Record Store Day artifacts: The Ramones Crosley Cruiser

Crosley Cruiser 048

Becoming a vinyl junkie leads to all kinds of poor decisions.  I think I may have made my worst yet, in a kind of grand, goofy, silly way.  Or maybe it’s a really smart investment.

Let me just begin with I don’t like Record Store Day.  I attended a couple with son Pat, and found them to be incredibly not fun.  Let’s just be clear; record stores tend to be very small places. Their aisles are cramped, and when there are folks in the store, difficult to navigate. I too have lined up in front my local record store waiting for it to open, in a line wrapping around the corner. Once the doors open there is a mad crush for the records released for the special occasion. 49/50ths of the RSD releases I could care less about.  It’s cool that Together by Country Joe and the Fish was remastered and re-released, but I could care less about Thai Psych Covers, or that McLyte, or Lord Sitar had new collectible releases. And fighting to get to the front of the store so I can partake in the mass hysteria is just more than I can deal with.  Record stores are a place to take one’s time, peruse the vinyl and decide if I need it, or can afford it.

Thankfully I was in Denver during Record Store Day this year.  I shared my acquisition of vinyl goodness at Wax Trax  which had a big sign on the door stating they were not participating in RSD 2015.  Something about not liking the rules much.

I made my way to Hi-Voltage the following Saturday to pick up the last of the Jefferson Airplane studio albums, Long John Silver.  I noticed the leavings from Record Store Days, and as I was perusing them saw a stack of Crosley Ramones Cruiser turntables.  I’ve always pooh-poohed the Crosley retro turntables.  They’re cheap, have teeny, tiny speakers and, really, how good can the sound be?  I also have a concern about the tonearm weight and quality of cartridge/stylus.  Will they do damage to my records?

At the same time, a couple of things have come up.  My stereo is a fixture in my den/painting room.  I love listening to it, but I don’t spend as much time in there as I used to.  It’s also not portable. It doesn’t sound like much from down the hall if I’m working at the computer or in the family room.  I’d also love to get together with some of my friends and share some of my music, but they don’t have turntables, so vinyl is out.  This is a relatively cheap answer to the problem.  The Ramones Cruiser is kind of collectible and, geez how bad could it be?  The last attraction is that Hi-Voltage is selling their stock for only a hundred dollars.

After considerable consideration and angling, I sprung this idea on Lorri that perhaps this could be an early Father’s Day gift. Really early.  By like two months.  Initially she sensibly balked at the idea.  But the more she perused the web the better she thought of it. So this morning I called Hi-Voltage to be sure they still had one in stock, and lo-and-behold they had three, still the same price. Third party sellers on Amazon and e.Bay are asking much more. I headed right out, together with a promise I would do the grocery shopping.

I picked up the Cruiser in a slightly dented box, agreeing to it because it was a gift to myself and nobody else. (I also picked up a beautiful copy of Sailin’ Shoes by Little Feat for eight bucks, but don’t tell Lorri.)  Did my running around, dashed home, took care of the dogs, and put the groceries away.

Within seconds the Cruiser was out of the box, styrene inserts disposed of and the very small turntable was out and ready to go.  The stereo is so small it is practically dwarfed by an LP.  It’s smaller than the old timey record player I had when I was a kid, listening to my Stones and Paul Revere and the Raiders records.  It has a headphone jack, but also twin jacks if more speakers are desired.

But the proof is in the pudding, and what better way to get it than playing a record.  i ran to my den and grabbed my unopened copy of. . . the first Ramones album of course. It sounded a bit muddy, but I didn’t know if that had more to do with their early on-the-cheap production or the quality of my new toy.  So I hauled out my much cherished copy of After Bathing at Baxters by Jefferson Airplane.  It was splendid, with the instruments and vocals reasonably well articulated.  Let’s not kid ourselves here.  The speakers are tiny and close together.  There’s enough power to half fill a large room.  But the Crosley Cruiser fills a niche for an inexpensive, highly portable, okay-sounding record playing machine.The controls are easy to use with a cuing stick to facilitate moving the tone arm.  It also controls the power to the turntable.

On the downside it is pretty flimsy and plasticky.  I’d be afraid terrible things could happen if it was dropped. The cuing stick, tone arm control feels like the cuing stick for a $100 stereo. One more concern I have is that it has a separate, plug-in power supply.  However, when it all gets put away, the power supply is too large to fit in the closed carrying case.  I’m left with a separate power supply, primed to be misplaced or lost or mixed in with a dozen other power supplies because everything from a toothbrush up to an air conditioner has one.

I’m not sure if buying this ornamental-sized media input device was simply a random impulse buy, or a smart supplemental purchase.  It seems like the latter to me, but only time will tell.  I like what I’ve heard so far,and given the amount of the purchase, assuming I get some mileage out of it, the investment was reasonable.

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