I finished a project last night and I’m celebrating by spinning vinyl and rolling tape.
The new Grado Epoch 3 cartridge is installed, aligned and broken in. I had an emf issue with the cart picking up the motor hum. I made a new, larger platform for the turntable and moved the motor about four inches further from the turntable and made a new belt. Four inches was enough to eliminate the hum, but I will look into a better shielded motor someday as I really like the cart. The boron cantilever seems to make a big difference on detail and soundstage.
I fired up the Nakamichi Dragon, one of the best cassette decks ever made, and decided to make some tapes. Old timey rock and roll was the selected genre and I dug into the record collection to find The Troggs With a Girl Like You and the Ventures Walk This Way. Both pressings were in superb condition and the tape came out great. I used some old Monkees as filler. I had forgotten just how political some of their songs were!
Next up Blind Faith on side A and Traffic When the Eagle Flies on side B for the double Winwood. Quality filler material from Spooky Tooth.
I’m a huge fan of Grado, and that Epoch 3 is no fucking joke. That’s a serious investment. It’s the kind of cartridge where if you’re getting hum, you remodel and re-wire your house, if necessary. Glad you got it to your liking.
And Blind Faith is one of my all time favorite records.
It’s the lowest level available with a boron cantilever and costs $1000 USD. Of course they go up from there. That’s as much as my turntable and tone arm can take. I got the low voltage version (1 mV) because that’s what the Dynavector I destroyed had and my phono stage can easily handle it. I think the high voltage (4 mV) may not have the emf problem. VPI and Grado are both aware of the issue but just point the finger at each other. The newer VPI Prime (mine is an older Scout II) has a higher RPM motor with better shielding. I may buy one someday. Still, it’s amazing how much difference 4" made. Getting a glue strong enough to hold the .070" C.S. “O”-Ring that fits the belt pully has been the difficult part.
Another weird problem with the Grado: The wooden body is rather large, and It’s hard to see and clean the needle under it, but the real problem came when I used the VPI record clamp. The VPI has a threaded spindle that fits a screw-on record clamp that really works well. However, the O.D. of the clamp is beveled and the big cart body hits it in the dead wax and bounces all over the place. So, no clamp. I modified an aluminum record weight to accept the extra long spindle and now I use it instead of the clamp.
I looked at getting one of the lower tier Timbre series a few years ago when upgrading my Ortofon 2M Red, but settled on the 2M Blue, because it was just a stylus swap, no need for the whole cartridge.
Last year I got my wife into vinyl and she took to it immediately. She might have more records than I do at this point and we go out digging on the weekends which is costing me more but totally worth it.
I went from a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon with an Ortofon 2m Red to the Blue, driving a Pioneer SX-636 to a low serial # Thorens TD-160 MK1 with an AT VM95ML driving a Sansui 771 and then to a Sansui G-7500. Every step along the way has been an obvious improvement, and always in ways that surprised me. I covet and will never have something like Hudson’s 9090dB, but a beast like that would cause me to entirely reconfigure this, my daily driver and would be massive overkill for my office space. Still, a boy can dream.
When I started my return to vinyl and two channel stereo I dug my old Kenwood receiver out of the closet along with my old Yamaha turntable and bought a couple of budget Bic Venturi tower speakers to tide me over until I could get a proper system.
I started on the front end with a new turntable, cartridge and phono preamp. After a couple of years and some minor tweaks I settled on the VPI with a Dynavector cart and Jolinda tube preamp for my vinyl rig. I soon realized that with all of the used vinyl I was buying, a record cleaning machine became the top audio priority. Meanwhile I started going down the tape rabbit hole. I had an old Yamaha double well cassette deck but this was still long enough ago that I upgraded cheaply and bought a Luxman cassette deck on eBay. A couple of years passed and I had two Nakamichi BX-300s and a Dragon. I also got pretty deep into open reel before it got hip and expensive. I started with a Teac A-3300SX 2 Track because I figure two track sounded the best. I quickly saw that the quarter track was what I really wanted and researched the hell out of it until I bought my Crown SX-824 fully refurbished and calibrated. This turned out to be a good decision as Crowns are built like tanks, sound better than almost anything else and are specifically designed to be easy to work on. Probably the best built American tape decks ever. Then I found a Teac A-6300 auto-reverse quarter track for cheap and was able to rehab it myself. That filled my analog stable of front end Hi Fi.
I still have the old Kenwood and Bics. Those speakers punch WAY above their weight class and still sound good, but that’s the next upgrade. The Kenwood has two tape i/o which I run to two Sony tape switch boxes so I can have as many as six tape decks hooked up at the same time. It also has a remote control. It is not easy to find a preamp that has two tape i/o, a remore control, and can be integrated into a home theatre. If I figure out the best way to do that and get the money together I will get the preamp and a couple of mono blocks for the two new front stereo speakers.
I probably last bought a vinyl record album in the 90s but I had accumulated close to a thousand by that time. I went a long time without playing any of my old albums but I’m sure glad I kept them as the last few years have seen me get back into the habit of listening to them. I love the rich textures of vinyl. My 30 year old Harmon Kardon stereo system is now obsolete and was never high-end but still sounds pretty good to me. However, this thread is tempting me to update it all.