audiophiles or retrophiles

As I read the posts on Audiogon with their gushing about the warmth of tubes, vinyl, horns, older technology, it seems there is a reversion. New bad, old good. Solid state bad, tubes good. Digital bad, analog good.

I expect a return of the wind-up gramaphone with catus stylus. No electricity to sully the sound and a natural material used to read the grooves. Must be good!

How many audiophiles are actually retrophiles?

But then again, many refer to their audio systems as a hobby, rather than as a means to the end of listening to music. As such, the care of analog tape with its fragility (head alignment, avoiding print through), matching of output tubes, cleaning vinyl and worrying about tracking forces, and so forth are activities that a hobbiest might enjoy. So much more opportunity to demonstrate expertise than merely turing on solid state electronics and putting a CD in a drawer. So much more lore. So much more mystic.

Uh....did you have a question or did you want to make a speech?
Personally, I've been through it all--analog, digital, reel-to-reel, tubes, horns, solid-state, etc.--and after nearly bankrupting myself on this hobby, I've come to terms with one simple reality: if it sounds good to you, it IS good. Many audiophiles love analog and tubes. That's fine. I prefer great digital and solid state. When done right, each format, each circuit type, each speaker form can get you to the top of the audio mountain. It just depends on what kind of presentation you prefer and what you value in sound reproduction. If "retrophile" gets you there, that's cool. If high-price modern does the trick, that's cool too. As John Lennon so eloquently put it, "Whatever gets you through the night . . . ."
My best guesstimate is 53.2 percent.

Is there a point to your discourse? It would appear that you are someone attempting to comment on the state of the hobby from a perspective of a little reading and research rather than from actually taking the journey yourself. My suggestion to you is that the fun lives in the audible journey, not the reading or the theorizing...
"Solid state bad, tubes good." This has been true since transistors have existed! (It's a JOKE, boyz and girlz, it's a JOKE!!!!) Actually, SS equipment can sound quite good, and there are twelve of those cool-running little things in my 6-channel preamp.

It IS the journey, and it IS the music, too. Some of us emphasize one more than the other. Some of us realize we love to tweak things. I just removed Quad 989s from my system and added Eminent Technology LFT-8s--I can't tweak the Quads, but I surely can and am tweaking the ET8s (and they sound FABULOUS!).

If you love and enjoy the sound of your system HALF as much as I love and enjoy mine, you're a happy man, Don.
I personally just think that it really takes a long time for a new technology to mature to the point that it is sonically competitve with older, more mature, technologies. Ten years ago, I did not own a CD player and ran out of the room when I heard one. CD software and hardware has really come a long, long way in the intervening years and the sound is quite good, even on modestly priced gear. I would say that solid-state has really improved, as well in this time period, to the point where it is competitive with valve ware, though somewhat different sounding. As for the higher maintainence required by the older technologies, you are right, there is, and has been, an aspect of elitism over setup issues, and it has contributed to the lack of a wider audience for the pursuit. But, I assure you, I would be more than pleased to give up my turntable, if the alternative offered equal sound quality, equal availability of source material, and the marvelous convience of CD. And let us not forget, there are many, many major works that have never been released in digital formats, and for which, LP, casette, or open reel tape are the only ways to enjoy these important parts of our recorded musical heritage. And as you so well indicated, it is about the music after all.
I think it is fair to say that not all "new technology" is better. Some is, I like the modern materials and techniques used to create some of the new cartridges, loudspeaker drivers, cables, or isolation technology. It's enjoyable to plug in a CD when I am working on something around the house or when we are too... preoccupied to clean, fetch, and catch an Lp side to side. But for my ears tube preamps and amps have a more visceral connection to making music, similar to that of a real acoustic instrument. It’s more than a hobby or a life style. And record collecting is something my friends and I have been doing our whole lives. There are so many events around music or caused by music or in the pursuit of music and the vinyl it resides on that I can not imagine what life would be like without it. There is the obvious fact that beyond the music is the visual art on a 12 ½” x 12 ½” scale, not to mention gatefolds. You don’t get that with the “perfect” modern format. And as I age I find the liner notes are getting a little small to scour. Well ironically, there’s always Lasik. Here's to modern technology, Cheers!
For those of you who wondered whether my exposure to audio was entirely through reading, my first experience with serious audio systems began in the early 1950s. I've built amps, preamps, and speaker cabinets. I've owned tubes, vinyl, and corner horns, and still own a collection of Westminister Lab series and two of the early Capital FDS LPs. My early research was in binaural processing. And I periodically listen to current high-end tubes and vinyl.

Although posed as a question about how many audiopiles are actually retrophiles, I was trying to make a point. Too often the advice given to a real question is you need vinyl or tubes to get good sound, and the advice is spewed forth smugly as though it should be self evident. Having matched my share of pairs of 6L6s and KT88s, and having adjusted my share of tone arms to track properly, I'm skeptical about the superiority of tubes and vinyl.

Taking it one step further, nowadays it seems anyone who doesn't store their entire music collection on a hard drive is a retrophile.
>>For those of you who wondered whether my exposure ...........<<

I haven't wondered a bit about your experience. It's obviously a waste of time.
I think there is another distinction deeper in your query that might be drawn and that is, how many of us are retrophiles not by stylistic or preconceived notion, but rather through a somewhat unplanned, non-intellectual path of a process of elimination of what did not move us emotionally in the music reproduction itself?
Equipment is cool and it is easy to be sucked in to making choices based on things that are not at all related to the music. That said, it is never the less a reality in the material world that one becomes involved at an anal retentive level with the acoustical reproduction aspect. There is a lot of science involved, not to mention alchemy.
This all takes me back to something Ivor Tiefenbrun of Linn said early on and that is, (I will paraphrase) if you close you eyes and listen to the music and it doesn't make you tap your toe or if you can't sing to it, if it doesn't sound distinctly more musical overall, don't spend your money on it! He was referring to equipment purchasing.
That thought has pretty well stuck with me as I traveled on from my first major "Hifi" equipment purchase of a (you guest it) Linn Sondek Lp12 back in 1983. Funny thing is, there are a lot of cool turntables out today, maybe some with greater musical resolve. I’m just not moved to chase that demon. It's fine to be skeptical about the superiority (theoretically) of any technology, maybe even healthy, especially for those of us that are in it for the human emotional connection to the music and the pleasure of enjoying that together. Happy listening.
Rockvirgo, That is an interesting observation of our current lifestyle and technology. I'll bet my last record (Lp) buying dollar that you have not been collecting music on Lp's for the last thirty-five years. He, he, he! For some of us it is not a question of, why not download on an ipod from the net? That notion is completely unrealistic in the pursuit of what we want out of it and I’m not referring to the physical vinyl object itself. I only wish I could be around after you grow old with your cherished music collection to hear how you would relate to that future reality. Here’s to the music and hoping your hard drive never suffers you through a fatal error. Cheers!
If Rockvertigo means that my analog system sounds better than his bits and bytes makes me a retrophile, hang a sign on me as I'll proudly be the poster girl for the AARP-Vinyl Chapter.
Rf, no hardrive music storage or bagpipes here thanks. Care to go double or nothing all your music is of the foot tapping variety?
Stanhifi's response is a prime example of what I was trying to address. This does not help anyone. If he would care to offer a reasoned explanation of why digital and solid state are so obviously inferior that any of us with exposure should appreciate that inferiority, that would be helpful.

Stanhifi, there are so many transduction processes in recording, beginning with when the acoustic energy hits the diaphram of a mic and is converted into electrical energy through to when electrical energy is converted to acoustic energy by a speaker, it surprises me that you would choose to dwell on whether the electrial energy is passed through solid state or vacuum, whether a waveform recorded digitally is maintained as a digital representation or pressed into vinyl and read from vinyl (two more transductions). One would surely think the transduction processes would be the weak links.

Nice Scottish fling there Rockvirgo, but now I'm confused. Your comment did not appear as a rhetorical question but as a statement of conviction that you may personally subscribe to. So before Judy goes out and meets her photo op. leaning on her walker (Proscenium Gold Signature)preferably and I start packing an envelope full of the silver certificates I've had buried out in the yard in a coffee can, I think it's time for some s'plain'in Lucy. Where do you stand? Are you in or are you out?
Rf, for about 20 years I was your basic audio caveperson, strictly sharp stick on potter's wheel. Then about five years after CD's caught on, finally so did I. There's no turning back now. However, with CD giving way to DVD and both becoming redundant to menu driven programming, color this two channel only hardcopy coveter one of a dying breed and definately retro.

Judynamic426, byte me :^)
While over here sharpening a stick (Ceramic Boron cantilever)… Where are my fellow flat earthers when I need them? Apparently on holiday still. Here again is the problem I find with the current state of affair with digital this and that for those of us who have been around longer than it. Rummaging thou my dusty, outdated, old format I found something you might find interesting Rockvirgo (per your 5/27/03 thread). When our beloved Fairport Convention released Unhalfbricking in the year of our Lord 1969 it was issued in the motherland on Island records. The first press was on a pink rim, palm tree label ILSP-9102, this cover showed an aging couple standing outside a gate with the band lounging in the yard beyond on the lawn (on the front) and the band sitting together sharing supper at a table (on the back). It was subsequently released here in the colonies on the A&M brown SP-4206 label briefly; this cover had your elusive elephants portraying a circus act (on the front) and a b&w of the front cover theme repeated (on the back). Brit releases often sound a bit more forward in vocal and pay attention to the strings, my personal favorite for presentation. Where as the U.S. releases generally are a bit more smoothed out soundstage wise and the vocals are back with the instruments. I feel it does not represent the music with a conviction commensurate with the energy of this band but in this particular case they are virtually identical. The digital realm has plenty to offer, visa vie our conversation but ... Anyway, digital had nothing to do with either of these excellent versions and often leaves out many of the particular details. This is precisely what motivates me to pursue analogue. Cheers!
Unless I'm misreading his post, it appears donbellphd feels that many of the denizens of this site are "retrophiles" that unfairly bash any new technology that comes along and cling desperately to their quaint tubes and tables. Well, first of all, perhaps I'm not seeing the same posts that he is but it seems to me that there are a lot of vocal fans of SS and digital posting on this site. I've seen a fair number of posts that, like his, imply (or emphatically assert) that older technology is inconvenient, user unfriendly and sonically undesirable due to record surface noise, tube noise, reliability (lack of) and various other deficiencies. Of course, there are plenty of analog fans around here - and really, if not here, where? - but it's hardly an oppressive majority.

Second, it seems a bit unfair to imply that what analog "retrophiles" really love is the mystique of their arcane gear rather than the actual sound of the music it reproduces. Being skeptical of claims regarding the superiority of analog is fine, but just because someone else agrees with them doesn't make that person a Luddite. Sarcastic references to "wind-up gramophones" smacks of the same kind of smug complacency that he so deplores.
The bottom line remains that analog is still the superior format. Game, set, match.
Both! (sadly)
Ah, the wonders of close-mindedness. You just can't get through to some people. Well, those of us who know how great digital can be will continue to revel in terrific sound. Analog can be an awesome format, but don't discount the many benefits of digital. Those who insist that analog is hands down, and always will be, the superior format are just plain ignorant. Vive le difference!
What I don't understand is why people think you need tubes and vinyl to get that type of sound. I agree with KR4 in Stereophile9/2005 page 99 re: Almarro M0A speakers:

"The speaker sounded like a SET amp. I never actually drove the M0A with a SET amp, and the sound was the same whether I used my Creek solid state amplification or my tube Audio Valve/Audio Research push-pull combination".

I agree with that based on what I am hearing with my current speakers / solid state amplification.
I saw more tubes and records in 15 minutes today than I have for years.

It was at my daughter's 8th grade history show where the students designed presentations about how history has affected the music of the times.

My daughter covered the 60's. I loaned her some tubes, records and other relics of the time. We also scored a $5 authentic operating Lava Lamp at 5 Below for, well, $5.
BTW, I would classify myself as both.

I have a large music library, lots of gear to listen with more than my fair share of records, a big music server with various networked players, and even a few tubes, two record players, a few pair of both modern and retro looking speakers, a Modern Victorian style home with Gazebo and garden, Class D amps, an old 40's vintage Air King table radio to restore someday, Nippers all over including a dog who resembles the guy, and a desire to also own a nicely restored and properly operating Victrola and maybe even a SET amp. Why? Just because. My wife is the true Victorian at heart though.

Gotta downsize someday soon...
I own a ton of vinyl, as well as many CD's, SACD's, and digital downloads, and I have no preference. The fact that there are so many adherents for either or both indicates that there is no superior format. It simply pales in importance, in comparison to system matching, the quality of the hardware, and the room.

Cost, however is a consideration. To replicate tube musicality with solid state, a big financial investment is needed. To replicate solid state power with tubes, a big investment in tube-watts is needed.
Wow i didn't know that!!
You're welcome!
"...The bottom line remains that analog is still the superior format. Game, set, match..."

That statement is only an anecdotal heavily biased personal value judgement --at best-- of that singular author ...But it is not shared by a large chunk of this forum audience, and therefore needs no further attention .... Full stop
I spent Saturday and Sunday this past week at the Newport Audio Show. While there, my friend Robert and I visited one room of many that was solely using a digital servers hooked up to the room's operator via laptop. The conversation came around to a discussion of vinyl records vs digital downloads. The person demonstrating the room told us that he had downloaded 4000 records from his collection onto his hard drive. My friend Robert asked him how he spent his Saturdays. His response was ... "downloading my records." Robert said ... "well that's nice. I spend my Saturdays hitting garage and estate sales looking for more records." I asked him how he'd organized his downloads. His response was: "I've hired a college kid for fifteen dollars an hour to organize my hard drive and server." This whole time I'm thinking ... WTF? I have over 5000 records and probably 2000 CDs. There is no way I'm going to take the time to download all of this. I'm too busy listening to music.

The digital system demonstrated did sound good though. In fact, most of the rooms using downloads sounded good. A couple even sounded great. But the best sounds at the show came from analog rigs. At least to my ears.