It was around 7pm on Tuesday evening when I bumped into Nicole and Ms. Little on Newark Avenue, in downtown Jersey City. The girls were on their way to Kristen's shop, Kanibal Home, for their weekly book-club meeting. (Or was it Writing Club? Knitting? Screen printing? Butterfly pinning? I can never keep track.) I was on my way home, not to read, write, or listen to music, but . . .
"Hi, honey," Ms. Little said. "Going home to play with your cartridge?"
I made a face, nodded, sighed. Sensing some sharp-witted remark forming in Nicole's filthy mind, I beat her to the punch: "Yup, that's what I call it."
The Milty Zerostat: Sold for prevention of disease. And other things.
Before dropping the needle onto Christine's copy of Sold for Prevention of Disease Only, I shot the record a few times with the Milty Zerostat 3 ($100), a blue, gun-shaped gadget that helps eliminate static. Squeezing the Zerostat's thin black trigger releases positive ions; relaxing the trigger produces negative ions. A complete squeeze cycle results in a neutral static conditionone perfectly in balance, neither too heavy nor too lightand my LPs play quietly. This step in my LP-playing routine grew out of necessity and has become a habit. The process is especially important in the cold winter months, when the air in my small apartment is dry, and debris stubbornly clings to my LPs and my cartridge's stylus.
"How many new records did you buy today, Stephen?"
It was New Year's Eve, and our large group of friends occupied the entire ground floor of our favorite restaurant, Jersey City's Satis Bistro. We had already been presented with a beautiful buffet of meats, cheeses, and breads, and now more appetizers were being served. A waiter placed before me the world's most delicious date, stuffed with gorgonzola, wrapped in bacon, and baked to perfection. I immediately stabbed it with my fork and popped it in my happy mouth. I chewed, savored, silently wished that I could make this moment last forever, and contemplated a way to answer Nicole's question. From her tone, I knew that she was only looking for an opportunity to mock my weakness for buying new LPs. I've grown used to it. Nicole is nothing if not a ballbuster. I decided to go with the truth.
As sleep slowly withdrew from my coiled body, I noticed the strange words Don't disturb me while I'm dreaming playing over and over in my mind. Where had these words come from? I wondered. I had little time to ponder their origin before they were gone with the retreating night, and I was left with the sudden sting of loneliness. There are days when I feel a million miles away from everyone I've ever cared about or loved. My younger brothers and sisters, ex-girlfriends, teachers, old classmates, roommates, bandmates, even casual acquaintancesI miss and long for them all. This, a cold, gray Saturday, promised to be one of those days, perfect for steeping in melancholy. But I had too much work to do and could not allow myself to dwell on silly inner things. A vacant pillow laid pointlessly beside me coerced me from bed.
Ron Sutherland has devised the Timeline, a device for testing the 33.33 and 45rpm speeds of turntables. It's housed in a disc of aluminum and Delrin that fits over the platter spindle. Turn it on, and an LED shoots a red dash of light at the wall (if there is one) behind your turntable. If the dash doesn't move, the speed is correct. If it drifts to left or right, you'll need to adjust the 'table's speed. Unless your wall has hash marks, there's a bit of subjectivity involved, and at $399 the Timeline isn't cheap, but Sutherland says he's not making much money at that price, and that it will take a lot of sales to recoup the R&D he's put into designing something as precise as he claims the Timeline is.Michael Fremer
As long as you're spinning an LP for your listening pleasure, and if digitizing it at a resolution of 24-bit/192kHz is transparent to the analog source, why not record and store the LP on your computer at that high sampling rate for future convenient playback via iTunes or for iPod use, or for burning to CD-R? And, while you're at it, why not record the LP unequalized and apply the RIAA curve in the digital domain, where you're not dependent on capacitors and resistors that are imprecise to begin with, and can drift over time? With no drift of phase or value, the virtual filter's results should be better than with any analog filter. And in the digital domain, you can program in any curve known, and select it at the click of a mouse. Aside from the sweat equity invested in programming it in the first place, it wouldn't add a penny to the program's cost.
This whole thing started up again when I tried to improve the phono-input section of my main systemnot to enhance its performance (although you might expect that to happen), but to provide a fairer, more flexible context for evaluating new cartridges.
The 78rpm train has been derailed for the time being. The KAB Souvenir VSP Mk.II phono preamplifier, which I intended to review in this space, has yet to arrive from its manufacturer, owing to a delay in the availability of certain parts. The Elberg MD12 Mk.III preamp has yet to arrive from its manufacturer, owing to a recent redesign. The Sentec EQ-10 preamp is here but has a broken switch I haven't got around to fixing. The McIntosh C-8 preamp, a lovely vintage piece that's available for peanuts on the used market, is still undergoing renovation by someone who isn't me.
Analog maven Wally Malewicz is no stranger to these pages. His first commercial product, a cartridge-alignment tool called the WallyTractor, became a hit among the vinyl cognoscenti after Michael Fremer wrote about it in "Analog Corner" in the November 1998 Stereophile, and Malewicz's full kit of Wally Analog Tools was the joint winner of our Accessory of the Year award in 2002.
It's a strange sort of progress: As culture and commerce evolve, most people look for simple, easy solutions to their needs. Enthusiasts, however, go out of their way to complicate matters, often choosing products that are expensive and difficult to use. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the world of home audio, where typical consumers have embraced the notion of smallish, self-contained music systems—yet audiophiles, who are surely as crazy as bedbugs, seem bent on parsing an ever-increasing number of individually distinct products from the basic concept of a music system.