BackgroundMusic reproduction and commercial music media are driven by technology progressing at a skyrocketing rate.
Consumers are being introduced to new digital formats at no better choice on their own, such as DVD-Audio, SACD, with promises of even greater resolution formats around the corner, like Blu-ray and HD-DVD. Since the inception of CD musical playback in the early ‘80s, most of those old enough to have experienced its processors, such as vinyl records, cassettes, eight track tapes and open reel tape, have since purged their collections of such relics in favor of the more convenient and seemingly “perfect” digital formats.
And It has been times that it was a bit shy to say I am listening on my LPs in the early ‘90s.
I was in Taipei airport some ten year ago waiting for the departure back to Hong Kong, while I was listening music form my Sony Professional Walkman WM-D6C using TDK MA-XG metal tapes. One Taiwanese chap came and ask me why I used the mammoth Walkman….Why no CD walkman, I simply smiled and said because of good music reproduction. I still owe Walkman and I have two! As for spare!
Many consumers decided to let their ears to decide which format sounded better. What many of them found was that the compact disc was not all it was built up to be. For sure, the CD succeeded in eliminating some of the annoyances and hissing noises of the older formats, such as eight-track tape track changes, the poor compressed sound of cassette tapes and the irritating pops and scratches of vinyl records. But with this new technology, many argue that although the resolution has increased, we have not moved any closer to the insatiable palpability of live music, something that keeps concertgoers flocking to their local live music venues.
Although this debate is sure to rage on long past this review and into the future, unsurprisingly, LP vinyl record sales are growing as many rediscovert the positive virtues of this somewhat forgotten Analogue format.
In the old days, you simply plugged your turntable into your receiver and voila, you were spinnin’ music. These days, you will still find phono preamps and an higher-quality preamps, a good power amp and a pair of good loudspeakers.
Spinning LPs in a High-Resolution Digital WorldAs a kid, I would take my HK$10 per week allowance and marched it directly to the local record store to purchase the latest releases on vinyl. At the time, they cost a scant HK$20 and some change for local artist and HK$20-40 for foreign release.. I would go home and load them up on my fathers’ old Denon stereo console powered by vacuum Tubes. This trusty player tended to track and played music faithfully. At that time, the stylus pressure is fixed and was heavy because they used ceramic pick up cartridge. The Stylus force was as high as 50 gf!
As you can imagine, this did little more than inflict irreversible damage to the grooves of the record. I later realized that much of my collection was worn beyond repair. As the ‘80s ushered in the new digital era, I moved on to a Nakamichi Cassette players and I saved up money for years to buy my first LP player which is an Irish product Linn LP-12.
Linn is still producing the model with some upgraded and modification, but the basic function outlook are more ore less same as it was firstly introduced in the market in 1972.
The virtues of vinyl never drifted far, as I often found myself in front of the fantastic-sounding record playback systems. I resisted adding a CD nor DVD record playback system to my reference Audio setup for several reasons. Firstly, there are a lot of famous there is no more better music industrial investor would make these players offered me uncompromised sound and convenience. And, unlike many of my friends, I had for the most part dusted my old record collection in the mid-‘80s. It was too late to start collecting vinyl, right? Wrong. There are dozens of used record stores local to me that have great quality, new and used records that are downright cheap.
Also, I am finding copies of records that I love that were never made available on CD and likely never will be. Some were real gems that I had all but forgotten about due to lack of availability. Collecting used records is easier than ever and extremely rewarding. I now make weekly trips to several local record stores and am beginning to amass a substantial and incredibly rewarding collection that is costing me little. Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti was viewed by many in its time as the greatest and most refined and influential Led Zeppelin album.
Following the footsteps of the first five Zeppelin albums that clearly solidified their place as the greatest rock band of all time, this recording has more musical creativity than virtually every rock album since, combined. I cued up my Classis Records 200-gram reissue copy and went to side one of the first of the two-record set to the rock classic “Rover.” I first took the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the CD version before evaluating the vinyl version. The CD version has always been slightly thin-sounding and lacks the warmth of the better recordings today but nevertheless provided a rich, detailed sound.
When listening to the vinyl version, there were distinct differences. The drum intro had more musical depth. Bonham’s drums had a more natural “pop” and ensuing decay. It didn’t have more detail – in fact, it tended to seem a bit more compressed – but overall, it sounded considerably more like they did when I witnessed them live.
Page’s guitar sounds very synthetic on CD, yet it has a warm timbre and extremely palpable presence on vinyl, as it was intended to have. It made me want to go purchase a ‘57 Les Paul to try to capture some of Page’s magic. Clearly the vinyl version played through the Linn LP12 was more enjoyable, realistic and sounded more like it was intended to originally than when played through the impressive Meridian 598. I must also note that the Meridian 598 is one of the best-sounding CD systems that I have heard, only bettered by a select couple of players today.
Another great example of vinyl improvement came from the 1979 Ronnie Montrose offering, Gamma 1 (Elektra). The number one is an important number in the career of Ronnie Montrose because the first release from each band he created was clearly the best, including his fist release with Sammy Hagar titled Montrose, his Warner Bros. Presents release with his second band and the impressive Gamma 1 offering. In the song “I’m Alive,” the vinyl version transformed the keys in the intro from synthesized garbage to a real-sounding instrument. From the time that I received the Linn LP12, I found that there were more and more recordings that I simply no longer wanted to listen to on CD, yearning for the better and more natural vinyl sound. There are some annoyances in vinyl that you don’t find in CDs, such as popping and static caused by poor pressings and worn records, yet they tend to blend in, and your brain has a way of eliminating them much like someone who lives near a freeway no longer hears cars.
Perhaps I am conditioned to this sound having grown up with records or perhaps I am turning a deaf ear to it in favor for the better more palpable sound. This was never an issue for me whatsoever. The intro to the tune “Razor King” was not only improved on vinyl but made its way from being a CD that I broke out every two years as a nostalgia piece to become a go-to reference rock recording.
The Linn LP12 makes this and many LPs truly more enjoyable and rewarding.Let’s move along and get to some mind-blowing recordings. As a lifetime music enthusiast and someone who has been on a quest for the best possible reproduction since the early age of 21, when it was recommended that I grab a copy of Soulville from the Ben Webster Quintet (Verve Records), I obliged in anxious anticipation. From the time the stylus hit the vinyl, I was in complete disbelief at what I was hearing. I was treated to the greatest audiophile listening session I have ever experienced, bar none. It was so good, I could hardly contain myself.
The Linn LP12 milked a sound from this record that was eerily true to life. Okay, this is a worn-out phrase, yet this recording brought the quintet into my room without the slightest stretch of my imagination. The sound of Webster’s tenor sax was so real that it was scary. From the sound of escaping air to the incredible attack and ensuing decay, the LP12’s rendering of this recording left every CD player that I have yet heard in the dust. Piano is in my eyes the hardest instrument to accurately reproduce, yet the strike of the keys was so impactful and delicious-sounding that my heart skipped a beat. Not having the opportunity to hear live grand piano very often, I was treated to a private showing from the incomparable Oscar Peterson in my own home. This is musical reproduction at its very, very best. I am afraid to say “It can’t get any better than this” because it seems to always get better, yet this recording via the Linn LP12 is as close to the music as I have ever been or ever imagine being.Throughout the audition, I took every opportunity to compare LPs to the CD versions of the same release. This gave me a good gauge of the pros and cons of both formats.
One such comparison is from one of the greatest bluesman of all times, Muddy Waters, and his monumental release Folk Singer (Classic Records). I have long referenced the CD version for its pureness and superb recording quality. I loaded up the CD and 200-gram LP, giving myself the ability to switch between the two with a push of a button. The CD provided a small amount more information, most notably in the room decay. However, in typical fashion, the LP was more palpable and natural. The CD had good soundstage depth, but it was less detailed as it traveled rearward. There was less sense of infinity than with the CD. Most people who visited me and heard this demo selected the LP12 reproduction over the Meridian-reproduced CD. For me, it was unmistakably better on LP.
Regardless of the pros and cons of both, the LP sounded realer – simple as that. I found myself wanting to listen longer and did so with much greater satisfaction. CDs can often sound more dynamic and have better control. Bass can tend to be more immediate and with improved dynamic range. Yet I always felt closer to the band and had a greater emotional connection with vinyl. This told me a many things. Music reproduction has taken a path that has led to more and more information. Bits are increasing, as is the sampling rate, making more information available. Those who argue for CDs all have great points. However, as a musician myself, I have learned that the sum is always greater than the individual notes.
The LP12 allows you to recognize the sum more clearly and focus on what truly makes music special, what it does to us on the inside. I found myself reinvigorated and more excited about my music than I have been in years
Recently I bought a Clearaudio Golden Finger VC2 diamond, once you have been listening to this, you would be sorry to say that you have missed all the days and night using inferior cartridge, this is a piece of Gem, but the sound quality it produces is superb, The Beautiful piece of art product sound closer to neutrality, warm and tender in mid range, adding substantially transient speed and lifelike timbre without scarifying Clearaudio traditional strength of soundstage Extension and resolution of frequencies extremes...astonishing low level details. This is the advance version of Gold finger that TAS has reviewed in 2007. Gold finger was warded the best product of the year in 2007.
A price of USD10, 000 will pay back in time you linger with this piece of German art and Engineering.
July 19 2008