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In the Forum: Analog Playback
In the Thread: Today's best turntables vs. greatest vintage turntables.
Post Subject: Today's best turntables vs. greatest vintage turntables.Posted by Romy the Cat on: 10/18/2013

I got emails today pointing at some forum at LinkedIn. In there somebody named Patrick Mattucci – “Senior Systems Designer at Hi-Fi Sales Company” asked an interesting question:

“How would the Analog Enthusiasts among us rate today's latest turntables with the great vintage turntables of the 70's and 80's in terms of performance, build quality and cosmetics? Additionally, how would you rate modern tonearms and cartridges with the great/legendary arms and cartridges of the 70's and 80's. Last but not least, if you feel there really are no significant differences in terms of performance or materials use, please feel free to say so.”

Patrick Mattucci looks like a marketing guy and he care about build quality and cosmetics and would like to know if the today chrome bumpers are still shiny and find right reflection in the feeble minds of audio sufferers. He also does ask about performance and it presumes sound, I guess…

 It is not so simple question to ask and not so simple questing to answers. Of cause I am not deaf and I would not worship much of contemporary-made flashy crap. I also would not worship blindly some vintage gear. I rather would like to talk about a matrix for this conversation and if this question ever might have a “correct” answer.

Yes, much of the high performance of today top flying turntables and tonearms mostly is based upon fraudulent or uninformed marketing, in sole cases by industry and in some cases by the users themselves. Some kind of a guy who made a lot of money by running car dealership of performing cosmetic surgery end up to fill empty-nested and have some cash to spend.  He builds a dedicated listening room, dump let say a first half million dollars to   some kind of equipment and end up with $50K-$150K contemporary tunable that has a good industry buzz. The guy himself has very little, even conceptual, understanding neither sound not audio, has dreadful sound in his listening room generally but he (or she) has a bug mouth and love to run across internet and to pontificate how great his turntable (tonearm, automobile, gold club, garden sprinkler… etc) is.  The industry of cause pumper those people and they are the thru commodity of the industry.  I know that 20 years back the name/phone of those “indomitable” people were sold by audio sell people to each other, nowadays they indomitable are run free and well exposed over the Internet prairies…

The reasons I bring it up is because when we think about comparing the best of today and best from the past we need not to look at the general level of design and implementation but rather about the very pinnacle of what is possible, sonic and performance pinnacle – and this is NOT SO EASY.

Where the sonic and performance turntable pinnacle might be found today? Dealers nowadays do not have more or less proper setup systems to demonstrate turntables at their best. The shows are of cause out of question as well. Manufacturers generally are unfortunately do not have many options to demonstrate own turntables. Some who do have opportunity do not have understanding how to do it of generally limited in their general audio sensibility or audio cultural development.  Reviews are famous for having very purely performing installation, which is understandable in their fast food environments. So, were today the analog best would come from, would it be best vintage turntable or best contemporary turntables?  This is very complicated question.

You see, turntables are very difficult. It is not easy to set it up to do its best and then you begin to get that “last exhale” form a TT. Let pretend that you have some kind of super-duper today TT for $250K with atomic clock that controls the TT’s motor, the one that the designer stolen from Baikonur Cosmodrome, the platter is floating in the antigravity field, ignited but TCP/IP connected antimatter…you got the drift…. Let pretend that this TT does wonderful and on other side we have let say vintage, Japanese made American Sound TT.  The best TT in own class will do fine across the board and to push then into advantages mode a user need to go for impose to the TTs under question to some VERY advance demands: let say to observe what quality of vowels the turntables produce at 15Hz region. The people who do it understand that it require an enormous efforts and could not be done “as is”. In some case it might be good 10-15 year project, unit a person “get” what need to be heard and how to facilitate the experiment.  Ironically the people who do go there… do not talk a lot, because multiple reasons. So, the question still would be pending: what TT is better the atomic clock TT or the vintage mastodon...

A guy I knew in Philadelphia use to love to tell that “People who are speaking are right.” He for sure has a point and if somebody talks in silence than it feels that what is expressed is truth. Well, Philadelphia guy was 17 year old and he was right at his age. Today, among the audio community who are talking about TT, at least who are talking loud are mostly either uninformed people or uninformed people with agenda. There is, in my mind, absolutely no framework to answer the Patrick Mattucci’s question.  I know, some people feel different, however….

Romy the Cat

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