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Turntables, Needles and Belts - Oh My!
Ahhh, the sweet sound of a vinyl record spinning on a turntable playing the music that you love. No matter what kind of music that you listen to, it just sounds better via this format. And if the vinyl revival is any indication, these treasures of sound are not fading away anytime soon.
In fact, new sales figures from SoundScan indicate the renewed interest in this historic audio format. In 2009, the sale of records has already topped the one million mark (through May). SoundScan is predicting that the sale of vinyl will reach 2.8 million units sold in 2009; up from 2008's figure of 1.9 million units sold; a record high since the counting giant has been tabulating music formats sales.
Electronic companies also are seeing a renewed interest and a jump in sales of turntables or, as they used to be called, record players. People of all ages are resurrecting old turntables that have been stored away in attics and closets as the music industry has reveled in the digital age.
However, a couple decades of turntable storage will necessitate a couple of new parts to play those old and new records. Luckily, for the vinyl record consumer, there are a handful of places where one can still find the parts to get a turntable spinning again. Whether you seek a new cartridge, belt, preamp or needle (aka stylus) or are not sure what you need, one thing is certain; your local music shop stands almost no chance of easing your search. We found just one place online that not only had these items but had a posted warranty, toll-free number, live chat and electronics technician on staff.
Speaking with Steve Winokur from www.turntableneedles.com, we can understand why the site has become a Mecca for all who wish to restore their equipment. In this Q&A session, let's explore more about what they do and how they help people with their turntable needs:
Tell us more about your company, why you started it:
"We used to be a consumer electronics repair facility in the 1990's," details Steve. "TV, camcorder, VCR, CD, stereo, and even a few turntables can in for repair. We started operations in 1992. For the 1st several years I don't remember anyone coming in for a turntable belt save a few turntables a year that needed repair. Then, in the late 1990's, local walk-ins started coming in about once a month. They wanted a belt for their turntable! My VCR belt sources also had turntable belts so I ordered some in."
"Back then internet was getting big so I bought the name turntablebelts.com. After several months, I launched the site. After several more months I grossed enough to pay my rent on the repair facility and this made things very exciting to say the least. It was only natural to try my hand at selling needles. Over the past decade, countless 1000's of hours have been poured into making the difficult task of finding the right needle as easy as possible for the consumer. The result is the website you see today."
What do you think of the vinyl revival and what has it done for your business?
"We can now declare...'The analog resurgence is on!' Orders are strong despite the economy. People all over the planet are pulling out the old turntable, installing a new needle and belt and spinning vinyl again. Why? Well how else can you listen to all your favorite tunes from yesteryear at such a low cost? Not only are people transferring their vinyl to digital to save the expense of buying titles in digital if they can even be found, but they are also playing records again just for the nostalgia or pure enjoyment."
"As we all know, music is good for the soul. At this time in history, millions of people still have the music of their youth just sitting around. Many are realizing that for the price of a CD or two or three, they can get their turntable back up and running with a new belt and needle and be able to listen to dozens of albums that they likely already love. There's no risk of paying $18.99 and only getting one good song on a CD. What a great way to forget the troubles of life for an hour. Real music once again. No podphones, and no seek button, an album is an event, not a scan."
Tell me some of the common problems that customers have:
"There is really only one that stands out....."How'd I get the WRONG needle?" Well, about 25% of the time, someone has changed the cartridge from what was originally installed on a turntable. So, when a customer looks up their needle by the model number of the turntable and pays no attention to the currently installed cartridge or does not match the photo result to their needle they may experience a 25% chance of getting it wrong, thus resulting in an exchange. Always check the cartridge number."
"In ALL cases, the foolproof way to get the right needle the 1st time is to focus completely on the number of the cartridge or needle that is currently installed, not necessarily the model number (though that still may help). But beware the two stumbling blocks:
A) Often there is no part number on the needle or cartridge (or it may be hidden under the headshell on top of the cartridge).
B) The part number in the owner's manual is still valid ONLY if the cartridge has never been changed!"
Tell me more about your search feature; is this a database that you wrote?
"Yes. We've gleaned info from numerous old out of print books. Scanned the info into optical recognition software and then proofread every single result of which there are well over 100,000 cross references. At www.turntableneedles.com, "Find My Player" is our flagship search tool and is an innovative search window that takes you straight to the parts you seek. It includes over 80,000 individual models showing the most common parts required. Often the old info is not clear visually or the intent is not clear. Since the info from say the 50's and 60's is intended for human consumption not computers, then a range of models might be listed that all use the same needle. So, it might say that for models 1300 thru 1350 use needle number 123. Wow, talk about tricky. The maker might have only made 5 models within the range of 1300 to 1350. What to do? We had to go thru and extrapolate data using deductive reasoning and internet research. Such that the resulting data is somewhat different as we try to individually list each model or part number so that search engines can pick up a match."
"We constantly work behind the scenes to improve our site. We just added several hundred more ceramic cartridges and idler wheels to our site. We specialize more in obsolete, impossible to find needles and ceramic cartridges, more so than say current production DJ needles," said Steve.
What is the best way to listen to music (not a trick question) and why?
"Wasn't there a Star Trek Next Generation episode where everyone got addicted to a new video game and the ship almost crashed as a result?"
"In my town it seems that about 75% of the pedestrians have these little white things with wires stuck in there ears. I hope society doesn't crash from so many people becoming addicted to some little white pod, unable to socialize or have a quiet walk. With exceptions, music listening, I believe should be an event, not a crutch for a mind afraid to be by itself or a brain that is addicted to constant noise."
Do you have an interesting story that you remember about a certain order?
"Sure, the order "that never was". It was a cold dark night.......oops wrong order. We have one comment a potential customer left over at:"
"I think it was a few years ago but the customer was able to get their unit back up and running with NO parts required. We told them what to do to solve the problem on their own. At the above link you will find dozens of stories written by verified customers."
So, bring out those old turntables and join in with the vinyl revival. The sound of your music will be better and your listening experience much more enjoyable. While you're at it, share the great sound with someone caught up in the digital age, they will find a sound that their ears have been missing all along.
About the Author
Author Robert Benson writes about rock/pop music, vinyl record collecting and operates
, where you can pick up a copy of his FREE ebook called "The Fascinating Hobby Of Vinyl Record Collecting." Have your vinyl records appraised at
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