Re-Tales #5: Pro audio and hi-fi cross over

Why is there so much separation between the professional audio and audiophile worlds? Is that separation by design, or even necessity? Is it naïve to believe that more crossover could benefit both sides?

On the surface, audiophiles and recording engineers appear to have much in common. Both groups have a deep interest in the conveyance of music's core emotional message. Audio engineers are—or should be—expert in creating the sounds that audiophiles want to hear. They—the engineers—probably spend more time listening intently (though differently) than all but the most zealous audiophiles. So why aren't more audio engineers involved in the hi-fi world?

There is, of course, some overlap. A few recording and mastering engineers are well-known as audiophiles and cater to that market, including Tony Faulkner, Steve Hoffman, Bob Katz, Bob Ludwig, George Massenburg, and Stereophile's own John Atkinson. Many hardware companies serve both markets: ATC, Benchmark, Bricasti, Dynaudio, Focal, Mytek, and Weiss, to name a few. dCS—whose D/A converters are often found in studios—recently ran a campaign honoring pro-audio luminaries (including some listed above): the Legends Awards.

I spoke, via Zoom, with Cameron Jenkins, a recording engineer who has worked with Lana Del Rey, the Verve, John Cale, and many others. Jenkins is also the founder and owner of indie label Stranger Records. Also on the call was David Denyer, an audio consultant and PR professional. Denyer is an audiophile but says that over the past 5–10 years, he has developed "decidedly studio-type leanings."

"I do find it interesting that the two worlds so often clash rather than collaborate," Denyer wrote in an email. "I think both worlds can learn from each other, but it is extremely rare for someone to actually straddle the divide and genuinely advance the art of sound recording and reproduction."

There are some big differences between the two worlds. One is attitudes toward value. Josh Thomas, general manager of Rupert Neve Designs, the company that makes recording consoles used in many of the world's best studios and which recently launched the Fidelice line of hi-fi components, noted that audiophiles are often proud of how much their systems cost; pro audio people, in contrast, are likely to brag about how cheaply they got their gear. There is overlap: mastering engineers with six-figure monitoring systems; audiophiles who harshly criticize high-end prices and insist that their inexpensive systems are just as good or better.

Here's a more important distinction: Pro audio requires accuracy in sound reproduction; hi-fi doesn't. "Accuracy is paramount for the recording and mastering engineer," Thomas said. Recording and mastering engineers "need to know with absolute confidence that what they are passing on from the mix engineer to the mastering engineer, then to the pressing house or streaming service, is correct," Thomas said. "If a mastering engineer sends a track with too much or out-of-phase material, the vinyl will not be cut properly, and ultimately the artist's vision of what it should be won't be delivered to the audience. And yes, that happens."

Accuracy is not essential in an audiophile's system, although many audiophiles are concerned about accuracy. "I've heard [audiophile] systems that rival or exceed what I've heard in world-class recording studios," Thomas said. "I've also heard systems with pronounced low end, or high end, or unbalanced mids compared to what I know to be the reference."

To Jenkins—the recording engineer and label head—studio monitors and other equipment are tools you get familiar with and learn to use as well as possible, like an artist's brush or a surgeon's scalpel. "You have to know how what you're listening to in that room is going to translate into the real world," he told me. But Jenkins's interests cross over: In 2020, he started Stranger High Fidelity, a bespoke high-end audio retail business in his space at Real World Studios in Wiltshire, England. There, Jenkins sells MBL, Bricasti, DS Audio, and Trinnov, among other brands.

Audio engineers must produce recordings that sound good on a range of systems, yet many have never experienced true audiophile speakers, especially those utilizing atypical technologies. Jenkins described the first time he heard MBL's Radialstrahler speakers. "It was like, 'Wow!' From spending my whole life listening to boxes, it's suddenly this entirely different concept," he said. "It's listening in a different way. 'Hey, it's enjoyable!'"

An omnidirectional speaker like the MBL might seem a curious choice as a studio monitor, considering the pains studios often take to eliminate sidewall reflections, but other audio pros, Jenkins told me, were similarly impressed. "You would have thought a professional sound engineer and professional group of producers would have heard more different speakers," he said. "No. This was new to them." Some asked, rhetorically: Why couldn't they mix on speakers like the MBLs? Jenkins told me he couldn't give a reason.

Whether in the studio or at home, Jenkins enjoys hearing composition, how the parts are put together. "Like you could make of a piece of art. Mixing is absolutely painting a picture....I have a slight bit of synesthesia." Hearing composition—not to mention creating it—requires an accurate system. But it doesn't necessarily require a classic studio monitor.

Jenkins approaches his retail customers' needs in essentially the same way he approaches his own: by bridging the gap between the recording and playback at home.

"I was trying to make it so that you can go from the initial process of making the record to how you're hearing it in this space now, and that's what it's all ultimately about," Jenkins said. "It's all about music, in the end.

COMMENTS
Poor Audiophile's picture

To a tech geek like me, the lead picture is cool. It reminds me of the recording school I attended in '89. But since I wanted to stay here in Upstate NY, no jobs for me.
I'm sure he does great work, but that picture & comments about "mixing painting a picture" say a lot. These days, I'm more along the lines of Yarlung,MA,Mapleshade,Soundkeeper,Water Lily, etc. Again,to each their own as the cliche goes. Not trying to start a war with anyone, just my 2 cents.And I know I'm in the minority opinion.Larry the Poor Audiophile

Ortofan's picture

... the equipment is merely a means to an end - rather than an end unto itself - be better served by simply buying a pair of professional type speakers with built-in amplifiers (such as the JBL 708P), connecting them to a laptop with a streaming/download subscription and then devoting ourselves to enjoying our favorite music and discovering new music?

https://jblpro.com/en-US/products/708p

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/jbl-708p-review-professional-monitor.20006/

LTig's picture

In 2004 I changed from passive magnetostatic panel speakers (Magnepan 1.6 from 1991) to active 3-way studio monitors (Klein & Hummel O300D, the successor is the Neumann KH310 with identical looks but better drivers) and the first thought which entered my mind when I listened to them in my room for the first time was: "I didn't know the Maggies were sooooo bad". I still have the O300D in my main system, accompanied by a subwoofer (Genelec 7060b) and see no need to replace them except when they break beyond repair. With good recordings they sound fantastic (see more below).

In the mean time I also got active studio monitors for my destop (Genelec 8020a) and my wifes system (JBL LSR2325p) and what I can tell is that the price/sound quality relation of both is much better compared to any passive hifi speaker I've auditioned, ever.

Floyd Toole (ex Harman) created the phrase "circle of confusion" which more or less means that as long as mixing and mastering engineers and the audiophiles at home use speakers with differing characteristics (on axis and off axis frequency response) there is no knowing what's accurate sound. His research though found out that a majority of listeners prefer speakers with flat on axis frequency response and smooth off axis frequency response.

And this is what good active studio monitors deliver in spades, from very cheap ones (JBL 305p, some $220 for the pair!) to very expensive ones (Neumann KH420, Genelec 8361, JBL M2). This kind of speakers you'll find in many recording and mixing studios, so it absolutely makes sense to use similar speakers in our homes so we can enjoy the same sound quality as the pros creating it. As an example: I own a CD with a recording of a concert recorded by our local opera house. The soundstage thrown by my O300D is unbelievably realistic. Later I found out that the engineers used O300D in the studio.

tonye's picture

I wouldn't say the Maggies sound "bad"... they sound very different from a studio monitor, indeed from any box speaker.

I got a couple of pairs of Acoustic Energy AE1s and a pair of Maggie 1.7s.

Using the same amps, the AE1s let me hear everything that happens upstream, new tubes, new cables, different amp, preamp, etc... The Maggies, well, they sound like Maggies.

The AE1s throw a HUGE and deep soundstage when everything upstream is right. I can hear the warts clearly though. So, if something is wrong, they let me know it. Analog can be a hassle through them. A record scratch is obvious, although tied to the speaker and not affecting the imaging. A bad recording, or a bad record, well, might as well get a Bose radio...

The Maggies, OTOH, load the room as if the performers are here. Both my wife and I agree that with them, the stereo sounds like... MUSIC.

From the rooms next door, the Maggies sound like performers are in the living room, the AE1s, not so.

So, it's not that they sound "bad", they sound very different.

Note: I got the Maggies in the living room and I put the AE1s in our office systems. Near listening is what the monitors are for.

LTig's picture

... this was my experience. My MG 1.6 were very forgiving when playing badly recorded material, and they always threw a big soundstage regardless of the real soundstage. Yes I liked that, I mean I bought them more or less on the spot when I heard them at my local dealer and had them for 13 years.

But when I got the O300Ds my first experience was as described. The dynamics, the bass, totally neutral sounding voices (I visit our local opera house regularly) and the clear and exact highs (I used to play a drum set and snare drums really sound like snare drums) just blew me away. And the soundstage of a good recording is much more precise.

For bad sounding recordings which the O300D of course reveal as such I use an old sound improvement processor (Behringer Ultrafex Pro) to increase deep bass, highs and stereo width at need. It sits between preamp and monitors and takes itself out of the signal path when power is off. It really works wonders if you don't overdo it.

tonye's picture

Is two stereo setups....

Or do what I did.... I got both the Maggies and a pair of old ADS L810s (I'm the original owner), in the same system, with different amps. So, if I really want to crank it, I use the 810s. But if I really want to listen, I use the Maggies.

Dynamics? Well, I no longer have a desire to turn it up to 11. And, in any even, sitting mid orchestra, row L, middle of the row, it doesn't get that loud.

And just in case, I got a pair of Entec woofers at the ready.

LTig's picture

... my wife :-)

But no, I have no desire at all to go back to Maggies. These active studio monitors are so great for the money that the flat is full of them, even my wife uses a pair of Genelec 8020a. You wouldn't believe how big they sound in her 3,50 x 4.5 m room despite their tiny size and without a sub.

tonye's picture

Is two stereo setups....

Or do what I did.... I got both the Maggies and a pair of old ADS L810s (I'm the original owner), in the same system, with different amps. So, if I really want to crank it, I use the 810s. But if I really want to listen, I use the Maggies.

Dynamics? Well, I no longer have a desire to turn it up to 11. And, in any even, sitting mid orchestra, row L, middle of the row, it doesn't get that loud.

And just in case, I got a pair of Entec woofers at the ready.

Jack L's picture

Hi

With my in-depth exposure to Quad 'full-range' electrostatic loudspeaker performance decades back, you should really put on woofers or even powered subwoofers on at ALL times.

Otherwise, how could you get realistic powerful sound of symphonies by Wagner, Hols, Saint-Saens etc etc !

Jack L

Jack L's picture

........ get that loud." quoted tonye.

Well, it depends where you seat in the concert hall.

My experience was one time when I was attending a concert of Haydn
Trumpet Concerto (my most liked concert trumpet music) seated about 10th front row centre).

The trumpet soloist somehow moved his trumpet onto my direction & the blaring trumpet sounded like piercing my ears. So powerful !

Live is live ! No substitution. The only loudspeaker can reproduce such ear blaring effect close enough, IMO, would be compressor driver horn loudspeakers. Physically, such metallic horn speakers are musical trumpet's next of kin. No other loudspeakers, panel or cone driver type, can match.

Listening is believing

Jack L

Jack L's picture

Hi

Well, I had a different experience on box loudspeakers.

About 10 years back I was on my annual business trip offshore. I was invited by the regional rep of Audio Note Japan to audition in his 4,000sq.ft apartment, his entire very very expensive set up of Audio Note TT, tube preamp, stereo power amp (USD125,000 'Kegon' 17W+17W) & a pair of small 2-way flimsy built (1x8" woofer) floorspeakers, seated on a pair of factory supplied low low wooden stand against the wall (made by Audio Note England).

For the first time in my HiFi life, I witnessed this young gentleman listening to his music by lying down onto an English antique chaise lounge at a spot about 40ft away with a 45 degree left bend out of sight of the entire rig !!!

Wow!! The music was played on an Audio Note belt-driven TT/Audio Note MC cartridge/Audio Note step-up transformer, was just like a LIVE band playing in a distance. The 'performance' over there was so effortless, so live & so enjoyable.

I dropped my jaw bigtime, not knowing where to find it !!!

I lost my appetite of listening to my audio at home for a month or so after I returned home from the trip.

Jack L

PS: I can't call these so light & flimsy box loudspeakers "monitors".

tonye's picture

I think Mapleshade makes those very low, very dense maple speaker stand for small speakers. They tilt the speaker back and the baffle shoots upwards at a 40 degree angle or so... they swear by it.

I've never tried it... probably should as I have plenty of small speakers around.

Anyhow, there's a world of a difference from listening to a stereo from afar and near by.

Jack L's picture

........ a 40 degree angle or so.." quoted tonye

Hi

Yes, the Audio Note small loudspeakers seated on the pair of low low wooden stand against the wall, were tilted up an angle.

But considering the huge price of this Audio Note system (USD250,000+++!!) 10 years back, it better sounded very good !!!

My question is: how come such live & effortless performance could have been achieved by this small light & flimsy built 2-way loudspeakers ????
Apparently the English Audio Note loudspeakers maker knew the 'trick' !!

Jack L

Trevor_Bartram's picture

I'd never heard of the K+H O300D or the followup Neumann KH310. If they are good as the online reviews suggest, perhaps the reason is they offer too much value for money and the consumer audio world is afraid of them!

LTig's picture

Studio monitors are usually sold in shops for musicians and very seldom in typical hifi or highend audio shops, so most non pro customers never get the chance to listen to them. I play drums and the local pro music shop had the O300D ready for audition.

Before I bought the O300D in 2004 I ringed K&H in the early evening and to my utter surprise had a nice talk with Markus Wolff, the chief developer. I asked him why K&H did not sell their speakers via hifi shops and his answer was that they did not want to get engaged into typical highend customer "problems" (which cable should I buy? How long do I have to break them in? How much better do they sound if I add a Shakti stone on top, and where do I have to place it?).

Things change however. When I was in the city a few weeks ago I passed my local highend dealer and saw a pair of KII Three in the window. Agreed these are not studio monitors but excellent active speakers.

Trevor_Bartram's picture

I'd never heard of Kii either. It seems Germany is leading the world in active speaker design. When it comes to active speakers I usually think of Meridian and, more recently, KEF. How does the long lineage of Meridian designs compare with these more recent products?
I wonder if it's that large dome midrange that is largely responsible for the K+H and Neumann sound?
I also wonder if it's the generally poor quality of crossover components in passive speakers that is causing the move to active?

LTig's picture

Actually I think Genelec from Finland is leading the world regarding active speakers, in R&D and market power. Neumann delivers similar sound quality but with a much smaller range of offerings. The same may be true for MEG (Musikelektronik Geithain, Germany).

There may be some truth about Germany companies being one of the first. Backes & Müller made active speakers since mid of the 70's but they were (and still are) far out of my financial range. On the other hand Genelec did the same around the same time.

I've never heard or seen an active Meridian speaker so can't say anything about them.

To the "newcomers": I thought Kii Audio was Dutch but it is German, however the founder (Bruno Putzeys from Belgium) first founded Grimm Audio in the Netherlands and then later cofounded Kii Audio in Germany.

The large midrange dome: It's just one way to ensure a smooth off axis frequency response. Genelec shows in their One models that you can achieve similar results with a coax midrange/tweeter.

The move to active: If we talk about current hifi models than the move is certainly driven by young people who want to stream music from their smartphones and want better quality than a Blutooth boom box.

In the pro market I think it's actually the better price/performance ratio. The performance (especially frequency response) of a good active speaker is difficult to reach with passives if you include the power amps (although there are now cheap good power amps available):

  • Steep crossovers on line level are much easier to implement (very easy with DSP even for very steep filters) than in a passive speaker. This improves the dispersion in the crossover frequency range (less overlap of 2 drivers).
  • The designer needs not care about different driver sensitivity.
  • The drivers are connected directly to the power amp (no passive components in the signal path). No loss of power and (subjective opinion!) better dynamics.
  • The amps can be taylored to the driver they feed. If the designer chooses an 8 Ohm driver the poweramp needs not be able to feed a 4 or 2 Ohm load which spares parts, room and money.
  • Bumps in the frequency response can be fixed by internal EQ
  • Frequency response can be extended in the bass with internal EQ (at the cost of maximum SPL - you can't fool physics).

The fact that most professional studios world wide use active speakers says enough in my view.

drblank's picture

1. There are different types of pro audio engineers at different stages of a recording project.
2. Most projects involve a "Producer". Depending on the label, artist, etc. will have a different producer and their roles can vary. Traditional producers are to get involved with all stages of the project and are supposed to help the artist or band create a finished product that is the vision of the artist/band or a combination of. Typically speaking, producers pick the studio, any session musicians, how the recording is to be tracked, mixed and mastered, etc. etc. If the artist/band is catering to their audience and their audience is teenagers and young adults, they tend to not give a rats behind about producing a product for the audiophile community. Most teenagers and young adults don't have a high end play back system.
3. The role of the Mastering engineer is different from the mix engineer and is different from the tracking engineer, sometimes the same person Is involved with more than one of these roles and many times there are different people at each stage. Hopefully, the artist/bands/producer will pick the right engineers to create a product that will satisfy the audiophile.
4. I watched an interview of Bob Ludwig, who masters most of the more famous recordings and depending on the label, the producer, artist, etc. they may instruct the Mastering engineer certain things like what speakers they want used for creating the master. Some request Yamaha NS-10s because they want a ix to sound good on relatively cheap speakers, they want the master to sound good played over the radio etc. And the Mastering studio may actually provide multiple masters and they let the artist/producer/record label pick the final mastered version…. So the mastering engineer is just the technical person to provide what their client wants, but it is the client that does final approval.

Anon122's picture

“ dCS—whose D/A converters are often found in studios”

Really? Can you please name 50 major recording studios or 500 studios that use dCS DACs? I have never seen a dCS DAC in any major recording studio, so “often” seems a rather generous term to use. I’m sure some mastering engineers use them, but none of my peers or friends use them, so “often” seems a misused term.

tonykaz's picture

Promotion people like to include one of the "Higher Authority" claims to give their device needed ( desperately needed ) marketplace support. ( another one is "If I'm Honest" )

Pro Audio folks are price sensitive and seem to feel the R2R gear is deficient compared to modern DAC Chipsets. ( I've been told )

I'm not a Golden Ear and can't tell the difference between DACs but I do like the Schiit stuff. ( despite the disrespectful name )

Tony in Venice Florida

Jim Austin's picture

>>Really? Can you please name 50 major recording studios or 500 studios that use dCS DACs?

I'm not sure I can name 50 major recording studios.

dCS started is existence as a hard-core tech company, working in radar before hey entered audio. When they entered audio, it was very much on the pro side.

It is true that perfectionist engineers often use dCS equipment: Bob Ludwig and Tony Faulkner were early adopters. Peter McGrath. Bert van der Wolf. Soon after entering audio, dCS consulted for the BBC.

It is of course unrealistic to expect studios that aim to keep costs low--the bulk of studios out there--to buy dCS gear. Similarly, I would not expect cost-conscious anonymous web posters to acknowledge the excellence and significance of dCS equipment.

It is also true that for the last 10, 15 years, dCS has focused less on the pro side of things. Still, it is very much in their heritage, and dCS equipment is still common in studios.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

scottsol's picture

The first dCS audio products were strictly produced for the recording industry. The model 972 difital to digital converter (what would now be called an upsampler) gained traction in the consumer world and dCS began to produce consumer products as well. For the past decade they have only made consumer products.

https://www.monoandstereo.com/2016/01/the-dcs-story-in-depth.html

jimtavegia's picture

I have Bob Katz's book at home and read it quite often. The debate of "Is it live, or is it Memorex?" seem odd now to me. When we look at all the manipulation a recording goes through to make it "real" seems odd. The loudness wars that continue are so destructive.

I think we have lost sight to what "real" sound like anymore. How many people really go to live, acoustic concerts, not counting the pandemic, anymore. I go to Swartz Auditorium on the Emory campus where they give amazing free acoustic concerts and the small hall is mostly empty. If you aren't making yourself aware of what real instruments sound like how could you know if a recording is accurate or maybe you just like the sound you are buying? DO WE REALLY WANT ACCURATE ANYWAY?

It is all just art and I will certainly never own any of the speakers that the mastering engineers use, or the amplifiers they listen through, so I have no idea what THEY heard and how they wanted it to sound. Mr. Katz's book makes it clear that his job is to give the artist and the producer what THEY want. He also says that what he is given to work with is not always that great on occasion.

One of my favorite recordings is the late Eva Cassidy's "Live At Blues Alley". To me this is one of the best location recordings ever made. She was an amazing talent gone too soon.

I have a recording of a major artist I love and have over 10 of her albums, but this new release is a mixing/mastering nightmare with the music often covering up her vocals and the lack of clarity is sad. How can this happen in 2020/2021 where someone puts out a record that is substandard? This is where someone chose the wrong microphone or did a bad job of mixing or mastering, or leveling her vocal track. It may be that the frequency range of the singer is boosted by the monitoring set up and they saw it all as fine; or maybe it is just me and my hearing loss? I can hear the lyrics just fine on all the other albums. Even the 2496 download was not an improvement.

I am not sure that given all of our technology and mastering tools that repairs can be made to a bad tracking session or that one day the industry can get away from just being the loudest. I know we don't have the 96db noise floor in vinyl that digital offers, but it could still be much better. I still read that many vinyl lovers are still not satisfied with the pressing quality they are buying. It is still way better than it has ever been.

I spent time in the last week really looking at how my cart in my turntable was set up. I watched the Wally videos from Analog Planet and realize just how important TT set MUST be. If you get it right you only have to do it once. Now that I have it right I can say that vinyl can be amazing sounding. I wonder now how many other people don't have their arm and cartridge set up properly?

One of my personal tests is on choral work and if I can understand what the choir is singing I know it is a great recording, and a great performance by the choir. This is not an easy thing to achieve.

I went back to my first two recordings I did over 20+ years ago and even my wife said they sounded good. She is always honest about my work, but no audiophile. I had another performer, years ago, say when he got home that he did think the recording was right. I asked him what he had for a stereo. He said, "A Bose WAVE Radio/CD player. There was nothing for me to say. I went back to my computer and listen on my AKG K701 cans and left satisfied with the work I did.

I often wonder what we listen to on media is not the mastering engineers fault as they are most likely just giving the clients what they want. That is their job. This almost goes back to the issue of why aren't more musicians audiophiles? Do many of them really have revealing audio systems and know what the sound is of their own music?

Thanks to Julie for touching on this subject. It is often overlooked.

Charles E Flynn's picture

In 1965, Dover Press published Roy F. Allison's "High Fidelity Systems: a User's Guide". If I recall correctly, he suggested that when shopping for audio equipment, one's first purchase should be at ticket to a concert.

https://www.amazon.com/High-Fidelity-Systems-Users-Guide/dp/B000I10WP4

jimtavegia's picture

When in the hifi biz decades ago we were a dealer of his speakers. If the folks at Audiovox/Recoton/ Voxx Electronic were forward thinking they would bring back some of the Allison/AR designs in updated form. That said, there are plenty of quality speaker products today. Not sure what the point was of buying the Advent or AR names?

Jack L's picture

Hi

Very true! Live music performance, WITHOUT any PA reinforcement, should be the yardstick of music reproduction at home. Otherwise, one would easily fall for sales pitch.

Then listen to the music played through the component(s) one intended to purchase, to get the best sound closes to live performances one already experienced.

Live music performances produce music moving around the hall freely which we sense it as being OPEN & LIVE.

That's the same, or closest, sound effect: "OPEN & LIVE" I've been trying to get at home since day one. It is never easy, if not impossible to achieve, for sure!

Even money-is-no-issue for some rich & affordable, to get the right path up to the music nirvana at home is next to impossible.

So keep trying - maybe one day !

Jack L

Julie Mullins's picture

Thanks for commenting, Charles. I hadn't heard that quote before, but he makes a good point. I'd assume he must have meant an orchestral concert, or perhaps jazz. Of course what you hear will depend on where you sit, too. It's much different experience listening in the first few rows vs. orchestra center vs. balconies, back of hall, etc. The same could be said of listening on-axis or off, etc.
I'm an avid concert-goer who enjoys hearing music in all kinds of spaces, from orchestras and opera in concert halls, chamber music in smaller venues, jazz, rock, pop, bluegrass, all kinds of stuff—though sadly it's been a while due to the pandemic. (And yes, I wear hearing protection for rock/pop shows.)

Ortofan's picture

... a once and done task if the alignment changes as the suspension ages.
Likewise, when the stylus wears out - even though your cartridge has a replaceable stylus - the new diamond tip may not be aligned in the cantilever in precisely the same way as the old one, and the same for the cantilever in the stylus grip.

jimtavegia's picture

If you follow the mfgs recommended tracking force I would hope one would have hundreds of hours before things go south. With the replacement cost of Styli I hope QC is much better. There are stories of one TT mfgr whose magnetic anti-skate was faulty and not repaired until the next production run. My next table will have the weight and string. We could worry about the setting our our tone arm bearings. It is clear that TTs are not as plug and play as one might think.

Jack L's picture

Hi

Yup. Tonearm/cartridge moves to track the record & needs to be check its proper alignment from time to time.

Me as a precision nut, I check my 2 TTs all the time. Nearly everytime before I start my record session.

How? We got to know the most critical OVERALL tracking performance check point, IMO, is right at the cartridge stylus tip touching the vinyl groove.

So to ensure no overhang & offset problem at the contact point stylus/groove, I place a small featherlite spirit bulleye lever on the top of the headshell momentarily until the stylus touches the groove, showing the spirit bubble is dead right at the centre of the 'bulleye'.
Then lift up the tonearm & remove the lever from the headshell before starting to play.

The next step to spin the grooveless track of the test record to ensure balanced anti-skating is achieved.

Otherwise re-align the TT/tonearm/cartridge to get it right.

Is my way so easy & effective & fast !!

Listening is believing

Jack L

PS: check it up even for a brandnew TT first time you use!

Jack L's picture

Hi

We got to know tonearm+cartridge is MOVING to track the tracks of the spinning record.

Even a brandnew car, irrespective of its price, always needs fixing after running on the road for certain mileage.

So why not a TT/tonearm/cartridge, needs to check the alignment from time to time? The initial factory alignment always needs checkup after some months or so of spinning, IMO !

Being a precision nut, I do my own checking of my 2 TT systems pretty often: oaverhang, offset at the stylus/record touching point by a spirit bulleye lever placed on top of the headshell, which is crucial given it is a DETACHABLE headshell!

Other routine check up is the anti-skating & the TT levelling & speed checking using a stroboscope disc to ensure the speed indicated by the TT built-in speed indicator is OK.

For good LP listening, routine checkup is needed, IMO.

Jack L

dial's picture

Pro gear is more reliable and cheaper. Modern hifi comes from the pros with high quality connectors from Neutrik, XLR for home audio.
I still use a DL 103 used by radios in Japan. That said, some pro gear cannot be used by amateurs like EMT idlers way too noisy but solid as a rock. Others like amps and speakers offer huge power not necessary at home.

jimtavegia's picture

this is especially true in the digital domain where DACs and USB interfaces can be use by either pros or audiophiles. Much gear by Rupert Neve is affordable as even teamed up with Steinberg in a UR-22 USB interface using his transformers. UA, RME, Weiss, and others have great products that work in both domains. Many mastering engineers use Weiss gear for their quality work The Thorens TD 124 proves that idler TTs can work in both broadcasting and for home use, just a little pricey. I think the main issue with that for PA use on pro audio the key is reliability. There are no do-overs in live work.

petercomeau's picture

Back in 2000 I started the design of a near-field studio monitor loudspeaker for Mission. I was lucky enough to have a contact with the engineer at Black Barn Studios and took my design there.

The engineer was not complimentary. He was using Yamaha NS-10 as a near-field monitor and I thought they sounded awful. I asked him why he used them and he put some music on and drew me into the kitchen alongside to make some tea. While we were in there I clearly heard a click overlaying the music. "Ah, you noticed that, did you?" he said as my head snapped round. "That's why I use the Yamahas. They may not be hi-fi but they show me everything that's going on."

I ended up revising the crossover of my design until he was satisfied with the revealing quality of the midrange and we then launched the product. What was the key factor?

In hi-fi speaker design we often aim for a slightly recessed upper mid, which some people erroneously call the 'BBC dip', because it helps a speaker sound sweeter and more spacious with greater stereo depth. A flat response through the presence region can often sound harsh or shrill to hi-fi listeners.

For studio speakers, however, a flat power response through the midrange and treble is what engineers are used to. They want to hear everything, warts and all.

I don't suppose any engineer uses Yamaha NS-10 to balance a recording. But these types of speakers are useful in revealing what is going on in the mix and to highlight nasties and errors.

jimtavegia's picture

that the great Al Schmitt used the NS-10s. His audiophile wife asked him why he used those as she hated them. He replied that if he could get a mix to sound good on them, the mix would sound good on anything.

I suppose there is some truth in that as I had a pair and hated them and couldn't wait to sell them. They went fast as they were affordable and I was eager to be rid of them.

Today engineers spend real money on their monitoring system, so I would doubt that many are still using them, but I could be wrong considering how many poor sounding CDs and LPs continue to be made. I still don't see many 5 out of 5 rated music releases these days. When I do I buy it just to see if the sound really is a 5. I love the recording arts and want to see what reviewers consider 5 out of 5.

hfvienna's picture

With excellent Highend gear for ridiculous low prices I see a chance to get the advantage of precise sound and the disadvantage of overly compressed noise sauce to the kids and broader audiences. With a e.g. Zorloo Ztella you get a 99 bucks DAC with 384 kHz 32 Bit precision, and your iPhone or your Android suddenly is better as a source than any Highend CD player of the past for 10 000 . I know its not that easy , but back in the old days we could not afford such things for much longer time, but today everyone can hear best results without spending a years salary. Gives me some hope, and hopefully sound engineers some chance that their mastery is revealed.

tonye's picture

I've become addicted to Tidal HiFi.

In my main rig, I use a three year old Android tablet, with a 512GB flash chip, a Nuforce HDP-4 via OTG USB non-signature, non-cryogenically treated cable and a plain pair of MIT interconnects... right into the AUX input of my tube preamp.

It sounds so good that I built another system in the bedroom with an even older Android tablet, same memory, a Nuforce UDAC-2 into a Parasound Z-pre and Quad 12LS actives.

Then in our Pandemic home offices we have NuForce DDA-100s into our laptops and Acoustic Energy AE1s.

Of course, my own Android cell phone also has a 512GB chip and it's great listening in the car as well.

I've used Raspberries too, but I find using 'obsolete' Android tablets to work very well and much more of a plug and play affair.

A new era indeed.

Mind you, I use my updated/upgraded/Lingo'd LP12 too, of course!

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