Lost Lounge: A Ten-Year Search for a Solid State Record Player

I used to have a solid state KLH record player. The speakers and the turntable fit in a sky blue hard shell suitcase. You removed the top, unstrapped and plugged in the speakers,put on a record, set the disc size and rotation speed, then hit ‘auto’. The stylus moved to the edge of the record, dropped the needle  into a groove, and music crackled from the speakers. You stayed there and listened to your music. Then you went through many of the reverse steps to reach the point where you lug the suitcase away from there. i recently saw a KLH like mine on sale on eBay for nearly $300. Wow!

You had to make sure your needle was clean, that your turntable was level, was sufficiently buffered against environmental vibrations, from wind and the elements. You needed to operate the equipment with clean hands and you had to be careful with the needle and the record. An MP3 player takes all of these concerns away, including the weight. You’re looking at a comparison between grams and kilograms, with a system that can duplicate its library in an hour.

So, records were treated very carefully. 

So, I find a solid state record player Saturday at a flea market and I pay the matronly octogenarian in the midst of her household gardens a little too much. Something just came over me. I had the record player in an old box and I had to keep my hands under the box so it wouldn’t spill out on the tiled floor. I was in an old, abandoned mall that had been repurposed as a flea market. The mall was a shabbier version of a mall, a feral economy going full tilt, cash only, with grifters, shady dealers, hustlers and yokels moving through the busy arcade. The smell of fried bread and charred meat hung thickly in the air.

I’d been looking for a working solid state record player for ten years. The search for the record player was also conducted along the lines of experiential purity. Although I could have looked online for a record player, placed an ad, I chose to get a used solid state record player “the old-fashioned” way. I looked at yard sales, thrift stores and flea markets.

The record player had to be portable, solid-state, purchased with cash from a relatively unknown and obscure location, and had to work.

A couple of years ago I happened across a Delmonico from the 40s or 50s, and the speakers were blown.  And it had a busted bull gear, whatever that was. I bought it anyways, for $5. I fiddled with the speakers, but a bad action on the rotation due to the slipping bull gear made me abandon the unit, though it was absolutely grand to look at. I found someone who machined gears for old record players…but he’d stopped making gears eight years before. I kept looking. By this point it was almost eight years into the search.

The record player was becoming transparent, was losing pieces, becoming lighter. New plastics and component interfaces blossomed to make the listening experience more portable. the vinyl mutates to magnetised ribbon, then discs of plastic nanobumps, then fully digital storage devises. I kept missing record players. Shop keepersxwould tell me I just missed one, one just sold, someone just walked out with one they had forever. Everyone remembered losing their last working record player.

I have a 7″ by Shellac possibly printed on shellac that has a song called “The Admiral” and I played it on my Admiral PS381c record player while I changed tires and tubes on my bike. Aside from the name of the artist and the title of their piece, that statement could have been uttered by any human in the 20th century. The funny thing about obsolete equipment is that, just like the record player, new and “better” products come along, yet the old ones remain. I’ve seen some fine record players at department stores, in equipment shops. DJ stuff is crazy. It’s an entirely different level than what I could describe you could do with a turntable augmented with modern sound manipulation devises. I used to have an 808, I know how easy it is to distort and manufacture sounds.

I want old records played on an old record player. The model I just got had no speakers. I jimmied some desktop PC speakers into it. I used a level to check the carriage and saw i needed to prop the front of the unit up by 1/32 of an inch in order to get a level playing surface. The stylus is very light. I’m looking to upgrade my needle.

The last time I had a working record player, I put on a Johnny Cash record that showed him holding a pick axe and an old miner’s lantern. Johnny in the mines, hell yeah! The rubber band turning the record player broke as soon as I hit auto-play for side two. I never got to hear it. I still haven’t. I’m considering it an extremely important event that I’m not ready for yet. Until then, I’ve been playing a variety of old records.

I varnished the case. It looks awesome. I’m going to keep a book light affixed to it in case I want to drop the needle on the record at a specific point carefully. I’m going to find some larger speakers.

I don’t know why I’m so particular about old record players. All those years i never had a record player, i continued to buy records. I was patient. Someone bought me a new one a few years ago and i returned it.

When I varnished the record player case, I burned myrrh all in the room. Now the record player smells like myrrh. When the record player heats up, the smell of ancient myrrh fills my basement. Whatever mood I want to evoke I can make by putting on the appropriate record. I get a cup of tea, I go downstairs into the headscape of my fancy, disappear into a painting for a while.

I waited ten years for this simple pleasure, and I don’t know why, really.

1971? model Admiral PS381C solid state portable record player, fresh from a junkman’s stall. This is my master, this is my child. I’m fixing it up! I have no other information about the device. There’s one in a museum somewhere. I’d probably be willing to trade a kidney for a set of original speakers. I’d definitely be willing to steal a kidney for them.

I know it looks like shit in the picture. The hard shell case was being reconditioned. I reconditioned this an hour later. It looks almost new now. I’m going to wire in custom speakers using a balsa wood/polyurethane frame kit with plastic and aluminum parts to attach the speakers to the crate. i have a cheap, stupid plan. Cheap stupid plans always work.

This is like a bear trap for hipsters. I don’t even know why I’m doing this.

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