My unexpected journey with Vinyl … fe: Augustus,Ragtime World

I being of a certain age simply don’t get the new infatuation with vinyl.

Growing up in the 70’s, my father believed we should have one good stereo rather than each kid having their own mediocre stereo. So at the time, he bought a Technics receiver, Technics turntable and BOSE 601 speakers, and from that moment on I was hooked on music. Rocking Rush, Steely Dan, Journey, BTO, Styx and yes Nazareth in my basement got me through the turbulent teenage years. I will never forget how disappointed I was watching the Doobie Brothers live at the Spectrum in Philly and NOT hearing the booming bass in “Takin it Too The Streets,” as well as the meandering lead guitar at the end of “Listen To the Music.” I became a recording junkie. It was just so much better coming through the stereo via the turntable where there was something about holding the actual album and hearing perfection. Wasn’t big on 8 Track or cassettes. My father added a Tape Deck for his classical recordings.

Fast forward many years to the age of mp3, AAC, poorly recorded CD’s and Apple iTunes. Man, I knew this was bad and I found myself searching scary foreign websites that would allow you to download higher quality songs for pennies. Then suddenly “hi res” arrived and I discovered Tidal and Qobuz where suddenly the music was quite good. And finally figured out how to play these songs via streaming DACs etc.

Ok I am all set, I have Qobuz streaming through my Nova150, standalone DAC, Kef LS50 Metas and Kef KC62 sub. Perfection!

But wait, I keep reading about the brilliance of vinyl and that I am listening to dull, digitized garbage and real audiophiles only listen to “vinyl. OK, so I add in a Pro-Ject. Debut Carbon EVO turntable. So wife and I go out to the vintage stereo store and buy Steely Dan AJA, Supertramp, Eagles and some others. We are told all albums are in great shape, guaranteed. Let’s fire it up and what do we get? …
… garbage. Crackles, pops and dull, dull sound. Even AJA wasn’t doing much for me. OK maybe I need a nice new shiny recording produced by PS Audio. Let’s hear an album done right by the experts. I choose Augustus: Ragtime World and read on the PS Audio site that it is one great recording. OK Let’s give it a go, and what do we get?

… OK, good actually, but not great. You can tell its good but dull dull dull. I add in my Shiit Loki 4 band EQ and fire up the highs and mid highs and turn down the mid bass and it is much, much better. I can live with this. Still a few pops and stuff.

So for yucks, I jump over to Qobuz and search and happily find the exact same album recorded in CD quality, 44/16. Nice. I lose the EQ and fire it up and my goodness is this good. Quiet as can be, but man all kinds of instruments are jumping out at me, a mandolin perhaps. Is that the Who in there playing pinball wizard on Madonna? My goodness, this is a great recording and a great album. I am digging this. Understanding all the hype of the PS Audio website. I will now go back and buy the high res version that PS Audio offers.

Thus, here ends my vinyl journey.


Hmm. :thinking: Well, that hasn’t been my experience with vinyl, but you’re hearing what you’re hearing. I might ask if you’re sure the table, arm, and cart (especially) have been optimally set up?

There is a certain level that you have to reach before vinyl becomes more impressive than modern digital, I would say around $8k to $10k for each component were you will say “Wow, vinyl is much more real sounding than digital.” With lower cost vinyl, digital of around the same cost will have the upper hand in clarity and involvement.


I agree with @waymanchen11. I am not sure where or if there is a crossover point in cost where vinyl is better than digital at the same price point if the vinyl is set up correctly…and that is a big if. I am guessing it is probably at least $10k if not higher when you include all the associated components for digital and analog.

The best bang for the buck is with digital…but if you get in more crazy priced stuff…the analog sounds better.

That is why I have the equivalent of a Corvette parked on my stereo rack playing well cleaned vinyl



What are you using as a phono pre amp? A good one will make a big difference. Are you sure the used records you bought are clean? A dirty record can be a real bummer of a listening experience.

I used to think vinyl sounded as good or better than digital, but much like you I discovered hi res streaming and better DACs and now streaming or stored flac/wav files sounds superior. I’m less of a vinyl ‘junkie’ as I used to be, but sometimes nothing scratches that itch like playing a record.

I certainly appreciate my own and other’s investments here and how seriously we take this form of reproduction, but just can’t see why anyone would get started with it right now. If it was 25-30 years ago, I’d say go for it.


I really appreciate all the thoughtful responses and the Steve Hoffman article is very helpful. @tony22 asked if I did a good job of setting up the tone arm, stylist etc., and I must confess I did not. So I will go back and carefully follow the Pro-Ject tone arm balancing instructions to see if there is a difference.

having said that, this was a very worthwhile discussion and I have lerned a lot! Thanks

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@Backenst, without proper setup you will definitely not get the best out of your records. All the other stuff mentioned (clean vinyl, etc) is important, but step 1 is proper setup. Your initial report suggests that SRA may not be ideal, apart from the more basic parameters. What alignment tool are you using?

Another though is that perhaps your cartridge is not a good match for you phono preamp, or of your phono preamp is adjustable (loading, gain, ect) maybe making sure you’re on the correct setting for your cart

@tony22 and @club_pizzazz turntable wasn’t so complex in the 70’s but I must confess to not even knowing what SRA is and I definitely did not set up the stylist properly. My cartridge is the a “pre-mounted Sumiko Rainier moving magnet cartridge” and phono preamp is built into the Peachtree NOVA 150 both I assume are quality.

Defenetely learning a lot here.

Do you have a set up tool of any sort to insure the right cartridge alignment?

One question… When you keep saying “dull, dull, dull”, are talking about it sounding lifeless or no treble?

Honestly, even when horribly set up, I have never heard a “dull” turntable/cartridge unless the recording was that way. If anything, with a bad turntable/cartridge setup, you usually get a lack of bass, thin midrange and too much treble… And distortion.

Also, I have to disagree with others here saying you have to pay upwards of $10k to get good vinyl playback that’s comparable to digital.

I’m using a 45 year old, bone stock Technics SL-1700 MK2 that my father purchased new back in 1978 with a brand new Audio-Technica AT-OC9XSL MC cart, and an acrylic platter mat. That’s going into the built-in phono pre in my Quad Artera Pre.

No, it’s not ultra clean and dynamic like digital, but it doesn’t sound half bad either. It’s very lively, punchy with deep, tight bass, liquidy midrange, a clean top end, and one hell of a really nice sound stage. In fact, I’d say the sound stage is every bit as good as the digital side of the system.

Yes, there’s a heck of lot better analog rigs out there that will stomp mine into the ground, but for what it is, mine is no slouch. Then again, I’ve been playing around with turntables since I was a kid. I’ve definitely gone through and set up a lot more turntables than my father and all three of my brothers combined.

If you’re no longer interested in vinyl, I’ll gladly take that Octave LP off your hands.

Wallytools is a site that has a number of videos that talk about the various parameters and the relative importance of each parameter.

There are other video series out there. A lot to learn.


All quality components. As others have mentioned I wonder if there is something wrong with your cart or tone arm? Did you buy your turntable from a dealer? Can you go and listen to one set up there? Maybe there is something wrong with the phono stage in the peach tree? (When you say dull do you mean ‘thin’ or muted) For the most part an external phono stage is going to be better than the one built into an integrated. Pro-Ject make a fine one for ~$100. (Amazon has no question asked returns)

Maybe there is a bunch of crud on your stylus?Used vinyl can be a real crapshoot, esp if it’s not cleaned properly… I’ve bought used records from shops that ‘clean’ all their stock but all they are really doing is smushing the dirt into the grooves. I’ve had to stop half way through a song to brush off my stylus and wipe down a seemingly ‘clean’ record. New vinyl should avoid this and sound better with less hiss and pops but some really obsessive vinyl heads claim that new vinyl is even worse than used cuz of the grease that’s use on the presses. I don’t bother.

But if your stylus is covered in crud it’s going to make new records sound poor.

Acoustical Systems,Analog Magic and Basis also have well done videos of alignment/set-up


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Vinyl is in and out of my system, I must admit. Right now it’s out, but never far away and will be back sooner rather than later. Vinyl is one of those things I just cannot turn loose of - it’s about so much more than just the sound. However, I will admit that it wasn’t until I moved up to a very good table (Technics SL-1210GR) and cartridge (Ortofon 2m Bronze) that the sound really came of age for me. That, and the addition pf a PS Audio Stellar Phono Preamplifier.

Will add that if you don’t want to mess with fine tuning the cartridge and tonearm setup, go with Rega. Pretty decent setup right out of the box, just verify the weight.

Happy to say i learned a good lesson from everyone’s comments above. So I went back and really did the set-up procedure properly this time with the toner-arm and the balancing ball. And what a difference that made! Much better dynamic range, and imaging was quite good. Bass was solid and I even turned down the mid bass a bit while adjusting mid highs and highs upward only slightly. I would still argue that the digital is better, as suggested above for a system like mine, but I can see why there is a debate. I feel much better about vinyl.

Thanks for all the comments.


That’s great news! Glad all the trouble shooting helped.