Q: I purchased the $1,000 vinyl record system you recommended, consisting of Polk Audio S20 bookshelf speakers, Music Hall MMF-1.5 turntable and Onkyo TX-8020 receiver. It has exceeded my expectations, and now I find myself wanting more. What are some other things I can do to improve the sound of my system without spending lots of money? I already plan on upgrading the cartridge with the LP Gear the Vessel A3SE Ultimate Set.
A: A record cleaner is a great place to start. The best record cleaners under $100 are the $60 Allsop Orbitrac 3 (allsop.com) and the $80 Spin-Clean Record Washer (spincleanrecordwasher.com). The two of them work great as a combo. Use the Spin-Clean to do a deep, wet scrubbing of the grooves, and finish with the Orbitrac 3 to remove any residual dust or moisture.
A better phono preamp can make a big improvement. The $275 Bellari VP130 (musichallaudio.com) is a great match for the Vessel A3SE. The VP130 uses vacuum tube circuitry to create a clean, sweet sound, and it also works as a headphone amplifier.
Pangea Audio (pangeaaudio.com) recently introduced two interesting products. The first is the Record Doctor Record Clamp. This has a low-mass design that will work well with any turntable and sells at a promotional price of $29.99. Record clamps are like paperweights. They sit on the spindle and hold down the record to reduce minute vibrations. Audiophiles disagree on their effectiveness. It really depends on the turntable system and the record being played, but for under $30, it is easy to experiment and see how the clamp affects each record.
The second product is the Vulcan TTx2 Turntable Stand. It not only provides a sturdy, vibration-free platform for your turntable, but has storage for more than 200 records. It is available in black for $169.90, or carbon fiber vinyl or rosenut for $199.90. Proper audio furniture and media storage can be very expensive, and the Vulcan TTx2 gets you both at a bargain price. It is selling extremely well and frequently on back order, so if you want one, don't wait too long.
Here today, gone ...
Q: I went to buy the Sbode earphones on Amazon and the $5 coupon you mentioned in your column was not there. I used the link on your site, which was supposed to go to the appropriate page with a $23.99 price and a checkbox to get a $5 coupon, for a total of $18.99. You said that the offer was good until the end of July. What happened?
A: The coupon was offered as mea culpa for the earphones selling out the first time around. But even though the company thought it had enough headphones on hand this time to serve everyone, it happened again. When the inventory was gone, the coupon disappeared with it. Sbode is going to try one more time, with the earphones supposedly back in stock by the time you read this. The coupon will reappear automatically. If it does and you're still interested, jump on the offer fast because, as experience has taught us, it might not be around for long.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.