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Scott's Column
All Vinyl - All The Time

January 1, 2013
By Scott Lewis

OK, so I kind of borrowed the title of this article from the movie Fanboys (if you are a Star Wars and/or Star Trek fan you must see this movie). In the movie the line is "All Rush, All The Time."

I spent so much time preparing for Xmas and my son's birthday, and starting a new relationship, that I did not have time to write anything for this space this month. So... here I sit on the afternoon of Jan 1st and I don't want to leave you empty handled. So.. I am going to finish what I started last month and tell you more about my rediscovery of vinyl albums.

Last month I told you about the Lepai LP-2020A+ amplifier and Dayton Audio B652 bookshelf speakers. I got these for my son for his birthday. I also bought a set for myself. I could not tell you about them last month because I did not give my son his until the second weekend of December.

Also, my best friend got me the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 turntable for a Xmas gift (thanks again, Chip). This is the same turntable I bought for my son... and gave to him for Xmas. I have mine setup in my bedroom, as does my son.

So... how does all this sound. Really nice, actually.

If I try to crank the volume up too high the amplifier cuts out. I assume it is doing this because it is reacting to the resistance from the speakers. But it does not matter. It means I can turn the volume up load enough to bother someone in the next room, but no further. In fact, for my son I can't imagine he will be able to bother his mom when he is upstairs in his room. This setup is perfect for a bedroom, or small den/office. If you want to "actively" listed to music in a room... I highly recommend this setup. As does Steve Guttenberg (more later).

So... yes... there are plenty of ticks and pops on some of my albums. Keep in mind... all the albums I had prior to December were purchased before 1986 when I moved to Texas. So they are old. However, some of them sound very good with little to no ticks, scratches or skips. Overall I am impressed at the condition of my old vinyl.

Now for the new... I started buying some used albums at 1/2 Priced Books. I picked up 7-8 albums from them (all under $5 each). I would say these are on par with my own... most pretty good, some not very good.

However, I wanted to try truly new vinyl. I orders the following albums from a vendor off Amazon:

  • Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
  • John Coltrane - Lush Life
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival - Chronicle, The 20 Greatest Hits
  • Michael Jackson - Thriller

I was looking to start a small Jazz collection and the first two above came up frequently when searching the Internet. Since the prize was so reasonable for 180 gram audiophile quality vinyl, I search the vendor's collection finding the other two. I believe I got all the above for $44... brand new... never played.

I have to tell you... the first time you pick up a 180 gram album in your hands you realize what crap all the regular vinyl is. These albums have substantial heft to them. And they sound amazing. Not a single pop, tick, or anything. There is complete silence between tracks. I love it!

Now comes the hard part...

I have two friends that have told me you can't really hear a difference. But listening to Steve Guttenberg he tells you he can hear a difference in the recent remastered Beatles albums because they were remastered from the CD masters, and not the original tapes that were used to make the CD masters. Wow!!! I don't know how I am going to hear that subtle a difference.

Granted, the reason he can hear this difference is because he is listening on serious audiophile equipment. BTW... the amp and speakers I bought was from Steve's recommendation. I tell my friends the reason they won't be able to hear a difference is because they are listing to music on crappy ear-buds or fair to poor quality car stereos.

My son told me he could hear stuff he never heard before on his system. Granted this was playing off his laptop with a nice USB DAC feeding into the amp and speakers.

I need to see if I can create a blind listening test for these friends where I play them a CD (or MP3) of a song, then switch to the vinyl version... and hope they can hear a difference... and it is the vinyl that sounds better.

I am sure I can do this if I pump the MP3/CD sound through my desktop computer speakers compared to my new amp/speakers (they are not connected to my computer... yet). I might have to connect my computer the the amp... to get a truly apples to apples comparison. I just hope I can prove it and not come off as some hipster who listens to vinyl because it is trendy.

Conclusion

I need your feedback... how many of you have turntables and vinyl that you listen to? Does it sound better than CDs/MP3s? Do you know of any specific examples where you can hear a difference in the same song played from an analog source vs. a digital source? Let me know if you know any possible ways I can demonstrate for sure that vinyl is better than digital music.

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