Tag Archives: tech

Aux Was Never Meant to Include This…

What, no 8-track?

Until fairly recently, I have lived without a real stereo. Since moving away from home, I’ve either lived in dorm rooms in which there wasn’t really room for a stereo, or in apartments with roommates who had stereos. I’ve basically just used my computers for all of my music listening needs. When I moved into my first place by myself last August, I started thinking about acquiring a stereo.

For the last few years, I’ve noticed that records (remember those?) are easily found in large numbers at thrift and antique stores, usually for fifty cents to a few dollars apiece. Of course, much of what’s available in the piles of vinyl thus priced is complete crap. But, there tends to be a fair amount of good classical material, usually in pretty good shape. When I started thinking about assembling a stereo, I decided that I wanted to get a turntable, so that I might begin to assemble a collection of good classical vinyl on the cheap.

I found a JVC direct drive turntable at Goodwill for twenty bucks. It needed a new needle, which I was able to find at a funky little shop called Fonbone. But, without a stereo or preamp, the only way I could listen to records was via a convoluted system involving my laptop, a software preamp, an external sound card, and computer speakers. Then, with the help of my downstairs neighbor (also named Dave), I acquired an old 70s Pioneer receiver/amp (complete with brushed aluminum front and wood paneling on the sides) and a pair of speakers. This gave me radio and record player, and a cable into the auxiliary inputs let me plug in my laptop or iPod. This was fine for awhile, but I soon longed for a way to play CDs without having my laptop tethered to the stereo.

I started looking around at thrift stores, hoping to score a cheap CD player. I passed on a few that looked decent, because I was hoping for either Pioneer or JVC to match my current gear. After awhile of not finding quite the right thing, I started to question whether I really needed a CD player. “I rarely listen to my CDs anyway,” I realized, “because they’re mostly ripped as mp3 or AAC in iTunes.” Hmm… iTunes…

That thought, along with some patience and a misspelled eBay auction, led to my recent acquisition of an Apple Airport Express at a very good price. This sleek little device performs a number of functions, but the one I’m using it for is its ability to stream music from iTunes over a Wi-Fi network. So, now I can fire up iTunes on either my desktop or laptop, pop in a CD or select some already-ripped tunes, and hear my music on real speakers in another room. Another nice thing about the device is its size – it doesn’t exactly have a wall wart; the entire thing is a wall wart. That means that it’s nicely hidden, putting a purely vintage front on this unholy union of 70s HiFi and 00s Wi-Fi.

Note: Unfortunately, the picture above is a product of Photoshop. I may make it a reality if I can find a good method of execution.
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Sounds of the Universe

I don’t typically post links to cool web stuff. I prefer to let Digg, Slashdot, BoingBoing, and others take care of that. However, I found these two somewhat-related articles to be particularly interesting.

The first is an audio recording of the December 26th tsunami-producing earthquake. The sounds were captured by a microphone array called a hydroacoustic station. These stations exist throughout the world’s ocean’s, but this particular recording comes from a station at Diego Garcia, an atoll in the Indian Ocean. To properly experience these awe-inspiring rumblings of the earth, turn up your speakers and make sure you have plenty of bass.


Unlike the terrible sounds of an earthquake, the second recording is beautiful and otherworldly. It possesses this alien quality with good reason: it comes from Saturn. In 2002, the Cassini spacecraft began to detect radio emissions from near the planet’s poles. The emissions are related to a phenomenon similar to the auroras (borealis and australis) on earth. The frequency of the emissions is far above the audio range, so it’s been lowered by a factor of 44.


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