Looking for a hot commodity? See if you have an old Sony (SNE) - Get Report PlayStation 1 gaming console. If you do -- and especially if it's the exact right model -- there's a large group of audiophiles who might be willing to pay up to $60 to buy it. That's assuming you don't want to keep it for yourself.
The original Sony PlayStation 32-bit gaming console, introduced in time for Christmas 1994, used CDs. Remember? Music and computer CDs were a hot commodity back then. For the record (pun intended), Sony was one of the originators of the CD, along with
When it came to music reproduction, CDs replaced vinyl LPs and cassettes, only to be replaced by horrible-sounding, over-compressed music files meant for portable use.
But the music CD hung on. A lot of them have been released in the past 25 years.
There are still music CD players available on the market. Some are inexpensive devices -- some are super-expensive, audiophile-quality playback platforms. That fancy term means they sell for thousands and thousands of dollars.
Back to the PS1. I'm guessing that some audiophiles, who were between buying/testing multi-gazillion dollar machines tried using their PlayStation 1 boxes to listen to music. Some were flabbergasted by the results.
It turns out that because of Sony's expertise in CDs, they were pretty good at making CD players as well. The PS1 is no exception.
In audiophile circles, word spread quickly. Thanks to friends and audio visionaries - Michael Lavorgna, reviewer for
. John DeVore, speaker designer extraordinaire of DeVore Fidelity and others -- fellow audiophiles started gathering up all the special PlayStation 1 boxes they could find.
These experts have found that the original PS1, model number SCPH-1001 actually sounds the best. I'm guessing that's because it came with RCA output jacks for the audio (and video too but we're discussing the device's audio qualities). That means you can use any RCA audio cable you like. Later models came with different innards as well as a proprietary output wire system that some believe is second rate.
I've tested a SCPH-1001 and a later SCPH-9001 and can honestly say they both sound really, really terrific. My new 1001 is currently having problems (more about that in a minute) so a direct comparison is not possible at the moment.
But I can say that both models sound better than they probably have any right to sound -- terrific midrange, good bass and slightly rolled-off highs. Don't just take my word for it. My friend, audiophile Art Dudley, writes in the latest
that he and his wife preferred the sound from his test PS1 to his expensive Sony component CD player. Stereophile's editor, John Atkinson, added that the PS1 didn't test very well but sounded pretty good when he heard it playing as part of an affordable hi-fi system.
Since word started to get out about the PS1's amazing audio qualities, prices have started to skyrocket. These game devices used to sell, on
, for anywhere from $10-$25 depending on the console's condition plus how many controllers and game CD discs were included in the deal.
In recent weeks, the price range has risen to $15-$30 for most PS1s -- with a huge premium for the super-desirable SCPH-1001 with the RCA output jacks. I've seen those selling for a low of $30 -- up to and over $50-$60 for perfect samples. You can tell which listings are for the SCPH-1001 -- they usually use the term "audiophile" in the title description.
The 1001 that I recently bought looks to be in perfect condition. But looks are deceiving. Despite the seller's assurances, my unit isn't playing properly (unless you turn it upside down). I think it may have suffered a fatal shock during shipping. It will be replaced. If/when you buy online, make sure you get some sort of guarantee -- and buy from a reputable seller (like I did).
The PS1 music craze may die down in the next few weeks -- but right now, these consoles are red-hot commodities. And even at the $50-$60 level they represent a sound value (another pun). If you have one already, try it. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
Gary Krakow is TheStreet.com's senior technology correspondent.