I’ve always been a fervent music lover and was “raised on music”.
In my memories there was always a record playing in the living room. Especially my dad had a huge love for classical music and opera. Often my parents would remember me at age 7, able to tell to every composer of any record they put on, but helas, I can still tell Vivaldi from Mahler but that’s about it.
Apart from classical music there were four LP’s always on repeat: one from Chantal Goya, one from Nana Mouskouri and then two records that became symbols for my parents: ‘I’m your man’ by Leonard Cohen and ‘Broken English’ by Marianne Faithfull.
But my own love for music really started out at the local library in my home town where I grew up.
When I was a pre-teen they opened up a “discotheque”. Not a place to dance, but a section of the library where you don’t rent books, but CDs. It was a new concept for all of us and it was awesome. You could go there and browse through the plastic boxes, spend hours going back and forth between categories and take up to 5 discs home.
Up to then, I’d been mainly listening to the radio and recording songs when they were played. So, yes, hear the dj announce a song, rush to the radio, wait for the first notes to play and then press “record” as soon as I could. Then wait in full tension for the song to end and to press “Stop” at an appropriate moment, preferably before the dj starts talking again. Curse the moments when your favorite song was recording, and then there’d be a traffic jam and your song got cut halfway through. “Stop”, “Rewind” and wait for the next airplay.
We were also lucky that whoever was curating that local discotheque, had an awesome taste and vision. Looking back now, I realize the selection was exceptional. They had a decent amount of post-rock albums, which was slowly becoming more popular at that time but still somewhat ‘underground’. They also had “difficult stuff” like John Zorn and Ligeti. There was an awesome selection of Jazz, of minimal composers, and of the newest rock and pop as well.
They had an even more awesome “suggestion system”. You could fill out a small paper form with the name of a band, title of an album and two weeks later, the CD would be there.
After a while music lovers in and around town discovered the system and so, this great, uniquely curated selection of music grew.
I discovered so much music by going there every sunday and picking a random theme like “covers with a band portrait in black and white, more than one person”. Or “all black with blue lines”. Or “minimal with just a number on it”. And from there started my journey into all genres and it’s still going strong to this day.
Though I’ve always loved listening to music, I’ve never been an audiophile. I never felt the need for exquisite material, thick cables, the perfect amplifier, etc. The two things I am/was proud of were our Bowers & Wilkins speakers that we bought somewhere around the anniversary of my first full year as a working person. We still have those and they’re still great. (With my first wages ever I bought a silver colored Sony Walkman with “hollow” buttons, I was sooo happy). And the Pro-Ject Debut II record player we bought when our eldest was just born.
I found these record players online at one of my many searches into the deep pits of online materialism or “dives into a rabbit hole“.
I saw the pictures and fell in love with the stark, minimal no-nonsense design and needed to have one of those. Not the – to me – bulky “macho” Technics players that real music lovers all seemed to own.
After looking even longer I found a dealership in Belgium that actually sold these Pro-Jects (it was way before they got easy to come by). We went there with the new-born in the stroller, to a fancy neighborhood we’d never been before and entered this even more fancy music store where they had audio cables lying around, thicker then our newborns arms. The owners were fine tuning a setup to The Sultans of Swing and sounds I couldn’t hear. We felt like teenagers trespassing.
So we got our Pro-Ject Debut II. But after 13 years of service, the motor started breaking down: after two records it would make this loud humming sound. We tried to fix it, informed to get the motor replaced but to no avail.
And then we decided it was time for a new one. 13 Years of service was not so bad, not as good as the speakers, but still. First I ordered a new Pro-Ject which now are easy to find. But upon arrival and initial setup, we already had some problems with the start button and the material of the record player just felt less sturdy then the previous one.
And then I made a good choice. As always, when we need something new, we turn to the reviews of Wirecutter. There aren’t many review sites that we’d follow blindly but Wirecutter has always proven solid advice. We do tend to go for their ‘budget pick’, because well, we’re always on a budget. A lot of times I downgrade to a model more simple because we generaly don’t need a lot of extra’s or because our budget is just a little tighter.
I then ordered the Denon DP-300F record player.
A lot of record players have turned to a very similar design as that of the whole Pro-Ject range. The Denon DP-300F also has a minimal design like the Pro-Ject but less stark, a little more rounded and soft. I choose the silver model because I hoped that it had a little vintage feeling, and it does. We have an old `70 record cabinet my husband got from his uncle and it holds an old silver radio-amplifier. The Denon fits perfectly with it.
The setup of the Denon is easy and well explained, the service is even more simple: one start and one stop button. On the stylus is a small plastic cap that you can twist down to protect the needle when not playing or up when playing. Just don’t forget to put it up before start.
And then the sound! As I mentioned the previous record player was 13 years old, we did take good care of it, got a better needles for it, but what a difference was this. Contrary to the Pro-Ject, the Denon holds a built-in phono preamplifier. Listening to a record for the first time on the Denon was like we never heard them before. We wanted to re-listen all we had.
And now off course, I’m looking through my wanted items list on discogs – which is always a little depressing because so many crazy expensive records out there – for the next few months weighing which record I really need to hear on our new player.