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Turntables - help me understand the appeal?

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#1
I recently put together a nice 2.1 music only system ($3K USD range) and use streaming (Spotify HQ and Qobuz <I'm a beta tester in US>) as my source. I'm extremely happy with the results - the sound quality is amazing, everything I had hoped for, and impresses me more everytime I listen.

I keep seeing, especially on Reddit/Audiophile, many, many turntable setups feeding similarly nice or better equipment. I'm familiar with the science behind it, but curious as to the appeal. The arguments for seem to be an "organic" sound that many prefer. I'm curious, but not sure I want to invest several hundred more dollars on an appropriate rig, not to mention cost of albums. I'm not looking to challenge anyone's preferences, but am looking for a better understanding of the appeal?

For those who like listening to turntables on their main systems, why should I consider putting money into this? Can you help me understand why you like listening to records better than HQ streaming?

Thanks in advance for sharing your opinions.
 

Frank Dernie

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#2
I recently put together a nice 2.1 music only system ($3K USD range) and use streaming (Spotify HQ and Qobuz <I'm a beta tester in US>) as my source. I'm extremely happy with the results - the sound quality is amazing, everything I had hoped for, and impresses me more everytime I listen.

I keep seeing, especially on Reddit/Audiophile, many, many turntable setups feeding similarly nice or better equipment. I'm familiar with the science behind it, but curious as to the appeal. The arguments for seem to be an "organic" sound that many prefer. I'm curious, but not sure I want to invest several hundred more dollars on an appropriate rig, not to mention cost of albums. I'm not looking to challenge anyone's preferences, but am looking for a better understanding of the appeal?

For those who like listening to turntables on their main systems, why should I consider putting money into this? Can you help me understand why you like listening to records better than HQ streaming?

Thanks in advance for sharing your opinions.
I still use a turntable from time to time, but only because I have over 500 LPs.
Pickup cartridges have (much) higher distortion and (usually) a less even frequency response than CDs.
My only explanation for some people's preference for record players is they add euphonic distortion which may sound nice and mechanical and acoustic pickup gives a bit of additional reverb.
A lot of very popular pickup cartridges roll off early in the audio band so they don't have as much treble level as a flat source like digital. This is a bit like the mellow sound of an old-fashioned radio.
I still play some LPs I like but I would never recommend anybody to buy a record player if they don't already have lots of LPs, both the kit and records are stupidly expensive whilst it is "fashionable".
I have 4 turntables, 3 in storage, one connected, the last time I played an LP was a week or two ago.
 

Soniclife

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#3
+1 on what Frank said.

I find a small number of my records sound better than the digital versions, another small % are similar quality, a big % are slightly worse but not by much, and the last big chunk of percentage are clearly better digitally.

I put the better sounding ones down to mastering differences, and euphonic distortions that I've grown used to on the vinyl version.

I'm quite convinced some people are just following the herd mentality in claiming vinyl sounds better, you need a very nice turntable before the inherent problems in vinyl are controlled well enough for personal preference to be valid.
 

Ceburaska

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#4
I would say it’s either the euphoric (correction: euphonic!) distortion as Frank notes, or a liking for the physical/ ritual elements in playing vinyl. Or possibly vinyl lovers are kidding themselves.
Probably all three.
I like the physical attributes of turntables, and find their mechanics interesting (in a totally non DIY/ hands on way). With decent condition records I rarely find the sound worse than digital, and find listening to vinyl more involving, probably because I have to get up and change side! Digital is easier to tune out, for whatever reason.
Above all, I think it is because I grew up with records, and I have a lot from my teenage years and my parents.
If I were starting from scratch now, there’s virtually no way I’d get into vinyl. Radio (fm if good quality)/ downloads/ cd/ streaming would be my source. And the money I saved from vinyl/ turntables would go into speakers.
On this forum I seriously doubt you’ll get much more of an endorsement of vinyl!
 
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sergeauckland

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#6
I'll have an evening of playing LPs perhaps two or three times a month, often Quadraphonic LPs that I've been collecting for a few years. Nothing to do with sound quality, which is, at (very) best no worse, never better than digital, but for the musical content that I happen to have on LP and not CD. All my CDs have been ripped to my computer, so I don't actually play the physical CD any more, and pretty much all I buy now are CDs for ripping.

The appeal of the turntable is inn part the nostalgia, I liken playing records to driving a classic car, something fun to do when the fancy takes one, but not a daily drive.

S
 

stunta

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#7
For me, it started out as fun to collect and play vinyl records and then I ended up on the upgrade treadmill which led me to an outboard power supply, a phono stage and a high end suspended turntable that is very difficult to setup on my own. I don't even know how to change a cartridge so when the time comes, I will have to hire someone to do it. After a cross-country move, the entire setup is sitting in boxes for 2 years. I make a good sponsor for someone with a vinyl addiction.

Having said that, subjectively, I find the recording quality of quite a few albums better on vinyl compared to the CD versions. It could be that they were mastered better for vinyl or it could be all in my head. I do know that some of the CD versions have very low DR values.

Vinyl also has a nice social aspect to it where you could sit with family and friends to just listen to music. Streaming generally tends to be background music.

I just wish the whole thing was easier and more modular. It shouldn't be so hard to replace a cartridge. Good TTs shouldn't be thousands of dollars; perhaps they are not and I need to find a sweet-spot for price to performance.
 
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#8
I love vinyl, I love the warm sound. I love hunting through boxes at boot sales. I love looking at the covers, turning the disk and setting the needle down. I kinda miss that you used to have to meet people to discover music, crap cassettes of vinyl passed hands whetting the appetite.

I love streaming, everything I've ever wanted to listen to, sounds fantastic. I play and discover more music than ever.

I specifically have a turntable/cart (Thorens td125/ SME/ shure) that doesn't attempt to replicate digital presentation as a lot of modern ones seem to want to do. My digital stuff is hidden away behind furniture, my turntable has pride of place, I leave the cover off so I can see what an engineering masterpiece the arm is. It's art.

Some vinyl has always had better pressings than CD, and visa versa. Some of my vinyl sounds better than Qobus, some streamer stuff sounds better than vinyl. Often there is no better there is just different.

I honestly hope that more people give up on vinyl so the prices can return to something sensible again. I certainly wouldn't recommend it to someone if they weren't already interested.
 

Frank Dernie

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#10
Older LPs usually aren't affected by loudness wars the way CDs are.
In fact LPs all tend to have a bit of compression in the mastering to keep the quiet bits out of the noise.
Most early CDs didn’t have compression at all, particularly classical ones which largely still don’t. Since listening to music for most people has segued from listening at home to headphones on the move or in the car most digital pop music files are horribly compressed (so the quiet bits don’t get lost in the noise of the train or car) so the potential of digital recording is being wasted.
Ironically because LPs are going to be listened to at home they are nowadays less compressed than CDs of the same music. Ludicrous but true, so for listening to pop music at home the LP will often be a better SQ than the CD or streamed file simply because it has suffered less compression.
Yuk!
 
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#11
I grew up with vinyl. And I'm a nuts and bolts type of guy who prides himself with being able to take things apart and put them back together again. Just bought my dream affordable table (Dual 1229) and was almost disappointed that I didn't have to dive deeper into it to get it running as new. I've been digitizing records to my computer for ages and will probably never work through my back log. But I seldom pick my TT if all I want to do is listen to music.
 

bigx5murf

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#12
In fact LPs all tend to have a bit of compression in the mastering to keep the quiet bits out of the noise.
Most early CDs didn’t have compression at all, particularly classical ones which largely still don’t. Since listening to music for most people has segued from listening at home to headphones on the move or in the car most digital pop music files are horribly compressed (so the quiet bits don’t get lost in the noise of the train or car) so the potential of digital recording is being wasted.
Ironically because LPs are going to be listened to at home they are nowadays less compressed than CDs of the same music. Ludicrous but true, so for listening to pop music at home the LP will often be a better SQ than the CD or streamed file simply because it has suffered less compression.
Yuk!
Difference is LPs are usually mastered with regards to the physical limitations of the medium. CDs on the other hand, often get mastered to be loud, and have compressed dynamics because, it's like the audio equivalent of air brushing. No doubt it's a per album situation, well mastered CDs are superior to LPs. But depending on the genre, well mastered CDs could be very rare.
 

cjfrbw

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#13
When my nephew was still in his twenties a few years ago, he and a girl friend came over and saw all my vinyl. I couldn't keep them out of it, they pulled out stacks and looked through and completely forgot about the old fogies, they were entranced. Wound up listening to Van Halen and Classic Rock.

I had to shoo him away from the turntable because the needle was too expensive for anybody but me to break.

So, go figure, why did THEY like it so much. They don't even remember the days of incense burning Tower Records or record stores. During my years of poor student-hood, I would buy a record like it was a two week vacation to the Bahamas because I couldn't afford them. My definition of wealth was having a nice stereo and not worrying about the cost of records, movies or an occasional date.

I got back into vinyl before the rage and fashion returned, and managed to get a couple thousand records from the thrift bins. Those have dried up mostly now. I have more records than I can listen to.

I used to listen for years to vinyl almost exclusively five or six days a week. However, digital is great now, even the compressed stuff on my main big rig system, so the vinyl is for relaxed evenings and nostalgia when my wife is in bed. I listen at least 50-50 now when I am at the turntable location.

I would agree vinyl is an acquired or nostalgic taste. I have an easy to manage, fuss free turntable (SME 30) so I listen more than futz. Honest to Hades, though, I can't imagine some of the vinyl fussaholics ever listening with all the installation and maintenance/collection psychosis they engage in.
 

vitalii427

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#14
Wow! All was said before me. And I just like see my turntable spinning. Also pops and clicks distract your attention from details, so you just enjoying the music.
 

flipflop

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#16

Sal1950

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#17
For those who like listening to turntables on their main systems, why should I consider putting money into this
The appeal of the turntable is inn part the nostalgia, I liken playing records to driving a classic car, something fun to do when the fancy takes one, but not a daily drive.
Nostalgia, The long and short of it, that's the main attraction!
Let's be honest, on it's best day, with the worlds best vinyl gear and the best pressed LP, if the same master was recorded to a RedBook digital CD, the CD would cream the LP in every measurable and audible area of sound quality..
If you want to get into vinyl for any reason you've ever heard expressed beside SQ, that's fine. We all have our toys and enjoy playing with them.
In my opinion, if you have some spare money to spend on your system, spend it on something that can make a real improvement of your enjoyment. Get some multichannel gear and start adding that option to your listening pleasure.
 
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#18
I think it depends on what type of music you listen to and from what era. While people will argue about whether or not DAC's and Amp's have reached "transparency" I don't think anyone will argue that any "source" is even close to transparent. I listen to my TT a lot but not for any recent releases (recent being the last 20 years or so) that were recorded digitally.... while the mastering on some of these recent releases "may" be better on vinyl the digital-vinyl-analog conversion process is expensive and can only degrade the sound. Having said that I do collect "original non-remastered CD's" of digitally recorded music to avoid the "loudness wars" issues of most re-masters.

For older music however (Mid-1980's or older and especially Mid-1950's through the 1970s ) I will seek out the original vinyl pressings. For most of the music from this era the "best source" is going to be the original vinyl pressings. Master tapes very often were mishandled, lost or stolen and they degrade over time. By the time this older music was transferred to digital in the 1980's the combination of worn out tapes, less than careful transfers, and early digital technology made many of these recordings noticeably inferior to the original vinyl. Unfortunately technology can not "fix" worn out tapes so the vinyl remains the "best sources" for decades of recorded music. I do a lot of ABX between original pressings and modern digital and vinyl reissues and in most (not all of course) cases the original vinyl sounds better... sometimes a lot better. In addition I like to go to used record stores and go "treasure hunting" both for artists I know and ones that are new to me.

If you are at all interested in pre-1980's music I would highly recommend you get a TT and check it out for your self. I think you will be pleasantly surprised what the "state of the art" was for recordings made in the 60's and 70's ... much different than the versions you will hear over the steaming services.
 

restorer-john

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#19
Vinyl was the best, widely available, consumer format for the distribution of music. I grew up with it, extracting the best sound I could from it and the playback equipment. Many fond memories. Then came digital. I still have maybe 20-30 turntables, but never really bought much more music on vinyl after about 1984, so maybe a total of 4 crates of records. 3 of those 4 crates are in storage.

There's probably half a dozen TTs around me at the moment, but I haven't played a record for 12 months.

Sal is right, nostalgia. Some of the first things I remember as a child was watching my Dad's Empire 398a play music. I watched this tiny rock, being dragged along a ditch, making beautiful sound. It's still amazing what can be extracted from such a simple system.
 

bigx5murf

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#20
I think it depends on what type of music you listen to and from what era. While people will argue about whether or not DAC's and Amp's have reached "transparency" I don't think anyone will argue that any "source" is even close to transparent. I listen to my TT a lot but not for any recent releases (recent being the last 20 years or so) that were recorded digitally.... while the mastering on some of these recent releases "may" be better on vinyl the digital-vinyl-analog conversion process is expensive and can only degrade the sound. Having said that I do collect "original non-remastered CD's" of digitally recorded music to avoid the "loudness wars" issues of most re-masters.

For older music however (Mid-1980's or older and especially Mid-1950's through the 1970s ) I will seek out the original vinyl pressings. For most of the music from this era the "best source" is going to be the original vinyl pressings. Master tapes very often were mishandled, lost or stolen and they degrade over time. By the time this older music was transferred to digital in the 1980's the combination of worn out tapes, less than careful transfers, and early digital technology made many of these recordings noticeably inferior to the original vinyl. Unfortunately technology can not "fix" worn out tapes so the vinyl remains the "best sources" for decades of recorded music. I do a lot of ABX between original pressings and modern digital and vinyl reissues and in most (not all of course) cases the original vinyl sounds better... sometimes a lot better. In addition I like to go to used record stores and go "treasure hunting" both for artists I know and ones that are new to me.

If you are at all interested in pre-1980's music I would highly recommend you get a TT and check it out for your self. I think you will be pleasantly surprised what the "state of the art" was for recordings made in the 60's and 70's ... much different than the versions you will hear over the steaming services.
Well said, highly recommend people check out http://dr.loudness-war.info/ and search albums from the eras mentioned. Many will have DR ratings contributed from vinyl recordings, and they'll often be better than the most modern releases.
 
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