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December 09, 2012 10:08 PM

Spinning The Vinyl

Sioux Falls, SD

Today our ears are filled with MP3's, iPod's, internet radio; downloadable music is at our fingertips. But, for many of you, the crackle of vinyl may have been your first love of music. And it has not been forgotten.

It's a sound that even the young lover of music can distinguish. But it's the young at heart who know it well.

"I think you'll find a lot of people my age have a fairly large collection of records that are sitting around collecting dust. Now, that there is some buzz about vinyl, these people are now starting to think, well maybe I should start to break into those again," music enthusiast George Widman said.

Widman is a self proclaimed music enthusiast. He has a passion for finding the best quality tunes and tones that he possibly can. For him, vinyl is the answer.

"Vinyl is still working with the sound waves, everything is mechanical, everything about the vinyl process, the process of taking music off the record, running it through the amplifiers, through the speakers, is more organic, is more connected to the real word and more connected to the original sound of the music more directly than digital," Widman said.

A few years back Widman decided to break into that old record collection. But his old turntable was no longer turning. For him, buying a new one was out of the question.

"Tried to re-build it and that didn't work so I just started fiddling with it and it was one of those things that just got my attention and one thing led to another. I finally ended up building a turn table from scratch and I kind of got hooked on the idea," Widman said.

He now builds state of the art, custom turntables out of his workshop in Sioux Falls. And while on the surface it may just look like a spinning plate with a needle, the sophistication goes much deeper.

"Because it’s mechanical, there’s so many things, it has to be very precise. Any noise in that system will be picked up by that system. The speed variations will make a difference. Its a very precise instrument. So that's why the best ones cost quite a bit of money," Widman said.

Top end turntables can sell for well over $100,000. His range is between $4,000 and $5,000. They use a small DC motor and a belt made of fishing line to turn the platter which is filled with lead shot and weighs around 19 pounds.

"So once its up to speed, the momentum of all that mass, it doesn't take a lot of energy to maintain that speed. So that little DC motor keeps it to speed without any problem at all. And then it does it without a lot of mechanical noise and vibrations. And that's very important," Widman said.

Every piece of the turntable is made to be as quiet as possible. The bearing even sits in a shaft made of the world’s toughest polymer.

It's new age technology for an old school machine. But those with dusty records aren't the only ones taking notice.

"It's almost like hearing that album again for the first time but it's just much more clear," Last Stop CD Shop Manager Joshua Johnson, said.

Johnson says the younger generation is also starting to see the perfect imperfections of vinyl.

"I think the sound is just so nice. I think it kind of, it can kind of bridge that gap between your parents and you because that's what they did. And I like nothing more than sitting around on my day off and just listening to records. I listen to music all day anyway but its just nice to look through the records and look at the big artwork and read all the inside stuff," Johnson said.

Today's vinyl is also different than the stuff from years ago. While the basics are all the same, technology once again has brought it up to date.

"They're all pressed on a higher grade, they call it 180 gram vinyl. It's just re-mastered and repressed on this higher grade vinyl so it sounds a lot better. You know some people like the old nostalgic crack of vinyl, too, and I have that but it still just sounds a lot nicer," Johnson said.

A lot of the newer artists are releasing their product on vinyl, too, so its something that's going to catch on, its going to be around for a while," Widman said.

For Widman, it's all about the creative process. Making something that looks elegant yet has a real world function and of course, an adoration of music.

"I've loved music all my life, I've never been a musician and this is kind of my attempt to make music maybe and to create something so that other people can enjoy music, too," Widman said.

Widman has sold turntables on both coasts, Chicago and Ohio. He hasn't sold any yet in South Dakota, but hopes to change that.

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