Looking For Vinyl in All the Right Places?

It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I decided to admit, as I did in my November 27 article "My Self Inflicted Turntable Repair," to the unfortunate act of splashing my turntable around in the backseat of the car. It was a foolish act and I felt foolish in its admission. Oddly enough, to some extent, the saga continues.

AR-LP.jpgAt October's RMAF, and prior to my "accident," I confirmed my choice of a new phono stage. I felt like something with a higher level of performance would be in better keeping with my system overall and hold with my "weak link in the chain" theory of component choices. I completely broke with my own personal tradition of being exclusively solid state in my equipment preferences and went with a tubed phono stage. I came to believe that tubes and analog would be a perfect fit in my system. More importantly, I was able to verify this with reasonable certainty in Denver through listening to the product I ultimately purchased. Who says audio shows are a waste of time?

While I was giving my turntable the crash test dummy routine, which I wrote about in the "Turntable Repair" article, I was also breaking in a new phono stage. Immediately, I could tell the upgrades were well worth the trouble and expense. From the start, my analog section sounded better than before. After sufficient time had elapsed to allow for operational efficiency, I realized my analog section had never sounded better. Most surprising to me, I found myself wanting to listen to analog instead of digital. Something I've never been able to say previously.

I've spent a lot of time trying to make myself like analog to the degree I do digital. Prior to RMAF and my mindless car incident, I was only moderately successful in this effort. After the upgrades, and hearing how an album can really sound, I was both shocked and excited. I wanted to listen to analog far more than I had previously - maybe not exclusively but almost.

AR-Crash-Test-Dummy.jpgFor a number of years, I've purchased music from Amazon. While not the low cost leader they once were, the selection they offer is outstanding. One feature I really like are their recommendations based on your current selection. "Because you are interested in this, you may also like this" is something I've used to find new artists I would have otherwise likely never discovered.

With my newfound interest in obtaining new music in an LP format, I expected to find every artist in my list of favorites with all these amazing albums available in addition to their CD's. What I actually found is that while most of the music I really want to hear is widely available as a CD, LP's are mostly absent. Where the heck are they?

This is not to suggest there's a shortage of albums. Such is not the case at all. When I visit my local record store they have droves of them - most of which I've never heard of. I actually took a chance and bought an album for the most banal of reasons I can imagine - I liked the look of the cover. I had no previous knowledge of the group or their music, only that they were in the "rock "section of the store. I rushed home, got out the ultra sonic cleaner, buzzed it around for five minutes of cleaning and drying, put it on the turntable and hated the first song to the last. Another wasted experiment and $25.00 down the drain along with the water from the record cleaner.

AR-Turntablegraphicee.jpgMy favorite music is smooth jazz. I've been able to expand my repertoire of smooth jazz artists through Amazon's "you might also like" feature. Best of all, in most instances, I can listen to a little snippet of the work to see if I like it or not. Once I've decided on actually buying something, and given my current dedication for procuring new LP's, I find what? Not surprisingly, I find almost limitless CD's. Albums, particularly the smooth jazz genre, remain frustratingly elusive. Online searches across a variety of retailers have yet to reveal results any better than what Amazon has to offer.

I also decided, while traveling for business, to take time to visit record stores. I've expanded my search from my decisive preference for exclusively new albums to considering used albums. I've found a few that I enjoy and also sound acceptable. Those selections are old versions of something and unfortunately not anything new. Basically, my search for vinyl editions of smooth jazz has been unfulfilled. Country & Western has a fairly varied selection and I've bought a few of those. Were I to exclusively listen to classical, I'd be happy as a clam. I can even find a great selection of traditional jazz - were that my primary interest. But, it seems, not smooth jazz. I even found a surprising selection of Rap in album format - which, one, is unexpected and two, rather pointless as I refuse to listen to Rap.

While the vinyl resurgence is undeniable, my inability to find my preferred genre of music suggests there is still work to be accomplished. Of course, it also seems reasonable that my particular preference for smooth jazz is not one record companies have deemed as a viable investment. Releasing music in CD form is no real surprise - but maybe the release of an LP in a smooth jazz format just doesn't pay. Maybe I'm not looking in the right place. Maybe I should devote my interests to a different genre. Maybe there's too many maybes. All in all, it sure makes having a decided preference for vinyl in a specific genre, decidedly, frustratingly difficult.

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