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.

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.

 

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.

Needles vs. lasers

Sometimes it’s instructive to pull our view of the world back and take a broader look. For example, a 30,000 foot view of music reproduction’s two core methods: vinyl and CD, might look very different than our normal image.

For example, when I don’t put much thought into comparing differences between vinyl on my turntable and CD, I consider them different yet not that different. Both make music, both are wonderful mediums, each has its upsides and downsides. A simplistic view that ignores fundamentals.

A more callous look from afar would be very different indeed. One technology is almost entirely mechanical, relying upon a needle wiggling in a plastic groove to generate a tiny electrical voltage vs. a laser beam scanning an impossibly microscopic mirror to extract ones and zeros. The two technologies couldn’t be further apart, yet each is expected to produce similar results.

For me, it’s helpful when listening to the two disparate sources to place them in different categories and adjust my expectations accordingly. I don’t hope for one to mirror the other. I experience vinyl in a very different way than I do digital.

The next time someone asks which do you prefer best, it might make sense for a moment’s pause to consider that it’s hard to compare apples to oranges.

 

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.

No need to duck

We trust that when we buy a house the doorways are tall enough for us not to have to duck. And for most of us, it’s not a problem. But, imagine if you were 7 feet tall. You’d be concerned with headroom (it’s not called headroom for nothin’).

Headroom is an elusive measure for us. We know we like having room to spare. We also know that getting to close to the limits of any piece of equipment in our stereo chain can be bad.

When Darren Myers designed the Stellar Phono, he built in headroom. Lots of it. Stellar Phono can output 20 volts rms, which is a ridiculous amount of headroom given few preamp/amp combination can take at their inputs more than 2 volts (10X less than Stellar can output).

And yet, Stellar Phono has one of the most effortless presentations I have ever heard in the 45 years I have been involved with turntables and vinyl reproduction. It’s likely no coincidence that having ten times more output capability than is needed has a direct relationship to Stellar Phono’s effortless output.

Or take the upcoming Stellar M1200 monoblock power amplifier. 1200 watts and a vacuum tube input stage without feedback that can swing huge numbers of volts—far more than needed by a magnitude. The M1200 can deliver more output than any speaker system ever needs. Yet, it too shares that same effortless quality of music as does Stellar Phono.

It’s all about headroom. The more you have the greater the ease and effortless of music regardless of load.

Some call it overkill. Others just recognize the benefits of never getting close to the edges.

But, whatever you call it, you can’t have too much of 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.

All this to compete with a turntable?

In response to Ted Smith’s video explaining DSD, a viewer posted a great remark that is the title of today’s post. I just couldn’t resist writing about it.

Indeed, when digital audio first came on the scene in the early 1980s, the intent of designers was clear. Outperform the turntable. From day one their goals were met in terms of fixing vinyl’s many weaknesses: degradation over time, mechanical interface, ticks and pops, surface noise, limited dynamic range, stunted frequency response, mechanical nightmare.

For most, the advent of the CD was all they needed to retire their vinyl collection. Few looked back with regret.

Of course, our sector of the market reacted rather differently. We were horrified with the one aspect most important to us. Sound quality. Compare an old CD to the same in vinyl and it’s easy to see why.

Today, the situation has flip-flopped. While vinyl’s still a great sounding medium whose popularity has soared once again, digital has long ago exceeded our expectations for sound quality. Consider that nearly every new vinyl release of the last few decades was recorded on a digital system before transferring to vinyl. That what modern purchasers of vinyl are hearing is a second-generation copy of a digital master.

Sometimes change happens without our even noticing it.