Guys & gal(s), there is NOTHING in analog turntable that is more indespensable and VALUABLE than a good and well preserved test record. No turntable pictured here or in the"post pic ..." thread can even approach, let alone exceed the true value of a single good test record - PERIOD. A very expensive turntable that has not been thoroughly adjusted by a good SET of test records is a piece of junk - high priced, but junk nonetheless.
The HFN test record seen a couple posts back and repeatedly recommended by me throughout this thread is about as good as it gets - of what is available today. Discs of this level are being looked at with distant disdain by anyone familiar with REALLY good test records from the golden era of analog.
The problem is compounded by the fact that it is unfortunately perfectly possible to permanently damage the vinyl record with a single play. Even if you have thoroughly checked the stylus/cartridge under a good microscope beforehand. So, I can not stress enough recommendation to NEVER BUY A USED TEST RECORD. I do violate this rule of mine in case of a particularly hard to obtain test record - but it usually turns out only as an information of what signal from a new/mint record might have looked like. Specially vulnerable are the high frequencies, from about 10 kHz up, and super specially those above (nominally) audible 20 kHz. In the quad era, there was necessity for the stylus/cartridge to have reasonably good performance to at least 45 kHz - in order to read the 45 kHz carrier from which 4 channel sound can then be dedoded in a quad decoder - and it turned out that at least better quad models of cartridges were also superiour on stereo material. Quad might have failed in the marketplace, but it sure did more for improvement of cartridges than any other thing in the history of phonograph record to date.
The best cartridges from the golden era of analog meet or exceed the frequency response of 100 kHz ...
Try that with ANYTHING available today - Mission Impossible. Needless to say, those Masters of The Past carts were also the least likely to damage any given vinyl record.
Good professional test records were never inexpensive - even back in their prime, about five time the price for the premium regular LP, the least expensive ones about the price of then available direct to disk music records.
Today, IF you manage to track one ( new, sealed) down, be prepared to part with high two and lower three digit
sums of Euros/$/GBPs - all the way up to about 500 for a particularly rare but known to contain indespensable signal(s) test record. Needless to say - these are aimed at laboratory use, the very least you will need is an oscilloscope (and the ability to use the same ) .
One more fact: there is absolutely no such thing as two perfectly equal styli or cartridges. They all deviate from the ideal by a greater or lesser amount - so only trough very minor adjustments it is possible to approach similar - or in best cases - even equal performance from two samples of nominally the same stylus or cart. This is what calibration truly stands for.
That is why I tend to use TWO cartridges with replaceable stylus (either MM - or even better, MC type ), mounted to both reference and prototype tonearm/turntable - with a SINGLE stylus - to evaluate both objective and subjective performance of two different tonearms/turntables. Otherwise, the difference(s) in two samples of the same type of stylus/cartridge may well cloud the evaluation of tonearms/turntables.
Good test records NEVER contain any music - but if used accordingly. will ultimately contribute to your musical enjoyment more than anything else.
Edited by analogsurviver - 12/11/13 at 10:36pm