Monday, July 31, 2006

Gnarls Barkley: Tickles My Soul, Tortures My Ears...

Those that know me know that when I listen to music, I like to move some air around, i.e. I like it loud. Lately, CDs just aren't getting me there.

CDs are sounding worse as part of a boneheaded race to make "loud" CDs. In order to make a louder CD (so you, the customer, don't have to deal with the hell of using your volume knob), the music is put through a process called "compression" during the mastering process. There is nothing inherently wrong with compression; tastefully used, it gives recordings more "pop'. But when it's over utilized, the result is a louder CD, yes, but one with limited dynamic range, and one that often exhibits "clipping", a type of distortion in the higher frequencies. The nastiness you hear when you really crank up the volume on a CD is due to clipping.

LP records have a dynamic range (decibel range from softest to loudest sound) of about 70 db; CDs are capable of 95 db. An article in Stylus Magazine finds that some modern CDs (Gnarls, who I love, was mentioned) may have as little as 6 db of dynamic range!

What to do? Here at Casa del Monty, we still spin vinyl. I love the warmth, the low end, and the fact that when I turn it up, it just gets......louder. Although I'm playing mostly vintage stuff, many new releases are available on vinyl. I just bought Belle & Sebastian's "The Boy With The Arab Strap" the other day, and the sound quality is beautiful.

While a nice turntable is a cool thing to have, the cartridge is what does the real work.. I recently upgraded to a better cartridge on my table, and it sounds fabulous! Next, I came up with a better way to clean vinyl; again, a huge difference.

I don't want to delve any further into the analog/digital mudfight, but if you've got some vintage vinyl that's in decent shape, try a new cartridge, clean up your LPs, and you may be amazed at what comes out of your speakers.

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