Wednesday, April 27, 2016

With Apologies To Crosley Owners (A Brief Overview of the Crosley C200A)

Let's talk about fandoms for a minute.

Fandoms usually revolve around a particular celebrity, fictional character or pop culture staple. Fandoms have been around for as long as anyone can remember, and seem to have a direct correlation to serialized fiction: Turn of the Century fans of  "Sherlock Holmes" :: Present day fans of "Game of Thrones".

At their best, fandoms could boost an economy, foreshadow a direction in which a society is headed, and cultivate new paradigms and metrics in which we as consumers purchase things.

At their worst, they're a dense jungle filled with big animals with big teeth who look at you as a nice little snack.

Actually, that's not true. Uummmm...

At their worst, they're a gauntlet of San Quintin lifers, and its your first day in the slam, and they're all looking at your like you're a nice little snack...

...holy hell, where did that come from? Okay, one more time...

At their worst, they are a society of unwashed barbarians who will rain down fire and brimstone upon your soul because you don't know about, don't care about, or have completely disrupted their fragile little universe in which they live with your plebian existence and incredibly stupid questions.

Amiryte, Star Wars Fanboys?

I do not consider myself a fanboy of anything. Not in the truest sense, anyway. This conclusion was determined after years of research. I like comic books just fine, just not on the level of some people. The same could be said about the rest of our social currency; movies, television, music, books. Compared to any given number of any given fandom, I'm a tourist at best.

Personal Attempts at Fandoms to Date:

  • Star Wars: It was my first true fandom to embrace. Just like millions of people my age, we all know the significance of The Summer of 1977, because we were all THERE, MAAAN! I love the series, and I consider myself a solid fan, just not at the level of these "Keepers of the Canon". These fans that will not accept anything outside of the universe as it was started by George Lucas himself. The galaxy far, far away is only inhabited by young, whiny white boys who are always the heroes. Not females, not black people, not gay people, whiny white boys. Period. It's these Puritanical views that kind of made me step back from the whole thing.
  • Metal: Because FUCK YEAH! HEAVY FUCKING METAL! YEAH! For me, it started with Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, and didn't stop until all the bands I loved went mainstream. By that time, I was sucked up in the miasma of Corporate (safe) Metal. By that time, it was too late to appreciate the rise of bands like Metallica and Slayer. Bands that have been lurking in the shadows before the corporate overlords gentrified their artform. So, somewhere in my twenties, I jumped ship from Metal to Alternative.
  • MSTies
  • Browncoats
  • Bronies (Sidenote: Shouldn't hardcore Game of Thrones fans be considered Thronies? Fuck it. Let's make it a thing!)
  • Thronies™ 
All of these offer a nice distraction, and in some cases contribute to the society at large (local chapters of Browncoats working with charities). But if ever there was a fandom out there that teeters on the edge of religion, it's the Sacred Church of the Audiophile.

For these people, it's not enough to simply love music. Sure, you might have finally found that album that you've been looking for for years, but did you get the limited pressing? Did you get the record that had the flaw on the cover, but they released about a dozen copies of it anyway, making it a rarity? Which in turn, made it extremely valuable? Did you notice the series number on the back label to match it against a database that only twelve or so people know about to insure that this particular recording was taken directly from the master tapes? Because if you didn't, then you're not a serious music lover. Period.

That's right. A Near Mint (NM) copy of  Led Zeppelin 1 with turquoise letter variant could net you some serious bank!

You might be able to suffer the slings and arrows of their consternation for a little while, and you might come out on the other side of it a better, more informed person. But whatever you do, do NOT engage them on equipment.

Oh, how they would regale you with tips on procuring and setting up the right combination of preamps and mixers and turntables whose name you can never pronounce correctly because it's imported from Germany (Wow, this word has three umlauts and the astrological symbol for Sagittarius. It must be pretty important.) If you're really lucky, perhaps they'll invite you to their inner sanctum where they've strategically placed their equally hard to pronounce speakers at just the right angle in their tiny, windowless room, and outfitted their turntable with a moonrock needle so that your appreciation of this expensive hobby can be that much more...appreciated.

And maybe you'll have a lively conversation, and things are going well as he gets up to flip the extremely rare Charlie Parker album to it's B Side. And as he walks over to his mini-fridge to grab a couple of bottles of small batch Pale Ale trucked in from some microbrew in Oregon, he asks, "So, what is your setup?"
"Oh, I own a Crosley."
And suddenly, the music stops. Perhaps with that...(pardon me) stereotypical record scratch you hear in movie previews when Rob Schneider says something astoundingly, though predictably, stupid. The uncomfortableness grows as the laser beams shot from his retinas burn holes through his ironic spectacles and into your forehead. "I'm sorry," he forced through clenched teeth. "Could you say that again?"
"Uh..."you stammer as you wonder what offense has been taken. "I..uhh..I own a Crosley?"

You wake up face down in an alley behind an Urban Outfitters, nose bloodied and your hair reeking of expensive beer. As you find your feet, you notice someone has pinned a note to to your shirt that reads, "I hope you saved the receipt, asshole."

Looks nice, right? Well THINK AGAIN!
The Crosley turntable record player toy has proliferated over the past couple of years as the wave of all things retro washes over all of us. It is small, portable, easy to set up, aesthetically pleasing to the eye, available in a wide array of styles and colors, and is found in many retail establishments. It is also considered by a few people to be more useful if you were to pick it up, place it in the middle of your driveway, dowse the whole thing in cheap vodka and light the thing on fire. It is reviled more than it is loved.

I would love to go into why Crosleys are much better as a really expensive paper weight, but I've gone off topic long enough. If you want a taste of how bad they really are, I suggest you start here. Shorter version: Buy a Crosley, go to hell.

The pros will tell you that basically anything is better than a Crosley. Personally, I think that's going a little too far, but what do I know? By and large, the equipment of choice, the equipment you should be investing in is built by Audio-Technica. It's the right equipment for the right price. I've built my dream set up in my head, and it's been there for a couple of years. Unfortunately, I haven't got it yet, but I am saving my pennies.

So, that's how its been for a while. Building a collection while enjoying it sparingly on my evil little crap box while waiting for the day where I can build a better system. In case you were wondering, yes I own one. Don't judge.

I woke up this morning and checked my email.

The first thing to grab my attention was an email from Amazon letting me know about any price drops on any Audio-Technica tables that are currently happening. I open it up, and sure enough there are a list of turntables by AT, but the list was sponsored by....

...wait for it...


And much to my surprise, the item they featured wasn't their much maligned and hated "Traveler" Series of suitcase looking vinyl munchers, it was a new model. It looked actual turntable. Look...

Wait, this is a Crosley? Closer inspection of the stylus, and it's made by Audio-Technica. Whaaaat?

Finally, it looks like this company is taking itself seriously and building something of quality. The specs look right, it's a direct-drive, and the tone arm is balanced and equipped with a counter weight and an anti-skate mechanism.

Still though, there is no headphone jack, and (and this is a deal breaker for me) no USB jack. Someday, I would like to preserve my vinyl onto a device or in the cloud, and if the turntable won't allow me to do that, then I have to keep looking.

Backing up, a headphone jack and a USB port are not available on this model. They are available, however, on the Audio-Technica AT-LP 120USB (the one I'm holding out for) for the same price as this.

I have no point to this post. If you take anything away from this, maybe it's that even though Crosley is trying really, really hard to compete with the big boys, you're probably better off going with Audio-Technica.

I'll give Crosley points for stepping it up, but they still have a way to go to improve their already damaged image.

What do you think? Do you own one of these? Is it comparable to an AT? Better? What are your experiences with a Crosley?

Let me know in the comments, feel free to share, and thank you for reading.

Support your local record store.