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"The motion is smooth as butter, and a pleasure to rotate."
February 22, 2013 11:38 AM   Subscribe

KnobFeel - Reviews based purely on the feel of the knob.

As was stated when this Tumblr launched: "Video reviews of some of the finest hi-fi…. Based purely on knob feel!"
posted by soundofsuburbia (81 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
My parents' stereo setup is all run through a circa 1980 radio tuner that was originally part of a turntable/tuner set. A CD player has long since replaced the turntable, and the radio tuner no longer picks up a radio signal, but the volume for the whole system is still controlled by the knob on the tuner. And it feels so good to turn that knob. When I was a kid, if I were home alone, sometimes I'd put on some music, and then turn the knob up and down, over and over, just to feel it under my fingers. I wondered if anyone else ever did that, too.

I totally get where this guy is coming from.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:45 AM on February 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


Okay, this is completely and totally awesome. People will really need to watch the review videos to truly appreciate the greatness here.
posted by koeselitz at 11:45 AM on February 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Here we have our Valentines day special Knob Feel. I’m very disappointed with the Roksan here. Nowhere near enough depth to the knob, and too much weight to the rotation. Also lacking in Knob grip. No satisfaction this Valentines day.

You could replace all the videos of stereos with photos of beefcake and have a pretty good gay personals site.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:46 AM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


hard start to the rotation, then a nice weight when in motion. This confuses my Feel greatly. Overall very good, but hard to get over the stiff beginning.

seriously i am like five and dying over here
posted by backseatpilot at 11:47 AM on February 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
posted by Greg Nog at 11:49 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


OMG KNOBS
posted by Mister_A at 11:52 AM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


My parents' "tuner" is apparently technically called a stereophonic receiver, and from vague recollections that it was a brand that started with M and ended with Z, I found this great gallery of Marantz receivers. My parents' is similar to many of them, something like this. Oh, man, I forgot about the "gyro-touch tuning." That was as fun to play with as the volume knob (and ever so slightly less obnoxious, because it sounds like you're flipping through channels, not winding up and down from quiet to LOUD).
posted by ocherdraco at 11:57 AM on February 22, 2013


Guy sounds kind of like young Hugh Laurie.
posted by echo target at 11:57 AM on February 22, 2013


I suddenly realize that I make the same kinds of sounds when I'm feeling knobs. Perhaps that's why Best Buy has forbidden me from ever returning.
posted by koeselitz at 11:58 AM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Overall a very average knob experience, but not one I’d shy away from using.

Freija preserve me from people picky enough to shy away from twisting ill-designed knobs. But I approve of their attention to detail; physicality matters!
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:59 AM on February 22, 2013


This is entirely for the unspoken dick pun, right?
posted by spitefulcrow at 12:00 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are you hinting at some kind of ... innuendo?
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 12:02 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, what exactly are you suggesting, sir? That this is some kind of lewd thing? LOOK WE'RE JUST HERE TO FEEL THE KNOBS OK
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:04 PM on February 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well, you've got to applaud the fact that that guy was able to claim the domain name.

You think the blog is just a side business while he waits for the bidding to go up?
posted by PlusDistance at 12:07 PM on February 22, 2013


I remember when I inherited a car with a cool new aftermarket stereo and it was THE WORST and the worst of the worst was the knob.

1) It was actually a disk, not a knob, so you couldn't grab it
2) The amount-of-spin to amount-of-value change ratio was too high
3) No clicking

THE WORST.
posted by DU at 12:07 PM on February 22, 2013


the stereo is my penis
posted by backseatpilot at 12:08 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lovely notched feel to the rotation

That's actually a wonderful description of a certain kind of tactile pleasure. Part of why this is so delightful is that there is truly some very thoughtful knobkritik going on.
posted by neroli at 12:16 PM on February 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Man, this really hits a soft spot for me. I love the feel of well-made analog controls. The volume knob on my Carver CT-17 is so silky and weighted just right. And the tuning knob on my Pioneer SX-650 is almost sexy, it's so smooth.

I'm with you, DU, about the feel of aftermarket car radios. They're the antithesis of ergonomic design. I've purposely avoided replacing the radio in my old GTI because, as average as the factory radio is, the controls on aftermarket units are appallingly worse.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:17 PM on February 22, 2013


Every knob in my life has to measure up to the big silver knob that sent me up and down the radio dial on my parents early-sixties vintage console hi-fi. Not only smooth as butter, but the friction was so minimal that you could give it a good twist at 102 and it would shoot down to 85 and BOUNCE back up to the high nineties. And you had to lift the lid to access all this, so it all happened in a dark private space illuminated only by the glowing radio display dial. That thing was the shit.

I remember wondering how they could get the radio knob so right, and the phonograph part so wrong. Too rickety, too rattley and clickety, and the turntable floated on springs inside the cabinet so the whole thing felt unstable.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:17 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Brings to mind a /usr/bin/fortune classic:
Frobnicate, v.:

To manipulate or adjust, to tweak. Derived from FROBNITZ. Usually abbreviated to FROB.
See TWEAK and TWIDDLE.
Usage: FROB, TWIDDLE, and TWEAK sometimes connote points along a continuum. FROB connotes aimless manipulation; TWIDDLE connotes gross manipulation, often a coarse search for a proper setting; TWEAK connotes fine-tuning. If someone is turning a knob on an oscilloscope, then if he's carefully adjusting it he is probably tweaking it; if he is just turning it but looking at the screen he is probably twiddling it; but if he's just doing it because turning a knob is fun, he's frobbing it.
posted by ceribus peribus at 12:19 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Some say that the internet was made for photos of kittens. To them, I say, "No. It was made for this". I rather liked it
posted by quarsan at 12:28 PM on February 22, 2013


Leonard likes this post!
posted by Bistle at 12:29 PM on February 22, 2013


You people laugh, but when I was in high school we evaluated tape decks by the granularity of their level meters. 5 LEDS bad, analog with virtually infinite reading good. I'm sure it made a huge difference when copying a 3rd generation copy of a Black Sabbath album.
posted by COD at 12:35 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder how well knob quality works as a proxy for overall stereo quality. It might actually be a good measure.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:41 PM on February 22, 2013


Is this some kind of ASMR thing? Because I still don't understand ASMR.

though I do totally love playing with knobs on electronics.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:42 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a "mouth feel" joke in here somewhere.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:44 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I deeply regret the fact that the domain name means I cannot peruse the link until after work, because the need for greater knobliness is absolutely killing me. It's like there's a tiny pointy thing stuck to the roof of my mouth, and someone has tied down my tongue. Gaaaahhhh.

...also, let us now talk about switches. Certain old "hi-fi" sets had terrible switches that depressed with a sort of empty thunk, but some... oh some... some had these lovely switches that had just the right amount of resistance to being pressed. A couple had a nonlinear response, so that they were harder to press, then easier as you approached the final click, but then hard again just at the very end.

OMG. Hnnnngg. I wanted to bite them.

(not innuendo-ist, true story)
posted by aramaic at 12:45 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Came for the innuendo, left...shall we say...satisfied. Though surprised that it started as late as the third post, frankly.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:48 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


This. This is what the internet is for.

Feeling as many knobs as possible.
posted by fight or flight at 12:49 PM on February 22, 2013


I, for one, have made far too many decisions based on the feel of the knob.
posted by mazola at 12:51 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sometimes a knob is just a knob, you doinks!
posted by Mister_A at 12:51 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


You people laugh, but when I was in high school we evaluated tape decks by the granularity of their level meters.

In 1986, I choose a new stereo based solely on how smooth the soft-eject was on the tape deck. So that's a thing that happened.
posted by dersins at 12:51 PM on February 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have a set of Genelec speakers for my computer and The 5040A Subwoofer has a separate volume knob that is just sublime. Set on a well-weighed base, the spin is smooth and nicely weighed. I have hardly ever handled a knob that feels better.
posted by Authorized User at 12:55 PM on February 22, 2013


Oh man I miss all this stuff terribly. I miss stroking knobs in the middle of the night, I miss easing things open at the touch of a button.
posted by Mister_A at 12:56 PM on February 22, 2013


Man, this really hits a soft spot for me. I love the feel of well-made analog controls.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Tempest remains, to this day, the single best cabinet video game experience of all time. And this is why.
posted by The Bellman at 12:57 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


"My knob tastes funny!"
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:57 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Finally, someone found a legitimate use for You Tube.
posted by slogger at 1:02 PM on February 22, 2013


Dial ergonomics are still very much a thing in shortwave radio circles. Any good review will make some note of the knobfeel (as I suppose we'll call it here). Higher-end tabletop radios also come with adjustable-tension dials, so you can get your own perfect ratio of spin to resistance. After all, the average SWL will spend most of their time spinning and spinning and spinning that dial for the entire life of their radio (or the life of the SWL!).
posted by mykescipark at 1:04 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is sort of like my feelings regarding the headlight switch on my '72 Triumph Daytona. That switch feels absolutely wonderful in every metallic click-clackety way imaginable. The rest of that freaking godawful British nightmare torture machine, however, fails to live up to this promise.

Mind you, for knob feel, the tuning knob on my RF-2200 is lovely and precise, and the big knob on my PC-1600 is a treat after a little bit of modification. I have a soft spot for an oversized knob with a finger divot, you see.
posted by sonascope at 1:11 PM on February 22, 2013


Shall I get my cock out?
posted by jph at 1:13 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Uhhhh? Oooooooooh... ah!
posted by codacorolla at 1:13 PM on February 22, 2013


The quality in volume control on hi-fi equipment seemed to decline sharply in the 90s when motorized controls were de rigueur and presumably weight became a design factor. Even though motorized volume hasn't been in style for a while now, current build quality doesn't compare to the weighted/silky smooth twist of a vintage Marantz or Pioneer. Based on this extremely credible source though, I think we can safely say knob feel is poised to make a big comeback.
posted by Lorin at 1:15 PM on February 22, 2013


Anyone ever feel this USB knob? It certainly looks pretty knobby.
posted by orme at 1:26 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I kind of want a review of the Nexus Q, which was, after all, all knob.
posted by phooky at 1:29 PM on February 22, 2013


orme: "Anyone ever feel this USB knob? It certainly looks pretty knobby."

I have one of those. I bought it so I could play Tempest. Could never get it to work right. The knobfeel is lovely though. Even though I don't use the Mac anymore I keep this knob in a secret place and take it out every once in awhile. It looks so nice out I could leave it out all day.
posted by chavenet at 1:29 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's a nice enough knob, orme, but nothing special. (A coworker has one.)
posted by hattifattener at 1:30 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


That mass market consumer gear is all very well, but here in amateur radio we have a aftermarket in knobby alternatives. We did invent the darn things, after all. Well, almost.
posted by Devonian at 1:41 PM on February 22, 2013


I spent thousands of hours as a kid fiddling with the exquisite controls of my dad's Pioneer tape deck. Every switch, button and knob felt like it was connected to some kind of industrial, hydraulic cassette tape machine.

Why couldn't they ever make a counter reset button that didn't feel cheap though?
posted by orme at 1:44 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't believe anyone pays $135 for a knob.
posted by Mitheral at 1:48 PM on February 22, 2013


When you do QSY with a 200 kHz spread on the VFO, you need a CNC-machined knob from the USA.
posted by Authorized User at 1:54 PM on February 22, 2013


Mitheral, surely you jest.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 1:55 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cripes. I have space dedicated for a lathe in my shop but I haven't been able to afford the one I want yet. If I could convince just a hundred ten people to buy a $500 dollar knob from me I'd be all set.

maybe I should look into a kickstarter project
posted by Mitheral at 2:00 PM on February 22, 2013


The KnobFeel is the thing I miss most about old-timey edit suites.
posted by DaddyNewt at 2:16 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Perhaps he would appreciate browsing The Knob Shop.
posted by Gordafarin at 2:22 PM on February 22, 2013


I kept an otherwise basically useless high voltage power supply for years because its knob, a giant thing connected to a heavy wirewound rheostat, was just such a pleasure to turn. Smooth and massy, with just a hint of texture imparted by the spring-loaded carbon brush moving across the time-smoothed windings. sigh
posted by hattifattener at 2:27 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


chavenet: It looks so nice out I could leave it out all day.

I see what you did there
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:30 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Frobnicate, v.: To manipulate or adjust, to tweak. Derived from FROBNITZ. Usually abbreviated to FROB.

Now you're just making me want a stereo knob that becomes slightly illuminated (NOT a neon cyan glow) when I look at it.
posted by straight at 2:55 PM on February 22, 2013


Best knobs in the world are on Variacs.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:28 PM on February 22, 2013


I mean look at this thing, you're telling me you don't want to turn that right now?
posted by nathancaswell at 3:29 PM on February 22, 2013


What? That knob is a philistine knob. I demand smooth, matte black or brushed chrome finish metal knobs. The outward-facing surface should be smooth, with some extraordinarily fine texture around the barrel (or brushed finish as I mentioned). The knob should be just a little bit larger than you'd have thought it would be.
posted by Mister_A at 3:37 PM on February 22, 2013


AND NO CLICKING ON THE KNOBS! I LIKED THAT THE FIRST TIME I SAW IT WHEN IT WAS CALLED "A BUTTON".
posted by Mister_A at 3:37 PM on February 22, 2013


I, uh...

I've got a Heathkit AR-1500. It's kind of low on knob count -- only five knobs, and four of them are just okay: Solid, with the usual sort of friction-without-stiction that a decent rheostat-type wiper should have. Despite their small size and relatively high resistance, they're easy to turn because of the smoothness of the wipe and the knurling on the knobs. But the tuner knob... ah, that is a thing of joy! The heavy counterweight behind the front panel gives it a robust sense of solidity, and it is a pleasure to move. You don't even have to listen to the radio to enjoy this receiver, just take your time panning through the stations, back and forth, back and forth for hours...

And a Scott 222c. It's a fine old amp with eight knobs. This might be the least satisfying of the lot, albeit not for lack of a sense of substance and solidity. The smoothly polished, champagne-finished solid metal assures that. The wiper knobs move just so; the clicky knobs have detents that are so strong your fingers will get quite a workout trying to move them.

There's also the Fisher X-202-B (selflink, sorry: Google Images thought my photos of an X-202-B were the best, and I could not bring myself to disagree with a mindless machine). It's a fine one, also with eight knobs, five of them nested, for THIRTEEN KNOB TWIDDLE OPTIONS. It's a bit dated, so the wiper-style knobs are fine-not-great, but the selector knobs, used to switch between sources, or between channels, or between RIAA EQ settings; those knobs move with peerless, satisfying THUNKs.

Finally, the current showpiece of the collection, a McIntosh 4100 receiver, with NINE separate knobs, one of them nested. Five are for the built-in EQ (which works very well, thank you). The tuner knob is like the Heathkit's yet with a lighter touch that makes it feel more like a precision machine. The volume knob is stepped, providing endless small bip, bip, bip sensations as I make the sound louder and softer. All the knobs, regardless of size, are satisfying and solid without ever feeling imposing.
posted by ardgedee at 4:36 PM on February 22, 2013


Griffin PowerMate, yeah. The software integration never lived up to the hardware, which is about as good a man-macine interface ever built, with the trackball on the Powerbook 180c coming in a close second.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:48 PM on February 22, 2013


You're all a bunch of fucking perverts.

(Cambridge A500 Amplifier volume control & Denon DRS-610 Cassette Deck record level setting are my favourites.)
posted by Len at 4:56 PM on February 22, 2013


"Billy! Are you frobbing off in there?"
"NO! Don't come in!"

*radio stations swell and fade, swell and fade, swell and fade...
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:13 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Damn, I've got a Cambridge Azur 540A and I would (normally, when not worried about looking like a deviant) characterize the knob feel as pretty sloppy. Still an incredibly good sounding amp for the price, and the balance/tone knobs have appropriately velvety action. Amongst my other gear, the Full-tone tremolo pedal has excellent knob feel—mostly because they're knurled and of a size that allow for adjustment with your toes. And here I was trying not to get too kinky.
posted by Lorin at 5:16 PM on February 22, 2013


Oh man, this video; I hate that kind of knob. It hardly even deserves the name!
posted by ocherdraco at 5:47 PM on February 22, 2013


My dad has a Marantz stereo from the 1970s, a bit like this one although a different model (and hooked up to two of these brilliant Quad electrostatic speakers), and I thought of it instantly when I saw this post. The knobs on it are solid metal and an absolute pleasure to use. Knobfeel would love them.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:22 PM on February 22, 2013


The sorry bead-blasted finish that passes for "silver" in stereo equipment these days is surely part of the problem. It's easy enough to clean with magic eraser but it'll never match that classic brushed stainless shine.
posted by Lorin at 7:09 PM on February 22, 2013


All of your knob containing equipment is but a pale shadow of my rane mp2016 dj mixer. God I love those knobs.
posted by flaterik at 8:21 PM on February 22, 2013


Damn flaterik, those are gorgeous looking knobs.
posted by panaceanot at 8:53 PM on February 22, 2013


The best knobs are really on old (80's) Tektronix Scopes. Their big solid clunk when you change horizontal resolution is wonderful as well as the fact that they have five different functions all in one.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 11:27 PM on February 22, 2013


When I was a teenager, my parents bought a stereo with a volume knob that had detents. Detents?! In an analog volume knob? Ugh! I was all WTF before that was even an expression.

See also, my nikon D40 kit lens manual focusing ring. It feels and is crap. I loved my old Olympus lens' smooth focusing movement.

I want a keyboard that has a nice smooth audio volume knob. And maybe a few user-assignable knobs.

OK, OK. I'm like that.
posted by DarkForest at 4:40 AM on February 23, 2013


My dad's mono hi-fi had the sweetest volume knob you could ever twist, smooth with a certain heft. Sadly, a mid-60's repair replaced the pot and ruined it.
posted by Jode at 5:57 AM on February 23, 2013


I want a keyboard that has a nice smooth audio volume knob.

The Sidewinder X6 has an excellent feel, if you can overlook the fact that one of its oversized knobs inexplicably does nothing but dim the backlight. But boy is it fun to turn: light goes up, light goes down, light goes up, light goes down...
posted by Lorin at 8:57 AM on February 23, 2013


My dad has a Marantz stereo from the 1970s, a bit like this one although a different model (and hooked up to two of these brilliant Quad electrostatic speakers), and I thought of it instantly when I saw this post. The knobs on it are solid metal and an absolute pleasure to use.

My parents had one of those Marantz receivers from the late 60's / early 70's with a wooden cabinet. OMG that tuning dial. So perfectly balanced, so perfectly weighted. I will never again encounter an analog control so pleasurable to operate.
posted by dersins at 8:59 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


light goes up, light goes down, light goes up, light goes down.

You can't explain that!
posted by Authorized User at 9:02 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am so delighted by this. It takes a certain type of temperament to pull of being simultaneously earnest and self-parodying.
posted by desuetude at 1:46 PM on February 23, 2013


My parents had one of those Marantz receivers

I hate you.

Nothing personal, mind, and we're all cheerful folk!

But still, I hate you.

Hate.
posted by aramaic at 9:02 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The volume knob on my aftermarket car stereo changes the volume according to how fast you turn it, rather than how far. Three slow clicks clockwise will inch the volume up a smidge. The same three clicks clockwise in rapid fashion will blow your eardrums out.

For knob aficionados, is that considered good or bad? Because I hate it.

However, I'm pleased to remember the huge variation in quality between the 3 knobs on my parents' record player, which is the size of a large console table and used as such except at Christmas Eve when we break out the Bing Crosby record. The volume and radio knobs ("hi-fi tuner," I think it maybe says?) are huge and smooth and wonderful. But the speed knob for the record player itself is a thing of torture. I didn't even have the hand strength to turn it until I was nearly in junior high. It sort of pulls against its stops as you crank harder and harder, with just enough give to make it seem like maybe its actually broken. The entire square of the turntable platform sort of twists a bit on its bouncy springs, so I always figure if it isn't broken yet, it's probably about to be. And then with a sudden loud pop of the speakers, the knob settles into the next setting and the turntable starts spinning all calm-like, so we settle in for some Silent Night and a feast.
posted by vytae at 10:52 AM on February 25, 2013


For knob aficionados, is that considered good or bad? Because I hate it.

It sucks, the holdoff knob on my o'scope does that too, pisses me off every time I use it. The local sales rep was here recently demo-ing a new scope and I explicitly checked that.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:59 PM on February 25, 2013


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