Analog vs. digital sound, Ray Charles vs. David Pogue

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich
Week 18, 2007

Q: I have many old record albums which I no longer listen to, mainly because I only have the time while driving. Recently I saw an ad for   the Teac model GF350. Is it a worthwhile for transfering my records to CDs?   Is there a better system using my old turntable and pc? I’m concerned with quality.

-Charles Neff, Cape May Court House,NJ

A:   No, it is not worthwhile for transferring your records to CD, especially if quality is a concern.   There was a recent article by David Pogue of the New York Times saying the Teac was OK, and that is was not intended for the audiophile set, just nonaudiophile, nonexpert listeners.   He mentioned “immortalizing” your LPs on devices like the Teac, but if they immortalize your records, it is in a hideous, deformed, souless zombie-like fashion.   Though I am one of the “audiophile experts” he alludes to, I think enough of my readers and am familiar enough with them to know they appreciate good sound.   I would not “dumb down” and sell out my audience that way.

Though Mr. Pogue’s computer expertise is well-known, many of us in the audio journalism world were taken aback by his recent comments and advice about the vinyl format, recommending the Teac toy, lumping vinyl in with 8-track on one occasion and on another saying “(vinyl) is not dead yet, but wheezes a bit going up the stairs.”   This is far from the truth. What is especially disconcerting is Michael Fremer, a Stereophile contributing editor and the world’s foremost authority on vinyl and analog sound reproduction, has written to Pogue upon multiple occasions offering expert input on the subject, but Fremer’s emails went unanswered and unacknowledged.

Vinyl may be something of a niche but it is going to be around indefinitely.   The fact is that vinyl software sales showed growth last year, is still the format of choice among most DJs, and there are more makes and models of turntables available for sale now than there were back in the 1980s when compact disc was first introduced.   People everywhere are rediscovering their record collections and the sound quality they offer, and trade in used records is found in a great many places in every city in the country. A recent feature on my website takes readers on a tour of Jerry’s Records in Pittsburgh, a used record store with over a million different records in it!   It has to be seen to be believed.

To record your records, get a $39 Griffin iMic and connect it to your computer’s USB port and to the “record out” connections of the tape loop on your receiver.   I recommend Roxio Easy Media Creator 9 software to record and process the MP3s.   It is $79.

In closing, allow me to leave you with some words from Ray Charles regarding analog vs. digital sound: “I have to tell you man. In listening to sound, I guess what I’m after is the closest thing that I can get to reality. Now, I know it’s not going to be reality, cause the thing gotta go through wires and gotta go through filters and this and that. I understand all that. But what I really like is to get as close to the natural sound of the instruments as possible. That’s why I like analog as opposed to digital. Because I don’t give a s**t what anybody tells you man, I know what you guys are going to tell me…’Oh yeah, but it’s clean Ray!’ Well it’s clean but it don’t got no balls!!!” – 1999 interview with Ray Charles by Michael Hobson of Classic Records

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