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Sunday, 31 October 2010

Comments

I'm certainly no audiophile, but I do have the Technics SL-1200 in my studio and it makes setting up for shoots immensely more enjoyable. Here's the thing I've found, though: my new records (i.e. the vinyl versions of new recordings made, presumably, on modern digital recording equipment) don't seem to have the same quality of sound as those old dog-eared classics from 20 years ago. This could all be hooey, psychosomatic, or just plain wrong, because I'm no expert. But I don't feel like I hear a significant difference between my new vinyl and my new iTunes downloads of the same songs. They are definitely heavier gauge, more finely crafted pieces of vinyl today, but I'm just not sure they sound quite right.
Your opinion?

You're not alone! I still have my Oracle table, and there's nothing nicer than relaxing to listen to it.

Even with all the advances made in modern playback, nothing draws me in like vinyl. I find the same is true in the car; if it's a digital source, I get bored. But with vinyl I always want to hear more. (Just like TOP - I like to stay longer) I couldn't imagine owning one of those 'pod thingies...

Lovely post. I do own a 1200 that i bougth recently new. The black piano one, exactly the one in the picture. I like it as an industrial concept. I never spent that much on music, but I love how it sounds through my Pioneer SX-880 receiver. And when you still have friends who come over and have barbecues and try to change records after a few beers, well, I don't need the super expensive gear, the Technics takes abuse gallantly.
Just bought Ironman II soundtrack, which is basically an AC/DC greatest hits album, pressed on 180 grams vinyl, and it makes me happy!!
Howie Gelb, I'd get that one too. But I can tell my musical taste has shifted a little since I started taking antidepressants, quite an interesting thing. I'm not playing any Pink Floyd again, I guess.

"my new records...don't seem to have the same quality of sound as those old dog-eared classics from 20 years ago...I don't feel like I hear a significant difference between my new vinyl and my new iTunes downloads of the same songs...Your opinion?"

There's nothing inherently magic about vinyl. I have plenty of stinky recordings on vinyl. Curiously, I also have some recordings that I can hear are plainly "better" on vinyl--from a point-by-point audiophile perspective--and yet that I just prefer as downloaded files.

I at least feel that there's nothing wrong with downloaded files as a source. A curious phenomenon I've noticed with DAC reviews is that almost all reviewers end up liking what they're reviewing, regardless of what it is. Digital music on the hard drive played through a DAC is clearly the best mid-fi source we've ever had--it might be the best hi-fi source we've ever had, too, not that I'd know.

Certainly, with vinyl, there are still good recordings, indifferent ones, and bad ones. It *is* possible, though, that with your studio setup you're not hearing as much of the differences that might actually exist between your records and your MP3 files. There is actually a very popular cartridge--the horrible Sumiko Blue Point Special--that to my ear manages to mimic the characteristic sound of CDs. No doubt it is popular because it sounds like what most people are used to hearing.

Mike

Paul,
I have to agree. Being a digital audiophile can just drive you insane--it seems like no matter how much money you spend and how much you mess around with it, and how perfect it gets to your analytical brain, real satisfaction always remains elusively, tantalizingly just beyond your reach. I wasn't really 100% happy with my audio hobby until I just gave in...got a tube amp and preamp, a turntable, a moving coil cartridge--just did all the old-fashioned classic audio-hobbyist standard things. Now, it's the opposite--I can hear the flaws in my setup and I just don't care, because I find it immersive, satisfying, and relaxing, and it makes me happy.

Mike

Bang and Olufsen manufactured some very attractive turntables several decades ago that would look contemporary today. Some models had tone arms that were motorized so that they could run parallel to the groove and not put any extra pressure on one side of the groove. They were also belt driven. They are restricted as to what cartridges they will accept. There is a reasonable number for sale used, and you can still buy new parts, including belts and cartridges, for them. Although they were expensive and performed reasonably well, connoisseurs looked down on them as they had limited choices for cartridges and their tonearms could not be changed, among other things. A benefit of the motorized tonearm is that it can be moved directly and gently to the exact spot on the record that one wished to access without having to touch the tonearm.

Mike:
This is way, way off topic from photography, but I had to remove the spikes from my speaker stands since I had hard floors put in. I've thought about just putting pennies or something under the spikes, but I've wondered where I could find loose ball bearings since they would fit into the depression in the stands where the spikes were. Any ideas on where to find ball bearings? Any other suggestions?

Feel free to email me directly since this is so off topic.

I am curious which USB DAC you eventually settled on. I have owned several and was generally dissatisfied with all of them (including one that was thousands of dollars) until I took the advice of a friend and purchased an M-BOX MINI which is usually used for recording. I am using it as a sound card and I input its line out to my amp. It sounds great without any static, cracks, or drop outs. It was only a few hundred bucks too.

I still have all my vinyl from the sixties and seventies. I have been all digital since the early eighties. So many formats have disappeared - or soon will - Reel to reel, eight track, minidisk, cassette, DAT, DVD-A, SACD and soon CD, DVD, and Blu-ray.

I agree with you that there is no longer a need to actually play CDs. DVDs are heading out along with Blu-ray thanks to streaming. Vinyl endures! - at least for now.

R.I.P., but Hallelujah!
Never could understand the hype about the SL-1200.
A Rega P3-24 (my current favourite), a Thorens TD 160 with RME 3009 or TD 124 with a 3012 and large baseplate (yikes, got one fitted for 78 rpm back when everybody was tossing vinyl for Sony CDP and Carver room processors): these I can dig. The SL-1200 was a dog. Nothing against dogs, charming animals, but musical they are not. Except for Buffy Saint-Bernard.

Now I'm spending every free minute digitising unique studio tape material and rare old LPs. Fascinating stuff, memorable music, and some tapes are acoustically great, but don't anyone ever mention the 'warmth and musicality' of vinyl in my presence. Not unless they're ready to have signal analysis thrown at them. Compared to 50 years old studio tapes, let alone decently done current digital material, TT output signals are funky-to-filthy, verging on disgusting.
(Sarcasm flag raised, flak vest donned.)

"I am curious which USB DAC you eventually settled on"

Ed,
I bought a Musical Fidelity X-CAN V8P headphone amp, which I use as a basic preamp. It has a USB input and a NOS (non-oversampling) DAC. It also has one line input.

It's a descendant--great-great-great-grandson--of the first preamp I ever bought, which happened to be the first preamp that Anthony Michaelson of Musical Fidelity ever marketed...a lovely little thing called "The Preamp."

Oddly, it was the X-CAN V8P which led me to get back into vinyl. I tried the line-in with a CD player, and was so impressed with it as a line stage that it just seemed a shame to let it go to waste. So I bought the Rega.

So I'm running USB and a turntable through a headphone amp.

And I don't even own any headphones. [g]

Mike

I have the amazing luxury of being friends with a constant up-grader. When he gets it in his head something isn't right it's out the door at a bargain price. As I type this I'm sitting in his "old" Eames chair that's parked right next to his "old" VPI record cleaner. I'm constantly telling him that what he has is just fine and that upgrading is an endless battle that he'll never win. Now he's talking about getting rid of his VPI Scout and I'm trying hard to be neutral because I do believe it would look stunning on my console.

Chad,
Made me laugh. For a while on CompuServe in the '90s, one guy kept buying my cast-off cameras. After about the third time, he emailed me and said, "So what camera are we buying next?"

In my defense I will say that some of them were test samples for reviews...but, ah, only some of them.

Mike

I listen frequently to vinyl using my 40-year-old ARXa. I swap cartridges now and then (Denon, Grado, Microacoustics, ADC, etc) just to revive some of the old memories when I bought each of them.
I may have about a dozen CDs that I think are comparable in sound quality to those special direct-to-disk records I've cared for all these years, but the vast majority don't come close. I'll have to see what's available on vinyl next time I'm shopping for music. BTW, some people recommended cutting small slits in the racquetballs to adjust the compliance. What fun it was back then!

Well, Mike, I wasn't always smart about keeping the stuff I liked. I bought Vandersteen series 2 speakers at the same time as my Sota set-up. But, money in my pocket eventually led to various 'upgrades' over the years (in technology and price), ultimately leading to some absurdly priced Wilson Watt Puppies. I found myself not listening to as much vinyl, and not having the same enjoyment when I did. Four years ago I sold the Wilsons and bought the then current Vandersteen 2ce Signatures and the old feeling was back. And, I used the extra dollars to fund lots more vinyl. Lesson learned (I hope).

Say, Mike,
maybe you can explain some of these quaint customs to us younger folk.* What does the little red light on the Technics turntable do, and does it have something to do with the little black dots at the edge of the disk? I remember seeing something like that on my Dad's turntable** and I always wondered about them.

Will


*ducks
**mono cartridge attached to a mono tube amp. He bought mono records because they were cheaper than stereo, and he was waiting to re-buy everything in quadraphonic when it finally became popular. He accidentally ended up with a cheap quad system in the mid eighties - came with the house he bought. I'm not sure what he thought of CDs, though he was still alive when they were status objects for the filthy rich.

The Technics was never meant to be an audiophile turntable but a workhorse for professional DJs. I know several who have at least two working 1200s on the go.
I couldn't find a good deal on one so got a brand new American Audi DJ turntable a couple of years ago and it's great for our impromptu living room dance parties!
Downstairs in my office/lair I have a belt drive RJ turntable with Mission tone arm and Shure cartridge.
I love buying LPs now and most of them come with digital downloads of the album or sometimes a CD. Best of both worlds! There's never been a better time for buying music!

"Say, Mike, maybe you can explain some of these quaint customs to us younger folk. What does the little red light on the Technics turntable do, and does it have something to do with the little black dots at the edge of the disk?"

Will,
It's a stroboscopic speed indicator or checker. When illuminated with a lamp running off common 60 Hz household current, the "dots" (sometimes they are lines) appear to be standing still when the correct speed is achieved. The different sets of dots are for different speeds (45, 33 1/3, 78, etc.). If the dots advance or lag behind it means the speed of the 'table is off. You can also buy paper ones that go on the platter like records.

Generally they're only present on turntables that have some way of adjusting the speed, because why would you want to know the speed of your turntable is slightly off if you have no way of correcting it? And sometimes the dots or lines are underneath the platter and viewed through a little window with a mirror.

Mike

I DJ'ed during the Rave scene of the early '90s. I ended up going digital (then getting a desk job) but I'll miss the "T-1-2, 'Wheels of Steel.' "

Still have all my vinyl records in boxes and my Dual 1219 turntable. I keep threatening to hook it all back up some day. Yep, someday...

Y'all be careful now, this is audiophile talk! lol!!

I was looking at the Wheaton arm, way back when, but went with the Graham instead. Once you reach a certain level, you need to run a moving coil.

I never went for tubes, but I did fall for class A amplification. I'm currently using a Nelson Pass design.

And don't get me started on speakers! lol

I bought that smifs album the day it came out and still play it on my Project turntable.

Sorry, but these decks are legends in the club DJ circuit...
It isn't significant? That's too harsh.

I know very little about high-end audio but seeing the turntable reminded me of my dad and the many Garrard turntables he owned, with mostly Shure cartridges I believe. I don't think he was an audiophile but more of a hobbyist. I remember back in the early 60s he built a pair of speaker cabinets with these huge Jensen speakers. When I got a little older I pretty much co-opted them to listen to my rock records. I bought many sets of speakers over the years but none seemed to sound as good as my dad's old Jensens. Lovely blog, by the way.

I must say I do love my Knosti Disco Antistat a whole lot more than my virus scanner :)

Interestingly, I too listen to vinyl exclusively at home, while my CDs just get ripped to go on the iPod. Hard to call it a pattern with such little evidence, but it would kind of make sense for CDs to disappear, while vinyl and files live on.

> default choice for wedding DJs and scratchers

In fact for years it was the default choice for all night club and disco DJs, especially all those playing house and techno music. By the early 2000s there were also decks on the market which were technically comparable to the SL1200, but I don't know how much market share they succeeded in taking from the Technics.

> Never could understand the hype about the SL-1200. A Rega P3-24 [...]

That is like saying "I never could understand the hype about a Ford truck. Now my Porsche Boxster..." The hype about it is that for years it was by far the best at what it did, which was playing records beatmixed in a night club. The only people who bought them for home were DJs who needed them for practice.

> The different sets of dots are for different speeds (45, 33 1/3, 78, etc.).

They are indeed for different speeds, but not in that way. I have just looked over at my SL1210s (which are currently only half accessible under a pile of cameras, but that is another story), and the four rows are, from top to bottom, for nominal record speed (e.g. 33 1/3 or 45) + 6%, +3.3%, +0% and -3%. (The strobe gets fired at a speed to match the speed the deck is set to, i.e. 33 or 45.) For example, if you speed up a record (using the speed control on the right of the deck) by 3.3%, then the 2nd row from top appears stopped. In all honesty I never found the dots useful back at the time when this stuff was relevant to me. You know roughly how much faster or slower a record is going by looking at how you have set the speed control, and whether it is bang on +3.3% faster or not is just not important.

I'm sad to read about them being discontinued - but on the other hand I have got mine, and the way they are built to stand up to professional use for hours on end, several nights per week, year in, year out, means that they will last for ever in a corner of a living room.

Alex

Kevin,
Write it off to parochialism. I don't know anything about the club circuit. Just a home stereo music listener here.

Mike

"That is like saying 'I never could understand the hype about a Ford truck. Now my Porsche Boxster...' "

...Which, of course, is just the sort of thing I would say.

Mike

Hey Mike one of my best HIFI buys ever was when the SL1200 was introduced. A good friend sold me his TD-125 with SME for $200. because he just HAD to have the new direct drive table. Sadly i let it go over the years but replaced it with a TD 145 a few years back. I have another SME somewhere in a box but impossible to mount on the 145. Nice feel to the sme though....

"A good friend sold me his TD-125 with SME for $200. because he just HAD to have the new direct drive table."

Dale,
Shhh. I am a recovering TD-124 addict. Just the mention of certain letters and numbers in certain orders can set off an, er, episode.

Mike

For years, decades, actually, until all my (alas uninsured) high end equipment was stolen, I used racquet balls to isolate my Lynn Sondek turntable (and its predecessors, a Technics among them). I miss that equipment so much ....

However, here's a tip: if you cut the racquetballs in half (a good big serrated knife like a bread knife is ideal for this) then you can skip the trip to the hardware store for pipe end caps: just use the halves cut side down — and you only need two, not four racquet balls!

(I tried it both ways: whole racquet balls and halved racquet balls, and never could detect any difference in their effectiveness.)

Got rid of all my vinyl and my last turntable about 15 years ago. The cost in terms of space and upkeep was just too high compared those miraculous little silver disc thingies.

But now I have pretty much succumbed to the convenience of MP3/AAC sources, but I did have to putz around with a variety of DACs before I found one I liked.

I've been running an Apogee Duet for a couple of years now, and have been quite satisfied. It's Firewire, not USB, and is primarily designed for use with a Mac. It also has inputs for recording, which would be superfluous for playback-only purposes. But it is a very nice little unit. It was the Duet that made it painfully clear that I needed to re-encode all my CDs at 256K rather than 128K. The difference is a smack upside the head.

So, audio-wise I'm fully digital ... but I just can't bring myself to let go of my film cameras, which I use only occasionally. I still see advantages in film, but I suppose I'll succumb to the dark side (as opposed to the dark slide) sooner or later.

RE: Vinyl records and sound quality...you are correct, depends on the care in mastering and quality of the vinyl, and riding herd on the pressings, etc., etc., etc. (absolutely every step counts)... Had a bunch of 70's-80's euro-jazz that sounded out of this world on vinyl, stunning, even with marginal analog equipment...always partial to some later Joni Mitchell vinyl as well, as being really "long scale" sonically, ditto for late 50's into the 60's Frank Sinatra, especially on those expensive RCA mics...lots of modern music is compressed beyond belief, so that it all sounds "loud" on MP-3's and limited fidelity reproduction units, so if the masters have not been redone for audiophile vinyl, it's not worth the effort and a waste of your cash...poor now, so I have never been able to keep up with audiophile thing as well as professional photography, but as my ears crap-out, it's a trade-off for me, the compression of CD's, vs. the pops and clicks I used to wreck my vinyl discs with, as Mr. Shaky, "King Of The Needle Drops"!

Now, where is the red thread between photography and audiophile?

My personal opinion is to be able to take good pictures you need a taste, a delicate and high-end taste if possible.

No wonder good photographers love good audio, good cars and so forth ...

q.e.d.

@ Eric Chin: Any ideas on where to find ball bearings? Any other suggestions?

What about marbles? If you don't like the idea of glass marbles you can get steel ones. I don't know where you are, but either can be found on the US or UK Amazon sites. You may need to shim one corner to stop it all rocking and so you can use the non embossed part of an old bank card, if pennies are too thick.

Thank you Mike, that's very helpful.

Building a dark room and starting btzs test. Well, the test is still undergoing after 2 months but got 100+ 2nd hand vinyl with a basic sound player plus a digitizer (Sony MP10). Enjoy very much especially a lot of those music could not be found anywhere but in these vinyl. I just hope that I would not enjoy too much. Otherwise instead of buying a FB paper washer I might get a record cleaning washer instead. Similar price they are ...

Just put Dave Brubeck on my 30 year old Rega P3, which I haven't used in over a year, opened up my laptop and started reading Sundays TOP...

Re: The main reason DJ's used the direct drive TTs was that if they did their scratching thing with a belt-drive, it'd quickly destroy the turntable. With the direct-drives, you could stop them by hand, and even push the platter backwards, while the unit was running, without damaging them.
Re: DD TTs "don't sound great": I had belt drive TTs from Dual, Philips, AR, and Connoisseur before I acquired my Technics 1200 DD in the early 1990's, and the Technics sounded/sounds way better than any of those[admittedly not 'high end']belt drives did. Just sayin'...

what i do have is a cdplayer. it's been sitting in its box since my speakers gave up the ghost years ago. i've since given away my amplifier & am listening to my fuzzy warbles on itunes. but it's a gorgeous cdplayer: a first generation rega planet. one of these days i'll have a hi-fi to connect it to again.

or not ...

Thanks Mike for this great off topic. Soothes my vinyl addicted soul. A possible way to get out of print vinyl is http://www.gemm.com I've been collecting some pearls there. Especially Howie Gelb, Giant Sand etc.

All the best & safe travels, Fritsch.

Hooray! You recommended The Smiths! The Queen is Dead - a very significant record from my teenage years :)

I've never understood the "vinyl love" that continues to flourish, it seems. I had all the best "hi fi" stuff you could buy back in the day. And hundreds of albums. I've always loved music, and bought the best equipment to reproduce it. The sound was great. But...

A Vinyl record is a self-destruct mechanism by nature. Regardless of the arm or cartridge, regardless of how light it tracks, every time that album is played, a little of that vinyl is scraped away and the sound deteriorates. Add in the necessity of keeping the media spotlessly clean to avoid clicks and pops and other noises, and the whole thing drove me crazier.

Almost the first day the CD player came on the market, I bought one. As quickly as I could replace my most loved albums with CD's, I did. But, within a year, I gave away my high-end turntable and all those vinyl albums. Never had any nostalgia for vinyl. And now all my music has been transferred to various generations of Ipods and the CD's are gone.

Has sound quality been lost? Yes. I've tried to explain to younger folks (I'm 60), how open and "real" a fine recording on vinyl sounded reproduced on good equipment. I've tried to explain the concept of "air" around each instrument, the illusion that you could walk into the middle of an orchestra. But they can't grasp that, and I'm not sure it really matters. All I know is I don't have to baby my digital files to keep them sounding clean, don't have to manage a thousand circular plastic things to find what I want to hear, and I listen to music a lot more because it is always with me.

I certainly don't morn the passing of a turntable. Burn 'em all and stir the ashes, I say! :)

Actually the Technics SL1200 has an audiophile following, provided that you make certain modifications, namely replacing the tone arm and the power supply. See for example www.thefunkfirm.co.uk/Turntable_upgrades/SL1200_upgrade.html

As for me, I have refurbished a circa 1970s Leak (Lenco) turntable (ebay £25) and hooked it up to a valve amp. I'd forgotten how good vinyl can sound! It's a bit like peeking at some 35mm slides from the Beforetime.

What I like is the sheer fun of old vinyl rather than the audiophile attractions. I have suddenly aquired 2 (free) tuntables, a 1968 Onkyo quadrophinic, which, apart from sounding 4 speaker fantastic, gives the added joy of the smell of dust and wood gently roasted by electronics for 40 years.It would have had more action in the last year than the last 20. It's always on. Also recently got given a 1980 Bang & Olufsen 3 in one, which weighs 18kg! Unfortunately not the original spekers, but still sounds amazing. Looks awesome too.

http://theworstofperth.com/2010/09/08/i-beomaster/
Often have both machines spinning in different parts of the house. Current favourites 1974 album Muleskinner, and the Deliverance soundtrack.

If you find yourself in Council Bluffs, Iowa you should drop in to Kanesville Collectables. They have three stories of used vinyl, some great, some not but all on the cheap.
It's right down the street from LPLs which is the home of the worlds greatest chicken fried steak (bring extra statins).

I'll feel I've arrived in the life I dream of when I'm sitting in my darkroom listening to records on my turntable. I actually have all the darkroom gear, the records, and the turntable, but don't have the space or the time to set up any of it.

On the relevance of the 1200s, there is one displayed at the London Museum of Science and Technology, as one of the defining tech objects of our times.

Panasonic may be discontinuing the Technics line of tables but the parts will live on for awhile. That big round power switch knob, the square start-stop button, and the speed control slider all appear on several tables by other brands.

The mention of Best Buy is interesting. I bought the reissue of Abbey Road on LP at my local Best Buy several months ago. It's a well done reissue but I wouldn't say it sings on my table like many of my $1 bin thrift store finds. I haven't found anything online to support what I suspect but I wouldn't be surprised if the Abbey Road reissue was cut from the 1980's remaster. One person mentioned Dave Brubeck. The 1963 Brubeck Quartet Live At Carnegie Hall dual LP release for which I paid $2 is fantastic. At the moment my Best Buy has a handful of interesting LPs plus 40 or so of those Guns and Roses albums I'm just not interested in hearing. I'm thinking my future new LP purchases will be through the dedicated retailers and I'll pay a little more money to get the better quality direct to disk LPs.

One person commented on his dad's Garrard table. Say what you will about British fully mechanical, automatic idler drive mechanisms but my father-in-law's Garrard Zero 100 and old Shure V15 cartridge combo is head and shoulders above anything vinyl, CD, 8-track or whatever I've ever heard through a speaker. My running the borrowed Garrard through my Sansui 28 watt receiver and Altec speakers resulted in his finally stopping by the house to collect his turntable after a couple of months on loan.

Finally, I gave up on my home-brew record cleaner mix and purchased a ready-made product a month ago or so. I'm not sure if it works better with my microfiber brush but it does recall the good old days of addiction to the scent of leaded gasoline as it flowed from the filling station pump into the tank in your car. I love the smell of record cleaner in the morning!

Mains frequency isn't constant. In the Uk it might typically vary by 1% either way but I think it happens quite slowly.

Mains voltage varies as well. It's not always noticeable, but have you ever noticed all the lights suddenly become dimmer or brighter? As the load on the system increases the voltage falls until a different tapping on the transformer is switched in. It's usually automatic and keeps the voltage within tolerance.

Recently bought the Fleet Foxes LP after stumbling upon the rack at Best Buy. Less than $15, and this is a quiet, well pressed 2-disc release. I tried to find it online a year or more ago in vinyl and couldn't, or it was much more money. So seeing it in a local store, and for less was a bit of a revelation. But short lived: I couldn't get interested in the reissues there. $20 or more for classic rock I already have? Uh, no.

It's my opinion that LP sales will eventually die out completely if all the labels and stores cater to are "audiophile boomers" willing to buy a $20 copy of the first Black Sabbath LP. Or to hip hop fans now in their late 30s wanting to relive their glory NWA days from the early 90s. Same thing.

To be fair, the mix of ancient and new(er) seemed more like 50-50, so maybe Best Buy is just trying to suss out the market.

"Almost the first day the CD player came on the market, I bought one. As quickly as I could replace my most loved albums with CD's, I did."

Jim,
Me, too. I saved up $300 and set it aside, and the first CD player that broke the $300 barrier I bought. It was a portable Sony and I loved it--had it for years. And I already had 20 CDs by the time I bought the player, too.

As I say, I only listen to vinyl about 4% of the time, but I enjoy that 4%.

Mike

My indoctrination with iTunes as a "CD server" at home was cemented once it was clear iPods and iPhones were the ideal music servers in the car.

And I never understood the appeal of digitizing vinyl at 16/44—far easier (and cheaper) to simply buy (used) CDs instead. My Grado 8MZ is a bit old in the tooth but my SOTA Comet is still doing dandy. The rest of the chain needs updating.

But now I think I have a direction for that, and given that traditional record playing nor digitizing at Redbook resolution aren't goals, I've found myself interested in a method few audiophiles have yet discovered.

1) Digitize at better than 16/44, like 24/96 or 24/196. You supposedly play LPs for better sound—capture it! Look to pro audio for A/D conversion as high end audio companies are shockingly absent there. They are still concentrating on DACs, because audiophiles are largely still confused about how to turn their computers into "CD players." Kent's example above of the Duet is a good example, though it's being wasted on creating lossy files.

2) Side benefit—skip the phono preamp. Those pro interfaces often have very high quality mic preamps. Just add some simple loading and matching for your cartridge. Now I don't have to upgrade that, let alone lament I didn't pay more for a nicer one.

3) Side benefit—skip the hardware RIAA EQ and do it in software

All of this points to using Channel D's Pure Vinyl, of which I have zero affiliation. AND I've bought into none of this yet with actual dollars. But like I said, it's an uncommon method that has a goal to preserve the best of vinyl with the best of what computer storage and playback offers.

I recall some years ago, a fascinating controversy over claims of - in a nutshell - "euphony", by some in the UK hi-fi press and some hi-fi dealers, on behalf of Linn equipment such as their Sondek turntable. I should add that Linn themselves asserted throughout, a quest for nothing but accuracy.

The question at issue: either the music should sound to some degree pleasant and listenable whatever the quality of the recording; or the qualities of the recording and the recording medium should be completely evident for good or ill. It is not certain that Linn equipment systematically did the first thing, nor that some others (such as Roksan, my own choice) did the second; what was interesting, was that people wished the equipment to do one or the other, and to ally themselves with that somehow.

I am sure this question is far from unique to that place and time...

...for one thing, I see closely similar controversies at play in how digital cameras deal with noise etc; except that now, we can more clearly distinguish the engineering and subjective choices being made, since much of the critical hardware is held in common.

When I bought my first serious digital compact, I felt some deja vu: I perceived a "Linn" attitude behind the Canon S-series' clean but sterile attitude to noise, as I saw it at the time; and "Roksan et al" in the Panasonic LX series' clearly more salty, hands-off attitude.

It is as much that such schools of thought persist among consumers, and are reflected in the manufacturers' offerings, as that the manufacturer is grinding some deliberate axe - in my opinion. When looking at the exact same sample, some complain at the noise insufficiently cleaned up, while others deplore the lively detail already lost. The camera maker can't win.

The older turntables I'm familiar with used a simple neon light for the timing strobe (a neon bulb cycles at 120Hz on US house current). And then the timing bands were printed to indicate with a 120Hz strobe whether the speed was right. So there had to be separate bands for each supported speed.

However, if you had a variable-speed strobe, then you could have just one band and vary the strobe speed based on the selected drive speed -- or do what this Technics apparently did and have bands for calibrated over- and under-speeds.

Thanks for the Jewfro link! I had a modest one myself in the early 70's. My only complaint about the page you linked is that I had to leave my PC and run the mens' room to barf when I saw the photo of Phil Spector (I hate to admit that he's a Member of the Tribe.) But I did enjoy the other head shots.

FraserGJB,
There's nobody home at the Funk Firm, as far as I can tell. They ignore emails and their U.S. dealers can't get their [alleged] products. Just sayin'.

Mike

"I actually have all the darkroom gear, the records, and the turntable, but don't have the space or the time to set up any of it."

Jeffrey,
I know what you mean. I don't have room in my house for a pool table. I would seriously plunk one in the middle of the living room if I only had two more feet of clearance.

Mike

When I was in my early teens I set up a turntable to listen to neglected punk 45s. Over a decade and many classics liberated from my parents' collections later I exclusively buy vinyl not for the sound (which I don't have the patience, money, or the ear to appreciate) but the quirky ceremony and square foot of tangibility. Also, try getting Astral Weeks for $5.00 on CD.

"I had to leave my PC and run the mens' room to barf when I saw the photo of Phil Spector"

S'okay Steve, that jewfro was a wig!

Mike

it's not clear if panasonic's statement was for the entire sl-1200 line, or just the latest incantation, the sl-1200mk6.

http://www.tokyoreporter.com/2010/10/28/dead-spin-panasonic-discontinues-technics-analog-turntables/

Hilarious randomness, when I woke up today I listened on my 1200 to "All the way", a lovely album by Sammy Davis Jr, wich has the most invigorating version of "We'll meet again" ever, and now I see he's the last in the Badass Jewfro list.
(to the british readers, I still keep the Vera Lynn rendition close to my heart, but the SDJr one is excelent!)

really that covers every price point? just buy an old pioneer (or another good consumer brand from the heyday of vinyl) off ebay for $20, get it lubed and tuned, and upgrade the suspension.

really though, i love records, and have listened to some actual high end players, but it's about the experience of listening to a record, not sound quality. if you want the most accurate reproduction of sound don't use records. if you are particularly attached to the particular audio idiosyncrasies of vinyl (and/or tube amps with their unique distortion) and also (somewhat contradictorily) obsessed with getting the highest sound quality, you should digitize the very first play off every brand new record at 10 billion kHz or whatever you think is a high enough frequency and just listen to that whenever you want to hear the album (cause the more you play an album the worse it sounds).

Glad to see the SOTA mentioned. It offers (in the higher priced models)a vacuum clamping system that really brings out the details in a lot of that new carefully made vinyl.
I never had much luck with the donation organizations. If your looking for licorice pizzas to spin try getting the word to friends and family that you'll take that old stuff off their hands. I recently was the recipient of about 250 platters for $12. The only problem is wading thru the 101 Strings to find the good stuff.

I still have a few direct to disc albums stashed away.
There's an LA 4 set that I especially like and if I want to skid straight off the rails there's always "Excitin' Latin" by T Misago and His Tokyo Cuban Boys.
The whistle solo on Brazil will keep you smiling for days.
I better chill out before I end up in the basement digging around for Enoch Light. I'm pretty sure that one's as bad as I remember.
By the way, just what is wrong with the 1200?

This will sound like blasphemy, but when I obtain a really dirty used lp, like the kind covered with caked on dirt and dried peanut butter and jelly or who knows what, I clean it in the sink with a small amount of dishwashing soap, a clean sponge, and lukewarm water. I follow this up with the Disc Doctor cleaning regime. If it's a relatively clean disc, the Doctor alone will do just fine. I've been amazed sometimes at how much a good cleaning can revive an old record. Sometimes they look awfully scratched but still sound pretty good.

Mike,

May I suggest you to add a new category on the right for Audio/Vinyl/... This is, like a few others before, a well informed and good blog. It would be nice to have an easy way to come back to read it.

Dennis

Dishwashing soap is great for cleaning lenses, I like very dilute Dawn, but for fleamarket LPs and 45s the cool kids are using Titebond wood glue.
Google record cleaning wood glue.
Now if there were only something like that for lens fungus.

A trend that I'm rather happy about is the inclusion of a one time download of mp3's with the purchase of new vinyl. Most of my current artists are purchased on vinyl now because of it. It's really the best of both worlds I get big artwork, great sound and convenience. Best of all, I only have to buy it once.

Oh, and with the Bang & Olufsen, the volume goes to 12.

Interesting, I'll have to try to wood glue thing sometime.

In 1975 my girlfriend left a fan heater running. She failed to notice that it was blowing onto a huge row of "LPs" (about 200 albums). Anyone who eats Indian food will be familiar with poppadoms. I managed to save about 50-60 records, some only slightly warped.
Not long after I got out of prison, digital audio came on the market (the judge accepted my plea of gross provocation, hence the short sentence). I lack any sense of nostalgia for this antiquated, fragile medium and feel total incomprehension for the absurd sums people will spend to indulge in it.

Wonderful Open Mike again, Mike. My Technics direct drive turntable is still ready to roll, but it's impossible to find decent needle element replacements here in the Netherlands.

Vinyl is getting more attractive by the year. Some albums come with an mp3 download coupon of the album. I would start buying vinyl again ...today.. if every new release came with a drm-free mp3 download coupon.
Hey Sony, Warner, BMG and Virgins of this world, are you reading along? Guess not.
I still miss the giant size record covers and readable lyrics inside. Any photographer and music fanatic must miss the 12" format. Keep the mike open and flip that disc.

Just a thought - maybe you "lose" your digital music simply because it's on your hard disc, and little elsewhere. Your vinyl has a physical presence that can't be ignored, so you may tend to "notice" them. Whereas the digital files could as well not be there, for all you know, and hence you'd need to actively search for one to "see" it "materialize". Obviously the seeking is too much work (it is for me anyways) so that music "disappears", literally.

Mike, there're only 19 badass Jewfros in that link.

Andrew Stockdale's shown twice. Don't think he's Jewish, either.

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