Sunday, April 5, 2009

This Week In Music History April 5 – April 11

I am starting a new weekly feature called “This Week In Music History,” which will be posted every Sunday. I will list the birthdays first and then assorted dates and historic events, some interesting, some amusing and some that may be sad. Obviously, my time and space is limited so this will not be an all-inclusive list, but I hope that everyone finds this to be an interesting feature. That said - let’s roll with the first of many:

Sunday April 5

Mike McCready - Pearl Jam (1966)

Dave Holland - Judas Priest (1944)

Crispian St. Peters - "Pied Piper" turns 65

Billy Bland is 77

Agnetha Faltskog - ABBA is 59

In 1981, Canned Heat vocalist Bob "the Bear" Hite died from a heart attack at the age of 36. He helped bring the sound of American blues to rock music.

R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck was acquitted of air rage charges in 2002. Buck was alleged to have gone on a drunken rampage after drinking 15 glasses of wine during a transatlantic flight to London in 2001.

In 2002, Layne Staley died of a drug overdose, eight years to the day after Kurt Cobain committed suicide. The Alice in Chains singer's body was not found until several days later.

Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) killed himself with a shotgun in 1994. He was found three days later.

In 2005, Aberdeen, Wash., added the legend "Come As You Are" to their "Welcome to Aberdeen" sign on the 11th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death.

The late Tony Williams of the Platters ("Only You") was born in 1928.

Gene Pitney died of a heart attack while on tour in Wales in 2006.

In Danny Rapp of Danny & the Juniors ("At The Hop") died of a self-inflicted gunshot.

A tornado killed 235 people in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1936. Significant? Certainly was, because one year-old Elvis Presley and his family survived.

The Searchers appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964. They were the first British Invasion group to appear on the show after the Beatles. It was the Searchers' U.S. debut.

Led Zeppelin released their seventh studio album, "Presence" in 1976.

In 1985, an estimated 5,000 radio stations around the world simultaneously played the song "We Are the World."

Construction began on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 1993.

Colin "Cozy" Powell died in a car crash in 1998. He was 50 years old.

Monday April 6

Markku Lappalainen – Hoobastank (1973)

Frank Black - The Pixies (1965)

Michelle Phillips -The Mamas and the Papas (1944)

John Stax -The Pretty Things (1944)

Merle Haggard (1937)

Capitol Tower, the home of Capitol Records in Hollywood, CA, was dedicated in 1956. It was the first circular office tower designed in America. It is 13 stories tall and 92 feet in diameter.

Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up" was released in 1957.

Apple Corps Ltd., the Beatles' record company and management and publishing firm, opened in 1968.

In 1968, Pink Floyd announced founder Syd Barrett had officially left the group due to his suffering from psychiatric disorders compounded by drug use.

Wendy O. Williams (The Plasmatics) committed suicide in 1998.

"Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones" opened at New York City's Ziegfeld Theatre in 1974. It was the first concert film to feature a soundtrack in quadraphonic sound.

The Rolling Stones record label (with the infamous "lips" logo) debuts in 1971.
Guitarist Niki Sullivan, a one-time member of Buddy Holly & the Crickets, died in his sleep in Sugar Creek, Michigan in 2004. He was 66.

Billy Joel cracks the top 40 for the first time in 1974 with "Piano Man."

The Beatles' Anthology Volume 2 went to #1 on the U.S. albums chart in 1996.

The first lady of country music, Tammy Wynette, died in 1998 (age 56).

In 2000, the Black Crowes were sued by an Ohio teenager who claimed he suffered permanent hearing damage from sitting in the second row of a 1999 concert by the band. Uh, it’s a concert, the music is supposed to be loud.

The Beach Boys recorded "California Girls" in 1965.

The Kingsmen recorded "Louie Louie" in 1963.

In 1962, the Russian newspaper, Pravda warned Communist youth about the dangers of doing the twist.

Tuesday April 7

The late Bruce Gary -The Knack (1952)

Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann was born today in 1946.

John Oates -Hall and Oates (1949)

Mick Abrahams -Blodwyn Pig, Jethro Tull (1942)

Patricia Bennett - The Chiffons (1947)

Billie Holiday - Jazz singer (1915)

Ravi Shankar - sitarist, was George Harrison's sitar teacher (1920)

Bobby Bare ("Detroit City") was born in 1935.

Janis Ian ("Society's Child") turns 58.

In 1988, Alice Cooper nearly hangs himself for real at a concert rehearsal when a safety rope breaks.

Ritchie Blackmore leaves Deep Purple to form Rainbow in 1975.

Mick Jagger & Keith Richards meet Brian Jones for the first time in 1962 at a London jazz club.

"Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" from "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid" wins the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1970.

America braced itself for an electronica invasion in 1997 as the Chemical Brothers released their second album, Dig Your Own Hole. It peaked at #14 in the Billboard chart.

John Lennon recorded "Give Peace a Chance" in his Toronto hotel room in 1969. It becomes his first solo single.

In1987, after preacher Oral Roberts informs his TV congregation that God will kill him if he doesn't raise $1 million in donations, rock funnyman Ozzy Osbourne sends him a dollar to be put toward psychiatric treatment.

In 2004, The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry reported that global music sales fell 7.6 percent over the last year. They blamed the slump on piracy, poor economic performance, and the rise in DVD and video game sales.

An Amsterdam university began offering a course entitled "Madonna 101” in 1997.
In 1956, CBS Radio premiered Rock 'n' Roll Dance Party, hosted by DJ Alan Freed. It's the first nationally broadcast rock 'n' roll radio show.

Wednesday April 8

Izzy Stradlin - Gun's 'N Roses (1962)

Julian Lennon (1963)

Dave Rountree - Blur (1963)

Peter Case - Yes (1947)

Steve Howe - Yes, Asia (1947)

Mel Schacher - Grand Funk Railroad (1951)

Chris Frantz - Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club (1951)

J.J. Jackson ("But It's Alright") is 68

In 1994, Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) was found dead at the age of 27. He had committed suicide three days before.

In 1971, Chicago became the first rock group to sell out a week of shows at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Neil Young premiered his home movie collection Journey Through the Past today at the U.S. Film Festival in Dallas in 1973. Young explained the film as "a collection of thoughts," adding that "every scene meant something to me - although with some of them I can't say what."

Aerosmith released "Toys in the Attic" in 1975.

Wango Tango- In 1996, In Lansing, Mich., rocker Ted Nugent gives an archery demonstration. He says the sport is an excellent distraction for kids, as opposed to taking drugs.

In 1977, the Damned became the first English punk group to play New York's famed club CBGB. At their hotel, they discover that the Rolling Stones have left them a birthday cake, seven meringue pies, and three prostitutes.

Van Halen began their first world tour in 1979.

Forty-nine year old Laura Nyro died of ovarian cancer at her home in Danbury, Conn in 1997. A profound concert artist, she also wrote an array of hits for others, including "And When I Die," "Stoned Soul Picnic," "Stoney End," and "Eli's Comin'."

The Supremes recorded "Where Did Our Love Go" (their first #1 single) in 1964.

Thursday April 9

Kevin Martin - Candlebox (1969)

Joe Peters - Grant Lee Buffalo (1965)

Mark Kelly – Marillion (1961)

Hal Ketchum - Country singer (1953)

Les Gray - Mud (1946)

The late Carl Perkins ("Blue Suede Shoes") was born in 1932

Emil Stucchio of the Classics ("Till Then") is 64

Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman" was released in 1966.

In 1984, R.E.M. released their second album,” Reckoning.”

At the Oscars in 1984, Irene Cara's "Flashdance ... What a Feeling" wins Best Original Song.

In 1973, Paul McCartney released the song "My Love."

Queen had its debut performance in 1973 at the Marquee Theater in London.

In 1976, renowned protest singer Phil Ochs hangs himself at his sister's house in the Far Rockaway section of New York. He was 35.

Gene Vincent recorded "Be-Bop-a-Lula" in 1956.

King Crimson made their live debut in 1969 at London's Speakeasy.

In 2004, lawyers for "Cheeseburgers in Paradise" singer Jimmy Buffett force a Maryland hamburger stand owner to change the name of his eaterie from "Cheeseburgers 'n' Paradise" to "Beef 'n' Buns 'n' Paradise."

In 2003, Linkin Park retained the #1 spot for a second week with their Meteora album. Detroit rockers the White Stripes have the highest new entry with Elephant lumbering in at #6.

That’s just sick #1- In 1989, Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, 52, announced that he was engaged to 19-year-old Mandy Smith, whom he had been dating for six years.

That’s just sick #2 – In 1998 Former Wham! singer George Michael was arrested at Will Rogers Park in Beverly Hills, Calif., after allegedly performing in a lewd act in a public restroom.

Dave Prater of Sam & Dave ("Soul Man") dies in a car crash near Sycamore, Georgia, 1988

Paul McCartney quits the Beatles in 1970 (the group's breakup was announced to the press the next day).

In 1964, Capitol Records reached an out-of-court settlement with Vee-Jay Records over Beatles records it claimed the latter did not have the right to release.

Friday April 10

Reni - Stone Roses (1964)

Brian Setzer - Stray Cats (1959)

Steven Gustafson - 10,000 Maniacs (1957)

Dave Peveret – Foghat (1950)

Innovative Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel, who wrote the band's classic "Maggot Brain," was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1950.

Tim "Herb" Alexander – Primus (1965)

Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds was born in Indianapolis in 1959. As well as having hits of his own like 1994's "When Can I See You," he has written songs for Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Paula Abdul, and many others.

Bunny Wailer, one of the original Wailers, who kicked off a successful solo career with the 1976 album Black Heart Man, was born Neville O'Reilly Livingstone in Kingston, Jamaica in 1947.

Original Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe died in Hamburg in 1962. His artistic ideas and close friendship with John Lennon had a lasting influence on the band. In fact, Sutcliffe's picture appears on the cover of Sgt. Pepper.

In 1970, Doors frontman Jim Morrison asked a concert audience if they would like something belonging to him that rhymes with "sock." Fortunately, Ray Manzarek carries him off stage before he can find what he's alluding to.

Bobby Darin recorded "Splish Splash” in 1958.

Mickey Hart joined the Grateful Dead in 1968

Leo Fender patented the Stratocaster guitar in 1956.

Chuck Willis died of peritonitis in 1958. As well as popularizing the rock anthem "C.C. Rider," the self-styled "King of Stroll" wore a turban on stage.

Isaac Hayes won an Oscarin 1972 for the Best Music, Original Song award for the song "Shaft.”

In 2000, Sony Music Entertainment announced that it planned to make its first commercial digital downloads available to U.S. consumers. Sony said it would offer about 50 hit songs from Lauryn Hill, Pearl Jam, Michael Jackson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and others.

The late Sheb Wooley ("Purple People Eater") was born in 1921.

Little Eva ("The Loco-Motion") died of cervical cancer in 2003.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer was formed in 1970.

Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive! topped the album chart in 1976, where it will remain for the next 10 weeks.

In 1994, in Seattle, 10,000 people gathered for a vigil for the late Kurt Cobain.

Courtney Love thanks them for their support and tearfully reads from Cobain's suicide note.

Saturday April 11

Chris Difford – Squeeze (1954)

Neville Staple - The Specials (1956)

Dylan Keefe - Marcy Playground (1970)

Joss Stone (1987)

The SPEBSQSA (Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America) was founded in 1936. I did not know that. Why not just call it MNWTH (Music Nobody Wants To Hear)?

James Brown debuts on the R&B charts in 1956 with "Please, Please, Please."

In 1961, Bob Dylan makes his first live performance in New York, opening for John Lee Hooker. The venue was Gerde's Folk City. Dylan airs some new material, including "Blowin' in the Wind."

Peter Green announced that he would be leaving Fleetwood Mac in 1970.

Savage Garden released their self-titled debut album in 1997.

Nirvana's In Utero album was certified double-platinum in 1994.

In 1967, on the way back from visiting the Beach Boys' Smile sessions, Paul McCartney dreams up the idea for the Beatles' film Magical Mystery Tour.

The late Richard Berry was born in 1935. He originally wrote and recorded the controversial frat anthem "Louie Louie," which became one of the most-covered songs in rock.

June Pointer of the Pointer Sisters ("Fairytale") died of cancer in 2006.

Paul McCartney gave a twenty-minute concert from the roof of a building he owns in London in 1997.

Big Brother & the Holding Company made their national TV debut on ABC's "Hollywood Palace" in 1968.

Ringo Starr guests on Fox-TV's "The Simpsons" in 1991.

Shooby-be-doo-be-doo-Frank Sinatra recorded "Strangers In The Night" in 1966.

Music Industry Has Evolved

I was guided by the net to an interesting post and I certainly want to thank Marissa for allowing me to reprint her material. Obviously, things have changed since her post, but there are some very important and relevant points that are still true today. And Virgil, over at Suburban Home Records has turned into a mogul of sorts in the indie music scene and his love for vinyl is never so obvious. Thankfully the music industry has people like him and the indie artists that he works so hard to promote. Yes, vinyl records are here to stay....Here is the post in its entirety:

I filled out a resume for the Daily Camera today. In the process of filling out the resume I looked through some old articles.

This is an article I wrote for class in December of 2007.

local music and technology: what is the future?

Colorado’s Place in the Changing Music Scene

The living room at Rhinoceropolis would be pitch black if it weren’t for the Christmas lights strung from the rafters. The venue, which acts as a home in north Denver by day, could seem baron if it weren’t for the paintings hung on the wall. The building will get drafts of cold air, however, it’s hard to notice with each room filled with art, records, instruments and ashtrays. The body heat of dozens of young people crammed in the small living room acts as a barrier to the cold ridden outside. The audience sits still, watching in awe as a young man and woman sit on stools in front of them stroking acoustic guitars.

If music is dying, like many record industry officials have said, no one informed the crowd that braved the winter air to see the show. If music is dying, then local shows are making its last grasps powerful ones. Record industry officials say that the sky is falling, however, for local musicians and fans the sky is the limit.

According to USA Today, CD sales dropped 8% from 2004 to 2006, as downloaded tracks raised by 150%. In the first quarter of 2007 CD sales plunged by 20% compared to the first quarter of 2006. The sales drops have left record industry executives shaking in their boots.

RIAA president Gary Sherman told the San Francisco Gate, “”It’s obvious we have a very serious problem. Those are the revenue streams that have financed this industry, and they are shrinking.”

The record industry has done little to embrace the digitalization of music, in fact, record executives have fought to suppress it. Co-founder of What Are Records? and Vice President of Business Development for, a music streaming website in the works, Ted Guggenhiem, , believes that the industry’s stubbornness put major labels in the boat they are in.

“They said, ‘here’s how you listen to music’, and they spent years trying to get peer to peer shut down. They lost control.” Guggenhiem said, “They fundamentally tried to force people to listen to albums, and they lost it.”

According to Guggenhiem, record labels sinking sales aren’t the only thing record labels need to worry about. They need to worry about their role in general. Since Radiohead self released their album in a digital format, the function of record labels has been in question.

“The record industry is dead,” Guggenhiem said, “Major Labels will be gone and indies will be in a similar boat.”

Players in the local music scene have been faced with drastic changes in the industry that pays their bills. Local record labels, musicians and innovators are coming up with ways to weather the changing tide in music, to keep their businesses alive and to embrace the digital revolution.


Inaiah Lujan has been a local musician in Pueblo, CO for years. He has traveled across the country to play music multiple times, and played everywhere from bars in Athens, GA to sidewalks in Minnesota. Lujan has a long list of musical endeavors that include his solo work , his folk band with his girlfriend Desirae Garcia and sister Chela Lujan called the Haunted Windchimes, A Poor Substitute- his punk band and an electronic project called DJ Flow Nase.

Lujan, like many other local musicians, has used the Internet to benefit his musical projects. He said that his music has reached people beyond Colorado, in part because of touring but also because of myspace.

“There are people who contact me on daily basis that I don’t know and aren’t from here,” Lujan said, “I’ll ask them how they found me, and a lot of the time it’s through myspace, because they saw me on the friends list of a band they liked or something.”

Lujan recently played a house show with A Poor Substitute that brought 100 fans out to support his music. Lujan didn’t make a physical flier for the show, he just posted a bulletin on Myspace.

Lujan does see a downside to the exposure local shows are getting via Myspace. In his eyes, it has brought a lot of people into the scene that are not in it for the right reasons.

“There are two types of people at local shows. The type that are accustomed to word of mouth and go to see good bands and the type that sit on the internet all day and read bulletins. People are there these days that do not care about the music. It’s become bubblegum in a way,” Lujan said, “But it’s helped the scene by getting more heads in the show.”

Lujan continues to get bigger audiences and at the same time get more Myspace friends.

“There are things I am weary of with the Internet.” Lujan said, “Like where my music is going to and who’s in control of it. But I know that my music will always be in the good hands of people that appreciate it.”


Suburban Home

Local record label, Suburban Home Records is home to a multitude of local and non-regional bands. Avail front man Tim Barry, The Laymen Terms, Drag the River and Love Me Destroyer are just a few acts signed to the indie label. Suburban Home began in 1995 and acted as an outlet for Virgil Dickerson to put out ‘7 records for bands he liked. The first ‘7 inch he put out was for the Fairlanes, who are now signed to Suburban Home. Dickerson opened Bakamono, an indie record store, in the late 1990’s. At that point in time the label was mainly a hobby. However, the label was bringing in as much money as his business, so he closed Bakamono and focused solely on Suburban Home Records.

The headquarters of Suburban Home records is also the Edgewater, CO home of Dickerson, his wife and his toddler. His home has a backroom with a stock of all of the albums the label has released. Also in the backroom is a press to make t-shirts for Suburban Home’s t-shirt company, Super Fantastic Clothing. There is a bookshelf in the living room that covers an entire wall, filled with records that Suburban Home is carrying on their online vinyl store, Dickerson said that this is the busiest he’s ever been. According to Dickerson, at Suburban Home they are always trying to rethink their business model to answer to the changing industry.

“The industry is on a downward slope,” Dickerson said, “so we’ve been doing other things. Vinyl Collective is a big part of what we do.”

Vinyl Collective is an online store that carries vinyl records from a number of different artists including My Morning Jacket, Belle and Sebastian, Bright Eyes and the Shins.

“Digital is such a soul less format,” Dickerson said, “Music is just one part of the art of the album. We live in a fucked up, fast paced world and there is something therapeutic about sitting down and putting a needle on a record.”

Vinyl is the only physical music form, Dickerson said, that has increased since peer-to-peer sharing shaped the market at the beginning of the decade. Dickerson said that their digital sales on websites like iTunes, eMusic and Rhapsody have increased as well, however, digital sales have not yet made up for the revenue lost in sinking cd sales.

Next year Suburban Home plans to release all of their albums in a digital format. A few of their releases will be released on-line only.

“Peer to Peer greatly affects how music is purchased I’m all for it as a way for people to sample music. People listen to music now more than ever. People are excited about music now more than ever,” Dickerson said.

Despite the loss of cd revenue, in some ways the Internet has helped Dickerson’s label. The Internet has made it easier for Suburban Home to do press releases and send newsletters to fans. It also has leveled the playing field for indie labels and acts to compete with major labels.

“Digital Distribution has leveled the playing field. Majors always had the upperhand when it came to distribution, but now it’s all even,” Dickerson said.

The cheapness of recording technology and the exposure that the internet brings has leveled the playing field for bands with out a label. Increasingly, the necessity of a record label is being questioned.

“There are a lot of people saying that record labels are obsolete. I think about my future and it is possible that our bands could do their own thing,” Dickerson said, “However, we have a core audience, where a lot of fans check out a band because they’re on the label. There are things we can offer to a band that they can’t do on their own.”

Despite the changing industry Dickerson stays optimistic about his future in music. Suburban Home’s side companies act as a safety net to dropping sales and concerns about the role of the record label.

“It’s a scary time,” Dickerson said, “but I’m having more fun now than ever. I’m putting out records I love. In our own little way, we’re doing alright.”

What Are Records?

Boulder’s What Are Records was started by Rob Gordon 17 years ago. What Are Records was home to popular bands such as Big Head Todd and the Monsters and The Samples. W.A.R. now includes a number of musical acts and comedians. Artsits such as The Swayback, Zepperella and David Wilcox are signed to W.A.R.

W.A.R. has seen a shift in the industry and has heard the questions about the necessity of a record label in a digital world. In order to maintain an important role, W.A.R. is turning more to career development, something they’ve always dabbled in, signing 360 deals with bands. Many major record labels have been signing 360 deals, which give the label the responsibility of promotion, marketing and booking. In turn, the label gets a percentage of the bands profits outside of record sales. According to Jeff Palmer, W.A.R.’s media official, because of career development W.A.R. is more than a record label, and that’s how it will survive in the changing industry.

Palmer said that while physical copies of their albums make up for 70% of their sales, the ratio between c.d sales and downloads has decreased. To embrace the Internet, W.A.R. reaches out to blogs and online retailers that carry W.A.R. artists. In Palmer’s opinion, the Internet has not terribly hurt the label.

“CD sales are falling across the board,” Palmer said, “Majors are depending on one or two artists to sell millions of records that doesn’t happen anymore. The sky is falling, but it is falling a lot more for them.”

Palmer said that the internet has actually helped W.A.R. is some ways because it has helped expose the artists and given everyone access to a variety of music.

“The days of the superstar are over,” Jeff said, “Everyone has access to music and not everyone is looking at tastemakers like the radio and MTV. A band can come along that’s so great it becomes popular based on the strength of the music.”


According to Guggenhiem, who is working on a free music streaming website in Boulder, people ages 13-24 have a made a decision- and that decision is that music should be free. Guggenhiem’s website,, will have a huge library of music that people to stream for free on demand. Listeners will not be able to save the music to their hard-drives or iPods. Iggli will also act as social networking website for people to post record reviews and show reviews. The ad revenue of the website will support it and the artists and labels that are being listened to. Money will be distributed to bands based on how many times there song is streamed.

“Music has to feel like free,” Guggenhiem said.

According to Guggenhiem record labels have jumped on board with Iggli. Unsigned bands will be able to upload material onto the site, as well.

“Nobody knows how this will turn out. I think it remains to be seen,” Guggenhiem said, “Our company can play a role in the future of music, that’s what we’re hoping for.”

No one knows if websites like Iggli are the future of music, no one knows if the sky is actually falling for record labels and no one knows if the internet has helped or hurt music. Technology, is a double edged sword swinging away at the structures we once held as certain.

Thousands of miles away from the booming entertainment industry in New York and Los Angeles, Colorado has been affected greatly by the digital music revolution. Whether the local innovators like Ted Guggenhiem, the record labels like Suburban Home and W.A.R., and musicians like Inaiah Lujan will rise from the wreckage of an industry that is potentially headed toward disaster is yet to be seen.

“Maybe our idea of what the music industry is needs to die,” Lujan said, “If so, rest in peace.”

-marissa malouff

Audiophile Audition Review

I want to thank John over at for the exclusive rights to reprint this great review!

AUDIOPHILE AUDITION focuses on recordings of interest to audiophiles and collectors, with an accent on surround sound for music, and on all hi-res disc formats. Over 100SACD, DVD Video/Audio and standard CD reviews are published during each month, and our archives go back to January 2001.

Vinyl Accessories and
Useful Tools for LP Playback – Part I

Beginning a series on useful products for the analog vinyl enthusiast.

Published on March 10, 2009

Vinyl Accessories and
Useful Tools for LP Playback
Part I

The amount of products available to the analog record enthusiast is simply mind-boggling. I will try to cover the major areas with the exception of support furniture and feet. Whatever turntable you use it is important for it to be level and on a stable and non-resonant base. The options for table support range widely so they won’t be covered in this article. I separated the article into three parts: one with adjustment/setup tools, one with care and accessory products and one with tweaks.

Levels. In order to check for a level surface a circular bubble level is a good device to have. Rather than trying to adjust the table or support in two directions (one at a time with a conventional level) it is nice to see how far off you are in both directions at once. I haven’t personally tried these, so take that under advisement. Here are the ones that look recommendable:

1) Home Depot used to sell a small plastic circular level for a few bucks. It doesn’t look like they carry such a thing anymore online, but the stores may still have one and other hardware stores may have a similar item. Online I found a Johnson Bubble Level for $2 or a Bullseye Level for $6.50. Both of these are plastic circular levels and the Bullseye has two rings in the center as opposed to one.

2) The Clearaudio bubble level is metal and looks very substantial. It sells for $60.

3) The Avid level 45 is a circular level and 45rpm adapter at the same time and sells for $100. Like the Bullseye it offers two rings to help with the adjustment.

4) The Cartridge man is a digital level that measures in two directions and looks like one serious piece of gear! It has a bright digital readout and sells for $429.

Protractors. Once the playing surface is level the next step is usually to set up the arm of the turntable. This is normally done in conjunction with the cartridge that will be mounted to it. With radial/pivot arms there are a number of adjustments that need to be set. Arm height is first on the list and then, with a pivoting (radial) arm, we need to adjust the angle of the cartridge. Looking down on the cartridge we can adjust it clockwise or counter-clockwise. This is the offset. Looking from the front of the cartridge this adjustment is called azimuth. And looking from the side the adjustment is called VTA (Vertical Tracking Angle).

Rough VTA is set by adjusting the arm height. Azimuth can be set with a mirror (if this adjustment is available on the arm) to make sure the cartridge is leaning to one side or the other when looking at it from the front. Offset is what we need a protractor or similar device to set. On the record surface the ideal would to have the stylus and shaft parallel to the record groove at all times. Only a tangential/linear tracking tonearm can accomplish this feat. With pivot arms we try to adjust for a particular offset angle to have no tracking error at two points on the record surface. (Some products adjust at one point and use a different method.) Everywhere else will be a compromise. The longer the length of the arm, the less the compromise.

Many turntables come with a small sheet/piece of paper that slips over the spindle and has a grid in one or two places for adjustment. You can also download alignment sheets and then print them from the web. The ones I found I couldn’t print to the right size, so I couldn’t use them. Better options are:

1) DB Systems DBP-10 Phono Alignment Protractor. $49. DB Systems was nice enough to send me a sample of the DBP-10 along with a review from 1979! It is constructed of plastic and comes housed in a soft case. There is a white plate with the two measurement points at 2.6” and 4.76”. A transparent plate with lines running across it is placed on top. After aligning those lines parallel with the cartridge housing at both points you can systematically move the cartridge forwards and backwards. Once they are close enough together, the instructions indicate which way to twist the cartridge. For super-fine tuning you turn the white plate over and there is a fine cross grid. There are even null point suggestions for 8” records at 2.253” and 3.02”. I was really impressed with the ease of this tool and its cost is very reasonable.

2) The Feickert Protractor - $250. I tried to email Feickert on two occasions and never got a response to my request for a review sample. Perhaps someone will see this and send me one for a followup review. This product is considered by many to be the crème de le crème of protractors and has a measuring post to adjust for effective arm length and overhang. It looks to be well made and has all that is needed to properly adjust offset.

Scales/Stylus Force Gauges. The next adjustment is stylus pressure force for which a good scale is essential. The simplest method (and least accurate) involves adjusting the weight on the tonearm until the tonearm balances and stays parallel with the record surface. Then turn the appropriate weight on. Much better choices are:

1) Shure SFG-2 mechanical scale—on loan from Shure. $36. The Shure can measure between 1-3 grams and claims accuracy of .1 grams within .5 to 1.5 grams. To operate the scale you slide the indicator up and down the numbers (in grams), set the needle on the 1x or 2x indented line and see if the end of the scale lines up with the preset plastic piece while looking in the little mirror. It works well, but requires some work on the user’s part and it doesn’t measure weight at record height. It is important to determine if your tonearm height affects weight. If not, then no problem.

2) Steve Blinn Designs Digital Stylus Gauge—on loan from Steve Blinn. $89. A 100-gram calibration weight is an option for $6. This scale started its life as a Jennings Mini-300 scale. Jennings makes precision scales and this one is accurate up to 300 grams with accuracy of .1 gram. What Steve does is add a small holder on the side for the stylus with an upside down rubber dimple. This means that measurement takes place very close to record height. The scale comes with a plastic box and instructions on how to calibrate it from Jennings. Setting proper stylus force with this scale was much easier than with the Shure. It runs on 3 LR44 batteries. I used the Blinn most often for the quickest and easiest measuring.

3) Many budget audiophiles suggest that a good conventional scale is perfectly fine for measuring stylus force and cost is much less than “audio” scales. Tanita is one of those well-known scale manufacturers and they were very accommodating with my scale request. They sent a 1579D scale and a 200 gram weight for calibration = $90. If a scale offers no way to calibrate it, then it will be impossible to correct it once it is in your hands. It came in a very nice case. It is accurate up to 200 grams, accuracy is .01 grams(!) and it runs on two CR2032 batteries or an AC adapter. The box says that the adapter is included but my sample did not come with it. When I received the scale it was not reading correctly, but after calibration (a procedure that takes seconds) it read the 100 gram and 200 gram weights within 1/100th of a gram. The scale does not measure anywhere close to record height, so to get it close you’ll need to remove the platter—not really a big deal—and then raise it to the right height—possibly a big deal depending on the height of your platter. The area where the needle sits is quite large and shallow. I would recommend putting a pad on it so the needle stays in place. Although not ideal for its use, the Tanita was incredibly cheap considering its accuracy compared to “audio” scales.

4) Mapleshade Phonophile Nuance Tracking Force Scale. $75. I contacted Mapleshade, but never heard back about a review sample, so I never got a chance to try what would seem to be a huge audio bargain. A scale that measures at record height, handles up to 100 grams, is accurate to .01 gram and only costs $75!

Test Discs. Records can serve as wonderful tools to help set up and assess the performance of turntables as well. The best one currently available may be the Analogue Productions “The Ultimate Analogue Test LP.” After all, what is beyond the ultimate?! I requested one of these and let me tell you, it is chock full of tests including adjustments to azimuth, anti-skate, VTA, cartridge demagnetizing and resonance checks, RIAA adjustments for a phono preamplifier/equalizer and a silent groove to check for rumble and resonance. The kicker is that you really need to have a bunch of different test equipment to make all the adjustments. This one is not for the average hobbyist.

Guides. Rather than break something, consult your knowledgeable neighborhood audio dealer [if you still have one around...Ed]. If you are willing to give it a go yourself you might want to do some reading or invest in a setup guide. I found it very enlightening to read the interview with turntable setup guru Brooks Berdan in The Audio Perfectionist Journal. He goes into all the necessary adjustments required to set up both suspension and non-suspension tables as well as different types of arms (in proper order). It is a good read even for the experienced calibrator. Michael Fremer has an Analog Set-Up DVD. [We reviewed it Here...Ed]

Oscilloscopes. Considering that some of the analog setups out there are quite expensive a decent scope shouldn’t be out of the question for the serious calibrator. With the proper test record it will be an essential tool to properly adjust anti-skate as well as observe other anomalies which can then be corrected by making the necessary adjustments. A conventional oscilloscope can be had new in the lower range of $200-300. For audio purposes, these should be sufficient. For anyone with a decent audio line input in their computer you can get software that will emulate the function of an oscilloscope. The two that I found on the web are:

1) Zelscope offers one for $10 with a 15 day evaluation period. It has controls like a conventional scope and has an easy way to display both channels or difference signals.

2) Visual Analyser 8.14 has even more options including a frequency response display with noise readings, etc. It is free! This should make adjusting anti-skate a piece of cake.

Aside from some basic tools like screwdrivers and a set of small pinch-nosed pliers, this is all you’ll need (along with a good set of ears!) to get your turntable up and running. Good luck!

- Brian Bloom