I was thinking about the resurgence of vinyl today, and the fact that turntables are now selling on an almost daily basis in our store these days…how things change since their rapid demise in the early 1980’s!
I remember the 1970’s when, if like me, you wanted the best quality source material, you had three choices – vinyl, fm radio or reel-to-reel-tape.
The downside to vinyl was the high cost of the turntable and cartridge, however you did have free choice of what you listened to, as long as you had the vinyl album in your possession. Stereo FM radio could be great, but you had no control over what was being played. As for reel-to-reel, a lack of high quality recordings made this option a non-starter.
Then with the early 1980’s CD was launched, with the promise of ‘perfect digital sound quality’. I think we all know that this was only a half truth – yes, the lack of background noise was very welcome, but the clincal, fatiguing sound quality was not.
So, I thought it might be interesting to post some of the most appealing and influential turntables from hi-fi past, although a few of the decks are still in production! I hope you enjoy these images and share them with your friends.
Starting off with the the budget Dual CS-505 belt drive turntable, I have a warm memory of this device, as it was my starter deck when I was a student – it came pre-fitted with an Ortofon OM5 cartridge (or Concorde cartridge as it was in those days) – I bought it off display in the Hifi Attic in Plymouth with a cracked lid, but it did not affect the sound quality, so I was as happy as a pig in mud.
I lived happily with the Dual in my college years, transporting it between digs in term time and back home for the summer, but the trips did take their toll on the poor machine, to the extent that I needed a replacement. My audio friends were all getting into even older retro decks at that time, and I heard a 1950’s Thorens TD124 idler drive turntable connected to Quad 22/II valve pre-power amps and Mission 770 speakers. The demo vinyl was Duran Duran’s latest LP and I was hooked – the bass power and detail with a Decca London cartridge installed and SME3009 II arm was really exciting.
Another great Thorens turntable around at the time was the TD160 – available without arm, you could add whatever arm/ cartridge you wished, and I always loved the look of this deck. It was understated but very German engineering in a positive way – no airs and graces, just great build and cracking sound quality.
My student finances could not quite stretch to the cost of the TD124, so I spied in my local Swift Flash magazine one summer when home from college a Garrard 301 turntable – idler drive like the TD124, but British built rather than German. I broke my piggy bank and arranged the purchase via the phone, and collected the same evening, via my mum’s trusty Mini Metro.
Mine was not quite as shiny as the one illustrated, being built into a slate plinth with left over oak tonge and groove flooring made up into sections of the supporting plinth, but I loved it nonetheless. I fitted a Mission 774 arm with various Decca cartridges ( MkII and London Gold mainly) and found that I enjoyed my records more than ever.
Around this time, I got my brother into hi-fi and he went for a very lovely Garrard 401 with SME 3009 II and Shure M95 cartridge, which I loved almost as much as my own 301. Of course, he wasn’t quite the afficianado I was, so I looked down of his rig, but also borrowed it when I felt like I needed a change – brotherly love !
I had been visiting the Midland Hi-fi Studio in Wolverhampton on a regular basis at this time (Hi Mike, hope you are well ) and was exposed to many a fine system, including exceptional vinyl players.On one such visit, I positively steamed up the shop window looking on at a thing of beauty – the Logic DM101 turntable. Resplendent in grey nextel finish, and with Syrinx arm, I needed to own this deck.
This however was not to be, as a few weeks later I went back to the shop only to hear the Linn Sondek LP12 with Ittok and AT32 cartridge and was even more mesmerised – this was real music appearing right before me! I had to ask Dad to bunk up the cashola for a few months until I could pay him back, but it was well worth it.
This was the end of my turntable journey up until recently – after the LP12, like most of us at the time, I switched to CD and started buying silver digital discs instead of black analogue. I am still wondering if this was such a great decision. I have since however dabbled with Rega Planar 3 ownership….
So I leave this post with a pic of a turntable I never owned, but would have liked to – the Oracle Delphi from Canada – a thing of beauty, surely?