New Hifi Pig correspondent from over the pond David Blumenstein launches his regular column “Transatlantic Dispatches: A New World Disorder” with a search for an non-audiophile turntable that works well, but doesn’t break the piggy bank.
How many years has it been that echoing about the audiophile watering holes in which we respectively gather have we heard “next year is the year, the year that vinyl actually takes off, not just in the press, not just in our minds and hearts, but it truly gains mainstream acceptance in truly quantifiable numbers.” In a perfect storm, 2017 could be that year, but having circled the block more than a few times, am not prepared to be that optimistic. As readers will discover mine is the school of pragmatic realism.
I can be both content and satisfied that in 2016 there are more than a few new “budget” turntable manufacturers/designers on the market, most notably Orbit and Fluance here in the US. But, “budget is a loaded word. It is highly subject and wholly respective to one’s economic circumstances. So, I am taking this down a notch in my quest for a “thrifty”turntable which does the business, and tick the boxes for around $100/£100 making it truly affordable for the masses.
As to ticking boxes, I maintained the following criteria:
* for purpose of consumer confidence a known brand in the audio world
* for purpose of function fully automatic
* for purpose of features integrated phono stage which can be bypassed
* for purpose of convenience integrated line out for use with powered speakers
* for purpose of ease a set up video which could not be any more direct
* for purpose of upgrade path removable/replaceable cartridge/stylus
After much research I found such a deck. I purchased such a deck. I then, with deck in hand, visited friends who are NOT audiophiles but profess an interest in getting into the vinyl “craze”. As all I visited owned powered speakers of some stripe this was going to be easy. Armed with the deck in the box and a link to the setup video, I let them have at it to see not only how long it would take them to set up the turntable but how intuitive it would be for them to use it without any interference from yours truly.
In all cases, there was never an issue. There were some questions: ‘why doesn’t this system sound as good as yours?’ ‘how can i get better sound’ ‘where are there records shops in town’. All of them music to my ears
The turntable I settled on for this experiment, the Audio Technica LP60/LP60 BK (silver/black) which is available online at a discounted price of £99/$99. My friends/subjects preferred the silver version as it was in their words more ‘retro’. Here’s where it gets wild, really wild. They all inquired to the cost and could not believe the price I quoted, so as trusting friends will do in this day and age they jumped on their phones to verify my claim. In at least one of the 5 instances, the turntable was ordered on the spot from Amazon. I will have to check in on the others and report back.
This all leads me to 2017 and the year of Vinyl. It is not about preaching to the choir, to the converted, those who consider themselves audiophiles or know enough about analogue audio. No, this is for the masses. This is for YOUR friends/acquaintances/colleague whom you like and respect for whatever reason you struggle to buy for them the perfect gift. It is in this light that I suggest that gift be the Audio Technica, a way to bring the uninitiated into the fold.
They will go through the stages: 1 – excitement = record purchases (translates into forays to shops that can become social events) 2 – yearning = better sound (translates into upgrading the turntable, the powered speakers, purchase of stereo system) 3 – understanding = shared experience (translates into ‘now they know what you’ve been going on about all these years) 4 – disillusionment = not a bad thing (translates into time for a new turntable as this one has been upgraded as far it can and LP60/LP60BK get kept as a spare, or more gratifying for all us gets passed forward to one of their family members, friends and colleagues.
There’s got to be someone in all of our lives who fits the bill, who would appreciate the turntable as a gift, who would become a companion of ours to record shops and hifi shows, who would join Facebook groups and participate. And if you time it just right in the first quarter of the new year, you can enjoy Record Store Day with them as it falls on April 22nd.
Lastly, I want to applaud ALL the outlets that are selling vinyl, no matter the industry, whether it be supermarkets, department stores, or home furnishing centers. It is all about the mainstream, making not only on the playing of vinyl easy and convenient but its “immediate” purchase as well.