Bluetooth? No. CD player? Nope..well yes maybe. Digital Radio? Radio..yes. Streaming music? Technically yes.. but no. It’s either going to be all black or brushed aluminium. Big volume dial. Some analog meters. Inbuilt equaliser. Twin tape deck – to make those sick mixtapes. Tuner and if you are a real big baller a record player. These are the requirements of a sound system in a man cave/garage/shed if you’re around 40-50. Those. Are. The. Rules. Something from Sony, Technics, Marantz and maybe something from Kenwood.
THEN you gotta find some speakers. Not new ones. Vintage. Something from the tip, side of the road or a market place. Wood veneer or black. Maybe the dust covers are missing and if not, you really shouldn’t use it anyway, as the point of the vintage speakers were to show off those fantastically kitsch design behind the facia. The sound is…well awful. Terrible. Don’t believe them when they say they sound fantastic. They don’t. They suck.
So how much can you spend on this setup? As little as possible. If it’s over $100 you are not haggling hard enough! Or you are a big baller with that CD & record player. But for the nice brushed aluminium stuff, it’ll set you back a touch more. Because it’s shiny.
Apart from the cool factor and the unbreakability of these units, why would you want to listen to music or hook up your TV to an old system? Thats the tricky thing to explain. It’s intangible to the wives, girlfriends and the less testosterone inclined folks. Modern tech is so easy to use and for the most part does sound better. Plus it takes up so much less room. So where space is a premium, it would make sense to scrap the 90s and go 2020s. But that really isn’t the point. We love the 90s. Cars and tech were simple, reliable and repairable. Fashion was fun and bright and simple too. Let’s just not talk about the hairstyles. The HiFi systems take up a lot of room and not as fast, loud but have a unique sound of their own that is quite endearing. Play a record and you get that warm sound coming out that cannot be replicated by digital music.
Depending where you live you will need to attach some rabbit ears to the FM aerial connection for the tuner….or here’s a life hack and use an old 12V test light. This works great and makes use of that expensive Snap-On tool that disintegrated for no reason. It’s not all bad if you’re still not convinced. You can hook up your phone to the stereo via some cords, unless you have a fruit phone then you’re screwed. But hit some vintage record stores, thrift shops and some markets and grab some cassette tapes and enjoy the tunes, while you are working on your 90’s project car or sitting on your sofa you scored for free on the side of the road or sitting in a camp chair having a brew talking smack with your mates about high school and the ‘good old days’.
A man cave without a 90s stereo system just isn’t a real man cave. It has to be there, like that engine you will rebuild one day, the IKEA set you have to put together, the lawnmower that needs repairs, the multiple toolboxes loaded with triples of every tool cause you needed it. It’s the nostalgia of simpler times, working part time while you’re studying, going out partying and just loving life. No worries and the future is the future. We love the past and want to have that small piece of it in our own space, to remind us to keep things simple, fun and crank it to 11.