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Aiwa CS-210 Boombox
I visited a local thrift store just to browse the other day. We have a pretty intense thrifting culture here in Seattle, so interesting finds are rare. Still, I enjoy walking the aisles. Just being surrounded by older stuff puts me in a good mood.
While checking out some rather modern poorly built LCD television, I spotted something retro and familiar tucked away between the TVs. It was an old friend I haven’t seen in decades, an Aiwa CS-210 Boombox.
This was the second boombox I ever owned and the first one I bought with my own money after finding it at a moving sale near my family’s home back in the Eighties.
Clean Up and “Restoration”
When I started to inspect it at the store, a worker at the store came by and said, “It’s really nice, huh? Shame it doesn’t work.”
That didn’t dissuade me right away, but it did push me to check it out further. So with the AC cord that it had wrapped around it, I went and found a working outlet and plugged it in.
So I went to the rack of cords and adapters and started digging. They had one other cord that would work with the system. When I took that over to the outlet and attached it, a crisp blast of sound in perfect stereo issues from these decades-old speakers. I was thrilled.
Someone had obviously had tried to test out the cassette player before me because they left the tape inside. When I hit play, the comforting tones of Patsy Cline played perfectly. I was almost sold but continued the visual inspection.
Everything looked great until I opened the battery compartment. It was a corroded mess, filled with battery pieces and dust. That was ugly but I had seen worse. So I brought it up to the counter and purchased it and the Patsy Kline tape.
When I got home, I put on a pair of latex gloves and wrangled up all the dust and battery bits for proper disposal. Then I went and got a soft toothbrush and dry scrubbed the compartment. Corrosion was visible but not as bad as it first looked. So I grabbed 6 C batteries and popped them in.
Sadly nothing happened.
I took the batteries out and applied some electronic cleaner to the contacts and cleaned things up some more. Using a firmer brush and some elbow grease, I was able to get things looking shiny and new. So I put the batteries in again and still no sound.
Now it would be okay if I could only run this while plugged in, but the boombox experience is always better with batteries. So my next step would be to open it up and look around.
Then I remembered something I had read once about how when the plug is in the system, it has the ability to cut off the batteries. So before I opened it up, I decided to apply some cleaner and do my best to clean up the AC plug connector.
Much to my surprise, this worked! I had a fully functioning retro boombox that worked properly and with minimal work. Now came the fun part, the cleanup.
I started with just some warm water and a clean cloth. This thing was dirty. The first cloth was completely black after 5 minutes. Slowly but surely though each subsequent cloth started to get less and less dirty until it was starting to look pretty clean to the naked eye. Then I went and did some detailing. Using cotton swabs to get into the nooks.
It has some scratches and permanent dings, but for something over 30 years old, it has held up nicely.
About the Aiwa CS-210
The Aiwa CS-210 hit shelves back in 1983 and I have seen it priced between $69 and $99. Here is how it was described by Aiwa in a print ad from the time,
Taking stereo sound with you is now easier than ever — just take the CS-210. Its versatile design makes it simple to use indoors or out with plety of output power for the wide open spaces. Like to make your own recordings. The built-in condenser microphone make live easy — with no cords or external microphones to get in the way. And you can record FM in stereo or AM broadcasts right from the radio. Either way, ALC circuitry takes the bother out of recording level setting. So all you do is get on with the music.
A few of you are looking at the photos and saying, “that boombox looks awfully small.” You are correct, it’s not a big system. Its speakers are just about 4 inches and the full unit is just 17.5″ x 5.8″ x 3.5″. Despite this small size, it packs some nice sound and has a good selection of features.
The radio sounds great. In addition to very clear FM/AM reception, this radio also picks up shortwave. I took it outside the last two nights in hopes that I would hear something good, but outside of the normal amusing sci-fi sounds you get from shortwave, I didn’t hear a thing. But I will keep trying.
The tuner knob is good-sized and allows for some delicate dial walking. It was a nice surprise how small movements not only influenced the tuning but stuck. Add to that tone control and a stereo/mono switch and you have a lot of control over your sound.
The recording features are nice and still work well. Voice was a bit distant sounding using the condenser mic, but the sound recorded on the radio was solid.
The cassette deck is pretty basic. Sadly no chrome or metal tape settings, but it does have auto-stop.
The stereo headphone jack is a nice touch for a boombox. This one was a bit wobbly at first, but after a little cleaning, it started working well.
Finally, you have Audio Aux connection terminals on the top of the boombox. That way you could, with the proper cable, hook up your CS-210 to use its speakers for another device. I guess this might be useful if you had a turntable back in 1983 and needed some speakers? Otherwise, I am not sure why they added this. Still kind of a fun option to have.
A Solid Purchase
I am thrilled to have the CS-210 back in my life. When I was younger it was a constant companion around the house. To own one again and have it in perfect working order again takes me back to my childhood in unexpected ways.
Much like me, my CS-210 was a homebody. So you might not see me walking down the street with it pressed to the side of my head, but this mini-boombox is going to get a workout around the house. And who knows, maybe if I have to wash the car or have a day planned on the beach, I will throw in some batteries and take it out to see the world.