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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Return of the Plastic Hamburger

Or...How I Learned to Stop Worrying and go back to using a Portable CD Player.
by Paul Pelkonen
My Panasonic Shockwave (SL-SW967VS) currently on tour with Electric Light Orchestra.
Photoshop by the author. Contains elements of album art from Electric Light Orchestra's Out of the Blue.
Original art by Shusei Nagaoka © 1977 Jet Records/Sony Masterworks.
It might surprise some of you to know that the equipment used here at the Superconductor Secret Lair is not exactly high fidelity. (I live in a rough neighborhood.) I listen to almost everything on an old Panasonic  5-disc changer (SC-PM71SD) Except that a few years ago, the changer broke when in transit between the Prologue and Opera of the Giuseppe Sinopoli recording of Ariadne auf Naxos.

Eventually, I got the CDs out of the drawers but the mechanism (as frequently happens with CD changers) was busted. So I kept the stereo, and went digital.

But it didn't last.

My SC-PM71SD has that rapidly vanishing accessory, an auxiliary port on the back of the player. Two cables run to a plastic Radio Shack switch box. (The old fashioned, clicky kind--I've had mine for a decade.) That is in turn connected to a Y-splitter with a single headphone jack at the other end. And that, for years was connected to one of many iPod or iPhone docks. I'd get a new recording, load it into my Mac, put it on my iPod and voila: music!

A few months ago, I received a promotional copy of a CD in the mail, as we music critic types tend to do. However, my Mac was having problems with a computer virus which ate up all the available storage in my hard drive. Faced with the possibility of not being able to upload, I did something radical.

I opened the bottom drawer of a cabinet. Resting in there was my old Panasonic ShockWave portable compact disc player (SL-SW967VS) the last one I bought before "going iPod" in 2003. It's not an especially attractive device, looking like a miniature version of the "UFO" stage set ELO used on the Out of the Blue tour. It's quaint by today's tech standards, about 10 or 11 years old. It doesn't have the original headphones...or the charger. But with two AA batteries, it works perfectly well.

That little plastic hamburger is an ugly, effective piece of technology, equipped with a 10-second anti-skip that made it the best portable player I ever owned. It's hard at work right now, spinning and beaming its way through Brian Eno's relaxing Discreet Music. The iPod and iPhones still get used of course, but for "serious" (work-related) listening, I've come to rather enjoy the "old-fashioned" method of getting up and changing discs, filing and re-filing CDs, and even looking at packaging and album art.

And did I mention: it sounds really, really good on my crappy old stereo.

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