Decorating and room acoustics, converting LPs to CD with a component CD recorder

Week of April 24, 2005

Q: My husband has a home office in a bedroom upstairs in our home. He has converted the closet into an entertainment center and set up a TV/surround sound system in it. The room currently has carpet. I’d like to put in hardwood floors and a real brick veneer along two of the walls in the room to give it a real sophisticated loft type look. This would really fix up the office, and give it a highly decorated cool atmosphere. He says it would ruin the acoustics of the room and is dead set against it. Is this true, am I stuck with white walls and old carpet? How can I incorporate fashion with function?

-Christina Blakemore, Livermore, Calif.

A: Your husband knows his stuff- it would ruin the acoustics of the room and the enjoyment he gets from his entertainment system would be gone. The setup of the room is critical to good sound, as much as good equipment is- maybe even more so. It sounds like your know your decorating, and he knows his acoustics. I would work together to make the room look better while keeping the sonic qualities intact.

Why not go with new carpet and new paint on the walls? Add some framed movie posters to make it like a theater? If he has a TV/surround sound system, besides being trendy using darker wall colors will actually improve the TV’s picture because less light will be reflected within the room, enhancing picture quality and contrast.

You may also want to just leave it be if he is happy with his setup, particularly if it is his personal space. You could use the money and time saved on another room of the home that everyone uses.

I’m no decorator- I leave that in your hands. But as an audiophile I cringed when I thought of the sonic repercussions of your hardwood floors and brick veneer. I must admit I thought it would look really cool! If you ever want to give me decorating advice, I am all ears. Just don’t mess with my room acoustics!

Q: What is the best way to convert my vinyl record collection into CD-quality digital files?

-Gordon Altshulerm, St Paul, MN

A: To get the best quality recordings, you need clean records, a good phono cartridge/turntable combination, and a component CD recorder.

The best way to clean records is with a vacuum record cleaning machine. They use special cleaning fluid and vacuum suction to get all the grit out of the record grooves. When it comes to cleaning records, nothing comes close- it will make them sound like new. Vacuum record cleaners sell for between $255 and $3,000. If you don’t want to spend that, the $39 Allsop Orbitrac2 will do a decent job if your records are in good shape.

If you have a good turntable but want to improve sound quality, a Grado cartridge for your turntable will produce great sound. They have been my favorites for many years for their detailed, warm and natural sound. Any model from the $40 Grado Black to the Grado $150 Silver will work very well for you. The more you spend, the better the sound, of course!

You can see these products at record specialist
A component CD recorder is audio equipment, not computer equipment. It fits in your receiver’s tape loop and works like a cassette deck, except it records on CDs. These typically sell for around $300, but if you shop for a bargain you can find them for much less.

With clean records and a good phono cartridge, you will get great sound out of the grooves, which the CD recorder will use to make great quality CDs.

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