Week 8, 2003
Q) I would like to know if I can connect my turntable to any of the audio input jacks in the back of my Sony receiver, which does not have a phono input connection.
A) You cannot connect a turntable directly to a receiver lacking a phono input. If you look at the back of your receiver, you will see many inputs with labels such as CD, Video, Tape, etc. These inputs are identical electrically and are designed to receive an electrical signal of around one to two volts, which is typical for the components connected to them. This is referred to as “line level” voltage. The phono cartridges used on turntables usually produce four thousands of a volt or less, far too weak to work with a line level input.
The special phono input and associated circuitry behind it have two important properties that work together to make your records listenable. The most obvious is the electrical characteristics that enable it to work with the very low electrical output of a phono cartridge. The second and less well-known feature that differentiates the “phono section” of your receiver is called RIAA equalization. RIAA stands for Recording Industry Association of America, and equalization is a process applied to the signal coming from the phono cartridge to correct it. When the electrical signal from the phono cartridge exits the turntable, the sound frequencies are not in proper relation to each other. The RIAA equalization process corrects this so the music is reproduced correctly. Why bother with equalization? The physical properties of records and phonograph needles have limitations that make it extremely difficult to reproduce the full range of sound frequencies without it.
To use a turntable with your receiver, you can buy a “phono preamp” that is inserted between the turntable and your receiver. The phono preamp will apply RIAA equalization and increase the voltage so your turntable will work with a line level input on your receiver. Phono preamps range in price from $50 for a very basic one, to thousands of dollars for esoteric, handmade models used by well-heeled audiophiles with big record collections. A $50 model should get you by, and if you have a great turntable and lots of records, the NAD PP-1, at $159, has true hi-fi sound qualities. You can see it at http://www.nadelectronics.com/Special/PP1.html. You can find lots of other phono preamps, from $50 to $15,000, at www.needledoctor.com, an online store catering to record lovers. When you are there, be sure to check out the Allsop Orbitrac II record cleaning system. For years I’ve used the Orbitrac to keep my own records sounding great, and it is extremely easy to use. Highly recommended.
Q) I do mostly graphic design, digital photography and video editing. Last spring I made the worst mistake of my life. I listened to a friend and got a Windows based system. I have had nothing but problems and am getting ready to buy a new Macintosh laptop. To save money I will go from Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to Corel Draw and Photo-Paint with the switch from Windows. How do the Corel programs compare to Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop on the Mac?
A) Corel makes very good popularly-priced products, but Adobe is still the industry standard for graphic design and photographic editing. You will be pleased to know you can contact Adobe and buy “cross-platform” upgrades for less than the cost of new copies of Corel products. You can switch to Apple computers and continue to use the best graphics applications available, without re-purchasing expensive full versions of the software.