Update: Sadly, after a 10 plus year relationship, I must report I am dropping Fedex. Three unacceptable situations in one month is just too many, and I am tired of always being the one who has to initiate communication when there’s a case filed. So long Fedex, never again.
As you can imagine, shipping vintage turntables is not for the faint of heart. I have been doing it now for over 10 years. My practices have gradually changed over time, hopefully all improvements, but one thing that hasn’t changed is I continue to use only FedEx for shipment of my complete turntables. I don’t know how competitive their prices are, and I really don’t care, what matters is my packages get to where they’re supposed to be in the same condition they left my shop. That’s been true for 10 solid years. It is also nice to see, via their new commercials, that they are moving towards much greener modes of transportation.
If you have never set-up a phono cartridge before, this guide is a good place to start: A Beginner’s Guide to Cartridge Set-up by Andrew Chasin.
Not exactly audio-related, but I cannot praise highly enough what this little label printer has done for my shop and my shipping. It is the Brother QL-570 and is available widely for less than $60. It plugs into the USB plug of your computer, and it comes with very easy-to-use software. I have used it for labeling everything in my shop. It was quick and easy. Additionally, I use the labeler daily for shipping. It is recognized by both Paypal and eBay shipping interfaces, and before you know it, you have a self-sticking mailing label printed. I ESPECIALLY love that you do not have to pay for INK; it operates through “thermal printing”…whatever that is! I recently discovered you do NOT have to buy Brother labels for it; there are generics that use the Brother plastic roller. Also, their customer service is outstanding…I had a problem with my first labeler, and it was promptly replaced.
For years, I have been urging buyers of my turntables to purchase one of these handy devices. Instead of “balancing out” your tonearm” this simply designed Shure SFG-2 Tracking Force Gauge is a more straightforward way to set tracking force. To me, it takes all of the guesswork out of the process. Some folks promote digital scales of all sorts, but I still love this simple gauge. For under $30, it’s a stocking stuffer for any analog lover.
Every hobbyist and homeowner seems to have their own favorite metal polish/tarnish remover. After using many products over many years, Maas Metal Polish is my favorite. First of all, it works with the least amount of effort. I am not saying NO effort, but the least amount of effort. It is less messy than many others and less pungent. Two ounces will set you back less than five bucks, and one tube lasts a long time. Literally, “a dab will do ya” in most cases. Please note this is NOT intended for brushed aluminum.
Recently traveled to Virginia and picked up this Rolling Stone special edition in the airport. Fascinating stuff…I read it cover to cover over the course of three days. Whether you are a casual Beatles’ fan or a devotee, I think you will enjoy it. It has been especially satisfying to now listen to the albums with this background knowledge. Available for a limited time. As I type this, copies still available at Amazon.
If you are looking to block spam, don’t use the service called Spam Blocker by Earthlink. EarthLink’s Spam Blocker forces the person replying to your e-mail to go to a webpage and fill out information and one of those code boxes. I just spent a half hour trying to reply to a customer’s e-mail looking for my help. I tried five times to complete the information/code box. Each time it failed. Then I called customer service. There was just one number listed on the site, and that turned out to be sales. That person directed me to call another number. That turned out to also be sales. That second person gave me a number to call, but it was the number I had previously dialed twice. I told him that, and they transferred me to customer service instead. The representative I spoke with finally told me it was up to the person who sent the e-mail to unblock me. How Completely Ridiculous! I had just finished telling them I could not reach the person at all, so how could I tell them my e-mail was not getting through! Unfortunately, due to this Spam Blocker program I am unable to help someone who e-mailed me. If you are an EarthLink user, I feel badly that there could be many people who are unable to reach you because they have gone through the same thing I just did. I recommend without hesitation using Gmail…it does an amazing job limiting spam not only from my Gmail account, but also my two business accounts that I filter into Gmail. There is no need for a ridiculous spam blocker that requests a person you are trying to contact to return an e-mail. Give Gmail a try…having used most of the major online e-mail services, I find it to be the best.
If you own a vintage turntable, you no doubt on a dust cover that is showing its age. Whether there are scratches or scuffs, the best products I have used over the years to bring a dust cover back to life, are made by Novus. Pictured above is a kit that is sold in various places on the Internet, that will give you a great start. I am not saying the Novus products are miracle workers, there is still a lot of elbow grease that must be applied…but truly, for most light scratches and scuffs, you will have great success.
We have all heard horror stories about experiences on eBay. The good news is for the most part, over the last 10 years, eBay has become a pretty safe environment for buyers. One way you can make it even more safe is to look for sellers with the above logo/status. Top Seller Status is reserved for eBay sellers that consistently receive the highest scores in a number of areas related to customer satisfaction. Up until a few months ago, I didn’t even know what the logo meant…it just got lost in the barrage of images on the typical eBay listing. However, since I made Top Seller Status myself in July, I have begun to look for the logo, and if I have a chance to buy an item from more than one seller, now I will always choose the one with Top Seller Status.
I have been a lover of vintage SME tonearms for a long long time. At first, I admired them from afar, but after I owned my first, I realized that were not all just great looks…they were also great at reproducing sound. Over the past ten years since I owned my first, I have seen the prices on these vintage arms almost double. Now, with prices averaging close to $600 for a complete arm in the revered 3009 Series II (et al) , I have come to the realization that it’s now better to spend your money on a new SME arm, in the M2 line-up. This fact was driven home to me recently when I spent $350 dollars to have one refurbished and rewired. When all was said and done, I’d invested close to $900 dollars in an arm that was 30 years old. So…lately I have begun recommending to customers coveting a vintage SME to investigate the M2-9 line instead. If you shop shrewdly, they can be had for around $1000. That’s NEW. It’s hard to argue with that price given the M2-9 comes with many of the features best loved in the 3009 Series II lineup, but it also adds better wiring, better design, and a WARRANTY. Having installed and tested four of these arms in the past few months, I can say unequivocally, they are a better arm than the 3009 Series II, even after “upgrading.”