From July, 2005:
Our customers are the nicest folks. With Bill's permission, we have posted part of an e-mail correspondence from him on this page. Any editing or comments will be enclosed in brackets [like this]. The rest are Bill's sage words. Enjoy !!
You know though, the more I listen to my system (coupled with spending time keeping the arm/cartridge setup nicely - becoming an expert here) and the more I read stuff from poor lost souls who will insist on a digital front-end, then the more I realise that the road to really enjoying music is and always has been analogue.
I was reading an article on a readers system in HiFi+, who had spent huge amounts on a digital and past systems (and I mean huge) and had come to the conclusion that it was the texture of the sound that was the key. This story really made me stop - in fact I have probably bored you with it before. But, this guy had over the last 10 years had owned CD spinners from 5 or 6 manufacturers of high end gear - and of course speakers and amps and room correction gear etc. All of these terms that people use, like texture etc etc are just rubbish.
If you listen to good Italian opera and it doesn't move you, [or to] Wagner and it doesn't frighten you then you ain't got it right. With digital you can get gear that sounds better than other gear but will it give you more musical enjoyment than the gear it betters?
My first CD player was a Marantz CD75 and when I first got it I thought it sounded good but after a short while I couldn't listen to it. This happened once again with a more expensive player then once more with a DAC upgrade. In the words of Pete Townsend "We won't be fooled again'.
[This too, hit me a while back. An hour audition of an outstanding digital front end can frequently have you walking away thinking that consumer digital has come of age. It is only after living with your rig for weeks or months - when you find yourself not powering up your system that you realize it doesn't cut the mustard. The real test of a system (as I continually rant) is how much music you play through it. The person who plays their system the most, wins ... period.]
I had a strange experience a few days back. I was playing some Michael Tippet and it sounded wonderful and I was really enjoying myself. When this finished I put on another LP (a violin concerto may have been Sibelius - I forget) and this also sounded wonderful but I started to get a closed in almost claustrophobic feeling. Then all of a sudden it hit me, it was like I had listened to the Tippet in a big hall and then been chucked out to a much smaller venue to listen to the second piece. It was a very powerful feeling and if you ask me what the difference was in sound then I couldn't tell you, I just can't put it in words, it was just the way it felt and it certainly wasn't about texture. Note both of these LPs were pre-digital age and probably recorded with tubes. [Some recordings are better than others ... no secret here].
I suppose the point I am trying to make is that music is basically about emotion and if your system cannot reproduce this then you have a problem. The number of times whilst surfing the net you hear "I don't know what it is but I just can't sit and listen to my system for long periods and I find that I listen to music less and less".
[Paste the previous paragraph on your refrigerator door].
I realised that systems I had in the past that would simply sound rubbish in a quick A-B comparison with some modern digital wonder (be it CD, SACD, DVD-A or Blue Ray - watch this space) but they provided a much more enjoyable musical experience.
If you remember I gave my old Linn LP12 to a friend when I got the Galibier, this guy is a very good friend who I have known for years and who never had the money to go into a high-end digital system (or even low-end). He carried on with an old Dual turntable listening to his large record collection he had built up over the years, this guy is in his sixties now btw.
But you know whenever we visited them I really enjoyed the music sessions we had. These were all about Sinatra, Van Morrison, Sammie Davis, Tony Bennet, Miles Davis etc and the fact that I was really enjoying a cheap system eventually permeated into to my thick skull.
I really believe that in terms of what really matters a cost effective system, with even a lowly Rega or Project front end would beat anything with a Wadia (or other expensive) digital front end. It would certainly sound worse on a quick A-B but for a couple of hours serious listening I know what I would prefer.
[Amen! Thanks for the wise words, Bill!]