Audio etc. (April 1977)

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I've been traveling. And do you think hi-fi is mainly a U.S. hobby? Or maybe Japanese and German as well? I'm here to tell you that the old hi-fi bug is virulent and catchy in plenty of other places, at least among the so-called "advanced" nations, like, say, Norway. You go window shopping and you can run into old friends everywhere-familiar equipment names and models-along with an intriguing variety of "unknown" or local hi fi, adding eye appeal to the visible feast and sonicity to the sounds inside the shops. But what really is really fun for the audio man, knowing all in advance, is the nomenclature. Every country to its own language and it's guess and guess again.

Kjenner du Dux? If you don't, you oughta. Dux, I found, is a big Swedish outfit that sells all over Scandinavia with a vast catalogue of intermediate to advanced fi and TV. They go in for gorgeous Swedish modern, dove gray with black ensembles, combination units of turntable, cassette, amp, under a smoked plastic cover, and they put out a stunning line of speakers to match these goodies, two way and three way with neat gray grilles and a snazzy white line around the outside, like a white -wall tire. Handsome. The three-way speakers have two bass drivers, 20 cm., one midrange (melIom-register), and two dome tweeters; the delefrekvenser are 400 og 4000 Hz and the overall frekvensomrade is 30-20,000 Hz. That's what it says, and you surely get the idea. I like the way the Dux people have converted all the controls to sliders, sidewise or forward and back, even to the tone controls. The generic name for such equipment is Musikkanlegg (well, they're for music, aren't they?), and some models have FM tuners as well as cassette and/or turntable; one model has a perfectly huge two-inch digital clock built in and connected to the tuner. Another one has a useful bit of extra d├ęcor, a block diagram of the inside layout, in LEDs or something, right out in front on a special panel. Didn't see it in action but I gather it lights up to indicate what's going on or isn't-the brochure says that et belyst kontrollpanel gir deg al kid beskjed om hvilke funksjoner (no, not a blue funk, a function, spelled Swedish style) som er innkoplet. So now you know. Don't you?

The Dux publicity informs us that the company has been selling its stuff snart 50 ar. (Pardon the missing small circle over the a. Our printer disapproves.) Even so, by the looks of it, these people are very much up to date. True, you super-fi addicts may look askance at the Dux Musikkanlegg lines but, knowing what European craftsmanship is, I think you can assume a lot more built-in quality than what we over here call mass produced. (What-you missed that 50 ar? 50 years. Easy.) One thing will please you. Dux calls its various models Sound Projects, in straight English though for local consumption. Like the Japanese in Japan. Sound Project 8540 is a Hi-Fi Stereo Latespiller med hastighetene 33 og 45 o/min. and this particular model has Touchkontroller for hastighetsvalg, start/ stopp, not to mention such lovely features as Flytende opphang and Automatisk og stofri stopp ved hjelp av fotocelle--that is, with the help of a photocell.

Now don't just skip the gibberish! With a bit of ingenuity you can catch a lot of this curiously craggy, consonant clogged language. The feature I really like, there, is Flytende opphang. I could hang onto that one forever. Sounds almost the same, too, in Norwegian and Danishand is that where I really got confused.

I couldn't figure out which language I was seeing. Or hearing.

Norwegian New Orleans

You see, I spent 10 happy days, not in Sweden, but in Norway, which was where I picked up the Dux catalogue.

This was back awhile, when the Southern sun in Oslo, the New Orleans of Norway, just managed to break the horizon around 10:00 in the morning and soon went back to bed, leaving a long, long evening to fill. In Oslo, hi fi is a natural. Electricity is so cheap that they leave the lights on the whole time and just as well-the noon sun comes in sidewise and askew, your shadow is 50 feet long in the gloaming and even the clouds are black at noon from being lit up at one end. Weird. So you have to do something to keep alive and happy. True, 95 percent of Oslo goes skiing all night, cross country, on long wilderness trails through the nearby mountains lit up for miles with street lights, or else down horrendous ski jumps or even bigger "ski flying" horrors, and every car on the road has a ski rack on top and four studded snow tires beneath (no salt and very little sand). But you do get back indoors eventually, into those cosy electrically heated modern apartments that surround Oslo city, and that's when the hi fi opens up.

Maybe not quadraphonic but plenty stereo. Also enormous TV screens, B/W and color, but that's another story.

The place I stayed at had a hi-fi combo with both record player and cassette changer and the cassettes dropped down, one after the other, hour by hour.

In Oslo proper, one of the most beautiful cities-in-the-dark I ever hope to see, there are in fact numerous hi-fi outlets, as well as importers/distributors, and though I wasn't there to do interviews I did snoop around, sort of anonymously, as is my wont. Learn a lot that way. It was in Oslo that I got my languages confused-how can you tell which is which when everybody understands Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian and they can all talk to each other, or read each other, as easily as we read Queen Liz's English. Right next to the Dux display, I picked up Garrard of England-but was it in Norwegian? All about Garrard's Nye Hi-Fi Platespiller Lyden ma du Selve Oppleve.

Well, that's not too hard to understand. A Platespiller is a "plate spieler"-or if you will, a platter player.

Simple. What else would you expect from Garrard? Audio Amicability

As we all should know, the English and Norwegians have held a good close relationship ever since the tragic days of WWII when the English tried to dislodge Hitler and didn't make it-but kept up a constant radio communication with the old country via legions of illegal concealed little tube radios in thousands of Norwegian homes. I went to the Norwegian Resistance museum and looked at some of them; you would have been fascinated. Tubes, of course, but so ingeniously miniaturized, willy-nilly, the radio guts built into table legs, into box cameras, false drawer bottoms.

And keep in mind that discovery of these wonders meant instant death ... Anyhow, Garrard's Platespiller looked mighty good, decked out in Teak, Eik, Palisander, Noett, Hvit, Sort, as to colors. (Now let me see...Noett means nut -colored, but I would swear, from my kitchen experience, that Hvit means garlic. OK, then, a garlic colored Garrard changer-and indeed it is a light gray!) Eureka, they really feature American -made hi fi, notably the Mac line and a big range of Harman/Kardon. I spotted a bill of lading from the latter in one import office listing just about everything you could want from that company. And I got the impression that the Japanese are played down, though Sony and Sankyo are strong. I rather think that Norway depends on us for its really fancy hi-fi stuff, over and beyond those common but well-built Scandinavian combo systems that are the norm. I didn't see any of the really expensive non-U.S. items so familiar at home-Nakamichi, for instance, or Yamaha. Get going, you U.S. makers. You have a market, a preferential market, over there.

Well, of course, the local producers are also featured in Oslo and most decidedly the big one, Tandberg of Norway. A whole store front plastered with Tandberg ads and stuff, though inside there were other brands. They have a plant in Oslo and I found it on the city map, a tiny black rectangle out in the suburbs not far from the new T -bane, the subway/surface electric line that runs so quietly you can't hear it either come into the station or leave. Knowing in my bones that Big Bert Whyte had been there before me and cleaned out the place, I forewent a visit. But you should see the Tandberg catalogue, "Hi-Fi Stereo 76/77," all gloss and color. First come the Bandopptakere, the band-uptakers, i.e., tape recorders, both in cassette and reel-to-reel, five big models; then come radios, stereoforsterkere, radio receivers, then battery portables, and finally the impressive collection of Tandberg Hoyttalere. Hi -talkers, out loud -speakers. Including the little 20 sided midget speaker in bright colors, the Fasett (in Norway), which some of us know over here. Not much bass but a lot more than you'd expect, looking at them, and the rest of the Fasett sound is excellent, clean and uncolored and good for stereo. Or, on a larger scale, as a pair of back speakers in a budget surround -sound system.

(Don't really need low bass in the rear.)

Hi-Fi & English

By golly, Tandberg does the English speaking world an honor, or honour, as the case may be. The descriptions in the Tandberg catalogue are, of course, in Scandinavian for local consumption. But the equipment itself is entirely marked in English from stem to stern. An economy, maybe, but it also shows how well the Scandinavians appreciate the universal hi-fi language, our mother tongue, basic English. Almost everybody there speaks a bit of it.

Guess I'm hipped on languages; I do enjoy decoding the various jargons that come my way, like so many crossword puzzles but more useful. You just look at those funny words, at first so meaningless, Xszympghl or something; then you try to pronounce a bit, according to local rules, and lo, you see the light. Like a word I remember in Denmark, Flaske. A flask, of brandy or Aquavit? Not so! Pronounce it more or less as it should be pronounced, and you get "fleshuh"-what else but plain old meat.

And a boghandel isn't a species of swamp; it's pronounced "book handle" and that's what it is, a bookstore. So it goes with hi-fi nomenclature as well, and so a final example from our friends at Tandberg. Their TR -2075 is described in such glowing Norse (?) that anybody can get the general idea-it goes like this: The TR 2075 is den kraftigste og mest avanserte stereo radio/forsterker Tandberg noen gang har laget.

Which is to say, if I read it, here we have the craftiest (i.e., most sophisticated) and most advanced stereo radio/strengthener (that is, receiver) that Tandberg has ever laid out. But yes! The FM section, for instance, has MOS-FET transistorer 4-polede keramiske (ceramic) filtere og IC and the signal/stoyforhold is bedre enn 75 dB i stereo og 78 dB i mono (IHF)! Exclamation point is Tand berg's. Mine too. Not bad, huh? And the stereo amp department gives mer enn 75 watts sinus (not a cold in the head-a sine wave!) per kanal ved 8 ohms....

Addenda

Hey, I didn't really mean Eldridge Gerry, back in December; it was Eldridge Johnson. Memory glitch. Johnson ran a small mechanics and model shop where Emile Berliner, inventor of the flat disc, took a design for a spring motor that would unwind at a steady fast speed for a whole disc side.

Didn't work; but Johnson designed one that did, then joined up with Berliner and later founded the Victor Talking Machine Co. As for Gerry, he invented the gerrymander. Throw him out.

(Source: Audio magazine; Apr. 1977; by Edward Tatnall Canby)

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