Buying a vinyl record deck, better known as a turntable, is a far from easy choice.
The quality of the individual elements must be taken into account.
The latter must be as inert as possible, in order not to transmit unwanted vibrations to the stylus, which is responsible for reading the micro information engraved in the groove of the record.
The materials used are therefore chosen and selected with great care and attention.
An acrylic platter, more or less thick, guarantees inertia and rigidity; a carbon fibre arm is light and at the same time resistant to torsion; anti-vibration feet and a decoupled motor are other elements that also allow to cancel mechanical vibrations.
So, as you may have guessed, the goal of the best turntable is twofold: on the one hand, to cancel the vibrations in the room, and on the other hand, to prevent the creation of new vibrations when reading vinyl records, as turntable cartridges are very sensitive.
The turntable stylus works as a microphone that amplifies the audio signal produced by a diamond passing through the micro groove of the vinyl record.
The slightest disturbance in the movement of the turntable stylus when reading a record turns into annoying noises immediately reproduced by the loudspeakers.
But why does vinyl sound so good?
How can I explain this to those who have no direct experience of sound quality?
It's certainly not due to rustle or crackling. It is certainly not linked to reasons of nostalgia or even to all the "rituality" of the preparation necessary for listening to a turntable.
If I still listen to many vinyl records with extreme pleasure, it is because these black records still manage to amaze for their richness of timbre and for their ability to restore the true soul of the music!
This statement, however, although sincere, may not be enough for those who want to know more.
Here, then, in a nutshell, are those technical explanations that can - in principle - explain the real differences that exist between Audio CD and vinyl and that may lead to the purchase of a turntable including an arm.
Vinyl records do not use sampling
This means that time is not altered to be digitized. The Compact Disc, with its 44.1 kHz sampling, is certainly satisfactory.
The high definition SACD and DVD-Audio formats and the very recent liquid hd music with the Music Servers have shown, however, that the occupation of the audio band above 20 kHz can bring considerable benefits in terms of listening quality.
Many musical instruments, in fact, occupy an audio band that goes well beyond 20 kHz (e.g. trumpet, percussion, piano, etc.).
The absence of sampling allows the vinyl record to have a linear frequency response above 30 kHz.
This translates, concretely, into a more stable and precise spatial image.
The ambience and acoustics of the reproduced event are rendered with greater fidelity and credibility.
Vinyl has accurate dynamic compression
The full dynamic range of an orchestra cannot be controlled by a turntable stylus.
The vinyl support, in fact, allows only 60dB of dynamics, against the almost 100 dB of the CD and 140 dB of the audio formats of the liquid hd music.
In order to faithfully reproduce the original musical message, therefore, the sound engineers must use a compression of the dynamics to allow the recording on vinyl record.
This compression is particularly well done to highlight the weaker passages and make the stronger ones more authoritative.
The sound engineers who record classical music work with the orchestral score under their eyes, analysing each single passage with the producer.
The setting of the compressor-limiter is a very delicate and complicated work. Some sound engineers arrive in the studio bringing their own preamplified microphones and their own rack of audio compressors.
The analog band recording, even in 76 cm/s format, also introduces an additional compression due to the magnetic recording.
This translates into a particular sound.
Some artists are still recording on their multipiste magnetic coil recorders from Ampex, Studer or Otari...just to be able to introduce this very special coloring of the sound.
Finally, to master the tape well, you need a work of pre-emphasis of the sound (the famous RIAA curve) and compression.
The mastering work, when performed by an expert technician, gives the record all the qualities of dynamics, the sharpness of the weakest signals and the overall tonal balance.
All these aspects, to an inexperienced observer, could appear as defects, if compared to the much higher performance of the CD.
In reality this is not the case, because it is rarely possible to have a 100dB dynamic at home.
In general, quieter places allow you to reach 80dB at night.
A normal living room, on the other hand, with the noises of everyday life, the street below the house (...), allows a real maximum dynamic of 40 to 60 dB to be achieved (without the risk of becoming deaf at too high a volume).
By masterfully limiting dynamics, vinyl gives us an audio signal that is easier to listen to, where more detail is brought to audible thresholds.
This translates into a very pleasant sound that is certainly more incisive and more enjoyable in normal domestic environments.
Is the belt better or direct drive?
A belt driven turntable is certainly preferable and it is not true, as was said in the past, that direct drive turntables were better. Excellent historical examples of belt turntables were the Thorens and the Pro-ject, in the 33 45 rpm variants.