Tag Archives: turntable

It might seem complex

One of my readers commented that “it sure is easier to just put a record on the turntable and play it” in response to trying to understand the complexity of sending music out of a computer. Well, sure it is – just as it’s even easier to put a CD into a CD player. But then, it may be the easiest still to simply pick up an iPad and touch the screen to start some of the best sounding music you’ve ever heard playing on your high-end stereo system.

I think understanding the complexities of any system is equally hard – it all looks very complex and it’s important to simply take a step back and see what the end result of all the complexity is. From my viewpoint the proper ritual of washing a vinyl disc, cleaning the stylus, locating the track, setting the needle down and then returning to your listening chair each time you want to hear another track or album is a far more complex process than using your remote to select the next track on a CD and press play – and all of them pale when it comes to the ease of scrolling through 1000 albums with a flick of a finger on your iPad.

It’s funny how the most complex system of all is the simplest to use. After all, most of us don’t have a clue anymore how a modern automobile works in other than the most basic of concepts – yet it sure is easy to just touch the ignition button, start the car and drive off.

If, by reading the last series on networking you got a glimpse of how everything works and that glimpse might be enough to provide a mental image of the actual system and its workings, then setting one up is really quite easy and hopefully I’ve manbaged to demystify it a bit for you.

Next I think it might be handy to look at some of the devices we use to play music on our networks.

Tomorrow, the NAS.

Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl

Turntables and Audio

Yesterday we gave a little history on the amazing invention of the “talking machine” that, for the first time in the history of mankind, allowed millions of people to enjoy music in their homes. And not just any music, but the music of the masters of that day. Imagine having the great Caruso singing for you whenever and wherever you wanted. What an amazing invention.

Introduced in the latter part of the 1900′s, a decade later Gramophones and Victrolas were in over half of every home in the Western World so great was their popularity – but then the bottom starting falling out of the market as another invention came onto the scene – and this one was leaps and bounds cooler than the turntable: radio, introduced in the 1920′s.

Imagine for a moment growing up in this era where the primary mode of transportation was either riding animals or trains, indoor plumbing is a luxury, gas lamps and lanterns still provide much of the light in homes and all of a sudden there’s a machine that spews out music on command – followed in less than a decade by most cities getting electricity, telephones, electric lights, the introduction of the automobile coupled with the idea of mass production to build them and the end of the animal transportation era. On top of all this add yet another even more magical and mysterious machine that plays music out of thin air! What a wonderful time to experience such huge magical changes.

Between 1920 and 1924 radio usage in the United States, the UK and much of Europe went from zero to over 60% of every home having one. Block parties were regular events and neighbors gathered for evening radio broadcasts of their favorite shows. The bottom on turntable sales dropped from everything to nearly nothing in just 4 short years. Both the Victrola (Gramophone) turntable and the radio were complete players unto themselves – the Gramophone 100% mechanical, the radio 100% electronic.

The Victrola company, faced with warehouses filled with unsold Gramophones made a momentous decision: they would combine forces with the folks at RCA and build a combination Gramophone and radio into one box. Revolutionary in its scope, little attention by the public was paid to the fact that this radio/turntable combination of 1924 marked the first electronic turntable ever made – and from that point forward, all major turntables went from mechanical to amplified in the blink of an eye.

Turntables and radios

Separate radios and separate amplified turntables were still available but the biggest sellers of the day and, for the next several decades to come, remained the combo we now call a receiver which even today still consists of a radio, an amplifier, a preamplifier and a phono input. Unlike the receivers of today, however, these console models included the tone arm and platter (now powered with an electric motor) to make a complete system.

It would take something really interesting to change people’s purchasing habits from this all-in-one console to true separates as we know it.