Ever since Ron Paternoster was in college, he has owned a Linn LP12 record player. In those days, he spun favorites like The Replacements ‘Let it Be’ and Husker Du ‘Zen Arcade’ as he hung out with friends in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It was the hours of music played on that original record player that kick-started his interest and career in hi-fi.
35-years later, Ron has not one, but two Linn Systems at home. He also works with some of the coolest people and hi-fi products available. And, he even gets to live vicariously through those few clients who trust him build them a custom million-dollar stereo system in their homes.
“I am at the pinnacle in my career where I get to play with, tune-up, and calibrate things that are far beyond what is in my own home, which is pretty exciting. Not many people get to do that daily in their profession,” says Ron.
So, how did he turn his early love of his LP12 record player into a 25-year career? His hobby had a turning point when he began working for Jim Engandela who was an outstanding teacher and quite meticulous about audio system setup. Then, in 1993, Ron was hired as a salesperson at Definitive. Throughout his time here, he builds on his knowledge and learns directly from industry legends such as Ivor Tiefenbrun, founder of Linn, and David Wilson Founder of Wilson Audio. The learning available as an employee of Definitive is continuous; in fact, Ron just completed “Masters Training” with Will Kline from Sonus Faber.
“The cool thing is I learn stuff every day from people I work with – John Peters, Gary Bruestle, Tom King, Paul McDaniel, and other peers. It’s a very collaborative environment and Definitive’s team is fanatical about creating the best sound.” Ron says, “We are only able to achieve that level because we all care so deeply about it.”
But, it’s not just the cool products and the constant learning that inspire employees at Definitive. “Some of my best friends in the world work at Definitive and in the industry. A lot of my social time revolves around these life-long friendships I’ve built while at work. The fact that I’m close to these folks after 25-years is a pretty big deal.”
A love for vinyl
Ron has always have had a preference for Vinyl and owns about 2,500 records. Ron comments, “it’s the closest thing to a true sampling of a musical event and that digital reproductions are simply a bunch of snapshots that are put together to mimic an actual waveform. There is a lot more resolution on the record, and, yes, it may be harder to retrieve all of it, but that’s part of the fun.”
For 35-years, Ron has owned some version of a Linn LP 12. His current LP12, a 25th Anniversary edition, was purchased in 1997 and has been entirely modified – in fact, there is only one original part remaining on it! That’s what makes every Linn LP12 special. It can evolve into something better over time.
If you’re looking for value, the LP12 is the turntable of choice. For around $4,300 you can purchase a classic turntable and have the ability to upgrade to your unique spec – now or in the future. Because the LP12 is fully modular, there are literally hundreds of options, often an investment of a few hundred dollars can make a world of difference in the sound produced.
In the early 70’s an LP12 was under $500. When you build such an iconic product with phenomenal build quality, it tends to stick around. That translates to a healthy used LP12 marketplace and Definitive works on a ton of classic LP12s that merely need a basic tune-up, a little TLC, and few parts. (Yes, after 30-years of use, parts get a bit worn out!)
There are approximately 150,000 LP12 turntables out in the world, and the Greater Puget Sound area has its share of LP12 enthusiasts. “I will tell you there are another 20,000 turntables out there are rebuilt out of old LP12s parts,” Ron laughs, “and I know I’m responsible for a bunch of them!”
Ron has several music systems in his home. In his living room, his Linn system consists of a LP12 turntable, a top of the line Klimax DSM streamer/preamp, Majik 6100 amplifier, and Majik 109 speakers.
His second audio set-up is in his basement. It is similar in that it includes, a more modest, Linn LP12 and Linn speakers. However, what’s special is the 1961 Fisher C-500 tube receiver, which has been fully restored cosmetically and electrically. Yes, you read that right, a 65-year-old amp, the kind prior to circuit boards – when they were stuffed with tubes! This piece is particularly special to Ron because that’s what he grew up with as a kid.
What might surprise you about Ron?
Ron is not only a connoisseur of Linn. He has two other interests that he is particularly fond of.
First, he owns a 50-year old Italian lever pull espresso machine. This commercial machine allows him to pull, by hand, a traditional espresso. This hands-on craft makes you appreciate the skill involved in making a perfect cup of espresso and is and not something an electric machine can reproduce. What are a few of Ron’s favorite coffees? Local Stumptown ‘Hairbender’ is a staple, and when he’s got his act together, he orders ‘Blue Jaguar’ espresso from Red Bird Coffee in Montana.
Then, there is his beer collection. This is not just a few beers shoved in an old fridge in the garage. Ron has a large cellar in his basement consisting of hundreds of beers, including some from Belgium that can age up to 40-years. Will he wait for 40-years to pop those open? He admits, he may not have the willpower to let them age that long.
In this busy world, we should all strive to be a little more like Ron – taking the time out to truly experience the complexity and craftsmanship found in a hand-pulled espresso, a well-aged beer or an excellent piece of vinyl.