Analog Audio’s Comeback
With soaring record sales and interest in tube-based amplification products, we take a closer look at how old-school is sounding new again.
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October 08, 2010 by Robert Archer

Fremer offers these basic tips for turntable setup:

1. Most basic turntables will include a cartridge preinstalled. All you have to do is familiarize himself with the turntable’s basic functions, remove the shipping screws, set the tracking force [describes the manner in how the needle, which is expressed in grams, comes in contact with the record], and set the anti-skating [counters a force that pulls the arm towards to center of the record]. Those are fairly simple adjustments. It’s also recommended to use an external tracking force gauge and not the one that comes with the turntable.

2. Make sure the turntable is level, then install a phono preamp to run the turntable through the receiver.

3. People have a lot of old records. If they clean their records, they should last more than a lifetime. You can get vacuum cleaning machines for $300 to $400, but there’s a company called Spin Clean and its Spin Clean record washer is $80.

4. You can look into accessories that include a carbon fiber brush, a stylus cleaner, stylus cleaning fluid, and the spin clean machine, or if you’re purchasing through your custom electronics pro see if he has a kit that encompasses such items.

5. If the turntable doesn’t have a cartridge, Fremer says installers will need to know the weight of the cartridge, adding that websites like vinylengine.com can provide that information. Once the weight is determined, Fremer says installers will need an overhang jig or an overhang gauge. If neither is available, a universal type of jig should suffices. Installers should consider an electronic stylus gauge to perform the final stages of proper turntable installation.

For more detailed turntable setup and vinyl care information, Fremer has two educational DVDs - “21st Century Vinyl: Michael Fremer’s Practical Guide to Turntable Setup” and “It’s a Vinyl World After All” - available on Amazon, Music Direct, Needledoctor.com, Elusivedisc.com, and Acousticsounds.com.

Fremer says you should follow a few basic procedures to ensure the analog experience lives up to the your expectations, if you’re just starting to get into analog, like you can “have a selection of clean records, as well as a selection of records that cover every genre, and they should play the vinyl version and compare it to a digital version.”

Some content choices Fremer recommends to highlight the quality include the 180-gram releases of Nirvana’s catalog, the re-issues of Elvis Costello’s first three records, and standards from greats such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis.

Also, be sure to take proper care of your records so they’ll last.

“I don’t think a lot of people know how to take care of records, he says. “To prevent records from getting ruined, [learn] how to take a record out of the sleeve ... without a finger touching the surfaces and without pinching the ends of the record.”

Tube Terms and Types
Because tube-based electronics are also part of analog’s comeback, you may need to be familiar with the terms used to describe tube amplifiers and their performance. Here is a summary of some popular tube types and term from Cary Audio:

12AU7: a miniature nine-pin medium-gain dual triode vacuum tube. The 12AU7 is popular in hi-fi vacuum tube audio as a low noise line amplifier, driver and phase-inverter used in vacuum tube push-pull amplifier circuits.

12AX7: a miniature dual triode vacuum tube with high voltage gain. The 12AX7 was originally intended as replacement for the 6SL7 family of dual-triode amplifier tubes for audio applications. The tube is praised for its distinctive sound, and its wide use in guitar amplifiers has caused it to be one of the very few small-signal vacuum tubes to continue in production since it was introduced. The 12AX7 vacuum tube is used extensively in preamplifier circuits.

EL84: Sometimes called the 6BQ5, the EL84 is a vacuum tube of the power pentode type. It has a nine-pin miniature base and is found mainly in the output stages of amplification circuits, most commonly in guitar and stereo amplifiers.

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Robert Archer - Senior Editor, CE Pro
Bob is a dedicated audiophile who has been writing about A/V for Electronic House sister publication CE Pro since 2000.

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