Blu Vinyl

My mighty home entertainment center

My mighty home entertainment center

One of my favorite mental exercises is finding answers to the question, “OK, we know David’s a geek, but exactly what sort of a geek is he?”

Post-Christmas, my home entertainment system definitely answers that question. I’m quite proud of the fact that the stack now includes everything from a Blu-Ray player (center shelf, top) to a LP turntable (very top). I don’t think the VHS player still works, but, even if not, I can still play vinyl records, audio tapes, CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, and Playstation games, along with whatever other formats those players support (mp3s? VCDs? jpg? Who knows.)

I’ve not had too much opportunity to play with the Blu-Ray player yet, but — so far, so good. I’ve been watching the copy of Independence Day my youngest brother gave me, and, yeah, with the surround sound turned up, it’s a rather enjoyable experience. I’m noticing, though, that Independence Day is probably the best movie in my collection right now for really showing off what the set-up is capable off. I can’t wait for Star Wars or Lord of the Rings to be released on Blu-Ray. I’d be tempted to get the Matrix set, but even on a good DVD player the flaws of the special effects, especially in Reloaded, begin to be apparent.

And let me just say, I’m enjoying having my turntable set up again. It’s completely a pointless indulgence; having to get up every three songs and flip the thing over is archaic in the day of the plays-for-days-without-repeating iPod. But I’m loving it just for the sake of doing it. And, you know, despite having heard about it, I wasn’t really expecting music to sound much different on vinyl. I used to listen to vinyl, and didn’t remember it sounding any different, or remember noticing music sounding different when I started listening to tapes or CDs or mp3s.

But one of the first times I listened to a record — my new copy of Joshua Tree, to be specific — it just sounded kind of weird. I thought maybe something was wrong with the record or player, but it wasn’t really wrong, just … different. Almost like there were sounds that were somehow outside the song, if that makes sense. And I think that’s basically what it is. I’m used to highly compressed music, with very little audio range. Freed from that constraint, the music takes on greater depth, and, indeed, there are sounds outside the relatively flat range I’m accustomed to. Right now, it’s still just a trifle for me, but I’m enjoying it. And when I was at Barnes & Noble the other day (along with Best Buy, one of two chain stores that I’ve discovered have started stocking records again) I noticed that they have some records that come with free mp3 downloads of the songs. If I could buy vinyl without missing out on the option of ripping the album to my iPod, that suddenly becomes very tempting, and makes LPs competitive with CDs. Interesting …

3 Responses

  1. Alas, my cheap all-in-one system with the turntable recently died and, for the moment, I have no way to play my vinyl. I actually listened to my vinyl stuff quite a bit. When you start going digital, just as in the Blu Ray, there is such a thing as “too flawless.” There are almost indistinguishable aspects, only really noticeable in their absence.

    A few weeks ago I almost bought the new live Police album on vinyl, which included a coupon for a free digital download of the album. But, instead, I got the CD/DVD. I may have to go back and get the other one though…

  2. So you would say that Blu-Ray is “too flawless” also? Is that a problem? You’ve got a bit more experience with it than I, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

  3. Actually, I find Blu Ray to be amazing and don’t have any problems with it, especially since I finally sprang for a HDMI cable. It really does make a huge difference. I’ve only watch three actual Blu Ray disks, two of which I was used to the DVD version – Bladerunner and 2001. The difference was jaw dropping. The third, Wall*E was also amazing. I need to get a new sound system since the kittens killed my $25 home theater.

    When it come to movies, I like “too flawless.” We don’t like tiny flaws in the visual medium. They’re disruptive to the flow of the visual. They throw off the illusion. So, Blu Ray is perfect, or at least close enough.

    Music, on the other hand, is actually enhanced by tiny imperfections. It can be as small as the tiniest tuning difference between the E strong and the A string on the guitar, to the random noises that leak in the microphone even in a studio environment. It can be the hiss of a LP that gives you ear a “staring point” for when the music begins, or the oddly comforting vocals of people not know for their voices like Dylan, Young and Petty.

    Over production takes so much out of a musical performance. Music is so over compressed these days to produce “sharper” and “louder” CDs and especially MP3s that your squeezing all the sound into a narrow range of frequencies. You’re digitally eliminating any “defect” that might come across in the recording. You’re subtly and not so subtly altering voices after the recording to more accurately hit pitches. And in doing all of this, you make it bland. Even well written songs seem a bit “bland” after all the production designed for delivery on super high fidelity sound systems.

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