|Wednesday night I went to my local high end shop's "Music Matters" open house, which featured six meticulously set up listening rooms highlighting the best and brightest offerings from Wilson, Transparent, Audio Research, Ayre, Magnepan, Peachtree, B&W, Classe, Rotel, etc., with factory reps to introduce their products and innovations.|
There were unmistakable improvements in reproduction of redbook CD, with jitter reduced to near zero, and holographic reproduction of images, soundstages, and the minute signals that indicate instrument resonance and hall ambience.
And yet... and yet... when the demos shifted from redbook to the new downloadable hi-rez digital formats in 24/88.2 and 24/96, there was an unmistakable jump in resolution around the edges of the notes, of sounds swelling, resonating, and decaying, of greater verisimilitude.
But compared to the turntable demos, I'd say the 24-bit digital got me about 80% there, whereas LP playback closed the gap completely. Once the LPs started spinning, there was a collective relaxed "aaaahhh" that went through the audience. It wasn't because of dynamic compression. Far from it, the Ayre prototype turntable was strikingly dynamic with a subterranean noise floor.
The sense of ease and relaxation I attribute to a sudden drop in listener fatigue. The LP-source music had so much more of what makes music musical. We didn't have to work nearly as hard to rectify the ear-brain connection as with even the best of 24-bit digital, which was still significantly better than redbook. The redbook playback always reminded me that I was listening to "hi-fi," even when played through multi-thousand dollar players from ARC and Ayre.
Even my local Brit-oriented Rega/Naim dealer asserts that the latest CD players rival or exceed LP playback.
I say nay.
What say you?