The LaGrange (not a river)
September 28, 2005 3:49 PM   Subscribe

I want one so very, very badly.
posted by shockingbluamp (78 comments total)
 
Mmmm... what is this I'm drinking? It's so good, so new, so fresh...
posted by billysumday at 3:54 PM on September 28, 2005


$19500 for a record deck.

Would my Will Haven sound any better?
posted by 13twelve at 3:54 PM on September 28, 2005


Twenty grand for a turntable? I bet it doesn't even play mp3 records.

Here's the stuff my old boss was into (think $3500 speaker cables and 150 pound mono-amps).
posted by fenriq at 3:54 PM on September 28, 2005


I can't tell the difference between a 64-bit sampled MP3, a compact disc and a piece of vinyl (when I listen to them), so I've never understood the appeal of $20,000 sound systems, much less turntables.

I mean, the last time I listened to a vinyl record, I heard popping. I assume, from the stylus hitting dust on the record. Is the supposed fidelity from an analog recording so much better than that from a digital recording that the occasional pop should be overlooked (for those of you with decent hearing)?
posted by solid-one-love at 3:56 PM on September 28, 2005


I'll build you one that's just as good, and I'll knock $500 off their price for you.

These turntables are incredibly simple. You need a very heavy thing on some good bearings, a belt, a motor mounted in a reasonably isolated case, a DC power supply (or a bank of batteries if you really want it to appear substantial).
posted by I Love Tacos at 3:56 PM on September 28, 2005


Is the supposed fidelity from an analog recording so much better than that from a digital recording that the occasional pop should be overlooked (for those of you with decent hearing)?

You shouldn't hear any pops. If you do, something is dusty.
posted by I Love Tacos at 3:57 PM on September 28, 2005


billysumday: So blue?

At some point, after blowing $200,000 on audiophile equipment, I might be inclined to wonder if I couldn't just see all those various music acts front row, center, and live, or perhaps bring back Chopin from the dead, using that same amount of money. But then, given the booming market for luxury goods, I suppose a person in that position would do both.
posted by Mercaptan at 4:00 PM on September 28, 2005


You shouldn't hear any pops. If you do, something is dusty.

I would consider it axiomatic that it is impossible to listen to music in a dust-free room. So my question remains: is the supposed improved fidelity worth the occasional pop?
posted by solid-one-love at 4:01 PM on September 28, 2005


I just love reading audiophile reviews of expensive equipment where they put on Madonna and the James Bond soundtrack. I'm sure either of those would sound just as good on a $29 boombox from walmart.
posted by cameldrv at 4:03 PM on September 28, 2005


Mmmm... what is this I'm drinking? It's so good, so new, so fresh...

C'mon Billy. Take off the jade sunglasses for a moment. This is pretty cool although I'd much rather listen to CDs.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 4:04 PM on September 28, 2005


I used to obsess about the equipment. Now I obsess about the music.
posted by gagglezoomer at 4:05 PM on September 28, 2005


The problem is the dylithium matrix causing positronic interference on the EPS coils.
posted by tkchrist at 4:06 PM on September 28, 2005


the long-lost laser brother.

posted by lsd4all at 4:08 PM on September 28, 2005


Fucking incredible!
posted by OmieWise at 4:13 PM on September 28, 2005


"and highs that extended to well beyond 20 kHz."

What piece of gear was he using to measure this? A perfect human ear can only hear up to 20K... so how was he able to detect this? or more importantly; why should we care about sounds we can't hear?
posted by Hanover Phist at 4:16 PM on September 28, 2005


Hanover Phist, because it drives the dogs WILD!
posted by fenriq at 4:25 PM on September 28, 2005


cranked up the volume, and went nuts over what came out of my speakers—super tight bass, dynamics that knocked my socks, an incredibly pure and clean midrange, and highs that extended to well beyond 20 kHz.

Riiiight. Because we all know that modern pop mixes are created with only the utmost care. Especially ones that are cut straight to CD.

Chances are, the vinyl was mastered from a digital source.

Also, back in the day my perfect ears could hear in excess of 20kHz. Ultrasonic detectors in schools and stores used to drive me batshit.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:27 PM on September 28, 2005


Hanover Phist:

Nyquist, mayhaps?

*shrugs*
posted by basicchannel at 4:35 PM on September 28, 2005


Uhm, yeah. You can get a nice quartz-locked Technics 1200 mk2 table for about $500 bucks, put an isolated and balanced tone arm on it and a killer cartridge for less than $500 and you'll still be within 90-99% of the range of top end vinyl reproduction.

I'll just take a wild guess and say that that the quartz servo drive will be within something like 0.01% to 0.001% of exactly 33 and 1/3rd RPM. Plus you can stand on the platter and it'll spin you around. Slowly but surely. (Note: Don't do this. Yes it can be done. So can a wrecked turntable.)

Yeah, I've heard one of these Brinkmann tables. In a nice dedicated listening room. On a perfectly balanced mono tri-amped tube system. (Signal crossed over 3 ways, one amp per speaker hi, mid, low. Etc.)

I can hear the difference between a 44.1khz redbook CD and a 48khz PCM track or DAT.

There's a word for these Hi-Fi systems: Overkill.
The corresponding phrase would be: When you absolutely, positively have to kill every motherfucker in the room.

It's a stereo. Not a physics package. Save the money for collecting vinyl and spare copies and stocking up on high end needles.

On preview: You too, five fresh fish? Those things drive me nuts. Those and CRT tubes, noisy capacitors, crappy power supplies and the like. "Can't you hear that?! Arrgh! Turn it off!!"
posted by loquacious at 4:36 PM on September 28, 2005


Protip: Those tracks you buy from iTunes Music Store are lopped off at 15kHz to save space. Do not attempt to play them on your LaGrange.
posted by basicchannel at 4:37 PM on September 28, 2005


I want one so very, very badly.

You're gonna need two if you plan to do any scratching.
posted by eatitlive at 4:44 PM on September 28, 2005


Or, for a bit more money, you could get one of these, and get the privilege of navigating a truly horrible flash interface in the process.
posted by kickingtheground at 4:45 PM on September 28, 2005


Because we all know that modern pop mixes are created with only the utmost care. Especially ones that are cut straight to CD.

Took the words right out of my mouth. The guy could have listened to anything he wanted on a 20K sound system and he chose Madonna?
posted by Specklet at 4:46 PM on September 28, 2005


this piece of hardware is, no doubt, the very buddha of audiophile gear... however, this reviewer is a total ass.

First, any reviewer that thinks "you know what would really put this deck through its paces? Madonna." should have his reviewer's license revoked. You obviously have no taste, so shut up.

Second, he talks about what incredible control the deck gives him when all he did was turn it on and play.

idiot.

second, he willfully neglects to mention the fact that $14000 worth of turntable that COMES WITH ITS OWN TUBE AMP is not comparable to even top-of-the-line $1000 cd players. It's like saying "I can't believe people are going with hybrid cars when my Buggati Veyron gets 1001 horsepower!!!"

oh, and he cleverly dodges around the bass issue by saying the turntables bass is "tight," (analog audiophile jargon for "non-existant.") since the increased dynamic range of cds is mostly in the lower end of the spectrum.

If I were a bajillionaire, I would buy this deck. I would also spend the literally millions of dollars it would require to replicate my cd/mp3 collection in vinyl (where possible.) and maintain it against aging and wear. But I certainly wouldn't point at cd owners and tell them they were fools.

What a total and utter douchebag.
posted by shmegegge at 4:51 PM on September 28, 2005


I, as well, am one of those driven completely nutso by CRTs, power supplies, and the like.

I once worked in a room with a CRT that decided it didn't like my kind, and daily someone would turn it on and leave it on. My main headphones were (and still are) a set of Grado SR-60s, which are open-air 'phones, and I would look up whenever someone turned on the monitor to use that computer.

People thought I was making it up. I couldn't convince them that they simply couldn't hear the higher frequency sound the monitor was emitting.
posted by Mikey-San at 4:51 PM on September 28, 2005


I'm holding out for one of these.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:53 PM on September 28, 2005


The guy could have listened to anything he wanted on a 20K sound system and he chose Madonna?

That raises the question of what record in your collection would you play first on this high-end system.

My pick: Johnny Puleo and His Harmonica Gang. It would be like having Puleo right there in room with me, stinking of garlic and wiping saliva from his lips between each dynamic and tight performance.
posted by eatitlive at 4:59 PM on September 28, 2005


fivefreshfish, me too. When I was young, I tested my hearing at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and I could still hear a tiny bit of sound up to about 27k. I used to be able to hear that a television was on from outside the house... old style TVs have a very pronounced ring to them. (new ones may too, but I long ago lost the ability to hear that high.) And the library terminals, ye gods those things were SO ANNOYING.

I have, in other words, indeed experienced sound in the range this author is talking about. Now that I'm old, it's only a memory. I think I'd lost my ultrasonic hearing by, oh, 18 or so. I very, very much doubt that anyone 30+ is going to be able to hear this stuff. Some folks claim that it can still improve music anyway, even though you can't consciously detect the sound.... possible, I suppose, but I haven't seen any blind tests showing that it works. Personally, I don't think it would help very much. None of that sound was 'musical' to me, it was just annoying. Losing it was not a major loss.... although it was nice knowing whether we'd left the TV on without going inside to look. :)

There's a lot of very slimy people out there who would like you separate you from your money. One great example was a $250 hardwood volume knob for your receiver. I kid you not... they actually claimed it would make things sound better.

Lots and lots of snake oil in this business, and these 'high-end reviewers' have an inherent conflict of interest; if they don't hear differences between high end pieces of gear, then they'll lose the 'golden ear mystique' thing. So of course they all hear enormous differences. They have to, to keep their jobs.

One last comment: the brain uses many fewer neurons to hear than it does to see, and hearing strategies appear to be quite different, unique per brain. That's why audio gear is hard to shop for... you have to actually go find stuff that sounds good to your particular hearing strategy. All audio is about tradeoffs. You're looking for the tradeoffs that suit your unique ears.
posted by Malor at 5:09 PM on September 28, 2005


The LeGrange turntable, huh. Seems like for twenty grand it should play something other than ZZ Top.
posted by stet at 5:13 PM on September 28, 2005


For the record, my boss, when I'd help him install a new component, would play me a super clean digital version of Hotel California and would make me sit in "The Seat" where you could point to where each musician was sitting and hear every tiny bit of the music.

It was damned good.

And I'm almost positive he has absolutely no Madonna shit in his entire collection.
posted by fenriq at 5:15 PM on September 28, 2005


thinks hey baby... like my hard wood knob?

I could hear jewelry-store motion detectors until about age 22. I can still hear the TV flyback transformer, but it's not nearly as intrusive as before. My old laptop's cold cathode driver drove me nearly batshit, though.

After a major clonk in the head a few years back, I think I've quite a hearing deficit now. Sigh.

I can, however, hear the difference between high-quality MP3 (LAME-encoded 192kbps vbr) and a CD. It's one of the things that keeps me buying CDs.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:18 PM on September 28, 2005


I knew a guy with a $200,000 stereo, and I asked him what was the difference between a $200,000 and a $100,000 stero.

He said for $100,000 you can have a flute and violin play a piece live, and blindfolded you couldn't tell the difference.

For $200,000 you could rev 5 harleys.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:20 PM on September 28, 2005


My whole family on my dad's side has poor hearing once they get past 25 (where I'm at, now.) I'm starting to notice losing acuity in my hearing, but the one thing I can still hear (although now it's more of a feeling than a sound) is when a tv is on with no signal. My girlfriend always hits the wrong button the remote and turns off the cable box instead of the tv. The instant I walk in the room I know the tv is on and turn it off. I've never had a false positive, either, so I know it's not just luck.
posted by shmegegge at 5:35 PM on September 28, 2005


Over.





kill.
posted by Doohickie at 5:41 PM on September 28, 2005


Mmmm. So how is this supposed to do me any good when 99% of my music listening is done on the ride to and from the office, on a plane, or while I'm cutting the grass? Aside from any other considerations, I don't have the time to set aside to "listening to my stereo" - on the other hand, I have plenty of time to listen to music.

On the reviewer's music of choice for auditioning this ridiculous item - at least it wasn't Mannheim Steamroller.
posted by kcds at 6:05 PM on September 28, 2005


I just love reading audiophile reviews of expensive equipment where they put on Madonna and the James Bond soundtrack. I'm sure either of those would sound just as good on a $29 boombox from walmart.

That Madonna album was produced by Mirwais and I imagine had an enormous amount of money spent on it. There's no reason to think it isn't as well put together as any other album.
posted by cillit bang at 6:13 PM on September 28, 2005


If I were fiendishly rich I'd get one. I'm not & never will; I'm not sad about it.

Those who poo-poo, however, are missing it a bit. I recently mixed a new recording and went to an audiophile friend's house to get a listen on his system (pretty sick stuff), it was absurd & made apparent some things I could have mixed/mastered better.

As for sounds beyond the range of human hearing: there is a lot of research on this, and it appears pretty obvious right now that sounds you can't hear affect the sounds you can hear in audible and measurable ways. An alto saxophone, for example, is hitting all sorts of high harmonics and upper partials that you're not noticing, that's how it makes the beautiful sound you are noticing.

That said, I have a very nice $1000 stereo (no ttable for now, my records are in another country) and no plans to upgrade. Evar.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:15 PM on September 28, 2005


A 70-pound turntable? I can't scratch with that!!
posted by bigbigdog at 6:16 PM on September 28, 2005


On the reviewer's music of choice for auditioning this ridiculous item - at least it wasn't Mannheim Steamroller.

Or Shadowfax.

I'm over 30 and I still hear ultrasonics. It's annoying, but listening to music is wonderful. I count myself lucky, consider I used to fall asleep inside of bassbins when I was youngin'.

But then I've always had a pretty strong policy of leaving/moving if the sound was harsh and I could feel it crunching my ears up. Or stuffing some wadded up bits of paper towels in them. And eventually habitually carrying earplugs to amplified sound events.

One of my monitors - an old but crystal clear IBM 15" - has a slowly degrading flyback. If I don't tilt it just right it whines like an 8 year old in a candy store. You'll find me frequently wrestling with it and trying to make it stop.
posted by loquacious at 6:18 PM on September 28, 2005


Rockport Sirius II. $70 grand. Worth every penny to the well-heeled audiophile.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 6:19 PM on September 28, 2005


I love my turntable, but I don't $20,000 love it. I, too, cannot hear the difference between 128kbps mp3s and anything higher. I just like the pops and the LPs themselves.
posted by Eideteker at 6:28 PM on September 28, 2005


When I rip my albums to the ipod, sometimes I like to leave in a few skips, especially if the skip is something I'm used to after all these years with that album.

And it annoys me that half the cover art I steal from Amazon or elsewhere has a stupid CD logo on it. This was ripped from vinyl, dammit! Tempted to lug the albums to Kinko's or wherever and scan them myself....
posted by bigbigdog at 6:43 PM on September 28, 2005


20 grand to play vinyl? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Damn, for that price it should have a hand attachment that pleasures you as you listen to your records.
posted by clevershark at 8:50 PM on September 28, 2005


Because we all know that modern pop mixes are created with only the utmost care.

This statement strikes me as extremely peculiar, as pop mixes these days are almost an exact science.
posted by Wolof at 9:02 PM on September 28, 2005


But it's vinyl...limited dynamic range by design. It's just not possible to approach digital quality no matter how much you spend on the turntable, the amp, the cables, or the speakers.
Some people have more money than brains.
posted by rocket88 at 9:08 PM on September 28, 2005


From boingboing of 05 Sept 02005:

"If you scan a vinyl phono-record at high-enough resolution, you can get highly detailed pictures of the grooves and use software to decode them into music..."
posted by neuron at 9:26 PM on September 28, 2005


But it's vinyl...limited dynamic range by design. It's just not possible to approach digital quality no matter how much you spend on the turntable, the amp, the cables, or the speakers.

Philistine.

Truly, something is lost in digital conversion. When you get to SACD or other high resolution media the digital artifacts become much harder to detect, and the greater dynamic range and silent background can really shine. Vinyl versus CD, with appropriate equipment and not taking into account convenience? I will take vinyl any day. Most people who disagree just have not had a chance to hear the media on really good equipment.

Despite being a bit fixated on good equipment, I nevertheless devote more resources to the music than anything else. It is still about the music in the end. I also still listen to mostly CD, although mostly because of convenience and what I have in my CD collection.
posted by caddis at 10:23 PM on September 28, 2005


The beneficiary of this superior energy-conversion isolation system is the listener. Musical details unfold with effortless certainty, conveying the emotion of the music with profoundly convincing realism by combining delicacy,immediacy,listenability, and explosive dynamics.

OR

The motor coils are direct driven in a dual-phase manner to maintain coil-to-coil balance and achieve an optimal phase shift condition. This represents the ideal configuration with which to operate an AC motor, yielding a standard-setting combination of fluidity of transmitted power and stability of
speed.


I bet they were jacking off while writing this crap.
posted by c13 at 10:30 PM on September 28, 2005


I DJ, I dabble in electronic music, I dabble in analog experimental music. I've done my share of futzing around with recording and editing digital audio files in various bitrates, formats, compression schemes, techniques and more. I've done a little analog recording, but mostly on 1/2" reel to reel decks, not true analog multichannel sound engineering.

I even primarily DJ with MP3s these days.

I can unequivocally state that analog audio is drastically different sounding than digital audio. Stuff that's mastered to fine-grain 1" or 2" tape and then pressed from analog to vinyl is going to be much richer, wider, and deeper than digital.

Even stuff that was digitally created, edited, and mastered sounds different in vinyl. There's probably some amount of natural anti-aliasing that occurs when a digital signal gets cut to a master plate and then hot-pressed to vinyl.

I can easily hear the grain in a 44.1kHz 8 or 16 bit digital source. It presents itself as a sort of very fine high frequency hum or whine. A very rapid staccato clipping would be another way to describe it.

If you've never noticed it, there's two experiments you can do to "hear" it for yourself and train your ears for what to listen for.

One way is to record or rip CD audio (CDA) to a simple raw WAV or PCM. Take that file and stretch it across the timebase in an audio recording/editing program like Protools or Wavelab. There are a number of ways to do it.

Another way is to get an old portable CD player without anti-skip. Defeat the lid-closure detection switch. You'll either have to stick something in the hole inside the case where the switch is, or open the case and find the small switch that's inside and force it shut or solder/shunt the switch closed.

Pop in a CD. Leave the lid open. Hit play. Then lightly drag your fingers across the disc or the spindle in the center.

On older portable CD players you can actually slow the CD spin rate down a fair amount before the circuits and digital signal processing craps out and refuses to decode the out of sync bitstream.

And the grain is immediately apparent. Slow down the disc, listen to the crackles, and then let it slowly spin back up.

Repeat a few times comparing between the slowed playback and normal playback and suddenly the noise of the digital sampling becomes painfully apparent. And it's difficult to ever go back.
posted by loquacious at 10:47 PM on September 28, 2005


But does it come with a moon rock needle?
posted by DonnieSticks at 11:51 PM on September 28, 2005


loquacious, i'm not a DJ, but your example makes no sense. the very nature of digital music is such that it takes a certain number of samples of the audio (44KhZ is the standard, i think, meaning 44000 waveform samples/second) and then puts them back together to form coherent analog waveforms.

in theory, the human ear can't distinguish the difference with so many samples/second, so you hear music. --however, even if that recording was done at twice that rate, if you were to slow it down enough, you'd hear the breaks between samples.

think of it this way: if you take a photoshop picture that's rendered at a pixel level, you can blow it up and see those pixels, no matter how high the dpi. however, if you take an illustrator picture and do the same, that'll never happen, because it's all vector-based.

my understanding digital:bitmaps :: analog:vectorillustration -- you record a direct press of the sound onto a physical object like a record -- and basically, fidelity at the atomic level (theoretically) is infinitely higher than what a CD records digitally.

regardless, your example of slowing down or speeding up a CD is not useful, especially since those CD players weren't meant to upsample or downsample the music in the first place.

but. the question of whether we can hear those differences when a CD and a vinyl record are played at full speed, i think, is still an interesting one. e.g., we're told the human ear can't pick up sounds about 20 KhZ, but it seems that you, me, schmegge, fivefreshfish, and many others i know can still pick up those ultrasonics, and they're annoying as hell. (i've learned to ignore it, but i'm pretty sure that i can still hear TVs when they're getting a blank signal. it drives me nuts.)

personally, i think that the point you made in an earlier post about digital recordings is true -- at some point, that sample rate has to exceed what the human ear could possibly distinguish, just like an ultrasonic at 40Khz would be indistinguishable to any human, no matter how sensitive their ears.

my suspicion is that the standard CD sample rate was selected as a nice midpoint where most consumers wouldnt care enough to tell the difference. clearly, as you increase the sample rate, you get to store/read less data, so more fidelity would have meant less play time (70-some minutes is already less than a tape) and more skipping b/c you get less of a storage buffer (a big deal with CD players, esp. back in the day.) it might not have been quite so calculating a decision, but i'm guessing that's what it basically boiled down to.
posted by spiderwire at 12:31 AM on September 29, 2005


spiderwire's absolutley correct about the difference between digital and analog sources. A record makes noises by making bumps in the vinyl and riding those bumps during playback. the bumps look, depending on what noise they're making, like sharp craggy mountains and bell curves.

digital representations of the same look like stacked blocks that approximate those craggy mountains and bellcurves, just the same way that digital images are stacked pixels that approximate the appearance of photographs or real life objects.

The thing is that, for the most part, a person can't tell the difference between analog and digital sources any more than you could point out the individual pixels in an antialiased image on a digital monitor.

People who are accustomed to analyzing these things, however, get a feel for it and learn to recognize the difference. That's where the snobbery and elitism comes in. If you have a DVD player, imagine it this way: Maybe you didn't notice the first time you played a DVD how much better the picture quality was, but once you got used to it, have you ever gone back to a VHS tape? It's nearly intolerable, unless the tape is out-of-the-box never-been-played brand new. It's the same way with audiophiles, and the less mature among them like to make a big deal out of how discriminating their ears have become. If you're rich, give the equipment a try and you'll have an experience much like the DVD player versus the VHS. If you're not, ignore them and you won't miss anything.
posted by shmegegge at 1:00 AM on September 29, 2005


I'm glad someone else hates capacitors.
posted by NinjaPirate at 2:03 AM on September 29, 2005


I'm ashamed when I put an mp3 on a mix CD for someone amongst tracks recorded from other CDs. I'm always dreadfully worried they'll notice, feel slighted by the sound quality and think less of me.
It's probably my most irrational fear.

Sharks are an entirely rational fear.
posted by NinjaPirate at 2:07 AM on September 29, 2005


The horizontal scan frequency in TVs is around 16kHz (15734 for NTSC, 15625 for PAL), not ultrasonic. I seem to hear it only in older TV sets though.

Some people have speculated that even if you can't hear over 20kHz, intermodulation effects from the higher harmonics could alias down to the audio band. As far as I know it is not clear if these effects have any practical significance.
posted by ikalliom at 2:40 AM on September 29, 2005


For what it's worth, I've listened to some of this equipment, in proper listening rooms... and it's absurdly fantastic.

The problem that I (and most others) face is that defects in my listening space quickly negate the potential fidelity improvements.
posted by I Love Tacos at 3:14 AM on September 29, 2005


I always wondered what that irritating high pitched noise from tvs was; too many nights at Rockworld has seen to that.

As for my earlier comment, would my Will Haven sound better. I dont know. But the Deftones "White Pony" album sounded warmer and nicer on an audiophiles turntable sat in *the* seat than it does on my stereo.

(though everything sounds better in my Sennheiser headphones)
posted by 13twelve at 3:41 AM on September 29, 2005


a started a thread on AskMeFi about ultrasonics because i was amazed to hear that other people had experienced it as well and didn't know that the discussion was appropriate in the context of this nifty turntable :)
posted by spiderwire at 3:42 AM on September 29, 2005


schmegge: spiderwire's absolutley correct about the difference between digital and analog sources.

i liked my photoshop/illustrator metaphor :) but thanks

The thing is that, for the most part, a person can't tell the difference between analog and digital sources any more than you could point out the individual pixels in an antialiased image on a digital monitor.

::raises hand:: i can do that.

If you're rich, give the equipment a try and you'll have an experience much like the DVD player versus the VHS. If you're not, ignore them and you won't miss anything.

or you can get a good pair of headphones pretty cheap (100-200 bucks) -- and then you're screwed, because you can get some damn good quality and start to see what you're missing. then it's straight to the slipperly slope of sounds-geek snobbery. to wit:

13twelve: (though everything sounds better in my Sennheiser headphones)

i started with a pair of sony MDR-700s, which are shit but an adequate introduction to what you may be missing. my sennheiser HD-590s were a whole different world until i ran over the cable too many times with my office chair -- now i need a replacement.

i get by pretty well on the mid-range Shure earbuds -- not quite as good as the 590s, but you can put them in in a crowded coffeeshop and it pretty much isolates you, so it's a great tradeoff. they're my faves so far. the 590s have the drawback of being open-ear, which allows for a great soundstage, but also allows all the ambient noise in.

oh, quick recommendation: the music that ultimately pushed me over the edge to good headphones such that i could never return? amon tobin. well, that a fair amount of high-grade marijuana, but it's still good not that i'm older and more mature. *cough* in fact, i'm gonna go listen to Out From Out Where before i go to sleep. :)
posted by spiderwire at 3:52 AM on September 29, 2005




I splurged on good equipment early this year when my 20+ years speakers started to give out. Oh, it was so worth it. Pieces of music that I have heard thousands of times revealed nuances previously unnoticed. The only irritating thing was that the difference between a poor recording and a good one are now much more apparent.
posted by Ber at 4:16 AM on September 29, 2005


digital representations of the same look like stacked blocks

looks. When PCM is converted back to analog the blocks disappear, via oversampling and filtering. The actual outputted waveform of a digital device is very similar to that of analog.

if you take an illustrator picture and do the same, that'll never happen, because it's all vector-based

Except, the groove on a record has a finite bandwidth. Zoom in and all you'll see is noise and distorted approximations of the original waveforms.

my suspicion is that the standard CD sample rate was selected as a nice midpoint where most consumers wouldnt care enough to tell the difference

Well yes. 44100Hz is the minimum for sounding acceptable, but is still fairly rough.
posted by cillit bang at 5:05 AM on September 29, 2005


I still maintain that a prime reason that audiophile types like vinyl is that cds, or digital sources generally, just aren't fiddly enough. You just put in the disc and go. If you want ultra mega pure sound, just put the transport in another room and run the digital signal to your DAC. But even then, it's plug in the cables and go. Where's the fun in that?

But a turntable... oh, the possibilities are endless! You can replace tone arms and styluses in new and exciting combinations. You can adjust the stylus eight ways from Sunday, and the tone arm balance, and the speed of the motor, and all sorts of other fun things to mess with.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:34 AM on September 29, 2005


44kHz sampling will faithfully reproduce sounds up to 22KHz (Nyquist). I don't care how good your ears are, you don't need better than that. If you're hearing high-frequency artifacts from CDs, you have bad equipment.
As for dynamic range (the difference between the loudest sound possible and the quietest sound distinguishable from noise), CDs sampled at 16-bits have in excess of 90dB (Actually 96dB, but there is a small loss in the anti-aliasing filters). Vinyl has a physical limitation in the nature of the material limiting it to 60-70dB.
Many so-called audiophiles still prefer analog recordings. Often they say it sounds "warmer". If you're one of them, that's cool. Everyone should listen to what they prefer. But understand that the warmer sound is an artifact of harmonic distortion. It has nothing to do with fidelity.
As an electronics engineer, I marvel at much of the semi-knowledge and pseudo-science I hear from self-professed audiophiles. In the end, it comes down to this: Listen to what sounds good to you, but understand that's a subjective and qualitative decision. Accurate sound reproduction can be measured, and digital reproduction wins hands-down.
posted by rocket88 at 6:50 AM on September 29, 2005


spiderwire:

wasn't trying to give a better analogy, just a different one for people unfamiliar with photoshop/illustrator. sorry if I offended. also, I said that people couldn't hear the difference for the most part for a reason. Many people can, and most everyone with unimpaired hearing could teach themselves to. Just most people don't.

as far as headphones, the best I've ever owned are my sennheiser HD 497. (I can't afford any better right now, sorry!) But they're a world of difference. I don't own computer speakers at home, and do 90% of my music/video listening on them. The wire is too damn long, though, for street wear, so I use crappy $20 sonys for when I'm out.
posted by shmegegge at 7:01 AM on September 29, 2005


hot damn. now THAT'S authority.

I remember finding a link on MeFi a while ago, (it was here, right?) about how mainstream labels and distributors were ruining the music they released by pushing everything up to the limit of the cds dynamic range and basically clamping all the audio to stay in the highest segment of that range. The thought process behind this genius move is that "people will leave louder cds in their cd players."

when you know that music can sound better on a cd and you make it sound worse for as stupid a reason as that... god, my mind fills with murder.
posted by shmegegge at 7:07 AM on September 29, 2005


I still maintain that a prime reason that audiophile types like vinyl is that cds, or digital sources generally, just aren't fiddly enough.

I hate fiddly. I love SACDs and think they rival records. They reproduce the sound almost as well as analog, without too much digital artifact (although there is a serious filtering issue) and of course have great dynamic range and inky black backgrounds. You still need good equipment to take advantage of the fidelity they offer, but no more so than with vinyl. Unfortunately, poor marketing and mp3 have prevented this format from taking off. I usually won't buy an SACD unless it also has a regular CD track on it as well (hybrid discs).
posted by caddis at 7:15 AM on September 29, 2005


44kHz sampling will faithfully reproduce sounds up to 22KHz (Nyquist). I don't care how good your ears are, you don't need better than that.

Nyquist only says that a sampling system can, theoretically, represent waves up to half its sample rate. It says nothing about doing it faithfully.
posted by cillit bang at 7:27 AM on September 29, 2005


Something I never understood about the analog/digital debate: What I ultimately listen to is never digital, its always a speaker, which is by definition analog. So, I would think that as long as my digital source samples at a rate faster than my speakers can react, there can be no difference in the speaker output. Any digital notchyness should be lost in the inability of the speaker to reproduce the notch. Or am I missing something?
posted by rtimmel at 7:45 AM on September 29, 2005


rtimmel: In the general sense you're correct. The missing thing is the inability to build perfect ADCs and DACs. They need all sorts of filters and stuff to work at all, which introduce noise and distortion. Whether things have improved to the point where a digital circuit can produce effectively the same signal as the $20,000 turntable, I don't know.
posted by cillit bang at 7:59 AM on September 29, 2005


As NucleophilicAttack mentioned, the Rockport Sirius II (Now III) is $73,750, "It takes sixty vendors and six months to create and assemble" and is probably the most over-the-top turntable ever. It even had Stereophile asking, "Isn't the +185-lb, epoxy-composite plinth—fiber-reinforced, resin-shelled, lead-ballasted, and mineral-filled—another example, however sleek and shiny, of the design's overkill?" (conclusion: "Analog overkill"? I don't think so."). It has a "air-suspension isolation stand, air-bearing platter (both the axial and radial loads are supported by air), captured air-bearing arm, and direct-drive brushless motor" which means that there's an air compressor for it that generally sits in another room due to noise. Read the review, though - it's absolutely amazing the amount of (over)engineering that went into it.
posted by nTeleKy at 9:47 AM on September 29, 2005


The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.
posted by caddis at 9:58 AM on September 29, 2005


Terminator X would need two of these then, right?
posted by jasn at 10:50 AM on September 29, 2005


this is so far down the diminising returns curve that it's not even funny.
posted by pmbuko at 11:24 AM on September 29, 2005


lost an h there.
posted by pmbuko at 11:24 AM on September 29, 2005


I'm almost positive he has absolutely no Madonna shit in his entire collection.

Hotel California is worse.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:35 AM on September 29, 2005


$14,000 and I couldn't even use it in the car? No thanks.
posted by mygoditsbob at 1:07 PM on September 29, 2005


One thing that nobody seems to talk about is the sheer, for lack of a better word, "enjoyability" of analog. I have a decent, mid-fi digital front-end (Audio Alchemy DDE and transport,) but I always find that when I sit down to listen to music I loose interest in about an hour or two when playing CDs. When I play LPs on my Rega/Glider (a cheapie, by audiophile standards,) I can just go on and on for hours. That settles the debate for me. And I'm way beyond the listening for minute differences and "upgradeing" all the time phrase...
posted by Finder at 7:33 AM on October 1, 2005


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