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The day the earth shook and my turntable kept on keepin' on

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
 

Simple gray rule


The day the earth shook and my turntable kept on keepin' on
 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1986, The Syracuse Newspapers

Seismology may have little to do with the art of high fidelity, but it could take some lessons from the engineers who designed one of the latest Japanese record players.

One day not long ago, I was using an Onkyo CP-1057 turntable, supplied by the manufacturer on a review loan, to dub a dozen or so direct-disc records onto cassette tape. The project took up an entire day, as I cleaned my valuable (and, these days, irreplaceable) discs, double-checked recording levels, and carefully copied each one onto a tape.

By the middle of the night, I had begun to take catnaps while each disc was being taped. It was during one of these little snoozes, just after I had started taping another record, that the earth shook.

First the windows rattled and then the walls heaved. My wife, who has been able to sleep through fire alarms and disaster drills, woke up when the ceiling began to buzz. She asked me if I was trying to wake her up, and when the walls started shaking again, the two of us finally realized we were having an earthquake.

Earthquakes strong enough to be felt are rare in my part of the country, so I became so excited I forgot all about the record-dubbing operation in my basement studio. It wasn't until I came home from the office later that day that I remembered what I had been doing when the quake struck.

Although my stack of records had toppled over and some of the shelves in the basement had sprung loose, the Onkyo turntable still sat where I had placed it, the pickup arm snug in its resting place and the last disc I was taping held securely under a small record clamp. The tape recorder had shut itself off.

I turned the recorder on and wound the tape back to the start. I shuttled the tape ahead a bit to the spot where I guessed the quake would be, listening for a scraping and fluttering.

What I found instead was one continuous stream of music. There wasn't the slightest hiccup or even a little whoop-de-doo anywhere on the tape. The turntable had faced down the rages of a continent and won.

This would be of little comfort if you don't ordinarily listen to your favorite mood music while disaster strikes, except for the fact that the slings and arrows of everyday life can be almost as intimidating to a record-playing system as an earthquake.

There are, for example, plenty of vibrations that are set up in sympathy by energetic woofers, and they can make a poorly designed turntable dance to the music - the last thing you'd want it to do.

And a poorly conceived support for the record-playing arm can let other kinds of vibrations get through. One model that I once tested served as a marvelous microphone; all I had to do was talk down into the open dust cover and my words sailed out of the speakers across the room.

In the case of the Onkyo player, the results of my unintentional earthquake testing were borne out in standard bench tests. At a list price of $330, the CP-1057 seems the equal of models costing far more in the areas of speed stability, low rumble and general ease of use.

But it has no peer in one particular area. And unless you know of a way that I can dial up another earth-shaking test, the record is likely to stand unchallenged forever.


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