Climbing to the Audio Summit Part 1: Turntables

Climbing to the Audio Summit Part 1: Turntables

Written by Jay Jay French

I want to thank you all for your comments on the “Great ’67 Psychedelic Shoot-out”.  [In case you missed it: Part 1 Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5   The Winner!  —Ed.]  Spoiler alert!: The winner was Pink Floyd’s debut album, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. I appreciated many of the comments and want stress that the albums had to come out that year (although I stretched credibility a couple of times but, like I said before….My rules….ha ha).

I loved the passion most of brought to your comments and I will have another pretty controversial face-off coming soon.

This next series of articles, however, deals with my personal audio gear and how it progressed over the last 40 years. This progression, I’m afraid, will never be duplicated due to many factors, not the least of which is the economy of scale.

Back in the 60’s, one could get to audio nirvana pretty cheaply.

Even if you couldn’t afford the “Rolls Royce” gear of the day (Marantz, McIntosh, Rek-o-kut, Decca, Klipschorn, Bozak etc.) you could get pretty close with Dynakit gear, AR speakers and AR turntables.

If one really wants to get in the weeds with this, the facts are that $$3,000 in ‘65 bought you state of the art audio. [Adjusting for inflation, $3,000 in 1965 = $23,704 today. Obviously, a fair chunk of change—but nothing like what Jay Jay is about to describe!—Ed.]

Today you have top of the line pair of Wilson speakers at $685,000.00, Goldmund turntables at $300,000.00, Tone arms for 30K, phono cartridges for 15k, Phono pre amps at 70K, Mono block amps for 300k, Digital players and D2A converters for 80K and speaker wire up to 80K!


All absolutely insane.

But it (we) all started somewhere.

Here’s a history of how I started…

I’m going to start with turntables on this list, and I want to hear from you as to how your journey took you to where you are now.

I will try my best to get the correct years in, but there are crossovers or just plain forgetfulness.

One final thought:

After going over this exercise I realize that one of the conclusions I can draw is that our kids (or just young people in general) will never have the same joy of the discovery experienced by most of the readers of this column.

That is the down side.

The upside is that the almost singular music reference of millennials being MP3’s and headphones, they are going to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in a quest for great sound (which may also save their relationships!).

However way you look at it, I want to see your turntable histories as well

This then, is a history of how I played records since 1964 (and just for fun, Billboard‘s Top 100 for 1964 is archived here):

1964 Magnavox console (parents owned-in the living room)

1966 1 piece Westinghouse combo player

1966 Zenith Stereo player with removable speakers

1967 AR   

1968 AR   w/ Rabco SL8E battery powered tangential tonearm added

1968  Garrard Zero 100  w/Ortofon cart.

1969  Empire 598  w/Ortofon cart.

1970 Dual 1019  w/Shure M91 Cart

Somewhere in the 1970s, Stanton 681EEE cartridge

1971  Thorens TD 124 mk II  bought used   w/ Shure V15 cart

1972  Thorens TD 125   mk II  bought used w/ Shure V15 cart

1980  Kenwood 500D w/ Grace 707 tonearm  w/Denon 103D cart

1985 Baby Stad w/ Eminent Technology straight line arm [I thought I’d  heard of just about every turntable ever made, but I’d never heard of this one. JayJay explained, “A Swiss table from the 1980’s with 3 glass platters.  I had the baby (smaller) model, but there was a much larger Stad with 5 glass platters. Also, I just remembered I had a Koetsu rosewood cartridge which I bought in Tokyo  on the Eminent arm on the Stad.” After consulting with a bunch of audio veterans, I found that the Stad 1 was made by Jean-Francois Le Tallec, and was French, not Swiss. Take a look here.—Ed.]

1993 VPI HW-19  Stock arm; also used with SME 309

2009 VPI Super Scoutmaster w/ JMW 10.5 arm Dynavector XV-1S

2016 VPI Avenger w/ JMW 10.5 arm  w/ Dynavector XV-1S

2017 VPI Avenger Reference w/ 12 inch 3D-printed arm w/ Dynavector XV-1S

Next issue:  Amplifiers

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