Finally got a chance to fiddle with my hi-tech Christmas gift, which instantly transported TWC to De Javu-land. Not the records, but the turntable itself. Things like anti-skip, cartridge, platter, and grams of pressure adjustments. Flash to the Stone Age, and I was humming along, putting stuff together like I knew what I was doing. Just like adjusting the fuel mixture on a Holley carburetor. Okay, maybe more like riding a bike. You don't forget how.
The House Blond took an immediate interest in the ten inch records with their colorful jackets. She spent a long time admiring the album art and reading the song titles. Jacob thought the turntable itself was eminently cool even though it looked as foreign to him as something out of a Star Wars picture. This is cool, Dad. What's it do? [immediately starts pushing buttons and touching everything] Katie wanted to know if she could do that rapper thing with the tone arm.
First impression: Although the ION USB turntable is cool, it isn't as well made or as solid as my still-functional Fisher (circa 1982). Except for that USB part that is. The ION doesn't come with a lid or a dust cover, the platter isn't close to as heavy or substantial, and I'm pretty sure the Fisher is direct drive. That ain't a big problem though because the sole mission is to get the vinyl into digital format.
Software: The ION comes with two programs. EZ Vinyl Converter, which worked fine except for the rhythmic clicking in the speakers (not evident on the recorded product). EZ Vinyl is a no frills conversion program that is easy to use and gets right to the point. Audacity is a powerful program that allows people with no life to spend hours and hours tweaking their antique record collection into something vaguely resembling the quality of a modern CD or MP3. It has a big learning curve and I'm lazy. Or maybe it just doesn't work well with 64 bit Business Vista.
The Audacity program works fine with 64 bit Business Vista, in fact, it does a great job. The key is understanding the program and setting the preferences.
Secondly, adjusting the gain settings on the turntable to minimum reduces distortion and background noise to a minimum. The gain control is right next to where you plug the USB line into the turntable.
Reality: I was absolutely stunned at the awful condition of some of my albums. Snap, Crackle, & Pop. Hiss and campfire. Skips and stucks. Ghastly. Sounded like I was using a nail rather than a needle. You can clearly hear the campfire in this old Stones sample from Out of Our Heads. It's my understanding that a patient man can clean that up using the Audacity program.
Most of the really old stuff was virtually unplayable and rendered ever so much more awful by comparison to modern technological advances. Newer albums fared better, in part, because they were purchased, immediately recorded onto reel-to-reel tape, and then put away for posterity. Wish I'd kept those tapes. The Go Go's is a newer record and didn't get as much play as the Stones. Predictably, the sound is much better. I know, what self-respecting guy admits owning a Go Go's record?
Two surprises: I don't have as many albums as I remembered and many of the records I have enjoyed over the years I've already replaced with CD's and MP3's.
All that notwithstanding, it's a worthwhile investment for us fossilized throwbacks to another era. If your vinyl is in halfway decent condition, the plain vanilla format of the EZ Vinyl software is going do a quick and painless conversion of your records to MP3's.
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