Spin doctor

8:06 pm : Monday, 17 September 2018  |  , , , ,

My birthday fell on the 10th of this month, and for it, my partner allowed me to spend £100 on a second-hand turntable. While that same £100 would have bought me a brand new Audio Technica AT-LP60 - a rather respectable unit too - I instead chose to go back 30 years, to a German-made classic that I owned in my teenage years. Enter the Dual CS505-2.

For £100 it is in a rather terrific condition, with an unscratched dust cover, although it does have issues that need to be ironed out. When it arrived I discovered the tonearm was loose on its vertical bearing. Taking that bit apart, I discovered that a "caged ball bearing" part was missing. We shall assume the previous owner took it apart and lost this vital ingredient, and did not have the stomach to be upfront about this when selling it. While I was able to temporarily fashion a makeshift plastic bearing from a TePe interdental brush (!) and render it operable, I will need to lay my hands on some 1mm ball bearings, some grease and a 3mm washer. The alternative would be £20 for a new tonearm and bearing assembly.

The motor and pitch control assembly also requires attention. The motor spindle itself is divided into six sprung "fingers" - a bit like an umbrella with its six sides, and these "fingers" are pushed open or sprung closed in order to regulate the effective diameter of the motor spindle, and thus the resultant RPM of the platter. One of those fingers is bent outwards, thereby affecting speed stability, and would possibly break if I tried too hard to push it back into place. Someone suggested a hack involving cotton thread, so I will try that. Otherwise it is £25 for a new motor.

Is it really worth the effort and money to bring an old turntable back into use as opposed to buying a new one? Yes, it is. New turntables that are properly made are quite pricey, and their affordable counterparts always seem to have little imperfections, like a platter that bobs up and down while turning. Choosing your own cartridge and stylus combination can also be limited with newer turntables. If you favour real quality, then you do have to look back to the golden age of turntables, when they were made with proper attention to true performance. And that is something that will NEVER come from a Crosley or a Jensen.

Music time now, and we are going back to 2007 for this song from one-man act Soapbox Story. I never realised it at the time, but the singer Will Hunt is actually the son of former ELO member Bill Hunt. All this time and I never suspected it! I also wrote a blog post about him back in 2006.

Soapbox Story - Lost And Found

Sound decision

9:46 pm : Thursday, 6 September 2018  |  , , , , ,

I have started to assemble an audio system once again. I have always taken my listening seriously, yet for the last near 20 years have done most of my listening on a PC or an MP3 player. Now is the time to get back to how I used to listen to my music - on proper audio separates.

In the mid 90's I went through a spell of homelessness. Actual rough sleeping, along with living in temporary accommodation. If the whole experience taught me anything, it taught me gratitude for every little shred or speck that I am given in life. Nothing in life is guaranteed, and you can lose the lot in a stroke.

Once back on my feet again and in suitable surroundings, I cobbled together a collection of second-hand audio equipment that was purchased from that buy/sell/exchange company that used to have numerous shops in London's Notting Hill. Cheap vinyl and cheap CD's were also plentiful. As a listener I was catered for in terms of hand-me-down goods. As my financial situation improved, I upgraded my audio equipment piece by piece, and assembled a thoroughly decent listening system - not to mention a comprehensive music collection. Then in 2000, something happened. A certain guilt fell upon me. I looked at my audio system and 300+ CD's and thought to myself:

This is obscene. I came from the street with next to nothing, and some of the people I knew back then are still there, eking out a survival. I have amassed this lot at great expense, while there are f*ckers out there who cannot afford to eat or clothe themselves. This is not right. I can survive perfectly well with just my clock radio.

Then began the process of selling what I had and imposing upon myself this voluntary poverty - rather like a Hare Krishna devotee taking their Vow of Poverty. I could not allow myself to have luxuries while others were suffering.

Since Hannah and I have been living together (for six years now), she has expressed desire for an audio system with a record deck included. I have never been against the idea, yet I have actively prevented her from going down the Crosley Cruiser route! While those cruddy suitcase turntables may not actively ruin your records - despite what some may tell you - they do however ruin your listening enjoyment. In a shop she spotted what looked like a Crosley on stilts and said: "That looks nice!" I replied: "As long as you don't play anything on it!"

For our system, I am seeking out the very components I was using up until 2000. I chose them with care and attention at the time, and know what to trust! We have the Denon PMA250SE amplifier and a Technics SL-PS770D CD player thus far, and other parts will be added in time. As the CD player itself is 20 years old it needs a new laser pickup, and I have ordered one at a cost of £11. The player itself is utterly trustworthy and sounds delicious, and thankfully almost every CD player released in the last 20 or so years uses the same standard-issue Philips laser transport. I will resurrect it, don't you worry!

Audio time now. Here is a mashup put together by myself. The backing track is from the genuine Massive Attack instrumental, which has been extended in places, and the vocal track of Robin S is out there to find on Youtube. Raise the key of the vocal by a semitone, get its tempo in sync with the music, balance the vocal with EQ, compression and careful use of reverb, and the result is actually worth listening to. I still find it hard to believe I actually put this together myself!

Massive Attack vs Robin S - Show Me Sympathy