Tag Archives: vinyl

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Our son played trumpet for much of his pre-teen and early teenager years and we had two dogs that used to howl when he played. However, when they would hear recorded versions of the same material, played back on my wife’s cellphone, they would also howl. So, our experience is different than Ed’s.

The dog gets it

When HiFi Family member Ed Spilka sent me the following note I just had to smile. How many times have I heard a similar story? Too many times to count.

And here’s the thing. It’s not just about vinyl. I have heard the same stories about DSD, vacuum tubes, and even good vs. bad cables.

I am sure the measurement folks will have a field day with this one.

“I wanted to share an interesting audio experience that happened the other day.  We were visiting a friend of my wife’s in San Antonio. She was showing us around their new house when we walked into “his” room which held Wilson Alexandria speakers, D’agostino amps, Berkeley DAC’s etc. You get the idea.

When he came home he invited us into his inner sanctum and we began to play. At one point we were A/B’ing between his vinyl collection and streaming on tidal/Qobuz with Sonny Rollin’s Way Out West. On one cut it is just the drummer and Sonny. When Sonny started blowing on the vinyl version, their dog began singing along—howling like crazy. As soon as we switched to the streaming version, the dog was silent, uninterested.

My wife pointed it out to us since we were too engrossed in “listening” to notice the obvious! It happened every time we switched back and forth between vinyl and streaming. Have you experienced that before?”

As I said, this has happened to me with animal reactions more times than I can count.

We might argue like crazy, but the dogs get it.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Finding the golden nugget

The sweet flesh of a Bing cherry exists to support that which we throw away. The pit. From the cherry’s perspective, it’s all about the seed. From the eater’s perspective, it’s all about its outer wrapping.

Focusing only on one aspect while ignoring everything else can have consequences.

In our quest for the absolute sound, that golden nugget of musical truth, we sometimes get so entrenched in what we believe to be inviolate that we miss out on possibilities.

For example, if we identify as vinyl-centric or digital-based we sacrifice potential. One brand preferred over another. One type of amplification preferred over the other.

If possible I strive to put musical truth above technology and brand identity.

It isn’t always easy. At times I have to forego my perceived identity in order to try on another.

In your quest for the golden nugget—the absolute musical truth—are you open to new ideas and different means of getting where you hope to go?

It might feel safer to close ourselves into a small predefined box, but I suspect the view is better outside.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

A whole new experience

Octave Record’s first release, pianist Don Grusin’s Out Of Thin Air, was a huge success and much loved by those who bought it on SACD or download. We’re nearly sold out of the final edition of the SACD.

The recording is one I am very familiar with, having heard it any number of times on the big system. It’s one of the best piano recordings I have ever heard.

And now we’re getting closer to releasing Out Of Thin Air on vinyl. We will press a limited edition of 500 LP’s on 180-gram virgin vinyl, mastered at 45 rpm and released on 4-discs.

But here’s the crazy thing. Having been personally involved in the process from day one, as Gus worked with the cutting engineer, I am flabbergasted by the sound. It is Soooo different (in a magical sort of way) than the master DSD from which it was cut.

How can this be?

These discs were cut directly from the DSD master, something almost never done (as we’ve learned). To facilitate the transfer our chief engineer, Bob Stadtherr, designed a DSD delay splitter that made certain the real-time cutting head feed (that sets the groove width in accordance with the signal amplitude) is identical to the delayed musical signal. Every step of the way we made certain the purity of the original master DSD tracks were perfectly preserved.

It should sound pretty darned close to the master.

It does not. There’s a vinyl magic that sets it apart from its source.

This drives me frickin’ bonkers. I know we’ve been many times down this road, but still…

It’ll likely be a few months before we have the finished discs so you can hear for yourself.

I think I am going to go run some cold water over my head.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Mine is break in and warm up, once a piece of stereo equipment is sufficiently broken in.

Audio taboos and sacred rituals

There are certain audio taboos we’re loathed to violate. High atop my list would be plants atop speakers. (But it behooves us to be diplomats if we’d like not to sleep on the couch)

Diplomacy aside, we purists rarely tolerate violations of our taboos and sacred rituals.

Some taboos make sonic sense: plugging all your equipment into an AC extension strip, stacking a turntable atop a power amplifier.

Perhaps more prevalent than taboos would be the sacred rituals which cover everything from record handling, room light levels, seating positions, warm-up time, and source protocols.

I never start a listening session with vinyl. My ritual is to get the system warmed up and me adjusted to it with known digital references. Then, and only then, am I comfortable switching sources.

What are your audio taboos and sacred rituals?

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Most of what we listen to is PCM and with a great DAC, like the T+A DACS’s, PCM can sound fantastic.

Vinyl best

In my earlier post, Audio Pedigree I waxed on about how nice it would be to know the true origins of our music’s recordings. Remastered vinyl “improved” by digital enhancement from the original analog tape is rarely as good as the original and often worse.

This prompted a few juicy questions about our own Octave Records process as we move into vinyl. While we’re completely transparent as to the recording methods and source materials, it would seem to some that vinyl mastered from DSD falls into a similar category as the aforementioned digital remasters I do not like.

Not so.

The ultimate quality of vinyl is achieved by what we used to call Direct-to-Disc recording. Where the long-ago norm was to first record on magnetic tape then transfer to vinyl, a few labels skipped the tape recorder altogether. Artists would play live while vinyl cutting engineers went direct to the lathe. These direct-to-disc recordings were amazing but not because of any superior cutting techniques.

What made direct-to-disc recordings sound so great was the elimination of the magnetic tape recorder. That was it. Tape recorders have limited dynamic range—less than what’s possible on a vinyl disc.

So the problem is in the recorder, which is why it seemed to make sense to record digitally. Digital recorders have dynamic range capabilities that far exceed the limitations of vinyl. Thus, with digital, it should be possible to obtain the same performance as we got with direct-to-disc. And while that is true when it comes to dynamics, it isn’t true when it comes to sounding like the live event.

This is where we draw the line between PCM and DSD. PCM can often sound artificial while DSD in the right hands sounds analog-live.

A new era is upon us. It is now possible to create direct-to-disc quality vinyl without requiring the musicians to play live.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Liner notes

As we move forward with a limited edition vinyl release of Octave Record’s first recording, Don Grusin’s Out of Thin Air, I got to thinking about liner notes.

A rush of memories flooded back.

I don’t know about you, but I distinctly remember grabbing an unknown album from my collection (I had a lot of unknowns because of my years in the music/radio business), dropping the needle on track one and reading the album’s liner notes. If the first few paragraphs and notes both spoke to me, I delved deeper into both liner and musical notes so that by the end of side one I felt in tune with the artist and her music.

Today I can do the same thing with a digital platform but somehow it just doesn’t feel right. Reading from an iPad loses the feel of the cardboard cover, the smell of new vinyl, the permanence of the printed word, the myopic read without the possibility of a click for more info. You got what the artist wanted to share with you. No more, no less.

Which is why I am excited we’re doing a classic vinyl release with lots of liner notes and pictures. The double-disc set will be on heavy virgin vinyl and playback at 45 rpm. I’ll let you know when they’re available.

Sometimes more isn’t always better.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Except for a few of my audiophile customers, none of the people that I have worked with care about audio cables and audio tweaks. I do, but mostly because Its a hobby and I enjoy it.

That being said, I’ll say it again, a few basic rights and wrongs and you’ve got most of what you need to accomplish with cables taken care of.

I’m not convinced

Boy oh boy, my simple post about our lunchtime conversation concerning cable elevators has once again let all the worms out of the can.

Of course, the controversy is to be expected. Anything involving cables, tweaks, isolation bases, fuses, and whatever manner of heresy I write about will naturally draw ridicule. And that’s alright. I can remember when the notion that electronics sound different or the idea that CDs sound different than vinyl were thought to be subjects worthy of burning one at the stake. Today, that’s mostly accepted.

What truly tickles me is when I get notes from readers announcing they are not convinced. That my words and opinions did not sway their opinions. Thank you for those comments. Anytime someone reaches out and connects it’s welcome.

Here’s the thing. I am not attempting to sway opinion or convince anyone of anything. What I do is to openly share my thoughts with you, our HiFi Family—our community. Think of it like standing at the bar of our local pub, mug of frosty white in hand, chewing the fat about what we believe and why.

We’re community. Family. Friends. I am not out to change the world nor sway others to my thoughts.

Mine is about sharing.

 

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Tweaking vs. tuning

There comes a point in our stereo journey where we have to decide whether it’s best to tweak or tune. By that I mean we can embellish upon what we have or we can rethink that which isn’t working for us.

Much, I suppose, is dependent on whether or not we’re happy with the status quo. If we love what we have built, then perhaps it makes more sense to tweak in the hopes we can get something a skosh better. If, on the other hand, we’re struggling with sonic problems, maybe it’s better to rethink the setup.

For example, if we have a turntable high-end audio system and, for the most part, records sound great then we’re probably best advised to tweak the various tonearm/cartridge settings to compensate for minor problems. But, if we’re not getting the promise vinyl has to offer, then it’s time to rethink the system components—to tune by either equipment swapping or a radical rearrangement.

All too often I have run into systems tweaked to within an inch of their life with gadgets, process, bells and whistles, when what was needed instead was a radical tuning or equipment swap.

I think it’s part of human nature to want to make smaller course corrections than wipe a slate clean, but it’s also human nature to suffer through a situation because we’re hesitant to make the big change.

Tweaking, polishing, refining are small changes we can leverage to make what’s working better.

Tuning, replacing, rearranging are big changes we often need to make but more often than not shy away from.

To get to where you want to go, do you tweak or tune?

 

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

While I sell turntables, most of what I sell is pretty expensive.

Yesterday, I saw an ad from a company that makes new lower priced products and they are making turntables in the US!!

Their name is U Turn Audio and here is there website.  You’ll probably need to copy the URL. https://uturnaudio.com/collections/all

I’ve not heard their products, but belt drive and a few reasonable design choices and probably great for most non-audiophiles out there that want to buy record players.

In fact, there are a few different companies that make turntables in the US, including VPI and  Shinola Detroit. VPI has a huge offering of products, mostly or exclusively, sold through dealers and range in price from very reasonable, to extremely expensive.

Shinola Detroit makes turntables, which they are currently sold out of and at $2500!! They also make watches and other mens and womens stuff. Check them out. https://www.shinola.com/supply/audio/runwell-turntable-rose-gold.html

Vinyl is alive and well and I still listen to my turntable a lot, but my Melco digital is pretty damn good too.

 

 

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Becoming a statistic

We’re all a statistic somewhere: a number, one of many that someone, somewhere, keeps track of. Maybe you’re one of X thousand digital audio subscribers, or perhaps you’re among the few that only purchase vinyl, but somewhere you’re showing up as a statistic.

Most of us wish to belong to a group, family, or collection of like minded people. There’s strength in numbers and our decisions to move in one direction or another are validated by the others.

What’s interesting to me is the conflict between how I feel inside vs. my needs to be part of a group. Inside, I am an individual—a separate entity unto myself. No one knows what’s inside my head nor how I am thinking. I believe I am unique in the universe. Yet, on more than a few levels, I qualify as a measurable statistic. A predictable entity. Regardless of the clutter of seemingly unique motivations in my head, someone, somewhere can pretty accurately guess what my next moves are going to be.

Even if I decide I don’t want to identify as part of a group I remain a predictable statistic: I am part of a group that doesn’t want to be part of a group.

I know. All this keeping track of people seems kind of creepy, right?

If belonging to a family or group of likeminded people—our tribe—is what makes us stronger and more resourceful than what we alone can achieve, then what’s creepy about keeping track of the members? It’s how we know there is more than just one in the tribe.

I for one am fine with being counted amongst my fellow audiophiles and music lovers, even if it means someone else can predict what the future might look like.