One Of The Cool Kids Again (Part One)

The story of my record player is one that has evolved over the past several weeks and ultimately ends with me owning 2 record players.

It started with a few key seeds… one, the records I bought at this seasons City Wide Waunakee Garage sales. I bought “Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here” (an amazing find), some Brian Eno and Linda Ronstadt. I also go the power classic “Frampton – Comes Alive”. I played these on Abbey’s record player while she was home at the end of the summer. It was nostalgic and with the few records I had kept, I was up to about 10. I played a few before Abbey left for Georgia again and took her record player with her.

Then later this summer I bought “Paul Black and The Flip Kings – How How”, knowing full well that I would have to wait until Abbey came home with her record player at Christmas to actually listen to it. This was the last piece of the Paul Black puzzle. I now have all recordings that I know of, plus some of my own.

This ultimately led to a conversation with Cindy about a record player converter that she had bought for her folks a few years ago. She was pretty certain they would let me borrow it. I would be able to convert my Paul Black LP! So, on a subsequent visit to Ron & Betsy’s place, it was gotten out of storage for me (it was still unopened) and Betsy picked 4 LP’s from her collection to send with me for conversion.

It was pretty expensive, sticker still on it, and it reminded me so much of the old days. I had to leave it until the next weekend though. No time. It was set tenderly aside, for now.

Then, believe it or not, they were selling a USB record player on Woot for $15.99 and $5 shipping. I knew that it wasn’t going to be Technics quality, but my records were all used and it would allow me to listen to Paul after I sent the converter back.  She bought it for me. Thanks Cindy!

It arrived the Saturday of the next weekend. MY record player. I was one of the cool kids again!

My Vibe rig:

I placed “Paul Black and The Flip Kings – How How” gently on the turntable. This was the culmination of weeks of waiting and anticipation… steady now…

The first soft crackles of the grooves before the first track I expected were blown away by the first couple chords of the song. Ugh. It skidded right into the first track! Was I too indelicate? I lifted the arm by the little finger tab and tried it again, slower. Scccrrtchh right into the song. Ugh again. The record was scratched and the needle wasn’t top notch clearly on a $20 record player. I was distraught. However…  I put the needle down in the middle of the second song and happily, the track played fine. I had never considered that my Paul Black LP wouldn’t be in anything but mint condition. There were some other skips and scratches on the rest of the side too, but I couldn’t legitimately blame the record player.

Side 2 was better, but had one skip that was pretty bad.

I was despondent over not being able to convert my Paul Black though. With that many skips it would just drive me crazy to listen to the conversion.

I tried some other records though and they played just fine. Here I am playing my “Jimi Hendrix – War Heroes”. It played great.

That was heartening at least. It was nice to hear the vinyl noise again. It was somehow soothing… reminded me of the old days, in particular the twilight half asleep realization that the record was done but the needle was still down and it wasn’t auto stopping. The soft rrrrrrr click, rrrrrrr click, rrrrrrr click, rrrrrrr click of the needle in the last groove, as you woke up just enough to shut it off and get back to bed.  I spent many, many nights falling asleep to vinyl. Ah memories….

I decided that I would leave the Ion record converter unopened and just use my Vibe.

What followed was an hour of frustration as I tried to use the Audacity software, which I was already using to convert tapes. It kept blasting the levels completely off the charts. I tried everything. I managed to get it so that it would be mainly in range, but the top high-end noise was getting chopped off. I knew that this wasn’t gonna work. I recorded a bit and then listened back to it. CRAP. Utter crap. I walked away. Maybe I was just too close and desperate for it to work. Take a break.

I came back later with a clear head and like a concert pianist sat down, shook it all loose, cracked my neck and set in on it all over again. I tried everything, twice. No luck. It was as bad as before.

Then my eyes strayed to the Ion rig. Hmmm… It looked like it used different software…

I broke it out.

This one was crafted more solid. It had a tone arm lever and a nice rubber mat for the platter. I got it all plugged in and put Paul Black on it and lifted the arm, positioned it, and released the lever. It descended slowly and hit the lead-in groove and it didn’t skip! It played through the first song with no skips at all. None on the whole first side at all. There was one on the B side, but just one. So the Ion rig was more robust, it had a cleaner sound and was bigger to boot. The cover covered the entire record. So I had my rig to keep, but I would use this one for converting. Plan on.

However, when I tried to use Audacity, again it went boom on the meters. No dice. I pulled my hair out a bit, but, installed the EZ Vinyl  converter software that came with it. Frankly I was not convinced it was going to work, and initially it didn’t. I was so infuriated now though I went into the computer settings and started hacking and tweaking stuff left and right. Arrrrgggg….. wait! What’s this? As soon as I clicked the button to start recording, the recording level, no matter what I set it at, went automatically to 100%.

“These go to 11.”

So it was overriding the level that I set. No wonder!

Through a long series of trial and error, I figured out a way to do it. I started the record, positioned the needle and dropped the arm, which came down slowly enough that I could start the recording and then reset the recording level to 4 out of 100 before the first notes were played. I recorded one side of Paul Black this way and when it was done, the software split the tracks and allowed me to name them, then the final recording was in Audacity for manipulation. I saved it out as an MP3 and listened to it with the fervor of a record studio exec. No flaws, except for the scratches and ticks and the record noise itself. Success!

Paul Black, with one painful skip on side 2, was officially converted.

Then I went on to convert the 4 that had been sent with me. This included Brenda Lee, Acker Bilk, Rusty Warren and the Lynn Anderson Christmas Album, which was THE Christmas album for the family. Copies of this one are going to several family members.

When they were all done, I repackaged the Ion and set it aside for return.

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  1. Paul Black collection. Cool. That brings memories of living on Willy Street, four doors down from the Crystal and heading down to listen to Paul Black. Cowboy would let us in no cover if it was late enough, beer was cheap, crowd was always the same. I don’t know how many times we saw him (and Paul Cebar, Andy Ewing, Other blues regs).

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