Audiophile Vinyl Transfers On A Budget

I recently acquired the missing link in the Chain of Deep Listening, a series of arcane electronic artifacts which, when used together, deliver an exceptional music listening experience. For years I’ve used a Pro-Ject turntable at home, but it was never quite in the tricked-out state I imagined was necessary to really make it sing. I had a stock needle on it, and when that ran its course I couldn’t really afford to splurge on a needle good enough to match the table, so I simply replaced it with the same bargain-priced stylus. Unlike direct-drive DJ turntables, this model is belt-driven to isolate the vibration of the motor from the platter. It’s a fine turntable, as it won’t break the bank and with the right cartridge and stylus you can get audiophile-like playback quality from it.

Eventually, I obtained a Denon DL-103 cart, but it wasn’t matched to the pre-amp I have. To solve that issue I picked up an Ortofon T-10 moving coil step-up transformer from eBay. This goes into a Rolls Bellari VP530 tube pre-amp, a particularly sweet piece of gear. The glass tube is protected by an industrial-looking metal frame. I feel like a servant of the secret fire when this thing’s aglow. One of the nice features on the Bellari is the the separate headphone out which has its own volume knob. It also sports a USB output which is great for direct-to-computer recordings. I’ve had a stack of vinyl purchases accumulate over the past year or so, just waiting to be played.

Suddenly, everything’s in place and ready to go. With my AKG K-501’s jacked in, I’m in flavor country. Now that idle stack of albums is instantly transformed into a treasure trove of ambientechno goodness. Echospace 12″s emanate the clear, deep basslines I always knew were there, but until now didn’t have the technology to fully unlock. The CD editions of Vantage Isle and Starlight are fantastic compilations with many of the same tracks, but the audible difference compared with the vinyl editions is significant. Next, I lay some fat Atheus down, a 180g slab of dark orange ambience. I had heard an edit of this track Distant Radiance II from the Selected Moments II compilation on Shoreless Recordings, now I’m able to compare the vinyl original with its digital cousin.

Taken together all this gear is a significant investment, but none of the individual pieces will break the bank. I’ve been putting this chain together over a couple years to make it less painful. Of course, many of the best picks will likely wind up in some of my future radio shows up at WNUR-FM 89.3.

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~ by phonaut on July 7, 2010.

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