Vinyl Again

Between the years 12 and 24, more or less, I lived with a Pioneer PL-A35 turntable. All of my formative musical experiences ran through its tonearm. It was part of the landscape of every bedroom I inhabited. Not sure when or why, but it ended up in my mother’s garage, gathering dust for 15 years. When I rescued it a few months ago, the main bearing was frozen solid. The Sound Well in Berkeley said they had a cut-off point beyond which they refused to work on vintage turntables (parts too scarce), and I didn’t make the cut. They suggested a hole in the wall called Handy Electronics. Finally got there today — one of those places with torn apart toasters and VCRs everywhere. Broken English. But 24 hrs later it’s in perfect working order and I’m reunited with the turntable of my teens. Such a physical feeling to slide an LP from the sleeve. Such a short period of time before you have to turn the damn thing over :)

Music: Vinyl!

20 thoughts on “Vinyl Again

  1. Yeah, I still have my Sony PSLX2 from my own teens. Put a new top of the line Ortophon cartridge on it, and (in theory) use it to “rip” vinyl into CDs or MP3s. I can’t quite imagine getting rid of it. :)

    Oh, have you found a good way to go from a magnetic cartridge into the computer’s line in’s? I haven’t. At the moment I have a cheap Radio Shack amp with mag inputs that does the job reasonably well, although the number of switches I have to set to get the sound flowing is fairly ridiculous. Ideally I’d like a box that would hang on the computer on a USB (or firewire) line, has mag inputs and a speaker level amp. A few line ins would be nice too.

    I keep wondering if I can’t do this somehow with my Canopus ADVC-100, since it *has* a-d and d-a for sound, but so far I’ve barely gotten it to do video. My 450mhz g4 upgraded G3 just isn’t *quite* fast enough – or wasn’t, I haven’t tried it since I upgraded the video card on my system.

    -Jim

  2. Thanks! I needed a new turntable. Your journal is one of the resources that I found with a google search and I used it to help me figure out whether I should buy the Pioneer PL A35 I saw on ebay in December (2003). I didn’t know anything about this model, and frankly had forgotten almost everything I used to know about turntables. I wasn’t sure such an antique would be worth the money and trouble. It’s so, so lovely. I was surprised that I had to buy a preamplifier to really get the sound out of it (my $100.00 RCA turntable from Radio Shack, which I affectionately call the “Close ‘n’ Play”, was running just fine through the powered audio selector and equalizer), and then I had to learn all about ground loops (yikes!) to get the components to play nicely with each other. But all is beautiful now.

    By the way, in case anyone’s still interested, the DAK catalog online is offering an interface that’s supposed to do the job. I found this when I got sick of trying to figure out how to burn cd’s from vinyl via the computer. I would have bought both the interface and the turntable from the catalog, but since I listen to vinyl constantly for entertainment, not just to burn cd’s, I really needed an automatic turntable (so that I wouldn’t have to babysit it).) I bought the Pioneer PDR509 cdrw, also on ebay, which seemed a better way to go. Love that machine too.

  3. Carolyn, that’s great news on the PL-A35. You’re probably the only other owner of one of these I’ve ever come into contact with. I just got a new amplifier and was amazed to discover that it had no phono inputs. I’m going to need a phono pre-amp as well. What kind did you get?

    Congrats.

  4. I own a PL-A35 and two PL-50 ‘s (restored to show room condition)(and got a spare one for parts)
    I mainly use the PL-50 for “ripping” records onto CD.

    I am looking for a PL-A35 manual, anybody can send me a copy?

    Some notes on the phono pre-amp for your PC:
    Pinnacle sells a phono pre-amp that plugs into your USB port, it’s called the “Clean Plus” and comes with audio restauration software.
    The software does a good job but is SLOW.
    I’m using Algorithmix Sound Laundry and this software “cleans” an album in seconds !!!
    Most of the cheap phono pre-amps add-ons, sound cheap and don’t produce a correct RIAA curve. You’re better off buying a cheap integrated amp on ebay on connect it to your PC.
    One of the better soundcards (TRUE 24 Bit) is the Terratec DMX, this sound card has PHONO INPUTS !!! and enough in and outputs to make a recording studio jealous.
    A note for Jim:
    DBX used to make a “program route selector” model 400 or 200. You can find them cheap on ebay and will solve your “switch” problems.

    Marc

  5. Great tips Marc, thanks. I ended up using my old Superphon pre-amp as a phono amp. It’s officially retired in favor of a Rotel home theater amp, but it worked out perfectly for this, and I can also jack it into the Mac when necessary.

    Do you know of any good LP cleanup software for Mac OS X?

  6. I am not very familiar with the MAC os, but give this site a try.
    http://www.arboretum.com/products/hyperengine-av/ray_gun_pro.html

    Some external equipment for Vinyl cleanup that might be useful:

    DBX dynamic range expander with impact restoration.
    DBX made an array of range expanders in the 70’s and 80’s (look on ebay). These units do a marvelous job in giving your recordings the PUNCH (impact restoration) and dynamic range, sometimes lacking in vinyl recordings.
    Some of my “ripped” LP’s have a better dynamic range than their CD cousins!!!

    DBX subharmonic synthesizer
    These units were mainly used in Disco’s (ever wandered why you could not get the same base out of your speakers at home?)
    The subharmanic synthesizer analyzes the signal and lowers the base on octave.
    Wonderful and amazing. I recorded old Glenn Miller and Motown records and YES they finally have pounding base.(it gave the term BIG band justice)
    Note: there is a BIG difference between turning up the base (like most of us do) and lowering the lowest frequency by an octave.

    Marc

    PS.
    I am looking for info and documentation on the folowing turntables.
    Pioneer Pl-50
    Pioneer Pl-A35
    Yamaha linear models

  7. i have a similar story with the PL-A35, digging up such a sentiment, and am glad to have found this conversation. My repair is so simple as a new belt and a new needle, i am hesitent to open it up before knowing what to look for.
    at very least both marc and i are looking for some manuals.

  8. I am using a Thorens TD 126 MK II turntable with an Ortophon moving coil cartridge. The cartridge output is fed (via an Ortophon transformer) into a Crown Amcron ICI50A pre-amplifier phono input. The output of the Crown is input to an ACTIVA Audio 5.1 soundcard. I am using WaveLab (Steinberg) for noise reduction, click and plop minimization and normalization so that the maximum level is 0dB. The results are excellent.

  9. In my earlier posting of 21 June, 2005, I omitted the details of the cartridge: it is an Ortophon MC 20. (The transformer is an Ortophon Type STM – 72).

  10. Can anyone help me find the manual for a pioneer pdr-509. I only have 7 days to return it to the pawn shop where I bought it,and would like to know if it is working properly. It plays CDs but I’m clueless on how to record. I what to do comps of my Lps. Help…. Thanks

  11. I have a PL-A35 i got at an auction its been working great until today when it just stopped. I think i might be the motor but not sure anyone have any ideas on how to fix it.

  12. Jacob, in my case it was a frozen bearing. I took it to a little mom-and-pop electronics repair shop and they were able to un-freeze it.

  13. My Dad just gave me his PL-A35 (I am honored!) and I was wondering what would be a good receiver to go along with it? Does it make a difference if it’s a Pioneer? I remember he had the Pioneer SX-636 receiver, the one with the pretty turquoise lights that back-lit the face. I’m currently scouring the internet and thrift stores for that model. Any suggestions for this newly minted audiophile?

  14. Lindsay – I wouldn’t say it’s important that it be a Pioneer at all, unless you’re trying to complete a nostalgia rig. What’s most important is that you have a good phono pre-amp, either built into the amp or outboard.

  15. Thanks for the heads up on the pre-amp. I’d be satisfied with any receiver although there is a side of me that’s nostalgic for the one from my youth. =)

  16. hi

    I am buying a PL-A35 today and I have an older Sony Amp with the Phono Input would I still require a Pre-amp or will this input do it for me thanks

  17. Dominic – If you have a phone input then you’re all set. You only need an outboard phone pre-amp if you’re not happy with the quality of the built-in.

  18. New PL-A35 owner here! Bought it a month ago but was away on work. When I came home, found my new(ish) Denon receiver did not have a phono preamp. Finally picked up an inexpensive Pyle preamp which works great. After playing about 3 albums (not quite 2 hours of use) a very strange vibrato was noticeable on the playback of the 4th. It sounded like Chuck Mangioni had his trumpet going through a tremolo! Has anyone else experienced this strange phenom?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *