What is the output of the cart and how much gain does your phono stage have? With a passive pre, that might be an issue. Also what is your digital gear that you are comparing it to?
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Putting it through the passive preamp may be squashing the dynamics and the soundstage bloom... That said, there is quite a bit more to tweaking in a good phono system than there is to tune a CD source. So no, I don't believe your getting it all... With a turntable system attention to every detail and proper setup is everything.
Agree with Ncarv...a very good analog front end should smoke even superb digital. I'll take my Linn LP12, Koetsu Black, and Ear 834 over the digital I've had in my house most any day (at least on classical)--and that includes the EMM CDSA, the Linn CD12, and the GNSC Wadia 860, all of which are about as good as digital gets. I used to use a passive pre years ago, and concluded, after some experimentation, that an active tube pre just sounded more musical. Don't really understand why, but, like Plato, think you may want to start there.
One problem with vinyl is getting high quality LPs. Are you listening to many 180 and 200 gram version and 45 rpm versions? There are many new jazz reissues on 45 rpm that are stunning. I've got several of the Tacets and agree that they're wonderful. The Count Basie reissues and almost all Pablo reissues are wonderful.
The fact that your "best" experience to date is with the Tacet vinyl makes me think that your front end can deliver and you just don't have the best LPs. There's not a ton of great new classical reissues out there, so if that's your preference, then you've got a tougher search. Lyrita, Mercury, old RCAs, Harmonia Mundi are some of the better classical labels that had good pressing back in the old days.
The output of my XX2MKII is .28mV. My phono stage is capable of 64db of gain. I have tried all the impedence settings, it seems to sound best at the 100 ohm setting.
Since the unit has the gain cell, I used to connect it directly into my power amp, where it had plenty of gain. Going into the passive, I notice no difference in the amount of gain, or the quality of sound.
My digital front end, on the surface, looks mundane, but the entire front-end, Marantz
DV8300, Musical Fidelity A3/24dac, and Genesis Digital Time Lens, have all been heavily modified by David Schulte, and it, at least to my ears, sounds very good indeed.
I have checked and double-checked my arm-cartridge set-up, using two methods, the jig that came with the Scout, and a DB Systems tool. I have adjusted tracking force from 2.0 grams to 1.85 grams, where it sounds best, and adjusted VTA many times to dial in the best-balanced sound. I'm wondering if I've run out of table, or something else. I may try to take it to Tim, at Experience Audio in Seattle, and have him check out my set-up.
Thanks to you all for the input, Dan
I'm wondering if you have just run into some of the multitude of not so well done LPs. You mention that some of your LPs playback better sounding than your digital source. I don't find that so unusual. My old BAT CDP often gives some of my LPs a run. From your description of what you have done setup-wise I think you've got it about as good as it's going to get. I run my XV-1s at 100 ohms and I'm usually around 1.8x - 1.9x for VTF. Never heard your pre or the PS Audio. It may be that you've max'ed out on the Scout, but make sure you're good with the other components in the chain before you decide where to go. Maybe if you can get more specific about what you think is missing?
I think Dan-ed asked the key question. How does digital better the vinyl? If you say better bass or upper treble, you may be missing the point. You may at this stage be listening too critically. All the setup suggestions above could be part of it, but I thought what you said about the one record giving you the most intense experience yet was key. That's exactly where analog smokes digital. When you first get into vinyl, and you're tweaking things, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture. Listen instead to dynamics, soundstage, and an overall more organic or human presentation. Step back and try to forget the analytical for now. Kinda like those 3D pictures that at first look like nothing but as you unfocus reveal themselves.
I have a really nice digital setup but I find I rarely pull out a cd or sacd. That emotional connection I get much more with lp's. You may find a gradual shift in preferences too.
Hmmmm....much food for thought here. I have found a subtle addictive quality about vinyl that digital does not have. However, overall sound quality favors digital, and I agree with you Dan_ed and Dcstep, that much of the problem lies in the recordings themselves. Most of my small vinyl collection was bought on auction here on
A'gon or ebay, some are 180 gr. pressings that are out-standing. I thought I'd get back into vinyl to broaden my ability to collect and listen to music, which it has done, but if you've spoiled yourself with good playback gear, it's hard to settle with just any old sound coming out of those speakers. There seems to be a great disparity between recordings in the vinyl format, not so much with digital, though that is sometimes an issue there, too.
I guess I'll just have to take the good with the bad, though I would not go so far as to say vinyl "smokes" digital. They are different, both enjoyable, though on some recordings, vinyl gives more thrills and chills than digital.
The passive pre is fairly new, an acquisition from back in Oct. '07. I don't have a good active line stage to compare it to at the moment, but my system sounds the best it has yet, even when I had a Bat VK30 w/sixpac upgrade. I'm still in the early learning stages of vinyl, after being out of it for 18 years, so it's fun, and new, and enjoyable.
Thanks to all, and enjoy, and I'm open to more learning on this format. Lots more to know than just sticking in a cd and pushing play on the remote.
I have had the same experience as Islandmandan. My set up is not as good though.
When Michael Fremer started at Stereophile he jumped right in with his cd is crap, vinyl is so much better line. So I thought that's great, I'll get a turntable and have this great sound and be the envy of all my friends and neighbors.
So I bought a SOTA Comet tt, a Sumiko Blue Point Special cartridge and an Audio Alchemy phono stage. All recommended by Stereophile at the time and considered good enough to demonstrate the magic of vinyl. I set it up as best I could (probably not that well) and started playing records. And nothing happened. Vinyl sounded OK but didn't blow away anything.
I eventually packed it up but got the rig out recently and tried it again. Same results. I am not a tweaker and my set up (I bought protractors, levels, stylus gauges, etc.)would make a vinyl lover cringe, I'm sure.
I think that a major factor in sound quality is how well a cd or lp is recorded, mastered and manufactured. I also think that we are just beginning to hear what cd is capable of. I'm not thrilled about that because I have a lot of cds and the idea of replacing them with remasters causes my wallet to hurt.
For example, I recently purchased the new Emmylou Harris box set "Songbird". I don't know how many audiophiles like Emmylou but everyone should give her a listen. She has a gorgeous voice and great taste in music, if you like country. Don't laugh, you may like it. If you don't like Emmylou though, you won't like any country.
Anyway, the sound on these cds is beautiful. It easily blows away the sound on the original releases. If any vinyl lovers have heard this box set, let me know what you think. These are not purist recordings. They are mostly close miked, built in the studio recordings, but I think they sound great. Maybe that's where my problem is. If someone doesn't think they sound great, could you explain to me why. Maybe I just have bad ears or poor taste in sound.
One easy test of current recordings is Nora Jones, with all her stuff available on both 180 gram vinyl and CD. It's very well recorded with wide dynamic range and a lot of subtle sounds. In my system, the CDs sound fine and if I didn't have vinyl I'd be pretty happy, BUT the vinyl is a good 10% better in resolution, detail and lack of grain in the sound.
I've got a collection of about 1200 LPs, almost all purchased new by me, going back to around 1959. The quality varies widely, but I've got a lot of really good stuff, particularly D2D stuff from the '70s and '80s. Most of the collection is very satisfying, but it varies. For instance, I love my original pressing of James Taylor's stuff fromt he '60s, '70s and '80s is really excellent; however, Linda Ronstadt's stuff from the same era is overly compressed and mostly disappointing (Peter Asher producer, if you want a name to avoid).
It's a trial an error process finding labels and artists that you like.
Anyway, back to my premise, if you can't hear a difference between the Nora Jones vinyl and the same CDs, then you're probably wasting time with vinyl OR you need to improve your vinyl front end.
Hello Dave, and all. I don't think I'm wasting my time with vinyl. I've always had an affinity for turntables. I just got tired of paying good money for a product that sounded like Rice Crispies in a short time. Sometimes right out of the album cover. I've since learned how to better care for my lp's, and with much better gear, and much better set-up (I've since earned about that, too), noise isn't the issue it once was. Most noise is under the playback level, and the occaisional pop is acceptable.
I do have a m/c SACD of Nora Jones' Come Away With Me, maybe I can find an lp of that and make a comparison. I don't currently have any duplicate recordings, but that sounds like a good idea to a/b the two formats. Wish I'd thought of that.
I'm just not hearing the clear superiority that has been claimed for vinyl, but I do enjoy the pursuit (as if I didn't already have enough to spend my money on). I intend to keep on truckin' with vinyl, and see what will come of it.
Thanks all, and enjoy,
Dan, the SACD and vinyl versions of Nora Jone's "Come Away With Me" are likely to be VERY close to each other. I don't have the SACD, but I've got the CD and that's not as good as vinyl by a significant degree. I will venture to say that the SACD and vinyl versions will be extremely close together.
When I make DVD-A recordings of my vinyl (mostly the incredible old D2D recordings) it's very hard to hear a difference. (I record at DSD 1-bit 5.6MHz and then downconvert to DVD-A.) Given equivalent masters, I could be as happy with 2-channel DVD-A as vinyl. In fact, as soon as music server comes along that stores and plays back at DVD-A levels, I'll convert my collection and use that as my main source.
Meantime, I'm mostly buying vinyl and DVD-A for stuff not available on vinyl. For stuff available only on CD I buy CD.
As I said, I don't think the diffence between vinyl and SACD is going to blow you away. At that sampling rate digital is getting into a nice pocket. Of course you need good equipment, but most SACD players are relatively high quality.
Islandmandan - You do raise an interesting point about vinyl--there does seem to be a wider range of sound among records than CDs. Funny that I don't recall that from record listening in the 80's. Thin, fat, muffled, bright...you never know. I don't doubt that my equipment is revealing more of the differences than 20+ years ago, but still, that's been a surprise to me as I get back into vinyl (and a sometimes unpleasant one).
I listen mostly to classical music, and have done a fair bit of A-B comparing, and find that in the areas of delicacy, warmth, and detail, Lps win out most of the time, but not always. [I did one or two posts about A-B'ing Miles Davis and some other things last fall that may be worth a look.] In the area of deep and punchy bass, or glistening treble, it really depends on the particular Lp/CD (in my experience). (Although I do think that Lps generally resolve the highs in a more natural-sounding fashion...particularly in classical music.)
The other area that matters to me a lot is listening fatigue. I tend to suffer from listening fatigue with CD's, unless I'm pretty careful what I choose. And that's with several of the more musical CD players out there. I almost never get fatigue listening to Lps.
Several of us have said "Lps smoke CDs." For me, for long term listening, I'd still say that, but you make a fair point that it's not always true, and it may make a difference depending on your listening tastes. FWIW.
I agree with what Tomcy6 said 100%, my system is nowhere near yours either but I still feel that my Rega Apollo at under $1,000 blows away the sound of my MMF 7/Eroica Cartridge/Ray Samuels XR-2 phono preamp that costs twice the price! I have audiophile grade LP's and though they do sound good, the dynamic range, soundstage width, imaging and clarity is far superior when I listen to good CD's through the Rega.
Hey Dan,if your budget can stand it. I noticed a lot of people here say get an active tube pre. If you got one here on a'gon and tryed it a couple of weeks and it didn't help you should be able to turn it around and get your money back or close to it. If it does make the difference you need then you can try getting rid of your current inactive.
Particularly on classical, you really have to consider the label and the era. Early RCAs are great, Bis, Lyrita and a few others are uniformly great sounding. Later RCAs generally suck. Columbia is all over the board in quality, but usually has good artists. Sheffield, Crystal Clear and some other sudiophile labels have consistantly good sound quality but very mixed artistic values.
Anyway, over many years I've gotten to where my successful hit ratio is pretty high with vinyl.
Eweedhome, I have found both vinyl and digital recordings that I just can't get through. Most of the time, though, I am able to enjoy all my listening sessions equally. My digital gear has greatly improved with the last round of upgrades Dave Schulte performed, making some discs that were once unbearable, now quite enjoyable. For instance, I have a cd of the Brandenburg Concertos that was unbearably bright. Now, it is remarkably vivid. If too bright, using the Time Lens, I can change dither to #2 setting, which is a little less bright, s'posed to be more analog-like they claim.
I too, do most of my listening in the classical vein. At this point, I tend to favor whichever format I'm listening to at the time, since neither one seems to be a disappointment. LP's, though, seem to go from listenable to just outstanding, with a different quality about them that is hard to define, but none-the-less is there.
Thanks for the interest, enjoy,
01-21-08: Ncarv said:
"This does not make sense to me . . . comparing the same recording on LP vs. CD, I can't remember an instance when the CD sounded better than vinyl, assuming the LP is not a beat up copy. Even then, the sonics are superior on the LP."
What's not to understand? The OP is questioning the quality of his vinyl front end, so we're suggesting that he compare it to CD using the same recording. If vinyl's not superior, then there may be some trouble with his TT/cartridge/phono-pre that's limiting its potential. You yourself have compared CD and vinyl, so why do you find it strange that someone else would want to?
Yea, same with me Nearv. I have many titles in both formats and consistently the LP is better. The other exception where they are equal is recordings taken from digital masters. I don't buy records anymore that say 'digital' on them.
My cd is a respectable XA777ES SACD modified by Modwright and Richard Kern, and my analog is a VPI Scoutmaster on steroids (upgrades)
although an inexpensive turntable USED to sound quite a bit better than early cd's and cd players (even ones costing $5000), i find that now THEY'RE BOTH quite good. the one enduring advantage to vinyl is there are so many wonderful records that have not been re-released (and never will be).
so for a close friend of mine with over 5000 record alblums, with a large number of MOSAIC releases that were limited editions, and another bunch of rare imports, AND recently acquired japanese pressings from e-bay, a turntable is indispensable. but he spins vinyl on a VPI ARIES with a benz glider and a PASS-Labs ALEPH-P, set up for him by the dealer. he has no idea what VTA is much less how to adjust it. none the less the last time i was over we listened to some T.Monk on blue note and i discovered i liked Monk even more than i ever realized (and i worshipped hime before).
we DID NOT get out a cd to compare which sounded better. neither of us could care less, but it was a very enjoyable evening to say the least. point being, if you have a nice record collection, that's terrific. if you on the other hand have over 2000 cd's and have a reliable and best of all a smooth-sounding cd player (which can now be had for perhaps as little as $1k to $2k) that is equally nice- you are NOT losing out unless your ears are turning into a golden color.
my ears still are made out of OFC...
Well, there doesn't seem to be clear-cut answer here, which is understandable, given the many variables. I will attempt to get more information by way of taking my table set-up to the VPI dealer in Seattle, and probably take my phono stage in as well, for a/b'ing with different tables and stages. He will also be able to check set-up at the same time, and maybe this will provide some answers for me.
I'm going to try a different phono stage, a Dynavector P-75 MK2, and I will report on how that differs from my current set-up. That will arrive probably in about a week, so after that I will report back.
Neal, I have had active pre-amps in my system before, and now, with the passive, my system is the best-sounding it has ever been to this point. The passive I am using is transformer-based, not resistor-based, so it doesn't seem to squash dynamics like some passives seem to do.
Thanks all, Dan
Islandmandan, Theres nothing wrong with your analog rig. If your digital system sounds better to you thats because it does sound better to you. Their are far more variables with analog playback not the least of which is your source material. The assertion that analog sounds better is silly. On a sampling of the best records with a properly set up system analog can sound damn good....digital may still sound better to you. Dont waste your time or money chasing sonic ghosts.
I have to say I'm certainly not having the experience Siegfried is having as mentioned in Ncarvs' thread. It has been suggested by Clark at Acoustic Sounds that what I need to do is go up to the VPI Aries 3 with 10.5 tonearm, which is the same table Siegfried moved up to. Of course, Clark would like nothing better than for me to buy a new Aries 3 from him. Sorry, but that ain't gonna happen. I might someday be able to swing a screaming good deal on a used 3, but that's about it. I just hope to have Siegried's experience someday soon. Kinda like waiting for Santa to arrive.
In the meantime, I will continue to listen to what I have now, and have all parameters checked. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying my set-up sounds bad, actually it sounds better than any analog rig I've had. And it might be recording dependant. But I will push forward with plans to have it checked, and go from there.
Thanks to all,
His analog system is high enough quality that it should exceed CD quality. CDs will not generally sound as good and it won't be particularly close. If he's not achieving that, then he needs to look into his analog setup, not buying new equipment, but making sure that everything is properly installed. Finding a good CD/LP to compare is just a step and it's relatively inexpensive.
Still, since he's used to very good digital he's only going to be happy with really good vinyl. That's the way I am, mostly buying 180 and 200 gram and/or 45rpm or D2D. For digital I buy DVD-A whenever offered then "high performance" CDs and finally RedBook CDs, in that order, depending on what's available.
Average vinyl will NOT trump high end digital, IMHO.
The success of the passive pre is dependent on three issues other than the quality of the passive circuit: does it play loud enough, does your source (CDP and/or phono stage) have a low enough output impedance to drive the passive pre in series with the input of your amp, and do you prefer the colorations of an active circuit. Sounds like you're doing fine with the passive.
On another line, your phono stage could certainly be bettered although the Dynavector may or may not be better enough to float your boat.
Good luck and enjoy!
I would have to second your opinion, Dave. The best vinyl recordings I have, such as the Albeniz Suite Espanola, a Speakers Corner re-issue, is astounding in what it can do. Is it better than the best of my digital recordings? Tough call. It's different, that's for sure. There is no denying that it is a different experience than digital. Better? Maybe. I'll have to get a matching set of vinyl/digital recordings to really tell, which I am yet to do, though it is on my to-do list.
As far as the purchase of the P-75MK2 is concerned, I feel that is a win-win thing all the way through. If it sounds better than my GCPH, I will keep it. If not, I will sell it. If nothing else, it will satisfy my curiosity about something I've been wondering about for a while. I even posted a thread about it, as some of you may be aware of.
I have to wonder at a system that seems as though it shouldn't be able to do what it does, and does it so well. Not unlike the flight of the bumble bee. Amazing. I am not here to bash analog, I just want to try to get the best out of it that I can, without spending vast sums of money I don't have.
Thanks for the input from all of you, enjoy,
Stockfisch just released "Bassface Swing Trio Plays Gershwin" on D2D, DVD-A and CD. See http://store.acousticsounds.com/browse_detail.cfm?Title_ID=37495
This is good piano trio jazz (think Bill Mays or Charlap level), exceptionally well recorded and all packaged together, so you can get a valid comparison. On my system vinyl wins, but I suspect that the DVD-A will come close or win after my Pioneer 58AV universal player comes back from Ric Schultz's mods. Using a stock Oppo, the digital was a little harder, but I think it's in the machine rather than the DVD-A. The CD isn't close.
The price is steep ($99 for a limited edition), but the music is fine, far surpassing other "audiophile" recordings like "Jazz at the Pawnshop".
Cable length does not seem to be an issue here. From what I've read, that can be more of an issue with resistor-based passives, but not so much with the transformer-based ones. My i/c's from table to phono pre is 0.50 meter, from phono stage to passive is 1.0 meter, DH Labs Air Matrix Silver, and Synergistic Research Kalidescope X2 Active, respectively. I decided to put my best i/c's in analog front end, after I got the Dyna XX2MKII.
On my last post here, I mentioned the lp of Abeniz'
Suite Espanola. I decided to give it a spin. Since hearing it last, I have done some minor set-up changes in cartridge. Azimuth, VTF, VTA. I was simply astounded at what I heard. This record is a wowser. If all lp's sounded like this, I would have never started this thread. If all lp's were like this, I might have to agree that vinyl is clearly superior to digital. They certainly are not, though. Still not sure I'm getting it all, but I must be getting close.
Thanks, guys, for the continued interest. Still open to good ideas.
Since my last post, I have recieved and have been using the Dynavector P-75MKII phono-pre, and have decided it is staying. It is a better match with my cartridge, (the Dyna XX2MKII), has a warmer, more full-bodied sound. Dynamics are superb, detail and resolution better too.
Still not convinced vinyl is superior, though.
Thanks to all,
That's very good advice, Nedmast. Difficult to follw, though, because when vinyl is at its best, it is very good. Hard not to want to try to whip it into the non-existent perfection. The upgrade path for me will consist of relatively low-cost ones, just to help with the urge to tinker.
Thanks for the input, enjoy,
I guess I should re-phrase that previous statement, Piedpiper. I mean I must be close to getting all that my analog front end, such as it is, can give me. That is, however, a very long way from the best the format is capable of delivering, but so are the funds to purchse the means to that end. We do the best with what we have.
Just a footnote to my previous reply. Like speakers, all turntables & arms are a compromise. Only one company (Nakamichi) madea a TT that would compensate for eccentric records (just about all) and give you pitch stability approaching what digital has naturally. And only one (that I know of) offers arm damping at the stylus end of the arm (Townshend) which is uniquely beneficial. Then all others have their own good (and not so good) points. So, you just have to decide what qualities are most important to you and then see if your budget will allow you to acquire them.
This is a bit of an update on this thread. Since my last post, I have changed phono pres to the Dynavector P-75 MKII, which makes a superb match with the Dyna XX2MKII cart I am using. A week ago today, I recieved a new JMW9 Signature arm from VPI. I am blown away by how much better the plain old Scout sounds now. I just finished listening to Richard Thompson's Pour Down Like Silver lp on Carthage, and the last selection, side 2, Dimming of the Day/Dargai, I heard the most beautiful guitar I have ever heard (on a recording). Just phenonminal.
I am forced to listen through my 'phones at the moment, (Sennheiser HD 600, w/Musical Fidelity XCanV2) since I have my system torn down to move a probematic wood stove to a different wall, so the audio system can be located in a much more preferable spot. But, as of now, I will proclaim vinyl digital's equal, if not its better.
Thanks for all the previous posts, and as always, enjoy!
I will, Dave, and I intend to post photos of before and after (too bad we can't do that with sound). I'm having some special tile work done for the stove hearth pad, with two different colors of granite, with some marble inlay. Should be nice, but I'm much more excited about how my system will sound in the new location.
Thanks, and enjoy,
Update on current state of affairs. Wood stove succesfully moved, audio system in new location, with the exception of surround speakers, which I don't seem to be in any hurry to finish.
Dynaudio's are sounding great in their new home, after much experimentation in placement. This morning, found the best spot yet, 78" from the front wall, 57" from side walls.
Analog front end (Scout w/Signature arm, Dynavector P-75 MKII pre, Dyna XX2MKII cart), improved by quantum leaps by virtue of the addition of Mapleshade Nanomount System, and today, added a PS Audio P300 Power Plant. I am totally amazed at how much difference these two tweaks have made. The P300 stabilized turntable speed, and the little Dyna phono-pre sounds as though it must have had a few kilo-bucks of high-end magic infused into it.
I firmly believe I have arrived where my vinyl source can take me, and it is a very good place to be. All in all, the move, and good purchases on the 'Gon, has made music much more enjoyable than ever before.
Thanks to all who gave valuable input, it was a great help.