JMC Acquires an Analog Front End and Visits LP Land: To use the phono stage of the Sunfire preamp (review forthcoming) meant, for starters, that I needed a turntable. I did have a turntable, two of them actually: a Denon DP-59L and a Denon DP-62L. The 62L was originally the top of the Denon line, superseded by the 59L. These units had been packed away with tender loving care, both in their original shipping boxes, with all original packing material, including the tie wraps! I decided to go with the 59L as it was the newer of the two. While checking out the turntable I became aware of a slight problem -- no phono cartridge.
Rather than guess at what was a good cartridge, I contacted Soundscape, the oldest stereo shop in the Baltimore/Washington area. Throwing myself at their mercy I agreed to purchase a cartridge of their recommendation -- but they had to install it. I wanted no part of installing a fragile component while trying to adjust overhang, vertical alignment, horizontal alignment, and vertical tracking angle. They agreed and the result is a van den Hull MM-1 moving magnet (MM) cartridge, installed by the experts in a tonearm that is an integral part of the Denon 59L.
One more problem down, and one more slight problem to go. I had no LPs!
Somewhere between here and Germany (where I was stationed for several years) are my 450+ LPs. They were shipped, but they never arrived at my home. What to do, what to do? When I wanted to learn about double-blind testing I took the appropriate college courses in psychology and statistical analysis. But if I want to pick what are considered audiophile-quality LPs, I don't have the option of taking appropriate college classes such as LP Selecting 101. I know very little about retailers that specialize in the sale of LPs.
Well, as luck would have it, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a sales flyer from Acosutic Sounds, located in Salina, Kansas. Based on a desperate need and impressed by several years of seeing advertisements by Acoustic Sounds (longevity always gives one a warm feeling about doing business with a company), I made the plunge and ordered several LPs.
Of the LPs I ordered, three were purchased on the recommendation of the Acoustic Sounds' owner, Chad Kassem. He's a person of few words even when the long distance call is being paid for by the customer! He also confirmed that my three choices were good ones. The result was six LPs in all -- at a price you could buy 25 to 30 Naxos CDs for! That's not a complaint, just a commentary on the fact that a dead technology is not a buyer's market. In addition to the six LPs, I ordered three gold CDs that were identical performances to three of the LPs.
Now I had everything in place ... almost. During my audiophile lifetime -- most of it spent with LPs as the playback medium -- there was one cardinal rule I never swayed from: treating LPs with tender loving care. I cleaned the LP before and after playing it, never (never!) touching an LP except by the edges and the center...