90's, Hi Fi really became better and cheaper. Right then however, Soundesign stereo was the S*IT!
Actually, the pressed board of the rack matched the speakers and it was a handsome sight. I'd imagine there were many hours spent by minimum wage Zayre employees setting these stereo racks up and busting through the pressed board by over tightening. Soundesign had the fake EQ design down. The shiny EQ was all the rage back in the 80's. Everybody had a separate EQ and some had the bouncing display. Oooooooh. Soundesign made larger EQ's on their stereos, there were some that were even 5 band, but the majority were three band, just looked like more with double sliders. Shiny plastic went a long way back in the day. How did it sound? Well, the whole stereo sounded better than a boom box. That's the best thing I can say. It was HI-FI to me. Dammit. They had so many pretty stereos at Zayre. I gots me a pretty good one.
Look at all that pressed board. It seems they made a ton of stuff out of that formaldehyde laden cheap stuff way back when. I guess they have kind of phased the stuff out now? The DC out was for the turntable. It did have a pre-amp for the turntable. I never saw it work with the better turntable I bought a few years later. The Aux got very little use until... I think I hooked my VCR Up to it a few times, but my VCR was across the room and was a mono unit, so all it did was make the hiss louder. Yes, this did me well for a year or two, until everything changed. My friend Pete purchased a 12" record from Kraftwerk. It was the "Musique Non-Stop" maxi single. We came home to my place and played it. it started with a robotic voice saying "Boing Boom Tschak". I had a thing for comedy records and had a few tapes I'd made from library records of Dr. Demento discs. This "Boing Boom Tschak" was almost novelty to me, but something came alive. I taped it. I played it over and over. In a week, when my friend Marc and I were up in Michigan and I bought "Electric Cafe" and down the rabbit hole I went.
Soon after I had all the Kraftwerk on tape and then I got into DEVO and likewise got all of it and then got deeper. Radio was less and less where I got my music. This used to be be the tape storage area where I kept all of the tapes of my growing store bought tape collection. Then my friend Steve bought the first Sony CD Portable player and man I liked the sound it produced. At the same time, prices were dropping and there was at least 6 appliance-electronics stores operating in my area, all at their throats trying to get our business. Mace electronics was the newest in the area, and when they had a Teac Three Beam 2x Oversampling model for $149 (sans remote), somehow I had the cake to buy it. I went to Camelot in Westgate and purchased Electric Cafe for 18.99 on CD. (Where I got the cake from, I've no idea.) I hooked it up to this stereo and instantly I was really REALLY HIGH FIDELITY. It sounded even better through the Koss headphones I'd purchased from Forest City Home Centers (which also had a appliance and electronics selection back when) and loved every minute of the lack of hiss from the CD player. From there, I only used the tape decks to record tapes from the CD's I'd bought. Of course, I had Foreigner "Records" and Van Halen's "1984" and Beach Boys "Fantastic Summer Best Of" , but I traded them all when my friend Bill started selling CDs and got me hooked on Frank Zappa, Negativland and Nitzer Ebb.
Well, Soundesign made systems in the 90's. They even made some that were re-branded Radio Shack. One had a HUGE upright loading CD player clad in pressed board that was more of a space taker than a good sounding CD player. Still, even the worst CD players sounded better than records or tapes right? They made other portable sound equipment, but none of it was more than a slightly better GPX product. Yeah, I was glad they were around at a time when the sounds started to mean stuff to me. Now, a portable computer tablet through good headphones containing all of my music sounds better than the old Soundesign. My computer speakers sound better. My LAPTOP sounds better...um..with external speakers... Koss...