The Day the Music (Almost) Died

When the shift came along, and vinyl became prohibitively high and CD’s were all the rage, and having a really stellar stereo system already (Since 1972 a high-end guy), I bought a fairly expensive 5 disc CD player platter.  I checked out all its specs over its competitors.  I leaned always toward Sony – good high-end gear for a good bit less than Bose, and prayed for the Bose stereo fairy to fit their high-end amp, pre-amp, tuner, etc. system under my pillow one night.  I would keep my top-dog Pioneer precision belt-driven turntable and my BIC speakers – which were kick-butt and without many peers, until I sold them in 2004 – a bad call on my part, and something I hope to rectify furrily soon in the future.

Anyway, I was then, as I am now, singularly disappointed in the sound of CD’s.  There was something weird about the sound.  I had to play around with my equalizer a lot to get the CD’s to sound like a vinyl album.  Some  said it was just me, but when I played vinyl, and the immediately a CD – with the same song – for them, they were astounded.  Anyway . . .

This article got me going on it tonight!  That is good news – the more they are selling, the better the price, and this time round, I won;t have teen-aged boys scratching the dickens out of my albums!

So, as I put my new system together, I am going back to what I believe is a better way.  Not only does good gear and a good stylus work wonders (Cheap will not deliver, Sports Fans), but there is the other missing factor, one which true audiophiles always have loved – the mechanics of it all!

A rugged amp, pre-amp and tuner, get a top-notch turntable and cartridge – they are out there!  For me and my money, those BIC Formula 6’s look great.  I forever had a pair of fuse-protected Formula 4’s – which my audiophile son called “Our Forevers!”  They have some special magic in their speakers, and if you shop e-bay, there are Formula 4’s out there.  JBL has always run a close second – when I set up my theater for movies, I used smaller JBL’s as my rear and side speakers.  I no longer waste bucks on any cable TV system, but maybe a DVD will find its way into my system for movies.  Big ball games?  Fast Eddies.  Shoot pool all day on 8-foot tables for $8 bucks, and order your fave brew(s).  And – being a “private” club, you can smoke your butts in peace without some PC’er making you miserable!

But going back the mechanics – setting up a kick-butt system is like a kid unwrapping Christmas presents!  Get it going!  Make sure your turntable is perfectly balanced.  Autos are okay, but I want a lift arm either way.  I always trusted my own “alighting” on the record at my own hand.  Of course, the new ones are cushioned dampened, so . . . put on the tuner and get something with a wide variance of the music played.  Then set those speakers up exactly where YOU want them.  Take your time and listen.

Then, the real fun begins!  Search through your stack of new albums, and chose a few of your absolute favorite.  Take one and use your thumbnail to open the end.  Tilt it a bit – NO FINGERS ON THE PLAYING SURFACES – and it will slide out against the butt of you palm, fingers on the table.  Switch the one hand to have the edges of the album against your palms, and place it on the turn-table. switch the table on.  Check the light reading on speed, and gently lower the stylus.  Treat the album well every time, and you will have it a lifetime.  Sit back in your dedicated over-stuffed music chair with remote, and begin to enjoy.  Immerse yourself in the music.  You will immediately notice a warmth and depth from vinyl you never got from CD’s.

Our brains are hard-wired for analog, not digital:

Digital technology can mimic analog technology if the resolution is high enough. For example, if a digital picture has high enough resolution you cannot see the pixels. If a digital sound recording has a high enough bit rate then you cannot hear the difference it and a good analog recording. This topic also is applicable to artificial intelligence, as I have touched upon before. Our brains are ultimately analog, and duplicating their function with a digital computer is possible but will require greater digital processing power.  (The whole article is here)

To put it simply, the music does sound more natural on an analog system.  Be sure your get the best stylus you can!  Get a second and you should be set for a good while!  Of course, the better the turntable . . . well, you get it.

Go to a reputable stereo shop with a good “hear” room.  I always called them that, sorry.  Before you go, bone up on how the specs are measured – Signal to noise ration, distortion, etc.  This site seems to be a decent source for a quick tutorial.  Ask a lot of questions, but understand, your ear is the best judge of things.  Listen to a wide variety of music – old-fashioned rock to Bach, and anything in between.  You’ll know when you’ve heard what you want.  And once more, let your ear decide when it comes to price.  A good salesman will want you to buy fully top-end equipment, but that will break multiple bank accounts.  Again, a good stylus and good amplification does not require top dollar.  Do your homework.  Your ears will tell you when you have hit pay-dirt!

So with this vehicle of mine approaching the end of things it needs done – my next project will be a good system.  Given my finances, it will be a piece or two at a time and plenty of patience.  If you have a couple of grand to spare, you can come home with a good system that will last you many years.

That’s way off my usual fare here, but given the price of vinyl has come down, and the oldies but good cut on it, the time seems primo for stepping up on your way to back.  I know what I will listen to first.  I should buy that album first, and take it with me when I go a-spending.

Handel’s Messiah – Hallelujah Chorus!



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