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Melvin

Turntable .. never thought I'd be doing this again!

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It’s been a long time (40 years) since I’ve had a turntable. I had a decent system in my youth which, unfortunately, I had to part with due to unforeseen financial difficulties. By the time I recovered CD’s were just picking up steam. I went all in and never looked back until a few years ago with the vinyl resurgence. I resisted the tug until recently when some enthusiastic friends were waxing poetic (so to speak) about their own recent vinyl experiences. I could resist no longer.

 

After much research I finally decided on the Music Hall MMF-1.5. While this table has garnered a few nice online reviews it’s not nearly as well-known or popular as others (U-Turn, Pro-Ject, Audio-Technica) in this price range. For me, it ticked all the boxes. I also had to purchase a few accessories for maintenance. And vinyl. OY. I now have a whopping total of 7 LP’s, both new pressings and used. My intent, like many, is to find some nice gently used bargains not already in my digital library. Should be fun.

 

So how does it sound? I like it. That might be understating it a bit .. the sound is full, rich, textured, etc., etc. I like it a lot. The whole experience is tactile and feels a bit nostalgic, bringing me back to my youth. I’ve focused on digital for so long I had forgotten how enjoyable it is.

 

It’s often been said that digital can never even approach analog. I disagree. When digital is well-sorted, as I think mine is, it’s as involving and organic as I could hope for. I love my digital. I love the sound quality good digital delivers (never mind the convenience). In fact, I wouldn’t be without it. Of course, I live in the mid-fi world so perhaps my opinion means shit. Maybe SOTA analog is indeed better than SOTA digital. Maybe not. No doubt the debate will continue. In the meantime, I will happily live in my mid-fi world with both. Good times.

 

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4 hours ago, Melvin said:

My intent, like many, is to find some nice gently used bargains not already in my digital library. Should be fun.

 

It is, indeed, fun - but be prepared for a few surprises and even a revelation or two.  I still use the TD125 and SME 3009 I bought used in 1969 to play about 1000 LPs I bought between 1958 and today.  I've taken great care of everything - the records are clean, in good sleeves and properly stored, the  'table belt is fresh, etc .  I have a good mat and a solid record weight.  I use Discwasher, Zerostat, and Spin Clean.  I still use an ESL Dust Bug on my wife's vinyl (which looked & sounded like pizza when I met her 47 years ago, but is now generally playable).

 

I love vinyl!  In addition to hundreds of my family's 78s (dating to the 1920s), my vinyl collection includes hundreds of 45s and almost 1000 well made commercial LPs plus many early audiophile issues from Umbrella, Sheffield, MFSL etc and a few dozen specialties like 12" 45 RPM discs (e.g. Trackin' by Lew Tabackin, direct mastered 1976 RCA Japan - stellar!).  I love slipping the jacket out of its slot, looking at the pictures, reading the notes, taking the inner sleeve out, gently removing the disc, and placing it on the 'table. I love cleaning the discs and dropping the needle. I even love the very faint but always audible sound of the stylus gliding over the flat vinyl of the lead-in groove. I happily sit with the jacket, enjoying the cover art and information while listening through the sounds of well worn, well played vinyl.  The experience is truly special!  And the sound can be truly spectacular, especially from well recorded, rarely played, top quality vinyl.  But to me, fine digital is at least as pleasing, and the dead silence from which it emerges equals the "warmth" of vinyl as a pleasant accompaniment to the music.

 

Those "gently used bargains" are rare and elusive.  I love to buy old vinyl and do it whenever I see a rare disc or a player of note (pun intended) listed in the credits. I only do it for the content, though, because most old records sound like old records.  I've posted this sentiment before and gotten flamed for it, but there are no alternative facts (HERE's some supporting information).  Once you've played a record a few dozen times, even with the best possible 'table, arm & cartridge and the best possible storage & care, it has a sonic patina of use.  From dust in the air to minor pressing flaws to an occasional tiny scratch from an errant stylus drop, those admittedly minor pops and crackles combine with a barely audible mechanical noise floor to add a barely audible overlay to the music.  And as vinyl ages, e.g. from molecular change over time, repeated stylus pressure against the groove walls, temperature cycles, "work hardening" etc, the material becomes less elastic and the waves in the groove walls deform. This all affects fidelity.  Those of us who love records just ignore it - but a listen to the same source material from a good digital file suddenly makes it obvious by its absence.

 

So when I'm in the mood to love me some vinyl, I take one out and perform the ritual.  I even love looking at my Thorens, which is in the same room as my computer - I'm looking at it as I type this!  But vinyl is best enjoyed as an overall experience.  Listening to vinyl for the sound makes the rest of the ritual as obvious by its absence as listening to digital does for the sonic debris and degradation most vinyl adds to the source waveform.

 

For me, vinyl has an important place in the audiophile's life, and it's right there next to digital.  Planning to do 'em all, I ripped one vinyl album a few years ago with the commercial TASCAM 24/192 interface with which I do my live recording. The effort was simply not worth it when I listened to the resulting .wav file - even after careful declicking and depopping, it sounded no better (maybe even a bit less pleasant) than the CD of the same album.  So I've bought CDs or digital downloads of the vinyl I play a lot, and  I'll rip rare records to protect them from the ravages of time and mishap.  But the "vinyl experience" is not just about listening to the music - it's an entity to be enjoyed on its own.  And if you're going to rip vinyl, do it the first or second time it's played.

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rather than used bargains, my interest is in things not released on CD/online or very very hard to get CDs of (Willis Alan Ramsey)

 

anyway, acoustic isolation is a key to groovey sound


"The overwhelming majority [of audiophiles] have very little knowledge, if any, about the most basic principles and operating characteristics of audio equipment. They often base their purchasing decisions on hearsay, and the preaching of media sages. Unfortunately, because of commercial considerations, much information is rooted in increasing revenue, not in assisting the audiophile. It seems as if the only requirements for becoming an "authority" in the world of audio is a keyboard."

-- Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound

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@bluesman .. thank you for the thoughtful and informative post.

 

1 hour ago, bluesman said:

I love slipping the jacket out of its slot, looking at the pictures, reading the notes, taking the inner sleeve out, gently removing the disc, and placing it on the 'table. I love cleaning the discs and dropping the needle. I even love the very faint but always audible sound of the stylus gliding over the flat vinyl of the lead-in groove. I happily sit with the jacket, enjoying the cover art and information while listening through the sounds of well worn, well played vinyl.  The experience is truly special! 

 

Funny, I had a bit of deja vu when I slipped that first LP out of its jacket and placed it on the table. The artwork, liner notes, and even the smell brought me back to such a wonderful place. I played Steely Dan's Aja first. I've had the CD for many years and had it on vinyl back in the day (which probably contributed to that deja vu kind of feeling). I purchased it thinking it might make for a nice comparison, and it did. BTW, I purchased a Spin Clean and it worked wonders on this old LP. I've cleaned each purchase (even the new pressing) to good effect AND it didn't feel like a chore. 

 

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