I have a hard time with animate objects, so I shower my love on things that give me pleasure without asking for anything in return. Quite often those things have to do with producing or re-producing sound.
My grandmother Nancy always spoiled me, even when some of those expenditures weren’t the most financially prudent. I don’t remember when or where we bought these speakers, but I do know that from the day I got them they have been a pair of loyal friends.
Then in May I started to hear a buzzing sound from one of the speakers. At first the sound was slight and Sarah thought I was obsessing over nothing. Little by little the sound got worse. When I removed the screen from the speakers, several bits of orange foam dropped to the floor. After years of pumping out the low end, the foam around the speaker had finally given out. I jury rigged a temporary solution with tape and started looking on the internet for repair options. A couple of weeks later the foam around the woofer on the other speaker started to crack as well.
At that point I switched to using a pair of Onkyo speakers that I’ve had in a closet collecting dust. They were smaller, at least ten years younger and sadly they did not rock. There wasn’t a huge difference when watching movies or television, but the ripping sound of electric guitar + Marshall amp just wasn’t the same. My reggae 45s just didn’t have the same oomph to the stomach even when playing at the same levels. Maybe this is all in my head, I’ve never done any blind A/B testing to scientifically prove that there is any difference in the sound.
I spent a few hours surfing the web in consideration of a new speaker purchase. I even got excited about the thought of saving space with a new set of space age micro speakers built using the latest carbon fibers and psychoacoustical advances. Then I remembered my old friends. The thing is, like those old speakers, I am big in a small world, brown and old fashioned. I had to stick by the old timers.
I emailed the kind folks at Cerwin-Vega and received a prompt reply suggesting that I contact a company to have the speakers re-foamed. It took some digging, but I was eventually able to find a repair shop in Bensonhurst that would be able to perform the work. I hopped on the train and headed out to Heavy Electronics and Security. I took two magazines for the long ride.
The very friendly folks at Heavy made me feel a lot better about spending a lot of money to fix speakers that most people would have just replaced. The husband showed me the difference in construction between the speakers in my CVs and the speakers in even high end new models. The feeling of solid heft was missing from the newer speakers, which felt like they could be twisted by a man with strong enough hands. The older speakers were built like tanks. Then he showed me the molding on some new reasonably priced speakers. The casting was sloppy and asymmetrical and it was clear that the newer speakers were assembled by people for whom quality wasn’t a major focus. I’m not sure that the poor appearance makes any difference in sound, but it definitely tells you something about how the creators felt about the items they were creating. I wouldn’t be surprised if other shortcuts are being taken.
They also convinced me to go full bore and get the speakers completely reconed instead of just having new foam added to the old speakers. The people at the company seemed genuinely interested in what they do and sincerely motivated by the desire to get my babies back to their fighting shape, so I trusted them. I will admit gasping just a bit as the owner pulled out a razor blade and sliced off the old speaker cones.
A few weeks later, I had two new woofers ready to woof. I took them home, cradling the bag with the two speakers on the train and eagerly awaiting the first tune back with my old buddies. I slipped the newly coned guys back into place and dropped the needle on Dice The Boss “Brixton Cat”. Then I danced around my living room in my stocking feet with an ear to ear grin on my face. Things were right in the world once again for the low cost of two hundred dollars.
We’re living in the disposable age. Things are sold cheaply because they are made cheaply and without any focus on long term quality. When things break we don’t fix them, we throw them into a magical box that transports them to the land of “someone else’s problem” and we whip out our credit cards to spend money on the newer version with ten new features we’ll never use.
Just try getting things repaired now-a-days! The repair shop seems to be going the way of the dodo. There was a time, though, when spending your hard earned money on something assured that you were going to receive an item that would stand the test of time. Even when things went wrong, a quick visit to a skilled repairman would get things right back on track.
Times change, I guess, but I don’t have to like it. For one day at least I feel like I pushed back against the tide.