Sound System

I used to worry about my sound system. I don’t anymore. I don’t care. As long as I can play records at a reasonable volume without any noticeable distortion.

Parts of my system are ancient and probably could use some upgrading. My power is generated by the oldest part of my system. I use a Sony STR-DE 485 receiver that dates back to 2002, which is when I (sadly) had to replace my 1980 vintage Vector Research receiver.

The Sony still packs a punch these 14 years later, pushing out about 80 watts per channel and includes a subwoofer output, which is essential because I don’t want to have to mess with those confusing subwoofer settings. I don’t use the Sony for surround – just straight stereo but sometimes I’ll pipe movies through it.

I have three speakers: left and right plus a sub. All of these are Polk Audio. Two T15 bookshelf speakers and the heavy PSW 505 12-inch model sub, which fills out my room nicely.

My turntable is the venerable Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB direct-drive warhorse with the AT95E/HSB headshell/cartridge combo. You have to set this up, make sure your counterweight is adjusted properly as well as your anti-skate control. I’d advise getting one of those digital scales to ensure you’re putting the correct weight on the cartridge (or as the hipsters would say, ‘cart’).

Weirdly, and while I love this table, the needle sometimes skids across a record even though the adjustments appear to be correct. I had this happen when I lowered the needle onto a used Skynyrd’s One More For From the Road, side 1. The needle flew across the vinyl, making a horrific surface screech worse than nails on a chalk board. I was pissed because every record I played after that did this – even those that had no previous issue. So I needed to undo the counterweight and anti-skid and do a reset. No big deal, but it is kind of a pain in the ass. After I did this, no problem with the Skynyrd or any other record.

Sure, you can spend thousands on your system but, when budget’s an issue, you work with what you have.

That said, don’t ever play your records on a Crosley system – they’re all show and no go. And the needles they use on those things will dig divots into your vinyl. You’re better off finding a used table (that works) and replacing the cartridge with something like the AT95E.

© 2016 Chris Barry