On eliminating euphonic distortion?


Wanted to share an interesting experience as I've gotten better control of the LP/platter/stylus interface in my record playing system. My disc spinner is an EAR Discmaster which has a cork mat, a recessed label area but no clamp or weight. It sounds great -- very lively and open with great bass control. In the past I've messed around with clamps but always found them to slow and deaden the sound.

Well for some reason I decided I wanted to experiment with weights and see if they improved matters. I picked up an Oyaide STB-MSX weight (a 440gm stainless steel and carbon weight) at THE Show and brought that back to try out, I was quite pleased with the results. Firstly what you would expect in terms of some tightening of the bass, greater clarity on extreme dynamics but what I had not been expecting was a greater ability to listen into the recording however at the expense of what seemed to be a loss in image depth and what I always thought of as "sound-stage". In addition I found the weight may have been emphasizing the upper mids a bit adding an edge that could grate.

Anyway in for a penny in for a pound I got hold of the Durand Record Weight. This thing costs an arm and a leg but by darn it works. All the edginess of the Oyaide is gone but what amazed me about this weight was now how I could clearly hear into every corner of the recording. I'll take one example "Fotheringay" from "What we Did on Our Holidays" by Fairport Convention. It's a pretty classic Joe Boyd production with guitars spread to the extreme left and right, bass and drums center and supporting voices in a background wash. Typically what I always loved about this track was how the backing vocals shimmered in a huge wet cloud around Sandy's lead, extremely warm and cozy! The downside was that the individual guitars and especially bass/drums were a little wooly and indistinct. 

With the Durand it was as if the L/R guitars had each moved 3' further apart, I could now hear every finger shift. Also the drum work was clear for the first time. But what I'd loved in that cozy wet backing was now a clear and even layer rather than that enveloping cloud I'd been used too.

The same effect repeats on all the records I've tried -- perhaps the simplest comparison would be to think about the difference between ViewMaster 3-D (i.e. clear seperate layers creating depth) and the real world where there's not any distinction between any layer. At first listen it seems as if the soundstage is less deep but actually it's still all there and actually now you can hear into every part of it even when the volume and intensity increase.

Clearly I'm pleased with what the Durand Weight offers but the point of the post is to come away with the observation that what I've for the last 20+ years always thought was a virtue of analog playback -- this rich, enveloping, warm and liquid layered presentation -- might actually be a distortion, albeit a very pleasant one. Do others, especially those with vacuum hold-down or other systems with similar attention to LP interface have similar experiences?

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