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  1. #1
    Aging Smartass
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    Vinyl is more "involving."

    Many audiophiles and fans of this hobby feel that vinyl has a sound of its own, and amongst the many adjectives used to describe it, "involving" is one of them. There is no doubt that turntables provide a far greater level of user involvement than any CD or SACD player. And, much of that involvement results in a felling of pride much like standing back and admiring the wall one just painted, as opposed to looking at the same wall had a professional done it

    After purchasing a CD or SACD player, all one does is unpack the unit and connect it to one's preamplifier/integrated amp/ receiver, and plug the AC cord into the wall. That's it. Period. The cables can be replaced at a future date, which may (or may not) provide some level of improvement, but insofar as user involvement, or "tinkering," there's nothing left to do but listen.

    But with a turntable, there's a veritable plethora of things to do. First of all, in purchasing a turntable, a cartridge also must be purchased, and more often than not, there is a far greater difference in sound between cartridges than there is between turnables. That cartridge must be installed too, via a procedure some regard as a labor of love, which others regard as a royal pain in the a$$. And the cartridge isn't just installed - it has to be properly alinged as well. This can be done either with supplied materials with the turntable, or with separately purchased alignment tools/guages and so forth. Virtually any vinyl fan will tell you that there is a significant improvement in sound between a poorly aligned cartridge, and one properly aligned.

    Next, the tonearm has to be balanced. This is usually a pretty simple procedure, but on many a turntable, there are no tracking force indicators on the tonearm's counterweight, and so yet another device must be purchased: a stylus pressure guage. Once the proper tracking weight is applied, the proper (read, "Identical") anti-skating force has to be applied also.

    If one's setup doesn't have a phono input, then a separate phono preamplfier is needed. A preamplifier alone will usually suffice, but if the purchase was of a moving coil cartridge instead of a moving magnet, then yet another step up transformer/preamp is required.

    OK. The cartridge has been installed and properly aligned and balanced, and whichever necessary preamplfiers, step up transformers, etc. have been employed too. What next? Well, most turntables are susceptible to both external vibrations and acoustic feedback. Here, the user has the option of purchasing a myriad of different items from isolating feet, to outrageously costly turntable platforms. Isolating a turntable from both mechanical and acoustic interference pays off tremendously: who wants to try to play a record loudly, only to have to rush up and turn down the volume control due to annoying, and possibly dangerous, howling feedback? And, there is little else as annoying as the tonearm bouncing all across the record simply from someone walking across the floor.

    All right, now that that's done, what next? Well, many different materials are available to replace the rubber and/or felt turntable mats that come supplied with all turntables, and considerable improvements can be made simply by replacing the mat with another (the "Acrhomat," for $100, is such an item, and it does work too). Entire turntable platters can be changed as well, some from the same manufacturer as the Achromat (those are called "Achroplats"). They make quite a difference too.

    Often, the internal tonearm wiring doesn't satisfy a purist, and so that too can be changed, albeit with a fair amount of difficulty. The same is true of tonearm bearings and pivots. In addition to the wiring inside a tonearm, the four, short wires in the headshell can also be replaced to provide sonic improvements.

    Record clamps also provide audible benefits, and are available in a wide variety of differing price points. Records also get dirty, and need to be periodically cleaned. One can purchase a $20 Discwasher (a device that's only $5 more than it was when first introduced in the early 70's, which still works quite well), or spend a zillion dollars on a record cleaning machine. (CD's rarely ever need cleaning, and SACD's carry a warning NOT to use liquid cleaners of any kind on them.)

    All of this stuff necessitates a great deal of user involvement, and the level of personal satisfaction from changing one thing to another, and obtaining a noticeable improvement in sound. No CD or SACD player can come remotely close to providing this level of user involvement, but then one really has to ask, who wants to do all of this stuff in the first place? I know many audiophiles here do, and thoroughly enjoy the process. I don't mind doing some of these things, but certainly not all.

    And I still prefer the sound of my SACD player anyway!
    Last edited by emaidel; 07-11-2008 at 03:07 PM.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    You reminded me why I love vinyl. I also have a quality cd/sacd palyer but vinyl rules. I do tend to play more cd's and sacd's because of the convenience but if I really want to hear music the vinyl comes out.
    JohnMichael
    Vinyl Rega Planar 2, Incognito rewire, Deepgroove subplatter, ceramic bearing, Michell Technoweight, Rega 24V motor, TTPSU, FunkFirm Achroplat platter, Michael Lim top and bottom braces, 2 Rega feet and one RDC cones. Grado Sonata, Moon 110 LP phono.
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  3. #3
    Sure, sure... Auricauricle's Avatar
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    I'm not going there....

    I do miss LP's. I have a nice TT, but it's in storage, and I reckon it'll be awhile before she sees the light of day. Thinking about it makes me nostalgic. I still remember the way record used to smell, the artwork on the covers and the joy of popping through the cellophane. As convenient as CD's etc. are, there is simply no comparison, and I feel truly sorry for the new fries who won't know these things....

    I remember an evening in Japan, when a friend loaned me a Tangerine Dream LP to record (there aren't any cops around here, are there?). Anyway, an earthquake occurred just as the album started up: just enough to cause some light skipping. To my horror, the sound of "pup pup pup..." was recorded instead of the groovy music I was looking forward to.

    Like a fool, I re-recorded the LP, sans "pup pup...". Now I miss that sound and the various snaps, crackles and pops that made those wretched things so much fun....

    Ah....Youth! Foolish youth!
    "The great tragedy of science--the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact."--T. Huxley

  4. #4
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Very cool thread emaidel. You've certainly played around with analog gears for a long time. Much more experience than I do, and I hope to read more of your experience.

  5. #5
    Aging Smartass
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    I left out a few things.

    Records, if not properly stored, tend to warp, and often to warp beyond playability. I've even noticed severe vinyl deterioration on some (albeit, very few) LP's resulting in a bubbly texture to the surface developing over many years, rendering the record thoroughly unplayable.

    It's often easy to accidentally drop, bash into or just plain smack the tonearm and in the process destroy the stylus (an often very costly mistake) and to badly scratch the surface of a record in the process. And, records do scratch easily, especially if accidentally dropped onto the floor, which is something that, despite one's best efforts in trying to handle the LP's with the utmost care, will inevitably happen, and most likely will happen to the most valuable record in one's collection.

    The stylus in the phono cartridge will also eventually wear out. If one isn't too careful, and plays records with a worn, or damaged stylus, irreperable harm is done to those records as a result.

    Still, there's no substitute for those big jackets (especially the "double" album jackets, even if there's only one record inside) and the cover artwork. Reading the liner notes is far easier than the all but microscopic print on enclosed brochures in CD's, and far more information could be both added (and read) on a brochure 12" by 12". And you don't have to fight like crazy with that nasty plastic "tape" on the top of a CD or SACD, that never tears off as expected.

  6. #6
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Indeed, emaidel

    Quote Originally Posted by emaidel
    ...

    All of this stuff necessitates a great deal of user involvement, and the level of personal satisfaction from changing one thing to another, and obtaining a noticeable improvement in sound. No CD or SACD player can come remotely close to providing this level of user involvement, but then one really has to ask, who wants to do all of this stuff in the first place? I know many audiophiles here do, and thoroughly enjoy the process. I don't mind doing some of these things, but certainly not all.

    And I still prefer the sound of my SACD player anyway!
    I agree: a few times I've asked vinylphiles why it is they put up with the hassles of TT tuning and LP manipulation. Of course there are a few who insist it's justified by the sound alone, but more insist that just as much they really enjoy these rituals; (Bernd comes to mind). Handling the vinyl disc, admiring the cover art, reading the sleave and liner notes ... who can argue?

    Of course as I've observed here before, the classical music I mostly listen is no longer available on LP, so that's a sufficient reason in itself that I don't listen to much vinyl.

    Beyond that I listen most often to my music from computer files; I usually have the most important notes and CD cover art stored as metadata, (tags), on the computer file, and my player programs can display this as I listen. I have a tag editor program that I often use to fine tune the metadata from Freedb or GraceNote to a standard format the suits my taste and application. Actually, this fiddling becomes rather time-consuming: I guess it's my substitute for the LP twiddling that others love. Chacun à son goût, to coin a phrase.

  7. #7
    Forum Regular Chas Underhay's Avatar
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    Wow, we do all that?

    You're absolutely correct emaidel, I cannot argue but the thing is really, that much of it we only have to do two or three times in a lifetime , a few things we only do at about 5 yearly intervals and the other things like changing or cleaning records we've done so many times that we do it on auto-pilot.

    I still use vinyl as my primary source, I probably play ten LPs for every CD. Personally, I prefer the sound of LPs, (providing, obviously, that it's well recorded and in good condition) my wife, even more so but before anyone shouts at me, I will admit that my record player is probably a lot better than my CD player. We've also got a lot more records than we have CDs and that's why we spent more on the record player.

    Apart from the occasional change of worn out cartridge; the experimentation and financial investment is now long in the past. I don't like bragging about equipment but I have got a factory silver wired SME IV and apart from never having to think about what tweak or upgrade I'm going to do next; a change of cartridge only takes about five minutes.

    The thing is; if you love music and have a lot of records, it's a small price to pay. Anyway, if you described buying, maintaining and driving a car in the same accurate detail; everyone would walk!

  8. #8
    If you can't run-walk. Bernd's Avatar
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    Very fine post emaidel. Excellent. And some great responses. Feanor is indeed right. I really do enjoy the whole ritual, but above all I think, it's the personal involvement. It's not just press- play. For someone who can't play an instrument or can't sing this is going to be as close as I get to be part of the experience. And to these seasoned ears the music is just more invoving through Vinyl. I very rarely play the silver discs in a listening session.
    Long may it continue.

    Peace

    "Let The Earth Bear Witness."

  9. #9
    Aging Smartass
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chas Underhay

    so but before anyone shouts at me, I will admit that my record player is probably a lot better than my CD player. We've also got a lot more records than we have CDs and that's why we spent more on the record player.

    This is what is at the very core of the endless "vinyl vs. CD/SACD debate." I have long felt that the equipment for playing either source must be of commensurate value, or else any comparison is meaningless. My turntable/cartridge combo is a very fine one, but far from state of the art. My CD/SACD player (the Marantz SA-8001) is priced close to my turnable/cartridge combo, and, at least in my opinion, runs rings around it.

    My primary listening source is classical music, though I do have many hundreds of popular CD's (and a very limited amount of popular SACD's). I have NO record in my collection that comes close to the sound of a well engineered CD, or SACD, at least insofar as classical music is concerned.

    While listening to a superb SACD, I find the music has an emotional, gut attraction, with a three-dimensional quality and a bass whallop I've never heard on any other source. Is it "involving" as vinyl is? Perhaps, but certainly not in the manner I've described in this thread!

  10. #10
    Forum Regular Chas Underhay's Avatar
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    Hi emaidel

    Percisely and there's the rub!

    I don't know the cost of the Marantz SA-8001 but I know it's supposed to be very good indeed. As far as I can see, if you were to carefully spend, for example, £1,000 ($2000) on a CD or CD/SACD player it's going to be pretty dammned close to as good as it possibly gets; probably 99% of an exotic, state of the art mega bucks player.

    Now if we look at sending £1,000 ($2000) on a record player which includes: a cartridge, phono pre-amp, tone arm and turntable; that only allows about £250 ($500) for each bit. That will allow the purchase of some quite nice components like the start of the decent MC cartridges, an Ortofon MC25FL for example and a Rega arm etc but let's face it; a Rega definately ain't an SME.

    In order to get to even close 99% of best possible; you'd probably need to spend about £5000 ($10000) on your record player (cartridge, phono pre-amp, tone arm and turntable) and even then you will need to buy some type of turntable support for it.

    One of the reasons for the massive cost differential is obviously that CD players are generally mass produced where record player components are all pretty much hand made.

    The reason that I may sound negative on here when people start talking about getting in to vinyl is that I know full well that unless they're prepared to spend serious money; they'll never reap the benifit and would be better off sticking with CD.

    Don't get me wrong, I hate bragging about kit but my record player would cost best part of £5000 ($10000) if I had to replace it all but I can probably justify it by the fact that I have about 2000 LPs. I like many sorts of music from classical, particularly early stuff, through jazz and blues to rock so I can still find a stack of second hand records to buy which I really want to hear.

    I've always had to be careful with money and I've probably minimised the costs by not doing constant intermediate upgrades, for example: I soldiered on for many years with a Rega arm untill I could just about afford an SME and even then I've screwed good deals out people for cash.

    I'm 54 now and I'm quite confident that my record player (give of take a few cartridges) will last me the rest of my life and even in thirty years time there won't be anything around that's going to be that much better but if you consider the best $10000 CD player today; you can almost garauntee that there will be a better one in two or three years time that will only cost $2000. So I'll only ever buy a good middle of the road CD player then throw it and buy another one when it falls apart.

    Sonically, my CD player is quite close to my record player, certianly more than good enough to enjoy the music on and it cost less than my cartridge. I'm sure the next one will be even closer.

    Cheers and all the best

    Chas

  11. #11
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    The Marantz SA-8001 sells for $899.99 in the U.S. I bought my turntable (a used Dual CS-5000) on ebay for $300, and it included a working Shure V/15 TypeV Mxr, which I don't care for and don't use. I own a Stanton Collector's Series 100 cartridge (as well as the Denon DL-103, and a few others) and prefer it above all. While no longer available anywhere, it usually sold for around $300 to $400. I'm using a Parasond PPH-100 phono preamp, and purchased an Achromat platter mat too. Each sold for $100 apiece. That brings the grand total to around $800 to $900 for the turntable, cartridge, preamp, etc. Not to be dismisssed is the fact that CS-5000's lately have been commanding considerably higher prices, and have sold on ebay for as much as $800, as opposed to the $300 I paid.

    To me, comparing LP's and either CD's or SACD's on the products I own is a legitimate and fair comparison. Despite its age, the Dual is a very fine turntable, and I've already posted extensively as to how good I think the Stanton Collector's Series 100 is. My records have never sounded better, but my CD's and especially my SACD's walk all over them.

    I suspect I may feel differently had I spent as much as you did on your turntable/cartridge/preamp etc. stuff, Chas, but the day will never come that I'll be able to do that.

    And, as this thread's purpose originally pointed out, the "involving" nature of playing vinyl is one I'd readily avoid altogether. Popping a disc into the player, and pressing a button on the remote - and doing nothing else, other than listening and enjoying my music - is just fine by me!

  12. #12
    Forum Regular Chas Underhay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by emaidel
    and doing nothing else, other than listening and enjoying my music - is just fine by me!
    Hi emaidel

    I totally agree with you on this subject, CD players have come on in leaps and bounds over the years and it's hard to even get vinyl as good as CD these days.

    At the end of the day, how we try and get there, how far we try to go and how we try and justify it is really all secondary and even bordering on the irrelevant. You've summed what's really important, perfectly mate!

    Cheers, all the best and long may you enjoy the music

    Chas

    PS Between you and me, and don't tell the others, I couldn't afford go out and buy my record player; that was assembled over a long period of time.

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