Sunday, January 20, 2008

My New Old Hobby!

When I was a teen and in to my 20's I collected vinyl. I'd go to the funky record stores -- not the one in the mall -- and buy imports and colored vinyl and picture vinyl and rarities and even bootlegs. Every time I visited NYC, I'd go down to The Village and spend hours pouring through the racks of those ratty record shops. By the time I was 25 I had quite a collection. We're talkin' thousands of records, many of them collectibles. Like I had Hendrix's Electric Ladyland with the original banned cover depicting a bevy of bareskinned beauties. I had the Beatles White Album on white vinyl. I had the famous Lynyrd Skynyrd "Flame" cover of Street Survivors. My Stones collection was breathtaking--rare imports boots and picture-sleeve singles.

Sadly, over time and more than a few financial hiccups, I sold most of my beloved records, usually for far less than they were worth. For instance, I had a special audiophile pressing of Heart's debut, Dreamboat Annie, made by Nautilus. It was half-speed mastered on quiet virgin vinyl. Sold that at a yard sale. I checked on-line recently and found one place that had it for sale...$125.00. Crap.

So, now I'm rediscovering the joys of vinyl. I have a pretty good semi-vintage system: Marantz 2230 for phono-preamping, McIntosh 2105 power-amp and Tannoy SRM10B speakers. The weak link so far is the turntable. It's a Gemini DJ table I've had for years. Good turntables cost a fortune, so this will have to do for now. I'll buy a nice Shure cartridge for it in the meantime.

I've found that there's a big revival in vinyl, especially audiophile pressings. Go on-line and you'll find many sites. And it's not just old stuff. New releases are coming out, along with reissues of great albums of the past. For instance, U2 has just released the 20th anniversary The Joshua Tree on 200 Gram hi-grade vinyl, remastered from the original studio masters. Tom Petty continues to put his records out on vinyl. Universal Japan is remastering and re-releasing many great LPs in a limited run, again on 200 gram virgin vinyl. From that lot I just bought the Stones Let It Bleed. Sounds, well, analog. It's amazing to hear an all-analog signal path again. Think of it: Analog master tape, mastered to analog record, played back by an analog record-player. When was the last time YOU listened to an all-analog reproduction of recorded music? (That's what I thought!)
Let me tell you it's a warm bath for your ears!

I plan to buy and album or two a month, play them only a couple times and record them on to my professional reel-to-reel tape machine.

The downside is my new old hobby will cost me far more than it did the first time around. These disks start at $30 a pop, and the sky's the limit. An unopened original Beatles record can go for $500. As a kid, the most expensive record I ever bought was $20. But that was a lot, seeing as LP records were three to five bucks.

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