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Computer sound from Yard-Sale Tech

December 27, 2004

My hearing was never very good, and it’s getting worse.  Tired of the über-crappy computer speakers I once rescued from an office trash can, I decided to go upscale and get my sophisticated computer sound system from 2 different yard sales:


The speakers are Radio Shack, c. 1995, priced $4 for the pair.  The amplifier is Radio Shack, c. 1970, and priced $3. 

I dug around in my coffee-can of leftover electronic “culch” and soldered up a 1/8” mini-stereo-to-twin-1/4”-RCA adapter to cross 30 years’ difference between the computer sound card and the ancient amp, and a pair of 1/4” RCA-jack speaker cables to bridge the 25 years between amp and speakers.

It works perfectly – the sound is clear and strong.  And when I don’t want sound (such as when working in the middle of the night) I don’t have to hunt for an icon – I just reach out and hit the “power” switch to turn off the amp.

This is a high-quality amp, made in Japan probably by Matsushita and sold by Radio Shack and several other companies.  I don’t know the watts or signal-to-noise ratio but here’s what I mean by high-quality: after decades in someone’s basement, it still works and sounds like new.  The switches still work crisply, the knobs turn smoothly and there’s no scratchy noise at all in the speakers as you turn them.

It is also (audio equipment manufacturers take note) well-designed.  It has an attractive wooden case, with black letters in English clearly screened on brushed aluminum – very easy to read.  The controls are logically designed.  It doesn’t have non-essential controls. 

(This is one of my big beefs about current design in media equipment.  Only a 25-year-old designer would think to use grey letters on a black background.  I keep one of those bright LED flashlights dangling on a string inside my TV cabinet so I can find/read the controls on my DVD player and VCR.)

The speakers have a nice wooden case and black metal grille.  They’re quite heavy, have polypropylene cones, and are shielded for use near monitors.  The left speaker is shown but I didn’t move the right speaker to include it in the picture since they look the same.

All that stuff you see stuck to the speaker is not part of the sound system.  For convenience I Velcro’d my USB hub and card reader to one of the speakers.  When I decide to get a different hub or reader, Velcro will let me swap easily.

Total investment in this sound system (including the sound card I rescued out of a junk computer someone threw out)…  seven dollars.

Categories: Artifacts, Personal
  1. Earl
    December 27, 2004 at 11:21 | #1

    Very cool.  I think that amp is/was rated at 10 watts per channel.  The only thing cooler would be a valve/tube amp.  It would use a lot more power, of course, hence would not be as environmentally responsible.  But I will likely do it for my setup, as I have a Motorola THREE channel tube amp pulled from an old console… hence I will need a subwoofer… tee hee hee.

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