One of the things that I grew up loving were stereo systems. As a kid, owning any kind of radio/tape player was just the coolest. My childhood friend, Troy, had a very 1970s looking unit that held an 8-Track unit and a radio tuner. Listening to Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-A-Ling” or other popular funny music from the time eventually became hearing AC/DC on full volume, and all of it was sheer magic. At home we had a giant Hi-Fi unit that played vinyl records through big speakers that were built-in to a press-board piece of furniture. The tubes would warm up and I went from listening to my children’s records featuring Fonzie from Happy Days to “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain When She Comes” to KISS’s “I was Made For Lovin’ You” and Rick Springfield’s “Love Somebody.”
I had a few dinky units of my own, and even played my cds through a guitar amplifier in Montreal, but it was not until much later that I would own my own stereo unit. It was a Marantz amplifier with Polk Audio speakers and some Sony cd/dvd players. I lost those items through my divorce, but kept a collection of old odds and ends pieces that neighbours or the school had thrown out: a super-heavy Sony integrated amplifier and a pair of Thiel speakers. Both of these items were high quality, though both had seen their share of use. The speakers still sound wonderful even if their finish was damaged through a water leak in their past life, and the amplifier at least had an input stage for the beautiful Pro-Ject turntable I purchased a year ago.
Upon realizing that the $200 a year I was paying for Sirius Radio to dial in BBC was being wasted when my iPod could do the same with a 99 cent app, I went through the awful process of trying to cancel my subscription. We will still have to see whether I actually cancelled it, or if they will try to submit another term to my credit card. I will admit that I loved Sirius two years ago, but I just found their programming faltered over the past year.
With the radio gone, I decided that it was time for me to visit Bay-Bloor Radio and lay down a small sum to procure either a value-end amplifier or radio tuner from NAD. The best laid plans of mice and men do go awry, and this was one of those times. I gave in. I wanted something special. I wanted a unit that made me feel like I was making a real investment in my listening future. I even took V. with me to help pick out something that she liked, too. After taking her advice on new speaker stands to get the Thiels off the floor, I then asked which NAD unit she thought made the most sense. Funnily enough, she moved away from the simple black boxes and went straight to a sleek wood and aluminum unit made by Peachtree Audio. This one is pretty almost always translates into this one costs a fortune. After speaking with the salesman for thirty minutes, the Peachtree seemed to make the most sense. It had enough power, had digital inputs and analog inputs, and a DAC stage that could convert USB audio should I ever move my computer near to the stereo. It also matched the wood of my Pro-Ject turntable. Did I mention the beautiful tube that glows warmly as part of the signal path?
Speaking of the turntable, I would need to cough up more cash for a preamplifier to run the turntable into the Peachtree, but I have really come to love the sound of vinyl for my favourite artists [Nine Inch Nails, Tom Waits, Miles Davis] and it made sense at the time. I went with Pro-Ject’s Tube Box II unit to match both the look of my other units and the tube motif. Final total: around two thousand dollars.
In the end, the sound is exactly what I have been hoping for since I was a kid back on Prince Edward Island. The Nova allows me to switch from vinyl to my iPod radio stations to the Blu-Ray and DVD player outputs and takes in a digital signal from my Apple TV.
So what is this about a technological mid-life crisis? Well, over the weekend I realized that despite my mastery of quite a few technological areas [imagery, sound, applications], the technology itself was moving too fast for me to remain familiar with: I was becoming a luddite in a world of Smartphones and Apps. One of my main values as a “worker” was that I was always way ahead of the technology curve. I innovated with the applications and did cool things that my peers could not. Now…I feel antiquated by a year’s passing, and despite a new push to master some of these exciting opportunities I feel like I might reaching the part where the struggle is going to be tough to retain my technological youth. Maybe I should just accept my fading into the background with my vinyl, tubes and film? Somehow that seems unlikely when there are metaphorical sports cars, hotrods like the Peachtree Nova, to keep the learning exciting. Vroom…vroom.