Time: Saturday. Weather: some drizzle, clouds, occasional patches of sun which have increased over the last half an hour. I didn't go flying; Rob and others had a quick wet sleddie last I heard. Instead I rediscovered how sweet sounding (and full of grace) ancient analog audio gear can be.
I have a Silver-age Pioneer SA-5300 amp (date of manufacture on mine is Jan 1976!) which I bought for about $50 on ebay three years ago. It had some scratchiness in some controls which I got rid of with WD40 and now it's great, I love the thing. It can drive up to two sets of speakers but on the downside it has only 3 line inputs (plus one phono). For that reason I've had it in the bedroom, driving trashy 4ohm speakers and sourcing from my discman and an Akai AT-K02 tuner (mid-80s but silver, too).
I also have a piece-of-shit Sony surround box with overly many blinkenlights but not enough functionality, just enough inputs (but a castrated remote control) and its 60-cd-changer has gone fritz recently. In short, it sucks, and I've been thinking about moving the Pioneer into the living room, but I need 4 inputs: media beast, tuner, dvd player and telly.
Now, it is fairly trivial to build a circuit that converts to phono, but as phono has a nastily low signal level it doesn't make much sense to take a Proper Signal, (lossily) massage it down to phono and then have the box unmassage it (lossily) once more. But this is analog gear - rip into it!
So I took it apart and started cleaning up a bit. Ah, quality: all signal wires are wound around posts and then soldered down, heavy all-metal chassis with an internal frame, single-layer PCB with fat connections and so on.
That's the underside; there is only one DIL critter in there and that's in the phono/RIAA stage...the rest is all discrete transistors. The trusty multimeter, a pencil, knife and soldering iron were all it took to figure out where the RIAA stuff happens; soldered in a bridge, cut connections to the RIAA stage and that's it: the phono input is now a line-level input.
My stack of audiovisual stuff, from the top: trash, fine, fine trash, fine, homegrown trash, trash. Good enough for me, though.
(PS: I'd like to be that GCU, it would make my life easier and more fun.)