Discuss

116 Responses to “What does a $4,000 vinyl record sound like?”

  1.  “I want to have the best-sounding records in the world.”  Step one:  Don’t use vinyl.

  2. Aaron Bockelie says:

    From where I’m sitting, the predominant sound that I hear is pretentiousness.

    • sdmikev says:

      At some point, it goes from enjoying music to just being a little insane.
      I mean, I love listening to music and always have.  I have to have a “decent” stereo in the living room with good speakers, but. jesus, when you start approaching this level of madness, it’s not even about the music anymore.
      I thought people who tried to tell me they could tell the difference in certain cables were nuts..

      • ROSSINDETROIT says:

        Everyone has different priorities.  In a market where a perfectly good pickup truck is available for $20K, who buys a Cadillac pickup?  Lots of people, all for their own reasons.  A $2 digital watch will tell the time.  This does not render handmade mechanical timepieces irrelevant.  

        There’s a market for this $4K set of records.  That market is not ordinary people looking for music to listen to.

        • sdmikev says:

          It’s not the money, it’s the obsession.
          Since you mentioned it, I have a bunch of high end watches for no good reason other than I’ve always loved them.  But I don’t obsess over the damn things and freak out if one gets scratched or something.

  3. Kenmrph says:

    I’ve never listened to a $4K vinyl record, but I suspect you can get a good approximation of how it sounds by listing to a $20 vinyl record.

    • Tore Sinding Bekkedal says:

      No, most $20 vinyls are actually cut with more contemporaneous equipment, and would in most situations sound a great deal better.

      • TheOven says:

        A great deal better – but not a great deal like the original pressing.

        Notice the sound is not even stereo on this, which makes me think that it’s more about reproducing the original sound that the vinyl had than reproducing the best orchestral sounds.

    • Dlo Burns says:

      I can go to the thrift store and find penny near-mint classic records because they stamped them a dime a dozen.

  4. fredley says:

    Almost as good as a CD.

  5. “I want to have the best-sounding records in the world.”

    Thats like a food critic saying he wants to eat the “best meal in the world” and then trying to find the McDonalds that makes the best Big Mac.

    Vinyl? Seriously?

    I know self-described extreme-audiophiles are generally willfully ignorant cranks, but this one takes the cake.

    • flickerKuu says:

      You do know that an analog Vinyl Recording has more fidelity and frequency reproduction than anything you are using today right?  Best case scenario you are using DAT tape, which I doubt. Worst case scenario you think that your MP3’s sound better than vinyl. I wonder which you are?

      • Tim Drage says:

         * unless you want to listen to music containing stereo bass frequencies, or the letter ‘s’

      • UncaScrooge says:

        Did you know that the frequency reproduction of vinyl records decreases as the needle gets nearer to the center of the disk? This is why a lot of pop albums end each side with a ballad or a quieter number — the inner grooves won’t reproduce bass frequencies at the same level of quality as the outer grooves. Mastering engineers that finalize audio for vinyl have to do all sorts of painfully artificial little manuevers to get a reasonable sound out of vinyl.

        Vinyl is splendid audiophile fun for pop music purists. Classical music afficionados that choose vinyl are choosing a limited spectrum of audible frequencies and a laughable noise floor.

        Most vinyl fetishism is about packaging and paying $30.00 for what you can get for $9.99. Vinyl is also destroyed by playback. If you want fidelity and frequency reproduction in an analog format, reel-to-reel tape is possibly better than most common digital formats. It depends upon your taste in music, mostly.

  6. oasisob1 says:

    It’s a shame this page seems to have broken down:
    http://boingboing.net/2012/12/06/audiophile.html

  7. SomeGuyNamedMark says:

    You can get a flawless replay of an original recording that was done with $1000 of equipment.

  8. Farkface says:

    Haters gonna hate.  Have any of you actually listened to a side by side comparison of vinyl vs digital using a well mastered reference grade recording?   It’s not even close.  Vinyl wins by miles.

    • Aaron Bockelie says:

      Audio Woo Checklist

      You claim that an

      (X) audible
      ( ) measurable
      ( ) hypothetical

      improvement in sound quality can be attained by:

      ( ) upsampling
      ( ) increasing word size
      ( ) vibration dampening
      ( ) bi-wiring
      ( ) replacing the external power supply
      (X) using a different lossless format
      ( ) decompressing on the server
      ( ) removing bits of metal from skull
      ( ) using ethernet instead of wireless
      ( ) inverting phase
      ( ) installing bigger connectors
      ( ) installing Black Gate caps
      ( ) installing ByBee filters
      ( ) installing hospital-grade AC jacks
      ( ) defragmenting the hard disk
      ( ) running older firmware

      Your idea will not work. Specifically, it fails to account for:

      ( ) the placebo effect
      ( ) your ears honestly aren’t that good
      ( ) your idea has already been thoroughly disproved
      ( ) modern DACs upsample anyway
      ( ) those products are pure snake oil
      ( ) lossless formats, by definition, are lossless
      ( ) those measurements are bogus
      ( ) sound travels much slower than you think
      ( ) electric signals travel much faster than you think
      ( ) that’s not how binary arithmetic works
      ( ) that’s not how TCP/IP works
      ( ) the Nyquist theorem
      (X) the can’t polish a turd theorem
      ( ) bits are bits

      Your subsequent arguments will probably appeal in desperation to such esoterica as:

      ( ) jitter
      ( ) EMI
      ( ) thermal noise
      (X) existentialism
      ( ) cosmic rays

      And you will then change the subject to:

      ( ) theories are not the same as facts
      ( ) measurements don’t tell everything
      ( ) not everyone is subject to the placebo effect
      ( ) blind testing is dumb
      (X) you can’t prove what I can’t hear
      ( ) science isn’t everything

      Rather than engage in this tired discussion, I suggest exploring the following factors which are more likely to improve sound quality in your situation:

      ( ) room acoustics
      (X) source material
      ( ) type of speakers
      ( ) speaker placement
      ( ) crossover points
      ( ) equalization
      ( ) Q-tips

      • oasisob1 says:

        I’m pretty sure the BB community has already weighed in on how it feels about people who use checklists to respond to people.

        • Yes? Do you have a checklist that will explain it to us?

        • Tore Sinding Bekkedal says:

          In fairness, it does do a fairly good job of summing up the many fallacies that is usually used when claiming that vinyl sounds better.

          It doesn’t.

          It’s common to claim the analog medium has fewer limitations because they don’t use the same capability measurements as digital systems do. The same limitations are there, they’re just not expressed using the same theoretical framework (which don’t always have the immediate clarity of the digital numbers, which can be derived directly and exactly from the data format and encoding).

          • bcsizemo says:

            It’s common to claim the analog medium has fewer limitations because
            they don’t use the same capability measurements as digital systems do.

            I’m not even sure what that means.  Sound is analog, at least when it comes out of the speakers…that measurement is always the same even if the source is digital to start with.

          • Tore Sinding Bekkedal says:

            My point is – if we exclude amplification and speakers, in a digital system, the frequency range of the medium is determined by the sampling rate. In an analog, and especially a mechanical system, the ways to calculate the limitations are a lot more complex.

            That doesn’t mean that the limitations aren’t there, it just means they’re less trivially visible as they, unlike in digital systems, don’t follow mathematically from the format.

          • bcsizemo says:

             @toresbe:disqus

            But that still doesn’t correlate to anything specific.

            While I see your point that an analog/mechanical instrument is going to have a much more complex set of limits it still doesn’t mean that is going to translate into anything useful when dealing with the audio reproduction chain.

            Something like a professional acoustic guitar would be fairly complex to mathematically model, but in the end we can measure it’s output indirectly via a microphone and measurement equipment.  Now this equipment will also have it’s own set of error, but that error would be reproduced if we used the same equipment to measure a recording of that exact same guitar.  Much in the same way in an ideal setup a person should not be able to distinguish between a live instrument being played and a recording of the same.  That is what a recording medium should be striving to achieve, the absolute identical reproduction of the original recording.

          • dnebdal says:

            Simplified to some imprecision: The limits of a digital are obvious and exact. The limits of an analog format are harder to put a number to, since there are fewer absolutes – but they are still very real.

            It typically comes up when people start claiming records have properties that would require them to be engraved in diamond and played by an electron microscope.

        • Donald Petersen says:

          I haven’t weighed in yet!

          ( ) Hate it.
          ( ) Dislike it.
          ( ) Indifferent to it.
          (X) Like it.
          (X) Love it.
          (X) Can’t get enough of it.
          (X) Especially this time ’round.

        • acerplatanoides says:

          42 for, 3 against at this time. Yep. Community has spoken.

          • oasisob1 says:

            I do think the audio woo checklist is funny. Plus it’s mostly like correct for any audio woo scenario.

      • Jake0748 says:

         Well, THAT was over-the-top, pain in the ass lame.  IMHO, of course.

        • Itsumishi says:

          Please be advised of the scroll bar to the right of this text, this function allows you to scroll past comments you do not approve of. I’m aware of the function, but I’m also a prick.

    • Clearly Edison cylinders, being an even older technology, must sound better than vinyl! And player piano rolls better yet! Honestly, I understand the indie-coolness that surrounds the vinyl resurgence, but those of us over 40 *grew up* with vinyl and we certainly didn’t think going to CDs was a downgrade. In fact, the first time I heard a CD I was amazed by how good it sounded compared to vinyl.

      • Halloween_Jack says:

        Music boxes (antebellum) or GTFO.

      • dolo54 says:

        I am also over 40 and often listen to cds and vinyl back to back. I always prefer the sound of vinyl. I remember making the switch to cd back in the 80s. I still have some of those old cds and records from when I was a teenager. Even with the scratches I still like listening to the vinyl over the cds. The cds just sound harsh to me and I wish I stuck with vinyl. But that’s just my subjective opinion. I absolutely believe that there are people that like the sound of cds over vinyl and that’s okay by me.

        • Ladyfingers says:

           Vinyl has a pretty strongly rolled off high end, so if you listened to CDs on a system that wasn’t built to flatter the sound of vinyl then CDs wouldn’t sound harsh. Vinyl just sounds midrange biased to me.

          • ab01 says:

            The LP format does not specify any roll off in the high end – unlike CD which cuts off at 20kHz. Even modestly priced cartridges should be flat between 20Hz and 20kHz, better cartridges can extend the frequency response further to arguable benefit.

          • Ladyfingers says:

             It’s pretty unlike any information beyond 14kHz will survive the first playthrough.

          • ROSSINDETROIT says:

            Experience says otherwise.  Quad records retain the 30 khz carrier signal after numerous plays.  Only abuse (excessive stylus force, contamination or worn stylus) seems to degrade the high frequency signal.  This was a consumer format that had to be rugged and reliable under a lot of different conditions of use.  It worked but was unsuccessful for commercial reasons.

          • ROSSINDETROIT says:

            Vinyl records are capable of producing strong output up to 30kHz and beyond.  The quad record format used a carrier signal at 30K.  It worked, and modern cartridge stylus types like Shibata and its line-contact variants will easily track those signals above the audio band.
            Whether recordings were/are actually made with a flat top end response in the audio band is another question.

          • Ladyfingers says:

            If they did, you wouldn’t hear it through normal speakers (or ears). It’d just create barely perceptible intermodulation distortion, whose effects could be reproduced without the frequency in question being preserved.

        • snagglepuss says:

           When CD’s first came out, and people were buying them to replace their old, damaged vinyl, my friends would come to me complaining of CD’s harshness. I would record their CD’s to high-end cassette (No in-dash CD players back then, and EVERYBODY had cassette decks at home), AFTER carefully listening to their original vinyl, and using my 40-band EQ and Nak Dragon, I’d re-mix the CD’s to sound as close to the vinyl as possible, allowing for a bit more “brightness” and clarity to offset vinyl degradation.

          Worked like a charm. Vinyl stayed untouched while tapes took all the wear and tear, and when the tape wore out, I’d just re-record them another one, using the settings I’d used for the original taping.

      • I’m over 50, grew up with records, and like many, got rid of my records in the early 1990s, replacing them with CDs.  It has only been in the last few years that I have begun to regret getting rid of all my records.  Having spent some time in the thrift shops and coming up with the occasional excellent-condition vinyl record, I have to say I prefer the sound of the vinyl.  I’m not going to claim any sublime experience or objective superiority to vinyl, just that I like the way it sounds and *to me* it does sound better in most circumstances to the same releases on CD.  I still own and enjoy CDs, but I spend more time listening to records now.

        There are also a couple good reasons to listen to vinyl even if a person doesn’t think it is superior sound.  One is that many recordings were never re-released on digital formats, and another is that apparently, some recordings were rather badly done when transferred to digital.

        FYI, I’ve got a couple LP records that are recordings of Scott Joplin piano rolls.  Believe it or not, they sound pretty good to me, and they have the added advantage of being ‘digital’ in a manner of speaking; as piano rolls were nothing but ons and offs.  Just like paper tape source code listings, which I learned to program with.

        • xunker says:

          You hit on two very very important points there: 

          1) a lot (weasel term, but still..) of people who claim X is better than Y will do so by comparing a very good version of X with a very bad version of Y and say “ah-ha!”

          My example is David Bowie — He really liked the idea of CDs and pushed for his catalog to be on CD very soon after the medium was available to home users. But this was in the early 1980’s and the technology for getting a good digital copy from the source material just wasn’t there yet. The CDs have since been re-mastered and the new editions sound fine, but the originals from the 1980’s were, while not horrible, definitely sub-par.

          2) It’s OK to _simply_prefer_vinyl_. If you prefer to use LPs, then that is your choice, and it is a perfectly valid one. You are not required to justify your choice on any technical  ground. You can simply _like_ it.

      • Navin_Johnson says:

        The first era of cds sounded horrible, ever wonder why so many classic records are remastered? and classical guys like this have been obsessing on certain pressings for ever and ever. This isn’t a “hip” thing.

    • EH says:

      Do u even moonrock bro

  9. graces says:

    I don’t understand all the hate that Boing Boing community has for audiophiles. I agree, $570 (it is $4000 for a seven disc set)  is more than I’d ever pay for a record. But this guy is really doing something cool. He is preserving and actually using old technology to produce something that he loves. I’m glad that there are people like him in the world keeping this knowledge alive.

    • Andrew Singleton says:

      Because sounding like a douchbag because you spent thousands of dollars on a format that by it’s very construction degrades after every use while claiming everyone else is somehow not worthy or does not understand the greatness is going to generate a bit of hate.

    • Halloween_Jack says:

      Preserving and demonstrating old tech is cool. Claiming that it is superior to anything ever made not only before but since is a critical statement that itself is subject to criticism. 

    • Tore Sinding Bekkedal says:

      It gets me annoyed because they take classic-tech romanticism (which I love) and they ruin it by trying to ram that into the hard sciences that underpin the engineering I also really enjoy (and make my current living from, as a TV engineer!).

      I’m absolutely fine with people going “Hey, let’s try to get an old lathe going again, and try to make a stamper!” – in fact, I cheer that on. But don’t claim it sounds better. It emphatically does not, by a long shot, sound better than a CD.

      But I do think that stuff like this is about abusing both romanticism and science to make a buck off people with more money than sense.

      • Aaron Bockelie says:

        I really think you nailed it here. The same logic applies to any old process that has been replaced by a new process.

      • graces says:

        Absolutely, a lot of (most?) audiophile stuff is about trying to make money off of fools. But from reading the article and watching the videos I don’t think this guy is in that camp. It really sounds like he is spending a whole lot of money buying and restoring old equipment to make records sound as good as he can make them, and selling them at a price that he hopes will allow him to recoup his costs with the limited runs he is capable of producing.

        It is certainly true that some records don’t sound better than some CDs and vice versa. I haven’t obviously listened to the records in question, so I can’t really say whether they sound better than equivalent CDs or not. I don’t think it is right to automatically assume that the more modern technology is better on all metrics without examining it. The record industry certainly did not evolve with the single goal of producing the best sounding albums….

        For the record, to my ears, older vinyl  form the 60’s and 70’s does sound better than the equivalent CDs, while new vinyl, made from digital masters doesn’t.

  10. Namban says:

    To those wishing to mock audiophiles, ok, I get it. You can’t possibly hear the nuances, so they aren’t there, and these people are crazy?

    I suppose you also think cilantro tastes like soap. Maybe you don’t realize that a genetic mutation causes this, and others taste something completely different than you. Maybe many audiophiles are, in fact, pretentious wackjobs that think only analog sounds nice. But maybe they know a lot more about how sounds are actually made than you, and are listening for things you simply can’t hear. If you can’t hear them, physically can’t hear them, then you will forever think they are nuts. But to them, you might seem nuts.

    Yes, I think it would be ridiculous to pay 4k$ for a record that sounds exactly like a modern issued CD. Yes, I think a lot of “audiophile” stuff is for tone deaf morons trying to look cool. But I can respect the hell out of people resurrecting old equipment to do things with lost technology regressively like this to see what it can sound like, especially compared to the artifacty 98 kbps crap MP3 files I hear all the time. Surely you can hear the difference between those and a CD? So why can’t you accept that some people might hear something more than you are capable of?

    But there are sonic nuances just as there are flavor nuances in cuisine.

    Why mock and begrudge people who have the means to experience something you don’t?
    Where do you draw the line?

    • Ivor Williams says:

      I’m starting a band and calling it Sonic Nuance.

    • “Where do you draw the line?” I think that’s the problem: it’s a fine line between ‘extreme enthusiasm’ and ‘ostentatious douchebaggery.”

      • Tore Sinding Bekkedal says:

        Nope, the line is not fine, and it’s quite a distance away from charging $4,000 for an LP set.

    • Halloween_Jack says:

      You don’t know your science. Do a Google search on “audiophile double blind testing”.

      • Namban says:

        I’m quite aware of such tests, thanks for pointing them out to others.

        I’ve done my own testing using ogg vorbis and FLAC lossless formats versus standard high bitrate (320) encoded mp3s, and direct CD WAV rips. I can hear a difference in high bitrate, but there is a very subtle difference even between CD direct and FLAC. It’s so subtle I don’t remember it mattering to me. Ogg Vorbis and FLAC had a difference between them as well with the same track, from the same conversion source.

        For the record, I am not an audiophile. The closest I get is a pair of B&O A8 earbuds.

        And to EH below- I don’t listen to 96 kbps mp3s. For important stuff, I use only FLAC or physical CDs. Other stuff, 320 kbps mp3s work fine. You don’t need nuances in death metal!

        I may be biased by my career choice, in that I work with long functionally “dead” technology as a watchmaker, so I appreciate this mentality of reviving the dead tech.

        Someone else said it correct here though- no doubt, there is a fine line between enthusiast and pretentious douchebaggery.

    • EH says:

      I highly recommend not getting your MP3s from wherever you’ve been getting them.

  11. lionelag says:

    Guys, you’re missing the major issue with the cost– the fact that the originals are incredibly, incredibly rare.  Dude has a major markup, no question (though his production costs are high– there’s a reason why even new vinyl from even major labels tends to cost $15 or $20 a pop instead of $12.99 for CD, and he’s doing all sorts of fancy printing of the boxes and booklets in addition to his vinyl pressing costs), but if you wanted an original copy of this set, which is more than 50 years old, in like-new condition, you’re looking at around $5k, just because there aren’t many of them.  (See, eg., http://www.popsike.com/php/quicksearch.php?searchtext=johanna+martzy&thumbs=&currsel=&sortord=&x=0&y=0) That’s not audiophilia woo-woo, that’s scarcity of resources, and you can find it with any commodity except for MP3s.

    Would I spend $4k for a beautiful set of very well pressed records of very rare music?  No– especially when you can get a CD boxset from another label for $38.   That doesn’t mean that someone who’s offering the fancy boxset is evil or insane, though.

    • Andrew Singleton says:

      Got a bit of a point there. Though prety sure he could have charged less if he made a bigger print run.

    • Aaron Bockelie says:

      The originals are incredibly rare because they’re locked up in a hard-to-get-grubby-paws-on analog format. If they were digital it would be easy to reproduce.

      I think Pete Hutchison is doing the right thing and he’s not misrepresenting the label. Mostly, it’s the general woo woo about charging a lot of money for an obsolete format.

      Having agreed with him, he’s still going about this in a difficult and expensive manner. I could pay thousands of dollars for clay tablets carved out by hand raised vegetarian marmosets specially trained in the art of cursive cuneiform, but that doesn’t make the resultant object, a block of clay with some marks on it, any more special.

      Instead he’s running that magnetic tape through a head, wearing and stretching it with each run, and could capture that in incredibly high fidelity digital format, perhaps each analog channel individually. The end result is something that will no longer degrade, and the operation need only be done once. Want to keep exclusivity? Keep it analog then. 

      • lionelag says:

        Like I said, scarcity of resources applies to just about everything except MP3s– because digital formats can be infinitely copied. 

        In the end, it’s about what you’d pay for– I think the only things I’ve ever spent $4k on in my life are computers or cars– but is purchasing a beautiful reproduction of an extremely rare set of records any less goofy than someone who spends $4k on a mechanical watch that keeps time worse than your average $50 cellphone?  Or that absolutely gorgeous triple Klein bottle that was posted a few links ago on BB but which has no purpose other than blowing the mind of anyone who looks at it?

      • Knifesmith says:

         “I could pay thousands of dollars for clay tablets carved out by hand
        raised vegetarian marmosets specially trained in the art of cursive
        cuneiform”

        Good luck with that buddy!  I’ve yet to meet a marmoset that won’t gleefully chomp down the occasional insect.

    • Ormode says:

       Your price for the original set is very low.   Good copies used to sell for $25K, and you can still get $12-15K if you play-grade and sell into the world market on eBay.

  12. dolo54 says:

    “Anybody who believes vinyl is superior to cds is an idiot!” “Anyone who believes cds are superior to vinyl is a moron!” “If your subjective opinion doesn’t agree with mine you must be convinced otherwise at any cost!” “Yeah well, you know, that’s just like, uh, your opinion man.”

    • flickerKuu says:

       I don’t understand.  A CD misses an amount of the frequencies recorded (the stairstep),  while vinyl represents the whole sound (smooth curve), in regards to sampling rates.

  13. Cowicide says:

    What does a $4,000 vinyl record sound like?

    A bad investment?

  14. Big_Govt_GOP says:

    I really would only believe this if I knew the records were only lit by artisanal light bulbs. I have heard that the lighting from regular light bulbs can damage the sound.

  15. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    The surprise here is that trolling audiophiles is Rob’s exclusive beat.  So maybe this isn’t trolling, although it’s had the same effect.  I’m an audio geek and a former ‘phile in my 50s.  I really don’t care what format the music is on.  For 20 years I listened almost exclusively to CDs and always struggled to get the hard edginess out of the reproduction.  The effort and cost would stagger you.  For the last year I mostly listen to vinyl again.  No hard edginess.  Plenty of other issues like surface noise and lower dynamic range, but the music just gets through to me better.
    I have no idea if a $4000 set of limited edition records is a good thing.  Is a Rolls Royce a good thing?  To someone it is.  Seems like there’s really no absolute value argument possible on this subject.

    • Ladyfingers says:

      The hard edginess can largely be overcome by selecting speakers with a slightly dimmed treble response.

      • Ray Perkins says:

        Or clip the wires to the tweeter! Doesn’t matter, it’s all moot anyway – I imagine there’s a lot of young folks out there that have never heard anything other than mp3s played over $20 ear buds at a volume of eleven.

        • ROSSINDETROIT says:

          I’m working on that.  On my desk here is a prototype of a headphone amplifier for portable use.  It’s assumed that the source will be a phone or media player and MP3 files.  A little passive frequency response tweaking rolls off the harshness and warms up the bass.  I’m not a headphones user myself but I’ve acquired several representative sets of consumer grade ‘phones for testing.  It’s not HI-FI but it’s a lot more tolerable.

          • Kimmo says:

            Most smartphones have a pretty decent EQ; could that do the job instead?

            Which frequencies are you cutting and boosting?

      • ROSSINDETROIT says:

        I’ve owned scores and scores of speakers, from BBC LS3/5As to Klipschorns.  I listen to variations on these mostly: http://blog.makezine.com/projects/econowave-speakers/ because I built them and they’re a good sound/cost value.  No component is perfect.  But if you have to consistently ‘de-tune’ one component to compensate for the sound of a medium, then there might be something wrong with those recordings or the medium.
        When I listened to CDs primarily I used tube gear a lot of the time.  Because it’s fun to build and has a smooth sound.  Now that I’m listening to primarily vinyl I’m using solid state equipment, which is much more power efficient and convenient than tubes.

        • Ladyfingers says:

           What I meant was that tastes in tonal balance differ, and it’s possible that you (like me, to an extent) find technically neutral sound fatiguing. I’m on the autistic spectrum and have CAPD and tend to suffer from sensory overload from noise and light, so I often wear earplugs and amber-brown lenses when out and about. I know there’s a reflexive hatred of tone controls and equalisers in the world of audiophilia, but they have their place.

          I have a Squeezebox/NAD T747/Hsu Research Ultra setup at home, and I tend to prefer a slight bass emphasis to a “calibrated” sound. I’ve moved a few times and I can emphatically say that a room is the biggest difference you can make to a system. I’m lucky that my current room is naturally quite well damped.

          • ROSSINDETROIT says:

            After reading your comment I decided to do an experiment.  I have a vinyl record that I know very well.  Bella Davidovich playing Schumann.  I found it on iTunes and downloaded it to my iPhone.  It’s the only download I’ve ever bought and the only music on my phone.  I’m listening to it now using the prototype headphone amp I just made, with integrated tone controls.  Now I can compare the digital dub to the vinyl version with the same headphone amp/headphones.  It will be interesting to see if there’s much difference.
            I do use tone controls when necessary.  Some music is just mixed too bassy or too lean for my tastes.
            Agreed on the room being a huge variable. The interaction of the sound with objects and surfaces in the environment alters it in many ways.

    • Ormode says:

       You can’t get rid of that edge.   It’s caused by digital distortion in the upper frequencies that occurs when brickwall antialiasing filters are applied to the signal.   This results in ‘pre-ringing’ where there is harsh noise before the note.   This is completely unnatural, because in the real world each note is a hard attack followed by decay, rather than the other way around.

      Digital can sound good, but not CD.   I recently had an opportunity to listen to double-DSD rips of analogue master tapes, and they are spooky good.  The bit rate is 8 times that of CD, and the DSD process does not require any filtration of the signal.

      • immovableobject says:

        You will notice that the pictures of ringing are always excited by an impulse or square wave.  These input waveforms  have not been run through an anti-alising filter, so have infinite slope and contain harmonic content extending supersonically violating the sampling criterion.  

        I think the pre-ringing is only excited if the input signal is not properly lowpass brickwalled and violates the Nyquist frequency.  All kinds of nasty things (frequency foldback, inharmonic overtones) happen if that is the case.

  16. For many types of music, vinyl definitely sounds subjectively better. It has a relaxed frequency response and exaggerated low end with what we term a musical harmonic distortion to the source material.  Accurate representation of the source is not at all the same as sounding good. Despite all the nonsense audiophiles and neo-purists have generated, for every woo-woo wacko out there, there are plenty of normal people who still just prefer it because it sounds warmer. An easy analogy is the tube amp as it applies to instrument amplification. If you can simply regard the record, hi-fi, and speaker system as an INSTRUMENT that you play, you can more easily understand that each component affects the sound and the listener has the right to choose the one that sounds subjectively best, that sounds the most musical.
    The reason this costs so much is because it’s a reproduction meant to be heard as it was heard a long time ago. It does not sound ‘better’ as he claims but it sounds the way it sounded at the time it was made. There is plenty of room in the world for things like this. 

    • snagglepuss says:

      There is  PRECISELY no accounting for taste.

      I have a friend who’s an audio geek, a near-genius who could take an entire radio station apart and reassemble it blindfolded. He has several thousand dollars’ worth of audio gear, carefully maintained and calibrated, takes immaculate care of his vinyl – AND has the absolute worst taste in music I’ve ever seen. Que sera, sera.

  17. Robert Fiore says:

    The most noticeable difference to me between the LP sound and the CD sound is soundstage and imaging. It’s always striking to me how much more of a sense of dimension there is in the LP sound, as opposed to the CD sound, which seems to come from a more two dimensional space.

    Another thing that makes a difference in the LP sound is what part of the LP you’re listening to. They can sound surprisingly good in the outer grooves, but the advantages diminish considerably as you get near the label. I believe the LP and CD sound each have their own qualities, and generally prefer the convenience qualities of the CD. Speaking as someone who still owns most of his LPs, by the way.

    • It’s all your perception. If it sounds better to you, it is better. 

    • Ladyfingers says:

       Mostly due to the perfect/infinite stereo separation digital audio offers. I think vinyl offers about 20dB at maximum, so the trick is to either move the speakers closer together when listening to CD, or employ a little mixing trickery.

      • snagglepuss says:

         The first time I was made aware of what digital recording could do was hearing a side-by-side comparison of Stan Ridgway’s “Mosquitos” album, vinyl to CD – And CD won, hands down. The sense of spaciousness, clarity and detail in the arrangements was VERY noticeable on the CD, versus the rather flat, two-dimensional sound of the vinyl.

        It made me understand that there are SO many variables AFTER a recording goes into the wild, that “definitive” better-or-worse comparisons are strictly the province of only the highest of high-end ‘philes, and it STILL gets into the subjective / objective  and emotional range of evaluation.

        Example: I myself am on a mission to replace several thousand LP’s that my ex destroyed before I could get them out of the house, even though I’ve replaced quite a few of them on CD – Because I have an EMOTIONAL tie to those records that overrides any inherent “audiofidelity” judgment. They don’t have to be brand-new 180-gram remastered ‘phile re-releases – I’ll be happy with decent-shape $1.00 copies that I stumble across at a garage sale or in my local indie record store’s “used” crates. (Admittedly, a part of the plan involves the fact that the SLEEVES were ruined, as well, and I’m a fan of old-fashioned gatefold cover art. It’s as much a mission for replacing that, as for the cheap hit of old, comfy vinyl scratchiness.) Those old albums meant something to me, MORE than just their “fidelity”, and I want my new grandson (when he’s able) to have the opportunity to see and hear – and understand – the difference.

  18. noah django says:

    the greatest advantage to vinyl was that the industry told everyone it was worthless in the 80s, so by the 90s, $20 would buy me between 4 to 19 used lps instead of one new CD and change.  of nearly equal advantage is their UI is great for mixing and scratching, if you’re into that kinda thing, which I am.  I was born to where my first format was tapes, but I’ve got more vinyl than most people born to it ever had.

    fidelity-wise, if you can find a copy that isn’t beat-up, vinyl’s actually really nice.  however, since finally buying a computer, I mostly just listen to mp3s over the world’s worst speakers that came with my macbook.  fidelity seems overrated to me.  i think there’s something to it, but it neither interests me nor seems practical.

    it wouldn’t surprise me that there is a percentage of humanity that can really hear a difference, but i’m of the opinion that most audiophile stuff is sold due to Barnum’s maxim.  it’s disappointing, but that’s humanity for you.  pretty banal considering the totality of our foibles.

    but hey, if you really can hear a difference, you may as well do it right, right?  sourcing the best original-press lps and playback devices seems admirable.  for distribution purposes, to then rip that vinyl to flac seems most logical, but then one guy buys it and torrents it–there’s no incentive for that quality of a rip if you can’t recoup your investment.  re-pressing it and selling it at a premium could be viewed as a convoluted means to an end, so…  win?  i guess?

  19. jccalhoun says:

     How does printing the record sleeve with antique techniques make it sound better? It almost makes me think that he is more interested in nostalgia than actual sound quality…

    • Navin_Johnson says:

       Interesting argument.  So you’re upset that he didn’t just scribble the info in ballpoint pen, or print it out at Kinkos?

      Why make the effort to do any craft or artistic packaging? You’re really riled that he like many other crafters, artists etc. is using letterpress printing?

      Surprised by the ‘tude this guy’s getting on Boing Boing for being a nerd about crafting something unique.  I swear if he was some kind of militia asshole spending 10 times as much money to make 3D printed guns we’d be hearing about how neat it is….

  20. ab01 says:

    This is about faithfully reproducing the original release right down to the smallest detail, which includes using original equipment from the era. You can get Johanna Martzy’s work on CD if you prefer. If you read the linked article you would know that the price reflects the costs of this project. I personally am enheartened to see someone passionate enough for a work to invest so much of their time and money to share their passion with others. If you don’t appreciate it, you don’t have to buy it.

  21. stasike says:

    I wanted to sample the content before plonking down so much cash. So I went to their site and imagine … they do not have mp3s of songs for download or streaming. I can’t see how they sell any of those records ;-).

    Seriously. If you are going to talk about how crappy CDs are in comparison to LPs, try to compare the same quality range. So if you select a good quality LP, you have to choose something by Chesky records or similar CD publisher that does care about quality.
    There are very low quality CDs out there (and even much worse MP3s), but there are also poorly made LPs.

    You also have to take into account the equipment that most people can afford to buy. For an average person a CD will sound much better than LP after both of them get played 50 times.

  22. jambon says:

    Keeping in mind that the world and our own bodies are made up of waves or particles of energy travelling at different wavelengths and frequencies, I think audiophiles have an innate curiosity as to the nature of life itself. The squared-off waves found in digital music are not found in nature. Digital sounds will always approach but never surpass analogue. To truly comprehend the oscillation of a string is to get an inkling into something profound about the vibrations of the universe. 

    • Ladyfingers says:

       http://www.xiph.org/video/vid2.shtml

    • Andrew Suber says:

      Analog Fetishism = Quantum Mysticism.

      I don’t know that much about sound recording.  I do know that Wendy Carlos Williams and Les Paul both believe that tape is clearly superior to vinyl and digital playback clearly superior to tape. I defer to their expertise.

      In the infancy of multi-track recording, acetate was used. It was abandoned because it was impractical and noisy. None of these recordings are processed, mastered or engineered with  all acousto-mechanical equipment. It would simply be too impractical.

      These “magical” analog sound waves are destroyed in the digital board and equalizers that 99% of studios use. Vinyl purveyors are selling an expensive dream to a gullible audience.

      The main reason that people love vinyl is because it is much more difficult and expensive to wring faithful playback from it. Frankly, I feel that tape is a superior analog signal to vinyl and more durable to boot.

      These audiophiles would have you believe that the vinyl record sounds better than the digital master. A child’s understanding of information science should prove that false.

  23. Andrew Suber says:

    I’m a compassionate, rational person, but these high-end audiophiles bug the hell out of me.

    Can we just put a bullet in this guy’s brain and siphon his bank account to UNICEF?

    This makes a mockery of the artistry and soulfulness of music. This guy cares nothing for music, just the technological fetishism of sound reproduction.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      So… the death penalty for having a quirky hobby? Seems legit.

      • Andrew Suber says:

        That was exaggeration for rhetorical purpose. I do not intend to kill anyone for their conspicuous consumption.

        I do sincerely wish that BoingBoing would stop equating the wastefulness of the ultra-rich with anything interesting or aesthetic, however. This is as newsworthy as someone using a solid gold dildo on themselves.

  24. bocomo says:

    surprised no one brought up the fact that CDs are (were?) mastered for radio, severely limiting them sonically

    comparisons need to be between properly mastered versions of both LPs and CDs

    in the end, it really is “to each, their own”

  25. g. edward weitl says:

    Because of its sonic characteristics, classical music (any any acoustic music, really) is genuinely better suited to digital recording/digital mastering/digital format (DDD), whereas amplified music benefits from analog recording/mastering/formats. This is because of the distortion inherent in any amplified signal meshes with the distortion inherent in tape machines, vinly, tube-based circuits, etc. This is the nutshell of how it was explained to me by a former Ampex engineer from back in the hey day.

    The best argument I can think of for buying vinyl is that a lot of recordings have simply not been mastered right in any other format. Conversely, there are many first pressings that sound like crap. So, the only motivation for me to buy a record is if it’s the only format that the best master happens to be recorded on.

    I think diminishing the argument for the old way of doing certain things by putting it down to romance is just as curmudgeonly a take as the refusenick stuck in the past. There is a beautiful philosophy behind a machine like an Ampex 300 — a decidedly simple machine with an elegant circuit that was both totally reliable, serviceable, and captured more than the lion’s share of groundbreaking music of the middle 20th century. Have there been improvements over the 300? Sure. But it was and remains all the more machine necessary for documenting a thing of everlasting beauty that can be enjoyed for the rest of time.

    And it’s this simplicity that provides us with yet another argument for vinyl records: In the aftermath of the Zombie Apocalypse, rigging up a playback system for vinyl records (think safety-pin and paper cone) would be a helluva lot easier than knocking together a CD/DVD or other digital playback device.

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