Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always been fascinated with stereo equipment. I love to listen to music, and any devices that make that possible are super cool. The first systems I remember were my parents’ Fisher receiver with matching bookshelf speakers, and the giant Magnavox console system in my grandparents’ basement. When I got a little older, I subscribed to Stereo Review magazine, joined a classical music album club, and started collecting my own stereo gear with money I made mowing lawns. In recent years, I’ve begun to refurbish older components in a small electronics lab I’ve setup in one of our spare bedrooms. Below is a list of some of the equipment I’ve had over the years that I’ve really enjoyed.
The Fisher Model 150
My parents recently sent me their old Fisher 150 stereo, which they bought new in the late sixties. I spent many hours sitting in front of it listening to music when I was a kid. The 150 is a combo system that came with a small receiver and two Fisher 5 speakers designed to be paired with this receiver only. While the speakers are definitely the weak point of this system, they’re really not bad for sixties era bookshelf units. The audio sources I used back in the day were a Garrard turntable, a Sears 8-track player, and a Technics cassette deck. The first two are long gone, but I still have the cassette deck (see below).
These days, I use this system in my electronics room to listen to the radio or my iPhone. The receiver still works well after 50 years, although I recently ordered some replacement capacitors and a new stereo beacon bulb online. A quick refurb, and it should be good for another 50 years.
I bought this receiver new in 1983 with money I had earned mowing lawns. There was a stereo store on 95th Street in Overland Park KS — near Oak Park Mall — that I could swear was a J&R Music World, although I can find no evidence online of one having ever existed there. I used to go with my friends to buy blank cassette tapes and drool over the expensive stereo gear. My friend’s Dad had an older Kenwood receiver that I always thought was cool, so when the KR-820 went on sale one week for $220 — still a lot of money for me at the time — I just had to pick one up.
I couldn’t afford speakers right away, so for the first few months I just listened to the FM tuner using my Dad’s Pioneer headphones. Finally, a set of 2-way Kenwood speakers with passive radiators went on sale for $50 each at another stereo store off of 95th Street in the Nall Hills Shopping Center. I’m pretty sure they were from one of those cheap all-in-one stereo systems that were popular back then, but they were the only decent sounding speakers I could find in my price range, so I bought them with some money I had made over the summer break. I finally had a fully working stereo! I ended up selling them in the early 90s before moving to California, and unfortunately I don’t remember the exact model numbers. You don’t see passive radiators anymore, but I do think they helped fill out the bass on those particular speakers.
I still have this receiver, having held on to it after the tuner section stopped working sometime in the early 90s. I was finally able to fix it myself a couple of years ago after it sat in its box for over twenty years. We’re currently using it in our living room, paired with some Boston Acoustics VR-6 floor standing speakers. It actually sounds pretty good for a solid state unit from the 80s. And while I still prefer the older analog tuning displays, the blue flourescent digits on this one are cooler looking than most.
I bought this receiver in 1992 as a replacement for my Kenwood when the tuner section stopped working (fortunately, I held on to it and was able to fix it many years later when I knew a bit more about electronics). Even at the time I purchased the Onkyo, I didn’t think it had the best sound. It’s ok, but like all of the other lower-end receivers I auditioned in the nineties, nothing special. The best part about this receiver is that it’s truly bulletproof. I used it constantly in the early nineties when I was an aspiring musician, and from the mid 90s until the mid 2000s it was connected to the computer in my home office, where it was on literally 24 hours a day and played thousands of hours of music. It’s a real workhorse, and I still use it in our garage game room, albeit not too often these days.