Saturday, November 1, 2014

Thorens TD 165C Turntable Cartridge Needs a New Stylus

Audio Technica TK7SU
 Back in April of 2013 I wrote about digging out my old turntable from the basement and resurrecting my vinyl records from years back. I have no regrets and have enjoyed hours of good music since then and have rediscovered the joys of vinyl and of course some of the pains of that media.

In the process I was reminded that I have a lot of old vinyl classics but I also discovered that I have crap as well. Some of the music is timeless and some is obviously not. Music from the 70s or 80s for example is hit (note the pun) or miss, mostly a miss.

Thorens TD 165C
The sixties is where the real treasures are. Unfortunately not a lot of care was taken to press vinyl at that time and as a result I have classic rock albums with plenty of skips and pops and some are a real chore to listen to, except perhaps the Deutsche Grammophon recordings of the day or the reissued half speed masters of popular rock recordings in the later 80s. Well perhaps some are worn after many plays in the day.

However it is time to replace the needle or stylus on the cartridge. For all practical purposes the stylus and the needle are the same thing. Those of us familiar with higher end audio refer to it as the stylus.

There are essentially 3 types of styli (plural? or styluses?), the conical or spherical which is on the cheaper players, the elliptical, which is better quality and the Shibata which represents the top end and may have different names such as Fine Line or Hyperbolic. The Shibata stylus is able to extract more information from the vinyl and is therefore significantly more expensive. A stylus is either diamond tipped or a whole (nude) diamond.  A less expensive stylus like the conical stylus is tipped. Elliptical and Shibata styluses are usually nude diamonds and made for longevity and durability but cost significantly more.

Now to my situation. Although the Audio Technica TK7SU, pictured above and mounted to the Thorens tonearm is designed for a Shibata stylus the stylus is very hard to find and very expensive. Just the other day I found a TK7SU cartridge / stylus on Ebay for US699. I love my music but I would never pay that kind of money. Obviously NOS or New Old Stock meaning that it was never used. New in the box so to speak.

Luckily my 30 year old cartridge can be mated to a NOS elliptical stylus, the TKN22 by Signet. It is US110 and more in line with what I can afford. I have ordered the stylus from a company in the US and expect to have it within the week. I actually put my name on a list close to a year ago and was notified just this week that stock had come in. Where they get it I do not know. I also ordered a new drive belt at the same time. The Thorens TD165C is a belt driven fully manual turntable, in other words the stylus has to be placed gently on the lead-in groove of the record and gently removed on the lead-out groove unless you have a mechanical stylus lifter, which I used to have but have now misplaced.

I really do not think that I will hear much of a difference and that's a good thing; age affects the hearing but I do think it will do the job nicely. The Shibata stylus? I will have it inspected and put it away as a backup.

Anyway, back to music enjoyment. I think  will put on  Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens, half speed mastered of course.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Regina and Tourism - Two Words That Don't Belong in the Same Sentence

Foyer of hotel
Regina is not a place that I have a desire to visit again.

On the positive side, it is a neat and tidy city and clearly there is clearly an effort to keep it that way. It is easy to get around the city itself and the airport is only 10 minutes from the downtown core. But those are not good reasons to visit this prairie city. It is also sterile, cold (metaphorically, that is) and lacking in any real character.  At 7pm on a weeknight you could shoot a cannon down any downtown street and not hit anything. Sad really!

Government office
The Regina tourism site touts it as the cultural and commercial center of Saskatchewan. “ Regina is a fast-paced, exciting city and very much a part of the ‘New Saskatchewan’ and that we are ready and willing to welcome you". Come on folks, is that for real?

The hotel is attractively lit at night
Commercial perhaps, lots of office towers and a decent if not very exiting central enclosed shopping mall that offers few specialty shops though it still has one of the few remaining Maison Birk stores left in Canada. A high end wine store, high end shoe store and women's fashion, nope! Lot's of greasy food stops though.

Interesting office tower design
Cultural center, hmm. Does football count as "cultural"? I suppose so and if you are a Saskatchewan Riders fan you probably have a very good reason to come to Regina. I am willing to bet that you don't stick around to see the other "cultural sites", aside from a sports bar after the game.

Former Post office?
I went to a cultural site on Saturday; the downtown liquor store to pick up some local craft beer.  There was none. Or some imported beer and there were maybe a handful of brands, less than 5 or so. However I did see a rack of fortified wine in two liter "pop" containers which told me something. Saskatchewan liquor commission might call this "harm reduction" but I call it exploitation. I asked the clerk at the store concerning the limited imported beer choices and she said, "well, look where you are".

Old downtown building that looked vacant
Other cultural sites? The Casino? Hmm again.

Life in the downtown core
The hotel was okay. It is one of the early CP hotels (built in the late 1920s) now owned by a large hotel chain. It was quiet, clean and comfortable, however it is clear that it has tumbled from grace. What used to be a four diamond hotel in now three diamonds and in my opinion....just. Oh, it is regal and imposing and nicely lit with green floodlights at night but also tired and worn on the inside and in need of some tender loving care. You also need a room card to activate the hotel elevators. Maybe this is something new that I am not familiar with but clearly a feature designed to keep a certain element of society from wandering aimlessly within the hotel hallways.

A good reason to visit?
Excitement is also not a word I'd use in the same sentence as "Regina". My advice to City of Regina officials. Do something to liven the downtown core and make it a fun and exciting experience. And redefine the cultural experience. There is a ton of Saskatchewan history you can draw on.