Day of Tragedy

Yesterday the inevitable came early.

I was sufficiently inebriated and listening to Coltrane's Live at Birdland, a pristine Nippon Colombia 1976 pressing. The record had just then arrived by post from Tokyo. The postman had brought it to my door and had me sign for it. Marvelous, just marvelous. 

I cracked another beer and listened to Side 2 play out. The sound was perfect. There was no sense at all paying twice as much for beat-up original Impulses when I could get the same quality of sound from the friendly Japanese for half as much and in perfect condition. 

I picked up the record from the platter and held it against the light. The vinyl was a perfect glassy surface. Not a single imperfection. It reminded me of the perfect smoothness of Mount Morris lake on those still and windless Wisconsin summer evenings. It was marvelous. It was just marvelous. 

I put the record back in its sleeve and placed it back carefully onto the shelf with the other orange and black Impulses. It was a fine, fine day. Indeed, it was marvelous. There were other Nippon Colombia Coltranes out there and I was now committed to them. 

Perhaps I should clean my stylus so that next time it will be nice and clean when I go to use my turntable. I took my cube of Magic Eraser foam and wet it and set it on the Dual next to the stylus and tone arm on its rest. I lifted the tone arm and positioned the stylus over the foam and with the cue lever dropped the stylus cantilever and its diamond carefully into the foam. It sunk in slowly and satisfactorily. I could feel the diamond being cleaned. Things were wonderful. These special records would sound so wonderful when I listened the next time.

I should clean the tiny stylus brush too, I thought. It always picks up so much dust and then drags that dust back through the record grooves. With the square of wet foam I started to wipe the hairs of the tiny brush that is placed just in front of the cantilevered diamond. There was not much dust but I was trying to clean it thoroughly. I dragged the brush over the foam again and again. And then a tiny pop rang out. Something had happened. I felt that something tragic had happened. 

I looked underneath the cartridge. Where the cantilever and its diamond once hung there was an empty space. Everything inside me sank. It was gone, all gone. I squinted and looked more closely. But there was nothing there now. I went and got my reading glasses and looked. There was nothing there at all. 

I looked about the Dual and then on the hardwood floor I saw it. The tiny beryllium cantilever with its diamond. It looked like a tiny black piece of something on the floor. Something inconsequential to be swept away. That was all it was now. I had rendered the stylus useless. I had destroyed it. 

Because of the beryllium demands of the US military Shure had discontinued production of these styli ten years ago. I quickly went and checked eBay. The most recent ones had been bid up over $500. My tragedy had deepened. What a drunken fool I am. Just look now what you've done.

I tried to console myself saying the stylus was no doubt worn from much use over the years. No doubt it needed replacing in the next few months anyway. At least I had gotten great enjoyment from it. Perhaps it was even now worn and damaging my records. In 2004 I had only paid $75 for the stylus and cartridge. But these were empty justifications for the tragedy I had caused. I was still all hollow inside. There was no way to mitigate what I had done.

I took a deep breath and gathered myself. 

Now, at last, I would need to get a replacement stylus. I would not pay for one of those discontinued Shure VN5xMR styli. I would get instead one of those JAS VN5xMR SAS styli that fit the Shure V15VxMR cartridge. They were $250 and shipped from Japan. They were said to sound excellent on the Shure cartridge.

When the Japanese stylus came I would mount it myself. At last, I would learn to measure and set the tracking force and the anti-skate. The time had come for me to learn to perform these technical operations and to understand my Dual 1209 in a deeper way. I would need a tracking force gauge and a protractor and a level. I would need expensive test records shipped from overseas. I would need a fozgometer to test for azimuth. Life had suddenly become difficult but necessary. Indeed, this day was inevitable whether I had broken off the cantilever or played the stylus until it had worn down and begun to damage my records.

And with the new stylus I promised myself I would not clean it when drinking. And I would note down each time I had played a record so I knew accurately how many hours were on the stylus and when I should replace it. And I would only really listen to records, sitting and listening carefully, and not letting them play and slowly wear down while I was not giving them my fullest attention and doing something else. Out of this tragedy would come a new commitment to my vinyl and to learning how the turntable operates and to understanding all those technical terms the audiophiles use. I was going to give meaning to this tragedy. I was going to make things right.

1 comment:

  1. I like the story of the guy who listens to his records. I felt the trajedy and anticipated the trajedy. But man it's music. They ain't never gonna stop making it.


Copyright © Moraline Free