Friday, August 16, 2013

Runaround for records

In my protracted pursuit of analog nirvana, it turns out that everything is fine with my turntable and it should be on its way to me from Glendale, AZ today. I've never had a problem with shopping or selling on eBay. I used to do it quite a lot in my early days of transition, buying and selling clothes and such. In fact, my eBay account is michelletg328, a name I would never choose today. But I found my current talisman on eBay, and other magickal items, plus my stuffed polar bear Oz, so it’s been a good resource for me to find hard-to-find things.

Since I purchased my Rega P-1 turntable with the Performance Pack on Aug. 1 and paid for it through PayPal, I hadn't heard a word from the seller so I assumed everything was on its way. After a few days of not hearing anything, I started to become concerned, but eBay said to wait until Aug. 9 to open a case that would be the first step for arbitration. I got a notice that the Postal Service had opened an account, but there was no tracking information and still not a word from the seller. I had to wait until Aug. 15 to escalate to eBay Customer Support, which would mean they would step in and possibly refund my money if the seller continued to be unresponsive.

On the 15th I sent another note to the seller, telling him that if I didn't hear anything from him by 3 pm that day, I would escalate the case. Three pm passed, and still nothing. I didn't want to get a refund; I wanted my turntable, so I sent him another note giving him one more week. I’m glad I did, because a few hours later he finally responded with an apologetic note explaining that he had been traveling for work and family business this month. He had packed it up for pickup at his office (hence the USPS account opening) and the Post Office never picked it up. I think if he hadn't done that, I would have given up more quickly. At least I could see that something was being done, although the non-responsiveness was very troubling.

So next time I buy something on eBay, I’m definitely going to ask the seller some questions, just to establish the connection before money changes hands. A good lesson for any online shopper to learn!

With that in mind, I did also just buy an isolation platform for my new used turntable on eBay and I did ask questions before I bought it. Since we all know that analog is more sensitive to vibration than digital, I was concerned about the placement of my turntable so close to my speaker and on my less-than-audiophile standard dresser. In my old house that burned down, my Micro Seiki turntable sat on top of a five-shelf equipment rack with spiked feet coupled to the floor. I even filled the hollow joints of the rack with lead shot to dampen vibration – the whole thing must have weighed about 200 pounds. But as I said in a previous post, I don’t have room for such extravagance in my current space, so I’ll try a different solution.

The isolation platform is a simple concept that even non-audiophiles can understand. It’s a flat wooden box that’s filled with plain sand, and the turntable sits on a floating plank on top of the sand. Anybody who has played beach volleyball knows how jumping out of sand is much harder than off solid ground. That’s partly because the sand absorbs part of the energy of your jump by the displacement of its mass. I used to have a Bright Star isolation platform under my Laserdisc player in my old setup, which is the same exact thing, but a little less homemade-looking. Bright Star appears to have discontinued making them, so I was happy to find this homemade (and cheaper) solution.

At the base of the box, four brass cones are the feet, resting on brass discs with indentions for the points to hold them in place. So any vibration coming from below (say, from dancing on my wood strip floors) has to travel through the dresser, through the brass feet, through the maple wood box, and through about 50 pounds of sand before it reaches the turntable, which itself has non-resonant feet and plinth (the body that holds the platter and tonearm) before it can affect the critical point where the needle touches the groove of the record. Now, air vibration from the speakers affecting the playback have a much more direct path, but that shouldn't be too big a problem as long as I don’t play records at high volumes. We’ll see how that all works out when I get everything in the next week or so and get it set up.

Last night I went down to St. Marks to find the used record dealer I passed on my way to the last Shotz. He didn't have much that I wanted, but he had a lot of crap I used to have that I’m not interested in replacing. I did pick up a Charlie Parker record and a Verve Japanese pressing of Duke Ellington standards, plus Philip Glass’ Songs from Liquid Days. I also got Mannheim Steamroller’s Fresh Aire VI, a modern tone poem based on the Greek myths and a nostalgic throwback from my early days as an audiophile. Now that I think about it, I’d really like to hear once more Fresh Aire V that is based on an imaginary trip through space by Johnass Kepler, so maybe I’ll look for that online.

I also found Stevie Wonder’s double album Musiquarium, so even though I have it on mp3, I thought that was worth picking up. Plus I got a couple classical albums – the CBS Masterworks pressing of Hayden’s three favorite concertos with Wynton Marsalis and Yo-Yo Ma, and Lorin Maazel's version of Ravel’s Bolero. Not a bad haul for $63, but I’m really looking forward to shopping at the Princeton Record Store, which has the area’s largest collection of vinyl. I went there once with Morgan last year, but I wasn't shopping for records back then, obviously.

I haven’t done any TSMC events in a while since I've been so exhausted, but I think I can start doing those again soon. The farewell party for Emily went really well, and I was happy she and Miriam got to see where I live at last. We saw “Wings of Desire” and everyone seemed to enjoy it. It was just the right amount of people too – Becker, Puck and Chelsea also came. Any more people and it starts getting a little uncomfortably crowded when everybody’s standing up.

Today is the first day at work in the past two weeks I feel like I can relax a bit. Maybe I’ll go get a massage after work before going home, I think I deserve one. I’m really looking forward to a relaxing weekend as well.