IN­TER­VIEW

We in­ter­viewed Mu­sic Hall’s Roy Hall dur­ing an event held by Con­voy In­ter­na­tional. Well, we call it an in­ter­view — it’s more a case of start­ing the recorder and sit­ting back...

Sound+Image - - Contents -

Mu­sic Hall’s Roy Hall re­veals where he gets his ideas. “I just steal”, he says, “but I give credit...”

SOUND+IMAGE: So what’s hap­pen­ing with Mu­sic Hall, what have you brought here to­day?

ROY HALL: What we’ve brought here is our lat­est range of turnta­bles, which is the .3 se­ries. The se­ries be­fore was the .2 se­ries — we come up with these fan­tas­tic names, you know.

And ba­si­cally we took the orig­i­nal se­ries and up­graded them, by chang­ing to DC mo­tors in­stead of AC mo­tors, we put bet­ter car­tridges on, where pos­si­ble we put a bet­ter arm on — we’ve moved up to car­bon fi­bre in nearly all our range now, ex­cept for our en­trylevel turnta­bles. Some have solid arms where it’s one piece to the head­shell; one or two mod­els have car­bon then alu­minium, as you call it — I now call it alu­minum, the Amer­i­can way. I’m flu­ent in Amer­i­can now — I can trans­late si­mul­ta­ne­ously be­tween the two…

S+I: There’s a Pro-Ject con­nec­tion with your turnta­bles, through Heinz Licht­neg­ger? RH: Heinz makes them for me, yes. In fact we are Pro-Ject done right, that’s what we do. We still have one, the en­try-level .3, which is sim­i­lar to the De­but Car­bon, for in­stance, but we do it bet­ter. They only have two bear­ings on the arm, we have four on the as­sem­bly; they have an in­ex­pen­sive Orto­fon car­tridge on that pack­age, we put a very good-sound­ing Mu­sic Hall car­tridge made by Au­dio-Tech­nica. So if you com­pare ours to Pro-Ject’s it’s a bit more ex­pen­sive, but son­i­cally it’s more fun, much more mu­si­cal.

S+I: How did that con­nec­tion come about? RH: So I met Heinz 15-20 years ago, at CES in Las Ve­gas, and we just hit it off, you know how some­times you do. And I told him I used to im­port Re­volver turnta­bles and at some point he said how would you like me to build a turntable for you? And I said I’d love you to, but you al­ready have Su­miko, the big dis­trib­u­tor in Amer­ica. And he said ‘Yeh but they’re do­ing a lousy job and I want to fuck with them…’ And the minute he said that, I said let’s do it!

So we did the turntable and it was very suc­cess­ful. And it did ex­actly what he wanted, be­cause Su­miko got re­ally pissed off when the Mu­sic Hall ar­rived — their prices were all wrong — and once I started sell­ing they tried to cut me off. But it had the de­sired ef­fect — they started look­ing at the turnta­bles as an as­set and they started pro­mot­ing Pro-Ject much bet­ter. We’ve been com­peti­tors ever since — though ob­vi­ously they’re a much more pow­er­ful com­pany.

S+I: And who do you see as your cus­tomer? RH: We have two cus­tomers. One of them is young kids who come along, and we have a lot of mid­dle-age to older peo­ple who are buy­ing a good turntable. And they come to us be­cause we’ve been around a long time and have a fairly good rep­u­ta­tion, and we give good cus­tomer

ser­vice, which is im­por­tant. In our man­u­als we ac­tu­ally en­cour­age peo­ple if they need help to call us, and we’ll pick up the phone and we’ll spend 10 or 15 min­utes with the cus­tomer help­ing them set up the arm or what­ever. Be­cause if you don’t do that they just put it all back in the box, and you get back a box of garbage… there’s noth­ing more use­less than an in­cor­rectly packed turntable. All you can do is take off the coun­ter­weight and any­thing re­mov­able and throw the rest away.

So then go­ing up the range it’s a sim­ple good-bet­ter-best story. Pro-Ject, who I love, have four mil­lion turnta­bles, 17 dif­fer­ent colours, 27 shapes... and they’re all pretty much the same, you know, They even have a ver­ti­cal one, one of the more stupid things I’ve ever seen, but as an engi­neer­ing ex­er­cise it’s fine...

S+I: Tell us about the mul­ti­ple plinth lay­ers as you go up the range.

RH: OK so you have to un­der­stand, I de­sign the turnta­bles, but in re­al­ity I’m a pla­gia­rist, there’s not a sin­gle orig­i­nal thought in any of my pro­jects, I just steal. But I give credit! — I don’t say it’s mine. So I used to im­port the Re­volver turntable 30 years ago. And they had two plat­forms with rub­ber strips be­tween them, and some bull­shit story that the strips were at an an­gle and it stopped vi­bra­tion — it was a good story but it was rub­bish. But when I went to the Pro-Ject fac­tory I had in mind the idea of two plat­forms, and rub­ber springs be­tween them — I knew the strips were bull­shit but I thought if we can use these to iso­late be­tween the plat­forms, let’s see what hap­pens. And the night be­fore the main meet­ing I met with a guy called Mr. Krotil, the pro­duc­tion man­ager, he’d been in the fac­tory for­ever. And I brought my bot­tle of Ma­callan 18-year-old whisky, you know I al­ways have a bot­tle of whisky, and I said this is one of my favourite whiskies, I want to thank you for the ta­ble, please en­joy this whiskey. And he said do you like slivovitz? — this is plum brandy, you get it in Eastern Europe. I was like ‘yeees, maybe…’ and he was ‘No this is home­made slivovitz, it’s very good’. So I think nice, he’s go­ing to give me a bot­tle of slivovitz. The next morn­ing we’re in the meet­ing, I meet the head en­gi­neer, and the boss of the com­pany, and we sit down and he brings out this bot­tle of slivovitz there and then — it’s like 8 o’clock in the morn­ing — and we all have a glass to wel­come me to the fac­tory. Some­one else stood up, an­other toast, an­other shot. This stuff is 100 proof... we had three or four shots and I am drunk as can be, there’s a lovely ex­pres­sion in Glas­gow, ‘par­a­lytic’, I was par­a­lytic, I couldn’t move. And then some­one said ‘OK let’s de­sign the new turntable!’ And that’s how we de­signed the MMF 5. True story.

So we’ve used that idea, pla­gia­rised as I said from Re­volver, for iso­la­tion be­tween the plat­forms, all the way up — two, three, four plat­forms. I’m not go­ing to do five. And what we’ve done, on the en­try level we used rub­ber springs, and we grad­u­ate up to sor­both­ane, which is a much bet­ter vis­coelas­tic rub­ber ma­te­rial. It’s made only in Ohio. S+I: You say springs, are they ac­tu­ally springs? RH: No they’re hemi­spheres, just a sticky halfa-ball, but it flat­tens down and it has the most amaz­ing ef­fect on sound, it damp­ens vi­bra­tions and iso­lates, a very sim­ple and effective way, so good that we’ve used it ever since. The only prob­lem is it’s very heavy, very dense rub­ber, and I have to buy 5000 hemi­spheres at a time, and then ship them over to the Czech Repub­lic. It’s so heavy it costs me a for­tune. But it’s worth it.

S+I: Fi­nally a piece of mu­sic, is there some­thing you can rec­om­mend to our read­ers, old or new? RH: New mu­sic? I’m 71 years old, I only know old mu­sic.

S+I: Well, tell us some old mu­sic we might not know then!…

RH: Lis­ten to early Joni Mitchell, some of it’s fab­u­lous. Lis­ten to early Leonard Co­hen. We saw Leonard Co­hen in con­cert a few years ago just be­fore he died, he was just won­der­ful.

More info: mu­sichal­lau­dio.com.au

“I de­sign the turnta­bles, but in re­al­ity I’m a pla­gia­rist, there’s not a sin­gle orig­i­nal thought in any of my pro­jects, I just steal. But I give credit!”

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