As far as I can tell, human endeavor most closely resembles a neverending staircase. All I know is that people constantly talk about "taking it to the next level." But they never seem to be satisfied with the next level once they get there, once again needing to take it to the next level. This appears to go on for infinity.
I mentioned a turntable on Sunday, and now I wish I'd done the whole post on turntables, because that topic seemed to draw the most lively and interested comments. For the turntable skeptics out there, this is my comebacker. True, I do 95% of my music listening from files on the computer; but the other 5% is vinyl, and if that 5% were to be subtracted from my life it would leave a terrible hole. For the turntable is indisputably superior. I'm about to tell you why.
It's because if you listen to music files or CDs, then you can't spend $300 on this:
What is it? It's a Fozgometer, of course. And what does a Fozgometer do? It measures azimuth, naturally.
And what is azimuth? Well, picture an ocean liner. It's moving forward in a straight line, but it's not perfectly level—it's listing to one side or the other. Or (gasp!) first one side, then the other. The same orientation or movement when applied to the phono cartridge at the end of the tonearm is called azimuth.
(Here's a visual explanation—azimuth setup starts at 3:33. Metaphor torturing begins at 4:04.)
After discovering the Fozgometer (online, I mean—I do not own one), I encountered the following apparently perfectly straightforward review:
| 5 Stars
|The Fozgometer is the most precise method for setting azimuth that I have found.|
...Indicating, logically, that Ed has searched for, and found, other methods for setting azimuth...all of which were inferior to the Fozgometer. Well, at least at the time he wrote his review. Did his search continue thereafter, for an even more precise method? I would love to know...while guessing that Ed is already a very happy man.
I rest my case. Truly, as was so aptly said in the late 1980s (i.e., well into the era of the CD) by one audio writer whose name is lost to history but whose words live on: "A CD player is just a CD player, but a turntable is a toy forever."
There is just no end to the toy potential of a turntable and vinyl records. You can always take it to the next level. It is a staircase to the clouds—and beyond.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Bob Cook: "Wow, just wow. Here I am listening to music in a live setting, either because I'm playing as part of a group, or attending a performance. All the time without the ability to measure or set my azimuth. Or, er, your azimuth. Or maybe their azimuths. Is there even a plural for azimuth?Is there a support group for azimuth-deprived people like me?"
Mike replies: No, but there is an antidote. Get yourself a turntable! :-)
JG: "You don't want to know how much time and effort I would put into aligning phono cartridges and properly setting up turntables when I worked for the late HP [Harry Pearson, founding editor of The Absolute Sound magazine —Ed.] back in the 80s. Given the scale of movement that's involved with a vinyl groove pushing a highly polished but microscopic piece of gemstone around, literally everything makes an audible difference. And I do mean everything...at times, it was a nightmare! But when everything was working together, the sonic rewards were glorious!"
Michael: "Thanks for that, Mike. With your illuminating OT pieces on audio equipment, cars, and pool tables you entertain me hugely, plus you reassure me that my photography habit is on the mild side of Gear Obsession. Whew. What a relief. Thank you thank you."
Marcin Wuu: "Whenever I'm recommending music to my audiophile friend, the first question he asks is always: 'is it available on vinyl?' And if it isn't (which is a rare case I admit—these days everything is available on vinyl, usually made in Japan, which I'm told is the best), he won't listen to it. Just like that. Blows my mind."
Paul Richardson: "I come from the vinyl era, and still have many, many albums. What I'd like to know is what it would cost to get a decent turntable these days: one that isn't over the top, but that I won't immediately want to upgrade. Not state of the art, but not junk either. It isn't at all clear to me, the way it was forty years ago."
Mike replies: I'd look to Music Hall. No need to get their top models—for that kind of money you'd have to do a lot of comparison shopping by listening—but the MMF 2.3 comes with a cartridge and sounds surprisingly alive. I owned a predecessor model and always liked it. The MMF 5.1SE is attractive and a great all-rounder and still not terribly expensive when you consider that the cartridge is included.
Avoid the ~$3–400 automatic 'tables sold in various guises under old names like Thorens, Teac, and Marantz. (They probably all come from the same Far East factory.) The problem isn't so much that they're junky, which they kind of are, but that they don't bring much analog goodness to the table. Sort of flat and lifeless, so why bother?
I've owned Regas but I don't like them that much so I don't tend to recommend them. But others love them so you might too.
If you buy off Ebay, count on having to buy about three turntables to get one. They'll arrived damaged or broken because everyone says they know how to pack 'em right but not everybody does, or you won't be able to get a part you need, or they just won't sound good because something isn't right. I know whereof I speak. (My turntable is an Ebay special from the '80s.) You can get decent turntables from Ebay; it's just a crapshoot is all. You never know how much money you'll have to throw at it in order to come out a winner.
A safer solution for buying used is to buy from specialist restorers such as Dave at Vinyl Nirvana, Malcolm at Doctor Dual, or Pat at Pat Leaver.
Al C.: "As every certified gearhead knows, a piece of gear is defined by its putzability. The more physical, mechanical, putzable, the better. Hence cars of a certain vintage and dial-festooned cameras—all objects of desire for gearheads. In audiodom nothing beats the turntable—more specifically, that thing of physical beauty (redolent with the beauty of physics): the tonearm. And nothing is worse than digital black boxes. Pixel-peeping is tiresome. It's too easy. Anybody can do it. Sound-peeping is nigh impossible, because it relies on auditory memory, which is fleeting and utterly unreliable, not to mention highly susceptible to suggestions. That is why true audiophiles do not peep. We—to paraphrase Mike—torture metaphors instead."
Anthony Shaughnessy: "With digital music isn't it all about playing with software—codecs, etc.—which is far more interesting to a certain class of nerd person."
GKFroehlich: "Re: '...indisputably...': 'You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.' —Inigo Montoya."