Tag Archives: fm

Nintendo GameCube AM/FM Stereo Cassette Player.

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Found this odd little number at Goodwill the other night. I usually don’t go for portable cassette players this ‘modern.’ I prefer the more heavy-duty models of the 1980’s, even if they are, generally, considerably bulkier. But, this one was just too strange (to me) to pass up, especially since it was only $2; less, actually, since it was customer appreciation day, which knocked an additional 35% off. Cool winnins!

It’s a portable AM/FM radio and cassette player. Nothing too unusual about that, except it’s branded with the Nintendo GameCube logo. It just seems like such an odd combo to me. I can understand Nintendo throwing the GameCube logo on clothing, keychains, mugs, or what have you. That’s just the nature of the promotional beast. But a cassette player? Honestly, and I can’t place my finger on why exactly, but it just seems a little ‘off’ to me. A portable radio and cassette player just isn’t something I’d have ever thought I’d find the GameCube logo on.

Then again, a quick search shows that there were portable cassette players with Game Boy Color and Nintendo 64 insignias made prior, so maybe it’s only unusual in my sad little world.

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At any rate, it sure looks GameCube-y. I mean, they got the colors down right, not that that’s really an amazing feat or anything, but it’s fitting all the same. If they just had to make a cassette player adorned with GameCube propaganda, I suppose this was the best we could’ve hoped for. Actually, no it’s not: a cube or at least rectangular player made to look vaguely like the real GameCube would have been pretty badass, especially if they included the handle. I should be getting a million dollars a week for these ideas.

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You got yer headphone jack, yer AM/FM switch, yer tunin’ knob, and yer tape/radio switch. You have to manually open and close the case to insert and/or remove a cassette. Obviously, it’s a pretty bare bones set-up, not that I’d expect a high-end audiophile unit anyway. It works, but truth be told, this thing plays and feels pretty cheap. Maybe the headphones I was using weren’t up to the task, but audio quality on both cassette and radio was pretty spotty. Something tells me my GameCube radio thing couldn’t have cost more than $15-$20 originally.

Now initially, I was a little puzzled as to why Nintendo would want to hook-up with the cassette player format. I don’t know when this thing was released (there’s no date anywhere on it), but the GameCube hit the U.S. in late 2001. But even if this were released that year, cassette tapes were still pretty far along in their path down the mainstream pipe, right? But, the more I thought about it, I guess it makes some kind of sense. Cassettes may not have been priority number one for new, mainstream releases, but it stands to reason that people still had stacks of tapes lying around; the format wasn’t that obsolete. I mean, they’re still making new VCRs, and the VHS format has been dead for, what, about 10 years now? And yet, they still make new blank tapes (they still new blank cassettes too, come to think of it), so there’s some kind of demand. The day they stop making new VCRs will be a sad one for your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter (it will also make my, erm, job somewhat harder to perform), so, yeah, I’m glad they were still supporting those that held dearly to the cassette format.

Also, there’s no manufacturer noted anywhere on this. Did Nintendo make it themselves? Somehow I doubt it, but I don’t know. If by chance they didn’t, well, why not get the GameCube logo on it if someone else was footin’ the bill? And if this came later in the 2000’s, when the ol’ Cube was slipping behind the Xbox and waaaaaay behind the Playstation 2 in sales, a little extra promotion sure couldn’t have hurt.

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See, AM/FM radio and cassette. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t. Also, it takes two AA batteries. So, yeah. The handy belt clips allows you to, say it with me, clip it to your belt.

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I guess it has now become mandatory to include a picture of my cassette copy of The River every time I talk about a cassette player, so there it is. I suppose if I really wanted to blow minds left and right, I could go walking down the street listening to a 1980 tape on a weird GameCube-branded cassette player made some 20 years later. Maybe it would elicit cries of approval. Or protest. Of course, knowing my luck, I’d probably get jumped. I couldn’t really blame the muggers, though; who wouldn’t want a set-up like that?

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Sony Mega Watchman Model No. FD-555 (1991)

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Lookit this cool beast! It’s Sony’s Mega Watchman FD-555! This is early-1990’s technology at its best. Not only do we have a TV and AM/FM radio, but also a cassette player. The large speakers and the presence of a surround sound button make it clear: this ain’t no regular radio! This sucker is a legit boom box! And if it’s not, it certainly aspires to be!

This guy is kinda sorta similar to the Panasonic Desktop TV/Clock Radio I reviewed back in September. I had this Watchman loooong before I had the Panasonic, but I think I like the Panasonic more: it’s older, it has a cool mirrored clock thing, and fake woodgrain, all aspects that fill me with glee. The Panasonic gives the impression of something a businessperson, college student, or high school kid would keep on his/her desk and turn on during late night whatever sessions. This Sony Watchman, on the other hand, feels like something that should be used in the garage while someone works on a car, which is unfortunate in my case, because me working on a car is recipe for total carnage and/or bloody tragedy. On the other hand, being from the sweet spot of the early-90’s, 1991, this Mega Watchman also seems like it’s well-suited to being carried down the street, blaring the latest smash hit single on cassette tape, while you and your backwards-hat-wearing hoodlum friends look for shenanigans to cause. And when you were done creating a ruckus, you could watch Blossom.

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The flash on my camera illuminates every lil’ thing I thought I had cleaned off. Aside from dust in some of the crevices and sticker residue that refuses to leave the top of the cassette player, this thing is actually pretty clean, honest! I love the sleek look and black coloring, and the presence of the old “It’s a Sony” logo is always the mark of something I want to hold during the night.

Oddly enough, there’s no clock anywhere on it. A digital clock somewhere seems like it couldn’t have been too hard to add, but I guess the ability to tell time had to be sacrificed in order for you to listen to the Too Legit To Quit cassette whenever you damn well pleased.

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The back. I forgot to take a picture with the handle extended, but I’m sure you can imagine how that works. There’s a  few various ports, including one for an external antenna, as well as vertical hold controls. The cord can be unplugged from the unit and eight size-D batteries (a bottom-compartment, which I also forgot to take a picture of) used instead, which is helpful, because otherwise, the whole “portable” motif would fly right into the toilet. There’s also a port for a DC adapter, which seems a bit superfluous since you already have a plug and the ability to take batteries, but I guess they wanted their bases covered.

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Damn dude, August 1991. I was all of five years old! The early-90’s are at the tail-end of my personal preferred electronics-picking period. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll buy anything if I find it interesting (and cheap enough), but I generally want the things from the early-1990’s (1990-1993) on down, and particularly the stuff from the 1980’s or before.

That said, with the rounded curves, big ass speakers and revolutionary surround sound technology, this is certainly a nice example of early-90’s electronics, and it probably wasn’t cheap, either. I’m not saying it would set you back too much, provided you weren’t only relying on allowance or grass-cutting funds, but I’m guessing it wasn’t a budget item, either.

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The TV (and radio) both work perfectly. Since everything is digital now, it goes without saying that I’m not actually picking up any TV channels. I suppose if you took advantage of the external antenna jack, you might be able to rig this thing to play real television, but I really have no idea, and while I like my Sony Watchman, I’m not that interested in going to extreme lengths to make it “go.”

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I’ve had this unit for years, and while I tested the radio and TV functions when I got it (at least I guess I did, it’s been awhile), I had no idea if the cassette player worked until today when I decided to do this review. Now, the old GE clock-radio by my bed has a cassette player, and for quite awhile I liked to fall asleep to certain tapes. Unfortunately, the player died, leaving me at the mercy of the radio. That being as it is, provided this Watchman’s cassette player works (he typed as if he didn’t know the outcome already), I could conceivably haul this thing upstairs and once again fall asleep to The Ghost Of Tom Joad. I probably won’t, but I could.

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I grabbed a few cassettes laying around for testing purposes. The first one I put in was Billy Joel’s The Stranger, not so much because I had a burning desire to listen to an album I also own on other, better formats, but rather because if the Watchman ate the tape, I wouldn’t be pissed. Sorry Billy, I like you, but when it comes to Mega Watchman-testin’, you’re expendable.

To my everlasting joy, the cassette player works! Like a champ! I’m not all that surprised though, Sony has always put out a quality product; it’s one of my more trusted brands when it comes to old crap like this. However, the sound of the cassette was insanely muffled. Had the tape been played into the ground, or was the cassette player itself at fault? Further testing was required.

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Next up: Bruce Springsteen’s The River, which is in my top ten all-time favorite albums. Bruce put my fears to rest (as he so often does), because the sound quality was much better. A little spotty, someone obviously played the tape quite a bit (as well they should), but the difference in sound quality was very evident. This means I can old school party to “Sherry Darling” whenever I like! Or rather, whenever I don’t feel like messing with my turntable. Northeast Ohio Video Hunter top tip: The River sounds best when played via a nice vinyl. In comparison, the CD pressing is in desperate need of a remastering. I’m no audiophile and even I can plainly hear the difference (and I’m far from the first to point that out). But, I digress.

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Still not satisfied, I decided on one last test: The Michael Stanley Band’s You Can’t Fight Fashion. This is an XDR (Expanded Dynanic Range) cassette, and man, the sound quality was terrific, this Watchman is capable of producing some great sound output! One of the benefits of being a Northeast Ohioan is that we’ve got our hometown hero, Michael Stanley, and Fashion is right up there with Heartland as my favorite MSB album. You’d do well to pick up a copy yourself, regardless of format.

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So, how about the surround sound? Upon pressing the button, I expected to have the sound blast me in the face not unlike that old Maxell advertisement, but much to my chagrin, it only made things slightly louder. I have no knowledge of the inner workings of something of this nature, so I’m just guessing that when it’s not on, the speakers are simply not used to their fullest. When it is on, they are. How’s that for deductive reasonin’! I know, I know, “duh!”

Don’t get me wrong, though. This unit has very nice sound for the portable nature & time it came out, and I guess it can be room-filling if you turn the surround sound on and crank the volume & tone dials waaay up, but don’t go in expecting a high end set-up, okay?

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There it is, my Sony Mega Watchman FD-555, from August 1991. It’s a very cool piece of old school electronics. Sure, it doesn’t come off all that impressive nowadays, but back then, this was assuredly “to the max.” I’m seriously thinking about throwing some batteries in it, grabbing my cassette copy of Don Johnson’s Heartbeat, and going rockin’ down the street with “Love Roulette” blasting at top-volume.

Panasonic Desktop TV & FM/AM Radio, Model No. TRF-438P (1984)

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Alright, I guess I’m going to find something awesome every time I go to Goodwill. Bad for saving money, good for my blog. Even without a blog, I would have bought this thing right quick. A quick trip to  the aforementioned Goodwill tonight, with the vague goal of finding a new used book, resulted not only in new reading material, but also this: A Panasonic desktop television, with FM and AM radio, manufactured 29 years ago in Sepetember 1984. Yeah, I couldn’t not grab this thing. There was really no other option but to practically trip over myself running to the checkout counter with it, violently shoving every poor bastard without the good sense to step aside out of my way. Needless to say, victory was mine.

(I didn’t really violently shove people out of the way, but should anyone have tried taking my desktop TV thing away from me, they would’ve had a mean sucker punch waitin’ for ’em.)

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I’ve found a few TV/radio combo units in my time, including a big ass Sony Watchman I think I’ll have to drag out and review soon. I’ve even come across the little handheld units, but I’m thinking this is the coolest one, by far. A lot of that has to do with the fact it’s from the 1980’s, right in the sweet spot, 1984.

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The front panel is quite possibly the world’s most-susceptible-to-fingerprints-surface, but nevertheless, this is a sleek lookin’ beast. Works well, too. Majic 105.7 FM comes in clear as day, even without the antenna extended. The clock shows up on the TV screen, both with the TV on or off. It can be slightly dimmed or turned off completely. Expected but helpful.

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Since everything’s digital now, naturally I’m not picking up any channels. Now supposedly, since they’re not digital (yet), you can pick up WAOH TV-29/WAX TV-35 with just an old-school antenna, but I know from experience that the signal doesn’t come in around here, not through that method. That’s why I spent the early part of the 2000’s Son Of Ghoul-less (damn rabbit ears). Still, you better believe the idea of watching Son Of Ghoul on this thing is coming dangerously close to making me do some kind of bizarre touchdown dance. Let’s wait until I actually make it happen, though. Since there is an external antenna jack, and a couple other methods of inputs, it may actually be possible to hook a digital converter box up to this. I don’t know, because frankly, I have no experience with digital converter boxes. Never had one, never had the need for one.

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At first, I was a little confused as to why the TV screen was set so far back into the unit (to be completely honest, upon first glance, I thought someone had actually removed the TV screen entirely, but I soon figured it out. It doesn’t take your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter long to get his bearings). Turns out that there’s a mirror in there, reflecting the clock, basically superimposing it over the TV screen. That may be a sketchy way of describing it, I know, but I did my best to show in the pics how it works. The left picture shows the time and how it’s not actually on the TV screen as you’d first think of it (an obvious necessity, since the TV has to be off to have the radio on, and vice versa, and it’s nice to have the time present during all of that). I tried to show the angular mirror set-up in the right picture. Damn this thing is badass.

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All the helpful features you’ve come to expect from your clock/radio-type devices are at your finger tips. The mere press of a button turns your Panasonic desktop entertainment system on or off! Revolutionary! In all seriousness, I was a bit surprised it uses this style of on/off buttons, and not the more expected on/off switch.

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See, I wasn’t lying! September 1984! Being a name brand and having a built-in television, I would guess this probably cost a few bucks back then. Not saying it was a $1000 set-up or anything, but I doubt it was only $30, either. It’s a very solidly built unit that still works like a charm. I’ve had good luck with Panasonic products in the past, and this continues the trend. Them folks put out some good stuff, yo.

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Costing a mere $4, this is my third Goodwill score in just over a week. Gotta be careful, because your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter is many things, but rolling in dough he is not. No matter, because I now have a cool desktop TV/radio, and I love it so, so much.

Vintage Sears Stereo Eight Track AM/FM Clock Radio

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Ah, eight track players. I do loves ’em. This is a Sears AM/FM stereo eight track clock radio, model # 317.23450 050. I don’t have a year, but the the sticker says the manufacturing date was “A 0371G”. I don’t know what that means, but just by the looks of this thing, how can it not be from the 1970’s?

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In addition to state-of-the-art eight track tape playing capabilites, this cutting-edge piece of technology is also a clock radio. Not only can you easily tell what time it is at any given moment, but you can also listen to your favorite AM or FM radio stations! In stereo, no less!

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Perhaps against all odds, this thing not only still works, but it sounds pretty good. It may not be the most dynamic form of stereo you’ve ever heard, but really, not bad all things considered. You can balance between the right and left channels, as well as the bass and treble. Revolutionary!

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Part of this particular machine’s appeal, at least to me, is the fact that it vaguely resembles an Atari 2600. I have no idea if it predates the 2600 or not, but at any rate, the design of this beast is beautifully retro. Then again, maybe my love of fake woodgrain is clouding my judgement.

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‘Course, it all comes down to whether the eight track player works or not. This is actually the second one I’ve owned. The first, while ostensibly high-endier (?), had something wrong with it that played every tape at a too-fast speed (you haven’t heard Jim Croce until you’ve heard him as a chipmunk). Believe it or not, though, this player runs really nicely. That Jerry Lee Lewis tape, despite being an ancient Pickwick budget compilation, sounded pretty decent. The only fault I saw (er, heard) was that while the eight track’s channels 1, 2, and 4 sounded fine, when playing channel 3, I could hear some of channel 2 ‘bleeding’ into the background. Since I’m by no means an expert on eight tracks, I have no idea if this is a fault on the part of the player or the tape.

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On the left, you can see you were able to hook this up to whatever the hell it was supposed to be hooked up to. On the right, a list of all the crap this thing can do. Revolutionary!

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Yeah, it’s obsolete as all get out, but I dig this ancient piece of technology. I’m seriously tempted to plug this thing in by my bed, set the clock & alarm, and fall asleep to the sweet, sweet sounds of…something 1970’s, I guess.

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Or, perhaps, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, as suggested by Batman and The Noid, apparently.