Every now and then I vent on this blog the hifi quandaries that arise after certain reflections. Obviously I choose the exaggerated word quandary to be ironic about the problems that often attack the minds of hifi enthusiasts, known as audiophiles. How can these really be existential problems? Much more should we worry about and turn into a real quandary. So let me be self-ironic and get to the point, because for someone who has a blog titled “I still play vinyl” and shares tips on how to best adjust Thorens turntables, this could be a real revolution, something total that shakes the foundations. On the plus side, questioning oneself and one’s ability to change ideas and contradict oneself is sometimes a good thing…
If my two and a half readers have followed my posts about turntable cartridges, they will have found them rather erratic. In one of them I admitted complete confusion. There are reasons to that. The first one is I had changed integrated amplifier, speaker cables and listening room in a short time period. I lost control on my overall sound so I was not sure what was going on. My few readers would know I am fond of Grado cartridges and the way the company is family-run in the old legendary labs in Brooklyn, NY. But I had some misfortune with my Grado styli and broke the two I had just when I had lost my job and could not spend money on that stuff. Something happened in that period that made me think twice about my favorite brand and caused some confusion in what I believed were my tastes. I found a Shure cart for free from a broken turnable.
Anyone can buy a guitar, get some practice (Youtube would be enough), take some lessons or advice from someone who already plays and then say “I play guitar”. That’s what I did. An uncle gave my sister and me his guitar when we were 9 and 11 respectively. We experimented based on the first chords our uncle gave us. And we moved on. I in particular focused on being a guitarist, learning solos as well. Then when I was 16 the electric guitar arrived and by the time I was 20 we had a small band playing the songs of our heroes in the rehearsal rooms. When people say “I play guitar” it doesn’t mean much. I’ve always said that about myself – I play guitar – but what does it really mean? Do I play it alone? In a band? Do I perform publicly or do I play at home sitting on the couch? Even a professional can claim “I play guitar”. It only takes a small-time professional to humiliate someone like me who plays in his spare time. But there are also non-professionals with killer technique. The vast majority have not become famous, not even those who make a living from guitar.
After having used Grado cartridges for years, I am now running a Shure M97HE body with a Nagaoka N97ED stylus. It is not the best the M97 body could do because it deserves a hyperelliptical stylus tip, but it still sounds really good. I also have another option, a surprising Audiotechnica AT95 upgraded with an LP Gear HE stylus. Stunning performance. A proper Shure M97HE should be even better but I still haven’t found a hyperelliptical stylus. And my Grado cartridges? I have an old Prestige Gold0 body. It had been outperformed by the following Gold1, completely outshone by the Gold2 and killed definitively by the latest Gold3 version.
The Prestige Series 3 has been a major performance upgrade by Grado. I have been considering buying one for months. But I have a nice Signature 8MX body that would deserve a proper stylus, usually the choice is the venerable 8MZ, also recently upgraded by Grado. What to do?
I’ve been playing guitar since I was very young and some sense of rhythm I should have by now. If we extend the concept to everyday life, I see it a bit as a matter of being able to adapt to situations based on what is happening around and what our skills are. In short, being good at keeping the rhythm of life is definitely very useful. Sometimes I’ve been able to do it and adapt to unexpected changes, first and foremost the loss of my dream job. It’s no secret that I see the periods of my life marked by the cars used at that time. It may not be very poetic to tie memories to family cars but I have a whole section of this site dedicated to the subject. And the latest addition to the family bears the name of an award, as if to say that I have been …Bravo.