Sunday, March 23, 2008

Trials and Tribulations of a Vinyl Junkie

Do you know where you can buy a direct drive fully automatic turntable? Nowhere, that’s where. Well, that’s not entirely true, you can get one on ebay that’s almost 30 years old. The good news is that the highest bid is $1.56. The bad news is that shipping is $22 and did I mention that it’s almost 30 years old? You can also buy 30 year old direct drive fully automatic turntables at vintage audio websites. The good news is that they are refurbished and there is some guarantee that they will work. The bad news is there is no guarantee for how long they will work and also they cost $150 plus who knows what for shipping and this is what a brand spankin’ new belt drive fully automatic turntable costs. I hate belt drive turntables because the belt goes all wonky and the turntable turns the wrong speed so the song sounds funny and not funny ha ha. Direct drives are way better in my opinion but the trouble is this is the type of turntable the DJ’s use and even the lowest end direct drive turntable these days is geared towards DJ’s who don’t need or want the automatic features that a regular person doing sit ups in their living room wants. In other words I can’t get a direct drive turntable that will return the tonearm to it’s resting place when the record is done, instead the needle will ‘snick snick snick’ at the end of the record until I move it back myself. I’m pretty sure that’s bad for the needle which is expensive to replace. And here’s the thing, there will be plenty of times that I’ll turn the turntable on and before the side is over I’ll smell whatever I’m burning in the kitchen or Strummer will get into something or maybe I’ll decide it’s time to go in the yard and work on Strum’s weaves and by the time I figure out how to use the fire extinguisher or get my custom orthotics out of Strummer’s mouth or get through 20 sets of weaves the needle will be long worn away. Plus it’s so much nicer to push a button and the tonearm goes to just the right place at the start of the record. Who knows how many irreplaceable out of print records I will scratch trying to set the needle myself what with my old lady eyes and ever failing hand eye coordination that was not so great to start out with. Jonny is not at all down with a manual turntable either, he does not care belt or direct drive but he must have automated features. I briefly try to convince him that we could have DJ night, learn to skratch (all the cool kids spell it with a ‘k’), get 2 turntables with battle setup (see, I’m learning the lingo) and Saturday nights in our house could take on a whole new meaning. I cannot sell him on this and since he’s already agreed to 2 more dogs than he really wants and has been busting his butt taking care of said dogs while I’ve been grounded and puts up with all of my other nonsense I decide not to push the point.

So I decide that it’s worth it to see if maybe it is just the needle that’s broken on my fully automatic direct drive turntable which is 19 years old but still newer than anything on ebay or at the vintage places. I call the mega expensive, if you have to ask you can’t afford it, audiophile stereo place in Boulder to see if they will let me return the needle ($80-$90) if in fact my turntable is fried. They ask me some questions about the turntable’s problems and say why don’t you bring it in and we’ll see if we can figure out what’s wrong. As it turns out there are many things wrong. First off the turntable really is fried. They take us into a fancy listening room with speakers that the salesmen says probably cost more than my car but omigod the sound of them and hook up my vintage turntable to the zillion dollar stereo system and a horrible, sad, your turntable is fried noise comes out of the zillion dollar speakers. Crap. The other problem is that the kid at the stereo place where we bought the receiver was wrong about it being able to play music from our turntable. It turns out you need a special output in a receiver for your turntable or you need to buy an external preamp thingy or you need to make sure the new turntable you buy has a preamp. Our old turntable has no preamp because there was no need for one back in the day since receivers were designed for turntables and came with said preamp. Oh the simple days of yore. The very helpful salesmen who is younger than me but older than my turntable tells us we need a different receiver and a new turntable and gives us prices for the cheapest models he has. $600 for the receiver and $329 for the turntable (automatic belt drive). I try not to burst out laughing. I’m very grateful to him for diagnosing my turntable problems but not $929 plus tax worth of grateful. We excuse ourselves from the store before I start to cry. On the way home I wonder if we’ll be stuck buying a $600 receiver. Maybe this really is the cheapest kind you can get anymore with a phono output? Why is this all so freakin’ complicated? All so I can listen to Prince and maybe some loud noisy punk rock that sounds like it was (and probably was) recorded in a toilet?

We return the other receiver to the other store that is more for normal people with budgets and explain that contrary to what the salesmen told us it will not work with our turntable. They are oh so sorry and send out a salesmen who is maybe just a wee bit older than my turntable but he does know what we need and he has just the thing for only $250. Yay!!! He even has another one for $400, twice the wattage and you can plug in your Ipod dock. I tell him I have no Ipod let alone a dock and I’m old and constantly turning the volume down so I don’t need the extra wattage. We can use the $150 we save to buy a turntable. Are any of you still awake reading about this crap?

So now I’m thinking maybe I’ll take the turntable back to the super mega expensive place and see how much it will cost to fix my precious 19 year old turntable. Maybe it will even cost money to find out how much it will cost to fix but if it isn’t too unreasonable I may just pay it. One less piece of crap in the landfill and maybe I will get my dream turntable that is now a unicorn of turntables. Or maybe I’ll say to hey with it, my head hurts and I’ll pony up the $150 for the cheapo crappo belt drive turntable that will probably go wonky after 2 years and be done with it and I can finally play that damn Prince record. Is it obvious I’m still stuck on the couch with nothing better to worry about?

No comments:

Post a Comment