Several weeks ago, I’ve been contemplating on the fact that I’ll be turning forty in a couple of months. And with it, thoughts of some sort of short term goal to celebrate that milestone. I was thinking of flying to meet the Dalai Lama, but that seemed a lot of trouble.
First idea was to finally have a working record player. We have one at home, and it does work. It just needs a new cartridge and an amplifier. So, that proved to be a bit more expensive than what I intended on spending. I was opting to buy a used one – one that wouldn’t require a separate amp, something along the lines of the Numark PT01. And I got close to purchasing one more than a couple of times. But for some reason or another ended up not being able to buy it.
That inspired me and got me into thinking: “Hey, I have a lot of old albums on cassette stored in boxes somewhere in the house. Maybe it’s time I revisit them.” As soon as I got some free time, I decided to take a peek into the old boxes. The first batch of tapes I got my hands on was in this tin box that I used to carry around in the car. Those were pretty okay. So, I continued digging.
Now, I knew that we had some bout with termites that came and went a few years back. But what I saw next was haunting.
I was close to giving up but then managed to find in this pile some tapes that seemed fine.
So, scared as I was, I followed through. I checked the two boxes covered in what seemed to be termite droppings. I just had to see. And I’m glad that I did. Because underneath all those gunk were tapes that actually looked like they might still work once you get past the feces-covered cases. One by one, I took them out of their case and filed the tapes inside a new box. Some sleeves didn’t make it though. But some which were gnawed at the edges were still fine. Most were great – looked the same as when I bought it. I collected the plastic cases inside a big garbage bag, promising myself to give those a good cleaning. Maybe soak them in soapy water for a few days.
Of course, I also got excited seeing albums I’ve almost forgotten I had.
But then, I had another problem to deal with: I have no means of listening to these tapes. I found a couple of Walkmans that I was hoping I could hook up to my micro-component. But they no longer worked I soon found out. So back I was to the drawing board. And by that I mean back to “Googling” second hand units. Managed to find an ad selling used audio gear quite near my office. So over the weekend I went with my family and started digging into their pile.
Then, I found this glorious machine (cue Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus here):
As soon as we got home, I hooked it up to our humble micro-component, half-expecting to be underwhelmed by the whole setup. I got my old tape of “Pretty Hate Machine” by Nine Inch Nails (always my first artist-of-choice to test whatever new sound system I acquire), rewound it to the beginning of side A (it’s been a while since I’ve done that), and…pressed play. And the sound that came out of our tinny-tiny speakers was the most glorious surprise I’ve had in the longest time. I could even see my wife’s eyes widening in astonishment. All I could think of was “Wow! Tapes sounded better that I remembered them!” There I was preparing myself to be surrounded by tape hiss and garbled audio, but instead got surrounded by this warm and rich sound coming out of the speakers. And it’s all there – the top end provided by the drum machine hi hats, the low thumping kick, the growling synth bass of the intro! I’ve worked on digital audio production for more than ten years that I’ve actually forgotten how tapes sounded like. And it was a very welcome sound. This is what sweet nostalgia sounds like.
Still working on my setup, but here she is as of right now:
And also the rest of the tapes I’ve yet to organize:
Next up, actually buy a decent record player. That or fix the one we have. Because come to think of it, it actually matches our newly acquired deck! Hope I can do either before the big four-O comes.
Here’s to being forty! Cheers! 🙂