Written by 4:31 am Analog

My Self-Inflicted Turntable Repair

Paul Wilson takes a very expensive car trip…

“You can’t fix stupid.” Anyone who has seen Ron White’s stand up comedy routine has heard this tag line. It’s sort of the thing that got him noticed. It’s also sort of the basis of this article. Fortunately, I was able to fix the stupid thing I did and to some extent, the stupid thing, and admitting to it here can be traced back to Steven Stone.

Perhaps a little explanation is in order.

AR-Ron-White.jpgSteven’s October 13 article, “A Visit From The Turntable Whisperer” inspired me to address something that had been bothering me about my turntable. When I purchased the turntable in December of 2014 the dealer kindly offered to mount the cartridge from my existing one. I was only too happy for him to do so. As I recall, this mounting process took a questionably short amount of time. Several of the cartridge set up demo’s I’d witnessed took as much as an hour, used various meters and even a microscope to accomplish the installation process. That mine didn’t bothered me.

Due in part to Steven’s article, I decided to take my turntable to a specialty company about two hours away and have it checked by an expert. Besides, I reasoned, it couldn’t hurt and even if I found nothing wrong I’d at least know. I was tired of living with the indecision of whether or not my cartridge was mounted correctly. If it was, fine. If it wasn’t, better sonics certainly awaited. So off half way across NC was the next step.

I’m not especially enthused at manhandling 70lb turntables so I decided to remove the 30lb platter and carry everything to the car in two trips. I also wasn’t enthused at ruining the leather seats in my car so I decided to sit the turntable on an old pillow on the back seat. I remember looking at the table just sitting there and securing it never crossing my mind. What was I thinking? Guessing what happened next shouldn’t be a problem.

I left home early enough that most of my trip was uneventful. I just tooled along, cruise control set for the most part, and listening to sat radio. When I got to the greater Raleigh, NC area the traffic came to a sudden stop – as did I and “whop” – the turntable slid off the back seat. I was mortified.

AR-Classic-Signature.jpgAs I pulled off the interstate into the emergency lane, I figured this qualified as an emergency, and looked in the back seat I was horrified to see my glorious turntable pinned against the front and back seats. I returned it where it had been, got in the car before I got hit, and continued my trip. When I arrived at my destination, I checked and I had snapped the finger lift off of the VPI 3D printed tonearm. That seemed to be the only problem. Obviously, there would be no cartridge mounting that day so I returned home – angry at myself for the five hours of driving I did for nothing, save for breaking the turntable.

Upon closer inspection I discovered to my horror that not only did I snap the finger lift off, I also broke two of the “fingers” on the top of the Clearaudio Concerto V2 cartridge I was using. Those fingers are designed for resonance control so now what was I to do? My innocent little trip to fix something I didn’t even know for sure was broken now looked to cost me almost $5000.00 to correct. Like I said, stupid.

Over the next few days I learned that VPI had redesigned the tonearm and now the same metal removable lift used on their standard tonearm’s had replaced the molded version on the 3D. This redesign simplified the molding process. Through the dealer, VPI very generously agreed to send me a new lift. Since the tonearm itself wasn’t damaged, this was a pretty simple fix. My thanks to the dealer and VPI for their kindness.

AR-da-Vinci.jpgThat left the cartridge. I learned, again through my dealer, that Clearaudio has a trade in policy and gives an allowance for the purchase of a new cartridge. I took advantage of this and not only traded in my Concerto V2, I upgraded to the da Vinci V2. Besides, I felt like I deserved something positive for being such an idiot.

Looking back, I could have done so many things differently. I could have secured the turntable in the back seat so it wouldn’t slide off. But I didn’t – stupid. I could have packed it up in the original shipping carton and put it in the trunk, thus assuring protection. But I didn’t – stupid. I could have not second-guessed the cartridge mounting and left well enough alone. None of the things I could have done I did and the result? Stupid. I don’t know any other way to put it.

Looking forward I suppose it would be in my best interest to purchase all the things to accurately set up a turntable and become skilled at doing so. Let’s face it; we spend so much time listening we sometimes overlook the minutiae in how playback happens. Well, most may not but in this instance I sure did.

I’m not quite finished with Mr. Stone though. In his October 27 article “The “Joy’s” Of Blowing Up Audio Gear” he asked for horror stories of our own. So this is my homage and admission of my own mindless act of idiocy. I suppose in retrospect I didn’t actually “fix” anything – I just replaced what I broke. I guess in the end Ron White is absolutely correct – “You Can’t Fix Stupid.”

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