Why is my turntable making me happy?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by alexbunardzic, Mar 14, 2017.

  1. alexbunardzic

    alexbunardzic Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Vancouver, BC
    As a musician, I love buying guitars. I started saving money for my latest purchase, and then just as I was ready to pull the trigger and buy that gorgeous Telecaster, some tiny but persistent voice in my head mentioned the word: "Turntable!"

    Now, I've given up on analog music reproduction long time ago. There are many reasons why analog is tedious, while digital is ultra convenient. As a self-proclaimed audiophile, I've spent a lot of time and a lot of money building my dream digital sound system. So why would I now start burning money on messing with analog sound reproduction? I have amassed thousands upon thousands of hours of high quality digital music, and I only have meagre 100 or so LPs in my collection.

    But the irrational persistent voice in my head could not be swayed, so one thing lead to another, and about ten days ago I got me a brand new analog rig. After messing around and setting everything up, I waited for the cantilever in my cartridge to break in (20 to 30 hours of playing), and so yesterday I sat down for a good listen.

    I put on Chick Corea's "Leprechaun". A forty years old record, still in almost perfect shape. From the very opening of the side one, the sound nailed me to my seat. This was something else, a different kind of listening experience. By the time I finished listening to both sides, I felt an intense feeling of well being flood through my veins. Something was right with the world, I felt unlimited happiness emanating from every fibre of my body.

    Intrigued, I decided to play the same album ("Leprechaun") in digital format. Immediately heard the difference. Something was missing from the digital playback. What is it?

    I couldn't put my finger on it. After scratching my head a bit, and going back-and-forth between the LP and the AIFF file, it dawned on me. The essential difference between a good analog playback and a good digital playback can best described by one word: ENERGY!

    I felt that there is some sort of added energy that was coming out of the LP. Now, how do we measure that energy? It's not the decibels, because just cranking up the digital playback still does not convey that energy. I really am at a loss when it comes to defining or measuring that mysterious element, that analog energy, but I thought maybe someone on this forum is more articulate than I am, and could perhaps add their opinion. The only thing I can come up with is that by the sheer physicality of the turntable (it is a mechanical contraption that is producing a lot of kinetic energy as the platter is spinning), this kinetic energy somehow makes its way to the sound coming out of the speakers. And with digital, since nothing is moving, that kinetic energy is missing.

    Whatever it is, my turntable is making me very happy!
    nbadge, JMT, Sneaky Pete and 16 others like this.
  2. eric lubow

    eric lubow Member

    I posted this on the Vinyl Forum but thought it might add some insight to your post:


    This isn't my analogy but Valin's and I'm pretty sure it's not him at his most elegant. His article in the new TAS entitled THE EMPEROR'S NEW SERVER is essentially his perspective on the digital vs. analog debate, after "taking the computer audio plunge ....the last 24 months...auditioning hi-res files over a variety of pretty good DACS." To be fair, he does list all the real or perceived advantages of digital audio (convenience, pitch stability, consistency, lack of surface noise, price, no warpage, availability of contemporary music) but still concludes "I positively dare you to listen to any well recorded piece of music turned into a digital file and played back from a computer via USB DAC and then listen to the exact same recording played back via a really good turntable, tonearm, cartridge and phonostage and tell me, with a straight face, that the digital recording sounds more like the real thing than the analog one."

    It's a fair and well written piece but honestly, after naming all the advantages of digital playback, he seems to have run out of steam. His main argument in favor of analog is an old one: " What is wrong with digital audio, be it computerized or not, has been wrong from the go. No matter what the bit rate, no matter what the digital delivery system, you simply cannot "sample" the continuous-time sound of instruments or vocalists, turn it into discrete -time numbers, and then turn those back into instruments or vocalists without losing some of the very continuousness of presentation--the dense, constantly renewing, uninterrupted flow of articulation, dynamics and timbres--that is the very breath of musical life."

    He repeats his dare about listening to a really good analog setup vs. a digital one but concludes with "All in all, it's probably best to look at this editorial diatribe as a minority report from an Old Fogey."
    ls35a, Gasman1003, bluemooze and 2 others like this.
  3. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Buffalo, NY
    You should probably fill out your profile so people can see what's up. A little extra gain can sound like all sorts of different. That said, I've considered this as well. What I suspect is that you have different flavors of distortion—harmonic and otherwise. It may be that our sensory perception reads these pleasant distortions as sound existing in a real three-dimensional space. I think various digital encodings also have built in functions that can take away certain nuances, like very, very low volume information, which may in some ways be helpful if not critical.
    Helom and PhilBiker like this.
  4. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Well, the Kinetic energy is converted to electrical energy in analog. However all resonance components of the analog rig will have some effect on that conversion process, which can add distortion and other artifacts that sound pleasant to the ear. I think these artifacts add a sort of richness of color to the tones. I do understand what you're trying to describe. To me, it's like riding a Harley VS a crotch rocket. The Harley is less perfect in terms of technical performance but more fun.
    jamie anderson likes this.
  5. timind

    timind Forum Resident

    Brownsburg, IN USA
    A few months ago, after a ten year absence, I got back into vinyl. My conclusion after a few months however, was the opposite of the OP's.

    I'm happy for the OP here, but expect this will turn into the same old analog vs digital thread we see a few times a week. Wouldn't it be nice if I was wrong about that.
  6. alexbunardzic

    alexbunardzic Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Vancouver, BC
    I was expecting the exact opposite going into the analog, just like what happened to you. I thought analog is going to be softer, warmer, perhaps a bit more more airy-fairy, but on the anemic side. Lo and behold, analog started kicking ass on digital in terms of robustness, energy, slam, punch in the gut. Odd, eh?

    One explanation is that it's all down to Denon DL-103 coupled with SUT. I should probably get me a different cartridge to see if it makes any substantial difference.
    bluemooze and timind like this.
  7. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker sh.tv member number 666

    Northern VA, USA
    It would be.

    I listen to both digital and analog music most of my digital music is CDs most of my analog is LPs. They both sound great and are engaging in their own way. I have never abandoned vinyl and gotten back to it - I've had a working turntable in my stereo rig since circa 1983 and a working CD player since circa 1986. I never "purged" my vinyl for CD because it always sounded great and I was not inclined to re-buy anything except a very small few titles.

    I never had the OPs "epiphany" though I do recognize there is some kind of "energy" involved with vinyl playback - I attribute it to distortion and the ever-present surface rumble.
    Cherrycherry likes this.
  8. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Maybe my analog rig accentuates the bass, or maybe I'm not properly level matching, but bass tones are always superior through my analog rig.

    Regardless, it all comes down to what you like, doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. I'm glad your experience has been positive, given the sacrifice of not getting the Telecaster.
    Bridge, toddrhodes and PhilBiker like this.
  9. alexbunardzic

    alexbunardzic Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Vancouver, BC
    Same here. Bass has more slam and more punch in the gut coming from the turntable. But also, tiny tingling bells and other assorted Brazilian percussion leap out of the speakers much more convincingly than they do when playing FLAC, even 24-bit/96 kHz high resolution digital.

    (sigh) That Telecaster seems to elude me every year. There always seems to be something else that grabs my wallet, and the Tele beauty remains beyond reach. But what a fiery guitar it is!
    RickH likes this.
  10. alexbunardzic

    alexbunardzic Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Vancouver, BC
    I don't necessarily think that analog sounds more like the real thing, or that digital sounds more like the real thing. It's just that, to me, analog sounds more exciting than digital sound reproduction. I am well aware that the sound emanating form my turntable is a far cry from how instruments/human voices sound in real life, but I nevertheless get goosebumps when listening to well produced, well pressed LPs. It makes me feel happy to listen to records.
  11. G E

    G E Forum Resident

    Welcome back to analog!

    There is an energy present in analog sound reproduction that just isnt there with digital, even the hi-rez formats.

    Playing records energizes my physical surroundings. They vibrate!

    Friends sitting in for a listen comment. "my beer can is vibrating".


    95% of my listening is records. I still enjoy my blu ray audio discs and they are full sound spectrum reproduction
    , but sumpin is missin.
  12. Gretsch6136

    Gretsch6136 Forum Resident

    Regarding the perception of energy, maybe the digital version was a compressed remaster? It might be an idea to compare the dynamic range between your record and your digital file. Try running both through the level indicators on a cassette deck and compare, for a quick and easy method.
  13. Brian Lux

    Brian Lux One in the Crowd

    Placerville, CA
    An don't forget the added joys/bonuses of the artwork, liner notes that don't require magnification and, of course, the ritual of turning the record over!
  14. EmmEff

    EmmEff Member

    Ontario, Canada
    As stupid as it sounds, there's some satisfaction to flipping the record over. My setup also doesn't have a single remote control either and I'm perfectly fine with that too.
  15. Brian Lux

    Brian Lux One in the Crowd

    Placerville, CA
    There really is satisfaction in that.
    One of the other things I appreciate about vinyl is that because it does require a bit more time and preparation, and even though I normally don't use music as background sound, with a record I find myself even more likely to just sit, listen, and focus on the music.
  16. George Blair

    George Blair Forum Resident

    Portland, OR
    Well, the Telecaster is the key here. Obviously the OP knows what's best. You can't beat that guitar, and you can't beat a great record.
  17. delmonaco

    delmonaco Forum Resident

    Sofia, Bulgaria
    If your profile info is correct, you are using Logitech Squeezebox Touch / Beresford Bushmaster DAC as your digital source. Having heard the DAC in question, I can tell that this is not the best way to listen to digital (for example, even the cheapest recent Marantz CD player with a well mastered CD will blow this far, far away). On the other hand, there are some excellent Systemdek (can't see what's your model), and the Denon DL-103 is among the best affordable cartridges. So may be there's no such a big mystery...
    BTW, I love and use both analog and digital (turntable and cd player mainly), and during the years I'm often experienced the following - after upgrade of my analog source, I can hear that my digital source is lacking; then I upgrade the digital source, and notice that the analog doesn't sound as good; then again and again...at the moment I think both are on par, so I try to resist and not to touch anything :)
  18. Just go with it mate, and keep on spinning...
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  19. H8SLKC

    H8SLKC Forum Resident

    Boston, MA
    I rediscovered record playing last year and it is wonderful. I prefer it greatly to any other kind of listening. I find myself listening to albums all the way through, which I never do with digital for some reason. The way they sound, the way they require attention, the visuals involved in watching the spinning disc, the ritualistic elements, the fact that it requires "quiet" time in the house away from the grind, I simply love playing records in the house.
    Artery1, CCrider92 and jupiterboy like this.
  20. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Buffalo, NY
    Heart of the home.
    CCrider92 and H8SLKC like this.
  21. Fishoutofwater

    Fishoutofwater Forum Resident

    There are days when i never play a cd as i so enjoy the sound of records; that said, there are also long periods when i only listen to cds. For me its down to my mood. If i feel lazy or tired i usually listen to cds. If i want to read linear notes or listen to music of my youth it will LPs. I love both formats and i have never listened to files. For me it lacks "emotion". Only my opinion. Glad you are enjoying your music, after all thats what REALLY matters
    CCrider92 likes this.
  22. Tim Irvine

    Tim Irvine Forum Resident

    Austin, Texas
    I am playing some old CDs as house cleaning music. Right now it is an 80s CD, Traffic (eponymous). It is loud enough that it can't really be called background music. As much as I love that album, however, I don't feel drawn to sit and listen the way I would if I had it in vinyl. It sounds pretty darned good on my run of the mill CD player and good amp and speakers; so I don't think it's some glaring sound quality issue. I, too, love the ritual of vinyl records.
    CCrider92 likes this.
  23. Waxfreak

    Waxfreak Forum Resident

    Or maybe something was added to the analog playback (pleasant distortions, unnatural harmonics, etc) I prefer it too, but vinyl at least triples the price of CDs in my country, so I stopped buying it like a year ago.
  24. bamaaudio

    bamaaudio Forum Resident

    Emotional investment is another factor. Vinyl's a very finicky format and a lot can go wrong, really. You have to put up with annoyances like warp, off-center cuts, and inner groove distortion. Turntable maintenance and alignment can be tricky and a hassle for many folks as well, not to mention keeping records dust and scratch free. Plus, you have to get up and flip the record over one or two times per listening session. With cds, you can pretty much just pop them in the disc tray of the player at home, on a computer, or in the car and get similar quality playback each time; scratches also rarely affect the playback in most cases unless they've been severely abused. So with the ritual of playing a record, the maintaining of gear, and the care that goes into keeping records clean, there is definitely an emotional 'bond' and it's certainly a rewarding experience when everything goes right after your efforts.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2017
  25. alexbunardzic

    alexbunardzic Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Vancouver, BC
    True, but I bypass that problem by buying used LPs. A few days ago bought a near mint double LP Jose Feliciano Live at the Palladium for 2 bucks! Uneatable.
    Waxfreak and jupiterboy like this.

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