I had a holiday full of audio epiphanies after listening to vinyl over the last few days. The experience got me thinking about technology and how it shapes our feelings and way of thinking. Not only had I forgotten how good the medium sounds, but how the listening process is so linear.
This all started because my wife bought me a turntable for Christmas. I had a blast setting it up then listening to lost treasures. My rig is by no means audiophile but it has good bones. My turntable is an inexpensive Numark but from there itâ€™s all custom. Iâ€™ve had a new Audio Technica at440ml/occ cartridge sitting in the box for 10 years waiting for a deck so I set that up on the tonearm, switched the output of the Numark to phono and plugged the RCAs into a Parasound P/PH 100 phono preamp. From there I went into a Hafler 915 preamp on the way to my Genelec 8020A monitors and Hafler TRM10s subwoofer. Itâ€™s a simple, low-cost home system that sounds very good.
My first listen was transformative. I put on the movie soundtrack from West Side Story and when I put my head between the speakers it sounded fantastic. It was warm and full, with a great stereo image and of course noisy but it WORKED! What I noticed most was that on a well-mixed record, the mids and lows all seemed to work better than on the digital alternative with which I’m very familiar. I know this gets into the fragility of auditory memory and discussions on â€œPerception vs. Realityâ€? but Iâ€™ll leave those rants to others.
What Iâ€™m talking about is the emotional impact of vinyl. Time flew by as I put on side after side which included a lot great old records: Pat Martinoâ€™s ‘Consciousness’, Stan Getz’s ‘Getz/Gilberto’, Journeyâ€™s ‘Evolution’, Al Jarreauâ€™s ‘Jarreau’ and more. After 20 minutes, I was off on another adventure. I sat and thought about the concept of the record, the recording quality, the players, arrangement and more. Then of course there is the album artwork and wealth of info on the credit list to dive into. All this isnâ€™t something thatâ€™s impossible with digital playback, but I never do it because of the formatâ€™s ability to jump around and lack of physical collateral. Thereâ€™s something more grounding and â€œorganicâ€? (if you will), about vinyl. It was relaxing, seating my thoughts on the music, the sonic quality, the players, the production process and more.
I know I said I wouldnâ€™t rant, but I also think that the lack of sampling has something to do with my experience. Rupert Neve agrees, thinking you must include audio up to 75kHz to truly experience anything near analog quality. He quotes Japanese studies that have shown that lack of music-related frequencies above 20kHz and the presence of switching transient noises produce unhealthy brain radiation resulting in feelings of discomfort, frustration and even anger. After my vinyl vacation, I tend to agree with him.
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