Built-in 1980s-style media participant and stereo energy amplifier | by Peter Wurmsdobler | The shadow | April 2021
Integrated media player and stereo power amplifier with vacuum fluorescent display (VFD).
The reference for listening to music must and can only be a life performance, be it classical music, jazz, rock or pop. If this does not succeed, especially at times when we are supposed to stay at home due to a pandemic, a certain amount of technology is required to bring the concert experience from a corresponding available recording to an acceptable level of fidelity (also known as high fidelity). Today, the electronics in cell phones and suitable headphones are likely good enough to play any decent recording with acceptable fidelity, even if it is most likely compressed and streamed. However, the listening experience remains lonely and allows people to live in their own bubble, separate from the rest of the world.
In contrast, in the 1980s, with the advent of digital recording and the availability of CD players, some devices were required to play music with reasonable fidelity: special turntables or CD players with oversampling, preamplifiers, separate power amplifiers, large speakers , special precautions for room acoustics, etc. what you call it. I liked going to so-called hi-end fairs, where the latest audio equipment was presented and you could experience the difference that good audio equipment can make. However, there is a risk of intruding into the area of snake oil, as some of the touted features are only present in the imagination of all those involved and have no technical or scientific substance.
Is there still a demand for a listening experience in a quiet room? You don’t wear headphones, but just sit on a comfortable chair in front of a stereo system and appreciate a symphony, a piano concerto, a string quartet or a piece of music that you like? I believe there is; But what about the audio equipment you need? With the advancement in electronics development and the availability of music that is high definition streaming service, much less equipment is required these days. Aside from a quiet room with suitable acoustics and some time, a couple of decent speakers are still needed. The latter convert electrical waves and current into audible sound paths and are critical to any high-fidelity conversion. The missing link is a simple device that connects the extensive music source to these speakers.
10 years ago I realized that there was a missing link for those who love listening to music with proper speakers but accept streaming music by getting rid of tangible “medium” like CDs (the clue is in the Word “Medium”, that is just a means to convey music in bits). So I started building a media streamer and stereo power amplifier that would be as compact as possible if they had high fidelity features. One feature of this musical device that I still insisted on and that was reminiscent of the 1980s was a display that showed performers, composers, pieces and movements, and the elapsed time on a vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) with a font, large enough to read the text from 3 meters away while you sit in a comfortable chair and listen. You no longer need to view as your smartphone or tablet should be looking for music. It also makes no sense to use a high-resolution display on the player, as you would not sit half a meter away while listening. After starting up, put your phone aside and enjoy the music. Most importantly, the listening experience can be shared with your friends and family.
A prototype was built and looked good. Due to the family commitment and the participation in two start-ups, however, all components were put in a box and stored in the shed. The project stayed dormant for 10 years. During the lockdown, I was finally able to find time to take components out of the shed and build the new integrated media streamer and stereo power amplifier called Eumeles. It runs Mopidy with an extension to control the VFD and can be controlled via a mobile app or a web browser:
Mopidy / Musicbox browser interface for Eumeles Integrated Media Player & Amplifier.
Further information can be found at http://eumeles.wurmsdobler.org/integratedoverview.html