Dominant media for classical music?
Nov 19, 2008 at 11:41 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 5

dr__red

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First of all I'd like to say hello to this honorable community as it is my very first post here. For the past month or so I've been roaming its archives freely pulling invaluable information on how to bring my setup up to elusive audiophile level. As of today I ended up with MHZS-88E top loading CD source, K701, maxed-up Woo 4 currently under construction and Zero DAC on route to me so I can plug toslink from my M-Audio Transit usb bridge into it. All this is geared towards listening to classic albums either on CDs or streamed from Naxos On-Line Library I have access to. As you see all my sources (except FM radio) are digital which brings me to my question...

I'm willing to explore beckoning pleasures of fully analog playback that vinyl promise. Spending 1k gbp on a deck is easy. What is not so easy is to find reliable source of vinyl records I will want to posses. I don't have time or desire of becoming vinyl junkie constantly on q quest for that perfect vinyl loot roaming backs of second hand shops or boot sale markets. What I want is consistency. E.g. I type "Tosca" into Amazon's search, what it brings back is 740 CDs and 4 vinyl records. Is it that bad? I look through classical music magazines and all new releases are advertised on CDs. Is it that bad?

Surely I can forget all about vinyls, it's just I feel uncofortable that something potentially great and wounderful is elluding me…

What do you think?
 
Nov 19, 2008 at 7:00 PM Post #2 of 5

Bunnyears

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Almost all of the great performances that have been released on vinyl have been re-released in cd format. Don't worry about the "great performance" on cd or vinyl that is now oop. You can chase after that, and then spend the big bucks it will take to pay for it, but it's not necessary. If you are going to be a serious music critic or music historian, then by all means buy as many of the historic milestone recordings as you need. For ordinary listeners who are looking for pure enjoyment, shop within the best reviewed new cds for the best bargains. You won't be depriving yourself of anything and your wallet will thank you.
 
Nov 20, 2008 at 5:04 PM Post #3 of 5

jsaliga

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Quote:

Originally Posted by dr__red /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I'm willing to explore beckoning pleasures of fully analog playback that vinyl promise. Spending 1k gbp on a deck is easy. What is not so easy is to find reliable source of vinyl records I will want to posses. I don't have time or desire of becoming vinyl junkie constantly on q quest for that perfect vinyl loot roaming backs of second hand shops or boot sale markets. What I want is consistency. E.g. I type "Tosca" into Amazon's search, what it brings back is 740 CDs and 4 vinyl records. Is it that bad? I look through classical music magazines and all new releases are advertised on CDs. Is it that bad?


CD is the dominant media for all music. That's just the way it is.

Making a commitment to vinyl can mean a big investment. At the very least you will need:
  • A Turntable
  • A Tonearm (if the turntable you buy doesn't come with one)
  • A Cartridge and Stylus
  • An Alignment Guide or Protractor
  • A Phono Pre-amp
  • Cleaning supplies and tools to clean your records and stylus
  • Records to play.

It doesn't necessarily have to add up to a lot of money, but it can. Now would be a good time to ask yourself why you are considering vinyl. I can't tell you what you should do (there are plenty of other people here who are happy to do that). What I can do is explain to you why I have a vinyl setup and what it means to my music enjoyment, and some of the downsides of it as well.

CD is great; it truly is. Much of the time you can get great sounding music on a small, convenient disc that's easily portable. It's also very flexible. You can rip CD tracks to lossless or compressed digital formats for use on a computer or music server, for example. I got into vinyl not because of my love of classical music, but primarily because of my love of jazz and secondarily rock. What I was starting to discover is that a lot of jazz and rock CDs of music I grew up with on vinyl in the 1960s and 70s did not sound as good on CD. This is not a unilateral condemnation of CD; the problem was that the mastering of these titles for CD was bad. There's nothing wrong with the CD format itself as far as I am concerned.

Here's an example from the ZZ Top album Tres Hombres:

Waitin' for the Bus clip from the CD

Waitin' for the Bus clip from the LP

Of course, the above is a pretty extreme example. But a lot of Blue Note jazz albums that have been remastered for CD are turning out bad too, with compressed dynamic range. Again, this isn't as much a problem with the CD format as it is a problem with the mastering engineer. Sometimes it's the artist or producer who tells the engineer to master these things hot.

Classical music on CD has not for the most part been subjected to this sort of mastering wankery. But there are a lot of poorly mastered classical CDs out there, mostly of 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s recordings. There are a few audiophile vinyl labels that have seen this as an opportunity to do these great recordings justice. But it doesn't come cheap, most audiophile vinyl pressings on 180g and 200g vinyl cost between $25 and $35.

As great as a lot of new pressings sound, I have had mixed results with buying audiophile vinyl. The largest problem I have had to cope with is physical defects in the pressing. So the art of pressing records and getting them safely to customers has not yet been perfected. It's one thing to throw away a bad used record that came as part of a large lot since that album only cost you a few cents. It's another thing to open a brand new album that you spent $35 for and see a series of long running deep scratches on a track (as I just did five minutes ago on Jascha Heifetz 200g LP). So I will have to send it back. It can be frustrating...but for me that is no less frustrating than buying a new CD and being disappointed with bad mastering. At least with a defective record I can send it back.

On a positive note buying vintage vinyl can be a lot of fun and very rewarding if you do it smart. I have several hundred vintage classical music LPs. I buy them in bulk lots at yard sales, local record shops, eBay, and you can find them in your local classifieds too. On average, when I buy lots of 50 or more LPs the per record cost is something like 50 to 75 cents per record. I expect to get a few bad LPs buying this way. But if I buy 100 LPs and throw 20 of them away then my per record cost might go up a few cents per album but it leaves me with 80 or so great sounding records for a mere pittance. It's also true that you don't get to hand pick the titles when buying in bulk. So if it's a specific recording you are looking for, then buying a bulk lot is not the best way to get it.

If having older recordings isn't important to you (only you can decide that for yourself) then I think you can probably skip vinyl and not really miss anything. But I can tell you that the ONLY way you would get my copy of the Fritz Reiner/CSO performance of Scheherazade on 200g vinyl would be to pry it from my cold dead hands. The Living Stereo SACD of this recording is good, but when you hear this LP the digital disc will be found seriously wanting, and Reiner's performance of it is my favorite out of the 10 or so that are in my library.

Here is my turntable and audio setup:

sota_001.jpg


audiosetup.jpg


And it's all in the service of music that I very much enjoy.
smily_headphones1.gif


--Jerome
 
Nov 21, 2008 at 4:16 PM Post #4 of 5

Bunnyears

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The Economist recently did an article on the merits of analog (vinyl) vs. digital (cd, sacd, and dvd) recordings and perhaps that article might be of interest to you in making your decision.

The article concludes this way:

Quote:

Is there any audible difference between tubes and transistors? Yes, but mainly on recording equipment built to inferior standards.

Most of today’s analogue recorders produce sounds that are overly warm, noisy and ill-defined. Meanwhile, cheaper digital recorders have sensitive processor chips for converting signals between analogue to digital forms inside the same box as noisy electric motors, spinning magnetic heads and leaky power supplies. This inevitably produces edgy, dimensionless sound that audiophiles call “digititis”.

But in the hands of experts, the best analogue and digital systems are virtually indistinguishable. Warmth can be dialed into digital circuitry. Clarity, spaciousness and purity of tone can be produced by top-end analogue amplifiers.

Stuck with equipment that’s less than ideal, it’s no surprise that the vast majority of purists on either side of the tube-versus-transistor divide have their prejudices confirmed. And so the religious audio wars rage on.


Knowing this, I chose to spend most of my money investing in top quality digital equipment that I could update more economically as future improvements in technology evolve. I also have 95 to 98% of my collection in digital formats because it's easier to store that way. I haven't bought a new vinyl recording in years because everything that I'm interested in is also in digital format. The only LPs that I still have are those that I can't replace because they haven't been released on cd. However, I'm playing them increasingly rarely because no matter how good my equipment is, and no matter how careful I am with them, each time I play them I am degrading the surface, and diminishing future playbacks.
 
Nov 21, 2008 at 5:03 PM Post #5 of 5

zotjen

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I've always felt that the CD format lends itself better to classical music than vinyl simply from a capacity persepective. I think a lot of people were won over by CD by the fact that they could sit and listen to an entire symphony without having to get up and flip the record over.
 

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