Sunday, August 4, 2019

Vintage Audio Sighting: Aiwa XR-MS3

It was the start if a familiar story.  I saw her sitting there on a thrift store shelf.  Her speaker cabinets were a shiny ebony that reflected the universe around her.  

I imagined what the speakers themselves like and gently removed the covers.  There were no flaws, no blemishes, and not even a trace of dust.  She was an Aiwa XR-MS3 Micro Music System.

For only $11, she would be a handsome addition to my collection.  I took her to a place of prominence where she could plug in.  She fired up easily and I found her controls easy to understand.
I found a disused Dixie Chick CD laying on a shelf nearby.  

I fed it into the vertical CD slot and with a little fumbling, the Aiwa played beautifully.  Then I switched to radio.  She gamely hunted for a station, but no antenna.  I found a cassette tape and popped it into the top-mounted cassette player.  

It would not play or wind the tape in either direction.  Next, I peered deep into the fan port in the back and realized that I could not see the fan spinning.

Finally, I remembered Sony system that died on my table.  I sighed.  I could not go through that pain again.  I kept my $11 and walked away.  It was a sweet looking little system and might have worked well for the radio, CD, and auxiliary input.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Vintage Audio Sighting: Bradford AM-FM Receiver with 8-Track

Sometimes I think the supply of vintage stereo equipment is dwindling in our local thrift stores.  However, I did spot this Bradford ICT FET AM-FM receiver with built in 8 track player recently.  Bradford was the store brand for the Grants or W.T. Grants department store chain.  Grants was founded in 1906 and operated until 1976.  The department stores were a fixture in the downtown area of most American cities.

I couldn't test this unit out because it there weren't any speakers, speaker wires, or even headphones on sale.  However, since belts deteriorate over time,  it's pretty unlikely that the 8-track would have worked. 

It would have been fun to see the lights glow.  Since the price was around $10, I probably could have picked it up.  But, I don't have any electronics repair skills and I don't have a dedicated workspace.

Bradford stereos were made in Japan and mentions in online forums are largely positive.  I'm sure this unit would have had plenty of old school power for an apartment with 60 watts of power.

The unit had auxiliary inputs and outputs for speakers galore.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Vintage Audio Sighting: Aiwa CX-NAJ14 Digital Audio System

I recently spotted with Aiwa CX-NAJ14 Digital Audio system for only $20 on the shelves of a local thrift store.  It's a nice unit with a CD player, dual cassette, and AM/FM radio receiver.  Aiwa was known for very solid quality and good sound.  For a great Gizmodo article on the Aiwa, check out this article:  Aiwa:  The Almost Great Audio Company.

A system like this brings a lot of stereo into a small space.  You've got to test it thoroughly at the thrift store.  But, if it works, you've got something good!

I've recently learned that the Aiwa brand was recently bought by one of Sony's suppliers and will be returning to the market with a variety of new premium products.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Are You Ready For Amazon Prime Day?

As an audio electronics enthusiast, I find Amazon to be an amazing resource.  You can use Amazon to get the most obscure parts sent directly to your house.  You can find cool gear that is not available in most brick and mortar stores.  Alternatively, you can skip the middleman and order electronics directly from the factory.  But, as great as all this is for Amazon shoppers, Amazon Prime takes it to the next level.

Advantages of Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime opens up access to more free and fast shipping options.  It also provides online photo storage, an excellent music streaming service, and prime video with exclusive programming that is unavailable elsewhere.  But, if you really want good deals, Amazon Prime offers Amazon Prime Day on July 15th and extended into July 16th.  The whole day is like a Black Friday sale in July.  You'll get great deals, all day long, on the coolest products.  If you don't want to miss out, you'll want to sign up for prime today!

Sign Up for Amazon Prime

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Little Orphan Optimus: A Lone Bookshelf Speaker

This just in from the land of orphaned speakers.  Here is a much vaunted Optimus bookshelf speaker from Radio Shack.  It sits all alone on a thrift store shelf.

I looked desperately for its matching speaker.  It would have been perfect for the little mini amp project that I was working on.

When you remove the front cover, the speakers themselves are immaculate.  They are simply beautiful.

Since these little bookshelf speakers are only rated for 40 watts, they might be a great match for a mini amp.  But, with only one speaker, they just don't make any sense.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Dirt Cheap Audio Review: Kinter MA120+ Mini Amplifier

This is a review of a very inexpensive mini amplifier:  the Kinter MA120+.  I bought it because I was really disappointed when my bargain thrift store micro stereo died after about 5 minutes of use.  My $11 investment left me with two fairly decent little Sony bookshelf speakers and a dead console.  However, this gave me a great opportunity to experiment with a mini digital amplifier.  Since this blog is all about fun with dirt cheap audio, I chose the Kinter MA120+ Mini Amplifier which came in at only $12.

Kinter MA120+ Mini Amp Capabilities

The little amp offers FM radio, the ability to play MP3 files from an SD memory card or USB source, and a left and right RCA input for streaming audio from devices such as a cell phone. 

Kinter MA120+ Mini Amp
The mini amp comes with a very small flat remote control and a cable for extending the remote eye of little device.  Apparently mini amplifiers like this are popular among old car enthusiasts.  They are hidden in an old car and take the place of an antique radio.  The Kinter MA120+ has outputs for two stereo speakers.

Kinter MA120+ Mini Amp (back plate)

The system puts out about 8 Watts per channel.  This was enough power for the 20 watt speakers that came with the old Sony system.  Sound from this system easily filled our apartment at a fairly loud volume.

The Kinter MA120+ as the heart of a Mini Stereo

Kinter MA120+ Mini Amp Size

The mini amp is about 6.1 inches wide, 3.9 inches deep, and 1.7 inches high.  This puts the width at just a little less than the length of my Samsung Galaxy S7.

Kinter MA120+ Mini Amp Use

The instructions that come with the Kinter MA120+ are somewhat limited.  But, it did come with a useful diagram that showed where everything was and what it was.  When I set up the input to be FM radio and I hit scan, the Mini Amp display quickly ran through all the available radio stations in our area and assigned a preset number to them.  I could not figure out a way to assign my own preset numbers.  However, when I punched in the number of any preset on the wafer thin remote, it changed the channel to the corresponding radio station.  The easiest thing to do is simply right down the preset numbers of the channels you are interested in.

I also found that the Kinter MA120+ did a great job of playing music from my streaming Amazon Music service.  I just used an RCA Y-Cable adapter.

I did not test playback of MP3 files from a USB device or a memory card.  I simply don't have stored music in that format.

Kinter MA120+ Mini Amp Drawbacks

At a $12 price point, the Kinter MA120+ Mini Amplifier does have some drawbacks.

1. Quality Control.  The first Kinter MA120+ Mini Amp to arrive via Amazon was dead on arrival.  It didn't power on or anything.  However, returns with Amazon are very easy and the replacement unit arrived the very next day.  Amazon reviews suggest that these little amps can be problematic.

2. No Bluetooth.  The MA120+ does not have Bluetooth connectivity.  There are other Kinter Mini Amplifiers that offer Bluetooth, but they cost slightly more.

3. No Mute.  The Kinter MA120+ does not have a mute button on the remote or the unit itself.

There are additional drawbacks like the lack of a left-right balance control.  However, when I consider the low price of the Kinter MA120+, I don't feel like they are reasonable to expect at this particular price.  One of the biggest drawbacks to the Mini Amp is that users may simply not need this device.  The world is literally awash in Bluetooth speakers.  Younger readers may be happy with their phones an a pair of earbuds.

Kinter MA120+ Overall Review

For $12, I'm very happy with the Kinter MA120+.  I'm just thrilled to have an old school mini stereo.  I'm imagining ways to make a cigar box stereo, etc. I think it sounds pretty good.  I just like this little amplifier.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Death of a Micro Stereo: 20 Minutes with a Sony CMT-BX1.

Thrift Store Stereo:  Sony CMT-BX1

Whoops, I did it again!  I bought a mini stereo from a thrift store. 
It was a Sony CMT-BX1.  For only $11, it seemed like a good buy.  I tested it.  The CD player worked.  The tuner hunted for radio stations, but the antenna was missing.  It had an auxiliary audio port so I could hook up my phone.  The system had a total of 40 Watts of power which would be just fine for a small space.  It sounded good.  It was cute.  How could I go wrong?

Let me count the ways!  Once I got it home, the problems began.
I should have known that an 11 year old micro stereo would have problems.

 First, the auxiliary port didn't work.  I tried with two different cables.  Disappointed, I went to bed with visions of getting a soldering iron and finding a loose wire.

The next day, I snagged the FM radio antenna from my stereo and plugged it into the little Sony.  I got radio stations and the sound was good.  All I would have to do is fix that auxiliary port and I would be in business.  Wrong!  After playing less than one song on the radio, the little stereo stopped making sound all together.

Unfortunately, major repairs are well beyond my capabilities and an $11 stereo doesn't merit further investment of time or money.  It's just a bummer.  I'm swearing off thrift store stereos again.  In its day, this was probably a great little stereo.  Someone got a decade of use out of this Sony CMT-BX1, but everything has a lifespan.

But, the speakers are still good.  I have another idea.  Maybe I could . . .