Friday, March 5, 2010

In praise of the Needle Doctor... or my first record player

Thanks to a comment on my Smash! Records endorsement post, I realized I completely neglected to explain where I got my first (and only) record player, an embarrassing oversight on my part.

Anyway, where did I get it? In historic Dinkytown, Minneapolis, Minnesota, right near the U of M campus. The shop? Pictured: Jerry Raskin's NeedleDoctor.

Now, I didn't just buy my record player there. I had an early window into the culture of vinyl enthusiasts that set the tone for my entire foyer into this world. As fate would have it, I got an early insight into how helpful a fellow vinyl head could be.

I had been looking for a record player for a month or so, since I raided my parents' basement collection and accumulated a few choice selections in the meantime, notably Bob Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde" and the album Velvet Underground and Nico. In short, I had incredible music I wanted to listen to, with no means to play it.

Enter: NeedleDoctor. In looking for a respectable place to buy a record player, I found that there was a world-renowned shop just blocks from my Dinkytown apartment. As it turned out, the shop was essentially just their local store for their global activities. They ship everywhere, as they should. It's a great place for... pretty much everything.

Through the Web site I found a cheap player ($150, but $120 in-store). It was the low end, but I was just starting out. I just wanted to play records. A top-of-the-line turntable wasn't all that important at the time. So I set out one Friday evening after working at the Minnesota State Capitol for the Minneapolis Star Tribune to pick up my turntable of choice -- it was the only time I could meet the shop's 9-5 operating hours.

Eventually, I got my record player home, set it up, and prepared for bliss, in more ways than one. In a nod to my girlfriend Emma, I queued up Bob Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde" that she had bought for me. The result? Instant satisfaction. I felt like I had never heard it before. Every note and instrument was so pronounced. Dylan's voice was so... Dylan. (Fans know what I mean.)

It was audiophile ecstasy. But then, something went wrong. The music, inexplicably, started playing slowly. Everything sounded as if it was off time, playing at half speed. Eventually, I realized something was wrong. My experience of sonic bliss was over.

Eventually, I got back in touch with the people at NeedleDoctor (which only operates on weekdays in regular business hours). Waiting until Monday was a terrible experience. I had gone from an incredible musical experience to reverting to MP3s and CDs in a matter of hours.

By Monday, the folks at NeedleDoctor had responded to my numerous e-mails and had exchanged my defective record player for a fully functional one, the same one I continue to use to this day. I promised the guys then that I'd always be loyal to the little Dinkytown-based shop for all my technical needs, and that commitment continues, hence this shout-out blog post.

But, the point is: I haven't had any technical needs since! There has been no need for me to go back to the NeedleDoctor since they replaced my defective turntable, almost a year ago. If that isn't a track-record (puns!) of performance, I don't know what is.

So, in short: Visit the NeedleDoctor Web site. They know what they're doing. They know what you want. They'll get it to you. They're vinyl heads too. And frankly, they're a college-town-based record shop that deserves your support.

That's the story of how I got my first record player. It's not quite as romantic as those who dusted off a decades-old turntable in some random basement, but I like to see it as my first insight into what makes this vinyl world so great. It seemed the guys at NeedleDoctor immediately felt what I was feeling: they knew something was wrong, and they wanted to fix it. They knew that they would want a new player and in short order, they got one to me.

That's invaluable service if ever there was such a thing. Further, from vinyl head to vinyl head, it was a nod to experience of vinyl listening. Once you hear it, you can never go back. The people at NeedleDoctor knew that, and in turn they got me a fully functional record player. What more could you ask for?

No comments:

Post a Comment