Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fun With Plasti-Clay

One very easy tweak to perform on old turntables, especially the cheap-ass ones, is to pack the innards with molding putty. Plasti-Clay (hope I'm spelling that right) is a perfect example of this. As the era of vinyl records gave way to compact disc, the market was flooded with countless plastic turntables. These were nowhere near as well built as the monsters of the late '70s and early '80s, and they probably did as much to cement the death of LPs as anything from the digital side. Still, there are many great turntables to find for little to no money - $100 or less, I mean.

Plastic is a terrible material for turntables, because of their resonance and vibration problems. It's clearly the bottom of the totem pole, before fiberboard, hard wood, and other exotic materials like marble and metal. All these vibrations compromise your sound, and result in a poorer turntable. It doesn't help that most of these models are hollow and empty. But watch at how you can change that, only with a few pounds of molding clay.

See that?! That's insane. It also yields shocking results. When you want great music on the cheap, that is, without spending a grand on a Rega or Pro-Ject (or more!), you need every trick in the book.

You can probably try this on some cheap, old Technics that's always available in rummage sales and thrift stores. You'll likely pay only a few bucks for one, certainly never over $100. Perform this Plasti-Clay surgery and suddenly your table will sound much....much better. Then throw a decent phono cartridge - I always recommend the Audio Technica 440mla - and prepare to be amazed.

This trick should work on any turntable that has empty space inside the board, so feel free to experiement and see what that does for you.

Pioneer PL-70 II

I want this turntable! When's my next paycheck?

Ever since my week with the (Radio Shack) Realistic LAB-420, a 1970's Direct Drive turntable that just trounced my Belt Drive Pro-Ject Debut III, I've been educating myself on the classic Japanese DD turntables from a generation ago. Back in the peak days of vinyl lp's, Japanese engineers were creating some of the greatest audio gear known to man. With the arrival of CD in the early '80s, turntables were left by the wayside, and in many ways, the Japanese turntable classics have never been surpassed.

Today, you'll have to spend a couple thousand dollars to match the performance of these giants. Not to knock our modern BD designs, but they are horribly expensive, really playthings for the wealthy. You likely won't find a turntable that's worth your salt for under $1,000. And when dealing with the belts, you'll need some sort of speed-control device to keep 'em remotely stable.

Meanwhile, we can score the old DD classics for a song. The only caveat is that 30 years have passed, and maintainence may become an issue. The more careful music lovers too good care of their tables; far too many, sadly, foolishly dumped their turntables in a dusty basement somewhere. So finding one of these tables may involve a certain degree of restoration.

Fortunately, I've found a couple vintage shops online that cater to the vintage Japanese tables. Which leads us to this beauty...

This is Pioneer's PL-70 II, circa 1985. It's based upon their audio masterpiece, 1980's Exclusive P3. That table is remembered as Japan's most successful high-end turntable. An enormous box, the P3 sells for well over $3,000 today, and likely more if the bidding becomes fierce. Fortunately, Pioneer created a series of more affordable tables, for those of us who don't have money to burn. These include the PL-30, PL-50, and PL-70 series.

This table in question is available right now at Hi Fi Do, a Japanese import shop that's loaded with classic DD tables. The price? A mere $750 or so, depending on the currency rate. The smaller and more compact PL-30 II sells for around $250. The two tables appear to be roughly the same, although the PL-70 is much bigger (duh!) and the tonearm appears to be beefier. I have no doubts either one would be spectacular.

You would be amazed at how many fantastic DD tables can be found for under $300. It's enough to turn me into a collector. Today's audiophiles hold a very poor attitude towards DD, in favor of the BD's that dominate, but I think this is due to the flood of cheap, plastic toy turntables that swamped the audio market in the '80s. Ugh, those are terrible. No wonder everyone switched to CD. If everyone had a turntable like this...well, things would likely have been very different.

After my next payday, it's time to score a new turntable. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping this beauty is still available when the time comes. If not...ehh, there are a dozen other contenders that each look amazing. I'll score one of these monsters either way.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Denon DP-500M Direct Drive Turntable

Now this is an interesting candidate. I have no idea if it's any good or not, despite much searching on the internet. Denon is famous for their excellent phono cartridges, and they've made some classic turntables back in the '70s. But what about this modern unit? For $700, it does look nice. But how does it sound? How does it compete to Technics, or the belt-drive giants, Pro-Ject and Rega?

I honestly don't know. Perhaps this truly is a cheap table. And perhaps it's bias against direct drives. The audiophile community is heavily tilted to the side of the belt-drivers, so it's tough to say. My own experience shows that a direct drive can produce excellent sound. But they have also fairly earned a poor reputation, due to many cheap tables in the '80s.

So what about the Denon DP-500M? I don't know. But I'd like to at least hear this table in action once. If it's good, then we'll have another competitor in the sub-$1,000 market. If not, ehh. Whatever.

Update 12/30: Nope, avoid this one. Turns out the stats on this table are weak, really weak. It really does demonstrate how much smaller the turntable world is now, compared to 25 years ago. You can't get a fraction of the old performance with the same money today. A far wiser choice would be to find a vintage Denon table, one of the old masters. You'll find something truly brilliant for half the price of this simple box.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Denon DP60 Direct Drive Turntable

Wow! What an amazing turntable!

My experience with the Realistic LAB-420 this week has opened me up to the possibility of direct-drive turntables, as opposed to the belt-drive tables that are in vogue. Back in the '70s, it was a much fairer fight, with some of the best direct drives proving their worth.

This is the Denon DP60 direct drive from the '70s. It's considered one of the greatest turntables ever made. Happens to also be at Audiogon right now, which means someone else will likely get it before me. Too bad. My loss.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Technics SL-1200 Mk5

Every DJ in the world will sing the praises of this turntable. For almost everyone, the Technics SL-1200 direct drive table is club music. It's almost impossible to imagine a world of DJ's without it.

There's a vicious civil war in the world of turntables, almost like West Side Story. One gang is devoted to the belt-drive tables, Rega or Pro-Ject or any number of contenders. The second gang is devoted to the direct-drive tables, specifically the Technics SL-1200. There's really no love lost between the two sides. Each one hurls insults at the other, convinced that their table is the true audiophile standard.

My experiences with the Realistic's classic Lab-420 has forced me to rethink this battle. The argument from the belt-drivers is that motor vibration is the greatest problem to overcome. A proper turntable must achieve perfect isolation, and the higher up the food chain you go, the more elaborate the designs.

The argument from the Technics gang is that pitch stability is all that matters. By having the platter connected directly to the motor, the Technics will produce far more stable music than is possible on a belt-drive. This translates into stronger and deeper bass, a wider soundstage, and overall sharper sound.

Belt-drives can counter that problem with speed-control devices, like Pro-Ject's Speed Box and Rega's PSU. And those units really do work; in fact, I'm quite reluctant to consider any turntable that doesn't include one. The improvements made to my humble Debut III by the Speed Box II were stunning, shocking. I couldn't go back to the stock table if you held a gun to my head. And I strongly suspect this is the case with all belt-drivers.

So does that make the direct-drivers the superior standard? Hard to say. I do know that the Lab-420 beats the Debut III. The only thing keeping my Debut even close is the Denon DL-160 cart, and even then, the Lab stays in the lead. The implications are clear to me. A solid direct-driver may be able to defeat any belt-driver under $1,000.

But the belt-drivers are right about motor vibrations. They're also right to address the issue of isolation as best they can. It seems to me that the belt-drive tables will emerge victorious, but only at a certain price point. But how much? One thousand? Two thousand? Meanwhile, the Technics sells for $500 or less.

I ask all these questions because it's time to purchase a new turntable. I've got four weeks to make a decision and pick something. I've enjoyed the Debut III, but it's always been a love/hate affair at best. At the end of the day, it's a basic, entry-level turntable. I need something more hi-fi, something that will keep me happy in the long run.

But where do I go? The Lab has opened my ears to the direct-drivers as never before. I do expect the Technics to be an excellent table. But how does it compete against a Pro-Ject RM6.1? A Pro-Ject Xperience? A Rega P3-24 or P5? Which sounds better? Which will enable the most expensive carts? Will I need to pay for endless upgrades? Is that even something I want at this point? I just want to play my Miles Davis and Pearl Jam records!

We'll see how this plays out. My last couple of turntable purchases were rushed. This time, I intend to get everything right. No regrets.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pro-Ject RM6.1 SB - A Few More Photos

Here's another attempt to post photos from Pro-Ject's $999 turntable, the RM6.1 SB. This looks like a good table. But how does it look in person? And how does this thing sound? Am I better off scoring a Technics SL1200? Or perhaps another cool vintage table? Exactly at what point to these modern belt-drive tables start kicking ass?

Preznit Stupid

Fucking idiot.

Realistic LAB-420 Turntable

It's another weekend of analog music fun over here at the apartment! A couple nights ago, I picked up a vintage turntable from the local record store, Roadrunner Records. I'm getting it for my Dad as a Christmas present. The table is a 1979 Realistic LAB-420, a fully automatic direct drive turntable. This table was made in the US and sold by Radio Shack, and is highly regarded as a classic. I paid $125 for the unit, which is a steal for anything in high-end audio, and thankfully everything works perfectly.

I took the table home and cleaned it out as best I could, even giving the wood a solid waxing. Then last night, the fine crew at Needle Doctor gave me a terrific deal on a new phono cartridge and headshell. For $150, I received a Technics headshell (in black), and the vaunted Audio Technica 440mla Moving Magnet cartridge.

I took everything home and started to play some albums. The sound, unfortunately, seems to be off. There was far too much bass, the sound was too muffled and heavy, and for the life of me I couldn't discover the cause. Was this just because the turntable is old? Is it because it's a direct drive? Is it because the cart needs time to break in?

After some time, I finally discovered what the problem with the sound is, and it's one of those stupid rookie mistakes: my Pro-Ject Tube Box II preamp was set to "MC" mode! D'oh! I had completely forgotten about that. The "MC" (Moving Coil) setting has a gain of 60db, while the "MM" (Moving Magnet) has a gain of 40 db. I clicked the button to the correct setting, and instantly everything was transformed.

Now I'm having the fun experience of having to completely rethink everything. I was never too keen on direct drive tables, but that's because the only one's I ever met were very cheap plastic tables, the kind you see at rummage sales for $10. Oh, and those uber-cheap turntables you see stocked at Best Buy for $150, all plastic parts. Ugh. Strangely enough, all of the local record stores have the flimsiest turntables. What's the deal with that? You'd think they'd use a decent model and help promote their product.

Anyway, the Realistic Lab-420 is my first immersion into direct drives, probably since those cheap '80s stereos (again with the plastic, oy). And I'm completely blown away. This really is a fantastic table, and it's going to be very hard for me to give it away on Christmas.

The 440mla is stunning, fantastic, clear, sharp, detailed, tracks perfectly...yadda yadda. Needle Doctor gave me a great deal. They had the cart already mounted onto a Technics headshell, and they sold the package to me for $150. Once again, the Needle Doctor crew delivers! Now if we could only get them into a bigger store....

Right now, I have my Pro-Ject Debut III alongside the Lab-420. This way I can spend a few days testing one against the other. It's here that I wish I had a preamp with more sockets (the Tube Box only has one pair). So far, it's been illuminating and a bit humbling.

The short, short version is that the Lab-420 kicks ***. The Debut III is pretty much even, maybe even very slightly ahead. But this is due to three crucial upgrades: 1) the Speed Box II, 2) the acrylic platter, and 3) the Denon DL-160 cart. With all these weapons, it's an equal race. I strongly suspect the only difference at this point is the difference between the carts. The DL-160 has more muscle and is super-smooth, while the 440mla has the clarity and crispness. Perhaps I should try switching carts for a full comparison, but I'm still inexperienced in changing carts.

And this is with a fully decked-out Debut III. The stock unit - no Speed Box, steel platter, Ortofon OM5E cart - would just get steamrolled. No contest. The Lab-420 would just kick its ***. That's the humbling part for me. I paid $125 for the Lab, the Debut much more so.

The Lab-420 still delivers the better bass, richer and fuller. My Debut performs brilliantly, but that's really the Denon doing all the work. The 440mla is a strong contender, though, and even if it's a dryer sound, everything is so detailed and sharp that pretty soon I'm singing along to Neil Young just the same.

Then there's style. On that front, no contest, Realistic wins hands down. It's a fantastic looking machine. I miss the days when stereo components were made of wood. The tonearm is sleek and shiny, the platter is unbelievably smooth, everything carries size, gravity, presence. The turntable just screams, "American Made." Remember when America actually made things? The good old days when we had a manufacturing base? Now everything has been sold off and shipped overseas, there's nothing left but strip malls and fast food joints, and - hey, lookit that! - the whole nation is crumbling into dust.

I wouldn't expect America to solve all her problems if we went back to making killer turntables like the Lab again. But it sure would help. Not to disrespect or put down the Pro-Ject guys. They make killer turntables. But it's a very European design. Realistics are very much American design.

Oh, well, forgive me for rambling. The best thing to come from this experience is that my mind is open to direct drive tables. If this is what the DJ scene raves about with their Technics, then I believe them. I don't know how the Lab-420, or the Technics 1200, would compare to a $1,000 belt drive. I would expect the more expensive machines to win out. But it's the fact that you have to spend so much more to win that contest - that's the thing that gets me.

I think if anyone is lucky enough to score one of these vintage tables, they'll have something to cherish for life. Heck, just get a couple more phono carts and headshells (a mono cart would be killer), and you're set for life.

Like I said, I'll have a hard time giving the Lab away for Christmas. But my dad will have a fantastic turntable that will keep him happy for life. And anytime I see another one of these tables, I'll snap them up without hesitation. Everyone should. You can always give them to friends and family, and they'll be able to experience the thrills of analog music.

Anyway...whew. That's my report. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


This is what happens when you try to play nice with Mr. Burns, Smithers. And yet the response is always the same - thank you, sir, may I have another?

The Republicans are not interested in playing nice. It's in their interest to smash the wheels of government to rubble. They will dig in their heels and fight tooth and nail every day Obama is in the White House. There will be fights every day after school, whether Smithers wants 'em or not.

On the Other Hand....

....Obama might be playing smarter poker than anybody realizes. Just an observation.

It's hard to know just what Obama is planning. He famously plays his cards close to his chest. Is this an effort to make nice with the other side? A clever bit of divide-and-conquer? Are the Dems actively courting the Christian Right? When dealing with Waylon Smithers, it's never easy to tell. I don't think I could take four years of capitulation and selling out. And I'm the one who still says nice things about Ralph Nader.

Short Thought on the Rick Warren Matter

There's no point in my ranting or raving endlessly. I'll just get to the point. The Democratic Party takes its liberal/progressive wing for granted because it doesn't pay any price for betrayal. They know perfectly damn well that you are not about to sit the next election out to teach 'em a lesson.

The 2000 election remains the watershed moment in this little saga. The corporate, rightward tilt of the Dems led to a sizeable exodus from the left to Ralph Nader. This had the effect of bringing that election to a tie. It quickly became the established narrative that Nadar was the one responsible for getting George W. Bush elected - not the Supreme Court, not the media, certainly not Gore and the Dems - and this led to liberals becoming fierce defenders of what I'd call the Waylon Smithers Party.

And, yet, when you look at their record from a progressive point of view, the Democrats have been miserable failures throughout the Bush years. Heck, as nothing more than an opposition party, they've failed miserably. And, yet, the left continued to beat itself up in 2004 and 2006 and 2008, reminding one another of that damned Ralph Nader and his insistence that the Party of FDR actually be held into account. We couldn't do that. We couldn't risk another Republican term.

And so we find ourselves, once again, feeling helpless and slightly used. The Dems will continue to be the whipping boys of the GOP and the village, and will continue to play the role of Waylon Smithers. Nobody should be surprised that Obama would openly court fundamentalists like Rick Warren. Hillary Clinton would have done the same. Why shouldn't they? What price will they pay for defying you, dear liberal friends?

That's how this game works. The politicians need to respect you. You need to earn that respect, and that means making them pay for their poor performance. If that results in more Republican rule, so be it. I can't imagine the last two years being very different had the GOP retained the Congress. Bush got everything he wanted either way. So this bogeyman fear of "the lesser of two evils" is a sham.

Stand up for your damn selves. Take your licks if you must. But stand up for your principles. Politics is the roughest contact sport ever devised. It's high time you got used to that.

Hovercraft - Been Brained (1994)

One of my favorite pop-rock albums of the 1990's, the debut ep from Minneapolis locals Hovercraft. Been Brained is very short - five songs, seventeen minutes in length - but it's a perfect album from start to finish. Each song stakes its own terrain in the grunge landscape, each song stands on its own, and pretty soon you'll be switching the CD player to replay.

This was an album I could listen to for hours. That should really tell you something. Jay Hurley, the frontman, fell on hard times, and unfortunately, Hovercraft wasn't able to reach mainstream success. A tragedy, of course. Been Brained was hailed as a triumph, and this was especially helpful because the major record labels were still scooping up indie bands right and left, hoping for the next Saint Cobain to emerge. 1994 would prove to be the peak year for the grunge era, and Hovercraft were ready for their chance.

The band was signed to a major label, which then proceeded to put their next album on a boutique, "indie" label. Then two tragedies struck.

First, it was revealed that "Hovercraft" was also the name of an experimental Seattle noise band. This wouldn't normally be an issue....but the band leader happened to be the wife of Eddie Vedder. Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam, at this time, are arguably the biggest rock band in America, so his wife won the battle of the band names. The Minneapolis Hovecraft was forced to change to Shatterproof.

Shatterproof made a couple lineup changes - a new drummer, and expansion from trio to quartet - and recorded their second CD for the Fort Apache label. "Slip it Under the Door" was a solid album, but oddly enough, it couldn't shake itself free from the mighty shadow of Been Brained. Good songs, solid songs, yes. But they mostly sounded the same, standard-issue '90s indie pop. Been Brained really was a perfect album, and I think much of that was because of its length. Perhaps if the Shatterproof CD was similarly shorter, it would have fared better. The classic sophomore slump.

Enter tragedy number two. MCA folded the Fort Apache label suddenly, almost shockingly so. Shatterproof became one of the many indie groups of the '90s to be caught in the corporate undertow. Their album became almost impossible to find. Even today, I'll wager that you could score that first, classic ep more easily among the CD shelves in the Twin Cities.

I saw Jay Hurly around Dinkytown (at the U of MN campus) for many years, working the Espresso Royale coffeeshop. Always humble, always taking my endless praises in stride. I even got his autograph for my CD once, just for kicks. He deserved it. He deserved to be one of the giants of that era. He's still making music and releasing albums.

With the age of the internet, I remain hopeful that he could finally receive his due. Somebody's going to have to work on that. But indie rock remains stubbornly cliquish, Minneapolis more so. Success is always treated with contempt, as something to apologize for. It's complete nonsense. Do you want Jay Hurley to be working coffee shops the rest of his life? Or do you want him to create music? You never see this self-richeous navel-gazing in the rap community. Success is a good thing, something to flaunt, something to celebrate.

That said, Hovercraft's Been Brained is one of the finest rock albums of the 1990's. It deserves to be in your music collection. Get it any way you can, by hook or by crook.

Here's the Amazon link.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why is Karl Rove not in Prison?

Look, this is what happens when you let the bad guys walk away scot free. This strategy by the Democratic leadership to roll over, play dead, make nice, and cave in to the Republicans at every turn will have serious consequences for Obama's presidency.

I really wish I could laugh at the prospect of Karl Rove handing out ethics lessons, but we're playing high-stakes poker here. And why is Rove not sitting in a jail cell? Didn't he refuse a Congressional sopoena? Isn't that a crime? Shouldn't he be held in contempt?

Ah, but that would ruin our bi-partisan spirit of giving Bush and the GOP everything they want. And now it's going to bite them back in the butt. The Bush scandals, real factual events, will be magically transformed into the magical Obama scandals. Obama better learn how to fight back hard. If he doesn't turn out to be another Lincoln or FDR, we are all royally screwed.

Wisely-Paid Thought of the Day

Norm Coleman is a real drama queen. What's the deal with that?

Time Travel For Stupid People

Why do I have this dreadful feeling that we're going to be reliving the 1990's again? And not the "good" '90s, either. Nope, I mean the days of endless Republican Party witchhunts and endless fake scandals against the Clintons.

As always, Generation X Cynicism works best here. We always knew this was how the GOP and the villagers would roll. So we're going to relive the Elian Gonzales story? Sure, why not? Not like anything important happened during the Bush years.

For Republicans, it's crucial that the Bush/Cheney era becomes completely forgotten. The best way to do this is to endlessly distract the American public with trivial nonsense. The villagers will play along, just as they did in the '90s, because, well, they're trapped in some sort of warped high school mindset. It's what they live for. And the Congressional Dems will roll over and play nice, again and again. And they will be played for suckers every time. It's what they live for.

This would all be much funnier if, you know, everything on planet Earth wasn't completely melting down. Washington reminds me of those space humans from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; you know, the ones who are herded into rockets and blasted off their home planet? They crash on Earth and become the ancestors of modern man. This would go a long way towards explaining things.

Whatever, count me in for Clinton Wars: The Sequel. $50 says Obama gets impeached for trivial, fabricated, or completely bullshit reasons.

Pro-Ject RM-6.1 SB

A few more shots of Pro-Ject's RM-6.1 SB turntable. These came from a Korean website and just looked super cool. It's hard to find photos of this table around the web, aside from the company photos. Most audiophiles, no doubt, would have more easily gravitated toward on of the high-end or entry-level tables instead. Being stuck in the middle often means being forgotten.

Hopefully, these posts of mine will help alleviate things somewhat. This is a terrific looking gadget. Thankfully, Needle Doctor is selling them, at $999. A bit pricey, but certainly within my budget come next month. RM-6 is certainly a contender for now. We'll see what happens in the next few weeks.

Hmmm...may have to do some editing on the photos. It's much larger when you click on it. I'll see what I can do later.

George W's Big Heist

One final haul before heading out into the sunset. No suprises, of course.

It's times like this that I imagine what having an opposition party would look like. You know, instead of the cowardly enablers we're currently stuck with. Impeachement is off the table! Yay!

Duck Duck Bush!

I should have expected this to happen sooner or later. Very funny stuff. But I need more things to throw! Couldn't I just roll up the Bush White House in a Katamari ball and hurl it into space?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pro-Ject RM-6.1 SE

Even though I've told myself to save my money this holiday season (oh, no, I did it again - curse you, War on Christmas!) , I am keeping my eyes open for the next turntable upgrade, hopefully sometime during the new year. I've had my current table, a decked-out Pro-Ject Debut III, since March, and it's long been a love-hate affair. By all accounts, I should be more than happy with the table, and it's an excellent entry-level system that's perfect for converting anyone who's curious or nostalgic for vinyl lp's.

But I still want a better table, one more powerful. And preferrably one I won't have to upgrade endlessly. That's one concern you must address when choosing a turntable - do you like to tinker around? Or do you just want to play records? There are options for you either way.

Part of me is looking towards a Rega table; probably the tinkering side of me, since Rega's can be hacked around forever. For owners, it's something of a badge of honor. It's also painfully expensive, and I feel unnecessary as our nation is sliding to the edge of another Great Depression.

Another part of me wishes to stay with the Pro-Ject brand. I'm the loyal type, stubbornly so, and I already have a number of Pro-Ject upgrades (Speed Box 2, Tube Box 2) that can be used on a new table. Ideally, I'd like to pass my Debut on to someone else, but move up the food chain considerably. So therin lies our goals for the hunt.

I've already written about Pro-Ject's other mid-range tables, the Xperience and the RM-5. Today, let's look at the third table in the $999 arena, the RM-6.1 SE. This turntable is easily overlooked in favor of cooler-looking (Xperience) or cheaper (Xpression III, RM-5), and it's almost unheard of online, except for the British audio sites. All of the reviews have been glowing, but it's very difficult to find critical reviews among the audiophile press. Make of that what you will.

I admit that the look of the RM-6 didn't appeal to me earlier, but having scoured around for photos, it looks much better to me now. It's a very minimal design, really just a giant silver puck to play records on. This is actually the turntable's platter. Wow. The platter is MDF (medium-density fiberboard), with a layer of vinyl on top. I've noticed that the vinyl doesn't cover the entire platter, so there's that sore sight of your records hanging over slightly. This was a sore spot for me on my standard Debut III, until I upgraded to a 12" acrylic platter. Perhaps I'm just being picky here.

The sub-platter is made of acrylic and looks terrific. This is a notable upgrade from the cheaper Pro-Jects. Is this the only model to use this kind of sub-platter? Very impressive. I also like the skeletal design. We'd expect to see this turntable on The Jetsons. Very futuristic, very stylish.

The tonearm uses Pro-Ject's 9C carbon-fiber arm, which looks excellent and compares very closely to the company's top-model RM-9.1. The owner of Needles and Spins, a UK audio store, praises this setup highly. He argues that the improvements to the tonearm design make the RM-6.1 a better table than either Xperience or RM-5.

As you can see, there's a Speed Box attached to the table, and it's hard-wired, so there's no dealing with upgrades or tweaks. This would work for me, since every Pro-Ject (or Music Hall, since they use the same parts) table requires a Speed Box to perform its best. I could give mine away with the Debut.

My only beef - and, yes, this is a major one - is the lack of any dust cover. My apartment gets really dusty, and a cover is really needed. Otherwise...would I just use a towel? I'm not spending hundreds for some expensive box. Maybe I'd just have to learn to dust more often. Not a deal-breaker for me, but it is a real concern. In a perfect world, I'd get to test these tables out and compare them against one another.

In any case, there you go. Pro-Ject's RM-6.1 SE. Cartridge is not included, so you'll have to factor that into your costs. Tables at this price range usually don't include 'em. Looks great, lots of praise, all the features of the higher-end tables. And strangely unknown. So maybe it's an underdog table. Works fine for me; I always root for the underdogs.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


No, seriously. What the bloody hell is going on? Are the Republicans really going to stop us from saving the Big 3 automakers? Are they really trying to kill GM, Chrystler and Ford? All just so they can screw over Obama and the Dems, and kill off the unions at the same time?

Why isn't anyone stopping this?!

Katamari Damacy

A couple YouTube videos of Katamari Damacy, one of the opening song-and-dance number, and another of the game in action.

We Love Katamari

Without question the goofiest, most openly psychedelic video game ever made is Katamari Damacy on the Playstation 2. We just picked it up here at the apartment this week, and it's a blast. Here is a gameplay video for the sequel, We Love Katamari.

While I'm sure this series will continue for many years - Namco will bleed Katamari to death - it's really the first two games that are the best, the most fun and the most honest. The original creator had his own brilliantly zany vision, and that will almost surely be lost by future developers that are keen to protect the franchise.

Anyway, here's the gameplay video for We Love Katamari. I'm looking around the local stores for a copy. Good luck on that.

Republicans Want Your Cars to Die

Let me get this right. The Detroit automakers are in imminent danger of bankruptcy, and the Republican Party is actively working....to kill them?

Doesn't that strike you as, well...strange? I don't think political parties are supposed to actively destroy the nation. It can't just be the urge to break the unions. There must be something more going on. No group of politicians could be that pathological.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Poisons in the Baby Formula

This is the Republican idea of "pro life," I guess. Poison in the baby formula? Am I missing something here? I'm reminded of that great Mudhoney line: "I'm all for life, 'till the bastard's born - and after that he's on his own..."

One thing that has long infuriated and frustrated me has been the way the Bush administration has been able to get away with this sort of thing for eight years. You'd think the people would be outraged when they see the sheer scale of corruption and greed. Now we can't drink the water, we can't eat the fish, we can't touch the toys, we can't breathe the air, and we can't even use baby formula without poisoning our kids. But trust us, they say. Why, exactly?

Organized Crime Rocks

Give me $700 billion of taxpayer money, and I'll save the economy. Or somethin'. But you can't look at what I'm doing with my money, err, your money. And you can't ask any questions about who I'm giving it to. You'll just have to trust me to throw obscene amounts of money around, which will save us from the coming economic depression.

Besides, once Obama takes office on January 20, it all becomes his problem. So who cares if the economy collapses then - we can pin the blame on someone else! And we get to keep all our money! Yaaaay!!

Seventy Dollars An Hour

So auto workers are now making $70/hour? If you do the math, that comes out to over $145,000 a year. Yahoo! Blue collar workers are wealthy! Who'da guessed? What am I doing in an office job? What the heck am I painting and writing for? The real money is on the assembly line. Where do I sign up?

This is so obviously stupid. And yet, the zombie lies just keep piling on and on. It's a vicious monster that never stops, feeding on the brains of the weak and the stupid. And the ones most willing to believe these lies are the ones most directly affected by them. The message from our Republican friends is that American workers are paid too much. They should be poor.

But the CEOs can keep their massive bonuses. They're just struggling to get by. Unlike those workers at the GM plant.

EPA to Gut Mountaintop Mining Rule That Protects Streams

Now that's a headline to be proud of.

The funny thing is that much of this mountaintop destruction and river pollution occurs in Appalachia, the GOP stronghold. This was just about the only region in the shift more red in the 2008 election, as the rest of the nation turned blue. These are the people who's lives are most directly affected by Republican policies. And yet they remain the GOP's most fervent supporters.

Do these folks not drink water? Do they not breathe air? Do they not demand a better life for themselves and their children? Or have they been convinced that this chaos and devestation is normal and acceptable? It is no coincidence that America's poorest regions are those caught firmly in the grip of the conservative ideology. It is a gospel of the cruel.

Karl Rove Math

One of the more amusing things to emerge since the election has been the level of denial on the part of Republican conservatives. They're still squarely in the denial stage, telling themselves over and over that their defeat wasn't as bad as it appears. As usual, count on Fox News to help dispense with the medicine.

Still, you'd think that somebody would notice that Karl Rove Math, well, stinks. He's already done more damage to the Republican Party brand than just about anyone alive. Why are they still listening to him?

I suspect the GOP will have to lose a couple more elections before they begin to seriously deal with their problems. Which means, of course, the next four years are going to be...interesting.


In President-Elect Obama's first six press conferences, Fox News hasn't been tapped for a question once. Not once. Elections do have consequences, kids.

Saving the Big Three Autos

An interesting proposal.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Bush Depression

So has the Depression started yet?

Seeing as how we've finally decided that the Recession began last December, yadda yadda...