The Sorta Ultimate Budget Turntable Setup

 

As I sit listening through my record collection, I take time to contemplate how I got here. Of course, the most important part is loving music.  Vinyl is an obsessive, fun, and slightly dangerous hobby.  However, of all of the things I could be doing at 42 that are obsessive, fun and dangerous, this seems pretty safe.

But if you’re reading this far, you might be curious to know what sort of setup I use to enjoy my collection.  “Audiophiles” may scoff at what I’ve pulled together here but it has served me well.  I’ve seen many guides recommending what to buy, poured over Steve Hoffman boards waxing poetic about the right tracking weight, tonearms and cartridges.  Sometimes I come off of those boards somewhat distraught.  But fear not, good reader. I have a – not necessarily the – solution for you:

1 – Pro-Ject Debut Carbon
1 – Clever Clamp
1 – Q-Up
1 – Pro-Ject Acryl-It Platter
1 – Carbon fiber record brush

This is a “build-on” setup.  I did not have all of these things at once but I have found that now having all of them is just about as good as it gets on my budget. I have my eyes on a whole new setup for sometime when I actually live in a house of which I can properly shake the foundations.  But for me, in a rental apartment, packed in like a family of sardines, this works great.

There are a few caveats.  The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is an infamously flawed deck. The motor gives off considerable hum if not isolated. Mine was not properly isolated and I fixed it with some neoprene (cut out of a beer koozie) washers and some patience. Now I love it.  It’s warm sounding, simple and upgrade-able. Other decks are available in the same price range so choose your poison. This is just the one I have so I can recommend it.

Next up is the Clever Clamp.  It’s a must if you are going to go for the acrylic platter. Without a mat, records tend to spin under the carbon fiber brush. There are a ton of other record clamps for sale but for about $30 this one does not add any weight to put stress on your motor and it flattens out some (but admittedly not all) warped records that you might just happen to pick up at the local thrift store or from some bozo on Discogs that claims VG+ looks like the the oscillation of a stingray.  The fish, not the car.

The Q-Up was my last upgrade. But man, has it made a difference. It makes your turntable and vinyl obsession somewhat less so because you don’t have to run back to the living room in the midst of chopping a bulb of fennel just because you “mint” condition Jane’s Addiction record had hit the runout groove. You see, the Q-Up lifts up the needle for you when either, you have drifted to sleep after “Shine on You Crazy Diamond Part IX” or you are making the family’s next gourmet experience.  If I had to do this all again, I’m not sure the Q-Up wouldn’t be higher in the “buy” hierarchy.

The Acryl-It platter is supposed to lower resonance compared to the metal platter. I’m not sure if it does, like many things in the record collecting hobby, it’s subjective.  What I can tell you is that it completely cuts down on dust and static.  This thing made the last winter virtually static free.  It’s sort of the microwave of the turntable world – once you have one you never know what you did without it.

As for the carbon fiber brush, if you don’t know this by now, get one. Always turn it the same way.  It works wonders.

Now, as the second side of “Revolver” (Mono, a topic for a whole other post) comes to a close, I hope this has been helpful. I have spent many a night on the couch, headphones on (yet another post), contemplating the depth of the bourbon in my glass and other in depth mental pursuits.  This setup has yet to do me wrong.  Happy hunting.  Let me know if this works for you and if you have any rants/suggestions, let me know.  I’m going to get that house with the man cave some day and may just have a chance to put your opinions to use.

 

 

Crosley Revolution Turntable (Updated)

What you see above is the Crosley Revolution Turntable spinning my copy of U2’s War album.  The turntable was an impulse buy yesterday and thanks to Amazon’s next day delivery, I received vinyl gratification this morning around 10:00am with FedEx’s speedy delivery.

Since I arrived in Texas, I’ve been snatching up new and used vinyl in shops, on Amazon and on Ebay.  You might recall me professing my love for the medium a few posts ago.  My enthusiasm grew after a recent conversation with my older brother about how our joint vinyl collection had met an untimely end at the teeth and claws of a family of mice in his basement.

A shrink could have a field day with me right now, I suppose.  He might say that in the midst of fatherhood and a new baby I’m reliving my childhood.  He might just be right.  All I know is, listening to the first few snare raps of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” seems like the way that the album is meant to be heard.  It’s distorted, woozy and gritty – even in remastered digital CD form.  On vinyl, the album teeters on the edge of warmth and utter metallic distortion.  It’s a sound that needs to be heard to be appreciated.

Which brings me back to the Crosley Revolution.  It’s a portable turntable.  It runs on 6 AA batteries (and has just finished its 5th album today on said batteries), has an internal speaker, headphone jack, USB connection, and FM transmitter.  It is a glorious piece of retro-tech.

After seeing me put on the first record, Little NH asked if she could play with it.  Two records later, she asked for one for her birthday.

See?  Cool tech is cool tech.  No psychoanalysis needed.

UPDATE:

It is with a heavy heart that I must write that after a couple of days of playing with this seemingly great turntable, it just wasn’t to be.  A couple spins of 180 gram vinyl revealed an underpowered platter that resulted in horrible “wow and flutter”.  When listening to a $20 chunk of virgin vinyl, even my nostalgia couldn’t overcome the limitation of the device.  The UPS Man just came to pick it up.

The search for the ultimate turntable continues!