Rich Warren: Just scratching the surface of turntables

Rich Warren: Just scratching the surface of turntables

The vinyl romance continues spinning. Two reader emails inquired about disposing of turntables and LPs. We tracked a turntable question recently. A new one: "I have a Technics Quartz D.D automatic SL-5310 that I will probably never use again and was wondering if I should sell it and what to ask for it? It is in great condition and I do not have anything to hook it up to nor will I have in the future."

In general, direct-drive turntables do not retain the value of their belt-drive brethren. Then again, at least they don't require new belts. The value of this reader's turntable pivots on the condition of the phonograph cartridge and its stylus, or in 1950s parlance, needle.

A cartridge has a long lifespan, but eventually the tiny rubber and polymer parts within begin to dry out, losing their elasticity. The diamond stylus tip endurance depends on hours of wear. Depending upon the original quality of the cartridge, life can range from 1,000 to several thousand hours. While you can replace the stylus, finding replacements these days is like looking for a needle in a haystack. With the Technics 5310 you can easily replace the entire cartridge.

A dealer on the Internet asks $395 for a used Technics 5310 with a decent Audio-Technica cartridge. Prices on eBay range from $400 (or best offer) to $600. So our reader may have a bit of gold in the attic.

Another reader wants to jettison the family LPs. Depending on the type of music and the specific artists, these could range from valuable to worthless. It's a bit like "Antiques Roadshow." The condition of the album, both the cardboard sleeve and the vinyl within, further determines value.

Exile on Main Street, currently at 1 E. Main St., C, (it will be moving soon) is the major used record dealer in East Central Illinois. You might stop by there for advice — or call 217-398-6246. Otherwise, WILL Radio hosts a Vintage Vinyl sale every year or two in the late spring. You can donate your LPs (as well as CDs and DVDs) to Vintage Vinyl, which benefits the Illinois Radio Reader service for the visually impaired.

Speakers are another category of vintage gear. They age more gracefully than many audio components. A reader asked: "I have two Pioneer CS-99 that I am still happy with and have just inherited my folks' two CS-88 (5 way with 12" woofer). Was going to try and sell them but I guess I was optimistic."

People are asking $130-$300 for these speakers on eBay. I would value them at the low end for two reasons. First, Pioneer did not design highly regarded speakers.

They were akin to the Chevy Nova in the audio community. They provided good sound for the money, but there were many better choices on the market. Second, speakers eventually wear out. The cones dry out, becoming brittle. The voice coil rubber surrounds lose their elasticity. Speakers basically are small electric motors that undergo far more stress than the average consistently running electric motor.

Although those Pioneer speakers were large and used five drivers (5-way), you can find new, comparable, if not better speakers today, for $300. Pioneer was one of the companies that hawked the gimmick of more speakers in the box equaled better sound. Generally, more than three speakers in the box (3-way) offers no sonic advantage.

While speaker technology advances more slowly than electronics, contemporary speakers far exceed speaker design and sound from 30 years ago. Some people cling to their AR3a or KLH6 or Advent speakers, but far better sound comes from their current equivalents in size and price. Adjusted for inflation, the AR3a would cost $1,000 each today. Far more accurate speakers that produce higher sound pressure levels from lower wattage line the shelves in 2014. Still, vintage speakers in mint condition at a low price could be a bargain.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

Topics (1):Technology

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