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Old 14th March 2014, 02:25 AM   #1
kingneb is offline kingneb  United States
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Default Ideal System for 1960?

If any of you were around in 1960, what kind of HiFi system would you all have put together? Some of you on this forum probably did. Assume a typical suburban middle class income and budget, you were an avid electronics hobbyist, and worked a 9-5 job. Most probably would have went to a department store and bought one of those console systems, even though component systems were relatively popular compared to today.

For me it is difficult for me to envision given technology available today vs. back then.

- Would you use tape, vinyl, or both? What type of turntable?
- Stereo or mono?
- What kind of speakers?
- Kit or scratch designs?
- Amplifier power?
- Would you design for sound or power?

Most importantly, what would the mentality of HiFi design back then be compared to today? This question will be more difficult to answer than most think.
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Old 14th March 2014, 03:06 AM   #2
kevinkr is offline kevinkr  United States
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Almost everything in my current system was available by 1960, including me, but I was a very little kid..
  • Thorens TD-124 x 2
  • SME 3009, 3012 (Series I instead of my Series II)
  • Ortofon 12" transcription arm instead of the Schick
  • Ortofon SPU
  • JBL horns on mids and highs
  • Jensen Ultraflex bass cabinets with Altec 515 instead of Iconic 165
  • Maybe a ReVox G36 a few years later (gave my MKIII away last year)
  • FM stereo tuner sometime after 1961..
Unlikely that my turntables would be mounted in 80lb slate plinths, and have all the modifications and tweaks that they do. The only SPU available had a spherical tip, the first elliptical SPU was not that far off though.

The big problem would be my electronics which has a large number of transformers in the audio path, uses a lot of Russian and German high transconductance triodes and pentodes, not to mention GM70 and 26 DHTs none of which would have been available.. Not sure what I would have done. Given the fact that I am a maker I can't imagine I would not have gone down that path, whether I would have made what I have now is another question.

Most speaker systems designed in that time frame were bulky and efficient, AR was just getting going and it was the acoustic suspension design that gave people good bass in a small box at the penalty of requiring much more power. I would have designed for the best possible sound, and would probably have chosen an off the shelf JBL speaker system which would have been very efficient.

I imagine given relatively few technological distractions then existing I would have invested the money required to do it.

None of our neighbors had department store stereos, HH Scott Amps, Garrard turntables, JBL speaker systems were not uncommon, and there was a diy hifi shop in the square a quarter mile from my house. Too bad it had closed by the time I was old enough to be interested.. lol

There was no high end in those days, and most commercial hifi was rationally engineered. Even then though if you look at the glossy brochures there was a pretty strong emphasis on marketing. The good stuff was extremely expensive - easily priced into the sort of range we see with high end gear these days. Plenty of cheap dreck in the department stores. The often disreputable hifi chain stores were a little while in the future.
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Old 14th March 2014, 03:35 AM   #3
kingneb is offline kingneb  United States
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How much power would the AR speakers have demanded for the best sound vs. thw JBL's?
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Old 14th March 2014, 03:50 AM   #4
kevinkr is offline kevinkr  United States
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Not really sure, but probably something on the order of 10 - 15dB more as a guess. The way to tell is to compare rated efficiency between the speakers.
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Old 14th March 2014, 04:41 AM   #5
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I was not around at the time but dad had a console (still do)
I would have put a MM turntable in as well as better output iron and possibly a better tweeter.
The stock turntable had a synchronous 60 hz ac motor and a ceramic! cartridge.
in 1960 I suspect the turntable would have cost a fortune & the transformers lots too.
But again if I was there I would have thought solid state was the coolest thing around.
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Old 14th March 2014, 05:51 AM   #6
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One of my earliest hi-fi systems was back around 1958 as I started high school. It was mono of course and consisted of a home made wooden speaker cabinet that housed a 12 inch Utah speaker and a small 4 in tweeter with one "condenser" to block lows to it. A Philco wooden radio and a small phonograph were feed to this speaker that I thought produced much better sound than the self contained speakers.

By 1960 I had a Grommes "Little Jewel" 10 watt mono amplifier that I built from a kit that my parents bought me for a birthday present. To go with that was a Lafayette Radio turntable with a Lafayette Radio viscous-dampened arm that resembled the big "Gray" arm that was so popular back then. This held a GE magnetic cartridge.

All through high school I took two periods of wood shop back to back each year. There I built various speaker and equipment cabinets out of solid red oak. Then a pair of plywood cabinets that became a slightly smaller version of the Altec A7 "voice of the theater" with the horns inside rather then on top.

Also, now I wanted more power and so cloned a pair of Heatkit W6M 70 watt ampifiers with custom wound output transformers that a friend's father supplied. He was VP of Executone in Long Island and got them made as experimental samples through the company.

Being 18-19 with a car in 1961 I was able to drive into New York City and shop downtown in "Radio Row" before the World Trade towers were built. I acquired a good used Marantz 7 preamp and a Thorens TD124 turntable with a Rek-O-Kut arm and Shure cartridge. These lasted and satisfied me for several years.

I was also a tape machine enthusiast and got a Heathkit as a present. It was actually a copy of a Viking deck. But I had a lot of fun with that toy until I had the chance to visit a recording studio and see the Ampex machines. I was hooked! I couldn't afford one of them, so I set about building one from scratch. You can read about it here. If you're not a member, you won't see the pictures so I'll post some below.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Ampex1.JPG (252.7 KB, 317 views)
File Type: jpg Ampex2.JPG (285.3 KB, 314 views)
File Type: jpg 351 under.JPG (195.4 KB, 307 views)
File Type: jpg elect1.JPG (225.6 KB, 303 views)
File Type: jpg elect2.JPG (259.2 KB, 305 views)
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Old 14th March 2014, 08:26 AM   #7
M Gregg is offline M Gregg  United Kingdom
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I was only just around in the 1960's

However most people didn't have any money spare to speak of.
Most people would have to save for some time to buy even a 78 record changer.

However most of the stuff I remember as a child was about in the 50's on.
So second hand in the 60's
So most people had HMV, DECCA, Elizabethan, Invicta, Ekco, etc radios.
GEC was popular as well..and TV was not available in our house for some time. The radiogram was a favourite with many people but it used things like EF86 and UL84 or N78 Alba and Dansette were also popular UY85 rectifiers. I remember even into the early 70's the Radiogram was still in the front room of many houses. Although now playing 45's with the chart music. The transistor stuff could sound a bit weak at the time.

Back in the 60's the likes of practical wireless was a way forward..there was no internet or mobile phones. The only source of information was books many quite old 50's on. Or possibly a teacher at school or the local TV shop. Even the question where do you buy components?

You couldn't just go to the local shop..most of the stuff that was revamped war surplus sold off in some places. This is the era of change where easy listening was King and pop was frowned upon except by the youth of the time. My sisters first protest against the parents was John Lennon Give piece a chance played on a 1950 record player turned up until told off..

If you were well off you had Dynatron. Separates was not considered cool in the day. HIFI was only for the well off "strange types"...Music reproduction was from a piece of furniture selected by the wife...polished wood and looks nice with nice tone were the buzz words.

In that era being out on a picnic was the thing to do..so the portable transistor started to make an impact..car radios were an art form..

It was not until the late 60's we started to see HIFI start to make an impact...But for most DIY was out of the question it was not taught in school and most people worked shift work factories etc. Remember how short a time you are talking from the end of WW2 to 1960. These were the boom years where most people were still glad it was all over..they wanted good times..most people did not know what a drug was except for doctors.

Think of the "people type"...what was "In" in the 60's era...how many could you see with a soldering iron...Yes a spanner on a car...but electronics?
It was a black art..magic to some..
To most the electric train set was as far as electric DIY went..or fitting a plug. Maybe some house electrics or in the garage <<cost saving..

Regards
M. Gregg
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Last edited by M Gregg; 14th March 2014 at 08:44 AM.
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Old 14th March 2014, 09:28 AM   #8
M Gregg is offline M Gregg  United Kingdom
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One more thought,

How many people had wired phones in there house in 1960?
If you wanted to make a phone call its a public phone box.

If you wanted to see your mate you went to his house and knocked the door to see if they were in..

Central heating..no...coal fire..

Car most people didn't have one it was push bike to work..

If you see where I'm coming from..now where is that soldering iron..
Select a speaker<<whats in the box most people didn't know..

Regards
M. Gregg
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Old 14th March 2014, 10:41 AM   #9
DF96 is offline DF96  England
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kingneb
If any of you were around in 1960, what kind of HiFi system would you all have put together? Some of you on this forum probably did. Assume a typical suburban middle class income and budget, you were an avid electronics hobbyist, and worked a 9-5 job. Most probably would have went to a department store and bought one of those console systems, even though component systems were relatively popular compared to today.
I was around in 1960, but a bit too young for hi-fi.

In those days an electronics enthusiast would probably have built his own amplifier and speakers. He may have put them all in one box, possibly with an AM radio and a turntable. We called that arrangement a 'radiogram'. It would probably have been mono. A really serious enthusiast might have had a reel-to-reel tape recorder too.

Back then people were mainly interested in the 'tone' of a system - rather as some still are today, although tastes have changed and people today often deny this. To our ears a 1960's system would sound bass heavy and lacking in upper treble.

Power levels would have 3-10W. Some hum at higher volume settings would be regarded as normal. On radio you would expect to sometimes get some interference from passing cars or a neighbour using an appliance containing an electric motor (e.g. drill, washing machine). However, there was none of the constant backgound electronic mush we get today from SMPS.

Last edited by DF96; 14th March 2014 at 10:41 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 14th March 2014, 11:04 AM   #10
kingneb is offline kingneb  United States
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It seems like England was a very different place compared to the US at that time consumer wise. My guess was the war had much to do with that. It was not really until (arguably) the mid 60's sometime the German (West, that is) economy fully recovered.

Speaking of England, my speaker system is Bowers and Wilkins. After a few listening tests, I concluded their speaker system is far superior to many. Even much more expensive systems.

They are efficient too. I can use a Stereo 70 with them and they sound almost (if not) just as loud as 140 watt PPP amplifiers. Now I am running 60 watt units with them. Anyone else love B&W?

AS far as tone goes as taste, was that England or the US as well?

Last edited by kingneb; 14th March 2014 at 11:07 AM.
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