Digital Audio Update Update

Yeah, this is an update to an update from back in April, where I talked about the possibility of getting rid of my Mackie DL1608 and moving to Behringer's X-Air XR18. The short story is that I did it, and generally, I'm pretty happy I did.

I've got the mixer, along with a power conditioner, a wireless router, and a powered USB hub wired up in an old rolling rack I had laying around for the time being, and that's generally working pretty well. I do want to eventually do a new stage rack that will contain my power amps, the mixer box, computer gear, and the few bits of outboard gear I'm using in a single rack -- on wheels, of course.

That laptop is a pretty ancient Dell with a single-core Celeron processor, running a funky Linux build. That allows me to run the full version of the Behringer X-Air app, which gives really deep access to the mixer and enhances my ability to save configs, on a machine I already had. I will be experimenting with another "computer" in the near future. More on that as it develops.

Since April, I've mixer a few shows on it, including two outdoor jobs, one of which was a multi-band mini-festival. In every case, the mixer has performed flawlessly, despite my still getting up to speed with it. The only problems I've had so far are related to the el-cheapo Android tablets I'm using, and those problems have only been on the outdoor gigs, where they are difficult to see in sunlight.

One area where Behringer has been lacking, however, is in keeping up with control app development. There is still no real parity between Android and iPad and PC/Mac/Linux applications, and Behringer hasn't updated anything. I got into some conversations with the fellow that Behringer had contracted to do the Android development, as he also develops an app for several other digital mixers (search for Mixing Station on the Play store to see if it's available for your mixer), and helped to convince him to release his personal version of the Behringer X-Air app. He's done a fantastic job with it, and added a ton of functionality. And, it fixes a meter display issue on certain Android tablets running Lollipop.

Any The Wiser, sorta on stage at the 4th Annual Wilde Lake Family Picnic, September 17, 2016, at Wilde Lake Park in Columbia, MD. That's me on keyboards, mixing from the stage. Follow Any The Wiser on Facebook. -- Jeremy Crites photo

Any The Wiser, sorta on stage at the 4th Annual Wilde Lake Family Picnic, September 17, 2016, at Wilde Lake Park in Columbia, MD. That's me on keyboards, mixing from the stage. Follow Any The Wiser on Facebook. -- Jeremy Crites photo

For the most recent gig I mixed (and performed at -- photo above), I used the new Mixing Station Pro X-Air app on the Android along with the Linux version of Behringer's X-Air Edit on the laptop. For the opening band, the keyboard player used one of the smaller tablets to handle his own monitor mix.

I should mention that, while I have my XR18 in a rack, it can also be used in a "stage box" configuration, by simply dropping it on the stage and plugging in.

While I miss the excellent iPad app from the Mackie, I think the X Air more than makes up for that in functionality and flexibility, and I'm pretty glad I made the switch.

Beyond the mixer, I also added a few new twists for this gig, and everything just worked perfectly. Once the PA was set up, I used an app on my old iPhone, which is now used as a media player, to pump pink noise into the PA. I then used an app called X Air iEQ on my iPhone 6s to analyze and automatically set the baseline EQ the mains and monitors. The process took all of 5 minutes for the mains and three monitor mixes.

Once that was done, I decided to try out a new piece of kit I picked up from dbx, called the goRack. The goRack is a neat little device that's really intended for solo or duo acts to help make getting good sound in difficult rooms easy. It incorporates a number of functions, including sub-harmonic synthesis, compression, EQ, and anti-feedback control into a very simple little box. I decided to turn on all the functions and put the thing to a test.

My sub-woofers are fairly small, but well built and tuned. Still, in an outdoor setting, the bass disappears pretty quickly, so I felt that a little help was in order. Also, my mains tend to be a little harsh, so I set an appropriate EQ preset. I next dialed in a little light compression, just to tighten things up. I made all these adjustments while pumping "break tunes" off the old iPhone through the PA.

Once I was happy with the overall sound, I setup the anti-feedback section (which was really the reason I wanted the goRack in the first place). There are a couple of settings you can choose, and I decided to go with a narrow band, but otherwise fairly minimalist setting. Once I had that entered, I grabbed the lead vocal mic, cranked up the channel, and pointed the mic right at one of the main speakers from about 15 feet away. There was a short "meep" of feedback (and I mean very short), and that was it. Even with an "MC" using a wireless and walking all over in front of the stage, we never heard another hint of feedback the entire day. All of the musicians commented on how good things sounded, both in the house and on stage. I was pretty impressed, too. Usually, anti-feedback devices are very heavy handed, carving out wide swaths of important frequencies to battle feedback.

I only had one goRack, which was enough to handle the mains and one monitor mix (I run mono mains almost exclusively), but I'll be ordering a couple more in the next week or so for sure! Here's the kicker on these little goRack boxes. For some reason, they're selling most places for under $30! At that price, you almost can't go wrong. And, if you ever perform as a solo singer/guitarist, one of these along with a powered speaker or two, are just about all you need for a PA system. Of course, your mileage may vary, but at $30, it's almost impossible to go too far wrong.

Mirrorless Developments, Large and Small, at Photokina 2016

It's Photokina time again, and there's been a lot of mirrorless news drifting back from Cologne. No, I didn't get to go, but I have been following the reports with at least some interest. With all the excitement, I thought I might offer some thoughts on the state of mirrorless photography.

The first MILC -- Epson's R-D1

Epson R-D1

Epson R-D1 top panel controls. The lever is used to cock the shutter.

No, this is not new at Photokina this year. But, I thought it might be interesting to reflect on just where we came from. The first commercial mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, and also the digital rangefinder camera, was the Seiko/Epson R-D1. Introduced in March of 2004, it used a 6MP Sony APS-C CCD sensor, and lenses compatible with the Leica M mount.

A couple of the features of the R-D1 were fairly interesting. First, the 2" LCD on the camera back was able to fold out and rotate, something which many new cameras can't match. And, in a fun "throwback" to film, the shutter was manually cocked with a level, just like an old-school film advance lever.

Unlike current mirrorless cameras, the R-D1 did not have an electronic viewfinder, nor did it offer any form of autofocus. The only autoexposure mode was aperture priority. This was due, in large part, to the choice of using the Leica lens mount.

In reality, this was a purists camera, being almost a literal translation of a Leica or Voightlander Bessa to a digital form, the only concession to the digital world being the rear LCD display.

Photographs from the camera are very pleasing, as you can see from the images by Yeong Shin, below (to see more of Yeong's work, visit his page on Flickr.

It's the kind of camera that, had I been able to afford it and the required lenses, I might have bought. Current examples are selling for over $1,000 on eBay. You can read what dpReview had to say about the R-D1, starting with the announcement page.

Morning walk in autumn by Yeong Shin. Image Copyright © Yeong Shin. Used with permission.

Micle and Son... by Yeong Shin. Copyrignt © Yeong Shin. Used with permission.

So, now that we've taken a trip down memory lane, let's take a glance at just a few of the items from Photokina that caught my eye (for a full report, you can visit dpReview's Photokina 2016 page

Medium Format from Fuji!

This is the big one (no pun intended), as far as I'm concerned. Fujifilm have skipped the whole "full-frame" mirrorless thing, and gone straight to medium format, and from all accounts, this camera is the absolute shiznit! Both David Hobby and Zach Arias have been singing it's praises. Words like "amazing" and "sick" and "crazy" have been thrown around.

The camera boasts a 50MP Sony CMOS sensor (the same one used in the newest Pentax and Hasselblads), a new series of lenses (three should ship at the same time as the body, with three more to follow in short order), and Fuji is targeting a package with camera, viewfinder, and a 63mm f/2.8 "normal" lens for "well under" $10,000. Take that Hasselblad! The announced lens lineup consists of the aforementioned 63mm f/2.8, as well as a 23mm f/4, a 45mm f/2.8, a 110mm f/2, a 120mm f/4, and a 32-64mm f/4. While most of us used to DSLR and current mirrorless lenses wouldn't think so, these are crazy fast lenses in the medium format world. 

While the camera is a big camera, it's not really all that big, coming in only slightly larger than Nikon's D810 full-frame DSLR. You can learn more at Fuji's official announcement page, or over at 

Canon M5 -- Finally a "serious" mirrorless from Canon

Canon's taken a lot of heat for it's mirrorless line so far, and rightly so. It's really been a pretty blah affair -- smallish box with some rather unexciting, slow glass. Most people thought that Canon had given up. But, a few days before Photokina, they slipped a new mirrorless body out the door. Called the M5, it might be considered to be an interesting little camera.

The M5 uses essentially the same sensor as the 80D, coupled with Canon's Digic 7. By extension, it offers many of the same features. Of course, it uses the Canon EF-M lens mount, and can accept most EF and EF-S lenses via an $180 adapter.

The biggest innovation for Canon in the M5 is the in-body 5-axis image stabilization, which can work alone for lenses without image stabilization, get out of the way for lenses that are image stabilized, or work with newer lenses with image stabilization. This is something that Panasonic has done for years. Good catch-up, Canon.

Autofocus should be pretty amazing, and here Canon may have something really special to offer. All of the autofocus points are cross-type phase-detect and simultaneously work as contrast detect focus points. This should offer the best combination of speed and accuracy. When coupled with the drag-to-select autofocus point (using the camera's touch screen), there are some really exciting possibilities, especially in video, where racking focus during a shot can be really effective.

Speaking of video, the camera will do Full-HD video. No 4K. I'll just leave that there for those who care. You all know how I feel about using still cameras for video work.

You can read all about this $980 body at Canon's site, should you desire. I was going to suggest to Donna that it might be a good move up from her current camera. But by the time you add the price of the body and adapter (so she can use her current lenses), she'd be better off getting the 80D.

A shame. Canon had a chance here to do something really great, and prove that they can still be innovative. Unfortunately, they've come up a few days late, and a lot of dollars short, especially when compared to other MILCs at the same -- or lower -- prices.

Micro Four-Thirds on a budget

Young Innovators M1 Micro Four Thirds camera with 12-40mm f/3.5-4.5

Okay, this gets my attention. A Chinese company called Young Innovators have shown their M1 micro-four-thirds camera. It's sleek. It's sexy. It's well spec'ed. It comes with two decent lenses. And, it's che ... er ... inexpensive.

For $700US, you get a decently spec'ed and designed MFT body with a 20MP Sony sensor and what looks like a well though-out UI (both physical and on the touch screen), a 12-40mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom, and a 42.5mm f/1.8 prime. Say what?!? And, according to the folks at YI, it will use an lens you can put on an Olympus or Panasonic body. If you just want the zoom, that comes in a kit with the body for $450,  or you can get the body only for $330.

The full poop is available at YI's mirrorless camera product page. If you're interested in testing the MFT waters, this may be a great option.

Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, and Panasonic GH5

These are also both new, upgrading prior versions and upping the ante in the MFT world big-time -- both look to be fantastic cameras. They don't excite me all that much, being a Fuji shooter (at least that's what I'm telling myself, but it's good to know that both of these manufactures are still kicking but in their market segment.

I'll hope to get a hands-on look at all of this and more in October, when I go up to PhotoPlus Expo in New York.

DeepMind 12

Apparently, this is real...

Sequential Circuits Prophet 600

When I sold my Prophet 600, I almost immediately regretted it. That seems to happen with most musical things I sell. Unfortunately, I can't keep everything, can I.

Anyway, since the day I sold the Prophet, I've wanted another analog synth, but haven't found anything that 1) sounded good, (2) was affordable, and (3) had a keybed of 49 keys or more. Picky, aren't I?

The synth above is a new analog synth that's been rumored from Behringer/Midas, and from what I've been seeing lately, it's going to be pretty awesome and (maybe) pretty affordable and I'm probably going to want to have one.

Synth geek-speak to follow...

The particulars that I've seen are pretty impressive. It's like a Roland Juno and a Sequential Prophet 8 combined into a modern, digitally controlled analog synth. I'm sure to keep the price reasonably, there will be compromises, but from what I can see, there are two 12-voice polyphonic oscillators, two LFOs, two DCOs, a 4-pole and 2-pole filter, a high-pass filter with a LF boost, and then the usual envelope control. Also in the mix is a sequencer/arpegiator, portamento control, pitch wheel, and modulation wheel. At least one external controller is also supported. Oh, yes, and effects. All of this is controllable via the usual array of sliders and buttons for a synth of this type -- and there's also a computer/tablet-based editor. A DAW plug-in is also hinted at.

Of course, all of this is supposition until Behringer make an official announcement.

What's This? Mirrorless Digital Medium Format? At a Reasonable Price?

The "big two" players in the digital camera space have got to be scrambling at this point, seeing their market being decimated by the likes of Fujifilm and Olympus and Sony and Panasonic. Fujifilm will soon be shipping their latest DSLR-killer, the X-T2, which I commented on Sunday evening.

Yet, as enticing as the X-T2 is, I'm more intrigued by the rumor of a Fujifilm mirrorless medium format camera. And Hasselblad have been quietly busy, and recently thrown down the gauntlet in this space with their announcement of the X1D digital mirrorless medium format camera with a street price of just under $9,000 for the body (one of the two bargains in the digital medium format market). Word on the street is that a Fuji product could be considerably less expensive than that.

Fujifilm GSW-690iii medium format rangefinder camera with 90mm lens

Fujifilm GSW-690iii medium format rangefinder camera with 90mm lens

Hasselblad have started development of a completely new lens lineup for the new camera, and will offer an adapter to allow use of their existing H-series lenses.

I would suppose the Fujifilm would take a similar approach, although they have some considerable experience with making short-flange-distance medium format film cameras that filled big frames -- 6x7cm, 6x8cm or 6x9cm, depending one the model. While these cameras had fixed lenses (typically a 65mm wide angle or a 90mm normal lens) it's possible that they could look back to those designs in a digital offering, though the resulting camera would be positively huge.

In each case, these could be medium-format digital cameras that are both smaller than a high-end DSLR (the Hasselblad is smaller), and come in at similar price points -- or lower (Canon's 18MP 1D-C body is $8,000 at B&H)! With these kinds of innovations in the mirrorless space, companies like Canon and Nikon really are going to need to get their collective heads out of their asses and get on the stick if they intend to survive, let along continue to dominate the market. It's no secret that Nikon is struggling, and while Canon is a larger, more diverse company than Nikon, they certainly can't be in a comfortable place right now.

I wouldn't count Ricoh/Pentax out in this arena, either. They're already the price leader in the more "traditional" digital medium format arena with their excellent $7,000 645Z, which was the first digital medium format camera to employ a CMOS sensor. Similarly priced bodies do not include a digital back, which add thousands to the price tag. Since Pentax also have a mature system in place, they could easily swoop in with a low-priced, mirrorless design and be up-and-running quickly, although I think it would take them longer to develop a lens line-up for such a camera.

Of course, while much of this is out of the price range of most mere mortals, it's all interesting food for thought.

Fujifilm's New X-T2: Some Thoughts

First things first: THIS IS NOT A REVIEW! There are many reviews of the X-T2 available on the interwebs. And since, for some reason, Fujifilm opted to not send me one of their shiny new X-T2 bodies to play with, it would be rather difficult for me to write an actual review. I have no idea why they'd make such an oversight, except maybe that the folks at Fujifilm USA don't really know me from Adam.

Anyway...

When I first started writing this post two days ago, I had intended to write about how I didn't see myself wanting an X-T2, and that if I were to move "up" from my current bodies (X-E1 and X-E2 with v.4 firmware) that I would most like add an X-T1 to my kit. I had a very good experience with a rental X-T1 a few weeks back, and found it an absolute joy to use.

From the reviews, test pictures, and videos that I've seen over the past few days, I'd say that Fujifilm have pretty much tamed every shortcoming I found in the X-T1 and my X-E bodies.

For the record, here are some key features of the X-T2:

  • 24MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor
  • 325 AF points (169 of which offer phase detection)
  • AF point selection joystick
  • 2.36M-dot OLED EVF with 0.005 sec refresh time (60 fps or 100 fps in boost mode)
  • 3" 1.04M-dot articulating LCD
  • 4K UHD video at up to 30 fps for up to 10 min (30 min with booster grip)
  • F-Log flat profile and 4K out over HDMI
  • 8 fps continuous shooting with AF (11 fps with booster grip)
  • 5 fps continuous shooting with live view updates between capture
  • Dual SD card slots (UHS-II compatible)
  • USB 3.0 socket

There are a few points that pique my interest...

The articulating LCD is pretty cool, and a first for Fuji. It features a dual hinge system that allows it to bend around in a number of directions. I've never had a screen that articulates before, and so I don't miss that, but back when I had the old Minolta A-1 and A-2 cameras, I had one that flipped outward for either waste-level or over-head viewing, and that was pretty handy (the X-T1 has a flip-out screen, and it's something I wish they'd add to the X-E series).

AF tracking appears to be superb, for those who need such things. In fact, one video I watched showed absolutely flawless follow-focusing of a fairly-fast-moving subject, even when the camera was being visibly shaken. Now, we all know that I don't really care a lot about video in a stills camera, but knowing that the autofocus tracks so well applies to the dance and performance photography that I like to do -- and currently struggle with.

I'll stress again that I haven't had this camera in my hand, but one thing that may be disappointing is that the camera is slightly larger than it's predecessor, which is contrary to the general trend with mirrorless cameras. That said, it may feel really good. I won't know until I rent one (yes, I do intend to actually play with one and let you know how I fee about it -- maybe Fujifilm will see this and offer to send me one for a week or two).

An X-T2 still isn't in my plans at this point. I've only recently bought the X-E2, and I'm still coming to grips with all the improvements that brought me (except that On1 doesn't yet support the raws for editing, so I'm having to work from the excellent JPEG files). Which brings up a point -- I shoot RAW+JPEG and, though I generally don't use the raw files, it's always good to have them around.

The X-T2 introduces dual SD card slots, and can be configured to write JPEG files to one card and raw files to the other. To me, this is actually one of the most enticing selling points of the camera! It's not that I can't separate the files relatively easily on my computer, but it's not so easy to do that on an iPad. To date, transfers off the SD card to my iPad have copied both files, but only allowed me to access the JPEGs. While that may be addressed in the next release of iOS, it would be very convenient to be able to pull out just the one card and transfer images into the iPad for quick edits.

Another improvement is in the way the camera handles continuous shooting. The current models display the last recorded image between the blackouts that necessarily occur when the mechanical shutter is cycling. That behavior has been improved with the X-T2, which in addition to decreasing the blackout time, displays live view instead, improving the ability to track with a moving subject. With the X-E1 and X-E2, I find that I will start to "lag" behind the movement when panning and shooting continuously. It's pretty frustrating when an otherwise perfect bird-in-flight shot is missed because the bird's beak or bill or head is out of the frame.

Dammit Fuji! This actually looks enticing now.

Fotojet Free Online Collage Maker - An Update

Late last year, I was invited to review a web service that offered a free online "collage" maker. At the time, I found that for the price, it couldn't be beat, although I also found that there were some basic changes that would go a long way to enhance the product.

Recently, the folks at PearlMountain Technology, who run the service, asked me to take another look at Fotojet. Here's a quick summary of what I've found.

First up, the collage portion of the site is pretty much the same as it was back in mid-December of last year. It still works, and still works well, with the same caveats I noted in that earlier review. In other words, the same shortcomings are still present.

fotojet's new online image editing screen.

What has been added to fotojet is a basic image editing feature. While pretty basic, it's not half bad, and there are some nice effects. On my laptop, it runs smoothly.

The editor is broken down into four functions - edit, effects, text, and clipart - each of which offers a selection of controls.

Edit is a basic image enhancement tool, and offers most of the common tools. The familiar layout allows pretty much anyone who's used any image editor to get a nice result quickly. One thing to watch out for, though, is that you must apply any changes made in one sub-menu before moving to another sub-menu.

In the effects section, you'll find a nice selection of pre-rolled image effects, most of which are a little "over cooked" in my opinion. Each effect offers a single slider to alter the intensity of the effect. Effects can be stacked, but like the Edit functions, you have to apply one effect before moving on to the next. I played around with the sample picture of the girl with the hat, and came up with what I thought was a pleasing result.

fotojet's social media sharing screen didn't render correctly on my computer by default. I had to change the text scaling settings for it to display correctly.

Once you finish with an image, you have the option to save the image to your hard disk, or share on social media. Unfortunately, the sharing option screen doesn't display correctly, at least on my computer.

You'd think that another option for your completed image would be to use it in a collage or design. However, when you switch modules, your image is lost, and I can't see any way to transfer it over, short of saving it to your computer and re-uploading.

While I didn't try using fotojet on an iPad or Android tablet, I can imagine that, if it works at all (it didn't when I reviewed it previously), you'd be hard-pressed to be able to utilize it to its fullest potential.

So, while adding the editing module to fotojet is a nice addition, the integration could be better. Frankly, if I have to edit, download, and re-upload an image to use in a collage, I'm probably going to go ahead a prepare my images in another application, such as On1 Photo Pro. If I'm looking to use an online solution, I'll probably opt for the quite mature and robust Polarr app. While not free, these applications offer far greater control over the final output.

The bottom line is that, while there's some good functionality in the new version of fotojet, the work flow just isn't quite there. And, there haven't been any substantive improvements in the older modules.

You Spin Me 'Round (Like a Record)

Pioneer PL-530 two-speed automatic turntable

For those who have been following along, I have selected a turntable for my vintage stereo project. I mentioned previously that in my original system, I had a Pioneer PL-516, and that I had really wished I could have afforded at least a PL-518. Even better would have been the PL-530.

The PL-530 was a direct drive, two-speed, fully automatic turntable. It featured separate pitch adjustments for 33 1/3 rpm and 45 rpm, and you could also choose between 7", 10", and 12" record sizes.

The PL-530 was fairly unique in that it used two motors -- one for the turntable drive, and a second to handle the automatic cueing and return functions. The idea was to eliminate speed imperfections caused by using the main motor to also operation the gearing for the tone-arm movement.

As with other things, I could never afford one of these, nor could I afford the semi-automatic, dual-motored PL-520, nor even the single-motored, direct-drive PL-518. So, there you have that. Now, of course, these gems are nearly impossible to find in any condition. Those that are out there are still expensive.

One interesting bit of '70s hi-fi history is the link between Pioneer and Radio Shack. Radio Shack, at that time, would never sell anything other than their own Realistic brand of stereo components. But, they never hesitated when it came to contracting other companies to build things for them (for example, the Moog-built ConcertMate MG-1), and for a number of years, Radio Shack's better stereo gear was built or designed by none other than Pioneer. I remember looking down inside the vents of many Realistic receivers when I was young, and seeing the Pioneer name and logo printed right on the circuit boards or other parts!

In 1981, Radio Shack introduced the LAB-420 automatic turntable, which appears to have been inspired, in part at least, by the Pioneer PL-530. It shares many of the same features -- 2-speed direct-drive, dual pitch controls, three record sizes, etc. -- but not, apparently, the dual motors. A more traditional "power take-off" to actuate the automatic start, repeat, and return functions. Reviews at the time were favorable, and remain so to this day. And wouldn't you know it: Jim (remember Jim?) had one available at a very reasonable price. So I bought it.

This particular example, like the SX-450, has a few cosmetic blemishes (mostly, the wood-grain laminate is peeling around the lower edges), and it's missing the dust cover and hinges (something I've always removed and stored away), but otherwise it functions reasonably well. All I needed to add was a new cartridge and head shell.

Back in the day, as we say, I used Pickering cartridges and styli pretty much exclusively, because they offered very good sound at a reasonable price. Interestingly, while they're still made in the USA (and have been for 70 years!), the only places that seem to sell them any more are in Europe -- they don't even have a US web site that I can find. And, they're no longer particularly affordable.

Ortofon 2M Red MM Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Red MM Cartridge

No matter, I'd always wanted a Grado or Ortofon cartridge. A little research turned up that Grado have basically been making the very same cartridges they did in 1979, which only incremental improvements to the designs. Now, as then, their lower-priced models receive decent reviews, and all of the reviews indicate that they can take months to "break in" and sound their best.

Ortofon, on the other hand, have not be resting on their laurels. While updated versions of the same old models are available, they've also released completely new lines, and based on the range of music I like to listen to, it seems that one of their newer models would be my best choice. So I ordered the 2M Red MM Cartridge, along with an appropriate head shell, from Turntable Lab in Brooklyn, New York.

Dual 1219 Automatic Record Changer and United Audio turntable cabinet.

Some of you who know me well may remember my affinity for the Dual 1219 turntable with a Pickering V15 cartridge, and may be wondering why I didn't opt for one of those. I did consider another 1219, but ultimately decided that I wanted a direct drive turntable, and that I didn't want a changer. I also didn't want the maintenance headache that all the mechanics in the Dual turntables entail. Don't get me wrong -- they're brilliantly designed, but when they do break down, they're a major pain to rebuild. At one point when I was still using a 1219, I had one working and two more for parts.

At this point, I'm more interested in listening to music as opposed to tinkering with mechanics. In other words, I want something that simply works.

So, what was the first album I played? Well, it certainly wasn't Dead or Alive's You Spin Me 'Round, that's for sure! No, I chose my original release of Boston's self-titled debut album from 1976 -- one of the first albums I bought after buying my first turntable, and one of my all-time favorites. Unfortunately, as I mentioned the other day, when I went to pull the album off the shelf, I discovered that it, along with several other rare or important records, were missing from my collection.

The package of records actually arrived the day before yesterday, and the package with cartridge, yesterday. So last night, despite my having a searing migraine and feeling rather ill, I installed the cartridge and set up the turntable.. I balanced the tone arm, and then chose a tracking force of 1.25 grams, towards the low end of the recommended range. I placed the record on the turntable, clicked the lever to the start position and watched as the tone arm lifted, moved over the lead-in groove, and lowered the needle. Nice.

Unfortunately, the record didn't sound as nice as it looked! In fact, along about halfway through Peace of Mind, there was a horrible skip, and then it launched into a jump-and-repeat routine. "So much for that 'Very Good +' condition rating," I thought to myself as I got up and stopped the record. I decided to not even listen to the rest of the album, and moved on to my old copy of Rush's 2112.

2112 started out well, and played decently until somewhere in The Temples of Syrinx, when Neil's drumming literally kicked the needle out of the groove! "Hmmm. I guess 1.25 grams tracking force is a little too light!" I consulted the guide for the cartridge, and decided to try a setting of about 1.8 grams, and try again.

That setting change corrected the skipping problem, and markedly improved the sonic quality overall. I decided to try the Boston album again, and while still not a "VG+" across the whole record, the listening experience was still quite enjoyable. It certainly brought back fond memories! And that, my friends, is what this particular venture is all about.