Vinyl Confessions

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A couple of weeks ago, we got a new piece of furniture for the living room—a low shelving unit to replace the tall, rack-like thing that has held the DVR, DVD player, CD player, and turntable for maybe 10 years. It is, in what seems to be the story of our lives, not quite right, not quite what we’d prefer if we had our druthers, but it’ll do. It takes up less space, which is a major consideration in a place as tiny as ours.

What kept us from replacing the old unit sooner was the necessity of un-wiring all the electronics and then wiring ’em up again. It would mean digging into the nightmarish forest of cords hidden behind, taking everything apart, and then trying to remember how it was hooked up in the first place, with the consequent threat to our marriage that such a project always seems to evoke. We still haven’t sorted it out; the TV is hooked up through a different input than it was, and I can’t figure out how to play the Dish Network music channels through the stereo like we used to. (We are still married.)

Not everything is back in place, though—I decided not to hook up the turntable.

This is not as drastic as it seems. I can’t remember the last time I actually used the turntable. If it were four or five years, I wouldn’t be surprised, nor would I be surprised if it were longer than that. But packing it away means I no longer have easy access to a working turntable for the first time since, well, ever. From Dad’s little portable to the console stereo in the living room to the first record player I could call my own and through all the iterations of my home equipment since, there’s always been a turntable. But we simply don’t have a need for one anymore. If we listen to music in the living room, it’s usually the Dish Network music channels. I occasionally put in a stack of CDs, but I’ll bet we haven’t used the turntable for an evening’s listening in 20 years.

And that’s not the only reason. If it’s been four or five years since I used the turntable, it’s been at least that long since I bought any vinyl. And I have a confession to make: crate-digging, which used to be something I enjoyed immensely, no longer holds much interest for me. I will occasionally flip through a box of records in an antique store, but the days when I could get lost for hours among sizable stacks are over. I still discover plenty of old stuff that’s new to me via the Internet, and I’m OK with that. I don’t miss owning the physical objects—and I’m completely out of space to store them anyhow.

Many years ago, before the advent of the USB turntable, I bought a CD player with a recording well, thinking it would be good for converting vinyl to digital, but it was a disappointment from the moment I took it out of the box. The recording well never really worked properly—the machine was astoundingly sensitive to vibration and would glitch at random in mid-recording, ruining the blank disc; although it was supposed to recognize silence between songs and create individual tracks, it never did, and so every album was essentially a single long track. The thing should have gone back to the store the day after I got it home.

I’d like to have a USB turntable. If I did—if I could easily convert vinyl to digital—I might pick up the crate-digging habit again. But until I find room on my desk—room that doesn’t currently exist and is unlikely to exist in the foreseeable future—for better or worse, we’re a turntable-free house.

One More Thing: This past weekend I was once again lucky enough to enjoy the hospitality of whiteray and the Texas Gal in Minnesota, where spring remains but a rumor although the liquor stores are well-stocked with good beer, so who cares. I’m grateful to them and their menagerie of cats for making me feel at home in their home.

9 thoughts on “Vinyl Confessions

  1. Yah Shure

    Traitor. Hand over your “hits” badge before things *really* turn ugly.

    I do understand your plight, though. Why occupy the square footage with never-used gizmos (says the person with the no-longer-working jukebox in his dining room)?

    I’d shy away from USB turntables if truly high quality results are the objective. When done right (record condition and top-notch equipment are of paramount importance) vinyl conversion and restoration can sound astoundingly good. If I may plug my buddy Aaron Kannowski’s excellent mastering work on Real Gone Music’s new Grass Roots ‘The Complete Original Dunhill/ABC Hit Singles’ CD for a moment, you’ll see what I mean. Those pristine mono 45s just rock, missing master tapes or not!

  2. Very interesting.

    I have gone slightly in the opposite direction: In recent months I’ve taken to putting LPs on while I cook dinner, especially on weekends. Whenever this turntable dies or needs an expensive fix, I will probably go ahead and do it. But I don’t use it every day by any means.

  3. Still rockin’ a turntable….it’s a Sony, purchased several years ago to replace a dying Technics. Stanton cartridge. I have about a hundred vinyl records left in my music collection, and probably slap one vinyl disc on the turntable every month or so.

    Being a pack rat, I had over the years acquired (and moved from WI to LA to CA and back to WI again) approximately three thousand LP’s. The divorce in ’96 meant moving temporarily to a 750-square-foot apartment and deciding what to do about the collection which the soon-to-be-ex did not want any part of. Mind you, the collection at that time filled 60 (SIXTY) cardboard moving boxes, dutifully packed and unpacked with each move.

    Luckily, I found a collector who offered a dollar a disc – if I’d pay shipping to Ohio. I think, overall, considering the number of times I’d shipped that collection all over creation, I about broke even.

  4. porky

    CD confessions. We had our basement re-done about three years ago and had nice speakers installed in the walls and ceiling. My downstairs CD player was unplugged and removed then, never to be returned. My double deck cassette player was also removed then and sits in the garage with the CD player. Basement is turntable only.

    Still have an upstairs CD system but hardly ever use it. CD’s are for the car basically.

    My wife bought me a USB turntable about three years and it still sits in the box. I think she wanted me to put my vinyl on it and then ditch the vinyl. Yeah, right…..

  5. A USB turntable sits next to the computer here. It worked fine with my previous computer, but with the one I got a few years ago, I have to keep the recording input level seriously low, or I get an annoying hum. (I imagine the hum is there anyway, but at a low enough level that it’s not noticeable to human ears, at least to mine.) I uncover it about once a month and convert a LP or two or a bunch of 45s. As to listening to LPs, well, not much anymore. We had a vintage-looking radio/CD player/turntable in the living room; after its electronics were fried during the power outage and resulting power surge last summer, it’s a nice looking piece of furniture to have a few knick-knacks on, but that’s it. (We were more than pleased to have you visit, and we’d still be that happy to see you even if you didn’t bring us Wisconsin cheese and beer! Thanks for stopping by.)

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