From time to time I ask myself just what it is about vinyl records that is so appealing. A lot of the time the answer for me has to do just as much with the artwork and the presentation as the music itself.
I am not anti-digital. I think downloads have really helped push vinyl–the physical artifact–to a new place of importance in music culture. There’s something about the larger artwork, the inclusion of liner notes, the gatefold sleeves and the physicality of the record that gives it a lasting appeal.
You could literally do most, of not all of this digitally–providing a large digital poster image buyers could download and print would be fab. Ditto liner notes. But for some reason, the seeking and finding is an important part of the vinyl buying experience. You can hunt and peck online for digital downloads all day, but nothing beats the thrill of flipping through the stacks and seeing that album cover that just gets you interested for no good reason. Or for VERY good reasons.
Shopping online is pretty utilitarian. Going to a local record store, listening to the music playing on the overhead, browsing the magazines, overhearing conversations about new music…this is almost becoming (if it hasn’t already) date night activity. It’s definitely a great way to kill an hour or so when you’re waiting around for something else to happen…but for me going to the record shops is always a main event type activity.
Digital is great and convenient. It’s not the same listening experience with vinyl–the involvement of cleaning the record, putting it on the turntabling, turning it over to play the B-side, looking at the artwork…doing this for an hour or two a night requires more attention. It’s like cooking at home instead of ordering delivery. You get your food in the end, but that hands-on experience makes it more…real somehow. Not that downloads are plastic or fake. They’re easy and fun. But not special, not on their own.
Those digital services that encourage mixtape and sharing amongst friends/subscribers have the right idea–making music an EXPERIENCE is probably the key to selling more digital downloads. Vinyl has all that built-in.
As a DJ and vinyl manipulator, I’ve used Audio Technica turntables like the AT-LP1240-USB Direct Drive DJ Turntable in my work, and I’ve always been satisfied with the quality I get from these. Yes, they weigh thirty five pounds which can be a right pain to lug around from gig to gig, but they’ve always been dependable and fairly rugged.
I write about this turntable–and others to come–because I am asked a LOT about the turntables I prefer and the answer is always the same. It depends a LOT on what you’re using the turntables FOR. There are people who think I am CRAZY for using Crosley products, for example, thinking that I play ALL my vinyl on them.
But when it comes to portable turntables, I personally love those little Crosleys and the issue people have with them is always something directly related to “why would you play your expensive vinyl records on one?”
The answer is that I DON’T. I play beat up, well used and loved records on them in the context of having a good time, not as a recording audiophile looking for the perfect fidelity.
Back to Audio-Technica. Yes, $350 is a pretty serious price tag for some, but the motor in this seems top notch, I’ve never had one fail on me yet, and I’m very happy with the three that I own…just an FYI in case you’re curious. I have one to play records on at home and two that I travel with for shows and installation art gigs that require vinyl manipulation or playback…
My old newsroom mentor Bob Jones once advised against making claims that something is “the very first”, the “largest” or in this case, “the very smallest” anything–because inevitably someone else will do some digging and find something even smaller, older, etc.
So I now consider such claims to be a challenge–I’m on a hunt to find the very smallest vinyl record player known to man. Is this it? I somehow doubt it, but let’s call it a contender:
At a recent Paisley Babylon gig at the Horror Society’s two-day film festival in Chicago, I did an all-horror related live mashup and turntablist multimedia set using a pair of Audio-Technica ATLP 120 USB turntables. I am pleased to say these Audio-Technica turntables worked quite well and give me good, consistent performance.
I took delivery of three of these AT USB turntables back in the middle of summer, but hadn’t had a chance to put them through their paces in a live setting until October when I started doing DJ Paisley Babylon gigs and performing Paisley Babylon Beautiful Chaos shows.
I am a big believer in these turntables after having used them in my October gigs here in Chicago. In spite of the weight–the AT120LP USB turntables have a built-in pre-amp so you can select line-level output or phono output–these were wonderful.
Perfectly suited for my needs as I was feeding line-level out from the turntable into an echo unit for life dub and mashup effects I could hold in my hand and make a big goofy show out of using. It’s a hell of a lot of fun to manipulate vinyl in this way!
My only gripe with these turntables has to do with the switch for selecting line out or phono out. Beware when transporting them as the switch is in the rear of the unit and is susceptible to breaking off if it gets jammed up against other gear as you’re transporting to short distance gigs. I threw mine in the back of the vehicle too close to my vinyl crates and one pothole and a jostle took out the switch on turntable #3. My fault for not packing more carefully, but something to keep in mind.