I’m listening to Grover Washington’s Winelight LP on the turntable and suddenly realised I also have the CD that I bought in the 90s.
Although CDs are made to last forever, my Winelight CD had gone through rigorous use and has plenty of scratch marks, which is something considered a taboo for audiophiles.
But who cares, it’s the music that matters, and the CD had always been my reference when purchasing new audio equipment over the years. It’s not the sonic quality – this is an AAD (Analog-Analog-Digital) disc that’s more musical than dynamic (there are digitally-remastered CDs that deliver a totally different sound) – but it’s the album that I listen to the most.
Over the years, I never had a chance to listen to vinyl records, they were too expensive for a teenager from the 80s, and when I grew up and could afford it, the industry was already taken over by digital technology. At some point, you don’t find record stores in Bangkok any longer.
So it was always the CD that served as the source equipment in my previous audio systems. There were plenty of CD shops, and apart from new releases, you also get older albums being brought back in CD form.
I took a break from audio for about 10 years, giving back the bedroom to the original owner (my son), who has grown up. The system was disassembled, stacked into a dark corner and forgotten about.
People often return to their old habits, and one day in 2015 I decided to check out whether they were still working – Aura integrated amp and CD plus ProAc Tablette 50 stand-mount speakers.
I cleaned them up, removing the inch-thick layer of dust and then plugged them in. Lights are on in the CD and amplifier, but the CD tray would not open. OK so I know that it’s broken, but hopefully, the amp and speakers are all right.
I sent both the CD and amp for repair and only the latter was successfully brought back to life. That’s when I decided to buy a new CD player, but with a very low budget, got a used Marantz 6003 from a nice used audio shop in Ratchadapisek area.
Unfortunately, I later found out that the Tablettes weren’t working either, having served as a nest for generations of lovely mice families. Got that repaired as well, but it never came back to the original condition and I later sold it off.
Ok, now everything is working and I can start listening to all my old CDs. Having a nice time, and checking out the audiophile scene to find out that vinyl records are back in trend. Wait a minute, where the hell do you buy records from? To my knowledge, no one manufactures them anymore.
And I was right, most of the record production equipment in this world are mostly gone. This record hype is about old records from those days that survived the times. Ok in the last few years you can also find new records for new releases but in a very limited number. And the price is high costing around Bt2,000.
However, the used records aren’t expensive. You can get a near-mint album for Bt700-1,000, and the price decreases according to the condition of both the record and sleeve. There are also promotions, and you can easily get 3 or 4 for Bt1,000.
I didn’t have a record player but remembered someone has. I called up an old high school friend and asked if he still had his Pioneer PL-740 record player from the 80s. He did and it was in great condition, requiring just a small servicing to get the speed right and new cartridge (I got an Audio Technica AT-95 for less than Bt2,000).
So I started to buy used records, and plenty of them and the same albums I already have in CD format. Why? Because they sound different.
I wouldn’t say which one sounds better (although I am more attracted to records for the sound and CD for the convenience). While records sound more natural to my ears and are more musical (plus involving), CDs have the oomph from its greater dynamic range and lower noise floor.
Both formats can deliver spectacular soundstage and imaging depending on the quality of the equipment (and setup).
So when someone asks “Digital or Analog?” it really is up to that person’s preferences. Play the same track on CD and LP on similarly-priced equipment, and decide which one you prefer.
However, in terms of usage, they are worlds apart, with CDs offering the highest level of convenience and compatibility with other additional equipment. These days you can plug in USB music and play high-resolution files that are hundreds of times larger than CD audio files.
Or you can actually do what I do – have both. When I’m lazy and want some background music, I just pop a CD or plug a USB into the Marantz, which is a good-sounding player but not audiophile level. But if I’m not lazy and want to just sit down and listen to real music, I’d play an LP on the AR ES-1 vintage turntable (that’s also lent to me by an ex-boss – I hardly buy anything myself) fitted with a Shure V15 Type-4 cartridge, which works wonders with a vintage Accuphase pre/power amp duo driving Mirage M5 bipolar tower speakers.
Watch video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Vn2rDtv5Ds