On vinyl’s inconvenience and expense

  • Vinyl. At the high-end, where cartridge, turntable and phono stage sum to north of US$20K, we must trust in the big end of town that playing records brings more listeners satisfaction than the same cash dropped on a music server/streamer filled with tunes and a DAC to decode them. I’ve no experience in breathing such rare air.

    My turntable experiences these past five years have largely been at the entry-level: two Pro-Ject Debut Carbons; two Rega RP1; Rega RP3; Rega RP6; Pioneer PLX-1000, Clearaudio Concept and two Technics SL-1200 MKII, one with Origin armboard and Rega arm. These ‘tables have, on and off, delivered music to this reviewer’s ears whilst not reviewing. Vinyl is my busman’s holiday.

    One unmistakable take-away from time spent with these sub-US$2K plattenspielers fitted with cartridges costing less than $500 bucks and spinning new releases like Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool or David Bowie’s Blackstar is that the audible deltas between similarly-priced digital and analogue front ends quickly narrow to the point that, in the majority of cases, my preference falls to the digital version.

    I’m well aware that this is not the most popular opinion ever expressed; especially when vocalised in the presence of evangelical idealists. Rubbishing digital audio usually passes without incident – “It’s edgy”, “It’s dry” – but to resist the mainstream media’s unerring enthusiasm for vinyl is to invite a virtual lynching.

    Claiming that vinyl bests digital is a little like saying that cars best motorbikes? Which car? Which bike?


    My enthusiasm for records doesn’t stem from the format’s (allegedly superior) sound quality. I’m into it for the crate digging – the thrill of the chase in unearthing out-of-print 90s electronica/indie in Munich’s and Tokyo’s record shops – and the tea ceremony of playback. If I want to realise better sound quality than say a Rega RP3 w/ Rega Exact, I’ll reach for the Sonore microRendu and have it feed a Chord Mojo over a Curious USB cable with a Roon-readied lossless digital audio stream.

    (Can you hear the pitchforked-armed mob coming over the hill?)

    For the sake of argument, let’s call it a matter of preference. I’ve zero interest in rehashing the vinyl vs. digital sound quality debate in the comments section below (and will moderate accordingly).

    The thrust of this post is about something else entirely.

    Being a vinyl collector at any level comes at considerable expense and, for those who move house on a semi-regular basis, almost tragi-comical levels of inconvenience.

    Let’s wind it back a few months: this commentator’s Berlin move was inked by the UK’s Baby Boomers and their Brexit ballot balls-up. What to do with an 800 strong record collection? Ship it, sell it or store it? How about a little bit of all three?

    A coupla hundred titles were sold on the used market, the rest would be shipped to a Melbourne mate’s place for long-term storage. Before that, each and every record was scanned into Discogs for (insurance) valuation purposes and then placed in a hardshell flight case.

    The result? 750 records in 16 flight cases weighing a total of 350 kilos. Not exactly portable. Compare that to the brick-sized hard drive that’ll travel to Berlin in my hand luggage and you’ll understand why vinyl spells inconvenience with a capital I.


    Discogs pegs my record collection’s total value at somewhere between a minimum of US$13,000 and a maximum of US$27,000. (The flight cases and the courier cost another $1500). For this digital audiophile, someone who purchased CDs throughout the 90s and 00s and has since ripped them all to FLAC, a vinyl collection’s financial prudence appears questionable.

    Against the backdrop of Tidal’s, Qobuz’s or Deezer’s lossless streaming tier, it looks positively insane. The cost of full month’s access to 30M+ tracks won’t even net a single copy of the forthcoming Autechre vinyl re-presses.

    If sound quality is our number priority and if we listen to albums that rarely make an appearance in the second market below US$20-a-pop, it’s worth remembering that 50 of ‘em will run us US$1000. A 500 strong collection of records, as listed by 150+ DAR readers’ all-time favourites (see comments section here), will slowly but surely clock drain US$10,000 from our bank account. If we bought precisely zero records we could afford that high-end turntable. Ironic, huh?

    The opportunity cost of a record collection is considerable. Without mine I could have purchased a DAC and source that’d put the average entry-to-mid-level turntable in the shade. Vinyl might take us to the more interesting corners of our cities – and it might satiate our need to collect ‘stuff’ – but it spells expense with a capital E.

    You’ve probably seen the New Yorker cartoon in which a turntabling dude turns to his pal and says, “The two things that really drew me to vinyl were the expense and the inconvenience”. For the vinyl fanatic, just like yours truly, the laughs come awkwardly and with a little nervousness. As Mark Eitzel once sang blackly, “It’s not funny but it’s a joke”.


    Comments are invited below but please keep ‘em courteous and friendly. Your right to have your say does not supplant your responsibility to be polite. 

    Disagree? Fine. But play the ball – vinyl’s expense and inconvenience – and not the man.

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. Bravo, John, for saying the unsayable. Why anyone would prefer vinyl is a mystery. The fact that records wear out, warp, are prone to acoustic feedback, and show a decline in sound quality as the needle travels from edge to center ought to rule them out as a practical sound source.

      • Thing is. I can totally see why people prefer vinyl, if only because they say they do. However, one needs deep pockets to realise its benefits and even more for the media. It’s quite the jump from $20/month for a lossless streaming library that would dwarf most of the world’s record collections.

        • Point taken. People like what they like, from Vietnamese fetal duck eggs to the music of Elliott Carter, and good luck to them; but as you say, you can’t argue with the technical drawbacks of vinyl recordings or the advantages of lossless streaming.

      • Wow. If I had a nickel for every digital-biased pundit that I’ve come across who knocks vinyl……….Of course, records will wear out for a number of reasons:
        1. Stylus isn’t cleaned often enough
        2. Stylus isn’t changed at regular intervals
        3. Wrong tracking force
        4. Records aren’t cleaned after usage
        5. Records are stacked horizontally
        6. Cheap players
        7. Records placed on front seats
        8. Etc.etc.etc.

        Get yourself a good turntable & acoustic sound system, pick up Taylor Swift ‘1989’ LP album and then get back with us.

    2. Having moved from the US to New Zealand (leaving my records behind), I came to the exact same conclusion. There’s a lot to love about vinyl, but not very conducive to a transient lifestyle (unless you’ve got mega bucks). Best of luck in Berlin John, and looking forward to the headfi focus in your first few months settling in.

      • Welcome to NZ and if you want to listen to records, well just come over, have a BBQ, wine and great Music.
        Summer is next door,

    3. Vinyl record is meant to be played in its entirety, instead of skipping songs. A lot of modern music consists of 1 or 2 hit songs and 7-8 tracks of ‘something’ ( A Lourde record comes to mind).

      Now I have nothing against Lourde or vinyl, but a lot of modern music isn’t good enough to justify playing a record in its entirety. Of course, you could listen to older stuff too…

      Also, a lot of the music I listen to is not even released on CD, let alone vinyl. I listen to a lot of Indian and Pakistani music. I know it will never be released on vinyl.

    4. Hi John, bravo for another installment of reality. I got a tongue lashing last time from a senior writer who loves vinyl. You closed the posts before I could make my rebuttal. Net, net, the senior reviewer’s set-up wins everytime over a digital set-up. I beleive he still uses a $150K turntable. I do not know of a $150K digital set-up…does one even exist? Ironically, it was the senior writer who inspied me to buy a michel techno-dec, a Basis 1400 and his demonstration video for cartridge set-up. I love the cartoon. Yes, expense and inconvenience. After a long day at work, I enjoy the convenience of turning on my Wadia power dac, and either listening to shuffle on my ipod, or a playlist-all remotely controlled from the convenience of my lounger…with a glass of rose in hand. I don’t need to move for hours. Currently, I am on the hunt for the ipod upgrade…a very good music server and a more modern dac. thanks tommy s

    5. I’m one who is currently recreating a vinyl front end after 30 years of CD. I have a 47 Labs 4735 player and am very happy with the sound. I also love picking up used CDs for next to nothing. But my tastes have expanded and I wanted to be able to hear what I love in its original mono format. When done I will have spent about $4K. A George Merrill Polytable, an Ortofon 2M mono SE, and a Decware all tube point to point wired phonostage. I’m not quitting digital because so much is unavailable on vinyl (Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlins for example) but I foresee my music purchases of the next few years being almost exclusively mono vinyl. Both vintage records and reissues. I just bought a triple album of Ravel piano works from 1954 for $10. I cannot wait to hear Ella and Louis or Miles in 45 RPM mono.

    6. With Tidal , it’s rare these days that I even bring out a CD, let alone a vinyl record. I’d love to see a review for equipment reviews and recommendations (DACs/other tweaks like Recover) geared toward those of us who are EXCLUSIVELY music streamers and ENT need transports and DSD-capable components.

    7. With Tidal , it’s rare these days that I even bring out a CD, let alone a vinyl record. I’d love to see equipment reviews and recommendations (DACs/other tweaks like Recover) geared toward optimal sound quality for those of us who are EXCLUSIVELY music streamers and don’t need transports and DSD-capable components.

    8. I mostly listen to digital these days. However when I’m not feeling lazy, the vinyl front end I have is always more seductive to listen to than digital. Packing for a move has made the space disparity between the two painfully obvious, 2 boxes for all my CD/SACD’s vs 12 for my LP collection. And I can still play (almost) all of my digital media as its ripped to NAS or was downloaded from the start.
      So while I maintain the investment I have because of a vinyl collection spanning 30 years, its easy to see why all but the purists prefer digital.

    9. Of course it would be cheaper to stay in Sydney too, but some prefer the path more expensive and difficult because it brings its own rewards, like the smell of a new city, the sounds of a different culture, the challenge of a new environment with all its many layers to explore and even its inconveniences to struggle with…. developing us as people as we go on our journey through the vinyl jungle of life. But when you are standing on the brink of the black abyss and staring down the spiralling path to the end groove and you know you can’t take it all with you, there is a cost to be paid and a benefit to be calculated. That is when you will know which song the fat lady will sing…. and it may be all in ones and zeros. Best of luck John with your new adventure and I’m sorry I never got to meet you in Sydney.

    10. Just recently bought my first DAC. Why? because i want to increase my enjoyment of my digital media. Will I still play LP’s? Of course. What leads me to use one media type over the other is the music I want to hear. Some things i have are available only as digital media, others only on vinyl. The media type is a pragmatic decision – it’s the artist/genre that decides what I listen to – not what kind of format it comes in.

    11. Expense and convenience are reasonable things to consider given that music playback for most of us is a hobby rather than a way to earn a living. When I saw the title of your post, I assumed that the content would defend vinyl in spite of its low marks in these two areas. What a surprise. 🙂

      Although they may never admit to it, many among the audiophile ranks feel that expense and inconvenience are badges that make the hobby worthwhile. If we’re honest, most of us espouse some level of audiophile masochism–some may even tacitly believe that listening to vinyl makes one a better audiophile and, by extension, a better person. “Nothing worthwhile is easy”, etc. Other hobbies have a similar notion. Photography is another good example.

      The point that you’ve made is that it’s worthwhile to pause, take a step back, and reevaluate our values and beliefs as they relate to this hobby. Change may be in order if some of them do not support the goal of maximizing our enjoyment of quality music playback with the limited time and money we each have available to allocate to the pursuit. Cheers.

    12. I’d like to point out this thread in our forum only because I think DAR readers might find it fascinating (the post is by a soon to be environmental scientist):

      One part of this discussion that woefully gets under reported is the environmental impact of media with respect to its carbon cost.

      The digital age could in fact be a boon to the environment in the sense that the packaging, shipping, and recycling of CDs, vinyls, and other forms of media will eventually go the way of the Dodo bird. Vinyl is definitely very costly to manufacturer and distribute (though one could argue since they press a fraction of vinyl compared to CDs, it is less of an environmental drain).

      Anyway, food for thought.

    13. I have dabbled into vinyl for a few years with great joy.That joy came from searching for new and used gems and rebuilding an older Oracle table. That activity was more to me than the music itself. I have heard outstanding vinyl rigs but they will always be unaffordable to me. I think a simpler turn table than i currently have and a very small collection of favourites will always be part of my “rig” but for actually listening to music I like, which i do every day, its a no brainer to be using one the many excellent app controlled music players ( I use the Sim Audio “Mind”) and flip through individual tracks and different artists at will off of a digital hard drive or streaming service. I’ve limited my vinyl to my 100 favourites. That way at least i get to play them each at least once a year.

    14. Would be interesting to experiment with digital lovers and see at what level of expense – if any – they think a vinyl setup equals or exceeds a good digital setup. Some will always prefer a good digital setup, I think.

      I also think my CAPS IV>Microrendu>Mytek 192 DSD sounds better than most people’s vinyl setup. I’m going to get a much better DAC, and then I think it will be very hard for a vinyl setup to compete, at least to my taste.

    15. Have to agree. My MicroRendu/Schiit Gumby sound every bit as good or better than my VPI Traveler with Ortofon 2M blue. But I have to admit that I just enjoy spinning the vinyl sometimes.

    16. That’s all a bunch of sheer nonsense. Next to reel-to-reel tape, vinyl has always been the ultimate medium for reproducing sound. After all, sound by its very nature is analog. Coupled with a harmonic distortion flavor on playback, vinyl offers a warm, natural and pleasing sound to the ear. In fact, vinyl has a much better frequency response on the high end than a CD. In contrast, a digital medium can only deliver what one can best describe as being cold and canned (typical of the mastering/compression inherent with that format). Sure, if you’re looking for cost and convenience, a car CD player will do just fine, but it would hardly be something for really serious listening. One can purchase a fairly decent turntable and sound system for less than $1,000 to be sure, and not the $20,000 kings ransom for the Rolls Royce model that the author referred to. Yes, a LP can cost anywhere from $18-$35, but if you desire good music, you will simply have to pay for it. Nothing good comes cheap sir.

        • The surest way of crashing a party at my place would be if I dared using one of them. The guests won’t settle for anything less than LPs (e.g. Taylor Swift 1989) that are played on my big (all tube) 1963 Zenith MT-1959 AM/FM/PHONO wood floor console. Incidentally, the wood cabinet in that console itself delivers a bit of resonance to the sound, and the tubes are an additional plus as they add a flavor of mellowness to the music.

          • ‘Mellowness’ would definitely be the word for a console of that era.

            My experience with format comparison came with a copy of Norah Jones’ album, Come Away With Me. I purchased the CD initially, then a 180g pressing on Vinyl, and subsequently a CD / SACD Hybrid disc. A comparison of my experience came down to this.

            CD – crisp, clean, detailed, somewhat clinical when compared to the other formats

            Vinyl – tapered high frequencies (read less detailed), more natural decay to plucked bass notes, better smoothness to the overall sound, distorted peak dynamics (which may be due to a poor pressing as I’ve experience this on several cartridges and tables)

            SACD (which would essentially equate now to many of the high resolution digital downloads in a PCM or DSD format) – smooth sound like vinyl, detailed high frequencies like CD, but with less harshness (not clinical), most realistic and undistorted sound quality

            As for modern vinyl, I find it humourous that new recordings (except in very rare cases) are recorded in a high resolution PCM format, mixed and mastered in digital, and then pressed to vinyl from the master. I agree that the vinyl format has a very tangible romanticism and alluring sound, but I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as better. Plus, as much as I LOVE plopping my bottom down to listen to my HiFi rig, I also need to live my life in other places than my listening room. Getting to listen to a high quality digital format on the go in my car or on a good set of cans certainly helps to keep the soundtrack of life going, in a listenable way, without needing to become a Recluse.

            • Brian, I’m an audio engineer of 30 years and can’t help but echo your sentiment. The question that I have always proposed is which consumer format sounds the closest to the original, that is the master tape whether
              it be analog, digital 16 bit, 24 bit ,whatever. In my view vinyl has an interesting way of presenting what I consider a mellow listening experience. It’s transients are a bit mushy the increased distortion can be pleasing until you start to approach the center groove and so on. PCM digital can sound great as long as the converters are good the clocking is accurate and as long as you are at least capturing it at 96k resolution.
              DSD on the the other hand is really my favorite listening experience. I’ve compared it in the studio to both digital and analog sources and somehow it seams to be spot on to what I am copying it from. The frequency balance stays true and most importantly the sound-stage does
              does not collapse at all. Of all the formats we currently have available, I dare say it’s the closest thing to analog that we have.

        • Perhaps, but nothing is perfect. In fact, you’re not going to obtain perfection with the digital format for that matter.

        • The worst place to play a record is the lead in song because its farthest from the pivot point with higher up/down variation than any other point on the record. and the lip at the edge acts as a quasi barrier making dust more likely to settle in the lead in song. Beyond that its all determined by arm quality and chassis isolation… no difference between inner and outer grooves if your tonearm has good arm resonance damping.

          • At the outer track, the needle runs about 50 inches in one revolution; at the inner track it’s around 20 inches.
            Less musical information towards the middle, which is why smart recording engineers avoided placing loud or complicated songs near the end.

      • Decent for $1000? Define decent. What i see for $1000 today is what was selling for only a few hundred a decade or so ago….so for $1000 one receives a turntable that has low isolation from its environment, and isolating the table (design, materials, etc) from the environment is what makes a table great. For example one manufacturers makes a table that i see sell for $1500….it has the numbers 206 as part of its model…lets keep the manufacturers name out of this. that table is dull! regardless of the cartridge one installs…and regardless of the isolation table one puts underneath. That $1500 table should sell for $400-500 IMHO. Today one probably needs to spend $2000 or more to go beyond this type of dreck

        • I mentioned a ‘fairly decent’ one, and was mainly alluding to something that was affordable to the masses, but yet a couple of steps or so above the cheaply made in China Crosley and Jensen record destroyers (which the women generally purchase). Yes, I would certainly agree that a ‘decent’ one would cost thousands.

        • Rega Planar 3 2016 for $1145 or Clearaudio Concept for a little more. Better quality and materials than years ago.
          Prices have gone up in a decade or so? Yes on most things.

      • I think that is nonsense. I listen to a lot of classical music, particularly symphonic works. They may be ripped CD’s or Redbook downloads but they have seemingly lost none of the warmth, timbre and, yes, stridency that one experiences listening to an orchestra in the pit while standing on the stage.
        Oh! Of course! you’re referring to the distortion that comes from dragging a blunt needle to through a jagged groove; that ‘warmth’. Got ya!

        • Your comment reminds me of the CD industry hench men who stuped and duped the people in the 1980’s into swallowing the misconceived notion that digital somehow delivered a better sound than vinyl. Don’t get me wrong though as the CD has certainly filled a niche for those who simply preferred to sacrifice serious listening to convenience. Obviously, the people have finally wised up to the nonsense that was perpetrated upon them by the CD industry shills as vinyl sales have been soaring for years now while the sales of CDs have absolutely plummeted.

          • “….who simply preferred to sacrifice serious listening to convenience”

            Thank you. The perfect expression of presumptuous and dismissive arrogance that destroys the credibility of your comment.
            I don’t know how to listen to music? Mmmm..back to the drawing board for me then.

          • Thanks, Rick; I think you know me better than I know myself!
            Look, I only ever bought vinyl from the late 60’s through to the early 90’s and then CD’s and more recently downloads not to actually listen to, but for the reassuring convenience of filling the silence with some kind of noise. Even when performing with the WA Opera over the last 5 or 6 years, I couldn’t hear singers and an orchestra; you see I didn’t understand HOW to hear.
            Is it too late for me to get into serious listening now as I look at turning 60 next year and where should I start? How do I become an audiophile…?

            • How do you become an audiophile? Well, you’ll never receive that distinction by hopelessly entangling yourself with the digital gutter crap. My niece, a digital fan for a good many years, has recently converted over to vinyl. In fact, she now has her eye set on a big wooden AM/FM/PHONO floor console that’s equipped with an automatic changer. She simply can’t wait to play the Taylor Swift ‘1989’ LPs on it as she’s now totally convinced that only vinyl can offer her the best possible sound. It sounds (no pun intended) like good advice for you too. Seriously though, you will find that the most astute audiophiles will play nothing but vinyl (as they have done for a great many years). In the end, what drives the sale of music is not perfection for its own sake, but what sounds the most pleasing to the ear. Give vinyl another spin (again, no pun intended) as the mastering in the recently issued LPs is really quite good. Today’s audio engineers must obviously be doing something right.


        • John it’s about $10k
          Also have Berkeley dac which is enjoyable but still prefer vinyl on 85% of recordings

            • John
              Just a caveat, I have my best digital moments
              With my Berkeley hooked up to a bryston headamp
              With sennheiser 800s

    18. As long as we’re comparing cost, let’s not forget someone relying on Tidal’s Hi-Fi streaming doesn’t actually own any of that music. It’s an all-you-can eat buffet as long as you pony up the dough every month. For me, someone in their early 30’s, every album I buy is mine. However, if I want to have unlimited Tidal until I’m in my 70’s, it’s still going to cost me $9600 ($20*12*40), assuming the cost remains constant (which is not guaranteed). And then when I die or stop paying, I’m left with nothing except my memories. At least my record collection might be worth some resale value or be a legitimate heirloom to my relatives.

      I hate moving, and it’s not because I have to lug several hundred records around. Those are some of my most prized possessions. But yeah it can be a pain in the ass, especially if you have to move overseas.

      So is it expensive? I guess so, but so are a lot of things. I choose to put my money where I get enjoyment. The better question: Is it worth it? For me, yes. For reference, by high-end audio standards, $1500 for my lightly used VPI Scout 1.1 and $1200 for a Soundsmith Zephyr Mk II isn’t that crazy, especially for the results I’m getting. I haven’t directly compared to a Chord Mojo or whatever, but I have a hard time believing it would create a more engaging musical experience for me. It IS notably better than a Schiit Modi Multibit streaming Tidal Hi-Fi, which might not be saying much considering the price difference, but it does say something.

      Is it less portable? Absolutely, but l don’t really have a need for it to be portable. The lack of portability also forces me to pull up a chair in front of my stereo and focus on my music. It completely changed the way I listen to music, and it is more than just the “tea party” ritual of putting a record on the platter and looking at liner notes. There’s palpable voices, intent, inflection, air and room character in those notes. Could I sit in front of my stereo and just listen with digital? Sure, but I just don’t do it very often. I’m also not sure I ever would have learned to listen like that if it weren’t for the “inconvenience” of vinyl.

      I get that you’re trying to provide some sort of counter-point to the news outlets making vinyl into a darling medium, but why don’t we let people listen in whatever way most engages them with their music? That’s what it’s all about, right? Let’s also stop kidding ourselves that the “average person” the new outlets are targeting really cares about any of this because they’re neither going to spend significant money on their audio system nor are they going to sit and actually listen to it.

      • My opinion on these matters lessens no-one’s enjoyment of their preferred format unless their hardware choices are so deeply entrenched in their identity that any criticism (valid or not) is received as a personal insult.

      • Johnathan, most of the music I listen to on Tidal exists in my LP library, currently over 600 titles and unlikely to increase, or my CD and cassette libraries . Both flavours, digital and vinyl are very enjoyable on my equipment but what tips me into digital waters nearly every time is the convenience. Pure and simple.
        Plus, on Tidal there is the “similar artists” tab which has lead me down many an enjoyable side-track, not to mention the catalogue of long forgotten artists. Not everyone ever recorded, but try finding Mother Goose (a ’70s Australian pub-rock band) in any format. It’s in Tidal.
        The biggest audible difference for me? They’re different, that’s all. Flat white or cappuccino? Either thanks, love ’em both.

    19. As Mr. Sheldon put it above, “Bravo, John, for saying the unsayabe.” I heartily agree with that sentiment.

      I do – however – disagree with your conclusions Darko. I suspect that with just a few more bucks tossed into that RP6 (many mods available), you might find your vinyl quite a bit better. I do. But that’s not the point…

      Your courage to say what you hear, in the face of contrary “conventional wisdom”, is laudable. It only increases your credibility as a valuable audio reviewer. Thank you for the courage and honesty.

      • You know: I have an RP8 fitted with a Zu modded DL-103R that I really, really like, especially with original pressings of the likes of Peter Gabriel, The Blue Nile and American Music Club but I suspect that is also unearthing yet another issue: modern vinyl being pressed from digital files. These records give lie to the authenticity being marketed, sold.

        • I’d also add that I see the “if you just” response quite a lot. If you just added this doohickey or if you just played pre-digital and pre-loudness war pressings….etc.

          Here, I explicitly namechecked modern vinyl releases heard on turntables in their stock form because I reckon this is what the vast majority of people are buying.

          • I believe the “if you just” also applies to digital formats. Paying attention to the chemistry between the various components is a given in analog and digital.

            My observation is that its always YMMV- and sources matter more than formats. Tidal is great- when its great. However the same CD can be better because often its not the same master. Has anyone done any journalism on how/where the streaming services get their sausage filling? is it label direct or is there some clearing house middle company that supplies the ones and zeroes?

            Good luck with the move!

            • Thanks Robert. 🙂

              As for streaming services, some supply comes directly from the label direct whereas the smaller labels are represented by larger ‘clearing houses’.

    20. John – I’d be curious if you have the same conclusions about the RP8 with the Zu. I deliberately did not mention any particular mods, as I didn’t want to go down that – apparently very familiar to you – road.

      However, having an RP6 myself that I’ve seen sonically transformed by additional investment, I’m wondering if the conclusion you came to might have been from using gear that is just on the edge (in terms of investment) of where many people feel vinyl begins to get the upper hand. Thus, really curious about your RP8/Zu observations.


      PS – As you alluded to… investment in vinyl without a silly amount of research into the source material and pressings is – IMO – an exercise in frustration and futility. To state the obvious… All vinyl is NOT created equal.

      • Those owning multi-thousand dollar vinyl rigs are not the subject of this article. It is why I placed a ceiling at US$2K. The RP8/Zu cart sits above this, as did the Pro-Ject Xtension 10 that I felt, in some respects, bettered similarly priced digital front ends. Time will eventually show how the RP8 stacks up.

        But even if the RP8/DL-103R IS ‘better’ – by how much? We know that vinyl’s superiority will be marginal at best…if only because audiophiles cannot conclusively agree on it as a collective entity. Which has me asking: is this advantage dulled by the software’s size, weight and expense? THAT’s what I am really driving at here.

    21. Who me? I’m an old schooler. I was vinyl before vinyl was cool — or cool again. Since the 80’s my first choice is to go for vinyl. Sure, I have my fair share of and cassettes and CDs, but I’m back to both buying and listening strictly vinyl since nearly all new releases, release on vinyl. Trouble is, new LPs are nearly $20 and up so I can’t splurge like back in the day when new releases were $12, or so. I mean, 4 new LPs can be a 100 bucks or more now. That is insane. And the vinyl business is gouging er, cashing in big time. I’m thinking that is why nearly all new releases come in a Double LP and 180g format to justify charging $30 a pop. Many of these new albums fit on one LP, but they won’t do it. Oh, and I’m proud to have a never bought a single song, not one album, in a downloadable, digital format. Not even a 99 cent song from iTunes. Inconvenience and expense never occurred to me.

      Analog Man in a Digital World

    22. I collect both cd’s and vinyl and for me it really comes down to the particular title and what i believe is the best version of that title. 90% of my vinyl collection is AAA. I often check the dynamic range database to check compression levels before I buy. A lot of cd’s are mastered too hot for these ears. For example I like The Black Keys. Most of their cd’s are a DR 6 or 7 and i find them unlistenable. I have several of those titles on vinyl, which have more DR, and its like lsitening to a different band.

    23. John – Well spoken, and thanks for the reply. And in my limited experience, I’d also conclude that if $2K were my limit on gear, digital is a better bet. The “Hey, we’re spending money now!” argument is another kettle of fish entirely.

      Thanks for putting things in fiscal perspective. 🙂

      • And thank you for acknowledging that this fiscal perspective is the article’s sole aim.

        • Then you did a very poor job of making that point. Your last anti-vinyl screed was also pointless. Then you cut off comments that you didn’t like.
          Like a lot of people I have high end digital and vinyl equipment and sources and enjoy both.
          Tidal is a pain. Missing songs and albums and many poor;y compressed sources. Not to mention they are losing massive amounts of money.

          • You sound so annoyed/hurt, Terry. It was angry, hot tempered fellow that caused closure on the comments section on the last post – a first in DAR history.

            You enjoy both and no doubt you will continue to do so whether you agree with me or not.

            This isn’t an anti-vinyl screed at all; it’s commentary on the format’s expense and physical intrusion. Do you not agree that vinyl is the largest, heaviest and most costly of all music formats?

            • John H. Darko wrote: “Do you not agree that vinyl is the largest, heaviest and most costly of all music formats?”

              So what? If that’s what it takes to attain ‘true sound,’ then why settle for less? After all, vinyl is going to pick up every single iota of the sound wave, and isn’t that what you really want here? Perhaps a race of automatons might better appreciate the digital realm, but the market place is still dominated by human beings fortunately. In the end, what sounds the most pleasing to the ear is what is going to sell, and hence the resurgence of vinyl (and the demise of the CD).

            • So what? As pointed out in the post, 500 vinyl records means foregoing one helluva DAC/transport and less back ache when it comes to moving house.

              If that troubles you not then fine, but I think it’s somewhat illuminating for the more pragmatic listener, especially one who moves house every couple years and/or who is pondering a significant system upgrade./p>

    24. Interestingly, I’m listening to Witches Brew on Tidal on my living room SONOS system as I write another analogue review. It sounds wonderful, especially with SONOS’ fantastic sub. But later, I’ll pop into my music room and listen to the Classic Records reissue and I’ll know within two bars why I prefer the vinyl many times to one.

      Different strokes.


      • Sonus? Not only does it not do hi res it is very inflexible and sounds awful like the plastic speakers they are. You can do way better with real speakers and a receiver for a fraction of the price. No wonder Sonos is doing so poorly they are laying off staff. They are like Palm pilot and Blackberry. Complacent with minor improvements for years.

        • Sonus? What’s that…? Oh, Sonos.
          Sorry, Terry but that really is a load of ol’ cobblers. I suppose you hate Apple as well.
          I couldn’t agree with Anthony more; Sonos can sound tremendous and as for that reference to not doing so-called ‘hi res’…well, I’d imagine you must be one of The Golden Ears who can truthfully discern a difference. You are sooo lucky…*sigh*

    25. I had my first LP Player in 1970 a Philipps player with build in tubes/amplifier It sounded warm but somehow lazy ! I had a few more player over time but it was not suitable as the cost of transport was astronomical high .( Fully agree with Darko in that regard.)
      Working in over 21 countries was a big challenge to move around ! I started with LP ,then Reel to Reel ,Cassettes (Nakamichi dragon) ,mini disc , (small but the top notch sony mini disc player were not reliable , and the only reasonable transport cost for me was the DAT tapes as they were small and light . However working mostly in tropical-high humidity countries this tapes became a problem . Therefore CD’S where the only solution-smaller then LP’s ,washable (like LP’s)and long lasting (I do have CD’ from 1982 and they still fine . Of course one can get average quality or real good quality CD’s same goes for LP’S . Fact is that one can get very good quality in digital equipment today that gets better by the day and the prices are reasonable . To be frank I don’t miss the LP player ! LP and Tapes do wear out over time at least in my experience since 1970 ! Lucky for some people which seldom have to move around . Have fun with your LP , however some of you claim LP has a superior sound over digital sound is to far fetched .
      If one say’s it has a different sound then digital that is acceptable . Everyone has a choice and as long you like your choice that whats count .But please refrain to tell other people your LP sound is better !

    26. My recent deep dive into vinyl brought me to realize what you mention here – I simply cannot afford the level of quality I want from my vinyl. That desired quality being somewhere in the vicinity that my digital gear delivers. I will always listen to vinyl, but for practical reasons, digital will likely dominate future listening.


    27. I play vinyl and digital. I started with vinyl 25 years ago, and 3000 odd records down the line am dreading my next house move.

      A lot of the music I like isn’t available digitally, and Tidal/Spotify etc. aren’t likely to make it available anytime soon for copyright/licensing issues or any number of other reasons.

      Bandcamp is well worth looking at. New artists making great music giving you a vinyl fix plus a good quality digital copy thrown in for convenience. I get a lot of new music this way.

      I’m happy with my vinyl and digital setups at the moment – it all sounds pretty good to my ears. Roon + a Sonicorbiter SE certainly makes the digital experience more enjoyable. As my analogue gear improves, I do look for better quality vinyl pressings and some of those don’t come cheap.

    28. Thanks for an interesting discussion. After 30 years of Cds and maybe 3 or 4 with a DAC and hi-res downloads, I recently tried out vinyl again. I bought a Project Essentials TT for $350, initially with an Ortofon basic cart pre-installed, then upgraded to a 2M blue cart ($280) and most of my viny I buy for $2 – $5 at op shops or 2nd hand stores (classical mainly).
      My digital system uses JRiver and a Aune X1S DAC to a Musical Fidelity integrated and a Primare DVD30 for CDs.
      I was very surprised at the immediate difference in quality from a fairly affordable vinyl rig. I still enjoy CDs, but for classical records from the late 50’s through the early 80’s. (Decca etc recordings) the sound quality is awesome and surpasses my DAC (easily) and even CD for presence, dynamics soundstage etc. I have had slightly lesser results with vinyl versions of pop or rock from the 70’s (perhaps inferior Australian pressings?) where CDs still hold their own.
      I am not interested in defending vinyl, just my observations. If I could get even a similar experience from a DAC I would jump at it. Vinyl isn’t costly for me, but it does take up a lot of space and requires ‘maintenance’.
      How much would I need to invest in a DAC to do digital files ‘justice’?

    29. I find there is place for both a digital (streaming) and vinyl setup. I currently use digital streaming (Apple Music/Deezer through Schiit Gumby DAC) for discovery or as background listening. It is very convenient to put together a playlist and shuffle through many artists/songs over a couple hours. This is great when I am trying to do some work or find new music. In addition, it allows me to hear a full album before making the decision to invest. During the times I want to focus on an entire album or artist, I prefer the experience that vinyl offers. I have a Clearaudio Performance DC and SimAudio 310LP Preamp. Not only for the improved sound (IMO) but also the experience of flipping through my collection and the act of placing the album on the table and dropping the needle. I feel this experience provides a greater opportunity to connect with the music.

    30. It made me laugh when I read this because there’s so much truth in this column. I started buying records in earnest in my late teens and continued through to my early thirties. Before I knew it I had amassed a collection of about 1,000 vinyl LPs. Add on a couple of hundred more purchased in the last decade or so and you have a lot of shelf space taken up by vinyl. That really hit home for me when I relocated about four years ago. I live in the Great White North (that’s Canada for any readers outside of North America) and moving from Toronto to Edmonton (about 3,500km by road), it hurts to think about how much it cost me to truck those 1,200 LPs across the tundra to my new home. When CDs started supplanting vinyl I stopped listening to LPs for a number of years. I didn’t even have a turntable for quite a while. But something brought me back. While I do believe that vinyl does slightly outclass digital in sound quality it’s not the difference maker for me. I really think it comes down to nostalgia. Music, more than any other art form, seems to be baked in nostalgia. Nothing takes me to another time or place in my life more than listening to music. Listening to vinyl is a big part of that. The process of laying the record on the platter, dropping the needle, reading the record jackets and shutting out everything else so I can actually listen to records. The whole ritual is important to me. Unfortunately, as John makes clear in this article, it’s a bloody expensive one.

    31. It’s a good point that you make John, and one that does not get enough attention, vinyl is prohibitively expensive. Down under you’re dropping loads of cash to build a collection. A quick search of a major Australian retailer shows: Radio Head Moon shaped pool $50, RHCP Getaway plan $69, Bon Iver – 22 a million $45 etc, etc. Perhaps for some, there’s a certain romance to spending a lot on a hobby but if you’re not on a good wage this sort of spending becomes hard to justify.

    32. Best thing in Vinyl is the damn inconvenience and expense! F*ck all the great hobbies are expensive and inconvenient!

    33. I believe Jon Iverson and Stephen Mejias of Stereophile solved this debate by requiring that any discussion start with a statement of the commenter’s relative value of:

      1. Music selection
      2. Ease of access to that music
      3. Quality of reproduction

      One’s particular stance on vinyl says less about the medium and more about where one distributes 100 points among these three values.

      • Ah, the MQE ratio. Thanks for sharing!. 🙂

        At the moment, I estimate my MQE to be a fairly even: 30:40:30

        It’s probably also worthwhile assessing alignment between one’s personal MQE values and current music collection content and playback system capabilities. Assessing my current collection and system, I’d say fair numbers are 20:40:40. [E]ase of access to the music is great (tablet based JRemote), and sound [Q]uality is excellent, but [M]usic selection is limited to CD rips and a few HDTracks downloads while the best sounding masters are typically found on vinyl, SACD, or open-reel tape.

        Adding quality vinyl and/or SACD playback to my system and expanding my collection to include a solid number of great recordings in these formats would increase M quite a bit at the expense of E and possibly to a lesser extent, Q. My preference, though, is to continue waiting for great sounding masters to be released in digital form. In the short-term, this will limit the [M]usic that I can really enjoy, but I won’ t have to compromise [Q]uality or [E]ase of access.

    Die straße entlang / The road ahead

    On a digital download’s lack of soul