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Sunday, 08 May 2016


"The two things that really drew me to film were the expense and the inconvenience."

I never seem to be able to support two hobbies at once. Photography and Audio are fighting it out as I write, over space in the den where my SX-1250, PL-570 and HPM 100's have been living. My new printer demands it take over the entire room however and the audio rack is disconnected at the entrance to the den-wife keeps asking "what is going to happen to this stuff". Good question. Maybe a good problem to have. I can put the equipment in the space I have for Vinyl, but then where does the vinyl go? Guess I'm fortunate to have the problem, but it is quite vexing.

By the way I was recently dragged a friend on a 100 mile journey to look at turntables. I wanted a Pioneer to match the SX-1250 and HPM-100's. The one we went to look at was there but sold. He said, oh Hell, I've got one of those in the basement-you can have it. Some things do work out-it is pristine. In your spare time could you please start a vintage audio blog? (Just kidding-kind of)

I also play vinyl in my studio all day... I have a Thorens TD 206 with a Grado Sonata 2 Cartridge and I love the sound and the process--- having to get up from the computer every 20 min or so to flip an album is a great way to prevent repetitive stress injury and gives your eyes a bit of a much needed break!!!

I also play for my students and visitors to the studio the same song as a: MP3, CD, FLAC file and then an album(usually some jazz) and everyone and I do my everyone I have done the experiment for has preferred the vinyl.

Cheers- Steve

While I have spent a lot of time snarking about turntables, I still own one and use it from time to time. But, I don't have a stereo, per se, anymore. Just powered speakers that through an Airport Express via Airplay, Apple's wifi music playing system.

So a while back I posted an article on my much more humble web site about how to hook a TT to your Mac so have the Mac capture the signal and relay it to Airplay.


For some reason this is BY FAR the most read page on my site, at least if you believe the google stats. It must come up in google searches or something. But who knows why.

I enjoy your hi-fi posts. Keep 'em coming. I'd love to venture back into vinyl, but the expense and inconvenience outweigh desire. ... I've been getting along well enough with my tiny NAD D 3020 Hybrid Digital Amplifier, fullrange Audio Nirvana Super 8 alnico speakers, and DIY powered subwoofer. ... I miss my tube setup, especially when I listen to Diana Krall and Melody Gardot. Oh well.

Most digitalists will never even make the slightest effort to understand it, but for some people setting up a turntable and playing vinyl records is not an inconvenience. Just like for some it's not inconvenient to expose, develop and enlarge film. Those are hobbies, and people who keep hobbies do it for fun.
I did lots of experiences in my stint as an audiophile. I built my own tables and supports, fiddled with cables, messed with room acoustics, and so on. Sometimes I got good results from my experiences, sometimes I didn't. Do I regret the time I spent with the unsuccessful ones? No. I had fun. Not as much as going out with friends and getting drunk (back in the day and age when that was still socially acceptable and part of fraternizing), but fun nonetheless. Even now I have some fun when I need to align a cartridge. (Of course, I have a protractor and a stylus gauge for aligning cartridges.) Convenience and instant gratification are not part of my vocabulary when it comes to my hobbies.
Convenience is what you expect when you use a computer professionally, as I do. In my case there's just no time and patience to fiddle with configurations, sound cards and peripherals: what I want is that the whole thing works reliably without any fuss (which isn't easy when a Windows-based computer is in use). But that's because I have to deliver results. With my hobbies, however, there's no such pressure; I keep them to enjoy myself and relax. I don't mind getting up the chair to turn an LP and I won't die if I wait for my negatives to be developed and scanned.
I'm nonetheless a practical man; if I were a music critic who needed to write reviews everyday, I'd be listening to digital files; if I were a professional photographer, I'd use digital cameras. Digitalists, however, get all defensive when the topic is anything analogue and come up with absurd analogies, like invoking steam trains and tall ships. I wonder why. Is it so inconceivable for them that someone just wants to spend some quality time with a hobby?
As for me, I feel sorry if you feel the need to cease writing about turntables. They can be things of beauty and some sound great. And they make for some interesting readings.

I know what a Shure M97xe is, and I do care, because vinyl rules.

And yes, I do prefer full manua! ;-)

Here's my main turntable squeeze: Gyro SE MkII, SME V arm and Koetsu Urushi Vermilion moving coil cartridge (or as the Brits say, pickup).

That cartoon is wonderfully funny because of just how accurately it depicts the crazy world of vinyl. Here's a pic of setting up my Koetsu in my special, German-engineered, of course, Uni-Protractor.
Love the "inconvenience", LOL.

Word of caution, stay away from Gerrard 301 restoration projects!

Mike, you should really go back to shooting film, the same comic will apply.

A picky point: the "famous old cartoon" is less than a year old. It's from the May 25, 2015 issue of the New Yorker. You can even buy a print, here:

You'll definitely need one of these Mike.

One thing I love about turntables is how visible and mechanical everything is.

On my Thorens, the anti-skate control is just a bit of fine nylon thread attached to a weight that can be moved backward and forward to add more or less pull against the tonearm.

And to change the turntable speed from 33 1/3 to 45, I lift off the platter and slip the belt from one pulley to another.

So very mechanical!

Turntable posts always welcome Mike, much better than sport!

Glad to hear you're done with turntables because my 25 year old speakers are on the fritz. I'd love to see a blog post about a pair of sub-$1000 speakers. C'mon, you know you want to...

Nope, no exasperation here. I'll just keep my LP12 going. 25 years old, upgraded, better then ever.

Four of those Shure M97xe's are left at Amazon for $99 apiece. Just an FYI. Mike, you're an analog guy who is lucky to have at least found a way in a digital world.

Developing and contact-printing film was always an inconvenience for me, going back to 1968 (before that, paying somebody else to do it was an inconvenience :-) ).

Similarly for putting disks on the turntable; it's a lot more trouble than putting in a tape or a CD or picking a file on the server.

My hobby is not developing film, it's taking pictures. I don't especially enjoy "playing records", I like to listen to music.

(There is nothing at all wrong with having a hobby of "darkroom work", "shooting with classic cameras", or "playing records", of course! And "restoring turntables" is especially praiseworthy, since I'm a sucker for people who take the trouble to learn how to restore old stuff.)

You just cannot stop writing about turntables without giving the Linn LP12 its due. It's still a/the classic, it's still in the game, and it still sounds "more fun" and "more 3D" than digital.

But I love digital now, too, because we have things like the Uptone Regen and the Wyred 4 Sound Remedy to clean up the jitter-bugs. Bonus: This way, digital audio can be just as expensive or more than analog/vinyl!

Nonetheless, TOP wouldn't be the same without occasional forays into billiards, audio, autos, and coffee. Keep 'em coming.

I wonder if anyone will ever put a quarter on that tonearm so it won't go flying off when it encounters a big old seed crater. If not this baby will never be able to face up to my vintage copy of Earl Scruggs Review Live at K State. I swear it was that way when it was given to me.

A Shinola employee in Venice, CA just told me that their next products will be audio components including a turntable. Do you know Shinola? http://www.shinola.com/

To me Photography and music is part of the same hobby - escape from everyday chores and life's unpleasantries. Sadly they both require investing in expensive tools and equipment.

I still use my 1981 Technics SL-10 fully automatic turntable, although I've replaced every other component in my hi-fi system. I've never undesrstood why direct drive isn't as "audophile" as a belt driven turntable, but I'm really not wealthy enough to care as high end gear is out of my price range, in music as in photography.

I know I'd love to own Wilson Audio speakers and Leica cameras, but I also know that the improvement in quality over what I've got is marginal. In the end content is king, and the technical excellence of the equipment doesn't trump the artistic qualities of the pictures and music. Son House and Robert Johnson can still make my jaw drop to the floor, even though the sound quality of their recordings are abysmal. Same goes for the old masters. Adams, Cartier-Bresson, Ewans et al. made excellent fuzzy low resolution pictures, with equipment most photographers today wold regard as junk, image quality wise.

Funny thing, whenever you post about new cameras I never want, but whenever you post about record players I think about upgrading and the very least buying a new album...No more talk about turntables could seriously dent my record collection and that would be a shame.
I would miss the odd Hi-Fi post.

Keep the audio and turntable posts coming Mike. I enjoy them.

Still have my Yamaha CA-610 II amp, Yamaha YP-D71 turntable, and JBL L-50 speakers from college days as well. Got back into vinyl a few years ago but stopped when prices began to soar at thrift shops when hipsters thought it was cool. I refinished and refoamed the L-50's, so if you still have your "vintage" speakers and are handy, don't toss, refoam!

From the analog audio era I do miss reel tape. My dad owned a 1/4" stereo machine when I was a kid, and when I took up electric guitar I figured out how to get slapback tape echo with it. Much fun! Listening to long classical pieces without needing to stop partway through & flip discs: very nice.

I do not miss vinyl. Not one teensy bit. My enjoyment of certain songs is still scarred by the pops & clicks burned into my auditory memory by years of listening to scratched or poorly pressed LPs & 45s. Blecchh!

Last week Moog released a digital (iOS) version of their Model 15 analog modular synth system. It's way, way cool! And finally brings "knobs" with proper inertial behavior into the tablet/smartphone realm. Over the weekend I recorded myself noodling around with some of its default patches (programmed sounds) with my iPad hooked up to a 23 year old Tascam 4-track Portastudio. Maxell C-90s, baby!


More posts about turntables and hi-fi, I say. I've been dipping my toes into audophile forums recently - with a vague view to upgrading some part of my vinyl playing system - and have found it a surprisingly impenetrable world (I speak as one who has spent far, far too much time discussing niche-interest guitars, guitar amps and boutique effects pedals online).

A bit late to this one, but Mikio Hasui is quite a accomplished Japanese photographer, who certainly likes his audio too. Try not to drool over his gear both audio and analogue too much.

Here is a link to an interview on a favourite site I love to visit.
http://www.freundevonfreunden.com/interviews/mikio-hasui/ where you also get to see his darkroom set up.
Well worth a look.

While I largely agree and have felt/experienced the indescribable joy of music on less-than audiophile equipment, I would assert that the same joy is truly amplified by, maybe a few, orders of magnitude (for me, anyway) when the content is reproduced on a system that has the kind of "magic" that makes you want to listen to every recording in your collection, right NOW. It happens (...right now as a matter of fact). Unfortunately, this pretty much never happens with photography although I do have a strong preference for viewing chromes (slide film) on a good light table vs. my monitors. Chromes viewed thru a good loupe--that's a visual treat.

@Neilclasper -
Trust your ears and your heart. Try to turn your head off. To hijack former National Geographic photographer Sam Abell, "I know when I'm in the presence of great [audio]."

When I was a young photographer, I struggled to understand what Abell meant by this regarding photographs. Now I know, and I know what it means in audio too. That said, I doubt it translates directly for other people. In audio, it's pace, rhythm, and timing. It's detail and effortlessness. It's the sound around the "signal;" a sonic gestalt of sorts.

And, only you can define it for yourself. You'll know it when you teach yourself/learn to hear/recognize it.

Hope this helps!

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