The Spin Doktor breathes new life into old turntables

The Spin Doktor breathes new life into old turntables
Mr Mastan cleaning a stylus with his homemade brush.

I was about to experience "the sweet spot".

As soon as this reporter enters the four-room HDB flat in Pasir Ris, Mr Mastan Abdul Latip excitedly asks: "What's your jam?"

Mr Mastan, 64, is known as The Spin Doktor - if you need a turntable repaired or restored, he is the man. With windows shut and speakers arranged precisely, I step into his operating theatre.

The Spin Doktor directs me to the sofa in middle of the living room - the sweet spot of the surround sound experience.

He plays track after track of Pink Floyd and The Beatles while explaining the difference in quality between the sound of my preferred MP3 tracks and the superior sound of his vinyl.

Even a non-music junkie like myself can appreciate the difference. It is close to being at a live concert.

The grandfather-of-one used to be a sailor and then a barber before choosing to bring life back to old music players 11 years ago.

Despite the high demand for vintage players, or at least the vintage look, he is notorious for turning away customers who want their old turntables modified with modern parts.

Mr Mastan is a purist and a perfectionist. He uses only original parts, carefully sourced from the Internet or his own inventory. Each player can take months to complete.

"I don't care how long it takes for me to find them. I want only the best for my customers," the Spin Doktor explains.

Given this labour of love, it's ironic that he used to hate these now-prized items.

"I grew up with five siblings and my dad worked in a cinema. One brother tore the tickets, another worked the projector," says Mr Mastan.

"I was the DJ. I had to play background music while the audience waited for the show to start.

"There were three shows daily and I had to be there 30 minutes before every show. I was only 13, still young and defiant. I would have rather spent time with my friends instead of playing records."

As he shows off his turntable collection, he describes how his passion ignited.

While cutting a customer's hair during his barber days, he was asked if there was any good music to be played. Deciding to use an old record player he had lying around, he found that he liked the sound and look so much, he wanted to get more players.

"It was 1995 and people were throwing away their record players," he says.

"I went hunting at second-hand stores and Sungei Road. Back then, you could easily get a Lenco player for only $25."

While some of the players he picked up at throwaway prices would cost thousands of dollars now, a few were in good condition.

Mr Mastan decided to restore them, and the Spin Doktor was born.

This self-taught master is also renowned for his plinth designs that use Australian pine instead of the usual compressed wood.

"This wood enhances the acoustics," enthuses Mr Mastan.

Even in a world of digital and streamed music, his admirable belief in the beauty of analogue music appears sound.


This article was first published on Oct 5, 2014.
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