By Todd Houston
Exclusive to TRRT
I remember my mom taking my brother and me over to North Towne Mall as a kid sometime during the later part of the 1970s. We would go over to a store called Music World while she shopped at Weise’s and some of the other stores. I remember the staff was very helpful and they loved chatting about new releases, rare live recording and of course the colored vinyl imports. If we were lucky my brother and I would both score a record each. We couldn’t wait to get home and throw them on our Realistic stereo system. We would listen over and over again and spend hours looking at the liner notes and photos on the insert.
As we got older the sound quality became more and more important. Friends were buying up these giant stereo systems with massive speakers. The components you had and the sheer number of records in your collection told a story. You were either the Realistic (Radio Shack) guy or you were the Sansui, Marantz or even Bang & Olufsen guy. The Bang & Olufsen guy would have been on par with the Camaro guy. You get it.
Fast forward to around 2005. As CD and digital sales decline in the wake of streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, record sales are on the rise. In fact, the format has seen 260 percent growth since 2009. While CDs sit on shelves, vinyl supply is having a hard time keeping up with demand. People are not only seeking out vinyl but vintage stereo equipment is smoking hot right now. It may not have seemed possible 10 years ago, but the good old days are of transistors, tubes, scratchy potentiometers and the sweet smell of hot electronic cleaner are back. It looks like it might even outlive the novelty of PBR tallboys and the hipster generation altogether, but that’s another story.
Today, we catch up with Joe Martin who’s been collecting – but mostly repairing – audio and video equipment for the better part of 25 years.
Rockford Rocked Interviews: You repair pretty much anything electronic. How did you get involved in the profession?
Joe Martin: I’ve always had an interest in electronics, even as a child I liked to take things apart and see what make them tick. (laughs)
RRI: Some of these older systems are pretty complex. Do you ever run into problems finding parts?
JM: Sometimes, but if you’re looking for an obsolete part you can usually find a suitable sub for it by matching the specs.
RRI: Are you a fan of vinyl records?
JM: Absolutely! It’s the best way to listen to music.
RRI: I understand you are also a musician. Do you work on guitar amplifiers and P.A. stuff?
JM: Yes, I do but not tube equipment. Mostly just the solid state stuff.
RRI: Who made the best audio components back in the day?
JM: Probably Macintosh, Pioneer, Sansui, Marantz, Kenwood and Harmon Kardon.
RRI: Do you ever get requests to fix broken Beta video players? And if so who would want one of these things? (laughs)
JM: Probably someone with old family video tapes but you would be surprised. I still repair 8-tracks and even the occasional VCR.
RRI: I was once told that some of the giant Japanese manufactures like Panasonic and Sanyo were all made in the same factory. Is there any truth to that?
JM: Back then one company would manufacture products for more than one name brand. Very common.
RRI: Most music purists will tell you that they prefer analog audio recordings as opposed to digital. What’s your take on this whole debate?
JM: I also agree. Digital music is a computerized reproduction of music laid out as digital information.
RRI: You offer free pickup and delivery in the Rockford area on all of your repairs. Do you have a website or Facebook page we can visit for more information?
JM: Not at this time but we are in the process of building a page as we speak. For now people can reach me directly at 815-914-8884. Thanks!