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Let’s not mince words—contrary to conventional thinking and whatever a lot of the old-line hi-fi experts may say, the turntable and arm are freakin’ important and don’t let anyone ever kid you about that on with the rest of your system. But establishing a good signal source first provides you with a stable foundation from which you can begin to accurately focus in on weaknesses elsewhere in the system. Painstaking experience, along with observing and helping many other people, has repeatedly shown us how much it pays off to start out with a good turntable system, even if it means skimping a bit on the other components.
Also, a poor table system unquestionably helps to harm your records. That’s right—this may sound farfetched if you’re new to all this, but think about it. If the cartridge stylus isn’t being held properly in the record groove by the tonearm and table, then it’s inexorably doing some injury to the groove by mistracking. And one thing that mass-fi tables do excellently is mistrack. Cartridge mistracking, along with dirt and a worn stylus, are far and away the greatest miners of records.
If you have a large record collection or, for that matter, one of any size that you care about, a top-quality turntable system is an essential investment and should normally be the first major upgrade, along of course with a pro-quality record cleaner like the VPI.
Incidentally, much of the music available currently on LP will never be transferred onto CD and so will be lost. A similar loss occurred with the switchovers from 78s to 33½s and from mono to stereo. Each time the format is changed, some of the existing repertoire is purged. How ever, in earlier switchovers, the library of recordings was smaller and so more of it was able to be transferred. Now, with the repertoire so immense (literally millions of recordings), a substantial chunk of it will just be obliterated. Nor will the winnowing come among the duplications in the repertoire, particularly of classical music, but rather it will come in the material that sells less well and will therefore be chosen not to sell at all. Democracy will in effect be voting on many of the “artistic” decisions made in the upcoming transition period, and we all know that democracy is, by its nature, not the champion of art.
In addition, with real estate at a premium, not even the master tapes of works that aren’t being transferred to the new medium are likely to be preserved and stored for future rediscovery of their worth. Like so many of the early films and TV shows, these tapes too will be destroyed, whether they are actually thrown out or merely neglected.
While analog vinyl may not possess the trendy cachet of CDs, the art, emotion, and the sheer humanity stored on millions of LPs is irreplaceable. At some point in the not too distant future, once time has granted enough of us the wisdom of hindsight, the virtue of the analog record will be rediscovered. Then the LPs that people so blithely discard today will become treasures in the analog renaissance. Hold on to and take good care of those prosaic pieces of black plastic. You’ll have to pay through the nose to get them back later—if you can at all.