Analog

Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

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Let's #TBT to a timeless article trying to answer a timeless question:

"Record players have made a comeback over the past decade. Some of the credit probably goes to the hipster trend toward retro everything, but music lovers often claim records just sound better than digital music. I played my part in boosting record player sales after finding my mom’s old record collection in my parents’ house. The collection itself was not particularly exciting, but the possibility of listening to the exact records she had played as a teenager felt like some sort of time travel.

So we bought a record player. I distinctly remember playing The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I had dutifully met the college student stereotype of blasting The Beatles on a regular basis, so I had heard those songs a hundred times. But when the cacophony at the end of “A Day in the Life” came on, it was not the one I had heard before. It sounded much deeper and fuller, like there were new noises in it. I was skeptical of the claim that vinyl sounded better, so I was surprised to be hearing a difference. Being a scientific-minded person, I’m not exactly swayed by one data point, but the experience did pique my curiosity.

So what’s the deal with the vinyl phenomenon? Is it really possible that records just inherently make a fuller sound? To have any hope of answering these questions, we have to start with something more basic: What is sound and how do we hear it?"

Read the rest over at The Atlantic.

Is This The Craziest Marital Fight Video Of All Time?

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They say love is never hurting someone where they are most vulnerable. This video excerpt depicts the worst case scenario; two people striking each other where it hurts the most. Watch to the end for the coup de grace.

We at Noho Sound recommend a softer approach to resolving marital differences. For example, the traditional IKEA vase or Muji T-shirt are easily replaceable after making up, Couture and tube amplifiers are not.

Watch the video for yourself:

Have you seen or heard of a marital spat more vengeful than this?

Please share in the comments below.

McIntosh Announces MT2 Precision Turntable At $4000

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Noho Sound is thrilled to announce that McIntosh Labs has finally released their long awaited MT2 Precision Turntable. Scheduled to ship in April, the MT2 will retail for $4000.

From the official press release:

McIntosh is pleased to announce our new MT2 Precision Turntable. 

The McIntosh MT2 Precision Turntable combines the latest in turntable technology and design to deliver both superb performance and accurate playback. The MT2 is a great way to upgrade your home audio system to play vinyl albums. 

A full complement of features allows for all recordings to be reproduced with flawless realism. Its advanced electronic and mechanical design will give you many years of smooth, trouble-free operation. A subtle green glow emanates from under the platter and the outside edges of the plinth for a touch of refined ambiance and connection to the McIntosh design aesthetic. 

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The MT2 plays both 33-1/3 and 45 rpm records. It’s virtually ready to use out of the box as tracking force, anti-skate force, cartridge overhang and arm height are all preset from the factory for maximum performance. The remaining setup steps are simple and you’ll be enjoying your vinyl in no time. 

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The MT2 comes with a moving coil cartridge that has a high enough output to make it compatible with not only moving coil phono inputs but also moving magnet inputs. The cartridge’s high impedance and high output voltage ensures noise free musical reproduction. This unique cartridge design features an alloy cantilever and an elliptical diamond stylus with exceptional tracking capability. 

The tonearm is constructed from dural-aluminum with special damping materials and is light weight yet highly rigid. The noise free vertical bearings feature two precision ceramic surfaces with damping fluid; the horizontal bearing is a gimballed sapphire design. 

The belt driven, solid black outer platter is made from a special dynamically balanced polyoxymethylene (POM) and is over 1” thick. This heftiness helps to both resist and absorb external vibrations that can cause noise during playback; its large mass also provides the perfect flywheel action for stable playback speed. The inner platter is made of CNC-precision milled aluminum. The platters rotate on a polished and tempered steel shaft in a sintered bronze bushing. 

The DC motor is driven by an external voltage-stabilized power supply and is completely decoupled from the chassis, isolating your records from any mechanical interference. Its sturdy plinth has a resonance optimized and highly compressed wood base with black lacquer finish, while the top and middle acrylic plates help absorb unwanted vibrations. 

A clear, contoured dust cover is included. The MT2 turntable is compatible with a variety of McIntosh phono preamplifiers, stereo preamplifiers, integrated amplifiers and home theater processors with phono inputs; virtually any of our amplifiers and speakers can be used to complete your audio system. 

Want to hear the McIntosh MT2 in downtown NYC? Call or email Noho Sound for an appointment.

The World's Worst Turntables And Why You Should Avoid Them

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I recently heard that Urban Outfitters is the largest seller of vinyl records in America. Sadly, it also sells turntables that aren't very good for your records. The proof? This amazing thread over on Reddit detailing exactly why you shouldn't place your valuable records on suboptimal turntables.

The list of offenders is crazy.

The Reddit thread's intro alone serves as a warning as to what not to do with that $25 vinyl you just splurged on:

Playing vinyl records is a great hobby. It's easy to get started and you don't need to spend a fortune to do so. However, like any hobby, there is both good and bad products out there at both ends of the price/performance spectrum. In general, a record player or turntable needs to do three basic separate, interrelated jobs to successfully play a vinyl record. Some players perform these three jobs better than others and cost much more for the commensurate research, development, and precision manufacturing costs that went into producing them.

Job #1 Provide a stable, extremely flat, non resonant platform for the record to rest on.

Job #2 Turn the platform and record precisely at the correct speed.

Job #3 Position a stylus and transducer above a revolving groove, allow the stylus to follow the grove and faithfully reproduce the vibrations encoded within.

As one moves up the record player/turntable food chain, more of the build budget gets dedicated to improvements that affect audio quality either directly or indirectly.

Most mass-market turntables are made by three OEM factories: Hanpin, Skywin, and Leetac. They all make a low quality, non upgradable, low performance, budget-friendly, entry level model with built-in speakers, a heavy tracking ceramic or moving magnet cartridge, and a barely adequate tonearm prone to promote stylus mistracking. Even the more expensive mass-market turntables tend to place emphasis on convenience features such as automatic play, sometimes switchable built in phono-EQ, USB connectivity, and cosmetics, instead of design improvements that increase audio quality.

Reasons to not buy these brands/specific models:

• Skipping during playback of loud passages, including but not limited to heavy bass/drums, and/or loud transients due to exceeding the tracking abilites of the included stylus.

• No upgrade options, nor serviceable parts that can be sourced easily other than the stylus and belt.

• The included sapphire sylus on many Leetac and Skywin-manufactured players, which has a maximum lifespan of between 65 to 100 hours due to the stylus' softer material than diamond. Yes, you can upgrade to a diamond tipped stylus for increased stylus longevity, but you will still have the exact same problems as described in this list.

• Heavy, inconsistently set, tracking force (Leetac and Skywin tonearms) with ceramic cartridges require vertical tracking force be set at roughly 5.0 grams but is measured anywhere from 4.0 to 10.0 grams. The Audio Technica AT3600L moving magnet cartridge, found on some Crosley models (i.e., the Collegiate) and Hanpin FU-700/R200 OEM models have measured anywhere from 4.0 to 6.0 grams. This can shorten the lifespan of the stylus, specifically the tip, cantilever, and suspension, but also accelerate groove damage to the records. Note that the AT3600L moving magnet's stylus has a recommended tracking force between 2.5 to 3.5 grams.

• Non-adjustable or fixed counterweight that severely limits cartridge and stylus selection (usually to just one).

• Shorter tonearms also experience higher levels of tracing error, where the stylus is not perfectly parallel to the groove, causing audible distortions The short tonearm also further contributes inner groove distortion, where groove speed is the slowest and tracking is most difficult. IGD is audible distortion that affects the midrange and treble frequencies during playback at the most inner grooves near the center label.

Click here to read the rest and get the full list of the worst offenders...

Is Reel-to-Reel the New Vinyl?

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Is reel-to-reel the new vinyl? We don't carry new reel-to-reel hardware, but we've fielded a few calls asking if we did. So we did some digging around what appears to be a growing trend, and came across this recent article in The Robb Report, "The Most Expensive Music of Today Is Recorded on Mediums from the Past," suggesting that reel-to-reel is making a comeback:

"It turns out the audiophiles were right. Despite decades of pundits predicting its demise, analog audio has made a big comeback in recent years, with vinyl records, reel-to-reel tapes, and even cassette tapes gaining interest in the mass market. At the high end, this has led to more interest in limited physical album releases—often produced with painstaking care using esoteric methods—and high price tags. Enthusiasts are spending hundreds on single albums in pursuit of sonic perfection and the chance to own something truly special.

One of the primary drivers behind this is sound quality. Despite vinyl’s imperfections, many discerning listeners prefer the warmth, presence, and emotion communicated through a record—qualities that are simply missing from digital reproduction. In some cases, however, it can be challenging to collect recordings of vintage performances in good condition, so some modern vinyl reissues are mastered from inferior digital sources rather than the analog master tape."

Read the rest of the story and tell us what you think...

Is Vinyl Perfect Because It Isn't?

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Context is everything. I was born in 1971, so I remember life before CDs. I also remember listening to Everything But The Girl on vinyl, which is why I was so thrilled to see this vinyl op-ed written by EBTG's Tracey Thorn, which starts off like this:

"I had to listen to the test pressing of my finished album the other day. This is when you check what the vinyl version will sound like, so you sit very quietly in front of your speakers and, ignoring the songs completely, take note of the overall sound quality and strain your ears to listen out for any excessive surface noise, any unwanted pops or crackles. And, this being vinyl, there are occasional pops and crackles. But are they unwanted? Ah, that’s the question."

"Vinyl has had a revival, you will have read. And part of me can’t help feeling that it’s really the pops and crackles that have made a comeback, securing their place in people’s hearts as some kind of badge of authenticity. The clunk of the needle dropping. The faint hiss before the first song begins. Sounds that, if you’re the right age, whirl you back in time to those first records you owned."

Read the rest of her piece here.

Alex Roy, co-Founder of Noho Sound, Editor-at-Large for The Drive and author of The Driver, has set numerous endurance driving records, including the infamous Cannonball Run record. You can follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Why The Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon Turntable Is Worth $2,995

Vinyl is better. Even if it isn't objectively better, it's better. If you have to ask why, then, like jazz, you'll never know.

Our friend Rafe Arnott — one of the best audio writers alive — has written a wonderful review of the Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon over at Part-Time Audiophile, and his opening paragraph really captures the psychology not just of vinyl listening, but ownership:

"Playing records is – as my good friend once told me – the audiophile version of the Japanese tea ceremony. It is all about preparation, and presentation. There is a strong visual aesthetic to the act of putting an LP on a turntable, cueing up the tonearm, and dropping the needle into the groove. If you’re not sure of how to do it, it shows, and you lose some of the inherent grace, intelligence and sophistication that having a turntable, and a record collection, connotes in many people’s minds. I mean, let’s not be coy, a well-curated collection of albums is more than just a nod to loving music, one is putting some of their most intimate, and personal moments in life on display with a wall of albums. Hell, even with just a few dozen LPs, one is exposing themselves to a level of critical judgement that many aren’t all-too comfortable in revealing through casual conversations. But playing an album while having a glass of wine with friends can be not only a cathartic emotional act of sharing, it invites empathetic conversation – or at least acknowledgement – of what intellectual stimulus the music invokes in those listening. So, in that sense owning a turntable – and the record collection that shares a symbiotic relationship with it –  is a reflection of one’s personal, mental equilibrium, or lack thereof."

Specs? Details? Some people have to know. Some know they just don't matter. Rafe understands both sides, and his writing is the bridge between them.

Read the rest of his review at Part-Time Audiophile...