Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Hi Fi Fo Fum

The search for quality music inevitably gets bound up in the search for quality sound.

I do not have the budget to indulge my hi-fi tastes to the limit, but I do have a proper ‘separates’ system and a turntable. Whilst I don’t have the specialist knowledge either to build a perfect system, I do appreciate the language of the hi-fi enthusiast which often borders on the poetic.

So, audio engineer Steve Hoffman’s discussion board (here) is one of my favourite stop overs on the old information super highway. It was a discussion thread which led me to this article by Henry Rollins about the supremacy of vinyl over compact disc and download.

My favourite lines read:

Sitting in a room, alone, listening to a CD is to be lonely. Sitting in a room alone with an LP crackling away, or sitting next to the turntable listening to a song at a time via 7-inch single, is enjoying the sublime state of solitude.

And Solitude is the most tenuous of links to this: part of a report by David W. Robinson from the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2007: The Audio Oasis! complete with photograph of one mean hi-fi rig and a couple of choice Ellington albums:

USA's Dan Meinwald demonstrated the playback of some choice mono LPs that he had brought with him.

"My personal favorite was the original 1950(!) pressing of Duke Ellington's Masterpieces by Ellington. Via the Dynavector mono, the sound was incredibly immediate, very clean, and spilling over with real presence. Not only that, but I got to hear a performance of "Mood Indigo" that went on for some eleven minutes, allowing Ellington and company to really explore some variations that were new to me. To say that this session was the personal highlight of the show for me is an understatement. It was an exceptional experience, one that furthered my audio education."

Dan Meinwald with a monoraul pressing of Ellington Indigos (left) and the marvelous 1950 monoraul Masterpieces by Ellington (ML 4418). Sublime! Many thanks, Dan.

"It was also a revelation of the glories that great performances on mono can have: layering (you don't need stereo for that, surprisingly enough), texture, rich enveloping tone, and atmosphere by the ton. Dan was sharing with anyone who has EARs to hear (not everyone does!) how good such mono LPs can be, properly played back. Dan even did a comparison of mono playback via mono vs. stereo cartridges. The Dynavector stereo did a good job, but the noise floor was noticeably increased (more tics/pops) with a stereo MC. This demonstration made it clear to me that if you're serious about mono, invest in a good mono setup. In the case of the Disc Master, getting a second tonearm is quite feasible …just the thing for the serious collector."

Interested parties can read the full report here.

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