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Turntables - help me understand the appeal?

MattHooper

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Boy I seem to be having good luck.

I've been ordering tons of vinyl, from new re-presses to old obscure records from the 70's/80's and, in general, I'm ending up with super clean, quiet albums. I certainly have had some bummers, both new and old, but in the main I'm super happy. And my ultrasonic record cleaner hasn't even arrived yet :)

Even more off-topic: lots of the albums are from the jazzy, funky soundtracks, european and USA. I really get a kick out of the recording and production. Lots of it is more raw, direct, life-like and energetic than the smoother balance of modern recordings. Drums, bass, sax, just jump out of the speakers!
 
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I don’t generally buy new audiophile lp reissues; nothing against them, I just don’t feel the visceral attraction, especially towards the 45 rpm craze. I do have a few of those gatefold Blue Note pressings. They are beautifully-produced.
Oh yes, one PS: I never understood why anyone would pay big bucks for a digitally-recorded album to be re-released now on eLPee. But people do..
 
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Hypnotoad

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Three main reasons I got back into vinyl -
1. Nostalgia
2. Nostalgia
3. Nostalgia

But seriously beside taking me back to the days of haunting record stores and getting the latest releases, there is something pleasing about watching the record rotate and being able to look at the cover art and read any leaflets enclosed. I remember buying Thick as a Brick and it was like a newspaper, with all these silly stories on it.

For sound quality alone it's a lot of work, cleaning, aligning etc. It's like people who get into vintage cars when a new car will perform better and be easier to maintain, like I said at the start Nostalgia.
 

daftcombo

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One of the appeals is if, like me or the guy who commented just before me, you have a good number of LPs/EPs/singles that never were released on CD or digital but you still want to listen to those songs!

That said, you can digitalize them to listen to Flac afterwards. But still you need a turntable to do that.

Cheers!
 

MattHooper

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At the moment, a majority of my vinyl purchases have never been released on CD.

Discogs is a wallet killer!

I personally don't bother digitizing any of my LPs. Part of the appeal is that vinyl, for me, encourages a sit-and-listen experience to music. When it comes to music portability, I just use my iphone as a source, streaming, internet radio, etc. Aside from my hi-fi rig, listening to music when driving has always been one of the most enjoyable experiences.
 

Shadrach

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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.
You've has lots of posts telling you why you shouldn't bother with records and record players so I'll suggest why you might like the experience:
1) you listen to the music.
As many have mentioned, with File Based audio in particular there is a tendency to play music in the background and not really sit down and listen.
2) I've found I listened to albums, not just tracks and this gave a better perspective of the music a particular band performed.
3) there are lots of things to tinker with on a record player. You can swap cartridges and get different sound, spend hours making sure the tracking is just right. Disrupt the decor of the house trying different wall shelves to limit vibration effects. Adjust suspension. Men are compulsive tinkerers and records will help satisfy that part of your personality.
4) you get a few square centimeters of of flat surface in your home where nobody puts plants pots, or bits of tat they recently got given by friends or neighbors and one piece of equipment that doesn't get hidden in the dark recesses of a cupboard by your partner as she tells you 'Oh you don't use that any more so I thought I would tidy it away'.
5) record sleeves, I've held them for hours. You can't really hold a handful of pixels and even the high resolution images don't seem to convey the importance of the third recording engineers credentials like an album cover.
6) records and a record player might make you value your music more. You can't download another record should you happen to scratch it like you can if your computer decides to delete a file.
7) music piracy would probably not exist if the only format was records should that be a concern to you.
8) A record collection may be worth something as years go by. Despite having many MFSL and other 'audiophile' copies of many albums on file this approximately thirty thousand pounds worth of music isn't worth much more than the hard drive it exists on.
9) When I see a rack full of 'Hi End' digital equipment in someones home, given the dac tests on this site and my own experiences I tend to think 'a fool and his money are easily parted'. I don't think that for some reason when I see an expensive record player.
10) It could be argued, particularly for music recorded before the adoption of the digital mixing desk that the sounds recorded on to vinyl are a more honest representation of the sounds the musicians produced in the studio. With modern recording techniques you may as well just credit the recording engineer.

I don't have a record player any more. I don't miss it. I do miss the reel to reel I used to own.
 
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Just found this article in my feeds today, I think the author makes some very good arguments about why many people prefer vinyl. The comments below it as always have a little more bias applied.
 
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You can clean your weed on the album cover.

I do think in some cases vinyl versions of albums sound much better than the digital versions that are available.

One factor is that music is about expression, and it requires a medium. Artists (in records this would be all involved in the production and engineering process) at their best use a medium to its maximally expressive qualities.

Vinyl is a very different medium than digitized recordings. It has much more stringent limitations in the signals it can handle.

The artist will work at the boundary of limitations of the medium, this is what enables any expression.

Transferring master tapes intended for vinyl may not result in satisfactory expression, because the medium the artist was relying on for presentation is not present.

It’s not just a matter of the final transfer to the master. The production choices related to the specific characteristics of the medium are made from the beginning of the process.

A simple example of this is how the length of times that could be played on vinyl affected the length of songs and albums.

I find there is something visceral and “3D” about the best old albums that I have never heard come from a CD.

Overall vinyl playback is absurd. It’s full of distortion and noise. But this does not limit expressiveness. On the contrary, I think the physical embodiment of a signal in the medium allows for a sense of embodiment that is hard to achieve in a purely digital recording.

In production, huge effort goes into creating distortion that can impart this ephemeral “glue” to a mix. It’s a big market category in production gear/software right now.

But it is unlikely that a modern artist could create the kind of recording that could be done with vinyl unless...they actually mastered and pressed their mix to vinyl, and played it back on a turntable to transfer to a digital format!

I’ve never heard of anyone doing this, but probably someone has given it a shot.

It really goes beyond the final playback format. The main recording medium was analog tape. The whole production system from creation to playback is actually the medium. A highly fluid, chaotic, uncontrollable medium, but one that can be addressed.

Some modern musicians think that transfering their digital master to vinyl might impart some of this magic to their music. But it won’t, unless the highly challenging undertaking of making an expression for that medium was undertaken.

There is a huge body of work produced for vinyl, and it is arguable that as a rule a high quality product from the original time period will give the best experience.

Basically, it’s a legacy playback medium. While no doubt nostalgia plays a role in its appeal, but I think it’s deeper than that.

Overall the limitations of vinyl playback are kind of nightmarish, so I don’t see much point in creating new recordings for the format. But as part of a wonderful cultural product, I think it has a place.

There is no great solution to the dilemma of how to best represent legacy recordings. A big problem is the degredation of the tapes. But part of it is having skilled mastering engineers who can extract the most true expression of the music and present it in a flattering way on digital media. This is art and science!
 

bigx5murf

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Yes, but those of us who made recordings from tape recorders back in the day know that even the first copy from the master is audibly inferior to it.
I just put hi-res digital on mine, recorded in real time, with a decent DAC connected to PC. I make sure to put songs modern enough that people raise an eyebrow when they ask if it works.
 
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Just found this article in my feeds today, I think the author makes some very good arguments about why many people prefer vinyl. The comments below it as always have a little more bias applied.
This was a good (brief) read, thanks. Nothing new, but succinctly argues how the physical design and ritual of playing a record better mirrors that of music creation and listening more than digital, despite digital's other advantages. If someone were to ask me why is vinyl still so poular, I would point them to this article.
 

noobie1

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I find that digital music actually has too much dynamic range for me. Loud passages are too loud and soft passages are too soft. I have to fiddle around with the volume during the same song.
 
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"As many have mentioned, with File Based audio in particular there is a tendency to play music in the background and not really sit down and listen."

I don't have any idea why this would be, or any idea why a person that only listens to music in the background would ever be participating in an audio forum. File based audio lets me easily listen to background music while I am working in my shop or in the garage just like radio used to but with more control over what streams through. I can't really spin records while I work on a greasy motorcycle. On the other hand, 2/3's or more of my music collection is on my server and I spend hours and hours really sitting down to listen. Sometimes to whole albums and sometimes hours long playlists of songs that are related in other ways, something you can't do with vinyl. I can also sit down and really listen to music I don't own via a hi fi streaming service. Sound quality difference are irrelevant to me as many things are available on one format and not the other and both can sound good enough to be swept away by the music.
 
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Add to the 2% or more cartridge distortion, the 3% or so analogue tape distortion on peaks, plus whatever the cutting lathe adds (any idea?), and an LP recorded on analogue tape, as were all the Beatles, all the earlier Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Who etc etc,and it would be rare to have less than 5% distortion between the mixing desk output and the LP at home. And yet........:)

S.
3% tape distortion on a master tape?
http://www.simpatyrecords.com/PDF/24291_98_atr_40907_1_4_metal.pdf
The Revox A820 distortion spec is 1% @ 520 nweber/m or near 9 dBu!
If you hear distortion on old music, it was bad recording technique or intentional distorted sound
 
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Add to the 2% or more cartridge distortion, the 3% or so analogue tape distortion on peaks, plus whatever the cutting lathe adds (any idea?), and an LP recorded on analogue tape, as were all the Beatles, all the earlier Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Who etc etc,and it would be rare to have less than 5% distortion between the mixing desk output and the LP at home. And yet........:)

S.
A good cartridge can be 1% THD or less. However, I don't really care. I am not claiming superiority of vinyl over digital made from the same masters at the same time. I think buying an LP cut from a current digital master is hard to justify. I do maintain that a tape made in 1955 sounded better in 1955 when they cut the LP than it does in 2018 (or even 1990) when someone "remasters" it for a CD. Magnetic tape can deteriorate over time, many times drastically. This is not conjecture. My LP collection sounds good enough to give me great enjoyment. I certainly find no incentive to spend many thousands of dollars to replace them with digital files or CD's. Some of us started collecting music when LP's where the high fidelity choice. Additionally, as has been stated over and over here, the sound of an album on LP is infinitely better than the dead silence of the non existent digital transfer. If you sit down and listen to a well recorded LP of music you like on a good playback system, I doubt that many here would be bitching about the distortion instead of enjoying the music. On the other hand, if all the music you love was recorded after mag tape was a mature technology, (mid 60's to early 70's) and is available on a digital medium I would not advise you to bother with the expensive tediousness of vinyl playback.
 

Frank Dernie

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3% tape distortion on a master tape?
http://www.simpatyrecords.com/PDF/24291_98_atr_40907_1_4_metal.pdf
The Revox A820 distortion spec is 1% @ 520 nweber/m or near 9 dBu!
If you hear distortion on old music, it was bad recording technique or intentional distorted sound
Serge did write "on peaks", the level at which 3% distortion occurs is in the tape spec of your link.
When I was making tape recordings it was always a compromise between audible hiss, if recording so no/little saturation occured and distortion on peaks, if recording at a high enough level for the hiss to be a bit less objectionable, there were Dolby processors but I couldn't afford one...
 

Frank Dernie

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A good cartridge can be 1% THD or less. However, I don't really care. I am not claiming superiority of vinyl over digital made from the same masters at the same time. I think buying an LP cut from a current digital master is hard to justify. I do maintain that a tape made in 1955 sounded better in 1955 when they cut the LP than it does in 2018 (or even 1990) when someone "remasters" it for a CD. Magnetic tape can deteriorate over time, many times drastically. This is not conjecture. My LP collection sounds good enough to give me great enjoyment. I certainly find no incentive to spend many thousands of dollars to replace them with digital files or CD's. Some of us started collecting music when LP's where the high fidelity choice. Additionally, as has been stated over and over here, the sound of an album on LP is infinitely better than the dead silence of the non existent digital transfer. If you sit down and listen to a well recorded LP of music you like on a good playback system, I doubt that many here would be bitching about the distortion instead of enjoying the music. On the other hand, if all the music you love was recorded after mag tape was a mature technology, (mid 60's to early 70's) and is available on a digital medium I would not advise you to bother with the expensive tediousness of vinyl playback.
If you look at the only cartridge reviews I know of that include distortion measurement cartridges only have 1% distortion on a mono signal in the mid band.
Magnetic tape does deteriorate over time, all of it, there are differences between manufacturers but "can deteriorate" is optimistic!
I bought an LP a week from about 1968 until I got married and money was needed for other things, though I still bought them, just at a slower rate.
I have 4 record players, they all sound different to each other but all are nice in their own way. The type of distortion one gets on both tape recorders and record players tends to be euphonic (except noise and speed fluctuations) even to such an extent that a very popular plug in for my digital recorder emulates tape overload.
I quite agree with you on both how enjoyable listening to LPs can be and also not advising a non-LP owner to depart on the expensive journey of becoming one...
 
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jsrtheta

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You can clean your weed on the album cover.
This is, in fact, the only reason vinyl could be considered superior to CD. In the '60s and '70s, the presence of a double album meant the good times could roll (pun intended) that much earlier, and in greater volume. Balancing a single-disk album cover on one's lap whilst rolling a doobie was a dicey, and spillable, affair. The double vinyl album eliminated much of the agony, leading to some great nights. Try doing that with a CD jewel case!

Otherwise, the entire vinyl obsession is nonsense. As P. Aczel many times noted, the automobile killed the buggy whip business. Yet somehow, today, we have enough money, but not enough sense, to indulge an absurd obsession with an almost Stone Age medium, an obsession that future generations will study in social science classes as an example of (mini-)mass delusion.
 
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