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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

An interesting record player, record collecting, and U-turn Audio

I have been collecting vinyl records since 1982. This does not mean I have a good collection or that I have that many quality records. It just means I haunt the discount bins at Garage Sales and Thrift stores.
Mostly I look at absolutely horrible records and then reject them.
I imagine I will find a perfect Lee Moses album or "Electric Lady Land," with no scratches but I'd settle for a Jerry Jeff Walker that didn't have Mr. Bojangles and I'd be overjoyed with Merle Haggard.
I once found a very nice Cowboy Copas album in GoodWill but the best score of my life was the 1977 Joe Ely debut album found at the Tigard GoodWill. It was in perfect condition.
But I digress...
The other Sunday I was in the Salem, OR GoodWill store looking through a bin of Glen Miller and other forgettable albums of the early 1970's and I came across a mini-trove of Country-Western music. Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and they were all scratched. I selected a Monkeys album just because I couldn't turn it down.
Beside me was a younger fellow with facial hair and funny sandals and he was quite earnestly digging through the bin. There is a routine as a serious record collector. You pull out the records you want and then pull the vinyl and hold it up to the light to check for scratches.
He had found the Elton John. Oh, boy!
But he also took a not quite perfect Dire Strait's, "Brother's in Arms."
He seemed quite satisfied...
Now here is the issue..
This is 2015, the supply of good condition used vinyl is not what it once was. Add to this the fact that most people listened to absolute crap because that was all that was available, and the pickings are pretty meager.
I suspect vinyl record collecting is more of a conceit than a passion for most people. There are really artistic and there are really kitsch album covers and there is something about the very act of getting sound out of a spinning vinyl disk that fascinates the child in all of us. (I think)
But the problem is...
What do you play your records on?
Old turntables are kind of quirky to say the least. I have an old Onkyo turntable that I was going to get working for my friend Orin. I just discovered the belt has turned to goop and upon taking it apart I see that it is really a kind of awful turntable. Not worth the effort.
So, what do you do? Buy a Crosley with USB?
They seem horrible to me. It is similar to one of those record destroying console stereo's that gave us the wallowed out Mitch Miller grooves that curse us in GoodWill.
Well this is what I found on (I was going to start a kickstarter fund to buy gravel so I wouldn't have to grind feed in the mud but I think Kickstarter is for a little different class than I)
There is a new company called U-Turn audio and they have developed an inexpensive and simple turntable that looks like it will not sound horrible.
The price started at $150 but is now up to $175.
It is a simple belt drive turntable. It comes with a good-enough cartridge, it has pretty good mass for playing warped records, it really sounds like a decent deal. You can add features like a tonearm lift, better cartridge, heavy platter, better cables, an odd color, and the price goes up.
I would love to get my hands on one...
I've got mine all picked out and customized but it is going to cost me more than $175...
Now I'm going to go slog around in the mud thinking of a better life...
If anyone wants to come over and be my spotter whilst I crawl down inside a tipped over grain bin and shovel peas...
(Note: lack of links due to use of iPhone for writing blog)


  1. Now at $179.00. Better get one soon at this rate.

  2. Got any Gordon Lightfoot? I am not a collector but an accumulator of records, and a lot of other stuff. I think if I played every vinyl lp stored here and on my grandfather's farm it would wear out a turntable. And waste a few years of my life. Seriously there are some pretty decent country music records in there and I really need to move them to safer storage before the raccoons break into the old house.

    1. Gord's Gold... You should listen to them. I have a few 78's which are fun to play but sound horrible.

    2. I have a few of those heavy old 78s as well but none I care much for. I have a vintage RCA radio record player from the 1940s that still works and is a nice piece of furniture.

  3. You can get a far better turntable for just a bit more than $175. Check out this site:

    Don't let the high-end stuff turn you off. Look at the "budget" turntables, some decent ones there for around $250. Get a Grado Black cartridge and you're in business. You may find better prices elsewhere too.

    Also plenty of good Technics, Pioneeer, and even used Pro-Ject tables on ebay. I have an older direct drive Technics which is nice, but my main table is a Pro-Ject someone GAVE me.

    I have hundreds of records, most are in very good to outstanding shape. I even have a Nitty Gritty vacuum machine - the basic one which is manual with no internal vacuum.

    1. I think at $150 for new you have a Crosley beater. The Crosley is a crime against vinyl in my opinion. When I added the features I wanted I ended up at $350. So I would be better off with a good used turntable. I think the Orbit fills a niche and I applaud their efforts.
      I need a record cleaning machine very badly.

    2. I agree with you on the Crosleys. Junk. And the real insult is they're using the Crosley name on that junk making people think it is somehow related to the old company run by the Crosley brothers.

      I like the looks of the Orbit a lot and hope they do well. I did the same thing in window shopping one and when I wound up at that price I was thinking "well, I'd rather but that toward a Gates or something." But the base model is probably a good bang for the buck. And US made!

      Look for used Nitty-Gritty machines on ebay. You can homebrew your own cleaning solution. I wanted one for a long time and am glad I finally got one.

    3. I was looking on Craigslist and found several refurbished mid 1970's semi-auto turntables under $400. The Orbit comes with a new cartridge and is not semi-auto. The more I read about the Orbit the better I like it.


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