February 1: Analog and, damn, but January went by fast

pCloud actually finished the digital upload. It didn’t finish on time, but it did finish. So, today I moved the first of the LP AAC files onto pCloud. Files seem to move quickly when, even though the files are large, the number of files are relatively small. I had one early LP that had a skip producing a skip that pissed me off. Since I was familiar with the record I was surprised to find the visibly-evident smudge. Once I found it and cleaned it the LP was fine.

This miniature misadventure got me thinking about analog, especially about the LP. As I have said before, I have no nostalgia or happy feelings toward the LP. They sound better but they are a pain in the ass. There’s no dispute about either end of that sentence, at least to me.

The thought did move me to consider all of the turntables I’ve owned in my 60 years. I need to back up first to my brother’s Acoustic Research AR XA which I am guessing he bought in 1969 or thereabouts. I do not, sadly, recall the cartridge. That was the first analog rig that allowed one to hear into the recording in a way I’ve not generally been able to recreate with any digital equivalents. I was only 8 or 9 then I think it was another handful of years before I bought my first table at Fedco, a BSR. It didn’t sound very good but I liked it anyway. By then, the XA and even the XB were long gone or wildly reduced in quality by whatever forces affected such changes in the early 1970s.

Still, I used that BSR happily until I found a seemingly ancient Empire 298 Troubadour with a poorly-matched Infinity Black Widow arm. The arm was far too low in mass to work properly with the 298 and it took forever to find the proper belt but it sounded pretty good. Again, I do not recall the cartridge but I do remember that the rig was befouled by relentless acoustic feedback and a stubborn ground-loop hum that only my brother, John, was able to chase down.

I then went Japanese, first with an entry-level Technics SL-20 and Empire cartridge that I bought, new, in like 1975. It sounded excellent but suffered from feedback and rather surprising wow and flutter especially since it supposedly used a synchronous motor, so let’s be charitable and blame the speed issues to the drive belt which always felt a bit stretchy.

What next? Well, I’ll have to think for a bit. Holy shit, I remember, even though I would rather not.

It was the Harman/Kardon ST-7 Rabco. Oh my god, the promise. Oh my god, the horror. Straight-line tracking. How do you do better than that? Tell me, how?

I had three of these in the late 1970s, though I do not recall the faults of the first two that resulted in the third. I can only say that the dealer was as unhappy as I was. To say they were casually, tending towards carelessly, assembled would be kind. Yes, the channel balance was superb. And, yes, the speed precision, considering one motor drove two belts (the one that drove the platter and the one that drove the arm) was quite good. But, feedback was horrendous even with the most conscientious placement (another room, more than twenty feet away).

As another reviewer wrote about a pair of Jason Bloom’s Apogee speakers, the ST-7 was a glimpse of heaven and a look at hell, all at once. But, that glimpse of heaven was hard to forget.

A couple years later I bought my first REGA product, a Planar 2. Nirvana. It didn’t sound as good as any of the previous tables I had used yet somehow it sounded more right than any of them. Plus, it worked. It was free of hum, had impeccable speed control and keep feedback at bay. Later, I bought a Planar 3 that I used as a reference while many far more expensive tables made their way into and out of my listening room. The most impressive were the tables from Franc Kuzma, first the Stabi and later the Stabi Reference. Yes, it helped that I was working for the distributor at the time. It also helped that the distributor also brought in the amazing cartridges from Dynavector in Japan.

Ah, Kuzma and Dynavector. Would anyone ever imagine that a Slovenian turntable and a Japanese cartridge would work so well together?

Well, they did.

Hey, wait just a second. I’m way beyond my daily word allotment. I’m going to have to finish this tomorrow. For all of you who care about my analog evolution, please drop by tomorrow. For those of you who don’t care, well, I will leave that decision up to you.

Thanks for reading.

February 1: Analog and, damn, but January went by fast

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