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Hear The Light

I took some old clothes and electronics (some fancy, modern stereo receivers I’ll never use) to the Goodwill drop-off this morning, and while I was there, I wandered into the store. Whenever I’m there, I wander around there to see if there are any good clothing buys, or the odd piece of cool retro artwork … or a good deal on some old camera or electronic gizmo.

Today’s score was the Sony CDP-291 CD Player from back in 1991, for which I paid a sum total of $10.60 (including tax).

While not as old/funky/cool as the Pioneer SX-450 receiver or the turntable that’s sitting downstairs waiting for it’s cartridge to arrive, it does fill the bill for a nice, simple, single CD player that’s not so old as to have a lot of things that can go wrong with it. Unlike the CDP-391 sister unit, the CDP-291 doesn’t even have a remote control!

I had my choice of the Sony, or a couple of similar-vintage Technics models, but they were both missing power cords, and the early-’90s Technics buttons always felt a little chintzy to me. There was a mid-nineties Pioneer at the Goodwill store as well, at that time, Pioneer was making a lot of plastic. The Sony had a more robust feel, if nothing else, and looked a bit nicer.

Pioneer P-D1 Compact Disc Player.
image found on Pinterest

Pioneer’s first CD player was the P-D1. At the time, in 1982, most CD players were either vertical-load models like this, or top-load “decks”. If I ever come across one of these in good working order, and at a reasonable price, I may have to have one. Currently, though, the only one I can find for sale is in Italy, and it would cost me over $1,700 to buy, and who-know-what to have it shipped here. And then, I’d have to find the parts to convert it to operate on 110V/60Hz power.

I could be wrong about this, but I believe that Pioneer was the first company to ship a “CD changer”. I do remember that their first changers used a 6-CD carrier that you’d load with CDs and then slide into a large slot in the front of the player. The mechanism would pluck the CDs from the carrier and move them over to the player tray within the unit. I remember that a friend had one, and I remember it making awful noises as it swapped CDs around. Pioneer used the same carriers in their automotive CD changers, which was relatively convenient. They also sold a couple of different large changers that held up to 100 CDs at a time.

Sony CDP-70 single CD player.
image found on Pinterest

My first CD player was a Sony CDP-70, which I received as a Christmas gift from my parents. The CDP-70 was a really simple machine. It could play a CD, and it could randomize the track order, and that was about it. At that time, I was doing a lot of DJ work, and getting the CDP-70 made me the first jock in the area to have a CD player, so it did double duty as my home CD player, and the one I took out to gigs every weekend.

Dire Straights Brothers in Arms CD cover.

Of course, the first CD to play today was Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms album, the first CD to be recorded digitally from start to finish (DDD), and it was either the first CD I bought after receiving the CDP-70, or it was one of the handful of CDs my parents gave me along with the player.

I had forgotten how amazingly detailed this recording is. In fact, listening today, I was treated to nuances I never noticed before. Produced by Mark Knopfler and Neil Dorfsman, and engineered primarily by Dorfsman, the quality of writing, performance, and production of this CD set the bar almost impossibly high for all-digital CDs to follow. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better recording since, in any genre.

Over the years, my copy has had a little bit of abuse, it seems, and there’s a little skip on the title track, which means I’ll be wanting a replacement copy. It’s $5 at Amazon, so I’ll probably just add it to the next order we place there. Interestingly enough, it’s available in an “Original Masters Recording” vinyl version, but at $70, I don’t think I necessarily need to own that, nor will I want the standard vinyl edition at almost $35. The CD will do just fine, thank you.