YOU WANT TO ANNOY AN AUDIOPHILE? You know you do. It’s a fun game the whole family can play. Goes like this. Find a sucker who just spent a pile of money on a DAC and then burble about that new LP you just bought. You might have to drop the phrase “superior sonics of vinyl” at least once to get him past that initial shock of disbelief, but, don’t worry, your victim will soon do one of the following Very Entertaining Things:
A. stop talking.
B. leave the room.
C. Perform an impression of the guy from Scanners whose head explodes. Obviously, option C gets you bonus points.
Let me let you in on a little secret. Ready? LPs are fun. It’s true! There is something about vinyl that is addictive in a way that digital just isn’t. Maybe it’s the big discs and the smell of vinyl, or maybe it’s the simple act of involvement—you have to get up and actually, physically, change the record—but whatever it is, something is missing with my usual, digitally-mediated collision with music.
I had this sense of magic as a kid, stealing into my big brother’s room while all his friends were lounging around, listening to albums. He even let me hang out, once or twice. But by the time I was a teenager, everything was “mixed tapes.” Admittedly, they were copied from LPs, but by that point those LPs weren’t mine—my brother had moved out, taking them (and his turntable) with him (don’t ask). Anyway, my buddy’s dad had this great big collection of Classic Rock, so we’d skip class to go back to his place to make tapes from his dad’s hi-fi. When CDs became widely available, his dad bought a player and tons of discs. This was awesome for me, because dubbing from CD was way easier. Twenty years passed before I bought my next LP.
In the meantime, I’ve been all about computer audio. I thought Napster was awesome (though I never inhaled...ahem). I loved iTunes when it came out—and still do! I have a stack of old iPods and most of them still work. My first truly “audiophile” rig was fronted by one of the earliest usB DACs. Being a kid who cut his teeth on mixed tapes, the flexibility of playlist-driven audio was (and still is) intoxicating. But until I bought my first turntable, a beat-up and remaindered Pro-Ject that I scored a huge discount on, I couldn’t tell you the last time I’d actually listened to an album all the way through. That is, on purpose, and not because I wasn’t paying attention. Vinyl is a different thing. I’m not sure I really care why, but it is.
Before my time with my much-abused and much-loved Pro-Ject turntable, I hadn’t really given the ’table much thought. I mean, a turntable is a turntable, right? Its job is to spin records. How hard could that be? I know. I can hear you chuckling from over here. We all start somewhere, and I, at least, started from a place of ignorant appreciation, but not necessarily admiration.
The first turntable that truly amazed me, that caught my eye and fired my imagination, was a German machine from a company called TW-Acustic. The Raven turntable was chunky and elegant, with an industrial sense of purpose that I found fascinating. I eventually bought one. And I’ve been a happy little vinylophile ever since.
Now, I was aware of VPI at this time, but for whatever reason I had never actually seen one of its products. I know; I’ve lived a sheltered life. Anyway, it wasn’t until way late in my audiophile life that I finally caught a clue and tuned in.