Sunday, October 19, 2014

Trip In The Wayback Machine: Eleanor Powell & Buddy Rich

Ah, man.  I was just cruising PooTube today and this little clip from 1942's "Ship Ahoy," caught me by the collar.  Eleanor Powell's dancing blows me away, but her back and forth with Buddy Rich (toward the beginning AND end of the scene) is what made my jaw drop.  And brother, check out the gams on that dame!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

New Band Alert: Wish List

These guys were the opening act at a concert I went to last night (more on that in a future post).  A very cool mix of lo-fi, indie rock-ish surfy sorta defies categorization, so sorry!  Hard enough to rock out to, but melodic.  They're a 3-piece outta Pennsylvania.  I encourage all of you to check out the tunes and - hopefully - download the album.  You can d/l for free, or for whatever you want.  I threw $5 at 'em.  Support new bands - buy their music and spread the word!!

I'm Getting Ready for a New Turntable

My Technics SL-D3 is getting a little bit too touchy, even though I've had it professionally cleaned and refurb'd.  I think the most interesting TT close to my price-point is the Massachusetts-based U-Turn Audio's Orbit.  It's a gorgeous piece of equipment:

While digging around for reviews, a fellow member of the AudioKarma audio forum provided a detailed account of his tour of the U-Turn Audio factory.  With his permission I am posting the details:

Their operation is quite transparent and chances are, if there’s something to be understood or known, they’ve probably let their intentions be known. I should also add that their activities are often a response to the buzz online. It’s like an extension of what’s already been described as great customer service. They address problems for customers and they address critiques from posters. I offered several times to sign a non-disclosure agreement in case there were any sensitive items to be seen. Ben [a U-Turn employee who was hosting the tour] wasn’t concerned – another example of transparency.

Eleven employees. All of them focused on their tasks, clearly fully capable at what they do. The organization is very informal, but you can see the departments in the jobs each individual performs. There’s a debug area for conducting long term reliability studies. An R&D area (final testing and tweaks being performed on the cueing device to be sold as an accessory). A motor department for screening and prepping motors for the turntables. A tonearm department for assembling the most sensitive subassembly in the product. A machining area for post machining of received parts. Final assembly, Final inspection. Shipping and Receiving. 

While focused on their work, everyone was welcoming, friendly and willing to contribute to the discussion. The energy generated by these people was palpable. I believe they’re proud of what they do and they know they’re behind a good thing.

I never got my thousand questions out. I got exactly what I wanted, which was an informal tour with an unscripted conversation. Certainly there was a great deal of information shared in that conversation, but I guarantee, there were a lot more questions never asked than questions that were answered.

I’ll throw out a few details that stuck. As I commented earlier, these guys know how to use the internet and they know what people are talking about. Some things, they’re responding to (like cueing). Some things they’re aware of, but stand behind as is. For instance, the much maligned “cheap” hinges. The hinges were intentionally designed to be living hinges and are not expected to be subject to wear and breakage.

Conscious decisions have been made for each component in the product with the singular goal of achieving maximum performance at an affordable price. With that in mind, the money has been put into the key components. Other components have been maximized with the budget allowed. Sure, stainless steel hinges would be awesome, but at the end of the day they do the same thing as the plastic hinge but at a budget busting price. Cueing was a similar decision. In the original product release, cueing was seen as a nice to have. That handle on the headshell works fine. I can’t help but compare this turntable to the original AR. A basic machine, no frills, budget priced. I’m sure there’s plenty of debate to be had with that comment, but the basic marketing premise is there. Quality trumps features in order to meet budget. In the case of the cueing device, these guys have been able to please all perties by developing an easy retrofit. If you want it, you can pay for it as a nice to have accessory.

Back to the customer service. There was buzz about the 30 day warranty early on. Perhaps, partially as a response to this buzz, or perhaps because these folks realized that their business practice was better than that, the warranty was increased to a year. As Ben put it “we had a thirty day warranty, but we came to the conclusion that if somebody came back with a problem after two months, we wouldn’t turn them away, so we upped the warranty to a year.” It seemed like an emotional decision and probably was. They should probably seriously consider actually calculating the minimum life of the weakest link in the product. Maybe they have. I don’t know.

Inspection. A lot of inspection is going on. That’s good for the customers, but must be costing them at the least in assembly lead-time. Part of this practice is undoubtedly due to the pressure of delivering product. As a new company, they need to make deliveries in order to prove themselves. On that note, it appears the delivery backlog is going down. Customers don’t have to wait as long to receive their purchase. Delivery is at about a couple of weeks at this point. But with Christmas coming, they’re expecting a spike in sales. They’re at the point that they can start building a backlog of product – actually stock tables. I would assume they’ll build according to sales history. That would mean they would stock more black and white tables as those are their most popular colors.

My last question before I left was if you could order a turntable without a cartridge – or have a specific cartridge installed. I explained that if I were to buy one, I would want to do an apples to apples listening test which means the same cartridge on two tables. The answer (no surprise) was a categorical “no.” As we all know, their biggest selling point is being “plug and play” and they’re set up to ship with specific cartridges. They wouldn’t even be able to test a machine at final inspection without a cartridge installed. I can respect that answer. I can also order a unit with the lowest priced cartridge if my intent is to install another one anyway.
A last point of interest, they were expecting to ship their 4,000th unit that day – quite a milestone. That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head. Questions are welcome, but remember, I didn’t even come close to asking my thousand questions, so odds are I won’t have answers to most questions asked of me. I didn’t pull blueprints and secretly photograph them, so I don’t have a lot of detailed information like “what size flat head screw holds the pivot mechanism in place in the tonearm” or “how long and what material are the cartridge screws that are used.”

They’re a bunch of young people with lots of energy doing something they have a passion for and enjoy thoroughly.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

New Music from Ed Banger & The Nosebleeds

Longtime Chatterbox member Idle Al is playing with the revamped Ed Banger & the Nosebleeds and hipped me to a clip from a recent gig in the UK...and the band is fuckin' tight. Head over to the band's website for updates on their upcoming new release, too.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Record Messages: Chris Kropat's Whipped Cream

Christopher Kropat's records can be found throughout northern Virginia, and I gotta be blunt here...there ain't a single thing special about one of 'em.  Yes, I know this may be Herb Alpert's most popular release - due in small part I'm sure to a nude Dolores Erickson covered in cream - but c''s music to fall asleep to.

My usual bit of research yielded a likely match for Mr. Kropat, of Endicott, NY, in the below 1975 newspaper clipping.  If Christopher was a senior in '75, then he surely met his maker many, many years ago.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Stole My Photo!

You would think that a multimillion dollar organization, however much of a crock it is, would have the courtesy to credit some poor dumb blogger when said organization decides to lift a photo and place it on its professionally designed website:

Yes, that is MY photo of Glen and Syl, and NO, you don't see any type of credit or link to my blog there.  Now what do you think would happen if I lifted articles or photos from THEIR website and posted them here as my own? 

If you like my blog, and I know you don't, do me a favor and go leave a comment on that page.  And while your're at it, tell them to induct the New York Dolls already, the corporate fucks.