Getting Back into Vinyl, Part 1.5
Kyle studied Film and TV at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He had a freakish obsession with penguins and spent hours at a time glued to his Macbook watching downloads of Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing. I studied marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business, counted down the days till the release of Guitar Hero I for Playstation Two, and once paid $20 for a broken drummer monkey known as Trick Star because I wanted to feel free and alive. In the summer of 2006, Kyle and I decided to start listening to vinyl. Why? Because vinyl was cool, and we were not.
I brought three records to our sophomore year dorm: Elton John’s Honky Château, Cat Stevens’ Teaser and the Firecat, and Neil Young’s Comes a Time, the latter of which turned into one my reference recordings. Its rich interwoven string patterns playing off the pointed yet full-bodied acoustic guitar sounded romantic through the Quad ESLs in the Robyatt Audio room at the New York 2012 A/V Show.
From Healdsburg, California, Kyle brought a fully automatic JVC turntable, a hand-me-down from his audiophile uncle. The JVC ran into a Yamaha receiver, another hand-me-down, connected to a pair of factory refurbished Bose 201 loudspeakers purchased at a strip mall in Florida. This system moved with us to our East Village apartment the same time my first summer internship with Stereophile began. At this point in my 19-year old existence, I had never even heard the word hi-fi.
That summer with the hard-earned cash from my work on the Stereophile 2008 Buyer’s Guide, I bought a Rega P1 turntable to replace our fussy JVC.
Since the P1 would not fit on our bookshelf or securely on top of an egg-crate, both go-tos for a college student’s furniture and storage needs, Kyle and I built a custom wall mount for the P1. Although Rega offered a wall-mount and still do, we wanted to do it ourselves. Within a brick-wall alcove between our defunct fireplace and the corner storage closet, we fastened our Home Depot-white brackets using long screws and mortar anchors. We then drilled a thin rectangle of pinewood measured to match the dimensions of the P1 into the brackets. The P1 rested somewhat peacefully on its mount. Though it was never stable and certainly never level, it was always totally awesome because we made it, a feeling I will chase forever.
ANYWAYthe purpose of this story is to tell you about what I feel is the biggest mistake I have made in my hi-fi life yet. It still chafes me. No, it was not splitting my tonearm cable in half, as described to you in Part 1. That could be fixed. Nor was it my homemade off-kilter turntable platform. Watching my turntable rotate as it “hovered” in mid-air as a result of my construction was my first lesson in the power of my own mind and hand, a redemptive sensation. And no, it was not my Bose speakers. Those served me for many years.
I picked up my P1 in the Monk’s Thrift Shop below my building where it was being held. I scurried up my 5-flight walk-up, tore open the box, but then carefully proceeded with the P1’s set-up, which involved two easy steps: pushing the balance weight “on as far as the shaft will allow” and setting the Bias Adjustment Slider between 1.5 and 2.0 grams. Done! I left to go buy a record.
Upon returning, I discovered the Styrofoam framework that protected the P1 in shipping hacked into jagged and flaky chunks with specks of white littering the floor.
“Kyle! What happened to the packaging?”
“Oh. I stepped on it. Sorry.”
“No big deal!” I chuckled it off. Kyle and I then stomped on the remaining foam like raving idiots. Like I said, we were not cool. And obviously not intelligent
From the East Village, I moved to Gramercy. From Gramercy, I moved to Crown Heights, and from Crown Heights, I moved to Kensington. For each of those moves, I packed my turntable as follows: wrap the glass platter in a pair of long underwear then covered by another pair of long underwear, blanket the turntable in sweatshirts and cushy pants, and stuff the box with towels. Never was there an easy or stress-free move with the P1. Like an old and heavy couch or a fragile set of dishes, I dreaded moving it because I always feared it would wreck in the move. I already lost the Yamaha receiver in the move to Gramercy. I couldn’t take another loss. Looking back, I wish I had requested new foam from Sound Organisation, the Rega distributor. I wish I had never left that Styrofoam on the floor. I wish I had paid attention to JA’s wrath whenever a writer would send in a product with mangled packaging. I continue to live with that choice of thoughtlessness of leaving my packaging on the floor to be cracked in half by the stray foot of karma, tossed in a dumpster, and preventing my P1 from a consistently safe (the P1) and stress-free (me) move.
If you’re on this website, you probably already know to keep your boxes and protective packaging (hopefully). So why am I telling you this? Shortly after I ripped my tonearm cable in half, my Rega P1 sat in its box cradled between a Michigan hoodie (Go Blue!), two pairs of long underwear, and some black fleece sweatpants, while I saved up the money to pay for the repair.
Six months later, my Rega was more of a table than a turntable, so I decided to just bite the financial bullet and visit a dealer to fix it. At the time of this decision, I never managed to save up the funds for the repair, which I estimated would cost $200. Though I’d always heeded the advice from my parents to save a small chunk of each paycheck in a separate account, other expenses kept dwindling my savings: the tuning peg on the G string of my Les Paul cracked open; I purchased a plane ticket to visit Mom in Birmingham, Alabama; or paying my share of extortionate taxes to Chris Christie’s New Jersey Department of Treasury as a result of registering my bankrupt band as an LLC.
I sent my first email to Steve at In Living Stereo (New York, NY) in January 2012 that I would be stopping by soon. It took me till July to actually show up at his store. Steve received a box filled with sweatshirts, underwear and a Rega P1.
In Part 2 (yes we'll get there! sorry for the detour), we'll fix the freakin' turntable.
Keep Reading: Part 2
Go back to Part 1