Weird Thoughts About Electronics

A friend of mine on the Facebook group Vintage Stereo & Hi-Fi Equipment just sent me a copy of the Lafayette Radio Electronics catalog for 1974. I guess he collects them, and had two copies of this one. 1974 was right in the middle of the worst part of my stereo habit, so I found it interesting. I came to a startling conclusion reading it:

Stereo and television equipment today is dirt cheap.

Let me illustrate. While Lafayette carried a lot of their in-house brand, they also carried some name-brand equipment. I will put down here some of the pieces many people who were active in electronics back in the day will recognize. The 1974 price is noted, with the 2017 equivalent dollars in parentheses.

AR Model X/B 2-Speed Manual Turntable — $99.96 ($529.12)
Shure SME Series II Tonearm — $135.00 ($714.60)
Shure V-15 Type III Phono Cartridge — $72.50 ($383.77)
Stanton 681EE Phono Cartridge — $72.00 ($381.12)
Empire 1000ZE Phono Cartridge — $99.95 ($529.07)
Pioneer SX626, 27 WRMS per channel AM/FM Receiver — $329.95 ($1746.53)
Pioneer SX828, 60 WRMS per channel AM/FM Receiver — $469.95 ($2487.60)
Pioneer R700 Three-Way Speaker System, 12″ woofer — $229.95 ($1217.20)
Altec 15″ Woofer 418B (driver only) — $95.00 ($502.87)
Koss PRO-4AA Stereo Headphones — $60 ($317.60)
Sony Trinitron 17″ COLOR Television — $469.95 ($2487.60)

Now, this was all OK-quality stuff, but certainly not super high-end (except for the Sony Trinitron). We were trading this stuff back and forth all the time in college. So let’s say you got an AR turntable, Stanton 681EE cartridge, the Pioneer SX828, and two of those Pioneer R700 speakers. We’ll skip a TV and headphones and a cassette deck for the moment, and not replace the tonearm on the AR. Still, a solid system. What’ll that set you back? $1100 in 1974 dollars. Roughly three-and-a-half months’ take-home pay for me as a grad student

That’s a cool $5800 in 2017 dollars.

And look at that Sony TV for a moment. $2500 for a 17″ TV. I just paid $800 for a 65″ TV. Almost four times bigger for one third the price.

You can beat that Pioneer SX828 with a Sony STR-DH190 with 100 WRMS per channel for a hundred and fifty 2017 dollars. One eighth the price.

And the Cerwin-Vega SL12 Speaker is a good match to those Pioneer R700s for $350 a side, a bit over a quarter as much.

And we were college students, fer cryin’ out loud.

So quit yer bitchin’. Quality electronics has never been cheaper.

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