Aiwa's 1970s mini stereo in a suitcase


In the late 1970s, Aiwa produced the 22 series mini-separates stereo system. This was the classy Aiwa of the olden days, before it became a Sony subsidiary specializing in cheap gray polyethylene. The 22 was a striking product; a fully-featured, premium-grade stackable stereo component system, including tuner, cassette player, digital timer, pre-amp, power amp and goodness knows what else, all at a fraction of the size of the era's metal monsters. There were carrying cases and even furniture designed to accomodate a set. Matching speakers and a turntable were also on offer.

Best of all, the Aiwa 22 looks and sounds great. Sturdily crafted, with brushed metal faceplates and optional rackmount adapters, each component looks like a Mac Mini studded with heavy-duty knobs, lights and buttons.

If you're lucky, you might find a component or two in garage sales or thrift stores for a few bucks; on eBay, a set in good nick fetches hundreds of dollars. Successor systems of the early 1980s, such as the Aiwa 50, aren't quite as nice, though there seem to be more of them around.

Obviously, this class of system ultimately morphed into the standard low-end bookshelf systems that ruled low-end consumer audio for decades. Modern fans of the original can turn to Cambridge Audio, whose modern mini-separates include iPod docks and network audio players. As their set costs a small fortune, however, I'll be sticking with my eBay alerts ... and a slowly-growing family of ancient Aiwa 22 bits and pieces.

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  1. uh, i think u mean polystyrene, not polyethylene, which is mostly used for plastic bags…

    1. Unlikely.

      HDPE – High Density Polyethylene

      While there are several other plastics that could go into such production, like ABS, I think HDPE would be the economical choice. (Perhaps you are thinking of polypropylene?)

      On the flip side of “back in my day” syndrome a lot of these things sounded better because you didn’t have the level of integrated parts that you do today. Now you can get a 2/4 channel 20 to 50 watt amp all on a single chip. It’s “fine” and works alright, but it’s not going to hold a candle to a fairly simplistic discrete setup.

      BB is all about some DIY right, well if you can make a PCB, do some thru hole soldering, and want to build your own seriously HI-FI stereo amp I suggest checking out these books:

      I own older copies of both and they explain the how and why of everything you wanted to know about building an amplifier. (With the exception of advanced power supplies.)

      Everything from a fairly simple class A BJT setup to a monster mirror topology setup that could easily rival 99.9% of things on the market.

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  4. I got the complete National Lampoon magazine collection on dvd for Christmas. One of my favorite things is looking at the stereo ads from mid 70’s to mid 80’s. There was some really nice “consumer” hifi made during that period.

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  6. Ha! I’d forgotten about those. I had one growing up which I had inherited from my older brother after he got some monster-looking stereo. I used to love the heavy chunky knobs and all the brushed metal. Plus it sounded fucking awesome. It’s probably lurking in some closet in my parent’s home, I should look for it next time I’m there.

  7. The decline in my listening to music whenever I’m at home coincides perfectly with the decline of quality in playback systems.

    Funny how every time I see a nostalgic piece about former music systems, I recognize what I had during that time. Will I ever feel nostalgic for how “good” music sounded on an iPod?

  8. These things were awesome! My university housemate had one and it rocked many a party at our place until the cops showed up to shut us down. Something about a bunch of people dancing “No Woman, No Cry” on the roof at 3am…I dunno…

  9. I used to have one. In the late 70’s I was a U.S. Marine stationed in Japan. This fit nicely in my wall locker. Wish I could get it back. I like the retro look. I gave most of it away in the late 80’s. I distinctly remember throwing the speakers out.

  10. Classy component systems were bound to lose market share as the population ages.

    Past fifty, it’s increasingly hard to see all those control labels printed in dark gray, eight point type on a black background.

    Fortunately I have a “brushed chrome era” TEAC and Marantz setup which still works very nicely indeed.

  11. By the way, if anyone has Aiwa 22 gear they’re willing to sell me for less than the bastards on eBay, do get in touch.

  12. Personally, I just want a nice vintage turntable from this era, Aiwa or not. There were *so many* models made by every manufacturer that it’s hard to get recommendations of the “top 3 to look for” or something like that.

    1. David: Linn LP12 Sondek, Thorens TD160, Acoustic Research XR or AR. All three well-made and can be maintained with parts still available. vinylengine dot com for others and definitive discussion.

  13. Thrift stores are the way to go for turntables..if you can beat the smelly hipsters that work at them.

  14. I actually owned this system… it was awesome… and at the time expensive…

    the mini-tower cost me £400 in 1978 including the mini-rack… bought it with the backpay on my payrise after promotion out of training. The record deck cost me some £120 notes when I bought it about 6 months later… I had some mini-speakers at first that cost $40 odd notes, but got tired of the sound and splashed out for some Mission 700 full sized ones later…

    The little hatch on the top of the cassette unit was for cleaning the tape head and adjusting the tracking…

    My tape deck died some ten years later when the rubber drive band snapped and couldn’t be replaced…

    I added a CD drive in the mid eighties and that cost a ridiculous amount then…

  15. I could never afford this kind of equipment back in the day. Someone actually gave me an Aiwa tuner once, but at the time I couldn’t afford the rest of the components, and ended up selling it to a pawnshop for next to nothing–it nearly killed me.

  16. The “back in my day” syndrome for me is, I had hearing back then! Get off my lawn…

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