For the nine years or so that I was in a band in North Carolina I used amps that the bandleader had because my old one was kind of noisy. I’ve played a few times here and I’ve had my keyboard go through the PA, which meant how much I could hear myself was dependent on how much they put me through the monitors, which weren’t exactly pointing in my direction. I tried putting a little portable monitor on my keyboard but the lack of bass bothered me. So last Thursday I took a PA speaker, an old Celestion 12” two-way, and the only amp I had. I’d just discovered that one of my cables was noisy and realized that that might have contributed to my noise problem with the amp. That and I bought some spray contact cleaner to get some of the noise out of the knobs.
My amp is actually an old Yamaha PA head. It looks like this:
I bought this because back when I used it, just after college, keyboard players had multiple keyboards. I had three: a biphonic synthesizer, a portable organ, and a clavinet. (I don’t have any of them any more.) If you know what you’re looking at, you can tell this is old because it’s basically a PA mixer-amplifier but it has no XLR inputs. Back then a lot of microphones used quarter inch plugs.
The unit in use wasn’t dead quiet but I don’t think the audience heard any noise out of it. The contact cleaner got enough of the static out of turning knobs.
Here’s the thing: It’s a piece of electronics over forty years old and it’s perfectly useful for what I need. I can’t imagine having played in 1978 using an amplifier from 1938. Granted, digital equipment has become available since 1978 but an awful lot of what is bought now is still analog. The most popular microphones in the music industry remain the Shure SM57 and SM58. They’re substantially older than my unit, as in at least half a century old, and not only are there still a ton of them around, they’re still being made, albeit Shure now makes them in Mexico instead of the United States.
During the mid seventies through the early eighties I was, in addition to being in the commercial sound business, in the consumer sound business. In English, that means I sold stereo equipment (to stores, not to end users). I had a sample CD player before CD’s were available in the US - we just had whatever demo CD the manufacturer included. I think I had Jun Fukumashi Plays Gershwin. And what are we seeing now? A resurgence in vinyl. Why? Because at its best, it still sounds better. CD’s were introduced in the US over 35 years ago, that technology is largely replaced by MP3’s and such, and yet the best available consumer format is Vinyl?? (I can, incidentally, explain why if anyone cares.)
People will tell you about the exponentially increasing speed of change. I don’t buy it. I think my life in 2018 looks a whole lot more my life in 1978 than my parents’ lives in 1978 looked like their lives in 1938. Suburbs, shopping malls, air conditioning in houses and cars, seat belts in cars, FM radio, color television, pretty good home music systems and studio recordings (Abbey Road does not sound dated from a technology standpoint), rock n roll (including synthesized instruments), interstate highways, jet airlines, color photographs, a lot of what we buy made in Asia, telephones in every home, a large portion of the population college educated, etc. Even a lot of social mores had shifted: civil rights and feminism were way closer to today than to 1938, and the LBTGQ community had at least begun its transformation toward more general acceptance. Sure there are significant differences between now and 1978, particularly in computerization and its ramifications, but the computer was actually invented (Turing’s version) between 1938 and 1978 and a lot of fields were using computers by 1978, plus the bare beginnings of the internet had already started with computer to computer communications taking place between college campuses.
I can’t tell you why this is, except that I guess change meets needs and, once technology got good enough, radical innovation became less of an imperative. There’s probably a sociological study to be made in here somewhere, though it probably has been made and I just don’t know about it.