The music just didn't sound a good as I thought it should.
First thing's first: I unplugged everything, wiped down all the connections with electronics cleaner, plugged everything back in good and tight ... Ehh, a little better maybe. I clicked around a couple A/V forums looking for advice, and a consensus began to emerge. So I headed down to Jo-
Yeah, the craft store. You mean you've never made a custom platter mat for your turntable?
Oh for the love of Robert eff Zimmerman, don't tell me you listen to music off those loud little discs with the ear splitting volume and all the tone of a cement block?
Wait, you plug what into your stereo? Really? THAT's how you listen to music at home? Hey, I've got a Zune, too. I've told you over and over that no serious music fan should be without a Zune Pass.
Well, there's like two games and Facebook, but apps aren't the point!
The point is I love my Zune in the car, at my desk, at Starbucks. But you can't fill up your living room with all those compressed little soundwaves. You like hearing instruments and vocals smushed together? You spent $1,000 on one of those Best Buy HTIBs, and you pump smush in there? Really? And I'm the idiot?
Oh, yeah, right, Joann's. See, my mom bought me one of those all-
When that trusty Crosley finally died last month, I knew I was committed enough to invest in my first real turntable. Luckily I didn't have to -
Well, I didn't know what. Was it a broken LED screen for track numbers? Did they have LED in 1988? Did they have track numbers? It looked like the little red lights were spinning around for some reason. And then there was this chunk of plastic with a dial on it that fit on the back of the turntable arm, and another dial at the base of the arm with corresponding hash marks and numbers. My Crosley didn't have any of this stuff. What it did have was a needle, which didn't fit my New Old Turntable.
Of course the answers to these and pretty much all of life's questions were only a few snooty mouse clicks away. Why didn't my Crosley needle fit? Well, first off, Joey, you ignorant slut, it's a CARTRIDGE we're talking about, not a needle. As for the "needle," do you mean the STYLUS that juts out from the bottom of the CARTRIDGE? Your old one doesn't fit because the Sherwood arm is mono P-
I checked out once I got to the part where I was supposed to use this protractor to align the angle at which the needle touches the
For one, as an English major, I haven't picked up a protractor of any kind since my Sophomore year of high school. For another, I could see the slippery slope that lay (or is it "lie"? Shit ...) beyond fine-
No, squinting at the protractor pulled me back from the brink (for now ...), but one tweak did make sense to me: the platter mat. You know that crackling sound everyone associates with records? That's what a scratched, dirty, crappy, or static-
Which also sucked, I decided. So while I waited for new Yamahas to arrive from Amazon, I checked out other ways to keep my records from shocking me. One was this $100 gun, which somehow fires neutralizing atoms. The hardcore vinyl guys swore by it. They also recommended buying a washing machine for your records.
Again, slippery slope.
Changing out my stock rubber platter mats made sense to me: the record spinning causes friction, which creates static, which translates into snap-
People too cheap to go off the deep end, like myself, have another option: DIY spotmats, which support the record at various points while allowing anti-
I'm about as good with a pair of scissors and an exacto knife as I am with a protractor and graphing calculator, but I managed to cut a
And it was ... OK. A little too thick. Less crackle, but more needle bounce, which caused skips. Plus my pepperoni pizza design, though less taxing on my mediocre arts and crafts skills, didn't provide even support. My mat needed to be flatter. I tried a foam base, but that was also too thick -
At this point I'd done more tracing, cutting, and gluing than actual listening. Plus I had new speakers to unbox. Plus I had superglue blisters on a couple fingers. Plus I was thinking about going back to CDs. So I decided on one last DIY: a black poster board base, and much smaller cork circles arranged thusly. Minimal thickness. Even record support. A nice space to accommodate the record label bulge.
The needle dropped on a beat-
I don't hear music like that on my computer, or my Zune, or my iPod. I can't ignore a record, can't relegate it to the background of whatever I'm doing -
Can my DIY spotmat take all the credit for reuniting Led Zeppelin in my living room? I'm sure upgrading my speakers had something to do with it. And hell, maybe the music doesn't sound any better than it did coming off a rubber mat. I think it does. You might not. Part of vinyl's joy is that the music you hear on your setup is unique. You can't go to Best Buy and grab my turntable off some shelf any more than I could drop $10K and replicate what some audiophile hears from his rig. The condition of the turntable, the quality of the smaller parts, the amp, the platter, the mat, and, yes, maybe even those brain-
After all that cutting and pasting and upgrading and adjusting, what you hear off your vinyl is yours. You own that sound in a way that's more personal than the digital stamp that says you own the mp3s you just bought on iTunes. You want to take care of that sound, make it better. So you wipe it down with isopropyl alcohol solutions and carbon fiber brushes. You give it gold-
And once you've found that sound, that music, you crave more of it. You want to hear the Beatles in mono. You want to hear Miles Davis the way Lester Bangs did. You want to hear your favorite new bands uncompressed, smush-
So in honor of my New Old Turntable and the misshapen cork circles now spinning my records, I'm instituting a new policy here on Rocksposure: if your band sends me its music on vinyl instead of CD or mp3, I will praise it to high Heaven no matter how much my skin crawls while listening to it!
Need a money quote for your next press release? I'm your vinyl-
And that's if I hate your record! Imagine if your music is actually good!
I know, I know. Diamonds. Gold. Oak. I'm working on it.
Joey Tayler is the lead writer on Rocksposure.com. Based out of Milwaukee, WI, he is always looking for a new show to see. If there is something you think he should be listening to, send him an email at JoeyT@Rocksposure.com