Vinyl Is Back!
I'm puzzled. I realize that vinyl isn't "coming back", it's back! Which means that not only serious crate-diggers are searching for and purchasing older records made from before the great CD-scare of the 1990s, but newly reissued vinyl, and new vinyl releases from current artists. As a serious collector of vinyl, I have mixed feeling about many of the records being made and sold these days. To put it bluntly, the majority of records being made today are nothing more than CDs pressed onto vinyl. Pressing plants make records like this because of many factors, mostly cost constraints. These days, 99% of the masters they get from their customers are digital files.
Record plants that are able to press records from reel-to-reel tape like they did in olden times still exist, but they use them mostly for pressing records for audiophile labels. Even though there aren't as many pressing plants that accept reel-to-reel masters, this hardly matters, mostly because these days the large majority of studios only record in digital, and pass these digital files onto the pressing plants. Speaking of which, below is a video we produced about how a vinyl LP is made.
There are a few gray areas, though. I have been at a few recording studios that make an analog master onto reel-to-reel tape from their multi-track digital master. And now they can say that their record was "Made from the analog master tape". And I feel that some records that are advertised as being made from an analog master are either made this way, or simply made by re-mastering a digital master onto analog tape. There are records made with high-resolution digital masters, such as a master that is 24-bit/96kHz, with excellent results, such as the excellent sounding Queen colored vinyl reissues that were released in 2015.
In my experience I have found many more pressing plants that are able to press a record using a 24-bit/96kHz digital master than a reel-to-reel tape. To complicate things, and make me even more puzzled, is that I've heard records mastered from plain old Redbook CD quality 16-bit/44.1 kHz digital masters that sound better than their CD counterparts. I could make this discussion of my puzzlement much longer if I start to discuss why this is, and I bet many also have opinions as to why this is true. And I have a feeling the reasons are much more complicated than simply reveling in 2nd order harmonic distortion when dragging the needle over the record's surface.
Suppose I might be confusing some readers, as I'm confusing myself, and becoming more puzzled. The bottom line, I guess, is to enjoy vinyl, regardless of the "source", because there are more important things to consider, such as the quality of the music that is on these records. A great band making a great recording that on a digitally mastered record is much more enjoyable than a crummy band making a crummy recording on a record that has been mastered with analog tape. And so, the most important thing is that you enjoy the music.
Speaking of manufacturers, for over fifteen years The Lotus Group have been distributors / manufacturers of audiophile speakers, turntables, and high-end accessories. In this issue we showcase an article by The Lotus Group's Joe Cohen, where he asks the somewhat contentious question, "What's up with noise reduction in the Megahertz range and why does it matter?" Some might not agree with his findings, but those who agree that the absorption and dissipation of high frequency noise is a topic that should be considered, this will be an interesting examination.
Another manufacturer article, this time from the much-respected British loudspeaker manufacturer KEF, provides an excellent Comprehensive Guide To Digital Music Formats. The goal is to aid in your understanding digital music formats what is the difference between mp3 and ALAC?
This month, as usual the show reports are what reigns supreme, other than the equipment reviews, which are my favorite part of Enjoy the Music.com! The review of the Paradigm 200B speakers are sure to be a good read, and perhaps consider auditioning them for yourself if you are in the market for a pair of small two-way speakers. One may want to call these either bookshelf speakers, or stand-mounted speakers, as I've seen photos of them in both situations. These are affordable speakers by a very reputable company, and in my experience are able to perform in systems a notch above their price-class since they can reproduce the signal they receive with very little editing, therefore if they are paired with a nice front-end, one will be able to hear that they are using a nice front-end!
My review of the Etsuro Urushi Bordeaux might only appeal to the audiophiles with an upper echelon analog front-end. Like Etsuro Urushi's Cobalt Blue that I reviewed last year, it provides a "super-transparent window into the sounds that have been etched into an LP's surface", but at a price only an audiophile might appreciate.
We've also delivered to you a World Premiere Review of Rogue Audio's exciting new Cronus Magnum III integrated amplifier with MM / MC phono stage. Ron Nagle says it offers excellent build quality combined with the sonic performance of vacuum tubes.
Partner magazine Headphone.Guru offers up a review of Quad's PA-One+ triode vacuum tube DAC / headamp. Gary Alan Barker truly enjoyed his time listening to music with it and feels it may be the quintessential audiophile tube amp for headphones. Speaking of partner magazines...
It was just announced via press release that Enjoy the Music.com is partnering with Positive Feedback magazine, and this marks the 10th magazine to partner with our website. Positive Feedback has been publishing continually since January of 1990 (paper and ink from 1990-2001; purely online from 2002-present). They are now entering their 30th year of publication! You can read the press release at this link.
As their first review to appear within Enjoy the Music.com's Review Magazine, Positive Feedback's impressive review of the superb AURALiC ARIES G1 wireless streaming transporter is featured. Maurice Jeffries says "On a personal favorite and long-term reference like Domino (from Polish trumpeter Tomaz Stanko's 1999 release From the Green Hill on ECM), the G1 possesses the uncanny ability to place Stanko, saxophonist John Surman, and the rest of the band directly in my listening room as living, breathing, wholly interactive 3D musicians, not two-dimensional simulacrums."
Don't forget that the celebrated Munich 2019 HIGH END show is a week away from when this issue is published! Enjoy the Music.com will be there, and reports are on the way shortly as we're still adding to our extensive AXPONA 2019 show reports. As always, in the end what really matters is that you...