Monday, June 25, 2012

My Dream Receiver

Marantz 2285 Stereo Receiver

Many blog posts prior to this, I spoke about a vintage stereo receiver and commented on some old vinyl that I had enjoyed.  As I posted those comments, I was already working on obtaining what I wanted to be my "last" vintage stereo receiver.  I say this because over the course of a couple years, I had purchased about five different stereo's, looking for that "right one" that would satisfy me both aesthetically and sonically.

I spent money, bought this one and that one...sold two, looked at a few more...until I was contacted by the man that had sold me my first vintage stereo.  He was local, and he had a vintage Marantz receiver that he wondered if I would be interested in. (since he got me to buy the one that is pictured several posts before this)  I told him I would stop by.

A couple of days later, I stopped by and looked at the old Marantz.  It was a diamond in the rough to be sure.  The wooden cabinet was old and dirty, several lights were out on the dial face and it was simply dusty/filthy inside.  I turned it on, and listened to it through a couple of small speakers, tested a few things like DC offset and other such things that will make little sense to most of you.  The most important things checked out.  I said, "You arent going to budge on your price are you"?  His reply, "Nope". 

You see, he was asking 150.00 dollars for a 1977 Stereo Receiver that needed work.  Problem is...there is not a more desireable or attractive receiver on the planet, than the higher powered, mid-seventies Marantz.  They are, quite simply, beautiful...aesthetically and sonically!  I paid the man, and left with a project that I hoped would work out for the better.

I got the unit home and after opening it up, and cleaning the interior components and circuit boards with everything from q-tips to compressed air, it looked worthy of the next step....what is referred to in the Hi-Fi community as a "Re-Cap". This is simply the removal and replacement of all the electrolytic capacitors in the receiver. (thats oversimplifying it, but you get the idea)  Yes, all those tiny, colored little cylinders and resistors etc...replaced with new ones, since many would be leaking or simply bad/out of spec.

Soooo, the search for a qualified technician to perform the task?!  Long story short, after packing the stereo up to ship it to Montana, I get a call from a technician in Kelso at the last minute.  Seems he was replying to an email I had fired off a month before.  He tells me he can do the job and I arrange to drive to Kelso (2 hours south) to drop it off the following weekend.

After 3 or 4 months, i give the guy a call and inquire as to the progress.  He tells me he does the rebuilds as a sideline to his mainstream work and it could be a few more months before he gets it done!  Now to be fair, many people wait up to two years to get these type of receivers "Re-Capped" and the guy i was going to use in Montana, had a turn around time of just under a year.  Sooooo, I tell him thats fine and ask him to call me when it is complete.  I figure it will give me time to work on the wood cabinet that encloses the receiver.

I start working on the wood cabinet.  It is a 3 sided affair, two thick side pieces and a thinner top piece that interlocks with both sides.  It is hard to describe the quality that these Marantz receivers exude.  They really dont "make them like they used to".  After about 4 weeks of sanding, prepping, ordering in some veneer to repair a missing strip on one of the side pieces, I am ready to stain and finish the pieces.  I use a light walnut stain and after a few days I spray it all with polyurethane and some steel wool sanding and a few coats later...the cabinet is done.  It looks quite nice...not perfectly "shiny", but almost...more of a clean matte finish...which is the look I was after.

A month or so later I receive a call from my technician...much sooner than I had thought!  He tells me the receiver is all set!  Now, I should be excited by this news, but I suddenly realize I have to come up with the 450.00 dollars it cost for all of the repairs that he had done.  Yes, you heard me right...450.00 dollars.  I know...  In short he had Re-Capped it, replaced all the lights with LED lights that dont put out the heat of the original lights...installed the new "vellum" paper (the blue toned paper that gives the receiver its blue dial/meters) and had aligned the tuner, checked DC Offset, DC Bias adjustments and on and on.  These are things I simply cannot do myself.  450.00 dollars...i know.  I gather up all of my "off duty" money earned over the past months and I drive to Kelso and pick it up.  He puts it through its paces and simply sounds beautiful....

Let me give you some perspective regarding the cost of this though.  I bought it for 150.00, add the 450.00 for electronics repair and add 29.00 dollars and several hours of my time for the cabinet refinishing.  629.00 dollars total.  I know you are thinking..."just go buy a new one"!!!  And I understand the sentiment.  You might be thinking...."it cant be any better than the new receivers you can buy for 600.00 dollars"!  And you would be wrong. 

Seems the glory days of powerful and very high quality receivers was the 1970's.  Not for nostalgic reasons, but for honest to God quality both in sound and specification.  I was quite aware of the cost of this receiver in 1977. (The year it was made)  It listed for 670.00 1977.  I used to drool over these in 1977...but there was noooo way I could have ever afforded one.  What would be the equivalent cost today?  Why would I spend so much to get it back to original condition?  How expensive was "670.00 dollars" in 1977?  Adjusted for inflation 670.00 dollars then is equal to...are you ready?....2597.00 dollars!  Soak that in.  That's right kids...this was one expensive ass receiver!!!

For could buy a brand new Chevrolet Camaro Z28 for under 6,000.00 dollars in 1977.  Buy nine of these receivers and you paid more than you would for the Z28.  Gives the whole project some perspective.

I already had some high quality floor standing speakers connected to my original, vintage Pioneer receiver. (a nice little unit in its own right)  I connected this thing up, installed the very nice wooden cabinet tossed on a Jim Croce album and fired her up.  Wow!!!!  It is the finest sounding receiver I have ever heard or owned...period.  While it is true that I could spend the 2597.00 dollars today and equal the sonic beauty of this receiver...I could never match the analog, blue glow, wood enclosed beauty of this receiver. (Not to mention the "gyrotouch" tuning knob!!)

To say I am happy with how it turned out would be an understatement.  It is nice knowing I finished the cabinet myself and saw this receiver rise like a phoenix rather than being thrown out. (like we do with so many things these days)  It is hard to explain, but sometimes i just turn the thing on to look at the warm, blue glow while I putz around in my office.  I just listened to an extended version of "MacArthur's Park" by Donna Summers, (Vinyl LP) and if I closed my eyes for a few moments, I could be back in Michigan delivering pizza's, listening to my car radio and wondering how the hell disco became so popular!?

My Marantz 2285 Stereophonic Receiver.  I hope to have it a long time and pass it down to my daughter, should she ever want to listen to a vinyl record instead of iTunes!

(More pics to come)