Sunday, May 29, 2016

Getting groovy

Yes, there was no extra edition on Friday simply because I was too pawley tm to write one and do all links across sites for the entry never mind being unable to do any written work in my studying this weekend gone.
Meanwhile back to the this weeks entry..
The last time I touched on the topic of vinyl reproduction was on May 5th 2013 when I talked about a 'plug and play' cartridge for tone arms with screw fitting headshell, saving some of the work involved in setting up your turntable.
Link: The Shallow Memory special
Quite a few things have happened since then like adding new sources for digital reproduction and gosh! getting a cassette deck but this last week saw something else arrive
 There always has been a turntable in my stereo systems from the first I had when I was ten when it was the only decent source of hearing pre-recorded music to my more recent system where unlike some people it's not just about playing 'legacy' albums and 45's but even getting new recordings on vinyl.
Since around 2006 that role had been taken by a Pioneer PL12D turntable from the 1970's as too many Hifi turntables new lacked easy speed changing for 45's and albums and I find being able to change cartridges say for more worn 45's rather than my very well looked after album collection is handy.
I had been considering getting a new turntable more like that for around £300 of which there a few reasonable models out their by people like Pioneer and Audio Technica when rather suddenly a family friend died who had a lot of Hifi and Ham radio stuff finding they'd left this in the Will for me.
The Marantz 6170 is what is called a Direct Drive turntable so the motor directly moves the platter your record is on without using a belt or Idler to transmit the motor movement to cause it to turn around.
This removes any slight slipping from a belt and noise from being transmitted by it.
The other big advantage is the speed is monitored and adjusted in real time electronically so it is absolutely constant having been set by an electronic circuit precisely.
The funny display toward the front right is the illuminate strobe used to visually confirm the settings are spot on.
In practical terms this means the reproduction of percussion as they are struck sounds rock solid in its timing.
The arm may offend mainly UK based purists but is a low mass 'S' shaped arm which is lowered and raised by push buttons, which is good for damaged pawed of us and it has the option of being sat over the record where it will lower and start playing and then lift and turn itself off at the end although you can do it by hand if you prefer.  It certainly felt freer than the one on the Pioneer.
It takes almost universal SME screw type headshells that easy to get being used in 'classic'  record based DJing which meant I could just screw my old ones straight in, just adjusting the downforce and anti-skate if needed.
On the left there is slot to house a spare headshell ready to swap over.
It just required a smidgen of tlc, it cleaning up, making sure any parts that needed to be free were and the output plugs changing to decent RCA plugs to plug to my Rotel phono stage before entering my amplifier (it has no built in circuit for record decks).
It does sound really good having heard a few  extra details from albums I'm very familiar with and is proving to very enjoyable to use.
A few comments on my main system:
Currently it has a Stanton 681EEE cartridge in it and it needs something to make its output much bigger and adjust the sound from the cartridge so it matches that the record was cut with (when you cut a record you reduce the low notes and increase the high ones to reduce surface noise and increase playing time). I had such a unit by Hart Electronics but the output was too high causing distortion and even putting reducers in the output leads didn't quite cure it all as I think it was getting a little distorted in its internal circuits.
As it happened Rotel made a unit specifically for my integrated amplifier and a few similar products whose output matched exactly the sort it's input stage was designed for.

 It needless to say is a perfect visual match for my integrated amplifier.
The unit can handle standard Moving magnet as well as dearer Moving Coil cartridges selected using a switch at the rear. Its previous owner was only selling it cos he had another similar unit so it was spare.
After quickly plugging the wires in and connecting the grounding tag on the record deck to a special connector on the unit, I tried a few records I know well. The obvious thing was the loss of a niggling feeling of harshness in the louder passages where the other unit was close to overloading, sweeter high notes and a better sense of where in a stereo mix the different instruments are located in space.
To be honest, had I of planned to have gotten this amplifier first I'd of gotten this unit straightaway.
It makes listening to records old or new ones such as David Bowie's The Next Day that I have on vinyl so much more enjoyable.

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