Category Archives: About Me

What I’ve Heard Thus Far

I had mentioned in a previous post that I had a thing for buying cheap CD players, the reason for such was to compare the sound of each and see if I was able to hear any real difference between makes and models.

Well, this is what I’ve got in my collection right now:

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From top to bottom:

  1. Technics SL-P330
  2. Scott D980
  3. JVC XL-V311
  4. Onkyo DX-701

Of these four players, the ones that get the most play are the Technics and the JVC.  The JVC has a little bit better bass and the Technics, in the opposite way, has a brighter sound.  The other two, the Scott and the Onkyo, have a similar sound, which I feel is a little dulled.  The Scott has an additional handicap in that the display can display either the current track or the track time, but not both simultaneously.  All but the Onkyo have support for indexed tracks, and the JVC will show the current playing track and index.  I have yet to find one of my CDs that has indexes, though.  Still looking…

All four have headphone jacks; the Technics and the Onkyo have headphone volume controls, which is great.  All but the Onkyo can be run by remote control, and I purchased remotes for the Technics and JVC.  In both cases, the remotes were twice as much as I paid for the player.

And on the subject of cost, each player cost me less than $10, and each player was originally $150-$300 when new, so this is not an expensive endeavor.

Wasteland, 2020

Another undesired journey to the wasteland of my home town.  Have to keep up appearances with family and whatnot.  Really, it was just for my mom’s birthday and she’s old enough that she didn’t even remember me saying I was going to come up back when we talked on Christmas.

I left on a Friday with my flight scheduled for 8:00.  I figured I could leave my house at 6 and get to the airport by 7 and have plenty of time.  That is until traffic happened.  Friday morning commuter traffic, which occurs earlier than I expected.  Add to that stress was the realization that I had forgotten who I rented my car from, so I had to remotely connect to my home computer from a 7-11 parking lot to ease my mind.  That lost me about 15 minutes.  Add to that the realization that 8:00 is the flight departure time and boarding begins at 7:30.  With some aggressive driving, a bit of luck, and the decision to park at the terminal instead of the satellite lot, I made it into the airport at 7:15.

Now, security.  I never have any good luck with security because I don’t fly enough to remember all the bullshit.  So once again, I got felt up because I left my wallet and a handkerchief in my pocket.  One part of me just thinks, "whatever", but when I really think about it, this is really fucking incredible that we’ve allowed this to become normal.

The flight was uneventful and I was in my rental in short order.  I was very pleased to see that I could see lots of green as we were coming in to the airport.  No snow cover… yet.  The weather was planned to get much worse over the next couple of days while I was there.  My rental had GPS, so I put in my destination and let it guide me.

It guided me wrong.  Well, the route would have worked, but it wasn’t the path I wanted and I was expecting to pass by an outlet mall where I could pick up a gift for my mom and have a good meal.  Also, it routed me on a toll road and I wasn’t up for paying cash at toll booths – so 20th century.  So I pulled off the interstate and set a new destination for the outlet mall I wanted to visit.

The route I was then sent on took me through small towns and back routes I’d never seen or heard of.  And while I drove through these communities, I felt a strange sense of something, not melancholy, but more like disappointment.  I’d lived in that area for so many years and yet I’d never explored any of these places.  Granted, there wasn’t really much to see in these tiny places, but they were interesting in their own way.  I eventually reconciled the feeling with the understanding that in my youth, I drove places to get somewhere.  There wasn’t time for exploring – that would have been time wasted.  So it kind of struck me odd that I’m at a point in my life where I have more free time and ambition to do more things.

After an excellent and much-needed lunch, I walked through the outlet plaza.  It’s in the mid 20’s outside.  I have my leather jacket on over a t-shirt, and I put on my 180’s for extra warmth.  They performed well.  I had decided that I wanted to buy some decent gloves while in the cold region, and the first place I stopped, Timberland, had them.  $10 on sale.  Yes, gimme.  Then I walked onward and found the Columbia store.  I thought they might have a nice throw blanket for my mom and while browsing, I saw more gloves, better gloves.  $9 on sale.  Yes, gimme.  And behind the counter they had a special on fleece throws.  Yes, gimme.  My shopping was done.

Kinda done.  I was lamenting that I left my sunglasses in my car back at the airport, so I figured I’d at least look in Sunglass Hut to see if there’s anything that would suit me.  I am very particular about sunglass styles, despite that I was once told that there isn’t a pair of glasses that doesn’t look good on me.  I walked out of the store with a new pair of Ray Ban polarized glasses because, why not?  despite having 2 pairs of gloves, the glasses are the only purchase I regret from my trip because I never used them again, because the sun never came back.

The next day, I woke up to a fair covering of snow on the car and the roads.  It took me only a few minutes to get my snow feet back and remember how to accelerate and brake on slick roads.  And with the snow mixing with sleet and rain, I made my rounds to the thrift shops of the area.  I also picked up some candy and a birthday cake and card.  By lunchtime, I had acquired 6 new CDs and was enjoying a couple of hot dogs and pretzels at a local convenience store.

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True to my designated moniker, I made mental notes of the changes in the wasteland.  K-Mart closed.  A couple of fast food places opened or remodeled.  Still no chain restaurants.  The Salvation Army thrift store closed.  How bad does a place have to be for that to happen?

The birthday visit was pleasant and so then all that was left was to get back home.  Again, my flight was at 8:00.  Travel time to the airport was about 90 mins, but the roads would probably be frozen overnight.  I gave myself extra time and set my alarm for 4:30, to be on the road by 5 and to the airport by 7.

The drive to the airport was sort of surreal.  There’s not a lot of traffic up in that area anyway, but at 5 in the morning, there’s no one.  And the roads are completely snow covered, so it’s a game of "whose lane is it, anyway?"  45 mph in a 70 was pretty standard for the early drive, but as I got further south, everything improved until I was finally driving on dry, clear pavement.

Again, security.  I was assured this time I wasn’t going to mess anything up.  I was adamant I was going to pass right through.  I only had one concern:  I had a couple of open boxes of candy in my bag.  Like I said, I don’t fly enough to know all the bullshit, so it was my understanding you can’t take any open food through security.  So in the back of my head, I half-expected to get pulled aside and told to throw it away.  $20 of candy, gone.

When I got to the airport, not late, but pushing it, I got to the security line, which was much longer than I experienced when I came up.  The line was about 15 minutes and I checked and rechecked my pockets and everything, multiple times.  I tried asking one of the agents if my bin looked ok but he didn’t care.  And for all that preparation, I passed!  No touchy-feely this time, and I got to keep my candy.  I felt like I cheated the system.  It really is fucked up that this is what is normal.

Uneventful flights back south and I was met with typical bullshit traffic on the drive home from the airport.  A greeting I should have expected.  I’m good for a few more years.

The Collection, 2019 In Review

I was browsing through some old blog posts and I found that in January last year, I had a year-by-year analysis of my CD collection, so I figured it would be a good time to see how 2019 added to the pile.  As a quick recap, I added to my collection each year:

2016: 207 new
2017: 254 new
2018: 327 new

And in 2019, I added 262 new items.  Not as aggressive as 2018, but I can understand why.  Last year, I sort of struggled finding stuff that I actually wanted to buy.  I was interested in filling gaps in my collection as opposed to growing it in new directions.  It’s the year I made peace with the idea that my collection is going to be incredibly focused on 1980’s releases.  Not that that’s overly limiting, because there’s a lot of sub-genres to explore and there’s a lot of music available in just that decade.

Also, I was focused a bit more on adding collectables, like target CDs and gold CDs from Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs.  Purchases like these are not your $1-2 thrift store buy (unless you’re lucky).  As my list of wanted target CDs shrinks, the availability of those CDs shrinks accordingly and the prices increase accordingly as well.  So, spending upwards of $25 for a target CD I want isn’t unheard of.  Gold CDs I have always held a price cap of $30, although I did pay $50 for one that I felt was a sure buy.

So at this point, I have 82 target CDs (excluding duplicates) and I have 18 gold CDs.  These numbers grew substantially in 2019 – I added 8 gold CDs alone.  I expect this segment to continue to grow in 2020, which will continue to add significant and durable value to the collection (spoken in my CFO earnings-call voice).  No one should ever collect anything as an investment, however, you can be intelligent with your purchases and buy quality when you can – a balance of quantity and quality will satisfy everyone.  When it comes time to divest the lot, separate the rare from the common and liquidate each group appropriately.

On the topic of breadth, I did discover more smooth-jazz artists to add to my stable.  It all fits together that early CD adopters were more affluent, the technology was more expensive, and their tastes were more refined (or snooty, if you think).  So there are a lot of jazz titles available in the early 80’s.  And because the 80’s were an era of early synths and drum machines – sounds that are now generally despised – you can find albums in this genre quite cheaply.

2020 is hopefully going to be another year of quality.  The quantity is already there.

Road Trip In ATL

Over the weekend, I made a road trip up north to Atlanta to see some friends and explore some shops for CDs.  Before I left, I did some research on places I wanted to visit.  As is my default, I used Bing.  A lot of people dismiss Bing as useless, but it’s probably for the same reason that I dismiss Google – I just don’t use it.

Bing Maps has a neat feature where you can save places into an itinerary, and it will create driving directions automatically from the list.  This is what I came up with for Saturday’s run.

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The downside to using Bing Maps is that it’s not part of Android Auto, which is how I do the navigation in my car.  In the interest of being fair about the routing capabilities of Google vs. Bing, I took a look at Google maps to see if I could have done the same thing there.  What I found was that you can make a custom list of places, but you can’t automagically turn that into a multi-waypoint drive.  I suppose you could keep the list open and work your way through the items, choosing each in turn as the next destination.  So, it’s just a different way of accomplishing the same goal.  I’m not going to say "Google sucks, Bing rules" because that’s just stupid and we should all be more adult about this.

On one of the stops at CD Warehouse – a chain store that has been bankrupt for almost two decades; I have no idea how these ones are open – I found a CD to purchase.  It was a Japan pressing of an Eagles compilation.  I identified it as purchase-worthy because of the smooth case that had "Patent Pending" embossed on it.  These are some of the first CDs manufactured, when the jewel case was still a new invention.

I took the CD to the counter, paid and left the store.  After leaving, I snuck a peek at the CD and realized it was a common US pressing.  I was disappointed but unsurprised.  CDs can certainly migrate between cases, especially in a store that probably has a dozen of each title at any time.  I chalked it up as a buyer-beware failure on my part and moved on.  Later in the evening, I was looking at my whole day’s spoils and realized that the Eagles album was not in a smooth case.  I had been given a totally different CD instead of what I chose from the rack.

So I began debating if it was worth the effort to go back and demand the item I had chosen.  Would it still be there?  Would the staff just roll their eyes and say, "fuck off"?  Would I get the replacement and have it be no better than what I already had?  Was it worth the drive anyway?

I decided it would be worth the effort, and planned to go before driving back home on Monday.  My friends convinced me it would be better to try on Sunday because of workday traffic and were willing to sacrifice some of our day together to accomplish this.  So, with the store’s closing time quickly approaching, we set out for the store with the replacement.  We made it in the last 15 minutes.

I went to the rack and quickly found the same smooth case I had originally picked – they had simply put it back after I left.  I went to the counter and plead my case.  I had been rehearsing how to explain that I wanted this specific CD and not just any CD and had planned to try and be technical without being condescending.  At the most extreme, I would have to show them my Relative Waves website that explained the difference in CD masterings.  In reality, I was pretty awkward about the whole explanation, saying that I got a different CD, but it was the same, but it wasn’t the same.  Good job, Dave.  Way to explain it.

The guy at the counter said, no problem.  He went to the computer and scanned the old CD and my purchased CD, then retrieved the actual disc that was supposed to be in the case.  As he placed the CD in the case on the counter, he said, "there you go, Japanese pressing."  And at that point, I knew that he understood.  I didn’t need to say anything more than thank you.  And I left with my early pressing album.

Also on the list were some antique malls.  In my area, people seem to treat antique malls as consignment shops and as such, you can find people selling their personal CD collections (which technically could be antiques).  However, in this area, antique malls are filled with actual antiques.  Not of any benefit for CD hunting, but still a fun and interesting experience.  I did find some tiny décor items for the house, so it wasn’t all bad.

And finally, the thrift stores.  This is actually my second round of thrifting in Atlanta.  The first time was a long series of disappointments and this one was generally a shorter version of the first.  It just makes me more grateful that the thrifts in my area have some decent selection of CDs.  Maybe there are more collectors in Atlanta keeping the thrifts bare, who knows.

But the trip was not supposed to be about me and my hobbies anyway.  It was about the company and the experience.  In that respect, it was top-notch.  There’s plenty to be grateful for in spite of any success or lack of success in my hobbies.

Leaving Flickr

Now that my blogs are on my own server, I’m going to have to content myself with much lower traffic.  That’s not really too much of a concern of mine.  But at the same time, there are some things that I do want to share, and I would hope they get some exposure.

I’m not a self-promoter.  I prefer to be discovered naturally, without any artificial boosts or bumps.  I guess it would help with credibility, like "oh, he’s only famous because he spammed Reddit every day for a year with links to dumb posts."  That’s like the opposite of what I want.  But really, I don’t want fame.  I just want to be helpful.

And on that topic, I have a few albums on Flickr that I consider helpful.  Some, based on views, might actually be helpful.  And I fear, when I move them here to this network, they won’t be discovered as easily or at all.  But, looking at it from another perspective, I am moving them here in case Flickr goes away completely, so there’s that threat as well.

Anyway, in the coming days, there’s going to be a new menu item for articles.  These are things that don’t really have the same meaning as blog posts, to be chronologically placed.  Maybe they’re like "sticky posts".  But these pages will have the content that was previously hosted on Flickr.  Specifically, some repair articles for keyboards I’ve owned.  The article format will be much better suited for the purpose than a photo album.

I’m going to have to figure out exactly how I will manage my CD Artwork collection as a series of pages.  I’ve looked for other places to host them and for one reason or another, it’s just never worked out.  And you know what they say, if you don’t like it, you’re free to do it yourself.  And I guess that’s the whole point of bringing my blog network in-house.

A Christmas Burden

As a collector of CDs, sometimes I fantasize about coming across an old collection that’s up for sale, one with lots of old and rare CDs in it, along with CDs that I would also want to listen to.  I’ve read about people having experiences like that – they’re not common at all.  But Sunday, I was fortunate enough to have one of my own.

I had planned to visit my local flea market that day to check out and maybe buying a dart set for fun.  I have a board set up in my garage, but I don’t seem to have any darts anymore.  So I visited the booth with the darts and because there was only one set available, I decided to hold off another week until he got his order with different models.  My flea market doesn’t have a resident “CD guy”, so I don’t stop in very often.  But I did feel like getting some walking in, so I wandered the halls.

I found a couple of temporary sellers with CDs, but their selection was terrible and in poor condition.  Another seller had like 10 CDs out.  Sigh.  But, leaving that seller’s stand, I saw a booth across the hall with a couple of larger CD racks.  I went over to see what was there.  Within 10 seconds of browsing the rack, I could tell this was a personal collection.  There were items there that I never see anywhere else.  In one rack, there was almost the entirety of the IRS NoSpeak series, something I had completed this year.  I could have saved quite a bit of money, here.

Alas, I didn’t find anything in the two front racks, but when I stood back up and actually looked in the booth, there were six more racks and a couple of boxes of CDs.  Oh my god, if it’s all the quality of what’s out front, I’m in trouble.

And without dragging it out, yes, it was and, yes, I was.  There were two criteria I was working with at this booth.  The first was looking for stuff I wanted (duh).  The second was looking for any smooth-sided cases, which would indicate early CD pressings.  In the first criteria, I found maybe 6 CDs.  However, when it came to smooth cases, this collector was seriously an early adopter.  I was pulling out CDs 2-3 at a time and stacking them up into multiple piles.

The total at the end was 62 CDs.  The lady charged me a whopping $55 and even was willing to take a credit card when I explained I didn’t have enough cash to cover the purchase.  I was willing to do PayPal or some other method to avoid her getting a fee, but ok.  She was very happy to move so many of the CDs at once, and I was very pleased with what I had pulled out.

Back at home, I stacked the CDs all up and began cleaning the cases.

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After cleaning them, which took a little over half an hour, I had to step away to let my mind think about what I had to do.  I broke the incoming items into three piles: things that were duplicates of what I already had (and might be upgrades), things I definitely wanted to add to the collection, and the rest was going to have to be evaluated to see if I wanted to keep it.  I ended up with 20 definite adds, 6 or so dupes, and the rest was left for later.  Then I had to take another break.

What we’re talking about here is listening to 50+ albums.  Even being really aggressive about it, listening to one CD on the way to work, one on the way back, and maybe one at night, we’re still talking almost a month of new music.  And listening to an album once isn’t always fair when choosing to keep it or not, and I do want to be fair.  That means a whole lot of music has been dropped into my life.

And that quantity of music is overwhelming.  Believe it or not, I haven’t listened to any of it yet.  You would think I would have immediately popped in a CD coming back from the flea market, but I was too shocked at my fortune.  When you have over 60 albums to listen to, where do you start?  The genres are all over the place, so I could get anything, really.  What a first world problem.

I pulled out the 20 albums that were on the must have list and got them logged into my Discogs account.  It put my collection’s Max total over $20k.  Obviously that’s highly optimistic, but it’s still a milestone.  I compared the dupes in my collection to the newcomers and only swapped one out.  The other 5 have to get compared and posted on my other blog.  So I have plenty of things to do ahead of me next week.

Sleep On

Last night I was lying in bed having a hard time sleeping.  Sleep is something that has been a little difficult for me lately.  For a while, it was a 2-3 hour event each night.  Then I started taking melatonin and things started getting better, except on weekends, I could sleep 14 or more hours.  So, I don’t know if that’s progress or not.  There’s two issues with my sleep – getting to sleep and staying asleep.  Admittedly, last night was pretty good on the second part, despite being tough on the first.  But anyway, while I was working on making the first part happen, my brain was busy doing dumb things.

I have a sound machine, a LectroFan, which I’ve mentioned here before.  It’s an excellent device that doesn’t suffer from the shortcomings of a lot of other sound machines, which is sampled sound looping awareness.  The LectroFan model I use now is the latest model, which added a couple of new sounds: ocean.  That is the specific reason I bought it and to my disappointment, the sounds were a major letdown.  Essentially, they were a white noise sound fading in and out.  That’s not what surf sounds like at all.

So my brain was trying to figure out how to make a surf sound out of white noise.  Obviously, there’s a lot of different frequencies to a wave crash.  There’s low end rumble and crash, there’s high end hiss, and there’s everything in between.  I was visualizing splitting a sound sample into four (or maybe more) frequency bands and making note of the amplitude level of each band.  You could see when the low frequencies moved in and out, when the high end would come in, and so on.  Then once you had these patterns, you could layer multiple white noise samples over each other, fading between the multiple layers to create a surf sound.

I ended up falling asleep to one of my favorite fan sounds on the LectroFan – a big, low, bassy humming fan.  But while I was actively listening to it, I was also thinking of what would really work for me.  It’s kind of odd and pretty personal, so I can’t imagine it would be a universal sound for a sleep machine.  I would like the sound of traffic on a highway, possibly with or without the sound of an air conditioner.

It’s a weird request.  Its origin comes from motels in my childhood vacation memories.  Those huge AC units that would fill the lower part of the front window and pretty much vibrate the entire room.  And the never-ending sound of traffic on the nearby highway, droning on all night.  I can’t fully explain how the sound of traffic is calming to me.  I’ve thought about it many times over my life and the only thing that really captures my thoughts on it – even though it sounds over-romanticized – is that it’s comforting to me to know the world hasn’t stopped; life is still going on.  Like sometimes, I’ll see an airplane and I’ll think about all the people in that plane – where are they going?  Is it an exciting trip?  Are they glad to be going home?  Going away?  Is it work?  Exciting meeting?  Dreaded meeting?  Boring conference?  So many people in one container, all with different destinations and expectations.  So yeah, I guess the sound of airplanes could also be calming for me.

That would be a weird sleep machine, indeed.

Charitable Angst

I wouldn’t consider myself a generous person.  My charitability is off-the-charts random.  You have to catch me in just the right mood to have a successful pitch for donations or whatnot.  However, I don’t really consider myself a scrooge, either.  I think I’m overwhelmed with how much needs to be done and given and it seems that anything you give is just never enough and if I opened up to that possibility, I could really do some damage to myself.  So, I’m just really guarded about the whole thing.

But this year, two causes broke through my defenses.  And they’re kind of odd choices.  Well, they’re not odd causes, but they’re odd choices to donate to.  It’s pretty much like the case of a person who actually registered and purchased a license to WinRAR.  The two causes were both online websites:  The Internet Archive and Wikipedia.

Wait, Wikipedia?  The one that shows this begging banner a few times a year and says if everyone donates just a fraction of a penny that the donation drive would have ended 10 years ago?  Yeah, that one.  I use Wikipedia a lot, although that’s not really any sort of metric of who I should be donating to.  They’ve been doing what they do for a very long time and in that time, they haven’t changed in a way that you could perceive as “selling out” or “sucking”.  There’s something to be said for that.  So, I don’t really see my donation as a gift for the future, I see it more as a thanks for everything so far.  I suppose that’s an ass-backwards way of viewing donations, because had they started sucking a while ago, I wouldn’t have donated, but then again, why donate to a site that sucks?  See, this is why I can’t think about charity.

And the other one, The Internet Archive.  This one actually is sort of a gift for its future, because I expect them to be around when I’m ready to offload everything I’ve collected for future internet people to view.  Sometimes I’ll browse their stuff randomly and just be amazed at the obscurity of some of the items.  And other times it’s amazement at what is actually in there.  It’s so much stuff, I can’t imagine anyone could monitor it all.  So anyway, they got a little gift.

But here’s something I’ve thought about for some time, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll act on it this year.  I have heard that social service shelters of all types really like hotel toiletries.  They are the perfect size for people that are just passing through, with less waste, and it’s something that everyone needs.  So if you are at a hotel and can grab an extra bar of soap on your way out, they would appreciate it.  But collecting a few bars of soap over a year isn’t really all that useful, despite “every little bit helps”.  And really, you’re not donating the soap, the hotel is.

You can buy travel-sized soaps and shampoo from plenty of places like Target or Walgreens or CVS, but have you seen the prices?  That’s not bad when you’re on vacation and you need one, but it’s not scalable to the hundreds.  So… why not buy a whole case of mini soaps from a hospitality supply company and donate that?  And mini shampoos, too?  So I looked into that possibility a little bit.

I’m going to stick to a price of about $45 per case of product.  Depending on the size of the product and its quality, the quantity will differ.  But initial searches say you can get 200, 500, or even 1000 bars of soap for $45 or less.  And for the same amount, you can get 144, 160, or 288 little shampoo bottles.  Of course you can spend more and get improved quality, which as some might reason is a better value because you would use less product overall. 

What else?  You can get disposable toothbrushes with toothpaste included: 144 for $60.  Razors?  500 for $70.  Pretty much anything that a shelter could want, you could supply in bulk if you consider things from a hospitality perspective.  If I’m wandering a flea market or an outlet store like Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, I see boxes of toiletries for sale and I know the sellers got them for cheap – duh, since they’re selling them for so cheap.  But the problem is those are full-size, retail bottles, which might not be suitable for someone that is only staying at a shelter for a couple of days. 

And now my mind is racing, thinking of all the things that could be donated.  And this is why I can’t think about charity.

Revelations

It was almost 3 years ago that I really started to rebuild my interest in having a home stereo again.  I had purchased a cheap stereo from a thrift store.  That stereo only had a cassette player.  Then, I followed that purchase up with a $10 CD player from another thrift shop.  At that point, I should have been done, and should have been happy to spend so little money on a stereo.  The alternative I had planned was a new system – amp/CD/speakers – on the order of $1200 or so.  My cheap CD player, paired up with the powered studio monitors I’d owned for many years, was a really good sounding little system.  At least that’s what I thought.

In the time since, I have bought other cheap CD players at thrift stores.  The reason for this was for experience.  One experience was the restoration and repair of the devices.  Of my purchases, one repair was successful, one wasn’t, and the latest one didn’t need any work at all.  The other experience was more audiophilic.  People that review stereo equipment have the ability to grade and rank such equipment and that’s really something the average person can’t really do.  No one goes out and buys five different CD players at $300-$500 just to compare how they sound.  But if the players are $10 each, well, that reviewing experience becomes just a fun little hobby.

The first player in my collection is an Onkyo DX-701.  It was made in 1992.  Being the first in my collection, it was my unofficial standard.  When I first set it up, I was thrilled with it.  It did exactly what it was supposed to do: play CDs.  For $10, it was all I needed.

The next player I got was a Scott DA980, in April 2019.  It cost all of $7.  There’s not a lot of information out there about this player, but its manufacture date is June, 1989.  It appears to be a Yamaha-manufactured device rebranded by Scott.  Unfortunately, it needed some work and I got my first experience repairing a CD player.  Comparing it to the Onkyo, I really liked how smooth and silent the loading tray was.  But what I should have really focused on was whether it sounded better.  To be honest, I couldn’t tell.  And that really disappointed me.  I thought I would be able to notice some difference, but I didn’t.  So at that point, I assumed that “digital is digital” and all decent CD players sound the same.  So then, I wouldn’t really need to focus on sound quality, but more on features.

Then, this month, I found yet another cheap CD player.  It was a Technics SL-P220.  It was marked at $16 and I happened to buy it on a 50% off day, so it cost me $8.  My luck in CD player purchases is remarkably consistent.  This player didn’t need any repair, just some cleaning.  Well, some of the cleaning was technically repair because the control buttons were intermittent.  I am a fan of the Technics brand.  It was the brand of the stereo system in my youth.  This player came out just about the time CDs were hitting the mainstream.  Just about the time I experienced my first CD at my friend’s house.  This is the oldest of the three players (June, 1987) and being that old, it would be expected to have the least refined technology for decoding digital audio.

When I did my first test play with the Technics, it was kind of a surreal experience.  It sounded different.  Way, way different, in a good way.  I put identical CDs in the Technics and the Onkyo and played them together, then switched back and forth to determine the difference.

And here’s where the difficulty begins.  When you read stereo reviews, you will usually find yourself rolling your eyeballs at the descriptions the reviewers use.  In fact, you will probably internally smirk at anyone that tries to describe the qualities of sound.  It’s just something that can’t really be done.  In my case, the first thing I thought of comparing the two is that the Technics was “brighter.”  And that’s a fair description.  Most people can determine bright sound vs dull or flat sound.  This is probably also what experts mean when they say “digital-sounding”.  But who knows?  What does digital sound like?

So, I had a word that I could use to describe how the Technics sounded better to me (that’s important).  But as I listened to it more, there were more differences and those were more painful to describe because it made me sound like a pompous high-end stereo reviewer.  I’ll not get into those descriptions and just say it sounded much, much better to me than the Onkyo.  As I always do when I get a new piece of equipment, I search for anyone talking about it.  And I found only two mentions of the SL-P220, one saying it was great and another saying they replaced it with something that was substantially “better”.

Here’s the thing for me.  This latest player has changed my interest in listening to music.  I’m now excited to hear music from it.  It has the same magic as when I first heard the albums decades ago.  This is something the other two players didn’t do for me.  It’s revelatory.  I’ve read over and over that you have no idea what you’re missing until you hear the music you love on a good system.  But… this is an early player and even at that, isn’t a top-end model, just standard-grade.  It’s a $300 player back in the day which was average.  And, considering what I hear and what experts say, this is an example of poor early-era digital reproduction – tinny, thin, bright, “not analog sounding”, blah blah blah.

So fucking what!  The Technics sounds incredible to me and when I try listening to the Onkyo afterwards, it sounds dull and lifeless.  So if I like the sound of bright digital, why should I be ashamed of it?  So yes, I have a new favorite CD player and it’s my new benchmark.  It’s not going to stop me from buying more cheapo players and comparing them.  Maybe I’ll find something even better.

I See Dead People

There are some weird things that happen to me while I sleep.  Those that believe would instantly identify it as clairvoyance, and I’m inclined to agree.  However, when people think of being clairvoyant, they think it’s some superpower and you can simply teleport wherever you want and do whatever you want.  In my experience, it’s nothing like that.  You’re not really in control, it’s just like life; you aren’t aware that you are somewhere else or somebody else.  I have three memorable instances, one of which is personal, but the other two are not.  And those two, in true October fashion, are spooky.

The first one (which is actually the second time this happened to me) was a dream where I was walking in the woods.  I can still see the scene in my mind.  I know just how the terrain was.  if I visited the area, I would recognize it.  I was alone and was walking along a very slight hill.  Then, further down the hill, I saw a bear.  Naturally, I was freaked out, but I knew that I had to remain calm because if I suddenly bolted and ran, the bear would give chase.

Unfortunately for me, the bear had noticed me too.  I started walking calmly in a diagonal direction away from the bear, not backwards.  I did not turn my back to the bear because I knew that would be deadly.  To my horror, the bear started walking in a line that would intercept my path.  I couldn’t turn and run; I couldn’t really change course.  It was obvious what the end result was going to be.  And soon, the dream ended.

Imagine my surprise when a couple of days later I saw a news article about a hiker killed in a bear mauling at a park.  And it happened on the same day as my dream.  Pretty coincidental, right?  The article stressed how rare and uncommon bear maulings were.  Makes it seem a little too coincidental.

The other night, I had another “dream” while falling asleep.  No idea why this came into my head, but I was thinking about going overboard on a cruise ship.  One memory was that I slipped on the deck and slid through the railing and over the side.  Another memory was that I was yelling “overboard” and wondering if I should yell “man overboard” if a woman had gone over.  I recall throwing a safety ring and wondering if doing that was even useful because the ring had a rope attached, so it would just be dragged along with the ship, away from the victim.  My last thought was throwing some life jackets from the storage bins on the deck.  Then I started wondering how I could give a report of this incident.  I wasn’t sure if “Port side” was the left or the right of the ship.  And then the dream ended.

And the next morning, I saw a news article that someone had gone overboard on a cruise out of Texas overnight.  What another coincidence.  Unlike my bear dream, where I read about it a couple of days later, this was just the previous night.  Sure, people fall off ships all the time.  And speaking of time, the emergency call to the Coast Guard was at 8:45 at night.  I normally go to bed around 9:00 or so and usually flop around a lot before settling down enough to sleep.  So that would suggest my dream wasn’t real-time and would actually be a recollection.  However, that’s 8:45 Central Time in Texas, and in my time zone, it would be 9:45, just about the time I would be falling asleep.  Was I the guy sliding off the deck?  Was I the person calling for help and throwing things off the ship?  Was I there while this was happening?

So what if this is a real ability?  Is it useful?  Is it enviable?  Not that I can see.  First, it’s not controllable; it’s totally random.  Second, there’s no context of anything.  I wouldn’t be able to call a park ranger and say, “Someone was killed in your park yesterday by a bear.”  What park?  Where?  How do I even know it was real?  It’s only useful in hindsight, when you can’t have any impact on the situation.