Thursday, April 30, 2009

Classic Rock Videos

Pink Floyd - Breathe in the Air / On The Run

Expensive Turntables II

Yesterday we looked at 6-10 of the top ten most expensive turntables according to, today let's look at 1-5:

5. Continuum Caliburn

Price: $90,000 to $112,000

Vinyl isn’t dead, and the Continuum Caliburn turntable is the thing to prove that. The pricing for the turntable starts at $90,000 and goes up to $112,000, depending on finishes and includes some remarkable technology. The tonearm alone sells for $12,000. The turntable employs a magnetically levitated magnesium platter, which is suspended in a vacuum to guarantee there are no vibrations.

4. Clearaudio Statement

Price: US $125,000

The pertinently named Statement is a $125,000 assembly of wood, aluminum, and other sundry bits that has only one endeavor, to play records, and play them outstandingly well. Weighing 770 pounds, the Statement derives its rotational motivation from the same type of electric motor used to propel the Mars Rover. It touts a patented magnetic driven sub platter, dynamic balanced platters, Kardan turntable chassis suspension, real time speed control and active blue LCD display.

3. Transrotor Artus

Price: US $150,000

The Artus turntable comes straight from the house of German company Transrotor. It weighs 220 kg and the record is being held by the 350 kg Clearaudio STATEMENT. The Artus has a contact-less magnetic field drive, a balanced arm and new electronics. The reason for the high price is being a 4-in-1 product as it includes a LP player, phonograph, gramophone, and a turntable.

2. Basis Audio’s ‘Work of Art’ turntable

Price: US $150,000

Basis Audio is one of the leading turntable manufacturers of the world, which guarantees high quality systems to the music-lovers. Audiophiles fancy the quality of vinyl as a musical source, and the very best turntables are built on a philosophy of weight and stability. Basis Audio’s ‘Work of Art‘ turntable turntable makes use of a self-contained Resonance Annihilator, which plays the role of isolating it from vibration. The vibrational energy is neutralized by being transformed into heat energy, which is then efficiently dissipated. At $150,000, the Work of Art is definitely one of the most expensive consumer audio devices out there. It boasts features such as Resonance Annihilation, which attempts to remove all vibrations from the record, thereby creating a more pure sound.

1. Goldmund’s Reference II

Price: US $300,000

This turntable is without doubt every music enthusiasts’ dream gadget but only the uber-rich will be able to buy it as the price tag reads a cool $300,000. There are only 25 on the planet. The Reference II turntable features a degree of refinement and a number of never-seen-before features. The turntable features a 20kg platter machined to a hundreth of a millimeter, a motor vibration-shielded by 15kg of brass, and teflon-insulated signal-carring electronics. Other specs include cog-free motor with lowest electrical and mechanical noise, liquid-nitrogen-rectified belt, touch controls integrated in the tabletop specially designed new Goldmund T8 straight-line tone arm with total weight of 7 kg. Limited editions of 25 units are sold on subscription with a maximum production of 5 units per year.

Classic New Releases

Joan Jett Vinyl Release

Joan Jett and Blackheart Records are releasing her classic record, "I Love Rock N' Roll," on vinyl, in May. If you can't wait for the release, you can find a great copy here:


New George Harrison Release

Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison is the upcoming third compilation of George Harrison's music, and the first to span his entire career. The collection was announced on April 14, 2009, the same day Harrison received a star on the Hollywood walk of fame, and will be released June 16, 2009 on both compact disc and in digital format.

The album will feature songs originally released on EMI and Harrison's Dark Horse Records label. All included tracks are presented in digitally remastered from and the collection will include an extensive booklet featuring previously unseen and rare photos. Track lists have been released, but there is debate as to which sonsg are on the release. At any rate, pick up a copy here:

Under the "You've Got To Be Kidding" heading:

Vinyl record iPod touch app gives you the spins

Vinyl has been on the verge of a big-time comeback for ages now (and for some of us, it never ceased to be the format of choice anyway), so we're pretty happy to see that even the land of zany iPhone / iPod touch apps is no longer immune to its charms. The spinning vinyl app by Theodore Watson makes use of the iPod's accelerometer to control the speed that the "record" is played at. The video (which is after the break) might make you a little sick when you watch it, but it sounds great. Analog rules, doesn't it?

Spinning vinyl ipod app from Theodore Watson on Vimeo.

Turntables are back in favour

This news from down under:

The turntable has returned to favour with a resurgence of vinyl music, writes Rod Easdown.

THERE are all sorts of theories explaining the return of the turntable: baby boomers with big record collections; young people getting into dance music on vinyl; DJs; DrHouse using one in the television series. And there are the legions of folk who say records sound better than CDs.

Greg Borrowman, the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine, has another one. He thinks we're yearning for what was lost when analog music yielded to digital.

"CDs have no personality; they're set and forget," he says. "With vinyl, it's ritual. You slide the LP out of its sleeve, then deftly remove it from the inner dust jacket, making sure not to touch the playing surface. You place it on the platter with both hands, like an offering. You clean the record's surface and perhaps the stylus. Only then do you lower the tonearm to be rewarded with the music."

This covers the full gamut of anticipation, the careful, practised flourish of implementation and the ultimate reward, no different from pulling the cork out of a 10-year-old Hill of Grace.

Whatever the reason, turntables are back in favour.

Michael Thornton-Smith at importer International Dynamics says for every CD player he wholesales, five turntables go out the door. They are "the most consistent, most reliable product we have - month in, month out".

"And it's not like we don't sell CD players. Given the resurgence in two-channel stereo music, CD players sell steadily.

"We've noticed this resurgence over the past couple of years and not just with turntables. Two-channel amplifiers also sell strongly. People with home cinemas and iPods aren't happy with how they handle music and want to get back to hearing it reproduced faithfully."

Craig McNeil, general manager at retailer Tivoli Hi-Fi, politely scoffs at talk of a two-channel resurgence. "Really, stereo never went away. It's the best way to get the most out of your music," he says.

Mr Borrowman believes turntables have become objetsd'art. "Gone are the old, square, teak boxes with perspex covers," he says. "Turntables are now beautiful and they're beautiful to watch. They've become a feature in living rooms."

An Austrian turntable maker called Pro-Ject has been extraordinarily successful in Australia, and the biggest seller in its range is the cheapest model, the Debut, starting at $549. Unlike many more expensive ones, it's ready to go straight out of the box, supplied with both tone arm and cartridge. Premium turntables frequently have neither, leaving buyers free to customise with offerings from manufacturers specialising in them.

"Pro-Ject turntables up to $850 come with cartridges and tone arms. After that, buyers want to make their own choices," MrThornton-Smith says.

Mr McNeil says most turntable sales at Tivoli are between $600 and $2000. "But the sky is the limit ... there's a Goldman from America supplied in a 100-kilogram isolation rack that needs part of its componentry placed in another room. It's around $215,000 and we've never sold one, but we sell turntables up to $15,000."

An important factor is the availability of spare parts, like cartridges and styli, and MrThornton-Smith says ancillaries are big sellers. "Phono preamps are big movers, both with and without USB outputs, and we also sell speed regulators, wall-mount brackets, cleaning equipment, anti-static mats and strobe discs."

Phono preamps? All amplifiers used to have an input marked "phono" where the turntable plugged in. Unlike other inputs, it was specially amplified because signals from turntables are weak. But with the rise of CD, and especially home theatre, many amplifier makers have dropped them. Plugging the turntable into an amplifier's auxiliary input doesn't work unless you have either a phono preamplifier or a turntable with one built in. These boost the signal into something the amplifier can use, and they start at about $200, going up to $5000. If your amplifier has a phono input, you won't need one.

What about USB outputs? These allow you to plug the turntable directly into your computer so music can be transferred onto the hard drive, a CD, DVD or iPod.

MrBorrowman believes the popularity of iPods and whole-of-home music servers is yet another driver of turntable sales, with people wanting to access their vinyl music through them.

Transferring records to digital media involves software, some of which can be bewilderingly complex. He suggests Xitel's INport Deluxe, selling for about $150 through

If you're hankering for vinyl music you haven't heard for years, some notes of caution. Today's music production is far more sophisticated than it was 25 years ago and nothing brings this home faster than listening to old records. Many sound flat, boring and almost crude. Also,there's surface noise, the clicks and pops always present with records that disappear withCDs.

But, as Mr Thornton-Smith observes, the warmth and dynamic range of a vinyl recording is still compelling.

Deconstructing a turntable

The disc on which the record is placed. It is usually driven by a belt, sometimes directly by an electric motor. At its middle is the spindle, the spike that centres the record.


It sits on the platter and cushions the record. Some are treated to reduce static electricity; others, called slip mats, are low friction, allowing the record to be stopped or reversed while the platter keeps spinning. Don't try this with a normal turntable; you'll need a DJ model.


The arm housing the cartridge and stylus that moves across the record as the stylus follows the groove.


It contains the delicate electronics that convert the stylus' movement into electrical impulses.


Sometimes called the needle. It's the tiny assembly for the diamond point that tracks minute undulations in the walls of the record's groove and translates them into music.


An adjustable weight at the back of the tone-arm regulating downward pressure of the stylus on the record's surface.

Anti-skating device

Often a counterweight on a string, sometimes a spring-loaded device near the tone-arm's pivot point, this counteracts the propensity of the stylus to move towards the outer side of the groove wall due to centrifugal force.


Usually a series of radial lines on the edge of the mat or platter spaced so that when the platter is spinning at the correct speed they appear to be stationary. If they seem to be moving, the speed can be fine-tuned with a pitch control, if fitted.


The lever assembly that lowers the tone-arm and stylus onto the record's surface. These are often hydraulically damped.

Damping device

Found only on expensive tone-arms, it usually consists of a paddle sitting in a trough of oil and prevents the tone-arm skating across the record when knocked. It helps with warped records or when the stylus encounters dust build-up or an imperfection in the record's groove.

Head shell

On some tone-arms the cartridge fits into a removable head shell rather than directly to the arm. Particularly handy when using multiple cartridges.

Speed selector

Very old records play at 78 revolutions per minute (use a special 78rpm stylus for them) and some very rare records were recorded at 16rpm, but the two main speeds are

33rpm for LPs and 45rpm for singles and EPs. Most turntables handle 33 and 45, sometimes with a switch, sometimes by moving the drive belt on the spindle (use cotton gloves). Some new USB turntables claim to play 78rpm but don't - they provide computer software that fakes the correct speed after you've recorded the track at 33rpm.


I'd Help If I Were Closer!

Roger Butler walks down the stairs of his home Wednesday, April 29, 2009. He is being evicted from his South Hill home and is wondering how he will store his massive record collection estimated at more than 100,000 albums.

No spin here: Massive record collection needs a home

Doug Clark
The Spokesman-Review

Roger Butler has lost his modest home on Spokane’s South Hill. He is days away from having to get out.

But I won’t go into all the bad luck and bad decisions that brought the 69-year-old musician to this point. That ship, as they say, has sailed. And sunk.

What I do want to tell you about is Butler’s most pressing problem.

He needs to find a good-hearted soul who will give him a place where he can temporarily store his collection of vintage vinyl records.

That may not sound like such a big deal. Not until you see what a guy can amass in 60 years of record collecting.

Butler often tells people that he has 100,000 records. “But that was the point where I stopped counting,” he explained while leading me on a tour through his cluttered abode.

Holy Victrola!

Butler has records galore in practically every format: 45s, 10- and 12-inch LPs and even those old 78s my parents once danced to.

Many of Butler’s records have already been boxed up. One basement room has boxes stacked floor to ceiling, five rows deep. The main floor is a tangle of record stacks and more boxes. A similar landscape awaits anyone who ventures upstairs.

“I do like most everything,” Butler said. “I’m so eclectic.”

No kidding. Butler’s albums run from The Monkees to Thelonious Monk. He’s got Frank Sinatra and Frank Zappa.

What a scene. Marlon Brando’s brooding face stares out from the cover of “Jazz themes from The Wild One.”

There’s Coleman Hawkins and Carl Perkins. There’s an album of Miles Davis playing Porgy and Bess.

There’s simply too much to absorb in one visit.

Ray Charles. Jerry Lee Lewis. Dave Brubeck. Elvis Presley. Roy Orbison. Benny Goodman. Peter Frampton. Bing Crosby. Chet Baker. T-Bone Walker…

Butler laughed.

“If something is good,” he said, “it can only be better by having more.”

Butler is a soft-spoken man. He has deliberately held onto his sense of humor, he said, so as not to succumb to his bleak situation.

Butler’s hair is a bit long and mostly gray. He wore a loose plaid shirt, black pants and sandals. His big toe poked out of a hole in his white sock, the left one.

Butler is a walking encyclopedia of music, especially when it comes to his favorite idioms: rock and roll and jazz.

Near the front door, he stopped and picked up an album by an artist named Richard “Popcorn” Wylie. “This is a rare one,” he said, offering a brief history. Wylie “was a football player. He didn’t care about royalties…”

Butler’s music liner notes would start at age 9. That’s when the Spokane kid fell in love with music and began his lifelong hobby of collecting records. The group that first won his heart was The Four Aces, a vocal quartet with a signature shuffle beat.

The year was 1951. Popular music was still civilized and sedate. In a few years, however, an explosion would take place in a Memphis recording studio and the world would never quite be the same.

Butler was a student at Lewis and Clark High School when that Elvis bomb went off.

He decided to take up the piano. To his delight, he found that all the hours he had spent listening to records had given him a fine musical ear.

He joined a band that, after a name change, became The Frogs.

“We were actually the first animal group,” he said with a laugh. “We were going to have lily pads and wear green tuxedos.”

Butler said he would love to see his collection become a reference library for musicians.

Better yet, Butler could sell it all. That could take away some of the sting out of losing a house. It would give a single man something to live on in his old age.

Butler has no idea what kind of nest egg his collection would provide. But he does know what it represents.

“That’s the history of rock and roll,” said Butler, waving a hand at a random stack of boxes. “And the history of jazz, too.”

Doug Clark is a columnist with The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at