Thursday, 22 February 2018

Stereo Upgrade

            On Wednesday morning it was so hot when I started yoga, even after opening all the windows that I had to strip down to my briefs. It was more stifling than the hottest days of summer and I was dripping sweat on my yoga mat and feeling very slippery. When I started song practice I didn’t want to stand in front of the window in my underwear, so I had to put on a tank top and some summer shorts and plug in the fan. After sunrise things cooled off a bit and I was more comfortable.
            A little after noon I headed out to try to find a decent set of speakers to replace my old set of thirty years that recently blew out. I first went to the local Salvation Army thrift store and they had a set of Panasonic speakers, about a quarter the size of my old ones. I don’t think Panasonic is a high quality brand, plus I didn’t really like the chubby and kind of bulbous design or the metallic-looking veneer. I wanted to look at a few places in the general neighbourhood and if there were nothing else I’d come back and settle for the Panasonics.
            I rode my bike up to Value Village. They had a larger selection, some of which were a better quality than Panasonic. There was a tiny surround-sound Sony set with a sub-woofer for what looked like $50, but they looked kind of cheaply designed.
            I headed east on Bloor and stopped at the other Salvation Army thrift store. They also had some Sony speakers similar to the ones at Value Village.
            I pedaled to Dovercourt, south to Queen and then west to the Queenglad pawnshop where the day before I’d bought a Yamaha receiver. They had more and better speakers than every place else and some better brands. I had trouble though deciding if any of them were what I wanted or if I should just pick a set and settle. I walked back and forth a few times, looking at everything that they had until at one point I noticed on a floor by the counter a set of black Sound Dynamics RTS-5 tower speakers. The old lady at the counter called the sombre looking guy that seems to run the pawnshop. He came up and immediately told me he’d sell me the set for $100. He asked if I wanted to listen to them and I confirmed that I did. He called an elderly gentleman to help me out.
            Judging from the fact that the staff consists of distinctly different generations of East Asian (probably Chinese or Vietnamese) people, I think that Queenglad is probably a family business.
The old guy, perhaps in his mid 70s walked towards me and smiled. It was the first time I’d ever seen any staff at Queenglad smile at me. He took his time setting up a receiver and hooking up the speakers, then he finally said, “We’re ready …” but the old man surprised me by finishing the sentence with “… to rumble.” He played the music from a few radio stations for me, and they sounded good to me, so I said I’d buy them. I asked if they had any FM antennas. He told me what Nick Cushing had told me, that I could just use any wire and stick it in the hole to make an FM antenna. He showed me that he had put his finger up against the antenna slot while playing radio stations for me. Then he went to look at the shelves where the receivers were on display and looked at the backs of some components. Finally he pulled an FM antenna and an AM antenna from the back of one of the receivers and gave them to me free of charge. I paid for the speakers and he told me that I was, “Ready to make some noise”.
I let him know that I was travelling by bike, so I’d be taking two trips. I decided to walk home with the first speaker. It wasn’t unbearably heavy but it had been a long time since my furniture moving days and it started getting uncomfortable before I’d walked very far. I set it down on a bench in front of a café for about thirty seconds and then continued on, but had to double back after half a block because I’d left the speaker wire on the bench. The fancy people at the window table looked out at me funny on seeing me for a second time. I got the speaker home and then walked back to Gladstone. The trip was surprisingly quicker while walking empty handed.
When I got back to Queenglad I asked for a receipt before taking the other speaker. A second staff member smiled at me. Maybe it was because I’d spent money, but I’d like to think they are friendlier than I’d previously thought. The online reviews for Queenglad are mostly horrible though.
I carried the second speaker to my bike, unlocked it and then set one end of the speaker between the handlebars, the other against the seat, held my right hand on top and steered with my left as I walked home. I should have used my bike for the first speaker too because it was so much easier. While climbing the hill just west of Dufferin I found a five-dollar bill on the sidewalk. The score made me feel like I’d gotten the speakers for free.
When I got home I had some lunch and then switched the wires from the old speakers to the new ones. I’d needed to use a screwdriver for the old speakers but the new ones had knobs that just screwed easily over the wires and when I played Garland Jeffries it was clean and clear, with lots of nice bass. My old right speaker had blown out years ago and though it still produced sound, it was weak and tinny, like the left speaker had recently become. This was the first time in a long time that I could listen to music in stereo and I didn’t remember the old ones ever sounding as good as these. Also, I don’t know if it’s the new speakers or the new receiver, but for the last couple of years I’d been getting, sometimes just from touching or moving a wire on my computer or monitor, or sometimes just because of power surges, a sudden loud hum coming out of the old speakers and each time I would have to unplug the wire that runs from my computer to the receiver, in order to break the circuit and make the humming stop. With the new system, that hum has not reoccurred.
The only problem with the new speakers is that the left one won’t inside my book shelf like the old one did because, though it’s 13 cm narrower than the other, it’s 21 cm taller. I might be able to raise the second shelf in order to fit it in, but that would involve pulling it out from the wall and probably a couple of hours of work. That will be a project for some day after my classes are finished in the spring.
That night I watched an Alfred Hitchcock Presents story about a guy that accidentally pushes his wife overboard from a yacht after hearing her say she is leaving him for another man. The push was intentional but he had not intended it to send her into the water. Once she was there though he did nothing to save her because he knew that she could not swim. He felt guilty but not enough during the investigation to confess. He was not suspected of killing her even when he accused the sheriff of suspecting him. Once the inquiry was over he couldn’t stand the guilt anymore and told his sister that he’d murdered his wife. She didn’t believe him. No one believed him. He tried to confess to the sheriff and he didn’t buy it either. The only one that believed him was his friend the judge, who turned out to have been the man that his wife was leaving him for. The judge’s revenge as for everyone think the husband was insane for insisting that he’d killed his wife. He is being taken away to an institution at the end of the story.
Later that night I hooked up the FM antenna to my receiver and Radio Canada came through crystal clear. Knowing that I’d replaced and even upgraded my old receiver and speakers and gotten my radio reception back was a satisfying way to end the day.


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