Old vinyl is alive and well and living comfortably in San Diego. No, I'm not talking about my sunflower-patterned patio chairs, although they, too, are covered in ancient vinyl. I speak of the back room of Stereo Unlimited (3191 Sports Arena Blvd., Sports Arena, stereounlimited.com), my first stop in my search for turntables-the kick-back-and-relax-to-the-glorioussounds-of-decades-gone-by kind of turntable, as opposed to the wikki-wikki-DJ kind, which are a whole other thing, like Taco Bell and Mexican food, both delicious, and related sort of, yet entirely unique to themselves. Because vinyl enthusiasts who listen to classic rock, classic jazz and classic-al desire belts in their spinning machines, whereas most DJs prefer (like the pseudo gangsta boys in my suburban 'hood) to go sans belt.
There's something comforting about a stereo shop- one that can stock as many as 40 turntables at a time (used and new)-that's also chock-full of records. You know they ain't faking it or breaking it, and you can actually hear the vinyl on most any turntable there as well. Mind you, those turntables will run you anywhere from $200 for a used low-end model to the price of a new sports-hybrid race-car. But don't sweat just yet-there are plenty in between.
A used Fons CQ30 will set you back $375, while pretty, wood-base Linn Sondek will run you $1,300. They sell a lot of Pro-Ject tables, which, used, will cost you $700 or so. The German Hanss turntables, of which there are many, are weird-looking in an '80s-meets-space-age sort of way. Read Yelp and you may be inclined to think the guys at Stereo Unlimited are snobs, but that's never been my experience. They're helpful enthusiasts, and with that comes a certain air, but, hey, it's thoroughly justified. They can talk helical armature and sinusoidal waveforms with ease. I don't know what that means, either. But they smile cheerfully while the syllables roll out their mouths.
Fred, owner of Classic Audio Repair (3401-A Adams Ave., Normal Heights, repairaudio.com) is equally infamous for his nimble skills with a vintage turntable and his ability to turn a five-minute conversation into a day breaker. No one will deny his talent when it comes to fixing used merch. And that's what he does. So, if you find yourself with a crazy-cool component off craigslist that's less than stellar, or from a thrift store, there's a reasonable chance Fred can fix it. And since that's the case, he also has a rack or three of turntables that he's fixed up and is now selling. A few years back, I picked up a Canadian-made space-age Electrohome turntable that doesn't possess the incredible tonal quality of the Hanss, but sure looks freaking cool in my living room. Both shops carry cartridges if you've got the turntable but are in need of a new needle.
While visiting Classic Audio Repair, I ran into Kurtis Strange. Boasting about his J.A. Michell GyroDec that's almost ready for resale, he reminded me that he also fixes up and turns around vintage stereo equipment for a living. Kurtis and I worked together years ago, and if it's cool and old and has anything to do with music whatsoever, Kurtis could write eight books on it. To see what stock he's got, search his name on Audiogon.com or find him on Facebook.
And if you've read this far and are saddened by my omission of the wikki wkki-I mean turntablism-I'll tell you where to start: You want a direct-drive turntable and you should head over to the School of DJ Rock, aka The San Diego Turntable Institute (7580 Trade St., Mira Mesa, myspace.com/sdti).
Now I'm gonna close the computer and turn up my Electrohome. I got myself a used copy of (Roy Ayers Presents) Ubiquity's Star Booty at Stereo Unlimited and it's old-schooldance-party time. I'm a star, you're a star, starbooty .
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