"Science is like sex: Sometimes, something useful comes out - but that's not the reason we are doing it." - Richard Feynman

Good grief. As an avid mountain and road biker, I am always surprised that I'm surprised about how much small and large changes can affect the geometry of my bikes. Or, my body's experience of their rides. I should know better by now. Usually, these revelations manifest themselves as pain - in my back, legs, shoulders, arms or (ouch!) other, more vulnerable aspects of my aging anatomy.

Whether supplanting the entire front suspension on my hardtail or fine-tuning the placement of the shoe cleats for my road bike -- we're talking millimeters here -- my body never neglects to let me know (generally within 24 hours and sometimes continuing for weeks) just how far-reaching the changes really were.

Thankfully, the $1,500 Walker Audio Precision Motor Controller (30-day satisfaction guarantee) not only generated clean and stable juice for my turntable's motor. Its changes to the music were painless and positive - once I relaxed enough to get out of my head and let the damn thing do its job sans intellectualizations.

Definitely maybe. If you want a smooth ride -- on the trail, road, or at your favorite listening point -- things have to be in good working order. Much like measuring for stretched chain links on my bikes, I had gotten in the habit of scrutinizing the speed of my Nottingham Space Deck once a week or so. I always did this in the evenings, after my projects for the day had been completed. To my glee, the table had always run spot-on. This fact compelled me to go into this review -- of adding the PMC to the system -- not expecting any change for the better. The clear and current evidence pointed to a lackluster finale. I shoulda known better by now.

Out of sheer obdurateness, I made an effort to check the speed three or four times a day, for a whole week, To my consternation, I found that the rotational regularity wasn't entirely free of need for a laxative. It did, in fact, drift a bit. And, I could not reliably predict when. How embarrassing. So, in went the Walker.

Pretty ugly. Here we have a slender black box with a toggle power switch on the front panel that doesn't work. "That's by design," sez the designer. I couldn't help but roll my eyes and almost ask "Why?" Thankfully, he couldn't see my face. But even over the phone, his easy-going Texan accent let me know that he probably has a perpetual grin on his. He's obviously a kid at heart, constantly tinkering and clearly having too much fun too much of the time. I suspect, given his well-regarded scientific background, that even though he's clearly capable of creating stellar products, he's developed a perspective akin to Richard Feynman's opening line: "Science is like sex: Sometimes, something useful comes out. But that's not the reason we are doing it."

Anyway, the front also sports a speed switch (that works) and a recessed pot into which you place the supplied pen-driver to precisely adjust the speed once your table is up and running. In front of a small heat sink on the right side is a phase switch that absolutely works. The three pointy footers underneath are designed to rest on Walker's resonance discs. And once you're done amusing yourself into a stupor by jamming various power cords into the IEC receptacle on back, the PMC is ready to ride.

The marketing spin on the unit? It's designed to provide "an ideally-shaped, ultra-clean and stable power drive signal that remains completely unaffected by any fluctuations in AC power supply". "This," so it says, "reduces the cogging effect and allows the motor to run more smoothly and at exactly the right speed without drift." Wish I could find a similar device for my long-distance rides! Setting the speed was facilitated by the KAB Speedstrobe kit, which Walker provided as well. It consisted of a large, easy to read mat and an independent quartz-crystal-controlled illuminator.

Since the KAB strobe operates off DC independent from the mains supply, it will work anywhere in the world. The folks a KAB are quick to point out that "the importance of turntables running at an accurate speed cannot be overemphasized. A change of speed of about 6% will alter pitch by a full sharp or flat. The Speedstrobe can measure up to an accuracy of 0.03%." Best of all, it was painless to use. Put the mat on your platter and power up. Switch on the LED light source, check the speed and adjust as needed. Once I set the speed, its commitment never wavered during our three-month linkage.

Altogether alone, together. As the journey begins, make sure you get the AC polarity right. For me, the difference was immediately evident while listening to the periodic conversations between Lonnie Johnson and Elmer Snowden on the APR-30001 A1/B1 test pressing. Their positions in the studio locked into place much better when the phase switch was in the proper position.

And at the end of the road? Let's face it: Some gear does less damage to the signal while other does more. Simply put, my system sucked less with this device in the signal chain than it did without it. Ask any mountain biker about chain suck. It's not a good thing and generally caused by going too fast over bumps, in too low a gear. The result? The chain is more likely to get stuck between chainstay and tire - not at all pleasant. This makes the Walker a good choice for cycling 'round your records. I enjoyed the musical ride in my home a lot more, and with a lot fewer sonic distractions.

On Laurie Anderson's "Monkey's Paw" from Strange Angels [Warner 25900], the intro offered up new levels of details, including percussion, synth and bass. Her breathy preparation for the first words was brought into better relief. There was a liquid purity in the ecstatic pitch of her voice as she stepped into the body shop - to have stereo FM installed in her teeth and the mole from her back moved to her cheek. Yeah, she got some of those high-heeled feet, too.

Legally intoxicated. Transient attacks improved. This was no small matter given the constructive consequences. Swift piano lines on Carol Kidd's Nice Work [Linn Records AKH 006] became less ambiguous, dynamically more animated; what once was some blurring on 16th or 32nd notes, ameliorated. Plus, the whole band and toe-tappin' proceedings seemed to hold together better as I could follow individual musical lines and the gestalt with less effort. I also appreciated the improved punch and depth in the bass. Subtle? Yes, but I'm a big fan of subtleties. There was more snap and drive in percussion, more definition and tautness in bass lines. As a consequence, the unit allowed me to Get More Bounce with Curtis Counce [APR-3006 A1/B1].

On the jangly, acoustically driven "Run to Gladewater" from Michelle Shocked's Short, Sharp, Shocked [Mercury 834-924], the assortment of stringed instruments had more weight, density and focus. Each of those improvements were subtle, too but when added together, constituted an obvious step up in performance. All in all, these generally subtle but cumulative improvements combined to craft a more lifelike musical experience. I definitely listened longer -- and grinned more --with the PMC in the system.

Found missing. The downside? This item strikes me as expensive, especially in comparison to my current investment. My deck and arm retail for circa $2,500. Why on earth should anyone spring for another $1,500 to stabilize the speed?

Clearly misunderstood. I shoulda known better by now. Late one afternoon I threw on my favorite LA4 album, the direct-to -disc Just Friends [CJD-1001]. The improved transient attacks and decay allowed for a level of overall transparency that improved everything: The fluidity of guitar, bass, and horns; a rhythmic drive that was missing before - they were now all clearly revealed. I just sat there and grinned.

Were the LA4 in my home?

Well, not exactly - but to get any more exhilaration, I'd have to pay to see them live or take a serious cliff jump on my mountain bike. Yow! Got the cash? Give it a try. I think you'll find that the PMC will get and (more importantly) keep your table in the right gear. And that can make a big difference when it comes to achieving a smooth musical ride.

Same difference. Almost exactly. But wait, there's more. Order now and you (may) also get incredible digital playback! I did.

??#^*@?? Okay, we all recognize that cleaning up noise in the digital domain is a useful thing. Now we also know that cleaning up the power to a motor on a turntable can produce results far beyond what one might expect. But? But! I found myself fretting. How was it that this PMC, designed for turntables, made my digital playback sound better? I was consistently experiencing similar returns in dynamic nuance, transparency, staging, improved pitch definition and extension in the bass - plus just plain naturalness. When listening -- believe it or don't -- to cee dees.

Since living in Washington didn't create enough motivational energy to road-bike my way to Walker's place in Pennsylvania, I elected to surf over to his web site. He musta seen me coming, because, lo and behold, he had already attended to the matter - in a manner of speaking. He sez the PMC "also prevents electrical noise from the AC drive motor of the turntable from contaminating the AC power supply of your other components".

Those of you who know Nottingham tables will also know that the motors are constantly idling, even when not spinning the platter. I shoulda known better by now. 'Nuff said?

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