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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Playing Vinyl Again

On the weekend I added a NAD PP3 phono pre-amplifier to my new stereo set up. NAD save you money should you not require this antique technology by not including it “in the box,” so to speak. Since I have a sizeable vinyl collection, this has been a cause of deprivation to me and I was looking forward to hearing some old favourites through my wonderful new Ascension speakers.
Installation did not go without a hitch however, due to some broken wires which have now been replaced. One of those initially baffling coincidences when the output wire on one channel is broken and the input on the other channel is dodgy! First you scream and shout obscenities about trash that doesn’t work straight out of the box, then you settle down and work through things methodically. Low and behold, it is the weakest link(s) again! Then the turntable (Thorens TD160 Super with SME arm) needed some adjustment and the stylus (Shure V15 MkIV cartidge) needed checking. One of the original slylii from 1985 sounded better than a no-name replacement I bought five years ago.

Last night I found time to sit down and do some serious listening for a bit. After all, many vinyl junkies out there swear digital technology does not sound as good as the old analog stuff! The NAD / Ascension combo ought to convince me one way or the other… It has such a musical sound.
I don’t think I am ready to pronounce my opinion on the merits of the respective technologies and it probably doesn’t matter anyway. What I can say is that a couple of old jazz records sounded better than ever. Friends have long raved over Miles Davis “On The Corner” but last night was the first time I have been able to listen to the whole record, and enjoy it. The spaciousness of the sound, the amount of detail and the energy was a revelation. A vast improvement.
On the other hand, I have always enjoyed Jack De Johnette’s New Directions but it always seemed to require an effort to sit through the lot. Once again, the sound opened up and the instrumentation was gorgeous. If only you didn’t have to get up and change sides! Well the PP3 comes with a USB port and a cute little retractable lead plus software so you can transfer from your turntable direct to your computer. Must try this soon.

I am in danger of becoming a couch potato. We have for some weeks gravitated to the stereo for our evening entertainment, rather than watch TV programs we only half care about. Visitors take an interest. Music is again the source of life.

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