I have had my vinyl system for a couple of years now, and have gone through a couple of different cartridges to arrive where I am at right now. While I do like the sound I am getting for the most part, I still wondered if I was really hearing a difference, or falling to the placebo effect. On records I have owned for decades, and even more so on some recent audiophile reissues, I have never heard the records sound this good. On many, the system is revealing details I hadn’t heard before.
While going through CDs this past week, I found a CD-R someone had sent me many years ago, a needle drop of an album that is nearly impossible to find today. I can’t even remember who sent it, and even then it was another party who had sent this person the needle drop. I had considered cleaning up the numerous pops and ticks in an audio editor, since this record was pressed on lousy vinyl and any copy that I have known anyone to own (even a sealed copy) has had these flaws in the vinyl.
Having ripped the CD, I played it back on my computer-based system (tube amp, DacMagic DAC, etc.). What surprised me after about 30 seconds is that the quality of the needle drop sounded, for lack of a better word, “cheap.” While the cartridge wasn’t blatantly mistracking, you could hear it was less than capable, with a rather odd balance to the highs and a somewhat thumpy quality to the bass. The background noise, that “vinyl noise” or “turntable noise” that lurks as an undercurrent to the music, was plainly audible. While it is not of such a poor quality, it reminded me of going from my rather modest high school mid-fi system to one of the many Panasonic “Thrusters” systems that friends owned.
I have not yet really “converted” anyone from digital to vinyl, nor do I really want to, but this whole exercise makes me want to demonstrate to others how a well-made, properly set up turntable system can extract so much more of the music out of the grooves than typical mid-fi setups. Or even just show the non-believers how good it can sound. The real haters will still nitpick everything to death (“See? I heard a tick! Right there!!“) But anyone with an open mind can certainly grasp the concept.
I could do the same for high-res vs. CD, but that is a harder sell than vinyl vs. CD. Still, I do hear differences between CD and high-res, and am slowly getting a few sample tracks together to demonstrate it clearly.