That’s right! I said it! You all have been doing it wrong! But wait Uncle Doogs, what are you referring to? Sex?!?! No bud! I’ll tell ya kiddo, the way you’re listening to music is all wrong.
Today it is all about on the go playback and streaming services. Spotify just recently announced the have something along the lines of 30 million paid, yes paid, subscribers, while Apple Music has added 15 million in a 17 month span. And we all know that James here loves Spotify, but what so many people do not realize is the quality, or fidelity, of their music is flat-out terrible. Earlier I wrote a review of my new integrated amplifier I got a couple months ago, but even more recently I upgraded my cartridge (the part of a turntable that houses the needle and magnet) to a Dynavector 10×5. This was a 650 dollar investment into my system, and man oh man oh, it was worth every single penny.
But that’s besides the point. You can build a great system for under 1,000 bucks. Honest to God (if he’s even real). The point being is that we are streaming digital music, but we don’t hear digital. The recorded music that we want at our fingertips has to be converted from analog, to digital, and the converted back to analog when we press play on our iPhones. There are a series of processes happening here that really degrade the fidelity of the music, and is very much short-changing the listener.
Music is simply sound waves. So when recorded and put onto a tape, it can be compressed, or uncompressed depending upon how much space on the tape wants to be taken up. The less compressed the better. There are different levels of compression, and ideally you want a lossless (meaning not loss of sound) compression rate. This is wormhole if I don’t stop now… Anyways after that, envision the sound wave that is your favorite song, and it gets all chopped up by a computer and turned into 1’s and 0’s (or bits and bites) so that computers can store that beautiful analog recording into a digital file that can then be put onto a CD, or stored on a server for some gump that pays 9.99 a month to Spotify to have millions of songs at their finger tips. Now, said gump presses play, that song has to go from Spotify’s servers to your phone, wirelessly, and most likely over cell phone towers, so now it gets compressed into a small file to be transmitted. Boom we’ve lost quality right there, and a monumental amount. Compression is the death of good quality soud. So, now it gets to your phone, your phone has to turn that digital file that just got beamed to your phone, into something that the human ear can hear. Enter your DAC or digital to analog converter. This nifty guy has a clock on it to help piece together the chopped up sound wave you want to listen to and gets the timing back into place, which is essential, but sometimes the clock messes up and you get something called dither. This is degration in sound quality due to distortion, which was caused by the timing of the bits and bites being ever so slightly off. From there, the DAC, turns the bits and bites into analog sound that your headphones bring to your ears.
Wow Uncle Doogs! I never knew you knew so much about something! Well that is a down and dirty explanation of whats happening, and this explanation applies to CD’s minus the beaming the song to a phone. Anyways you get the idea, LOTS and LOTS going on! Meanwhile, in all those conversions from analog to digital, being compressed and then digital to analog again, the high’s, midrange, and low’s are being sacrificed! Your favorite song has suffered for you, and doesn’t sound like what the band wants it to sound like! The quality of the music you’re getting is literally junk! Oh the humanity!!!
But wait Uncle Doogs! I have Bose headphones. Congrats skippy! Those just cancel out sound around you and uses gain, or boosts, the sound that’s something from your phone to trick you into thinking you’re getting a better quality sound. Now they do help, marginally, and is nothing compared to honest to goodness vinyl.
Ughhh Uncle Doogs, you’re such a music snob! You’re right I am! But I am telling you all right now, this is the way music was meant to be listened to. With turntable companies like Project or VPI making high-end record players at lower prices compared to their competitors, it makes huge sense why record sales are on the rise. You get such a full body experience with the music you’re listening to on vinyl compared to digital. Ten times out of ten, yes 100% of the time, if you put the digital version of a song on, and then throw on the vinyl version immediately after listening to the digital, you’ll be absolutely blown away at what you’ve been missing. It is actually a magical experience watching someone’s reaction to a well put together system, listening to an album on vinyl.
Vinyl is coming back baby, and hopefully these pressings are coming from analog tapes and not from a digital recording. It’s been a magical experience for myself having upgraded my cartridge. I didn’t think my system could be that good, and man its that good. All from little tweaks here and there over the last year. Can’t wait to upgrade my speakers to really make this system even that much better.
So go and dust off grandpa’s turntable that’s been sitting in the basement and get spinning babes!