The 70’s was a decade known for lots of wild and crazy stuff that came and went in a flurry. I mean, what was hotter, then colder, than disco music? Other uniquely 70’s crazes that appeared for a bit, shined brightly, than vanished included fondue pots, macrame, and CB radios.
Another 70’s debut, but one that didn’t vanish as much as it evolved into smaller, lighter incarnations, was hi-fi stereo systems.
When we were kids of the 50’s and 60’s, we got along fine listening to transistor radios and portable record players. But as we became teenagers and young adults in the 70’s, why, it was time for some serious musical upgrading to take place! And manufacturers of huge wooden-encased components were more than happy to help us out.
One of the first things that I became aware of early in the 70’s was that sound could be heard in absolutely amazing stereo. My mom had a venerable record player console that sounded pretty darned good, with its 12″ woofer providing bass thump that was very impressive despite its its 50’s vintage. But even though it had the word “stereo” on a plastic label on its front panel, it was most assuredly a monophonic system.
I listened to Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run (still one of my favorite albums) on my oldest brother’s headphones about 1972. The stereo sound made me determined that I would have my own sweet sound system as soon as possible.
I began with a Radio Shack FM/cassette deck with satellite speakers in 1975, shortly after I landed my first job sacking groceries. It set me back $199, and a component turntable was another 50 or so bucks.
It sounded great, but lacked deep bass. So two years later, having graduated high school and begun working full time, I sent a check for $1200 to an outfit called Illinois Audio for a Pioneer system.
My dad thought I was nuts. He figured that check would be cashed and I would be ripped off. But within two weeks, a semi-trailer was in Bentonville, Arkansas with a bunch of big boxes inside that belonged to ME!
I’ll never forget the thrill I felt as I unpacked my 40 watt receiver, my Dolby cassette deck, my direct-drive turntable, my gorgeous HPM-40 speakers, and my high-end Koss Pro 4-AAA headphones that I had splurged for.
That stereo turned out to be a whale of an investment. It provided me with an amazing amount of pleasure and entertainment over the years, and a few years later, my brand-new wife was pleased that I had a decent sound system. Lord knows I didn’t have much else in the way of material things!
Nowadays, I do most of my listening to music in the car or on the computer (Carly Simon’s Spy sounds good through my Creative subwoofer system as I pen this piece). But I still have a bonzer home system, too. The last of my original Pioneer components to go were my HPM-40 speakers. They sold in a yard sale five years ago. My kids had managed to push both woofer cones in as they struggled to master the fine art of walking, but they still sounded good.
But as long as I live, I’ll never forget the ecstasy I felt as I unpacked my heavy, wooden-clad Pioneer stereo components and hooked them all together, then listening to that first rush of high-fidelity sound.