I didn't intend to brag to the list about my cool record player, as that
note was intended just for Tom. But I would like folks to understand that
there is a benefit to the seeming overkill of high-end players, at least to
some point of diminishing returns. It's true that expensive record players
manage to reveal more imperfections in the average LP or 45, but a good one
will also make the music sound better (better sound, not quality of music!).
Hard to describe but obvious when heard.
Typically, more micro-dynamic detail gets uncovered, so the music sounds
bigger, more expressive and alive. Loud impulses become cleaner and sharper
because there is less of the energy lost by absorption in flexing of the
tonearm structure and its mounting. A decrease in such resonances will also
make small details apparent and timbres more clear as a bunch of complex
sympathetic vibrations are not superimposed on the music. BTW, it is those
vibrations that make valid the idea of a turntable having a "sound" - a
timbral coloration that overlays everything played on it.
What is most surprising about a good high-end record player is how much
quieter the background noise becomes. A reasonable explanation can be
imagined: any steady-state vibration (surface noise, lathe rumble) will
excite resonances in the tonearm, platter, and plinth structure/materials,
adding to the amplitude of that unwanted part of the signal. Preventing or
suppressing those resonances will decrease the noise relative to the music
vibrations, allowing the music to stand out in greater relief, with
subjectively lower background noise.
When I read here of the efforts of people trying with software to minimize
noise from LP transfers, I wonder how much easier they would have it with a
better turntable system that itself would generate less noise of this sort.
I can play garage sale records, dusted with a carbon-fiber brush but not yet
cleaned on my VPI machine, usually without any of the stereotypical crackle
people expect to hear as the sound of records. Not to say there aren't
relatively inexpensive overachievers. Sadly, too few on today's market.
One of the nice things about microgroove is that you can keep getting more
and more from it as the playback gets more refined. Are those Living Stereo
SACDs better than vintage/Classic pressings? Yes, I'm sure they win on
points - Das Lied von der Erde is completely transformed, so a big grateful
hug to Mark Donahue. Yet there is some magical historicism to the LP
experience that is worthwhile, if only for the connection it provides to the
old ways, aspects of the producer's original intent, or to our personal
memories of those musical discoveries. Or that, absent good remastering,
it's still the best way to hear many recordings (i.e. Motown, whose CD
reissues have been unauthentic in my experience).
BTW, maybe someone can comment about the beautiful record player that was at
Sony studios NYC - I can't remember the make. Forssell?
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 3:37 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] High-end turntable
You are right about the Philips with floor vibrations. Cheapo feet are the
reason. I use an old IBM
typewriter pad that used to sit under the Selectric typewriters so they
wouldn't vibrate a desk.
Plus it's on top of a heavy file cabinet sitting on a concrete slab, nowhere
near any woofers. The
touch-sensitive buttons were a koolio feature in the early 80's (along with
big hair and
"Flashdance"), but they get very insensitive over time. I now have to blow
on my fingertips before
operating them or they won't sense any touch. I'm not dead, but I do have
dry hands and fingers. My
mother (the original owner) had the same problem with those buttons. At her
house, the turntable was
in a cabinet that had cement under it and the speakers were in a different
room, so no vibration
In the case of both the Philips and the Technics servo systems, there's
plenty of feedback to make
speed accuracy and pitch accuracy if the system is functioning. One system
that could get tripped up
was Denon, which had two tape heads and a magnetic ring inside the platter
as its system. That's
only about one data point per second (2x 33 1/3 per minute), and some people
can hear the system
adjust speed on tracking-challenge stuff like fff to ppp on a good classical
recording. I saw that
tape-head and fixed magnet system used in one other place -- on AutoTec tape
decks, that's how
motion-sensing was done. Ampex used a light source, strobe wheel and
light-detector on the AG-440C.
I was taught old-school about tape spooling, and don't trust any motion
sensing system. I always
"rock and roll" to a dead stop, then hit stop. Diverging ...
Anyway, as I've said numerous times, there is only so much "perfection"
you're going to eek out of
the _vast_ majority of LP records. Even a modest modern system (due to
low-noise phono preamps and
the general availability of decently compliant cartridges) will reveal how
much rumble and hum and
hiss is baked into the "golden era" records. Listen on headphones and it all
hangs out. The early
Westrex stereo cutters were tough beasts to wrangle, and the old lathes were
rumbling to varying
degrees of audibility. Plus the old tape machines had relatively high noise
floors, old tapes
hissed, etc. The problem with most "audiophile" records is that the content
sucks and isn't worth
hearing, performance-wise and/or recording-wise. Some reissue LPs of more
recent vintage are
wonderful exceptions to that admittedly blanket statement.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Carl" <[log in to unmask]>
To: "Tom Fine" <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 3:11 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] High-end turntable
> Pardon the imprecise language, professor. I mean to say the best playback
of LP I have yet heard.
> You mean the Philips model that used touch-sensitive buttons? I had one of
those around 1978. It
> was good, but the suspension was very sensitive to footfalls. Speed is not
the only thing that's
> important, but it should be right. The original Rega Planar 3s ran fast!
(Purposely?) On how many
> TTs can you hear the pitch go up after a loud passage? You're right about
the Slovak stuff -
> they're toys. I'd rather have what I think you've got - Technics? But then
it would be fun to put
> yours next to a mid-range Rega, and compare them for overall tunage. The
Technics would probably
> win for value, but of course, that's a very personal evaluation.
> Small things mean a lot with this black magic stuff, and they cost. The
tonearm is important and
> so is the way it interacts with the rest of the structure. The fewer you
sell, the more expensive
> each is, forming a commercial feedback loop. I know from working in
high-end retail, that nobody
> actually pays $170,000 or $35,000 for one of these things, unless the
buyer's favorite charity is
> his audio dealer. On the Clearaudio, the customer could demand a 25%
discount and the dealer would
> still make $15,000. No dealer would say no, right?
> Now, the question of value, .... that machine looks absurd. Clearaudio's
normal stuff pales in
> comparison to SME's workmanship, but their stuff generally is better than
VPI or others at below
> 8k (my buddy is a dealer for those makes and others). The SME's price
makes some sense given the
> scope of the market, inherent quality, and the performance you get.
Seriously. I have owned (of
> the good ones) Thorens, Luxman, Oracle, Micro Seiki, VPI, Nottingham, and
now for some years the
> modest little SME 10. They're all good, all different, and there is a
hierarchy of reproduction
> quality that, to me, is worthwhile.
> In high-end audio, high cost also is its own priority. It is sometimes
money for nothing and when
> it is shysterism, that's wrong. I'm okay with your populist sentiment,
Tom. I've spent most of
> life on a shoestring and right now Micky and I are literally below poverty
income - only partially
> by choice. So far, it has made sense to me to have a better TT than a car.
Hope that doesn't