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Crafted Analogue: Acoustand Evolution Turntable

“Now’s the Time” was written in 1945, Parker’s audience would have understood. Equally, white racists probably wouldn’t have, and that would be no bad thing.

Phil Brett, AQ

AQ’s Jazz editor Phil Brett, wrote a special report linking the Civil Rights Movement and Jazz in the US. Historically artists such as Charlie Parker referenced the struggle for equal rights relating back to mid 40s and later on the “The civil rights movement in the United States was a decades-long struggle by African Americans to end legalized racial discrimination, disenfranchisement and racial segregation in the United States”.

Phil is a vinyl and Jazz addict. We just published his review of Charlie Parkers, The Savoy 10 inch LP Collection, which features Birds song, Now is the time. The message is not lost in this old medium of a limited run of mono 10 inch vinyl. As Phil writes, “great music, like all art and culture, can bring light to darkness, raise the spirits and to give hope”.

In these dark days music still matters. History matters and the message of music and cultural forms can bring light and people together. 

Vinyl survives as a medium and as a message. Analogue is a crafted art form that transports you like a “time machine” to history and emotions. Nevermore has the positive message of music and the greats been more important. We don’t live in such different times today and the medium connects us and would be lost in the world of mass media, social media and digital with the sanitisation and generic content.

Two months into the global pandemic where we have seen lock downs and many business sectors tumble, vinyl has had its challenges where streaming has thrived. As Warner Music prepares to float boosted by, “streaming revenues have risen 12% in April alone”, record stores have taken to selling records out of the back door such as Monorail Music in Glasgow to Tone Deaf Records owner, Tony Assimos will deliver vinyl directly to your door in Chicago.  As a medium it is too early to say vinyl and the music of the niche and non mainstream will not survive. Perhaps the connection will become stronger.

Analogue is a crafted art form that transports you like a “time machine” to history and emotions

In fairness to Streaming Services such as Tidal music and Qobuz, they have very interesting and informative curated catalogues and are important forms of discovery especially for the younger audience and old. Speaking of the latter, I am enjoying a playlist on Tidal music looking the Afro-American influences on Rock & Roll, curated by Professors Maureen Mahon and Gayle Wald. Having recently interviewed Dan Mackta, of Qobuz USA for AQ, the impression is that streaming services can have a role to play in music education and take the role of digital libraries. On the day of interview Dan had just bought his daughter a record play for her 16th birthday and they were waiting for vinyl to be delivered despite the lock down.

Vinyl is to be played at home. And as such, if ever there was a true music replay medium to call home media it is vinyl. The turntable and the whole experience of listening to records at home is a shared experience. How an old technology becomes more a centrepiece or family life these last few weeks is a sign of the times. It has certainly been a time to shake off the dust from the covers and explore those musicians of the past and the emotional connection to thoughts and feelings of other human experiences from a different time and connect to them. The record sleeves themselves are time travels to a past. What did Bird mean by Now is the time?

The art form of the individual musician, the song writer, the recording engineer is to be enjoyed. As vinyl is important today and tomorrow as a preserve of human emotion so is the craft of the making of turntables and analogue products which are still led by engineers and crafts people. Vinyl survives as a premium medium at home and is as relevant as any other media. So are the makers of turntables.

AQ has followed the evolution of a humble British analogue engineer / designer-maker, Lee Drage of Acoustand from his concept to execution of his goal of creating a hefty tank of a mass turntable ( 30 kilos ) as a homage to Japanese classics such the Micro Seiki DDX-1000. The sheer amount of hand making to the finest level is an impossible dream that Lee has made reality. Each turntable is a hand-crafted work of art as much as fine engineering

The evolution of this British design is a statement to the makers years crafting parts and plinths for restoring the canon of classic vintage turntables from the holy grail Garrard 301 to the supreme Technics SP-10. Lee is a trained furniture maker and crafts plinths from hardwoods and superior mass materials such as Delrium. The Technics plinths system in particular is simply beautiful. The plinth itself is a tour de force of specs,  “The anticipated new version of our Delrinium Plinth system designed specifically for the technics  massive construction premium plinth cnc precision milled 35mm solid billet alloy top layer and arm boards. “ 

Having mastered building plinths and parts for these venerable vintage turntables, Lee has set upon building the best quality and hand made turntable his workshop and skills can create. A modern interpretation of the Japanese classic by Mico Seiki has evolved into the aptly named Acoustand Evolution Turntable.

Acoustand ALT-12 12″ Tonearm 

The first production model of the turntable sports the most gorgeous of deep purple colour. Lee has also created matching tonearms and head-shells ( a wise move as we have seen SME no longer offer OEM arms and Jelco in Japan recently called it a day). Lee offers a complete analogue replay deck that he will personally drive up and down the UK for an home demo. We can’t wait to hear this beautiful machine for an in-depth audition for AQ.

Acoustand Evolution Turntable

We can see vinyl still as the “real” medium to evoke and survive in our homes. They are the persevere of culture and makers such as Acoustand should take credit for making a wonderful modern interpretation of a vintage classic for today.

This analogue evolution is welcome.