by Jenna Miles
Published by Adams Media (2017)
Global Appreciation: 8.5.
Presentation: straightforward, non-deluxe.
Category: music, vinyl record guide.
Format: paperback book. 5.5 x 8.5 inches approx. 256 pages–all B&W except for 8 semi-gloss colored pages located half-way plus a few basic diagrams.
Written and researched by Jenna Hanes.
Cover Design by Colleen Cunningham.
In The Beginners' Guide to Vinyl, author Jenna Miles shares her passion, and experience in this relatively new book published by Adams Media and available in ebook form also. Divided into 11 chapters, she succeeds in covering a vast amount of ground over a format that spans more than a century in evolution, and which has seen a strong, surprising, and sustained resurgence since a decade or so.
|Turntable and tonearm diagram close to identical as the printed one|
The second confusion appears right at the beginning of chapter 3 on page 52. In the "Anatomy of a Turntable" section, there is a diagram commonly found on the internet of a typical turntable with the description of its various parts: regarding the depicted tonearm, the "Tracking Force Ring" line points to what appears to be a mechanical part of the arm's pivot point while the T.F.Ring–loosely drawn without numericals–at the front of the counterweight is not identified. The third confusing statement appears in chapter 4, on page 104 under the "ADJUSTING THE TRACKING FORCE" instruction section: regarding step#4, it is written: "Once it is balanced, slowly turn the counterweight and set it to 0. The tone arm is now calibrated." followed by step#5: "Set the counterweight dial to indicate the desired weight given by the manufacturer." They seemed to have mixed up the counterweight and the VTF ring dial. Instead on a typical tonearm it would make more sense to read the following instructions: step#4 – "Once it is balanced, keeping the counterweight fix, carefully set the Tracking Force Ring to '0'. step#5 – Advancing it towards the pivot point, turn the counterweight to indicate the desired weight (VTF) given by the manufacturer, e.g.1.8 grams. The tone arm is now properly calibrated."
Also on page 115, under the "Direct Metal Mastering (DMM)" section, she states that: "Many audiophiles believe that this method is sonically superior". Though it had a short popular wave in the 1980s especially in Germany where Neumann and Teldec co-developed the procedure, I would challenge that assumption based on my multiple conversations with experienced audiophiles and my own sonic perceptions–the common understanding being that the end result is often too bright in the treble, leading most listeners and highly regarded cutting engineers preferring the warmer, fatter sound that a lacquer imparts.
I was a bit surprised and disappointed also that there was no mention of one format I truly cherish for its sound: the 12-inch single–either 33 1/3 or 45rpm–first introduced in 1975 as rare promos for deejays before being available to the public the year after, and in the mid-1990s released on double-45rpms as audiophile reissues for superior sound. If in the future there is a revision or expanded version, the concerns cited above should be addressed in a reprint or perhaps more easily done in the ebook format.
That aside, the bulk of the book is very well written, contains plenty of interesting facts, a ton of important information covering so many aspects such as: the history of vinyl; how records are made–lacquers, plating, pressing; vinyl collective terminology–audiophile, remastered, DMM, matrix area, dead wax; inspecting, grading used records; where to purchase used or new vinyl; storing records; handling; inner and outer sleeve types; proper dry and wet cleaning methods; original, reissue, audiophile, test pressings, and promos; online communities, forums, websites, Discogs' data base, phone and tablet apps, etc. There is even a dedicated 39 page chapter just on "Purchasing a Turntable", surprisingly covering a very diverse field in price and corresponding quality from many of the mainstream and audiophile manufacturers–enough to cater to just about anybody getting into vinyl whatever one's means or perfectionist persuit. Lastly, there is a list of 16 of the world's "Top Indie Record Stores"–of course this is quite limited and subjective–but nonetheless useful if you are the type that travels a lot.
It is clear that the author put a lot of research into this and even went beyond what we expect from the ubiquitous "Beginner's Guide" lining the shelves. So even though I already knew the majority of the contents of this guide, by the time I had read through it, it made me realize just how much there is to learn and discover for someone just entering the field, and how it would have been useful to have such a guide when I started out my lifelong musical journey.
In conclusion, Jenna Miles' The Beginners' Guide to Vinyl is a must for new vinyl enthusiast, makes a no-brainer holiday present and is highly recommended all year round.