Calibrating My Audio-Technica AT-LP60

I don’t have a ton of vinyl records, but I do like to actually listen to them. It’s a topic for its own entire post, but I don’t collect anything for its “value”. I collect because I want to enjoy it. I point this out a bit because I also have a shitload of toys. I noticed something recently, that I am surprised I didn’t notice before, or maybe it just, didn’t actually click that it was an issue. Last week I got 1989 (Taylor’s Version). While listening to that, everything seemed, slightly too fast. I think I may have noticed this a bit with my Bone’s 10th vinyl as well. In the case of the Taylor Swift album, I decided it was just something to do with it being a re-recorded album, and not a straight remaster/release.

More recently, I got my copy of Aurora’s All My Demons… (Commentary here)…

Because I started hardcore tracking my listening with years ago, I can say, with confidence, that I have listened to this album a lot. I can’t say it’s my most listened to album of all time for sure, but I can say, it’s the top since I started tracking. When listening to it, things were definitely off. The whole thing was running slightly too fast, and Aurora’s wonderful vocals sounded weird.

My first thought was, that maybe the belt was wearing out. It also occurred to me, that it’s a belt, it probably has a tension adjustment somewhere. I looked up a copy of the manual, which didn’t mention it anywhere. But, various audio forums did mention it. On the bottom of the players, are two small holes, where a screwdriver can be inserted and the tension adjusted, altering the rotation speed.

The problem then was, how to know if the speed was right. I probably could have done it by ear with All My Demons, but the adjustment is on the bottom, I can’t adjust it while it’s playing (well, not easily). It turns out, there are technical ways to do this as well. One of the search results mentioned a printable strobe guide. I’m not positive what this is, but I can infer based on other things I know of. I suspect it works like a Zeotrope, where you get a sort of animation going when the record spins at the proper speed.

Another result suggested an app called RPM Speed and Wow. As the name suggests, it uses a phone’s accelerometer to measure the RPM and Wow of a turn table. I’m not entirely sure what Wow is, it seems to be related to audio distortion, I may look into that later a bit more. For now, the concern was the speed. I loaded up the app, placed the phone on the turn table, pressed the “pause” button on the player, which prevents the arm from dropping, but not the table from spinning, and pressed play. After about a minute, I had a measurement of 34.99 RPM, almost 5% off.

Suddenly it makes sense why all the music seemed too fast, because it was!

I dug out a small screw driver and carefully lifted the player up to turn the knob. One issue was that I wasn’t sure which direction to go. I went with clockwise (Spoilers, the correct direction is counter clockwise). I tested again, but it didn’t change. I tried counter clockwise, no real change. So I went and got an even smaller screwdriver.

Left Screwdriver was too large to fit, the right was needed.

It takes a very small screwdriver to get in the hole properly to adjust the knob. Also, it takes a very very very small amount of turn to adjust the speed. The best way I can describe it, I needed a 5% change, which pretty much meant a 5% turn out of a whole circle. I doubt it’s actually that exact, but it’s very very slight.

Anyway, after going Clockwise, things got faster, so I lifted things up and went counter-clockwise until I landed on 33.12 RPM. This is around half a percent too slow, which frankly, is close enough. Probably as close as I am going to get without seriously altering my methods. For one thing, during at least one tip to adjust, the turntable itself fell off, so I had to put it and the belt back on, which probably screws up these small adjustments I’m making as more than half a percent.

I put my All My Demons record back on the turn table and fired it up, and it was better, much much better, enough that it wasn’t noticeably off.

Just as a quick wrap up, I want to give a shout out to this Matco screwdriver set. A friend of mine in High School gave this set to me for my birthday, I think my 16th. His dad worked for Matco and there were a ton of Matco tools in his house. Anyway, it’s served me well, repeatedly, for over 25 years now. It’s a super useful set of screwdrivers (the pen not so much, I’ve never used the pen).

Record Store Day 2023

Today was Record Store Day.  It’s moistly just, a “promotional” sort of deal for local record shops, and not really like, a “real holiday”.  I decided I would go ahead and give it a go.  There were a couple of pretty inexpensive albums that I was interested in and I’ve recently (finally) picked up a record player after many years of “I should get a record player”.

Man, now I’m just getting layers and layers of things to bring up here.  Maybe it’s best to just start at, “Why vinyl?”

I guess it’s almost, “Why not?”  Ok, there are plenty of reasons why not.  It takes up a lot of space, it’s not portable, it’s not particularly cheap, it’s not skip-able, etc etc.  Some of these are advantages though.  I listen to mostly albums anyway, why not buy a format that lends itself to album listening?  Space and cost are less of an issue as well, I don’t intend to go nuts on buying records.  There is nothing that I just HAVE to have.  If I could get an ok deal, on some things, I might buy it, but there is nothing I am desperate for on vinyl.  I’ve already had a few records for a while, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and Dark Side of the Moon, A promo single from Mortal Kombat Annihilation, and slightly more recently, the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I also recently bought a player for these albums.  I found one that fit what I was looking for at a garage sale and got it pretty cheap, it’s a nice little entry level Audio-Technica AT-LP60.  The main thing I wanted was a stand alone unit like this.  It takes up less space, and I already have speakers that are much nicer than most of the self contained units I come across.  It operates perfectly for my basic needs.

I had looked over the list online, and the price list I had found, and basically only wanted 2 albums.  Dodie’s Hot Mess EP, and the Arooj Aftab – Live in London EP.  I am going to skip the boring details behind these choices for now because I may do some album write ups in the future but these two were both affordable at under $20 each and both were artists I enjoy.  I had a few others lined up as alternative options or maybe if I felt spendy, but I ended up either not finding them or passing on them.  I also decided that I would go ahead and get the Taylor Swift Folklore album, if it was there, despite it being a bit more than I wanted to spend.  The price didn’t matter, it was sold out.  People camped out overnight for that thing.  CRAAAZY People…..

I was a bit worried during the lead up.  The store had been posting photos online as they unboxed everything and I had seen neither of these albums shown.  This was especially annoying because Dodie’s album was listed as “Regional Focus” and she was doing a live show off in London FOR Record Store Day.  Which sort of suggested, “Hot Mess” may be “Regionally focused to England.”  Friday night though, both albums showed up as being available.  So I was set to go.

The store opened at 8AM.  But it was also a 45 minute drive away in the next city over, and I didn’t have anything on my list that I needed to be there super early for anyway.  I arrived around 8:30, and there was still a line down the block, which was a little discouraging.  I had driven all this way though, how long could it take?  It didn’t help that it was also very cold, and I had not brought a jacked, though I was wearing a flannel shirt, in classic “I’m a 90s teen” fashion.  

The line took, a very looooong time.  It was something like 2 hours before I got in the store.  Thankfully, I got to chat up some nice strangers while waiting.  We made jokes, and talked music and concerts and records and talked other things.  Funny enough,, I never got any of their names.  There was one lady who had been at the hospital nearby and her husband had asked her to come down here and see if she could get a KISS related album.  I get the impression she did not manage to, I never saw her in the store and she had been trying to recruit me or the other dude to buy her a second copy since it was limit one.  Then there was “The other dude”, whom I really enjoyed talking with.  Talking with him was like looking at a mental and verbal mirror, though we looked nothing alike.  He was disappointed that people would leave the store and not look happy and not show off their hauls.  He ended up checking behind me and as I was leaving, I reminded him to do his fist pump as he left for the crowd outside.  There was also a younger girl who reminded me a bit of my daughter, with her slightly eccentric dress and mannerisms.  The notable store for her, she was wearing these flowered pants.  As we got closer to the store entrance, she mentioned being friends with the worker managing the store entrance.  The employee finally noticed her in line and they exchanged some pleasantries, and the employee mentioned “I like your pants”.  The young girl said thanks, then opened the front of her jacked and exclaimed, “They aren’t just pants, they are overalls!”  And everyone got a kick out of that, and the reaction of the employee.

It’s really kind of funny that we never got anyone’s names, because the other dude said something that really stuck with me.  He talked about writing some books as a hobby, and not really wanting to be a famous writer because he liked the anonymity of just, not being known.  He mentioned enjoying just sort of the basic human interaction, he had a better phrasing that I’ve forgotten.  And here we are, a small group of strangers, bonding over a shared event, passing ships on the ocean, with no real clue who we all really are.

Anyway, my turn finally came up, I went in.  The RSD Exclusives were in bins sorted alphabetically, and the front of the alphabet was open.  I quickly thumbed through the A-B bin and found my Arooj Aftab record.  The only one in there, I have no idea if there had been more earlier.  I picked it up and slid down to C-D looking for Dodie, and like the Arooj Aftab album, there was one copy of Hot Mess.  This meant mission accomplished for the day, anything else was a bonus.  The end of the alphabet was open so I slid on down there and started working my way back towards “A-B”.  No Taylor Swifts.  There was a NENA – 99 Luftbaloons I seriously considered but decided to skip.  I almost got the Garbage EP, I do like Garbage.  In the end, I decided on no more exclusives, and went over the the main part of the store.  I checked for any CHVRCHES or Aurora albums they might have and came up empty there.I checked through the “recent arrivals” and there were a few interesting ones but I decided I would wait for now.  There was a line outside, only 20 people allowed in at a time due to the store size, and I didn’t really need to linger.  I headed to the checkout table.

The Other Dude ended up behind me in line, he had a couple of albums picked out.  The real oddity here was the person in front of me.  So the store WAS having 10% off everything not RSD related.  So if you’re a collector, that would be a good time to pick up some other stuff.  The guy in front of me was buying, cassettes.  ONLY cassettes.  They seemed to be like, $1 each, and he spent a whole $8 and some change.  Like dude…..   dude…..  dude…. I am sure your cassette choices are great….  but did you just stand in line for possibly 2 hours, to spend $8 on used cassette tapes?  That 10% didn’t even save a dollar and there are a LOT of people here waiting to spend hundreds of dollars.

It seemed, very odd.

After finishing up, I went back to my car and drove around the block to…. The OTHER record store in town, Recycled Records.  This store was not participating in Record Store Day, because it’s closing in like a week.  It’s been around in town for a very long time.  I thought I had read they were doing 50% off, there was no indication that this was the case at all, anywhere.  I didn’t end up buying anything.  Not for trying, but I just didn’t find anything that jumped out at me.  There was a Radio Head vinyl I would have bought at half price, but it seemed new Vinyl was only 10% off.  They didn’t have any of the other artists I looked for unfortunately.

Afterwards I headed out to spend a few hours at my parent’s house just hanging out before heading home in the late afternoon.

Just one last bit, I’ll talk about the albums themselves later, but they are both very cool disks, and I can understand why people buy these special versions like this.