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Does It Get Any Better?

A Beatles-heavy vinyl night, with father and son Brown. We are reveling in the sound of our newly updated VTL Siegfried Series II – Not sure how you improve on the originals, but they did it! So much faster and cleaner. Thanks to Luke and Bea for being wonderful people, with a wonderful taste in sound.

A Gang of Ears

The best ears in the business. From left to right, Michal Jurewicz from Mytek, Mark Waldrep from AIX and iTrax, Bo Saxberg, Eric Eagle, Charlie Bolois from Vertigo Recording Services, Peter McGrath from Wilson Audio, Geoff Harper, Luke Manley from VTL, and Jeff Allen from SnowGhost.

The Greatest Listening Session Ever

Ted used to have vinyl, but he now admits that he rarely listened to the old LPs, EPs, and singles that he used to buy. “Well, for one thing, they look cool. Nothing ever looked cooler or will ever look cooler than vinyl,” says Ted, adjusting his hands so he can flip the record he’s holding in his hands. “But they sounded like ass compared to CDs. At least they did on my shitty Technics whatever it was. And I definitely never washed my records…” His voice trails off as he studies his reflection in the absolutely spotless ebony 12-inch disc. Maybe he’s thinking about the first time he heard Back In Black, which he has just removed from its jacket. Or maybe he’s thinking about how he’s starting to look too much like the drummer from the Black Keys. Either way, we have selected our selections for the evening, and it is time to begin. “Let’s do this, Black Keys drummer,” I say, heading for the listening room. “I should get different glasses.” Ted says, following me through the soundproof doors. As we wait for the amps to warm up, we cue up the digital player to the song we want, and prep the same track on the vinyl on the turntable. I’ll admit that I am still somewhat skeptical how something as old as wax could possibly top the sonic technology of digital Super Audio CDs, especially through a pair of speakers as good as any that exist on Earth. If anything, I think, I might not notice that much of a difference, but surely I will like the digital reference better. I mean, maybe we’ve lost our way – the idea of a good mix now caters to your earbuds. But the recordings we’ve picked were mixed to sound good on anything. Talking Heads, old Tom Petty, new Radiohead, AC/DC, Soundgarden, Graceland, Off the Wall, and even the Queens, I mean Kings of Convenience will surely sound a tiny bit better digitally enhanced, right? It takes two minutes. That’s it. It’s not even close. “I bet Thom Yorke has never heard his songs sound this good.” Ted might be right. We’re blasting Bodysnatchers at relatively uncomfortable levels. It didn’t sound this good live. Probably not even in the studio. We’ve already stopped bothering to switch back to the CD, or the full res computer player, or whatever else we will no longer be using ever in this room again unless we have to. We move on to Stop Making Sense. “Jesus,” yells Ted, now standing. “Close your eyes! It’s unreal!” “I think it’s actually the realest thing I’ve ever heard,” I say, but I don’t think Ted is paying attention. It’s not until we get to Back in Black that we mutually realize that we are experiencing The Greatest Listening Session of our lives. It is confirmed not with knowing looks or conversation, but with high fives and smiles rarely found on anyone other than a person who just scored a date with someone they never thought they’d ever be able to even talk to. At some point, Ted begins dancing, despite the fact that no drugs or alcohol are involved. Afterwards, we have a beer. Our ears have just been taken to the mountaintop. The view is indescribable, so we don’t say much other than simple cuss words and superlatives. If there were girls around, they would be using the word amazing, but in this case, it would finally be appropriate. We sip slowly and ponder our listening futures. “Well, CDs are kind of fun to throw,” says Ted as he looks at the shelves stocked alphabetically with every CD we’ve ever listened to. “We could have CD fights.” “Yeah, while we listen to records,” I say.

The Vinyl Bathroom

We just time traveled. It’s guaranteed that History repeats itself, but in most cases with a new hair color. It is not all that common that History finds itself digging back into its closet to find an old turntable – I guess we never really bettered ourselves. SnowGhost just bought a turntable for the studio, to showcase the wonders of the analog consumer medium, juxtaposed against a digital wallpapered world. In fact, this debate is not all that far off from comparing a nice plaster-textured wall to wallpaper. Wallpaper can get you there – or maybe it just keeps you from going crazy white-wall on everyone. There is something very soothing about textured walls. I don’t know why, but it just feels like home. Some of my friends got into vinyl because they inherited an enormous record collection (bigger than their own CD and tape collection combined) from their weird uncle who finally decided to get an iPhone. And then there are my friends who never left vinyl because CDs didn’t smell right to them. I am one of those with a keen sense of smell, but figured that some day, CDs would just start smelling better. Well, here we are in 2011, and CDs still smell like a urinal. SACDs seemed like a they had a pretty good shot at making the digital bathroom experience something my more-vintage-than-you Grandma could enjoy, but ultimately they couldn’t beat the convenience of the MP3 Port-A-Potty. So I say “TRUCE”, buy the vinyl for home, so you can have family over for dinner, and get the mp3 download so that you don’t have to stand in line at the ball game.