I have always been an advocate that digital, although very convenient for so many things, forces us to rush and enjoy the product or art form only superficially. I have always maintained on this blog that my insistence on using analog tools when I can is due to a need to rediscover other, more human rhythms from time to time. So putting on a vinyl record to listen to music allows for greater depth, a more complete enjoyment of the artwork (if only because it is impossible for us to jump from one track to another for example, or to extract a “playlist with a different order from how the artist conceived it). But buying new records is becoming very expensive, and when I think that in order to buy an album I would have to spend 2 or 3 months of subscription to a streaming service, even I start thinking. Is it worth it in 2023 to insist on analog? Especially if you are not sailing in gold?
I was pondering (and it would not be the first time) the cost and commitment of continuing to enjoy music with an analog turntable. As a matter of fact, the analog system is not inherently superior to the digital system. Sound quality depends on the original recording, its mastering, and how the copy we enjoy was created, whether it is a vinyl record, a CD, or a file. I have vinyl records that sound worse than the MP3 files of the same tracks! I have a subscription to Tidal HiFi, and for 10 euros a month I get all the music I want in CD quality (even more since broadband streaming today runs into fewer errors than reading data from an optical disc). So is it really worth the efforts?
When I was young there were “pen pals,” remember? People wrote to each other without perhaps ever meeting, and they were usually foreigners with whom we practiced a language other than our own. Maybe it was the school that put you in touch. Actually at that time I never did, I didn’t have pen pals of my own. Today with internet forums it’s all different but certainly it’s easier to meet people with similar interests with whom you interface only textually and maybe even end up meeting one day. That’s how a few years ago I made friends with an Italian-American from New York whom I met on a famous high-fidelity forum.
I’ve been a little indecisive lately about using cartridges on my Thorens TD-160 turntable. I’m fond of the Grado brand because I really like the idea that in today’s USA there is a family-owned company making cartridges and headphones by hand in an old Brooklyn workshop using even old machines that were born for watchmaking. But with the Grados I had big problems. Not because of them (no Grado dance, Grado hum or… “deGraded” performance in the innermost part of the records). The fault is entirely mine. I was extremely clumsy in replacing stylii. I ruined three of them. A very precious 8MZ (I’m still in mourning), a Gold1 and a Black2. All while I was in economic conditions that did not allow me to spend money on Hifi.
Since I started buying and reselling HiFi equipment, I came across a few really good deals. At the beginning the money I spent has been quite a lot, at least for my economical “status” (unoccupied student). But the original core of my first real serious system revealed to be a good investment. Plus, later I happened to find some good stuff just by chance. The amplifier I bought in late 1991 to pilot the loudspeakers I wanted (the TDL Studio 0.5 transmission lines) proved to be a very good investment since I bought it for 1.35 million Lire and sold it in 2019 for 500 euros. although 1 million lire of those days would actually compare to 1000 euros today, mathematically speaking it is almost the same figure (500 euros are around 1 million Lire), therefore the old Italian-made Unison Research Mood kept its value fairly well.
Every now and then I vent on this blog the hifi quandaries that arise after certain reflections. Obviously I choose the exaggerated word quandary to be ironic about the problems that often attack the minds of hifi enthusiasts, known as audiophiles. How can these really be existential problems? Much more should we worry about and turn into a real quandary. So let me be self-ironic and get to the point, because for someone who has a blog titled “I still play vinyl” and shares tips on how to best adjust Thorens turntables, this could be a real revolution, something total that shakes the foundations. On the plus side, questioning oneself and one’s ability to change ideas and contradict oneself is sometimes a good thing…