October 31, 2016

"I always wanted to go somewhere which could be all about musical appreciation, to hear someone dig really deeply into their record collection and explore their private passion."

"These speakers were built totally without compromise. When you have equipment this good, it can deliver such high quality that it emotionally connects you to the music. We’re not afraid to say that listening to music is a very magical thing."

Said Paul Noble, the creative director of Spiritland, a "listening club," a place where you sit around listening to vinyl record albums played on very high-quality sound equipment.

Also quoted at the link, the bassist Peter Hook (of New Order and Joy Division):
“In [the 1980s], because [sound systems] were analog, they had a warmth that now has to be created... It’s very difficult to get the fullness of the old days, which is hard to manufacture. It’s always a bit too clicky and a bit too digital. I think digital has a lot to answer for.”
Back in the 80s — and the 70s — it was the norm to be an audiophile or to think you ought to be one or act like one. People were very opinionated about various brands of sound equipment and were willing to spend a bizarre proportion of their income on the right equipment, and of course, they could discern the subtle differences. But I never heard of going out just to listen to recorded music. You'd be at someone's house or apartment and they'd show off their wonderful audio equipment and you would admire it. They'd play their records for you.

But nothing was better than the 60s, when we had little record-players in suitcase-like boxes or maybe we traded up to a stereo that had a record changer (so you could stack up the records and they'd drop automatically). I'd like to see a new kind of commercial establishment based on the even more authentic warm analog experience of playing old records on a vintage record player. The clicks that you hear will be from scratches. I could open up such a place. Get an old Magnavox record changer like this from eBay, and I've still got my old vinyl records, collected from the mid-60s to the mid-80s, waiting inside their cat-scratched sleeves for one last chance at a spin.

33 comments:

AReasonableMan said...

In terms of convenience nothing beats iTunes, or some of the other streaming services. I don't want to go back to the 'good old days'. I don't understand why music is intrinsically linked to nostalgia for so many people. There is always interesting new music to discover and the streaming services make the discovery process a lot easier.

traditionalguy said...

Nostalgia is a warm and wonderful thing. They could also ride horses or take a horse and carriage from the Sterile New Stuff to the Magic Place he dreams of.

LCB said...

If you really want your music to be "warm" and filled with "emotion"...go see the artist or group play it live. Not the huge concerts, mind you, but at small venues.

Saw Kansas at a local bar/club in Dayton once after their heyday...was awesome! Not mind numbingly loud and with the band "right there" to interact with the crowd. Was a beautiful experience.

rhhardin said...

What you miss is the 6SN7 vacuum tube. It also made guitar amplifiers go to 11.

rhhardin said...

What's missing is the RIAA curve, probably.

Rick Turley said...

Moving into my freshman dorm in the fall of 1971, I was completely gobsmacked to hear what 'Maggie May' sounded like on the next door neighbor's stereo system with speakers the size of a suitcase. Until then my listening experience consisted of car and transistor radios and an inexpensive portable stereo record player. Gobsmacked i tell you.

320Busdriver said...

Funny, I was just telling a co worker how I need to get a turntable and start another collection of vinyl. It truly is so much better, warmer than digital. I have neglected listening to my home system out of convenience. Dabbled with dvd audio format, which never caught on, but seemed close to perfection as long as they didn't overdo the multi channel surround effect.

Agree with ARM, I really like Radioparadise and have listened to it for years. I have stretched my music horizons because of the eclectic playlist found there. Plenty of new bands are putting out good stuff. Browsing the Seattle airport Sub Pop store last night where they were playing their band Foals. Good stuff.

Ron said...

"Here on Radio W-A-L-T, your 24 hour Heisenbergian station, this hour, we got Platter Spinnin' Pundit, The Big Bopper Of The Blogosphere, Don't Be Cruelly Neutral, Mad Annie Alllllllthhhhoooouuussse!!!!"

"In the next hour, we have Meade, right after All Things Rejected"

coupe said...

I remember going to the audio store in 1976, and they had a new amplifier for sale. It was a 400 watt amp. They had it connected to stereo speakers that could handle 400 watts. Of course it was out of my price range.

The object being, that you don't just turn the volume up, but the amp could handle the peaks. It could handle the instantaneous millisecond jump from 20 watts to 200 watts of some musical artifact (cymbals, the key struck on piano) and then instantly come back to the average.

I thought this was a bunch of sales gimmick, but they had a switch that let you select various amplifiers. There was no question, this 400 watt amp sounded almost live.

Alas, music was a luxury I couldn't afford. I settled for a cheap bar band sound on a 20 watt amplifier.

My stress test in the 70's was the Beatles "birthday" song. If you can make that sound good, you have yourself an amp.

paminwi said...

Technics brand was all the rage when I was in college. The turntable you could adjust slightly to get to just the right speed! Big speakers, JBL, which we still have. Maybe I need to sell them on Craigslist!

Laslo Spatula said...

The love of the Vinyl LP is a Fetish, no different than Girl's Used Bicycle Seat Appreciation.

The Vinyl LP enthusiast does NOT want the music pristine: they value the added ambience of wow and flutter and pink noise, the minute friction of the needle through the grooves, the emotional atmosphere of the analog Vinyl.

Likewise, the Girl's Used Bicycle Seat Enthusiast does NOT want the seat pristine: they value the ambience of scent and sweat and past moistness, the minute friction of inner thighs along the sides of the seat, the emotional atmosphere of a girl innocently riding the bike.

I could explain further, but you get the idea.

I am Laslo.

mezzrow said...

Some of us like hearing all the stuff happen, in space, that you can't hear on that old Magnavox. Vinyl isn't better, it's just different, and those who perceive the real discontinuity that happens with the bits of digital data re-hydrated for our consumption as opposed to the smooth groove of analog enjoy reliving that difference.

Also, you hear so much more detail you never noticed, especially when hearing old pop music. Listening to sixties hits via satellite radio on my excellent car stereo, I always hear things in the background that I never noticed back in the day.

(resumes reading at tube amp reviews...)

EDH said...

You'd be at someone's house or apartment and they'd show off their wonderful audio equipment and you would admire it. They'd play their records for you.

Althouse, just let us know when were all invited over to Meadehouse!

chickelit said...

Lance, get a Marantz

Laslo Spatula said...

I bet in the Seventies there were people who had parties where they listened to vinyl records on high-end stereo equipment and sniffed young girls' used bicycle seats.

There was also fondue and shag carpet.

I am Laslo.

samsondale said...

On my annual visits to Japan, I make it a point to go to a couple of the music kissaten that i know of in Kobe and Tokyo. These are coffee shops with high end (often very old) audio gear and focus on either jazz or classical. Quite enjoyable except for the cigarette smoke.

William said...

i remember those days. I knew a guy (an engineer, natch) who had some kind of weirdly expensive turntable. He would put the records on it while wearing white cotton gloves. I don't even think he was all that much into music. It was the technology that attracted him. He was looking for the perfect placement of speakers and the perfect alignment of turntable and amplifiers to bring out the subtle beauty of Neil Sedaka or whatever.......Well, it was probably Bach. The most degenerate audiophiles generally end up saturating their ears with Bach. Bach triggers something dark and obsessive in audiophiles.

EMD said...

"But nothing was better than the 60s"

Really? You're going to pull the my-nostalgia-is-better-than-your-nostalgia bit?

Laslo Spatula said...

Bob of Bob's Used Girls' Bicycle Seat Emporium says:

Have you bought a Used Young Girl's Bicycle Seat from one of those internet sites, only to be disappointed that the seat was obviously never used by a Young Girl? Or have you been in trouble with the Law for removing Young Girl's bicycle seats on your own at the Park or at the Schoolyard?

Your Troubles are over my friend, thanks to Bob's Used Girls' Bicycle Seat Emporium. I personally certify every seat with a description of the young girl that I personally saw riding it. That's right -- my Used Young Girl's Bicycle Seats are Certified by Bob himself!

Now you no longer have to guess the characteristics of the Young Girl who rode that seat. You want the seat from a Young Japanese Girl in White Knee-High Socks? I can do that! You want the seat from a Red-Headed Girl with freckles and pigtails? Bob can do that!

With Bob you will never feel the sting or buyer's remorse that comes from those other dealers, and all my Seats are shipped vacuum-packed to preserve every bit of their own special values.

I know What You want, and I Got It or I'll Get It: THAT is my Promise to You...

I am Laslo.

Ann Althouse said...

"Really? You're going to pull the my-nostalgia-is-better-than-your-nostalgia bit?"

The 60s were very painful -- the war, the draft, the assassinations, the real fear of nuclear war, the riots -- but the culture was so interesting and it changed year by year. It's so weird the way things didn't keep changing interestingly in later decades. I don't think that's merely my subjectivity. The music, the art, the fashion, the philosophy and spiritual bullshit, the books. It was really great to have grown into an adult during that period. Well, great and dangerous. It limited my economic and career potential quite badly. Can't imagine the kind of person I'd be if I hadn't been shaped by the 60s. It's not so much that I'm nostalgic about the 60s. I just kind of AM the 60s.

Howard said...

The late 60's to early 70's felt like we were living in the future. Then we baby-boomers traded creative innovation for inflexible regulation spawning a period of frigid nihilism. The millennials will get us back to the future with their pub quiz night, listening parties, game nights, electric cars and rocket ships to Mars.

Will Cate said...

I'm a huge vinyl LP nut -- the collection has ebbed and flowed over the decades, currently at about 1,200.

But I don't share the desire some folks have to play them on antique record players. That's a pretty good way to ruin your records if you're not careful. Superb, new turntables can be had for around $150 and up. Never play your records on a crappy record player (unless they are crappy records to begin with).

Paul Snively said...

Peter Hook: In [the 1980s], because [sound systems] were analog, they had a warmth that now has to be created... It’s very difficult to get the fullness of the old days, which is hard to manufacture. It’s always a bit too clicky and a bit too digital. I think digital has a lot to answer for.

Unmitigated nonsense.

The scene: a healthy-crunchy restaurant near Apple Computer, Inc. circa 1989-1991. I'm hanging out with some friends from relatively nearby Xerox PARC, all of whom are significantly older than I am. One of them begins to wax rhapsodic about analog music recording and the paucity of quality of these new-fangled "Compact Digital" discs. The other points out to him that CD audio is sampled at a rate that, by Nyquist's Theorem, reproduces frequencies a good couple of KHz/sec out from the best human hearing. He tells our other, older friend, "You're just used to listening to audio reproduced by dragging a piece of plastic over a rock."

Laslo Spatula said...

Bob of Bob's Used Girls' Bicycle Seat Emporium says:

Sure, you've appreciated Used Young Girl's Bicycle Seats over the years, but are you ready to take it to The Next Level?

Your Troubles are over my friend, thanks to Bob's Used Girls' Bicycle Seat Emporium: I now introduce our Connoisseur Line of Used Young Girl's Bicycle Seats. That's right: only the crème de la crème of Used Young Girl's Bicycle Seats are offered in our Connoisseur Line of Used Young Girl's Bicycle Seats.

What makes these so different, you ask?

Sure, you've been promised 'special' seats before by those disreputable on-line dealers, but these are the REAL THING. How so, you say?

First: our Connoisseur Line of Used Young Girl's Bicycle Seats includes ONLY Leather Seats. That's right: no hard plastic, no moisture-resistant vinyl, just natural Leather, one of the best materials around for capturing a scent in time, forever.

Second: I vow that the seats for our Connoisseur Line of Used Young Girl's Bicycle Seats were carefully removed from the bicycle no more than fifteen minutes after the girl dismounted: that's right -- fifteen minutes or less, then vacuum sealed for Freshness you have to Smell to Believe!

Third: These seats for our Connoisseur Line of Used Young Girl's Bicycle Seats were handled only by our own Used Young Girl's Bicycle Seat Experts wearing sterile latex gloves: there are no contaminating oils from the bare fingertips of freelancers like your average Used Young Girl's Bicycle Seat suppliers.

Fourth -- and this is The Big One: Don't be fooled by that same Stock Photo the others use on their website again and again! Each seat for our Connoisseur Line of Used Young Girl's Bicycle Seats includes a discreet photograph of the actual Young Girl who rode it! Try to find THAT level of Detail from some other service!

Don't waste your money on Imposter Used Bicycle Seats of dubious origin bought from the Goodwill Store and pathetically sprayed with Children's Perfume: experience our Connoisseur Line of Used Young Girl's Bicycle Seats and you will KNOW the Difference!

I know What You Want, and I Got It or I'll Get It: THAT is my Promise to You...


I am Laslo.

Luke Lea said...

I was in Tokyo for a few weeks in the summer of 1963, the terminus of a hitchhiking trip (mostly overland) that started in West Germany. One of the things I remember best is that all over town there were music bars (not sure what the Japanese name for them was) stacked with analog amplifiers playing Western classical LP's. I can still remember a beautiful Brahms sextet for stringed instruments which I have never been able to find since.

OTH, blind tests of hi-fy systems, like blind tests of fine wines, have demonstrated that even connoisseurs cannot reliably distinguish between the finest (by reputation) and good mid-priced brands. The subjective quality of the experience appears to be a projection of the reputed quality of whatever wine or hi-fy the subject thinks he is tasting or listening too. There is a snob factor involved I suppose.

Kirk Parker said...

coupe,

"I remember going to the audio store in 1976"

The two big local audiophile audiophile stores in My City were competing Bose and Klipsch dealers in those days. Admittedly, the Klipsch outfit had a listening room that was far too big to simulate the experience of how things would work in your own living room. But I was totally blown away by them the time one of their salesdroids put on that Emerson Lake and Palmer album (I forget the title, not really a fan of theirs, I'm a guitar bigot, ok? ... but it's the one with the amazing bass-note run on the synthesizer) and after listening for a while, got tired of the ear fatigue and wandered out near the cash register to browse through the discount-electronic-parts bins.

WHOA. That's when I realized that the harmonic distortion I was hearing in the listening room was all in my ears due to the high sound pressure level. At a distance, what those Klipsch corner horns were pumping out was pristine.

Some days/weeks/months later, I was at the other place. They were giving a run-through to someone on the Glories of Bose, and made specific reference to their competitor and how palatial their listening room was vs what a system would sound like in an actual house a Mere Mortal could afford. Well, I couldn't resist, so I mentioned the particular EL&P song I had heard demo'd with such vigor at The Other Place. Clueless Sales Person took the bait... and whoa if you couldn't see the Lost Sale look in his eyes when the song came around to That Really Low Bass Synth Run and the poor Bose thingies just crapped out.

Kirk Parker said...

Luke,

"OTH, blind tests of hi-fy systems... have demonstrated that even connoisseurs cannot reliably distinguish between the finest (by reputation) and good mid-priced brands"

No kidding.

Look, for just on specific, at all the BS about damping factor. WHO CARES about .0001 damping factor when the resistance of your speaker leads--yes even the prime oxygen-free ones--plus the resistance of the voice coil of the woofer itself, limits you to about 0.1 at the very very best?

eddie willers said...

That Really Low Bass Synth Run and the poor Bose thingies just crapped out.

As we old stereo salesmen used to say, "No Highs, No Lows...it must be Bose".

eddie willers said...

Look, for just on specific, at all the BS about damping factor. WHO CARES about .0001 damping factor.

I recently "retired" from a lifetime of sound reproduction being both my vocation and my advocation.

I haven't heard damping factor for at least 30 years (is it making a comeback?) but one thing I can tell you. The room the "stereo" (could call it Home Theater these days, but stereo is easier) is placed in has more effect on the reproduction than any other thing.

I have been in many people's 'Family Room' and told them, "you don't need to spend more than $1000 on the audio. No amount of money will make up for the two storey ceiling, the opening into the kitchen and the stairwell in the back".

The good news is that all that will change. With processing power increasing all the time, the day will come when there are microphones in the speakers themselves listening in real time to "the room" and digital EQs that can, accurately, place you in any environment at all as long as you are within the soundfield.

Craig said...

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwix-PmHi4bQAhUIjFQKHckDAIQQtwIIKDAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Da2H_U_BXaLM&usg=AFQjCNGpAEqByfEG4vbuyniZ30d9xdsXBw&sig2=d9BBaRX-PfVpfJOkxkf_MA

Canned music is even better now that Dan's no longer live.

Kirk Parker said...

Eddie,

"I haven't heard damping factor for at least 30 years "

That's because you don't subscribe to the right catalogs. (We hosted a foreign-exchange student from China who did.)

If it's not oxygen-free copper cables (at > $5 per foot!) it's extra-fancy power supplies that cost $300 that will turn the crappy $500 A/D converter you just bought (by replacing the included power supply) into Something Worth Listening To.

I sh*t you not.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Luke Lea,

There are only two Brahms sextets. I am not sure we could identify the exact recording you listened to 50-plus years ago, but there's no shortage of others. (And I have at least one that was around then, by the Budapest Qt. and a couple of friends.)

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

I'm with Althouse on how the 60's shaped us - but came back to this post to add this link from a favorite blog:
http://www.overgrownpath.com/2016/11/classical-music-is-compressed-in-every.html