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Hiss and Pops – The Pursuit of a Working Record Player

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I did something tonight I wish I had done a long time ago, I got my record player to work. No, I am not talking about my CD player but a bona fide vinyl record player.

See, I have had this thing for almost a year. A lady knew that I was interested in owning one and she pulled hers out of the basement and gave it to me for a modest fee – A simple hug and thank you. Now I may not be the smartest fella in the world but when someone who reminds you of your grandmother offers you something for a hug and a thank you, well you take it.

I took the machine home and anxiously hooked it up to my receiver and was saddened by the fact that I could not hear anything unless I turned the volume way up and pressed my ear firmly against the speaker. Just imagine the looks I was getting from my children over that one!

I went to Radio Shack to try and figure out the problem but found the service there to be absolutely useless. This is not a slam against Radio Shack but the one where I live is really bad.

Desperate to solve my problem, I called the one person I knew that had strong working knowledge of record players, my dad. My father currently owns about 5000 records. I would bet he will listen to almost everyone of them this year.

The man works hard transferring his records to CD via his computer, an item he did not want to learn until he was told he could put his records on CD. His record player has been with him for almost thirty years and I would bet it will be for at least 30 more.

He told me I needed to replace the needle. I informed him Radio Shack was no help and he had me give him the make and model number of my player.

Within a week he mails me a diamond needle. Here is my stupidity. I thought a needle was a needle but according to my dad this was the one I needed to be using, it was also the most expensive. No worries because Dad footed the bill.

So, I installed my needle onto the record player that was hooked up to a newly acquired receiver and waited for the sound. Still nothing. I called my pops once again and he now told me I needed a receiver with a phono mode to play it.

Hmph! So much for that idea. Well, life happened as it does and I forgot about my record player. It still sat on the shelf longing for me to blow the dust away and use it but I needed to buy other things before investing in a new receiver.

A new job brought with it new responsibilities and also the need to be able to tape radio broadcasts on a system that would automatically flip the tape. I learned from a friend that he had an old stereo system that he had stopped using 5 years ago and would be willing to part with it for $20.00. Thinking to myself it was a good idea, I bought the system.

I began hooking it up when much to my joyful surprise I saw like a beacon in the night, phono hook ups. Quickly I ran through the functions on the new system and sure enough it had a phono setting. How could this be! Something I was buying for work was now going to allow me to listen to the albums I had sitting on the bookshelf!

I got everything hooked up and then began trying to hook up the record player. Much to my chagrin the cables were to short to reach the stereo. To hell with it, I thought, I will do it some other time. It was late and I did have to be up early for work.

Tonight, though, as I left the basketball game that I had to cover, I was determined to go home and get my record player working. I began rearranging my entertainment center with helpful guidance form my wife (yeah right) and soon I had it all ready to go.

I grabbed an album that I had never heard (Tiger Army: Ghost Tigers Rise). I set it on the turntable, powered it up, and waited. Nothing happened.

I was now convinced that this unit was ruined. I set about unhooking it when I discovered that although I plugged it into the outlet, I never plugged it into the stereo! Boy that was dumb! I replaced Tiger Army with another album and hooked the player up to the stereo. Low and behold I heard the familiar pops and cracks of my youth.

Suddenly through the speakers came the thrumming of the bass. I sat sipping my coffee while listening to a recording of a song as it was supposed to be in the '70s. A song that I heard thousands of times on CD but never on vinyl and never this version.

Soft warm tones with pops and hiss mixed well as Peter Murphy and Bauhaus played "Bela Lugosi's Dead". Wow. That truly was all I could say. Wow.

So now I hunt. I hunt for more albums of bands that I learned about after leaving home and the comfort of my dad's Technics. I hunt to hear music the way it was intended for us to hear it without all the digital remastering. Currently I await the release of J.B. Beverley and the Wayward Drifters album Dark Bar and a Jukebox, which is scheduled to be released in limited numbers on vinyl. I have already pre-ordered my copy.

So if you miss the hiss and the pops or maybe you want to feel nostalgic, then get yourself a record player and relive those days when music was pure and not digitized.

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  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal/ Connie Phillips

    There’s a really wonderful used record store downtown (Toledo) that I love to go in and just play “treasure hunt” Aside from the racks full of anything you could think of there are piles of boxes waiting to be sorted.

    It’s almost better than Christmas when you find a hidden, forgotten gem. Dang! I really need to get a working player to, so I can justify a trip down there.

  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal/ Connie Phillips

    This article has been selected for newspromotion. Click on the above links to vote for the article on Digg, Reddit, and Netscape.

  • http://www.vinyl-records-still-live.com/phono-turntables.html stcredzero

    I was going to criticize you for not Googling a HOWTO. But it wasn’t trivial to find the information you didn’t have. (Like the fact that you need a Receiver with a Phono Preamp.)
    The site below should be helpful. (You could also have bought a separate preamp with your previous stereo.)

  • http://www.thesonginmyheadtoday.blogspot.com Holly Hughes

    Congratulations! Now you’ve got to refine the art of picking up the needle and setting it down right at the beginning of a track when you only want to listen to one song. That’s how most of my vinyl got scratched in the first place!

  • http://midnightcafe.wordpress.com Mat Brewster

    Oh man, somewhere (mom’s place, maybe) I’ve got a stack of old records. I long ago burned out my record player, and have yet to get another.

    Thanks for the reminder, that I really should do just that.

  • http://www.collectingvinylrecords.com Robert Benson

    Uh Oh, you’ve caught it…..vinyl fever, and yes, it is going around. Glad to have you aboard and whatever you listen to, you will certainly enjoy it more on vinyl!

    Robert

  • yun seungjin

    i enjoyed your story, it was cute. being quite the “vinyl junkie” myself i currently find myself with over 1,200 records and 5 DJ class turntables. but i thought i should comment on something you said in the latter part of your article. you mentioned hearing a song as it was meant to be in the 70s, and i felt i should tell you just how untrue this is. vinyl masters are created in an highly compressed state, eliminating bass response and amplifying high frequencies to an extreme. the phono preamp in your stereo is built with RIAA equalization…and you’ll find that playing the same record on different stereos will yield very different results. don’t worry, you’re only victim to the same misconception of a vast majority of the public.

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