The Analog Sound Project
Posted on January 21, 2013 by Tim Tolbert
After three years of procrastination, research and eBay purchases it’s time to complete this project. My new/old stereo rig should be completed in about a month according to my most recent project estimate. Who’s to blame for this so called obsession with warm and organic sound? That’s a complicated question but I think I can trace the origins thanks to memories that still resonate.
Growing up in the ’70s I remember thumbing through my parents’ vinyl collection in the living room of our home on Intertown Road. I would spend lots of time reading the liner notes, credits and lyrics if they happened to be included as I listened to the albums play on the turntable. If a particular song somehow grabbed me I would open up the acrylic turntable cover and carefully pick up the needle and place it back to the beginning groove of that song so I could listen to it again – right away. Some albums worked their way into my consciousness; not just a song or two but the work as a whole. Two of those albums included Elvis’ Golden Records and Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. The sound of the crack and pop of the needle and the auto uptake of the turntable arm always signaled time well spent whenever Song for the Asking on Bridge finished. The lead song was the one that hooked me first though. Hmm….wait a minute, I think I’ve already discussed this song before… [Link]
As I grew older I quickly discovered the Beatles, other British Invasion groups and Bob Dylan. A newspaper route and steady snow shoveling gigs around Summit Street kept me in vinyl back in the late ’70s. Record World (dearly departed) on Lake Street just happened to be near the end of my route and I’d spend a good half an hour there or more one to two days a week thumbing through the racks. After getting paid I’d usually find my way back there and would purchase a new album to add to my growing collection.
It was an exciting time to have a little money to spend in your local record store. The late ’70s and early ’80s saw a seismic shift in Rock and Roll as we knew it up to that point. What we know today as Classic Rock ruled FM Radio but a revolution was underfoot. Students with blocks of air time to fill at College Radio stations started playing all of the new and noisy bands emerging from Britain. The 2nd British Invasion was upon us and artists like the Clash, Elvis Costello, Sex Pistols, Graham Parker and Joe Jackson hit our shores. Not to be outdone, American bands like Talking Heads, Television, Blondie and the Cars started making an impact.
A few years later, I remember being amazed when the Compact Disc came out in the mid ’80s. A touch of the button on a stereo or Discman would advance the track automatically! No dealing with turntables, big vinyl albums or stupid rewind/fast forward issues with cassette tapes. The sound was crisp and clear and so easy to access quickly. I joined the Columbia House Record of the Month Club (multiple times!) to get their introductory offer of 11 free CDs for a penny with my initial purchase of just one new album. I couldn’t believe how fast my music collection was growing.
Fast forward to today and the Compact Disc is on it’s last legs. Dare I say that physically owning music is probably also on the way out. It’s all about the Cloud and subscription rights today. Why amass a treasure trove of CDs, Albums or even digital files when it’s always accessible through new streaming on demand services like Spotify, Pandora and Rdio?
Aficiondos and geeks will tell you that vinyl sounds better than digital. Personally, I agree. Digital sound is compressed and doesn’t include the entire information that was captured during the actual recording. A vinyl recording included nearly all of that information and discerning listeners can tell the difference. But you need to have the right equipment to truly appreciate the warm sound these analog sound storage mediums possess; hence my Analog Sound Project came into being in early 2011.
A direct-drive turntable is preferable and there were several bullet proof models produced in the late ’70s and early ’80s. I decided to purchase a Sony and after a week or two search and subsequent purchase on eBay it arrived on my doorstep in late Spring 2011. I was pleased with the overall condition of the unit and marveled at the sheer weight and heft of this piece of equipment; no wonder the shipping costs were more than the actual sales price.
I always thought Advent stood for quality as far as loudspeakers were concerned. I used to own a pair and my eBay search returned a nice pair of The Advent Loudspeakers bearing a manufacture date of 1973. The repair of these speakers is one of the longer lead items holding up completion of the Analog Project. The foam insulation surrounding the woofer of one speaker has totally disintegrated while the other woofer surround is poised to crumble as soon as I fire these glorious boxes up. Thankfully, a specialist has been sourced (also via eBay) who will re-foam both surrounds for less than $75. Note to self, need to get those both out in the mail ASAP.
Advent Loudspeaker (with nod to 21st century)
I decided to stick with Sony and found a very nice example of the SONY STR-6046A circa 1978 clad in real wood veneer. This thing was less than $40 and quick research showed an original MSRP of $275 back in the late ’70s. Thanks again eBay!
There you have it, the saga of my own Analog Sound Project. We’re going to be ready to rock very soon here. Thankfully, I’ve been frequenting a few of Ann Arbor’s outstanding used Vinyl shops including Encore and Wazoo in anticipation of this fast approaching day. Which album should I choose to spin first on my new/old rig?
Note: All photographs associated with this post were taken on a digital device but then passed through an App designed to render the images as if they had actually emanated from an analog film camera.