It's been too long since I've gotten a chance to write a proper post on the subject, so today I'm discussing Turntables and Record Players.
I was shopping for new catridges online today (the best place to get 'em is lptunes) and was taken by surprise at the gigantic price hike professional grade turntables, needles and other DJ gear has commanded over the past 5 years or so. The used turntables I bought in 2008 have only appreciated in value, and today, the market price is $300 more than I paid for it. Each. Why the sudden increase? And what's up with vinyl in 2012 anyway?
My notion has always been that vinyl represents "slow" because it takes more time and effort to put on, people are more likely to listen to the whole album when its on wax, sales of vinyl takes time since it is not a "one-click" process, and also, that the weight of records make them virtually immovable for years once they've found a home in someone's bedroom, basement, garage or shop.
I've been called an old soul because I appreciate objects and think og them as a reminder of our common history, knowing that at one point, listening to records was the only way for people to hear music-- and back then, vinyl was considered cutting edge at that!
Before recordings on cylinder (yes, wax cylinders, how we got our name ...), 78 R.P.M. records, made out of a heavier grade of plastic called Bakelite, were the only way of capturing recorded music for playback. Music was only heard live then, confined to churched, pubs, operas, theatre and festivals that you had to attend to hear for yourself. I wish I could have shown some famous 1800 classical composer my iPhone4, I'm sure they'd flip out!
People now keep a-sayin' that there is no way to "make it", or be a success in music in this day and age. That records are doomed, closing up shop and the system is becoming more and more compressed. However, it is not technology that is responsible for the collapse of the album sale or artist. No, the real threat to creativity and free expression is harder to recognize than most people would like to think, for it is invisible and it's all in your mind, literally!
It's not the increasing supply of music, equipment, albums or artists that is the greatest threat to the industry; sales have persisted and more people than ever before are buying digital music, leading digital sales to surpass vinyl for the first time in 02011. So if music sales are on the up and up, why does music now still suck?
Well, that the most common question I get and it's tough to answer though I try ... it is my belief that music is the language of history. (Perhaps we should all should have listened to the Twentieth Century ... or read Alex Ross' excellent book "The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Centry". Until you do, I cannot explain. That was Mahler's job and he did it well, check it out. Maybe he has a Myspace? ReverbNation. CDBaby? Hehe ...
In short, it is my personal conviction that music heals, serves several special purposes in our evolutionary history, and that the ambivalence towards the Artist -- be it a singer/songwriter, sound engineer, producer, instrumentalist or avante-guarde noise guy -- needs a closer review. (Just so that we are on the same page, "Ambivalence" is defined as a state of having simultaneous, conflicting feelings toward a person or thing, also referring to situations where a person experiences uncertainty or indecisiveness concerning something. The expressions "cold feet" and "sitting on the fence" are often used to describe the feeling.)
It is this nasty, overbearing, pessimistic "dream buster" attitude prevalent in our critical, impatient and sometimes cruel society that is the real danger to the long-term success of the Music industry at large. Listening to negativity will only drag you down-- so don't! In 02012, your chances of capturing public recognition for sound is awfully good considering things, and I think you've got potential so keep on rockin' baby!
My sentiments on the matter are best expressed:
"Art for art's sake"
''l'art pour l'art''
"Ars gratia artis"
When it comes down to it, I'm a girl that likes to handle vinyl-- I'd like to learn about history from it, imagine, listen, and most importantly, create new bonds with people I come across from the experience of getting/letting go of something. Similar to clothes, DVDs, video games, books, photos -- and everything else the web has consumed -- records are bought, generally for personal reasons and are a "single function device" we've overlooked as turntables and records became old technology. It's a great way to be. I demand high quality sound, tangibility and prettiness. What it comes down to, for me, is the wonder of Sound and the people, instruments. I'm not surprised by the continued movement of vinyl post-2000, nor by the record amount of record sales.
Shopping for records, instruments, turntables and the like are always tricky and is a very personal thing (so be sure always look for 1) Condition, 2) Rarity, 3) Personality ... (Some other personal motivator, like a reminder of friends/family, a cover buy, impulse buy, disposable income dependent, ??? ...) Remember, no one likes a scratched record! I upcycle mine and bake them into ash trays and ash bowls. Sometimes they're worth more to people that way!
The turntables I prefer and use exclusively at home are Technics SL-1200MK2s and they are bangin'! Technics discontinued this line this past year, partly because these high quality turntables are becoming more of a "niche" item in the DJ category, but also because the MK2s never break. Like an ox! (or Buffalo, in this case)
This great for the average Joe or DJ, but what's the point of having such a fine set of decks if you can't sell more than 1 .... what do you do with something that doesn't break? I've wondered of the role Planned obsolescence plays in our disposable New World, it's an interesting topic, especially for those who take interest in the study of Psychology, Economics and Sociology.
An example I like to use to describe planned obsolescence is vacuum cleaners. My grandma (and many who still recall the 50s) have these big, heavy metal vacuum cleaners that are sturdy, portable and don't break. My grandma has been using hers for over 60 years! When my mom bought her a fancy new Dyson, spending hundreds of dollars btw, granny just laughed and was like "Why should I need a new one? This plastic thing looks too complicated and you know how good mine already is-- it's going to outlast both you and me! How long's your plastic toy going to work?"
For the rest of us, a local thrift store might have something in stock. Around Seattle, a working turntable goes around $10-40 at a shop or garage sale (usually does not come with a stylus/needle, you'll have to check the charts at lptunes for your brand and model of turntable.) Big desk-type phonographs are easy to find on craigslist and are usually cheap, around the same range as standard turntables, unless it is some collectible antique in pristine condition (usually 1% of the time) it can go up to a few hundred dollars. Belt and motors are expensive and hard to fix, so make sure the plate moves before buying one. It doesn't hurt to check whether the cartridge is there, a cartidge is what holds the stylus/needle.
The USB turntables I've noticed have horrible .mp3 output quality and not worth a dime, unless you are in a garage/noise rock band looking for a tinny sound with horrible fuzz, distortion and popping. CDs are still arguably the most portable, cleanest recording medium and you can get some turntables now that do the Radio, .MP3 conversion, record playing, CD playing thing all in one. The sound quality of built-in speakers on the newer plastic USB turntables suck. I think that Grace Digital Audio ones are ok, but don't last too long, so check the Refurbished section for a deal, something you can get the all-in-one for less than $50. Stantons are most popular among consumer/beginners that insist on USB turntables and are in the $100 range. Crosley has started distributing to girly places like Urban Outfitters, but are far overpriced for inferior sound quality. Still, they look cool, but again, light as plastic and breakable in any way, so these are only good as stage props, paper weights and decoration. The average consumer looking to spend about $50-75 would do well with a Technics (I recommend the SL-BD line), Numark or Stantons, in that order. I use and enjoy using a Pioneer DJM-350 mixer and think its cool. There are fancier ones, ringing up over $2k for a six input mixer and there are tons of free apps out there too ... so many choices ...
Well, I hope if you find what you are looking for, if you haven't already. Yea, yea I keep trying to post more, but its tempting given our short window of sunshine. The robots just happen to do it faster. Too bad they're not interrigent rike me! :o) _ash