Hello Vinyl (Part II)

I initially left the turntable in the trunk of my car. Upon returning to SoundHounds, I didn’t see the gentleman who helped me on my previous trip. Nevertheless, I got talking to one of the guys about my interest in the Rotel A12 and a pair of ELAC-UNIFI bookshelf speakers, primarily for listening to music including vinyl. He said that’s a good setup, but for a similar price I might prefer pairing the Rotel with a pair of Bowers and Wilkins S685 R2s. I should give ‘em both a listen and see which set I prefer. I asked if he would mind if I got my turntable and some records out of my car? No problem at all, he’d get the rest of the kit together.

Set up in one of the listening rooms, we switched back and forth between the sets of speakers. During this process, he uncovered an issue with the way I had configured the balance weight on the turntable as well as my lack of sufficient pressure while applying the head / phono cartridge to the tone arm. After successfully troubleshooting the setup, we got busy switching between speakers and testing between the ELACs and Bowers and Wilkins across a few of the records. In the end my take on the speakers were the the ELACs were more “responsive” and “punchy” but the Bowers and Wilkins were “warmer” and “fuller”, which I preferred. Having come to agreeable pricing including some custom speaker cables, which I had no interest in doing myself with 4 banana plugs on one end, we had a deal. 

The speakers were on-order, the cables had to be fabricated; though not instant gratification, the timeliness of everything was reasonable – a week? All went to schedule. In the meantime, I ordered an in-wall rated optical cable from Amazon to connect the TV. Now to set all this up and get to listening to records – comparing that sound to the sound of Apple Music via an AppleTV 4K and a Sony XBR65X930D.

My verdict, with this setup, was that whether the record or the digital sounded better depended on the record. Of my four records only one sounded noticeably better on vinyl than digital. The Zhu, GenerationWhy, Limited Edition Coloured Vinyl was noticeably better sounding than the Apple Music Version. The horns seemed fuller, or further forward in the mix than the digital variant. The nostalgic love was real; but I was perplexed as to why the other records fell flat…

One thought on “Hello Vinyl (Part II)

  1. So in the end the digital seems to provide as high or higher listening quality than the vinyl? Though a novice concerning vinyl, it might be useful to consider the situation from the view of information theory. In that view the analog recording onto vinyl and subsequent transfer of information to the stylus during playback would seem to involve many more steps each with attendant risk of degradation of the signal whereas with modern techniques of digital error correction the sound waves digitized in the studio are essentially the exact same signal presented to the amplifier.

    I would expect the fidelity of reproduction with digital would be much greater than vinyl and that the near equality of outcomes described by your experiment may be due to both sources producing levels of fidelity which is beyond the ability of most mere mortals to discern between.

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