Opening My Ears
These days, I’m listening to The Music more like the way I did when it was contemporaneous. Over stereo speakers, that is.
That may not sound like much of a revelation, but in recent years, I mostly have listened to music via things stuck in, or placed over, my ears. Sure, I have sat radio, or sometimes an iPod, playing through the sound system in my pickup when I’m driving. And when I sit out on the deck, weather permitting, the Bluetooth speakers are paired to an iPod and playing.
The Dakota has a decent stereo, but the interior of a truck — even a quad cab — isn’t the ideal acoustic environment. The Jam speakers I use on the deck (and occasionally in other places when I’m working on a project) are handy and portable, but respect for the neighbors keeps me from cranking them up to 11 — and they can’t handle all that much volume, anyway, acoustically or in terms of battery life.
There is a decent sound system in the family room, but when other family members are around, the television gets priority. Besides, that’s not where I work or relax, and firing up the receiver and loading the carousel CD player takes time.
So, mostly I listen to The Music on the nice set of wireless, noise-cancelling (ask my wife how hard it is to get my attention, but she bought them for me) headphones running off the desktop Mac. Or via the earbuds of my iPod.
God didn’t mean for man to listen to music originating mere millimeters from our eardrums, though. And when I’m not on this computer, I’m working on a laptop on the Man Porch, the eight-by-16-or-so foot space that houses my recliner and TV. A few weeks back, I asked myself, “Why not listen to music over speakers out there, rather than distract myself with television or coop myself up inside earbuds or headphones.” (The ’phones connected to my iMac don’t like all the walls and furniture located between the study and the Man Porch.)
The Man Porch at one time was connected to the stereo system in the family room, via yards of speaker wire that also served some outdoor speakers on the deck. But although the stereo components have remote controls, they don’t work well with the aforementioned walls and furniture, and an iPod is much more convenient than loading and unloading a CD carousel.
So, how to connect my Pod to the speakers I have available? A little searching of the Interwebs located Bluetooth amplifiers and receivers that could be located on the Man Porch and hooked up to said speakers.
Sounds really easy and convenient, but of course such things never are. The logical place for the speakers was on the shelf above the closet at the end of the porch opposite my recliner; the room is small enough that floor space is limited, and that location seemed more acoustically favorable.
However, there are no electrical outlets at that end, and running an extension cord to an amplifier placed up there was problematic. Ditto for running speaker wires from an amp located near the available power sources.
So it was time to put on my Handyman disguise, and put an outlet in the closet. Fortunately for my limited skill set, an outlet on the other side of the Man Porch’s interior wall, in the dining room corner, allowed me to avoid hiring expensive help; a surface-mount outlet box, a foot and a half of wire running off the back side of the existing outlet, and voila! I’ve got power. And I haven’t electrocuted myself!
Drilling a hole through the ceiling/shelf of the closet, one big enough to get an extension cord through, was not a snap, but got done. Hook up the speaker wires — the instructions for the Pyle Mini-Blue are minimal enough that most males can read them without a testosterone drop — fire it up, and we’ve got music the way it’s supposed to be heard. OK, not-live-in-the-club-or-arena music, but you get my drift.
And, for me, in this case, it was listening to music the way I did 40 or so years ago, sort of. The speakers attached to this two-packs-of-cigarettes-sized electronic marvel are in the cabinets that housed my first set of decent speakers.
Those I bought back in the early-to-mid ’70s, probably. They were imitation ARs, I think, supposedly acoustic suspension, which was state-of-the-art back then, as I recall. The tweeters, one or both, eventually went kerflooey, and the low-range cones cracked.
Somewhere between 10 and 20 years ago, I replaced those with new hardware, I think from Radio Shack. Also got replacement foam front covers (although one of those is missing — I think chewed up by a dog at some point). The rebuilt speakers sounded pretty good during the time I had them hooked up to the system in the family room.
They sound pretty good now, too, cranked up to as close to 11 as I can take these days (even when Jeanne is not home to be bothered by the volume). I know, I know — digital audio is not supposed to be as audiophilic as analog, and I haven’t checked to see if I can change the setting on the iPod to account for large versus small speakers.
But the only turntable I have left is actually digital, I think — it’s a digitizing unit, anyway — and even if it wasn’t, I don’t know where I’d put it on the Man Porch. Connecting it via Bluetooth wouldn’t be analog, would it?
No, for now I’ll just enjoy what this low-tech guy hath wrought, lean back in the recliner and listen to The Music, at a comfortable distance.