The Conion C-100F is a Japanese made Stereo 4-band FM/AM Tuner, Double Cassette Recorder Boombox. At nearly 30” wide, 16” tall, 8” deep and weighing 22lbs, this is a boombox of gargantuan size, with booming sonics, and dripping with deliciously gaudy ‘80s swag.
Produced in the early 1980’s by a sub-company of the Coney Onkyo Corporation of Japan, the C-100F has been seen on (or in) everything from album covers, to music videos, and more recently — clothing. During the early ’80s, when the Conion C-100F the absolute business on the streets, they retailed for a cold $475 USD. Ouch!
Adjusting for inflation, that nearly half-a-grand street price brings us to just over $1,500 USD in 2018 money. Double Ouch! Many versions of this Conion boombox were sold in the world market under various brand names. Most notably the Clairtone 7980 (also made in Japan). Other variant models were manufactured in Korea and sold in Asian markets, but aren’t worth mentioning as they lacked so many of the groundbreaking features that made the Conion C-100F special.
One of the many features that made the the Conion C-100F so groundbreaking and a true sign of the times, was that the C-100F was the first boombox to include a built-in security system. The Security System utilizes an infrared proximity sensor installed on the front of the unit, nestled between the LED volume meters. Another innovative feature for the time, the C-100F’s two stereo modes: normal and wide. The wide stereo mode redirects a minimally delayed signal of each channel into the other. This simple process produces a unique reverb effect, claimed by Conion to simulate the sounds coming from a much larger scale of system. The C-100F feature (or technology) that really became quite the norm through the ‘80s and ‘90s was Conion’s MSSI (Music Start Search Installation) function which repeats or quickly finds any desired track stored on analog cassette tape, though this feature is only available through the lower cassette deck.
On the more normal side of things, the C-100F featured a three-way speaker complement, with two 8” woofers (5.4-ohm) supporting the low end. Amplifier power is sourced from either D-Cell batteries or AC power, and is rated at 45 watts per channel in total output (RMS 30 watts) at whopping 10% total harmonic distortion (THD). Not ideal by today’s standards, but for the time — par for the course.
“The best part was the surreptitious [cassette storage tray] ‘stash’ for umm…cassettes.” — David Blumenstein
The usual tone controls are present and accounted for: a single bass and treble knob, each tuned to boost or cut the frequency band in either direction up to 8-dB. Also included is a preset Loudness switch that automatically reshapes the factory equalization curve to boost frequencies specifically at 100 hz by 6-dB, and 10 kHz by 4-dB. This Loudness feature, though adding a well needed liveliness to the sound, reduces battery life and maximizes distortion levels at almost any volume. Many little LED lights and indicators adorn this machines front fascia. The rear of the boombox contains only a rabbit-ear style set of antennas, an external UHF antenna terminal, along with a few extra analog inputs and input mode switches.
The C-100F includes four primary audio sources; Tuner (AM, FM, and two for shortwave), RCA Auxiliary and Moving Magnet Phono-Stage — yet they are combined into one set of RCA jacks on the rear of the unit. A single switch is used to select between the two Auxiliary and Phono modes. Finally, two Cassette Tape decks: the lower with soft-touch keys, full auto-stop, and the ability to record; the upper is horizontally-loaded and only features an auto-reverse function. Both tape decks have the same frequency specs of 100-10,000 Hz when using Normal tape, 100-12,500 Hz when using Chrome tape, and 100-14,000 Hz when using Metal tape. On the down side, sound quality from the upper deck suffers greatly as its Wow & Flutter rating is stated at 0.2% WRMS, while the lower deck is rated at only 0.09%.
Using the Hilton lobby at Capital Audiofest as our “listening room”, we were surprised at how well the C-100F performed using tape as a source. Distortion was perceivable, but not a deal-breaker considering the active tone contours doing their job to make the musical signal weighty and enjoyable.
As we pushed the Conion machine towards its SPL limits, the expected grain and distortion ratio did not exceed our welcome. It is likely, the model we had on hand was running on a fresh set of Alkaline D batteries (10 cells in total). Or better yet, possibly a more advanced battery chemistry that brings the C-100F up to new power ratings initially unexpected. Any way you slice it, the C-100F remained ruler of the block.