• Jim Pfiffer

Speaking of speakers, they’ve gone from gigantic to tiny

Weekly humor column by Jim Pfiffer, Elmira, NY


“These rock! I can’t believe how great they sound.”


I said that after trying on my Bose audio sunglasses that played music from my smartphone. The glasses were a birthday gift from my thoughtful little sister, Pat. The microscopic speakers in the frames produce a clear and deep sound that rivals any full-size stereo system, and they don’t need an extension cord.


How we listen to music has changed drastically since my high school and college years in the ‘70s. Back then, stereo systems were large, cumbersome, expensive and needed a U-Haul truck to move them.


Today, that same system fits in the frames of my glasses. Love technology.


When I was trying to grow up, my generation’s sound systems reflected our status and coolness. If you wanted to make the sweet stereo scene you did so with speakers like JBL, KLH and SOL if you couldn’t afford a top brand.


We rocked the Casbah with stereo components by Marantz, Kenwood, Sansui, Sherwood, Sanyo, Phillips, Technics and Pioneer. These electronics had more knobs, dials and switches than a nuclear power facility.


They had something called “Dolby noise reduction,” which didn’t make sense because we wanted more noise. It was supposed to improve the listening experience. I don’t know if it did or what it did. Neither did most of my friends, but that didn’t stop us from pretending that we did know and were forever asking “Does it have Dolby?” “I want Dolby!” “I need Dolby.” “Do me with Dolby!”


Big was better. Gigantic was best. We engaged in speaker wars, as they were the most important music system component. We were forever asking, “Who made them?” “How much did they cost?” and “Can they make the neighbors call the cops?”


We rocked on to the pulsating pressure waves of speakers that were so tall they had penthouse apartments. The more speakers the better. We had woofers out the wazoos, tweeters ‘tween 10 and 20, and mid-ranges loud enough to be heard in the mid-Atlantic. I had more decibels than common sense. That’s why today I often say, “Could you repeat that? I didn’t hear you.”


If you were really cool, you removed the foam fronts of your speakers to expose the beat-throbbing black paper diaphragms pulsing out the tunes with sound waves you could actually see compressing the surrounding air molecules at Mach 1 (Of course, you had to do several bong hits to be able to see those compressions).


Big was better and more was mandatory. We went from one speaker mono Hi-Fi to two-speaker stereo, four-speaker Quadra-sound, mucho-speakers surround sound and anything more than that was a live arena concert.


My stereo system in college took up an entire wall in my apartment and had to be wired into the Tennessee Valley Authority to provide enough juice to pump up the volume. It put the “BOOM!” in Baby Boomers, baby.


One time, I played a George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers album so loud that the spare light bulbs in the hall closet glowed to the beat. If I stood directly in front of the speakers, it would cause me temporary sterility. (My girlfriend, at the time, loved George Thorogood.)


Back then, there was a popular magazine ad for high-end speakers (I don’t remember the brand) that showed a dude sitting in front of his speakers and the sound waves were knocking over his drink, blowing back his hair and pushing back his chair. That was my sound system goal – using acoustics to move solid objects.


We equated loudness with good times, good parties and good chances that our ears would bleed. The more we drank, the louder the tunes. Give me more Budweisers, more watts, more amps, more channels, more decibels, more mega-hits and more bleeding eardrums. The louder the tunes, the more we drank. The more we drank the louder the tunes. Today, my liver quivers thanks to listening to Thorogood’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” with the volume turned up to “rattling windows.”


My sound system featured a: turntable, receiver, amplifier, tuner, cassette deck, reel-to-reel tape deck, two speakers, mixers, boosters, pre-amps, post-amps, amplified amps and an extensive collection of albums, 45s and tapes.


Today, all that is packed into my sunglasses frame, featuring the “revolutionary Bose open ear audio design” that lets me listen to George and his Delaware Destroyers without destroying my eardrums, and still “hear the world around me at the same time.”


An online tutorial explains how they work, how to use them and how to control the volume. But it doesn’t answer my one pressing question.


Does it have Dolby?


About the Author


Jim Pfiffer’s humor column posts every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page West Elmira Neighborhood and ElmiraTelegram.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper and a regular swell guy. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.

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