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Sunday, 29 April 2012

Supplemental - In Defence of the Turntable

When I first got into Hi Fi back in the 1970s, my Dad bought me a Sony Music Centre which comprised of a Garrard SP25 Mk IV Turntable, FM radio and Amp in one package, with speakers. I loved that Hi fi, and only got rid of it a few years ago when I moved house. I just could not part with it even though I never used it. I think the weak link in the system was the turntable. The garrard used an idler drive type system. A rubber wheel would touch both the motor spindle and in turn drive the platter. Turntables with this drive tended to suffer from terrible rumble, and if there were any flat spots on the wheel they would be picked up by the system as a 'bump' in the recording. Not good. In  the 1980's there was a certain amount of snobbery amongst the Hi-fi fraternity, in particular where turntables were concerned. It had to be belt driven, with glass or MDF platter, feature some sort of fancy suspension system, have a straight tonearm, preferably from Linn, Rega or SME , and fitted with a good cartridge. The Linn Sondek LP12 was THE turntable to own. They sounded fantastic, were upgradeable with exotic power supplies and suspension parts and they sold for silly money (and still do!) even on the second hand market. 

One turntable that was probably used by most DJs and radio stations but never mentioned in Hifi circles was the Technics SL1200 series. This unit defied all the parameters mentioned above. It was direct driven ( the platter was coupled directly to the motor, rather than belt driven via a pulley), it had an 'S' shaped tonearm, with a detachable headshell and the cartridge was designed to withstand some serious abuse. The whole deck is a design classic, A workhorse bit of kit that was first manufactured in the 70's and only ceased production in 2010.

 Now I have just bought a Technics SL1210 Mk2, secondhand to replace my belt-driven SEE Revolver with Linn arm and Cartridge. No competition some people may say, but you know what?  The SL1210 knocks spots of the Revolver, having fitted the Linn K9 cartridge to it. The Bass is tight, Accoustic damping is there in abundance and there is no sign of rumble, something the snobs said you would get with a Direct Drive turntable. The Torque on the SL1210 is amazing, it runs up to speed in about 1/4 of a turn as opposed to seconds on the Revolver. Want to change speed? push a button on the 1210, On the Revolver stop the deck, move the belt from the lower to the upper pulley. Swear when the belt falls off the rim of the platter. Replace belt. Repeat process.

The amazing thing is that some people are turning their backs on MP3/Ipods and the like. The sound quality of these is not all that brilliant, unless you download the high quality ones. Also there is nothing like playing vinyl, you have something tangible for your money, instead of a digital file. You can read  the sleeve notes and admire the sleeve art, and generally you tend to listen to the whole album in the correct running order, as the artist/producer intended, rather than picking or playing tracks at random. I noticed that record companies are latching on to the growing popularity of vinyl and are releasing some albums on this format, as well as CD and download. I even saw some classic and new albums in a well known department store (Never knowingly undersold!) that were sold as framed art, along with the record. Mind you at £20 each you would be better off scouring eBay and record fairs for mint copies. 

The other problem is finding the equipment to plug into a deck and allow you to listen. Amplifiers these days no longer have a dedicated 'phono' input, which needs to be sensitive enough to amplify the relatively small voltage that a cartridge produces. You can buy phono pre-amplifiers. I have one myself, with the added bonus of a USB output for transferring the vinyl analogue signal to a digital format. Most turntable spares can be found online, along with cartridges, stylii and record cleaners (very important, you don't want fluff on your needle pop pickers!)

I want to see the vinyl format still supported, even today young people have no idea how to play a record. They have no clue about 33 1/3, 45, 78, Tracking weight and anti-skate and Moving magnet or moving coil pickups. It would be a shame to assign this technology to history.

By the way, if you would like to purchase my SEE Revolver, with Linn Basik Plus Arm and K9 Cartridge, contact me via Facebook, or wait until I put it on eBay and place a bid...

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Birthday Bash Weekend 21-22 April 2012

It was a nice day off yesterday. Thursday night we went with a load of friends to see Avenue Q at the Marlowe Theatre. I thoroughly recommend it, Real laugh out loud stuff! Tina had booked it months ago and it was well worth the wait. My birthday was spent mainly at home but we did pop into town after dropping Arnie off at the vets. Then we took Sarah's sister to the Hospital to see if her Grand Daughter had arrived yet (still no sign). The evening was spent in with a nice meal and a glass of wine.


Not having much planned for today we got up about the usual time and over breakfast watch the various cookery shows that now dominate saturday morning telly. What ever happened to Tiswas or Swap Shop! I was trawling the net for MX-5s and I saw one advertised in a garage on the other side of Canterbury. So we set off straight away only to be stuck in terrible traffic through the City centre. After calling in the wrong garage (more mowers than cars) we found the right one a few hundred yards further down and there was the car on the forecourt. Odd but it was £100 more than advertised on Autotrader. After a quick look around I decided that there were better models to be had. Being red the paint had started to fade a bit although there were no signs of rust and the roof was in good condition. There is another for sale, this time in Ightam so we may take a trip up there tomorrow. I like this car because the number plate is the same as my initials, SKJ.

Saturday night was spent at Yeungs Buffet with a load of friends and family. We had a great time there and ate too much food (again). Graham had a chicken satay which looked like a rat-on-a-stick (see pic) which raised a few laughs. After chocolate cake was consumed some of us went back to ours for coffee  and we chatted to the wee small hours. Arnie made himself comfortable on both Dave and Batty's lap. Trouble was I had a couple of strong coffees and couldn't get to sleep. Oh well at least I get a lie-in.


After the usual shop in Asda I plonked myself in front of the telly, and found myself dropping off to sleep. The coffee I had the night before kept me awake last night. After a quick lunch we decided to nip out for a drive round the countryside. We headed out to Lathe Barn near Lympne, a collection of small shops and a Tea Room. I found a bit of a bargain in a shop called 'Grandma's Attic' (see pic). It's an album I always promised myself I would own, but for 50p the LP version is just as good, and it is in mint condition. Sarah bought a necklace in the accessories shop (no change there then) and we stopped for a very reasonable priced cream tea. pot of tea and scone, jam and cream for me, Hot chocolate and Coffee cake for Sarah.
We stopped at a Farm Shop on the way home for some veg. I like to support the farm shops. This one in Sellinge had the biggest onions I had ever seen! I'm cooking Puerto Rican Chicken tonight, a Recipe from Levi Roots Book. Its one we've done before and it always turns out well. After my 3.5 days off its back to work tomorrow. I'm looking forward to hearing the ongoing saga about one of my colleagues, who got in a spot of bother last week with a Yacht he bought off eBay. You can read all about it Here and Here and Here . Oh and there is still no sign of Sarah's grand Niece making an appearance!

Until next week then......

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Dodgy horses and cars.

We had a good evening at Emma's 30th Party last night. It was held at the Roffen in Rochester, a club I last went to in the 80's as a guest of my neighbour when I lived in Strood. Back then when I was thinner I used to play squash down there and I should have joined as it was so cheap and the facilities were second to none. Unfortunately I moved away soon after. The thing I found surprising is it is still reasonably cheap to join, and the club offers gym, squash, sauna, fine dining and nice bars. I wish Ashford had a club like that, Medway is just a little too far to travel.

So we went into town this morning. There is a bit of a horse race going on today so I had a flutter on 'Shakalakaboomboom'.  I'm finding less and less to like about the town centre. It really needs more shops to attract the punters, and cheaper or free parking regardless of what the council leaders said this week. They are only thinking about lost revenue from cheap or free parking. I hope this 'Portas Pilot' scheme is won by Ashford. We need a long term plan to stop the town centre from becoming a ghost town. I popped into the model shop on the way home and picked up some OO gauge figures for my station, including a guy on a Lambretta. We lunched at Dobbies, then stopped at Sainsbury's where AHBS were doing an Outside Broadcast for the 'Find a Voice' Charity. I had a chat with one of the presenters and we talked about Hospital radio and mutual friends. Obviously the news of my application to them has been mentioned as he had heard of me. It was good to see presenter John 'Webbo' Webster down there. The guy is a bit of a local legend after getting a strong following of listeners on the Breakfast Show. Then he and a few others were unceremoniously dumped from the  KMFM schedules. John is involved with Find a Voice and was there to lend his support. I also caught a glimpse of Jan Francis, the actress who appeared opposite Paul Nicholas in 'Just Good Friends'.

Well my 'orse lasted the course, then faded towards the end and came in 9th. You can't win them all.


I got up early to watch the Chinese Grand Prix.  What a great race, The Beeb chose the right one to show live. After showering and dressing we did our weekly shop at Asda, then decided to go down to Folkestone market. I drove up to the Leas to find a parking space  and use the Water Lift. Having no luck parking on the road, we drove into the car park and payed for 2 hours worth. I was astounded to find the machine didn't recognise a 10p and gave me 1 hour for £2.30. What a rip-off, I was fuming! Then having seen from the top what was at the market (hardly anything) we didn't bother going down there. After a quick McD break and a look in Debenhams we drove round the coast via Hythe and went home, stopping off at the Mazda garage to see if there were any cheapies in there (There wasn't). After a quick trawl on line I saw a cheap MGF at a garage in Challock. So we drove down there to have a quick look. There was a reason why it was so cheap, the thing was a rust bucket, with holes in the rag top as well as the leather seats totally knackered from the water leaks. A quick look in garages down the A28 toward Canterbury turned out to be fruitless as well.
I'm still on the look out for a cheap (less than 3 grand) Mazda MX-5 so if anyone spots one, let me know.

Until next week then...

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Cycling, Barbeque and Ducks 7-8 April 2012

Its the day after Good Friday, and yesterday I did something that I haven't done since I was a teenager. I went on a bike ride with friends through the countryside to Orlestone Forest near Hamstreet. We covered about 15 miles there and back, including a stop for a crafty half pint in Shadoxhurst.  I thought I wouldn't be fit enough but I surprised myself by cycling up Singleton hill without getting off and pushing until the very top. The others were going at just the right pace for me. We are not Tour de France material, so I felt fine covering that distance. My trusty steed (pic) hasn't been that far since I bought it 8 years ago and was absolutely fine. The weather was fantastic and  I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm really looking forward to the next one.


I'm glad I had a bath last night to soothe away all the stiff muscles from the previous days bike ride. I woke this morning feeling fine. The same couldn't be said for some of my compatriots, who were suffering from buttock related ailments! 
Anyway we got up in plenty of time this morning. We had planned an all afternoon barbeque, with Parents coming down and friends popping in. We first went to Tenterden to buy a couple of nice directors seats from the Garden centre. Then after a trip to Asda for the food and a quick tidy round, the first visitors arrived, just for coffee. My Brother and Sis-in-Law had been to the London Beach Hotel down the road for an overnight with friends and they called in on the way home. Then soon after they went Mum and Dad turned up, I started cooking about 1pm and the first food was consumed by 2pm. Then Dave and Tina turned up. Luckily I cooked more than was needed so there was some left for them. After watching a shambles of a boat race we bid farewell to the Parents and then settled down to a DVD, 'Paul' which Dave hadn't seen before. Then just as that ended Chippy and Sam turned up with their entourage, and the BBQ was fired up again for round two. We also lit the Chimnea, and Dave, Chippy and myself spent time around it stoking the fire and putting the world to rights. So with the food eaten, puds consumed and drinks drunk, the masses bid farewell and we settled down for the rest of the evening, after tidying the kitchen of course.

Easter Sunday

Having enjoyed last year's Easter Sunday so much, we decided to meet up with friends again for this years Smarden Duck Race. After a good breakfast of cereal and toast, we were picked up by Dave and Tina and set off for Batty's Farm, where we were meeting with Jason and Family, plus the Brighton contingent. The weather forecast was not good, it was bucketing down earlier so wellies were the norm. After a quick cuppa we trekked to the Village and met up with Dave's colleague en route. Again it was busy this year, and we were lucky to get ducks as they were running very low and were rationing people to one duck per person. The only change from last year was the visit to the pub. Some of us (me included) begrudge paying nearly £4 per pint of local beer, and of course some of us are on a serious health regime, and  beer contains empty calories.
So after another race lost (The postman won the special duck race) it was back to the farm where the Barbeque was dragged out and we were joined by Lukey, Kat and Sidney the Dog. There seemed to be a never ending supply of sausages and other meat products. The more adventurous amongst us sampled the Nando's hot sauce I brought with me. Now I reckon that the heat is spot on, but Charlotte's friend put WAY too much on his bangers and was suffering a bit. It was nice to have something that hadn't come from a cow, pig or chicken, and Batty's mum brought out some Jacket potato slices that went down a treat. We then had a walk down to the Duck pond, on the way meeting some of the Lambs including 'Tripod' a Lamb that doesn't use his back leg. The Cattle came over for a nose, and we generally made mooing noises and tried to pat them. But cows don't seem to be too touchy feely.  Then after a tidy round we said our goodbyes to Batty and drove over to the other fields down the road where Dave and co will be camping this year. He gave Dave the combination for the padlock on the gate but no matter how he tried the combination would not work. So that meant everyone had to climb over the gate. I decided to give it a miss until someone pointed out that the gate wasn't actually locked, the chain wasn't around the post and Dave had missed this. Oh how we laughed. After a stroll around, including spotting some HUGE Koi in the pond, we set off for home. Tomorrow is bank holiday Monday, but the weather is supposed to be pants and we may even stay in, or find something to do that involves indoors.

All in all its been a fantastic Easter so far.......

Until next weekend then.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Bikes and Borders 31 March - 1 April 2011

After a great evening at the Astro society last night I was amazed at the number of positive comments on Facebook from people who were there. It always goes well when we have a good talk (Denver's Moon landing one was thought provoking and excellent). Also clear (ish) skies help so we can get the telescopes out. I managed to help a couple set their go-to telescope up. They set it to point at Sirius (south) and it went North! Its nearly always a problem with entering latitude and longitude, I know because I had the same problem with mine when I first used it. anyway a quick fiddle with the settings and they were soon looking at Mars in all its glory. I also got the chance to have a quick look through 'Dobby', our club scope and Jason's 'Big Boy'. Being the 5th birthday of the society meant we had cake, and the Lemon Drizzle cake I made for the event went down a treat, As well as the superb solar system cake that was made for us by Anita's friend.  


This morning we went into town for the first time in ages, 99p Store, Smiths, M and S, Debenhams, HMV and Game Station visited and I bought lottery, CDs and a few 99p items. We didn't even stop for a frothy one. On the way back we stopped at Tesco for tonight's dinner and the pet store for a new lamp for the aquarium. Then home for a quick pit stop before removing the knackered battery from the Honda and buying a new one from Laguna (£38.....ouch). The rest of the afternoon was spent filling the new battery with acid, fitting and charging it then giving the pushbike a quick once over in preparation for the bike ride to Orlestone next Friday. After a great dinner, Tesco version of dine in for two for a tenner, we went out in search of petrol. All of the smaller garages in Ashford had diesel only. Luckily Sainsburys had unleaded and no queues. It seems the panic buying is over until the government open their big gobs again and cause people to go silly.


Started with the usual trip to Asda, stopping at Halfords on the way back for a new cycle helmet. The one I was sold years ago never fitted properly, it was the largest one they had in the shop at the time and it was a bit of a skull crusher. So I bought a Bell one, well they do make good motorbike helmets. I took the battery off charge on the bike and tried to start it. Well it turned over but the engine won't fire. Tried to kick start it, nothing. Checked the spark plug, that was dry so its one of either two things. Fuel blockage somewhere or no spark. Further investigation is required. We went out to lunch to the chinese buffet in town. Whilst there I booked the table for my birthday bash. I can't believe I have 24 people coming. Then on they way home I bought some new jeans in Matalan,
This afternoon has been spent building the raised border in the garden. The timbers I bought from Jacksons must be good because they were a bugger to saw through, even with a jigsaw. and then I had to use a socket wrench with an extension bar to bolt them together. I think they look quite good. Now all we have to to is dig up the plants, weed, fill with layers of hardcore, sand and topsoil then a layer of either slate, gravel or forest bark. Next weekend is a busy one so I don't think I'll be doing any more for a few weeks.

Until next weekend then (which is a long one....Woop Woop).