There was something wrong.
You’ve got to be an electrician to listen to music these days, assuming you don’t take the easy way out and just listen on your phone, which is surprisingly good.
My desktop Sonos app would only see the Sonos system in the house, not the Sonos system in the shed. The music was streaming on the Playbar in the bedroom, what was wrong? After realizing I was seeing the wrong Sonos system, we’ve got two, don’t ask why, it’s historical, I kept resetting the app but I could never log in to the right one, the one in the shed. Tearing what little hair I have out for forty five minutes I ultimately realized my iMac in the shed was on the wrong wifi network, it had defaulted to an inside network as opposed to the much faster one created by the Orbi mesh network, which technically isn’t mesh, but is actually a bit better, not that it’s cheap.
Not only did I switch to the Orbi network, I deleted the networks generated by the main router. So no default could happen, so it would be all Orbi all the time.
But I still could not get music on my stereo system. The TV system in the shed worked fine, but not the stereo, what was up?
So I disconnected the Bridge attached directly to the ethernet cable twice, but that didn’t work, but then I remembered there was a Bridge hidden on the stereo rack and I unplugged and replugged that and voila! I can hear music! But then the desktop app asks whether I want to update it and I’m worried it’s going to install the new app which won’t work with one of my old Bridges but I took the risk, and it all worked. I need everything to work. Of course I could have just used the iPhone app, which was up to date and worked fine, but I’m a stickler, I get satisfaction when everything works right, it makes me feel good, it’s that extra one or two percent that gets you to the ultimate, which was what I was trying to achieve listening to this new MoFi Ultradisc vinyl Eagles album, but…
It sounded great, but it sounded slow.
I’d opened the package and the album was on two discs, which surprised me, because it’s barely thirty seven minutes long, but I thought this was just to ensure the ultimate sound, but then, wondering if the turntable was on the fritz, I decided to look, was the vinyl 45RPM? Well, I had to unscrew the turntable compression disc to look and it was, problem solved, or was it? I didn’t see any buttons, could my turntable even play 45 RPM?
I fired up Safari and went to the EAT website. Found the manual. Turns out it can, you’ve got to use a special tool to move the belt to a wider spot on the idler wheel. A SPECIAL TOOL? Where in the hell was that? In storage somewhere. But then I decided to take the risk, I’d already removed the compression disc, now I had to remove the vinyl record and the mat and the plinth and I looked at the belt and decided a round pen should work, and it did, flawlessly, so I put it all back together and the music was playing at the right speed and it sounded INCREDIBLE!
Too often CDs are too bright, there’s no bottom, certainly on the original ones. But just to make sure the vinyl was superior, I pulled up the MoFi CD, I was stunned, the bottom was right there, it sounded…just about as good?
I was completely flummoxed, in this vinyl era, with the craze in full force, shouldn’t the vinyl be a revelation?
So I started to A/B. Over and over again.
Then I realized I had to break out the headphones.
Now I’m using a $1300 EAT turntable, a $750 Sony CD player wherein the disc moves, not the lens, and it’s got its own disc weight and…through the speakers my mind is doing tricks, I decided to go closer, I decided to connect the top of the line $2000+ Sennheiser headphones, and then I started A/B-ing again.
And the CD and the vinyl sounded remarkably similar. But did this make logical sense? The original recording was analog, shouldn’t the vinyl reproduce the music better?
Turns out it did.
On the vinyl the you can hear the bass guitar, you can almost see Randy Meisner picking out individual notes. I kept going back and forth, it was definitive.
And the vocals seemed just a bit more separated and pristine on the vinyl. But really the difference was the background vocals, on the vinyl they were actual people, not just a sound.
But let me reinforce, these two sound sources, the vinyl and the CD, were REMARKABLY similar. The average person would never be able to pick one or the other on a consistent basis, never mind the volume level adding in an extra variable.
So, now since I’d dedicated all that time getting my Sonos system up to speed earlier in the week I decided to stream via Amazon Music HD, CD quality, and it sounded very good, but when I dropped the needle on the vinyl once again you could hear the difference, so…
I emphasize the price of the tools I was using because most people don’t invest this much in their stereo equipment, and inherently get inferior sound.
Then again, there are people who invest a vast multiple of what I’ve got, the tweaks, who are accused of liking the equipment more than the music. And I’m sure this MoFi stuff would sound better on their systems, but…
The floor was shaking. The music was enveloping the complete room. It was up front and center, dominant, it was not a playlist streaming on crappy speakers in the background and I thought of how in the seventies getting closer to the sound was every fan’s dream. And the truth is when you hear Don Henley sing “Witchy Woman” via 45 RPM vinyl you’ll have an experience you can get nowhere else, it’s definitely him, inside the speakers, but…
Do you want to change sides every two tracks?
Do you even want to fire up the big rig? I’ve got to turn on the amp. I’ve got to hit the right source button after the protection circuit does its bit, the phono preamp is on all the time, but I’ve got to turn on the turntable, go through the rigamarole of dropping and screwing down the vinyl and then drop the needle…
Playing a CD is a bit easier.
But the modern way…you just push a button, it’s fast and easy, anybody can do it, even a baby. Turns out convenience is a key selling point. It’s what killed piracy, Spotify, et al, were just so much easier.
And computer music started out sounding inferior, but now you can get CD quality files, even better, and if you’ve got the right playback equipment…
In other words, vinyl is a fetish.
But I was excited breaking the shrinkwrap. I loved opening the box and going through its contents. This is an old world experience, today everything is on demand, the goal is to own nothing. Do humans have an inherent desire to own things, does it speak to something inside our brains? Or is it about feeling superior because you’ve got something nobody else has?
So if you’re on a quest for the ultimate sound, akin to what we were once on in the seventies, buy the vinyl and take a listen. But don’t bother unless your equipment is superior, you won’t hear the difference, which is why the #1 investment you should make is in your speakers. First and foremost your headphones. AirPods are great for walking around, but for critical listening you need something much MUCH better. Or you could start from scratch and invest in speakers and amplification and a way to get the music to them, a turntable, CD player and a Sonos Bridge system.
But the truth is I do almost all my listening at home via my computer speakers, a three-way Genelec system that costs a bit over $1500. Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY! You’ll never be able to go back to the crap speakers of yore, you’ll wince when you hear the cheap stuff.
But there is a law of diminishing returns.
If you want to get really close to the music, buy the MoFi Eagles CD. If you want the ultimate, if you need the ultimate, buy the vinyl, but you’ll need to be very hands-on, you’ll have to get satisfaction from the vinyl experience otherwise it’s not for you.
I’m still listening…
P.S. Now I’m reconsidering. While writing this I listened to the entire Eagles CD. And when I was done with it my ears felt fatigued, I decided to drop the needle on the vinyl once again, and it just had a different feel, and there was just a little more definition to every element, and air between them. The bass on the CD was mushier than the vinyl. Maybe it’s the difference between people and machines, analog and digital, vinyl is a pain in the ass but the more I listen to the vinyl the better it feels, it feels human, my ears are definitely not burning out on it. God, it sounds like there’s a band inside the speakers, I can see each individual player, I can pick out their sounds…
P.P.S. I was listening to the CD layer of the MoFi Eagles disc. There’s also an SACD layer, but I don’t have an SACD player, do you?