Monday, December 23, 2013

While your Box is Pumping The Block- an interview with LED Meter- Boombox collector

Hey fellow record geeks. Firstly allow me to apologise for the long time between posts. I've had lots going on in my personal life and a few changes which have required my more immediate attention (one, being the main one,  is being able to  spend more time with my 3 year old son, which is awesome). This put the blog on the backburner for a bit while that was being sorted. Secondly was that for this post I did something a bit different;  I shot some video and conducted an audio interview and  I then went about the long task of transcribing said interview onto this blog. It took me what seemed like forever. I'm so sorry about the delay. Alas without further ado lets get onto the crux of the matter.

A couple of months ago  I met a local guy called Warren. People had mentioned us to each other over a couple of months before we had actually met,  "Oh you should meet Warren, he collects records too. He's cool" or "Have you met  that guy Luke? He collects some pretty cool records, you guys should totally meet."

It seemed we were destined to  cross paths and a mutual vinyl admiration was going to take place. But what I didn't know is that Warren also collects boomboxes!  80's boomboxes! Fantastic brilliant iconic and fully workable boomboxes. He has tons of them. His home s a veritable museum and treasure trove of decks and lights and remotes and eject buttons, and its from this passion that he has coined himself the nickname LED Meter (or so his facebook profile name seems to suggest) and so I thought he would be a perfect interviewee for the pencil neck blog. So get up. Put some lino or cardboard on the ground ready for that first backspin, get ready to pop and lock and moonwalk into  frame but before you do all that have a read of this awesome interview with LED Meter- Boombox collector.

So How long have you been collecting boomboxes for?

Well I'd say its about ten years, um based on my calculations. I'd wanted to for a lot longer
but I only started finding them when I was about 22 and I'm 32 now.

So How did you end up getting into it?

Well I kind of had a crush on them just based  as a Pop Culture icon for the longest time, I think I first noticed them on the intro to The Fresh Prince of Belair with the cool kids on the basketball court and they have one,  a big black Lasonic from America and since then I always wanted one and one day mum said she was coming home with a stereo for me after work and all day I pictured a glitzy chrome covered ghetto blaster,...... she bought home this horrible black egg.

(laughing) Do you still have that black egg?

Haha no I think I smashed it up a year later (laughs) but ever since then I realised I always wanted a real proper ghetto blaster and then when I got to College age I realised that they would be on the second hand market and I clicked that they would be out there and then I started looking and didn't find one til I was about 22.

Are there many collectors out there? Is there a finite amount of collectors out there?

No because new ones keep surfacing all the time. About five or six years ago there was a real surge in boom boxes in mainstream media and video clips and advertisements and ever since then we've had young people like 15 and 16 year olds popping up and starting collections.

.. and where do you find them have you found a majority of them on eBay?

Some of them have come from there. If  I've wanted a particular one so badly and I've seen the model and wanted to get it. Most of them have been from Tip Shops and garage sales, the best ones have turned up at the Glenochy Tip shop, I've heard of them turning up in Margate and Hobart but then I've ended up missing them.

...and what’s the most you've paid for a boom box?

Let's just say a lot.  The most expensive one I bought was  from Japan and that would be the Red Sharp VZ 2000 the front loading boombox record player.

Red Sharp VZ 2000 (below)

And what’s the least you've paid for an item? Have you found an incredible bargain?

Well I guess that would be my favourite one which is my first one which I got for free. What happened was I had been harping on about them to friends for so long about how I had really wanted a proper old school boom box and one day my friend called up and said he had found something under his house that belonged to his dad and that I might like. He said it was a radio and it was kept under his house and he pulled this thing out from the mud and it was waterlogged and full of old rubbish and it was a real boombox the first one I had seen in the flesh and he gave it to me and I had a real low status job at the time so I took a couple of weeks off and stayed at home and restored it and got it going and got it beautiful and working properly and sounding nice

Wow!! and do you still have it?

Yeh it was the first proper restoration I did and I got it to sound good and that’s why it sounds so great to me. It's my baby.

So where did you learn to do restorations and stuff were you self taught?

No It probably started when I was young when I would build model kits, I used to pull my BMX bikes apart to put new parts on and so I got that knowledge of how to pull things apart and put them back together again. You know because in the early days it was pull it apart and get dad to put it back together again. This like electronics it was like pulling apart my remote control car and fixing that when it had problems it has a lot of light electronics which are very similar to cassette decks.

Have you had many holy grail moments? Like when you just find something you've always wanted .

(laughing) Oh God many!!! How can I forget them?

The best time I can remember was once when I was at Sorrell markets, I used to drive around every market every weekend and every tip shop every weekend and then I saw at the other end of the football field a Sanyo MX920 which was there flagship ghetto-blaster, very high quality and very high end and I remember just dropping everything I had and leaving my then girlfriend where she was standing and everything and then racing as fast as I could across and all the while having this nightmare that I would see someone point at it and grab it and make the purchase before I got there but I got it for $15.00 and the seller  new the rarity of the item and they didn't care much for it, it was too big for their pad so they had to let it go.

Sanyo MX920

I also notice you have multiples of certain models has that just been happenstance.

It has been that way

Is it a matter of you have to see it so you have to get it?

Well yeh if you come across them in the wild I definitely don't turn them down like that’s just stupid, like they're so rare and they turn up so infrequently if you see one you've already got five of, you still get it because another collector will like it and if you don't know a collector who wants it you can offload it on eBay. That’s the reason I have the ones I have bought from overseas because I’ve sold something I have doubles of and with that money I have in my paypal account, I then buy one I don't have. It's just a refining process.

Do you have an oldest or an earliest boombox

Yeh that would be my Sanyo M 9998 which is from 1978 which is like one of the first fully portable high end deep bass twin speaker stereos with radio line out and line in and patch in and all that editing stuff which wasn’t very necessary but they put it on to sell more.

Do you think there is a breakpoint between the advent of CDs and portable CD players

There is and you'll find rifts with a lot of BoomBox collectors.

Wow ok and is there a year on the timeline when that starts? Like is there a cut-off?

There is and there isn’t I mean everything post 85 people sort of start to turn their noses up a bit in the boombox collecting world unless they're the other type of collector who doesn't mind that crap.

CDs came onto the market around about 81 and so various companies were trying out various portable CDs in boomboxes but they were always clunky designs and they were so expensive at the time that there is barely any of them, I mean I have found them and they're worth a lot to some people but..........I'm not interested and as for anything post 85 they started incorporating things like detachable speakers, and things were being deleted and left out of systems, minimising and simplifying designs so they looked pretty and nostalgic and sell more of them, because from  about 1979-1983, which boombox collectors refer to as the golden age,  some of the units were costing in excess of $800 just for a portable radio cassette and yes they were big and heavy in quality but it didn't mean that in that economic climate people rarely  have $800 to spend on a portable stereo and so that's another thing which makes them so rare, people always pass them off as teenage things that probably didn't cost much and they were there to thrash and trash and get rid of at the end.

And so on a different note you have a few Sharp Vinyl boomboxes.

Well yeh they were about $750 dollars I have the receipt from one from 1982 and it had a price tag of $750

Yeh right and I can't believe you have a about 3 or 4 of them?

In my time of collecting I’ve had probably 11 of those.

And is that more of you've seen it and you have to get it??

Yeh I won't say no if I see it.

So how many have you found in the wild?? Any??

Nine of those were in the wild 2 of those from when I first started collecting I did a trade online with some guy in Sydney who was buying and selling stuff and he happened to have a couple but most of them in the wild, that was my first “dud” eBay moment when one arrived not working and the other arrived missing some bits.

One of them which was one of my best finds,  a wild find, was I got it at Gowan's Auctions for a relatively good price and it was unused and still had it s display placards and its warranty's and styli protecting foams

Wow where is that one?

Oh no that ones hidden away, in the hall way. Its out of the way where it can't be touched I mean I want to say that these things are there to be touched but I kind of do have to look after them because I like them to stay preserved for the the next generation that's why I like to collect.

So when something becomes collectable to certain collectors is there a trend towards things like big dials? Big lights? Are those features  favoured over other types?

I guess that’s what’s different amongst collectors; some prefer LED meters which is what I obviously prefer and some prefer the more high tech needle meters for a bit more of an audiophile, compared to of course LEDs. Flashing lights just do it for me.

Can their value be immediately assessed by looking at a model of boombox like you can tell its going to have value because it has more dials/knobs or lights? Can you surmise if it doesn't have this feature its going to be less?

Well yes basically the absence of an auxiliary or line-in reduces its value because no ones playing cassettes these days and if you want a radio you're not going to be paying boombox dollars for it, that line-in is crucial to its value because if you want something cool to plug your iphone or mp3 player in with retro cool value that's what makes boombox these days worth heaps of money.

Some boomboxes are rare in the colour scheme or style they have. Some boomboxes have a wood-grain finish, which totally creates value among collectors.

Gadgets sell well, some boomboxes have removable controls that pop out like the Sony model with wireless cassette remote but even more speccy is my large boombox which has a burglar alarm attached, so if you walk away to get a can of coke while your box is bumping the block you can set this button and if anyone goes near it within one meter it will sound a burglar alarm.

Boombox with Detachable Wireless Remote

Lastly is there one boom box a total holy grail. One model which you don’t have which you are always on the look out to get,

Yes there are a few. One of the top ones, and if you ask most collectors  they'll answer the same one, its the Toshiba Bombeat 40, which is made and sold mostly in Argentina for some reason a very high end boombox aluminium speaker grills and 8 inch woofers, huge bass, plenty of flashing lights and it was made in black which is very rare for a high end company. The last one I know of sold on eBay for $3500. Everyone remembers that price, because if they see it again they know what they'll be expecting to pay.

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