Don’t Get Hoodwinked By Technology

When you visit a store or read your favourite audio magazine, talk always turns to technology – what digital format is best, do I copy in WAV or FLAC, what DAC (Digital to Analog converter is best and why or what about upsampling – what job does it do? I must confess that when I get in discussions with a group, the talk of technology always comes up.

Many of my friends and customers use digital formats other than CD and are most anxious to challenge my thoughts on digital vs. analog. I’m an analogue guy, I simply love the air, the open-ness that fills the room while listening to analogue. This is not to say that I shun any digital devices. Of course, I run a CD player and even own an integrated amplifier with what is acknowledged in the press as a “Damn Good DAC” installed in it. I will also confess that when I am working at home or entertaining friends, my CD player is the device of choice. When I listen however, it all comes down to analogue – vinyl LPs.

Not long ago, I was in conversation with a friend (my friend Jim) who related to me an experience that he had at his home. Jim had invited guests to his home to evaluate a terrific new DAC that was to be used to playback music that had been downloaded to a laptop. Jim is no stranger to technology as he uses a media streamer that will play back hi-rez music, he has an outboard DAC connected to his system and often spends great amounts of time utilizing both. He likes his Digital broadcasts – but prefers FM ( he has a Magnum Dynalab tuner which simply sounds amazing) but often uses his streamer to catch new artists. Anyway, at the gathering to evaluate this new Digital playback system, oodles of money had been spent on the hardware (laptop, software and the DAC) and all in attendance concluded that it “sounded great”. A CD was then played which sounded equally as good or maybe better (SACD). As the discussion continued, someone suggested that perhaps an LP should be compared – the digital corral laughing that it should be no contest.

As the needle dropped and the music started, music sprang from the system and all jaws (with the exception of Jim’s) simply dropped. No, the reality only did it compete but from a musical prospective it simply blew previous music played “out of the water”.

The excuses then started, “well yeah but LP format has  been in the market for 100 years so it’s perfected”, “he probably has thousands invested in his turntable”, “the laptop failed us” – whatever, the excuses simply ran the gamut. One of the excuses was very valid – yes, the LP format has been in the market for a long time and yes the thought is that this format is almost perfected. However, the turntable was a REGA (bout 1400.00), the cartridge was a Benz Micro Glider (about 1000.00. The CD player was over $3500, and his new DAC about $500.00. The new digital format was again thousands more than either device by the time the cost of the computer (MAC BOOK Pro) is factored in.

I find it absolutely amazing that the “early adapters” are out there and raving about the new “Whatever” digital technology but when a comparison is done suggest; “Well of course analog is better – look at it’s history, it’s been around forever!

Well “Duh”, is it about how the music sounds or the technology? Yes I use digital but now I don’t listen critically to it. I use it because it’s convenient, less hassle and much of the music that I want is available only in this format. When I listen – Analogue is my preference!

Don’t get dazzled by technology – Listen to The Music!

gord@allthatjazzhifi.com