I suppose you thought I’d comment on the news that there was going to be a new Star Trek series. I’m still processing that because it’s a lot more problematic than the headlines suggest. Instead we’re going to talk music. Specifically the return of playing records in the Johnson home.
My turntable has been out of service for about a year or so. It had been playing at a higher speed than 33 1/3 and 45. Robert Plant’s voice is high enough without him sounding like he’s been inhaling helium. I tried an audio store but their repair wizard said the motor had to be replaced and being Dual was out of bidness I was outa luck. So the table was retired to the basement. This spring while doing farm stuff, my cousin mentioned that a friend of his son did repair work on guitar gear and stereo under the name Midwest Modulation. The wheels in my head began to turn.
I got the table to Chris a few months ago. It definitely gave him a workout. Every time a solution was found the turntable would drift back to that higher speed. The final solution was to replace the DC servo driver IC. That seemed to do the trick. We got it home last week and I plugged it into the system immediately. And it sounded a little…fast. But the thing is, the table had been in a cold car. We played a couple tracks off various albums and then I put on my 45 of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song/Hey Hey, What Can I Do. It sounded…right. My wife started playing her 45s. She’s got a significant amount of them. If it was a hair fast we weren’t hearing it. I’ve played albums since and once in a while I wondered if it is a little fast. That turned out to be all in my head. This afternoon I found my old Sniff n’ the Tears album and cranked up song one, side one. It sounded just perfect.
So we’re back to playing records. I just found where the rest of the 45s were stored and no doubt my wife will be spinning her way through those this week. I also did an A/B test of switching between the phono/CD buttons on my amplifier remote while playing the same music (Decemberists’ Hazards of Love) on the table and the CD player. It sounded identical. I am overjoyed.
So now my whole vinyl inventory (800+ albums) is open to me. It’s not the most convenient of formats but there is an intimacy with the music when you go through so much work to hear it. I am not one of those delusional audiophiles that insists vinyl is superior to a well-recorded lossless digital file or CD. Vinyl has certain limitations. But hearing those gentle pops in the background as I sink into the couch is a pleasant nostalgia. The memories associated with those songs is much sharper, more tangible. I think I’ll be spending a lot of time with some very old friends this winter.