Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Thrift Store Find: Definitive Technologies Pro Monitor 1000 Bookshelf Speakers

It's not every night that you find high end audiophile speakers at a thrift store.  But, on one recent night, I found a pair of Definitive Technologies Pro Monitor 1000 Bookshelf Speakers for $6.96 apiece at a local thrift store. 

After a quick peak under the speaker grills revealed that the foam surrounds appeared to be in perfect condition, I snapped them up.  New, the speakers would have been $219 each according to Crutchfield.  But, for $14 and tax, the thrift store gave me a chance to be a full fledged audiophile!

Of course, there are some minor caveats to my thrift store find.  First, in the listening room of a 6500 square foot mansion with a big gate and stone lions, the Definitive Technologies speaker cabinets would be a perfect piano-finish ebony.  In my local thrift store, the speaker cabinets had lots of little scratches.  Perhaps the installer messed them up?  Fortunately, the blemishes are of no consequence in my hovel.  In the manor, the speakers would ideally be matched with a subwoofer, a center channel speaker, and a couple more bookshelf speakers as part of an exquisite surround system that would allow some busy executive to find inner peace in his office or listening room.  I don't know about all that.  But, in our spare bedroom/home office, the speakers instantly displaced those B652 speakers I wrote about in my last post.

My initial impressions are the they sound great for bookshelf speakers!  I don't know that I am enough of an audiophile to use words like rich and full, etc.  However, these speakers reproduce sound well and sound wonderful to my ear.  Like most bookshelf speakers, these do give up some on the bass end of the spectrum.  The frequency response is rated as 47 hz to 30 Mhz.  These do provide better performance on the higher end than most similar speakers.  Overall, these speakers are excellent.  For less than $15, these speakers were an incredible find. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Speaker Review: Dayton Audio B652 Bookshelf Speakers

I found a pair of Dayton Audio B652 bookshelf speakers at a thrift store about a year ago.  Since I had heard that these speakers were revered in the world of dirt cheap audio, I immediately picked them up.

Dayton Audio B652 Speaker Description

These are very basic bookshelf speakers.  They are basic black vinyl laminate boxes with removable cloth grills.  The speaker enclosures are not ported.  These compact speakers stand just under a foot tall.  According to Amazon the exact dimensions are 11-13/16-Inch (H) x 7-1/16-Inch (W) x 6-7/16-Inch (D).  They have a keyhole hanger on the back to make them easy to hang on the wall.  The speakers are made in China.

Dayton Audio B652 Bookshelf Speaker Specifications

According to the back plate on these speakers, the recommended amplifier power is 5 to 40 watts and the speakers are built for 8 Ohms impedance and provide a frequency response 70hz to 20khz.

The current Amazon description claims the following specifications:
Power handling: 40 watts RMS/75 watts max ; Impedance: 6 ohms ; Frequency response: 70-20,000 Hz ; Sensitivity: 87 dB 1W/1m 

Dayton Audio B652 General Impressions

These are basic bookshelf speakers and they sound o.k.  While they received mostly great reviews online, I don't really see what the big fuss was about.  They don't provide much bass.  For music, I generally use my much larger and more powerful speakers.  However, I find these speakers great for listening to talk radio during the day and in the evening when I don't want to generate any bass that might disturb neighbors late at night.

Since these speakers are only $30 for the pair new, they are a dirt cheap audio bargain and they'll get your stereo system started.  However, in a world gone to bluetooth and earbuds, there are lots of great speakers available second hand in thrift stores and on ebay for similar prices.  Certainly you can start out with these and keep your eyes open for better.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Vintage Audio Sighting: GE Console Record Player

When I was growing up, my parents had a Hi-Fi console with record player inside.  It wasn't particularly fancy.  It didn't have a radio and it was tall and narrow.  In the mid-1970s, my grandparent's bought themselves a large stereo console for their living room.  My grandfather was tone deaf and played very little music, but he liked gadgets and was proud to have the latest greatest.  It was a beautiful and substantial piece of living room furniture that could be covered with magazines, fancy plates, and grandma's little porcelain statues of birds. 

Today, whenever I run across a console stereo, I have to take a picture of it.  As my current stereo with big black speakers is banished to the guest room, I can also see the practicality of a living room stereo console.  In the 1960s and 1970s, men got their gadgets and women got their beautiful furniture.  I recently spotted this console stereo in a local consignment store priced at $150.

Hi Fi Record Player Console
The turn table and arm appear to be made of steel or aluminum and have a sturdy 1950s or 1960s look to them.  I have know idea if this system works, but it looks really cool.

Someone's grandfather was proud to know that their stereo console came equipment with the latest and greatest General Electric sound technology.

The controls are metal and exude class for sure.  They look like they've been waiting to entertain someone for a long time.

Is that felt or moss on the turntable?

Will you be playing a 10-inch or 12-inch vinyl record today?

I think someone did a good job refinishing this piece before consigning it.  It will be a great addition to a hipster home somewhere.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Speaker Encounter: DCM KX-12 Speakers

This weekend I ran into a pair of DCM KX-12 Speakers at a thrift store. These speakers are 250 watt monster floor standing speakers.  These 3-way speakers have a frequency range of 25 Hz to 20Khz.  Originally, they sold for $400, but Goodwill wanted $89.

Seeking old reviews and opinions, it looks like most listeners agree these speakers are great for bass heavy rock and rap, but not so much for more delicate music.  Rockers are enthusiastic in their reviews.  If I had a bigger space and a more powerful stereo, I'd be tempted to give them a try.  But, instead, I had to be a mature adult and walk away.  Curses . . .

If you ever need to re-foam DCM KX-12 speakers, Amazon has you coveed ---

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Vintage Hi-Fi Sighting: Philco Console Hi Fi

I recently spotted this vintage Philco Hi Fi at one of my local thrift stores.  It was made by Philco and offers AM-FM radio and a turntable for vinyl records.

I don't know much about these consoles. When you pull down the door for the record player, hidden pulleys and strings present the record player for easy access.

These vintage hi fi sets use tubes rather than transistors.  I'm sure that this one would be an interesting project for a collector.  This was probably made in the 1940s or 1950s.  I would imagine lots of wiring would have to be replace and the circuitry would need to be cleaned.  Perhaps some of the tubes would need to be replaced as well.

Notice that this Hi-Fi unit sends its signal to one large forward facing speaker in the bottom.  You might also note that the AM band is labeled "Standard Broadcast."  FM radio became popular in the late 1950s and 1960s.

The final historic touch to this old Hi Fi is the dusty Joan Baez album on the turntable.  Overall, I'm sure that in the right hands, this old Hi Fi unit will be a great project and provide fun for years.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Thrift Store Encounter: Magnavox Astro Sonic Console Stereo

I recently encountered the cutest Magnavox Astro Sonic Console Stereo in a local thrift store.  We didn't buy it because we don't have an SUV and didn't relish the thought of lugging it up to our third floor apartment.  But, I'm sure it will be a great buy for someone.  It was compact, intact, and seemed to be working fairly well for a nearly 50 year old stereo system. 

The Stereo indicator LED didn't seem to illuminate properly when the stereo was locked on a station.  But, you could easily tell from the sound quality when a station was tuned in properly.  The FM Stereo certainly sounded good.

I'm not sure that stereo indicator bulb is working!

The controls on this system are straight forward and fun to work with.  There is something cool about manually dialing in an FM station.  This system apparently had some capabilities for adding Auxiliary components and extra speakers.

The Heart of the Magnavox Astro Sonic Console Stereo

The turntable even seemed to spin just fine.  However, it wouldn't have been a surprise if the system needed a new needle.

This photo makes the system look a little larger than it actually is.  But, it shows the overall finish and the look of the system.  To make this really look good, it might have needed a stereo refinishing or a coat of more contemporary paint.

It looks far more dainty in this photo.  While this is a big and substantial piece of furniture, I'm surprised that console stereos have disappeared.  Nearly every stereo enthusiast has a spouse that is considerably less enthused by a constant jumble of wires and unsightly speakers.  A console stereo has the capability to blend in with the rest of the living room.  That has to count for something right?

This system was only $60.  I should have bought it.  But, I doubt we could have got it home and up the stairs in working condition.  Still, it would have been an interesting buy.  I found a nice write up of a similar system here on Retro Thing.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Vintage Speaker Review: Realistic Solo 103 Speakers

My wife and I went on a thrift shop expedition recently and I came away with a small treasure:  a pair of Realistic Solo 103 Speakers.

Realistic is or was a well-regarded Radio Shack house brand.  Even today you can find positive references to them on enthusiast websites like Audiokarma.  

Back in the late 1960s, a pair of speakers like these cost $15.96.  I got them for $13.96.  Of course, at the thrift store, they were a bit of a gamble.  The front grills don't appear to be removable without causing damage and the back of the speakers don't reveal any information about their specifications other than they are 8-ohm speakers.  This posed a little bit of drama because I didn't want to blow the speakers on my modern receiver.  When it comes to technical information on the Realistic Solo 103, you are pretty much on your own:  Solo.  Eventually, I found Solo 103 speakers listed on page 22 of this circa 1968 Radio Shack catalog.  As best I can find out via the internet is that these speakers are 15 watt speakers with a frequency response starting at 30 hz.

When I got these little speakers home, they continued to pose a challenge because they didn't have conventionally labeled black and red connectors.  Instead, I just had to hook them up with an extra effort towards being consistent about which wire went to which color on the back of my stereo.  I'm not sure what would have happened if I had got the wires crossed up, but they worked fine and my stereo worked fine.  Here is my primitive connection job on these ancient speakers.

Of course, the big question is:  how do they sound?  My answer is they sound pretty good.  Without the profound bass of a big woofer, these speakers sound a little bright.  However, they have nice heavy magnets and they are in fairly heavy wooden enclosures.  Thus, they don't sound tinny at all. They sounded great for listening to jazz on public radio and listening to various news and commentary station.  The jury is still out on rock.  In an apartment, I find that these speakers are a good choice for low to moderate volume listening when you don't want to transmit bass to your neighbors.

I'm sure that I could open these enclosures up and see if the speakers needed to be replaced or restored.  Overall, for $15, these little bookshelf speakers turned out to be a really great little find.  I'm glad I picked them up.