#MAYVINYLCHALLENGE 2023: A (Re)-Introduction

2023 has been a bit of a whirlwind, and I’ve been struggling to figure out what I want to do, and what I want to write about. I feel like there are obligations and commitments everywhere, and even when they’re self-imposed they feel like a prison, hemming me in and blocking my ability to enjoy and learn from the media I’m consuming. Since it’s May 1st and thus the start of another #mayvinylchallenge, I thought I’d try to feel my way back toward gaining a better understanding of myself through the music I consume. That’ll start in earnest with tomorrow’s entry: for now let’s do a quick gallery of my collection and audio setup.

First up is the home office. Space is extremely limited since it also acts as my music studio and guest bedroom, so albums are scattered everywhere. This is the top of my roll out deck/cabinet. The top shelf hold (besides my Dungeons & Dragons collection) my current personal turntable, an Audio Technica AT-LP5. Customizations include the addition of a cork mat, a weight with a level for balancing, and an Ortofon 2M Red stylus/cartridge. It honestly sounds great, and besides maybe upgrading to an Ortofon Blue I’m in no hurry to replace or upgrade. On the cleaning side I have a great brush from Audioquest and when I need a more thorough (though not wash) cleaning, I of course go to my Women in Vinyl brush – support good causes, folks! Down below my Mac is the tiny but powerful PS Audio Sprout, which then powers a fun, spunky pair of Klipsch reference speakers designed for small room. They have a tun of bite and punch and sound great with almost every style of music I play through them.

On the record side, they’re pretty much everywhere. It started with the small section next to my CD towers. Then it spread to above my turntable, eventually winding their way through to three sections of my bookshelves and three full record crates on my floor. Everything is roughly in alphabetical order, and embraces pretty much every genre: second wave black metal to country and vaporware, lo-fi trip hop and copious amounts of jazz. The room is small, cramped, but perfect for when I want to play music and have it sound good – if I can’t play it through the system then I also have two sets of headphones from Grado and Hifiman depending on my mood; those do the job just as well as the Klipsch.

Eventually my wife caved into my physical media fetish and started enjoying the ritual and practice of playing vinyl, so when I upgraded my turntable the old stalwart AT-LP60 came down here – albeit with an upgraded cartridge and belt. Super simple, fully automatic – exactly what my wife and son need so they (I) don’t have to worry if a record is ignored after being cued up. It’s run by a modest Denon PMA-6000NE, which is a dedicated stereo amplifier (no receiver – there’s no TV in here) which allows for A/B speaker switching (we have a second set of Dayton speakers out in the living area) and analog mode. It’s very neutral, not a lot of personality but gets the job done for now. Sounds emits from a nice, polite pair of Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 speakers. The front ports for the bass makes things a little more low frequency heavy than I usually like, but the Denon has bass and treble controls to allow me to tweak. This new setup also allowed me to bring down some music books to help reinforce the theme that this is a listening/music room (although like everything else it also doubles as a guest room, since there is a fold out bed and a sliding door). Hidden in the cabinet doors below the amplifier are a dedicated CD player and dual cassette deck from Marantz…it ain’t all just vinyl, as you can see.

All the music down here is generally stuff that the whole family digs: lot of classic rock and 80s hard rock, most of my jazz collection, singer/songwriter stuff (my wife loves Van Morrison and Harry Nilsson), and our slowly growing collection of old and new outlaw country, including Jason Isbell/Drive By Truckers, Sturgill Simpson, Waylon Jennings, and more. For my son there’s a small pocket of Judas Priest, Thee Oh Sees, and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard because when no one’s looking he likes to roll like his old man…

I don’t know where this will lead, or if it will lead to more regular posting. I just know I want to try and come to some conclusions about myself, and I want to drive my own decision on what I consume.

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