Thursday, November 5, 2009

Spoooky Speakers - Criterion 200A

Criterion 200A loudspeakers - A Ghost Story

I usually pass on mediocre speakers when I find them, especially ones without a strong positive or negative legacy. That being said, I found myself in a particular state of resale weakness brought on by a combination of hunger, boredom, and impatience while waiting for my wife to finish shopping next door at Ross. Yes, the Goodwill shelves were overflowing with Halloween paraphrenalia, but I couldn't be distracted by plastic bats and witch costumes as I was headed to the back wall - my usual haunt, the electronics section.

Every great once in a while I'll find something here, my BIC Venture Formula Six speakers come to mind. Picked up the pair for six dollars, just slightly less than the equivalent value of the gas it took to haul the hefty hulks home. On this occasion though, there were no treasures, only a pair of surprisingly-well kept pair of Criterion 200A loudspeakers for, gasp, $5.

To deny that this was an impulse purchase would be a shameful journalistic betise. Sometimes you just have to buy speakers - if you're a gear collector, you know exactly what I mean. Alcoholics can't pass a bar without stopping for a drink, audioholics can't pass a thrift store without buying speakers - same difference. In fact, the $5 was worth the excitement of plugging them into my garage receiver, turning the volume knob up slowly, and breathlessly waiting for the intoxicating, embrionic timbrals of acoustic energy to seep from beneath the grill cloth.

Wait a tick - no sound? Just a little more volume, still smiling. . .a little static, some faint rumblings, a little more volume, some screeching sounds, more rumbling, a sound like a cat being skinned alive, not smiling any more. . .the sound of a machine gun being fed into a garbage disposal, a moan, and finally something that sounded like an espresso machine exploding. . . I turned the volume down, brought both speakers off the work bench and placed them in my trunk. Drove directly back to Goodwill, and took advantage of the seven day return policy.

I told the clerk the speakers didn't work and she looked up at me, smiled and said "Oh, okay, we'll recycle them." But the very next day, Halloween, in fact, as I walked with my daughter through the isles in search of a plastic pumpkin to put her treats in, there they were. In exactly the same spot along the back wall, flanked by stacks of VCRs and early 80s black-faced AV receivers, a veritable graveyard of fetid, decrepid technology, the speakers stood there mocking me. I almost said something to one of the sales associates, but they were all in costume, and I've always had a hard time disucssing serious matters with anyone wearing a rainbow wig and glitter lip gloss on their eyebrows. The store is spooky enough without all that, and after all, the clerk told me the truth - they DID recycle them.

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