Gijs Bakker

This is a portfolio/blog of Gijs Bakker, UX (interaction and UI) designer from Amsterdam.
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Retro audio gear design

I’m a fan of the designs of some of the retro hifi audio equipment like amplifiers and turntables and portable gear like ghettoblasters and walkmans, especially those dating from the late 70s till the late 80s.

The equipment often featured sharp lines, a light or dark grey metal or plastic casing en lots of knobs, dials, switches.
A good example is this portable radio/cassetteplayer from Akai, which can be considered a medium sized boombox. It looks somewhat like a character from Transformers.

Portable radio/cassetteplayer (ghettoblaster/boombox) from Akai with the carrying handle collapsed

Portable radio/cassetteplayer (ghettoblaster/boombox) from Akai with the carrying handle collapsed

Notice the grey casing, analog counter, shiny knobs and LED meters. The speaker grill is a typical design feature from that period.

One of the earlier Sony walkmans (left) and a more high-end model on the right

One of the earlier Sony walkmans (left) and a more high-end model on the right

The early walkmans from Sony appear to be much more solid that the ones from the 90s (the black plastic round-cornered ones) I still remember the auto-reverse option which meant that you could switch from side A to B without having to physically eject and flip the tape. And I should also mention Megabass, the fancy name given for the loudness boost.

A Technics SL-1200 turntable

A Technics SL-1200 turntable

The Technics SL-1200 is a turntable series first produced in 1972. Technics kept manufacturing them for 28 years with the production ending in 2010. It hasn’t changed many of its distinct looks in all those years and is still favoured by many DJ’s.

Pioneer SA-3000 integrated amplifier from 1972

Pioneer SA-3000 integrated amplifier from 1972

I spotted this integrated amplifier from Pioneer in a second-hand store. I learned that it dated back to 1972. I was reluctant to buy it because I wasn’t able to test it and on top of that, a few switches were heavily bend. I like the shiny polished silver finish and the fact that there is no plastic of any kind on the casing. It also felt solid; heavy turning knobs and switches that sprung securely in position. I actually regret not buying it.

AKG K340 headphones. These were sold for $300 dollars in the 80s

AKG K340 headphones. These were sold for $300 dollars in the 80s

The small in-ear headphone buds may be our first choice when commuting between home and school or work, but big earmuffing headphones remain a must for many audiophiles. They have always existed in a variety of models, levels of build and sound quality and above all – different prices. Some headphones used to cost – and still cost – a fortune. The pictured AKG K340 headphones for example cost $300, which wasn’t very cheap in the eighties.

Two early Sony Discmans

Two early Sony Discmans

For years I’ve carried a Discman around, along with a small cd-case which could contain about 16 shiny discs. I kept on using it even with faded, busted controls, a damaged casing and a rubber band to keep the lid closed. Although mine was a late 90s model, I’ve displayed the first Discman by Sony, a D-50 from 1984 and the D-212 a slimmer 80s model. Actually, the term ‘Discman’ wasn’t given to the first models, they were simply dubbed ‘CD compact player’.

A Jamo Compact 120 in white and a Jamo Compact 90 in black

A Jamo Compact 120 in white and a Jamo Compact 90 in black

The Compact series from Jamo was a line of speakers with distinct features. They were available in black and white and unlike other consumer speakers, they didn’t have a cloth front to conceal the speaker units. Instead, the units were part of the design. Having a set of damaged black Compact 70′s myself, I have to say that the sound quality is not that great, so for a while I only used them as little tables, just for the looks.

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