The Entry Level #6

Natalie was either impressed by my impeccable taste in music or high on Brussels sprouts: At some point during the meatloaf dinner at my place (see last month's column), with a smile so wicked and dazzling it could knock a stylus from a groove, she asked if I would be the DJ at her next house party.


"Yeah. I've loved everything you've played tonight."

Delighted, I tried not to show it. I turned from Natalie's brilliant smile to stare at the hi-fi, as if the hi-fi would be the guiding light for my next few moves. I was worried, of course, because worrying is what I do. I hadn't DJ'd since college, and while I'd been looking for a reason to set up a turntable and speakers at Natalie and Nicole's apartment, I hadn't exactly expected this turn of events.

"You want me to play LPs?"


"Hmmm. Would it be alright if I set up the Music Hall USB-1 turntable and Audioengine 5 speakers at your place?"


"You know, I wouldn't be able to DJ properly with only one turntable."

"That's alright. You can just play LPs—just like tonight."

"Okay," I said. What else could I say?

So, a few days later, I stopped by Natalie and Nicole's with the speakers, turntable, and a cleaned copy of John Fahey's excellent Old Fashioned Love (LP, Takoma 6511), a celebration of early 20th-century American music. We carefully made a space for the system on the girls' small IKEA Expedit shelving units. While Natalie dusted and moved frames and vases off to one side, I connected power cords, speaker cables, and RCA patch cords. In its final location, the system rested about 3' from the floor and less than 1' from the exposed-brick wall behind, on two Expedits: one for the left-channel speaker, and the other for the turntable and right-channel speaker. This was hardly the ideal placement, but I wasn't going to make a big deal about optimizing the setup for sound. After all, we were setting up a system for a party—I was more concerned with making things as easy and enjoyable as possible for Natalie and Nicole.

In less than 15 minutes, we were ready to play music. I dropped the needle on Old Fashioned Love, and we smiled at the distinct and comforting sound of Fahey's steel-string guitar. With the music, the girls' charming apartment—often a venue for episodes of Jersey Shore and Real Housewives of Atlanta—seemed to become even cozier, as if a blanket of gentle sunshine had settled over everything, infusing the space with peacefulness and warmth. Natalie's dog, Neeno, and Nicole's cats, Frankie and Lola, came trotting and slinking into the room, captivated by the sound—pets may show little regard for reality TV, but they clearly love hi-fi. While the system lacked the deep-bass control and outstanding spatial effects it had exhibited in my apartment, it nevertheless produced soothing, pleasurable music. We were all happily impressed.

Until we noticed something awry: Whenever we walked across the room, our footsteps sent vibrations across the old wood floor, through the Expedit shelf, and into the Music Hall USB-1 turntable, causing the stylus to jump from the groove. The turntable was severely susceptible to footfalls! Why hadn't I noticed this before? At home, the turntable was placed atop my PolyCrystal equipment rack, which is dead silent; here, even the slightest footstep was too much for the Expedit shelf. If the gentle footsteps of just one person could send the stylus from the groove, how would we deal with a party of 30? I had a week to figure it out.


John Hall's picture

Looks like you're living the life buddy...good music and pretty ladies! Cant wait for the review of the Jolida tube amp. Has there been any more news about Jolida fighting with the chinese Jolida company?

Stephen Mejias's picture

Thanks very much, John.  This does feel like a pretty special time in my life; I'm enjoying it.

My review of the Jolida is in our July issue, on newsstands now.  I don't have any info on the company's legal issues, however.

VVIl_l_'s picture

I had a similar problem with my music hall turntable so I purchased the isonode feet. Did you remove the Music Hall's original feet or something? Because the isonodes add immensely to the wobble of the record player...


Please advise.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Hi there.

No, I didn't remove the Music Hall's feet. I very carefully placed the IsoNodes directly beneath the Music Hall's feet. You needn't be concerned if the turntable wobbles when a record isn't playing. Just make sure the turntable is level on its stand. And, even if the turntable wobbles a little bit when pushed, the record shouldn't skip under normal playing conditions.

Good luck!