Sunday, July 7, 2024

Whither the CD player?

I'm going to take a break from current events this week and talk about another facet of our late-stage capitalist dystopia: electronics. Specifically CD players.

While I'm a progressive politically, I'm old, so I'm a Luddite when it comes to certain things. I admit freely that I have not yet embraced the digital age 100 percent. Yes, I publish my books as ebooks; yes, I own a Kindle; yes, I have a smartphone and a laptop (and a several-generations-old iPad that has sat unused in a desk drawer since I moved here four years ago). But I have not yet succumbed to digitizing my music collection. Strike that: At one point I spent hours over several days uploading a bunch of my CDs to Apple Music on my laptop. Then I got a new laptop. Everything made the migration to the new machine except my CDs; the album cover images that I'd painstakingly uploaded made it, and I think maybe the playlists, but not the actual songs. Then I learned that Apple uses a proprietary format for music files, and there was probably no way to get those songs to transfer from my old machine to the new one.

What I took away from the experience is that uploading stuff to the cloud gives the cloud owner the rights to your stuff, and they may or may not let you keep it. Which I already knew from a debacle many years ago involving ebook files that disappeared from users' devices because reasons. Hence, I have not given up my actual, tangible CDs.

The challenge these days is to find something to play them on. For maybe a couple of decades, I owned a Bose Wave music system with the add-on CD changer. It looked like this: 

Stolen from the internet
It was hella expensive. I used to get really nice holiday gift cards from my bosses at the law firm, and one year I used my gift card to buy this system. It worked great for many years. But then, as Facebook reminded me earlier today, the changer started giving me error messages on various CDs and finally refused to play any of them. When I got hold of someone at Bose customer service, I was told it was a known issue, and they recommended that I unplug the changer or it might mess up my main unit. Reluctantly, I did. 

That was four years ago. The main CD/radio soldiered on for another couple of years, but then the CD player in it started to die, too. So a few months back, I started looking for a replacement. Of course Bose doesn't make Wave radios anymore; you can get a rebuilt one in random places, but they're super expensive, and I'm not getting those really nice gift cards anymore. So I looked for something less bougie.

My options were pretty limited: either I could go back to the component setup that I'd ditched in favor of the Wave or buy a glorified boom box. I settled on this: an AIWA Exos Home Speaker. (Note that it's marketed as an external speaker that just happens to include a CD player; this is where we are, kids.) I figured that AIWA used to be a decent brand and the unit would probably have acceptable sound quality.

When it arrived, I pulled it out of the box and set it up. I put a CD in the slot and tried to get the drawer to retract. Didn't work. Shoved it shut with my hand. Of course then it wouldn't open again and it wouldn't play.

AIWA customer service was very nice about it. The unit was clearly still under warranty -- I'd just bought it! -- and the rep told me to pack it up and send it to them on their dime, and they'd send me a replacement. He also assured me that I'd get my CD back.

So I sent the broken machine back, and in the fullness of time, the replacement arrived. And it works! But then I tried putting it in the space where the Wave radio used to live. Of course it's about a quarter of an inch too tall. 

The Wave radio fit on the shelf under the TV. The AIWA does not.
Lynne Cantwell 2024
But I can play my CDs again. The sound quality isn't as good as the old Bose, but I didn't expect it to be, and part of the problem might be my hearing issue. 

Did I get my CD back? Of course not. Is it worth calling AIWA again? Not to me!

But now I'm tempted to replace my TV stand so that the CD player will fit. In fact, a full entertainment center would look great on that wall. I could use more bookshelf space, as well as more storage space for my DVDs and Blu-Rays (which I am also hanging onto, thank you very much).

The answer to every problem in our late-stage capitalist dystopia is to spend more money, right?

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The hearing issue: I can't remember whether I've mentioned this here before, but I have an acoustic neuroma in my left ear that has been affecting my hearing for the past four years. It's to the point now where we need to do something about it, so I'm going in next month for a "gamma knife" radiation treatment. It will be a couple of years before we find out whether the treatment is effective, and I won't get my hearing back regardless. But I'm hoping that it's successful, as the other treatment option is brain surgery. Which I would rather, y'know, avoid.

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These moments of bloggy retro consumerism have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!