Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Realistic Mixers

[note: a scan of the 32-1200B manual is located here]

I don't post about hardware because there is nothing to post.  I have had the same setup for quite a while and haven't changed anything.  That is, until now.

Let me back up.  The first set up I had were two Technique 1200s and a Vestax PMC 17A.  I bought that setup complete on ebay and had it shipped to my house in giant boxes.  I don't remember what I paid but it was too much.  I believe I bought this in 2004 or 2005.

The Techniques were beat up pretty bad but worked great, they just looked like hell.  I brought them in to have a guy look at them and I think he just charged me to let them sit in his shop for a while.  I later sold everything on craigslist, along with an old reciever and speakers I had hooked up to it.  I do miss that mixer, it was perfect and has every function I would ever want without too many additional bells and whistles I don't care about.

I had a just had a basic Audio Technica belt drive turntable for a few years that I used to play my vinyl. I eventually gave it to my girlfriend who still uses it regularly.  Probably around early 2012 I got the deal of a lifetime.  I had a friend who owned (leased) a bar and he bought a big PA system on craigslist.  It was a package deal so he also got two Numark turntables and a Numark mixer.  It was all real basic entry level stuff but I was so excited to fool around with it.  He didn't want it so I think I offered him $150 or something and he took it.  Then I went back on craigslist and got an AWESOME coffin/flight case that held everything for like $50.  I modified the case a bit to hold the mixer and that setup hasn't changed in a long time.  And of course I built a giant stand to hold the whole thing, but you've seen that before.

But it needs to change because the mixer sucks.  It has one glaring problem - no VU meters.  So it is difficult to keep my volume controlled when I switch decks and I have to do it by ear (or, as I am usually recording when I'm "mixing", I have to spin around and try to watch the VU meters on Audacity which is obviously not a great way to go about things).  So I started doing some window shopping on ebay.

At first, I figured I'd try to get another Numark because I didn't really care what brand I got that much, so long as it had VU meters and the other basics.  But then I got to thinking.  I didn't even need some of the stuff on my old mixer.  I didn't care about EQ, even the pan controls.  All I really need to be able to do is switch from one deck to another via some kind of fade, and to be able to cue the next song in my headphones.

So then I came across these old Realistic mixers and I knew this was what I wanted.  There is a flood of them on ebay and there are a few different models.  So I did some research and pulled the trigger - on all of them.  I ended up buying three in a 10 day period or so and now I have one of each model that I could find. (Real quick I should add that I just sold my old mixer for $15!)

There are basically two 'series' (1100 and 1200) with many sub-models in each.  First up is the 32-1100 series.  I have the 32-1101A and 32-1100B.

Features (and lack of) include:
-no crossfader
-no master volume fader
-no cue volume
-2 microphone inputs
-1 tape/aux input
-can run on batteries or AC adapter (not included; more on that below)

The 32-1101A is in very clean condition.  It has some tape adhesive residue on the front (probably from some kind of label on microphone input #2) and it has 'PHYSICS' written near the bottom in black permanent marker.  Perhaps this was used in a large classroom as part of a PA system for the teacher to amplify his voice during lectures.  Paid only $12 for this unit.
The 32-1100B definately looks older.  Looks like it had sat in a garage or something because it has a layer of dust/dirt on it which is difficult to get to with all the faders in the way.  It has electric blue highlights on the front which look stylish.and at the bottom it says 'STEREO DISCO MIXER' (the 1101A just says 'STEREO MIXER').  I thought that was pretty cool, the implication being that those were some of the original applications for a small, functional mixer to be used by a DJ who was doing more than just switching from song to song.  I paid only $12 for this but had to have it shipped from Canada which took a while.

I knew I had no interest in getting batteries to use these things, and I knew both could use an AC adapter.  I was in the midst of trying to determine the voltage and connector style so I could cross reference one when I looked on the bottom of the unit and Realistic had shared that information up front! I got a brand new (not sure how that is possible, must be 20 years old) Archer 273-1454 for $8 and of course it works on both units.

Next up is the 32-1200 series.  I have the 32-1200B.  I lucked out on this one and got the unit in it's original box with instruction manual!

Features include:
-backlit VU meters
-master volume fader
-cue volume pot
-3 microphone inputs with pan pots
-does not have a dedicated third (tape/aux) input, but the 2 phono inputs can be switched to a line level input with a switch
-this unit cannot run on batteries; the AC cord is hardwired in

This also has a push button power switch as opposed to the rocker switch on the 1100s.  In fact, where the 1100s use rocker switches for cue functions and also to actually turn the mics on/off (if pulling the fader to 0 wasn't enough), the 1200 has small push buttons as well.  I must admit my affinity for the rocker switches, they produce a very satisfying click.

This unit is in great condition, obviously as it came in the box.  Very lightly used.  This was the only one I had to get into a bidding war on which drove the price up to a whopping $13.06.  It even came with what appears to be a brand new set of RCAs still in their little baggie, which were included with the unit.

So there is the background, leaving only one question: how do they work?

All units are totally functional and I tested them all exhaustively (the phono inputs at least).  The 32-1200B of course is the nicest, the action on the faders and crossfader is really nice.  That unit also is definitely the loudest, I can push bigger levels on the meters and it is obvious through the speakers.

I would be the happiest person in the world save for one small fact, which I guess I can live with.  The cue function is not straightforward at all, all three units function in this way but I cannot for the life of me figure out why this would be preferable to anyone.  I was convinced one or more of the mixers were damaged and I cannot count how many times I disconnected one and connected another to compare results.  If I did not have the manual with the 1200B to explain it, I might have tossed them all in the trash.  I'll let Realistic explain, it is too confusing to even think about:

So basically, it is not possible to be listening to one source while the other plays - you HAVE to listen to both through the headphones, with one source in each ear.  I can see that this would be useful if you HAD to mix 'live' but when songs are 3 minutes, you have 120 seconds to get the record, and drop the needle, then make sure it is ready at the beginning (or whatever point you prefer).  As my needs are that simple, I can still manage with this odd function.  The manual also includes the schematic and I am tempted to crack it open and see if I can rewire things to meet my desires.  But I doubt it is that simple. 

At any rate, I spent less on all three mixers than on all the other units I looked at and considered buying.  I need to rebuild my carpeted plywood for my new setup and I'll do that soon, I am entertaining a few ideas.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Goodwill [Dyer IN]

I checked this place out pre-construction on my last trip out to Terre Haute.  After I took a leak in an outhouse outside (and wondered why there was an outhouse outside) I strolled in to be greeted by a bunch of construction workers.  I vowed to return and after wrestling with myself for a few hours previous, I swerved and found my way inside.

They must have just opened a week or two ago because it was packed.  Surprisingly (for a new store), they had a TON of vinyl!

I initially found something I know I have (in fact, I very quickly remember exactly where I got it) but I thought I'd be a good boyfriend and check if my girlfriend needed it.

With that done, I kept searching and very quickly came up with a Chicago polka record I needed! No surprise I added this one to the db myself.  But it was a good news/bad news type situation:

Bad news: there was a Perry Como album inside!

This was ironic because I almost didn't even bother to check inside as I saw the tufts of the crappy plastic inner sleeve hanging out, which I know Bel Aire used in the 90s. But once I checked, I was extremely torn.  Could I buy just a jacket? It seemed so stupid.  I half wondered if somehow they would give me a hardtime at the counter when they noticed it was empty.  Would they notice the autograph and decide to keep it? Who knows.

But I had already found one other really odd record.  You have to learn to sniff out the really out of place stuff when you dig, even if it's something you know nothing about you have to be able to tell when something doesn't fit - maybe it is worth a few bucks.  The record I am referring to is a proto-house recording by a Chicago duo.  It is historic to say the least and discogs showed 2 had it and 12 wanted it.  I put it up for sale immediately as the grooves look really clean and there is only one other copy for sale (in the UK and in 'good' condition).  No buyers - yet.

Have you figured out where I am headed with this yet? I discarded the Perry Como LP and stuffed the Z-Factor inside.  In the photo of the rack above, you can see an empty generic outer sleeve with Eng peeking through - that is the original jacket.  The funniest part is that it was 1/2 off that day so I paid only 50 cents for this 'package'.  I also got my girlfriend a bag of cherry candy since they had a huge display of all the flavors of Claey's hard candy (look it up, good stuff) so my bill was closer to $2 but I'm so wealthy I can pay that.  And as I was driving home from central Indiana on a Saturday at 2pm, you do the math on my OT.  That's right - cherry candy and used records all day long.  I'M RICH!!! 

I have long wanted to return to Bel Aire and this might be my chance.  I checked out all my pics to see if they had this record for sale and while I can disqualify all of the obscured jackets I am going to hold out just a little hope that I missed one.  The crazy thing is that on that rotating magazine rack there are seven LPs with only the rear jacket exposed.  I know it is not any of those because 'Another Polka Celebration' is ironically the first Versatones album NOT to have the Bel-Aire catalog on it.  The albums in the record rack are pretty easily recognizable but maybe one is buried.  Maybe? Please? I hope so.  Either way I want to go back to buy Grolsch and grab those Tones albums.

Goodwill, Bloomingdale

Don't know how this place slipped through the cracks - never checked it out.  Made my way over on a quiet weekend and enjoyed the dig.

Like every other Goodwill, apparently someone, somewhere is fabricating these record bins for them as they are in every single store across the land.  However this one had seen some modification.  As a builder myself, I respect the idea behind it: I can't tell you how many times I have been overwhelmed by a stack 2' deep that has nothing to lean on.  The execution isn't perfect but it is a good start.

This was the closest I came to buying something - yes, unashamedly, I love this song.  If I had seen the 7", I'd be listening to it right now.

I found three early Chicago polka records: two of which I added to the db and one other which needed images.  I also found another Chicago release which of course I can find nothing about now, not even to cite it here.  I tried to quickly check on my phone which of course is not great (even the new discogs app is not thorough enough or easy enough to navigate in the heat of battle). 

Marginally disappointed for finding nothing, I was prepared to move on when I spotted something in the corner of my eye! Off, in the distance, more vinyl!


The only notable part of this rack was that I wanted to get the shot previous, with one rack in the distance and one in the foreground when a fella came by to have a look.  No problems there except for a few issues.  First of all, he was pushing around a cart in Goodwill.  I have a big issue with this and deal with it often - you aren't at Walgreens.  Those stupid carts take up a lot of space in a place like this and make everyone's experience more difficult.  Second of all, he had a small child in the cart, probably 3-4 years old who was munching on a bag of Cheetos like it was standard operating procedure.  I am not a nutritionist, much less a child nutritionist, and I surely eat some questionable stuff but this seemed pretty far outside reasonable behavior.  Lastly, he was lackadaisically messing around in the rack for a long time and I could tell by the way he was looking, he wasn't a record collector.  Now that in itself does not disqualify him from having the right to peer in there, but he was going about it in such an inefficient way that it was just illogical.  Hilariously enough, he ended up grabbing a 'score' and he added it to the trove in his cart.  I'm sure he's a big orchestral fan, he surely looked the part.  Cheetos and baroque classical go hand in hand.

Goodwill, Crystal Lake

Headed back up to Cary.  In previous visits I have checked out a toy store and a record store.  Trip #3 I took a look around in a Goodwill and I found yet another on this jaunt.

This was a pretty clean store and I quickly discovered their stash on an end cap near the books. Two different Belafonte records greeted me and I dug onward and upward.

My colleague has been drug from store to store for a while now, his back is to the camera in one of our previous visits.

As soon as I spun around, I found yet more platters in crates and bins on some furniture.  The local barbershop chorus made an appearance, as they so often so in the northern and northwest suburbs.I came across some prog rock and a mono version of one of my all time faves, passed on both.

After that I found a few records worthy of note.  I bought none but did some research on the artists as all of them intrigued me:

Pictures At An Exhibition and Tomita's Greatest Hits - Never heard of Tomita before but obviously someone did and they donated their stuff.  Respect due - looks like Mr. Tomita passed away just this spring but sounds like he was a serious pioneer.  RIP.

Sonic Seasonings - I'd wager that the same person that donated the Tomita recording above also donated this one.  Another artist I never heard of and I commend them for having a sex change a good 30 years or more before it became a trendy thing to do.  Of the three electronic recordings, this one interested me the most due to the long form compositions.  I have a tiny bit of regret for letting it go.

No, No, No, My Friend (You're Wrong So Do It Again) - this one I have serious regret about leaving behind.  Super funky and with a fat groove.  Got to love the latin drums beating it up in the background over the trap kit.  The variety of voices almost don't quite mix together properly and it makes it beautiful.  This would hold a nice spot on my shelf next to another disco record I found so long ago.

I've found many albums with labels on them notating ownership, but never one in the possessive tense.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Estate Sale, Northlake

I woke up Saturday morning and checked for vinyl.  I was first dead set on checking out a sale in Villa Park but I noticed that it had been open since Thursday.  Garage sales on Thursdays should be illegal.  Don't people have to work? So I started thinking that the vinyl would be pretty picked through (assuming there was anything decent).  Still, I would have went but then I noticed this one, about the same distance and as I was up early enough, I knew I could be one of the first customers.

Google Maps took me on a real jaunt through an industrial area, I had to stop many times to find my way.  I also stopped to try and help another stranger chase a stray dog.  We watched it almost get run over a couple times before it went through a hole in a fence and was gone.  I hope it is ok.

When I finally pulled up, I glanced through the boxes of junk.  This was an estate sale literally, meaning someone was trying to unload the possessions of someone who died.  But the goods were brought outside, as it looked like the person (the daughter, her parents were dead) lived there.  So I looked around but saw no vinyl and started to feel that old sense of being downtrodden.  Why do I do this? Why?

But before the depression really did me in, I asked if she had any vinyl.  She said 'Oh yeah' as if to allude I might be about to stumble on a library of vinyl.  They were in the garage which was closed, she grabbed her remote opener and popped it open.  There were two big stacks on the floor.

Stacks like this are truly innavigable so I started breaking them into smaller heaps and standing them up.  I was sweating pretty badly so I tossed off my bag and really got down into it.  I came out of there with pretty dirty knees but of course it was worth it.  My biggest score by far is the mono 'Beard' version of Monkees HQ.  I now have the mono and stereo versions of both the 'beard' version and the regular rear jacket.  It took me a couple years at least, I can't imagine how many copies I have had to check in the hopes it was the fourth one I needed (you can see one from one of my recent posts, right up front).

I grabbed three additional.  First was an album by The Byrds that was in such good shape that I could not resist it, even though it seems devoid of any of the pop hits they are known for (I surely do not know any of their deep cuts).  The same exact applies to another by Paul Revere, just couldn't bear to leave it behind.  Both are mono versions.  I also grabbed a Donovan album for my girl that I kind of wish I had kept for myself.

The lady let me just make an offer and didn't even look to see what I had.  Before I could make my wager however, she wanted to point out that she had bought the Paul Revere record herself, as a young girl, with her mother.  This was at the Goldblatt's at Grand and Harlem, just a couple miles from my neighborhood.  She said that she had wanted a Beatles record (perhaps Revolver?) but her mother wouldn't let her have it.  I commented that at least the Paul Revere record is British, so you have that similarity.  I offered her $8 and she accepted and I began my ride home, this time navigating myself.  A wonderful bike ride on a beautiful morning to fetch some nice records from nice people.  No complaints here.


Garage Sale, Franklin Park

I was about to go postal at work and the stress was starting to crush me.  So I cleaned up what I had in front of me so I could sneak away for a bit.  I sped off to FP to check out a sale I found on, as always.

I was just around the corner and suddenly it all made sense.  This wasn't deja vu - I had been to this garage sale before.  If there was any doubt left in my mind, one look at the little old lady organizing her things cleared my mind.  There was no two ways about it - I had been here, and I had seen this records.  It had been over two years, but I was back.

In fact, I remember right off the top of my head what I bought. It was an odd organ record that called to me with the photo of the fellow on the cover playing it, and the sounds contained therein can only be described as ghostly.  I presume the stuff was intended to be 'relaxing' music but it is quite spooky.  That strange record has survived a couple purges as well, when I loaded up a crate to take down to St. Vincent to lighten my load - I just can't seem to part with it.  And now I never will. (I also noticed the runout etching and learned that Rudy Van Gelder not only mastered but also engineered the recording, he was uncredited on discogs.  I also found the mono version, which I added myself).

As I walked up, a quiet light rain was beginning and this nice old lady was gathering her things to bring them back into the garage.  She already had a tarp covering a clothing rack.  I already knew what records to expect - there wasn't much two years ago and I had bought the best stuff.  But I knew I had to make an appearance once I pulled up.  I began to help her bring her things in, I don't know how old this lady is but she was quite spry and not afraid of the exertion to haul stuff around.  I guess she must set up regularly, perhaps every weekend.  She kindly scolded me (if there is such a thing) a few times when I put things back in the wrong place, as I soon learned that everything in that garage fit together like a puzzle.

I went through the motions of glancing at the records: first the crate under the table, near the door, then she reminded me there were more towards the back, 10' away.  There I did find some early Marion Lush work, including an alternate cover of one album which I quickly photographed and added to the database later.

It was a treat to hang out with my old acquaintance again for a spell.  I hope I see her again sometime.

Garage Sale, Wood Dale

I've had some serious garage sale guilt for not hitting more sales this year but things are finally picking up.  I hit 8 in 2015 I believe so not sure if I'll keep the pace but I am surely trying. revealed this one a scant 3 mile round trip from my work.  I snuck away on a Friday afternoon via bike and was pleasantly surprised.

Don't let the musical number up front in the crate fool you - there was some nice classic rock era stuff in here.  I left behind a truly intriguing record by a French-Moroccan rock group that still has me thinking.  But I did walk away with the debut from a group who's follow up I already have and enjoy.  The propreitor tried to fleece me at $5 for the thing.  I accepted the $4 I offered and he should be glad to get it.  Already spun through both sides and it was pleasant background as I did some work around the house.  I snagged something for my girl and I'm still not sure if she had it already or not.  If its a dupe, she can give it to her mom who will definitely accept and enjoy it.  Hope I can hit more quick sales like this before the snow starts to fall.

J&S Antiques, Manlius IL

Had my eye on this for a couple years, it is right at the Interstate 80 interchange but never had time to stop.  Made time on this journey and it was worth it as we found a bunch of crates of 7" right inside the front door.  I did not buy anything at all for myself, but I did see plenty, and I grabbed one of those 7" records for my girlfriend's mom to play on her new record player we had just gotten her.

Otherwise it was unremarkable.  There were plenty of booths with vinyl and the place was nicely laid out and pretty clean and well organized.  It had good character and charm and was pleasant to hang out in.  I always assumed this was in Sheffield, and the now abandoned Sheffield Diner next door seems to attest to that.  But check out the numerous artifacts I found celebrating Manlius, which I had never heard of.  The map may say one thing, but the locals know better.