So, the first thing you’re probably asking is: on what is the guy going to be listening to all of these life-defining, listening-enabling, mind-blowing LPs?
Well, I’m going to disappoint the hard core amongst you straight up.
Once upon a time, my friends got really into hifi systems. I mean REALLY into them. This obsession got the point where one was planning to build a concrete pillar from the foundation of his house up to the room with his stereo to ensure as vibration free a base for his turn table as possible. (He never did, sadly.)
So, I had a general vision of what a good standard was at which I should aim. My budget, however, had other ideas. So, I settled on flexible, upgradable, and (ahem) inexpensive. After some research, I picked up a Sony CMT-SBT40D. This is a little mini system with 50W speakers that has received decent reviews. It also is bluetooth capable. Now, this is particularly important because it means that in addition to a turntable I can also connect the range of devices that are floating around my house, making the other residents happy as well. Fifty watts of total system power won’t impress many of you, but for the space I’m working with it’s just fine. Having a radio and CD player is a bonus. It has clear sound, if slightly unresponsive volume dial, and a remote.
For the most important piece of this set up, though, I struggled. *Good* turntables are beautiful things. Bad turntables aren’t worth the money you spend on them. Anything in the middle? Doesn’t really exist. So, I went bad(ish), but bolstered my decision with a good trawl through reviews on several sites. Eventually, I settled on the ION Audio Air LP (piano black — couldn’t justify nearly £25 extra for the wood grain finish, although I’m kinda regretting that now). It’s a bluetooth system, but it also has RCA and USB output, which means I can wire it into a better amp if I upgrade or my computer should I want to do geeky things. Having a CD fall out of the box first did make me smile, but I haven’t worried about ripping my vinyl tracks yet. The belt drive is good, it has a range of table speeds, and a fairly smooth motion (although the cradle or whatever you call it is only half-sized, so it’s not going to be as smooth as all that). The bluetooth pairing works well. The sound isn’t as clear through the system, or headphones, as I would ideally like. Overall, though, it does have a reasonable balance of volume, intensity, and low fairly distortion or garbage being hard to find, so I think it’s much better than it could be. That being said, it does have a good richness without too much crackling or hissing in most operation. Despite being cheap, it appears well made, with useful instructions and surprisingly helpful online assistance.
So, not a crazily auspicious start. But, as my good friend S (who played bass in a 90s Brit pop band and knows a thing or two about music) says, the most important thing in choosing a system is to have a budget and stick to it. If I really get into the LP thing then maybe I’ll upgrade. With the bluetooth functionality, I can go for either a better turntable or amp/hifi as the mood (and the finances) take me.
In the meantime, this is what we’re going with! What are you using? Any thoughts on this pairing? Any recommendations for better kit?