About six months ago, I had a catastrophic server failure that ended up with me losing all of my music. Every CD Mono and I owned + tons of carefully picked through and tagged downloads, gone. I started the process of ripping CDs again but it is an incredibly slow and boring process, especially if you're a sorting nut like me. As I had more fun things I wanted to get to, I stalled out on ripping. Thus, I also stalled out on listening.
The problem with listening to MP3s is it just doesn't engage me like it used to back in the day when the concept of having all of my music on a 5x2 box was new. I tend to end up turning on music for background noise, not for listening pleasure.
Recently I decided to pull out Mono's Turntable and see if I could fix it. We had been consolidating our excess stuff around the house and selling off anything we didn't need on Craigslist. I hooked up the turntable and found it still had it's problem of cutting out the right channel. Also I couldn't seem to get it to ground properly, so I got a nasty buzz no matter what I tried. I set it aside and pondered what to do with the table and the records that had been sitting on the shelf for years with no play.
A trip to goodwill yielded the answer; a used, Technics Direct Drive Fully Automatic SL-QD3 for $25 with an aftermarket Audio Technica Cartridge. We grabbed it and took it home. A small bit of height and weight adjustment and we got it running perfect.
Of course, the problem then was where to set it up. The receiver in the office is placed inside our server rack and we can't fit the turntable in there, and there wasn't a convenient place to stick a shelf next to it. Also, the receiver is a fairly bare bones, generic Sony stereo receiver from the late 90s. It just doesn't sound good.
We had another AV receiver sitting in the living room, but the living room isn't the best place to listen to music. The office is a far more conductive place for such an activity. So a bit of hauling later I brought in the shelf that was in the living room along with the receiver and hooked it up. Excited, I put on what I consider the golden standard for testing a new sound system: Dark Side of the Moon.
The result was a bit underwhelming. The AV Receiver, despite costing around $300 new when it came out in the late 90s, just didn't have any character to it.
Something Awful pointed me towards scouring the thrift stores for a vintage receiver, particularly anything Pioneer SX-XXX. I tried hitting good will for a few days (Our neighborhood good will moves its inventory extremely fast and always has something new in it), but I couldn't find anything satisfactory. So I went on ebay.
Buying used sound equipment on ebay has always been something I tried to avoid. You can't play with whatever you're buying, so you have to either hope to chance or find someone you trust to sell you a good product. A few days later I found a gentleman in Indianapolis selling a Pioneer SX-525. What attracted me to his ad was that he stated that he had recently cleaned everything on it, including the pots. $40 later and I find it at my doorstep today.
Wow, just wow. The sound difference between the vintage Pioneer and the amp I had been using was like night and day. Everything sounded better through it. It is incredibly nice and loud, yet everything sounds clear. I can hear things I never used to hear in many songs.
I'm not an audiophile by any stretch of the imagination. You'll never get me to even look at $500 speaker cable, and you won't convince me that drawing a green line on my CDs will make them sound clearer. I also have a hard time to believing that just because it's vintage means it sounds better. In this case though, I have been proven wrong.
I also got to test out a few new record pressings that some of you might have noticed in stores recently. Among my acquisitions were Boston's self titled album, the 30th anniversary edition of DSotM, and The Perl Jam Ten remaster. All of them are pressed on heavy, 180 gram vinyl. All of them perfect in every way. I hope more stuff gets re-released like this because it's good shit.