It’s embarrassing for me to admit this, but adversity builds character: This year will mark my first participation in Record Store Day. There. I said it. While the idea of dragging buyers back to bricks-and-mortar stores to buy records, find community, and actually look each other in the eye is, in every respect, a great idea, and one that should be championed by all fans of vinyl, with me the concept has fallen flat. I’ve never been fond of crowds, and this event always made me think I’d have to line up in hopes of getting any of those limited editions.
This morning, I polished my turntable with Speed Wax, from Tirox, which makes cleaning and maintenance products for motorcycles. Speed Wax smells like vanilla and, when buffed off with a microfiber cloth, leaves a wonderful, streak-free shine.
Yes, I polish my turntable. I’m proud of the thing. I smile at it. We understand each other.
It is with intense pleasure that I find myself writing this introduction to the inaugural installment of “For the Record,” a bimonthly column in which I’ll share with you my love of all things vinyl. I’m hoping that -- as a reader of the SoundStage! magazines -- you’re familiar with at least a few of my reviews. As of 2017, I’ve reviewed audio products for SoundStage! for 16 years, and the subjects of a good portion of those reviews have been analog products. And for 40 years now I’ve owned a turntable of some sort, and for nearly all that time have played LPs.
This is intended as a companion piece to the review of Allnic Audio’s L-9000 OTL/OCL preamplifier.
Big things have small beginnings. Some beginnings, however, are smaller than others. For Allnic Audio founder Kang Su Park, the story begins in the South Korean countryside during the 1950s. “We were very poor,” he told me. The South Korea of his youth was a far cry from the technology-forward nation we know today. That’s not exactly a shock after the Korean War tore through the Korean Peninsula from 1950 to 1953, leaving a literal scar in the form of a demilitarized zone, and a figurative one that left South Korea with the unenviable task of rebuilding a nation from scratch.
This is intended as a companion piece to the review of Estelon’s X Diamond Mk II loudspeakers.
Estelon is unusual. The Estonia-based company is unusual for a variety of reasons, actually. Consider the company’s loudspeaker creations, which echo its silhouetted logo, to see what I mean. They’re elegant, feminine, fashion-forward. These are not words that you would ascribe to the far majority of loudspeakers on sale today. The depressing truth is that so many brands in the high end couldn’t market their way out of a khaki factory. One need only attend a regional audio show to see this in action—or maybe inaction? Cultivating a brand, a lifestyle—this requires a variety of skillsets and a dedication to execution, and that’s before you get to the product itself. Too many companies are myopic, with the Field of Dreams-esque “If you build it, he will come” attitude that the sound or performance envelope alone of a product should see consumers clamoring to lay down their hard-earned cash. That’s not how business works. And that’s not how this business works.
This is intended as a companion piece to the review of Zesto Audio’s Andros Deluxe II phono stage.
When I asked George and Carolyn Counnas how they met, Carolyn laughed. “We were both just working for a band!” she said. That was 1973. By the following year, the two were married. George grew up in southwest London, England, and he loved rock and roll and jazz, frequently catching gigs at bars. He was also technically inclined, having built a unipivot tonearm in secondary school and designed vacuum tube amplifiers on his own time while studying electrical engineering at university. Carolyn, by contrast, exhibited a more aesthetic sensibility. Her studio art background suggests that she’s far more concerned about beauty and form than function.
This is intended as a companion piece to the review of Vinnie Rossi’s L2i Special Edition integrated amplifier.
In my 35th year on this pale blue dot, I’ve come to realize how little intrepidity courses through my veins. I have so little appetite for risk and uncertainty that my day job is effectively spent identifying and minimizing these variables. There’s value to this kind of mindset: stability, consistency, security. But this mindset is anathema to visionaries and creators. Unlike me, these individuals don’t see the here and now and wish only to protect and fortify it. Their gaze extends beyond the horizon and what is, to some potential reality of what could be. Vinnie Rossi is just such a person.
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