High time for a HiFi garage system?
You hear music with a boombox, but you listen to music with a high fidelity (HiFi) audio system. But let’s be clear, this isn’t elitist snobbery: the sheer volume of cheap electronics on the market ensures folks shall trash their old audio the moment it lacks a new feature. This means there’s a glut of perfectly serviceable 10-40(ish) year old HiFi audio systems whose only sin is not having HDMI inputs, 4k pass-throughs, or Bluetooth whatnots.
But they still sound wonderful in your garage, so save someone’s former glory from the scrap heap! And brace yourself, now it’s gonna get somewhat technical and colossally dorky.
As someone who loves tinkering but hates the loudness war’s devastating effect on fidelity, my latest HiFi garage system hails from a time when the widespread implementation of transistorized amplification met with the tunability of standalone graphic equalization.
Indeed, the bits that make the boom are from the early 1980s and late 1970s. I was dumbfounded by the overall quality of my acquisition from a friend’s estate: Radio Shack’s “Realistic” SA-150 desktop amplifier and graphic equalizer. Even with a minuscule 1.8 watts per channel(!!!) it was maxing out the included Realistic Minimus 0.3 speakers, but reproduced mid/high frequencies with shocking clarity at lower volumes.
It was a night and day difference over my garage’s first radio, a decent Sony boombox from the early 2000s. And it even blew the doors off the last (Walmart worthy) surround sound amplifier rescued from my neighbor’s curbside trash pile. When I found a set of the larger Realistic Minimus 0.7s ($7, thrift store) to handle the power in series with the 0.3s, the motivation to build a low budget HiFi garage system was high!
I grabbed a Realistic Tape Control Center (the black box) from my father’s collection of formerly-loved audio equipment to get serious: multiple data sources now route to the equalizer, amplifier, etc. I purchased the matching AM/FM tuner ($20, eBay) and assembled everything else before it arrived.
Both the DVD player and 8″ Infinity subwoofer (curbside trash find) were free, proving my point that people have no value for depreciated equipment. The former plays CDs with precision, while the latter fills the garage with funk (and phonk) thanks to the “tape out” RCA jacks on the amplifier.
When perched atop my (flimsy plastic, but free) shelf, the original Minimus 0.3 speakers project warm and clear textures to every corner of the garage. Nice.
While I’m not a big fan of streaming audio (unless I win the lottery) it’s great to drop your phone in the tool cart, connect a heavy-duty AUX cord ($10) and grab the tool needed for the job at hand. Added bonus: when the phone rings, there’s no chance you’re gonna miss it.
Here’s the deal: while older isn’t necessarily better, discarded audio is often higher quality than the latest turn-key, technology-laden surround sound system. Remember that cost engineering isn’t unique to airbag-laden $18,000 cars, you will lose sound quality as you gain technology features.
Perhaps that’s why my newest HiFi garage setup (from Radio Shack of all places!) is actually my oldest. And will likely be my last: it’s compact, versatile, sonically competent, and set me back less than any of my previous dinners with randos on Bumble. Which makes that HiFi sound even sweeter.