Giving Thanks on a Black Friday

Full disclosure: I’m not American and in Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving in early October, so it’s always strange to us up here when the holiday rolls around again from the south with its accompanying blitz of sales.

With Black Friday advertising in full-saturation mode going on for weeks already I decided to eschew a post about consumer deals and focus on the real spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday that BF (Black Friday) tailgates on like a parking-lot party gone bad after a football game.

First off, the BF moniker (culled from various sources on the Internet) originally came about in 1869 when there was a huge stock market crash following a run on gold. But, it was co-opted and became another type of Black Friday back in the ’50s when more sensible Americans starting to call into work sick on the Friday after the fourth-Thursday-in-November holiday to get a four-day weekend, and recover from all that turkey and wine.

The U.S. government officially made Thanksgiving fall on the fourth Thursday in November in 1941, ending decades of Thanksgiving falling on the last Thursday of November since Abraham Lincoln started it to begin with. If this all sounds confusing, don’t blame me, I’m just filling you in.

Now, BF has become fully and wholly taken over by corporate interests and has been enmeshed in the pre-Christmas consumer shopping frenzy that grips the world every year around this time. So, with all that said, I’m back to talking about what it is a jaded audiophile like me is thankful for this year, which isn’t 10 per cent off wireless headphones, it’s family and sharing music.

On the hunt for gear via Montreal's subway system.

It was recently my oldest daughter’s birthday so I decided it was time to give the gift of music for her new home in Montreal. I’d previously introduced her to better sound through headphones with a slow upgrade over a few years of ever-better cans, currently culminating in a pair of Beats Solo 2 (there might be a pair of Grados in her future for home use), so I figured with the headphone part covered, we’d set out on Thanksgiving to procure some vintage gear to get her up and running with a two-channel system. She wanted a vinyl front-end after living the past couple years with a Crosley and amassing a burgeoning LP collection, so off we went in search of a turntable, integrated amplifier with phono/headphone out and speakers.

Grover Neville recently wrote of his discovery at Capital AudioFest of the growing turntablist/headphone sub-genre that was gaining traction in the personal-audio space, so I was chuffed that she was on a path with an analog focus, as at 18 years of age, she is living in a digital/convenience-first world of streaming Spotify playlists on a daily basis through her Beats.

After hitting several used record stores in downtown Montreal, we finally found a shop that specialized not only in great vinyl selection AUX 33 TOURS, but also had a modest stash of refurbished vintage gear at attractive prices. After some discussion we settled on a Technics SL 220 turntable, a Sanyo 2033 receiver and Acoustic Research AR28B bookshelf loudspeakers. We got everything home to her place in the back of an Uber and proceeded to set up with a glass of wine in hand.

Selecting the kit at AUX 33 TOURS.

The look on her and her roommate’s faces when the first LP spun-up (Cat Stevens, Teaser and the Firecat) and sound came pouring forth from the little ARs into their small two-bedroom walk-up was one of the most priceless moments in my life, and I felt myself choking-up a bit at the impact the music was having on them. This was a moment I couldn’t have scripted more perfectly if I tried, and it was an utterly natural and honest response to, simply, a stereo. The gift I’d given of music to share in their home brought an American holiday’s meaning home to this Canadian.

Despite the moniker, it’s history, and its current consumer guise, there was nothing Black about this Friday for me, in fact, it was just the opposite. We spent the day sharing music and having nothing to do with online sales or shopping whatsoever. Highly recommended.

Booker's picture

Thanks for sharing this. A great reminder of what audio is all about - music! And sharing the joy of it with others :)

Martin.'s picture

I really enjoyed this personal post. It is not often we are given this type of window into someone's personal life in the audio review business. Also, what a beautiful reminder of how meaningful music is, whether or not you have TOTL gear.

jpelg's picture

Your best post to-date!

KG_Jag's picture

Excellent vintage starter starter system. It's not far off from my 1971 system I put together at 19 years old.

You might want to mention to her that placing her TT directly over the top vent of her receiver is not good for either component, especially a vintage receiver.

Rafe Arnott's picture
I think that set-up will serve her well for a number of years. She's getting a different table for both the receiver and turntable, that configuration is temporary.