The second official day of the Newport show was an interesting one for me. I heard a bunch of bad sound, a couple people wax on poetically about the “huge” vinyl resurgence, and absolutely awesome sound in the Meridian MQA room.
Gavin Fish had the LH Labs room sounding very good using the new Vi DAC
, Pass Labs components and Magico loudspeakers. Gavin brought in an interesting choice of flooring to counter some of the acoustical issues during setup and it worked very well. I was able to hear some real music in the LH Labs room, rather than sticks breaking or seals snoring in high resolution, and I really enjoyed the system. It was a system I could have spent quite a while listening to, but I had to move on.
The best demo of the day, and most likely the entire show, goes to Meridian. Ken Forsythe put on the demonstration while talking everyone through the merits of MQA. I still have some questions and minor reservations about MQA, but when the rubber met the road and the play button was pressed, the sound quality was truly astounding. Listening to Frank Sinatra was totally awesome. Meridian also demonstrated streaming MQA from TIDAL through its Sooloos music system and the tracks sounded just as good. There were no issues streaming the content even though the hotel network was less than robust.
On another note, I saw a lot of JRiver Media Center today. it seemed like everyone who wasn't spinning vinyl was using JRMC. I also sat in on Steve Silberman's (AudioQuest) computer audio seminar about iTunes, CD rising and storage, and cabling. it was really cool to see several people at the seminar taking notes feverishly and asking really good questions.
Warning: The following may be a little controversial.
Can we get a little perspective please? I took part in a panel with editors of other high end audio publications this afternoon. Right away the discussion moved into vinyl territory and talk about a so-called huge resurgence of vinyl was being thrown about. Before I continue I must say that I think vinyl is cool and I encourage everyone to listen to it. Vinyl isn’t something I prefer but I have no issue at all with those who do. The discussion also went to quad DSD
being the sonic holy grail, but I stayed out of that discussion for the most part. My only suggestion to the audience member who asked the original question was that he should not consider the sample rate as an indicator of sound quality and that the people involved in making the recording are what really matter. In most cases and in my experience sound quality is a human factor and not a matter of technology. This seemed to fall on deaf ears among some panelists. I will take a product (music or audio component) from a good engineer using the worst parts or supposed inferior format any day over a bad engineer using the best components and the highest sample rate known to man. Does it have to be either or? No, but how many recordings of our favorite music recorded and mastered by the best engineers and in high resolution formats exist? Not many. Back to vinyl. After a member of the audience brought up the vinyl resurgence and the conversation was in full swing about vinyl’s popularity and the “fact” that kids were into it because of quality, I mentioned that the whole vinyl resurgence wasn’t really that big, kids were into it because it’s a fad and a cool thing to have right now, and that Taylor Swift had outsold all of vinyl herself last year. Meaning that Taylor Swift sold more albums than all vinyl albums put together. This caused a shit-storm with some on the panel and a few members of the audience. One panelist told me I was wrong and that 33 million albums were pressed last year. I didn’t believe the 33 million number but couldn’t hold up the entire panel just to look up numbers. Thus, after the show and dinner this evening I looked for the numbers about vinyl sales and Taylor Swift sales. Honestly, if I was incorrect I didn’t want to keep touting wrong information and look like a fool. So, here are the numbers. Taylor Swift’s album 1989 was on sale for only the last nine weeks of calendar year 2014. The album sold 3.66 million copies in those nine weeks according to Nielsen SoundScan. Looking at vinyl, 9.2 million records were sold in all 52 weeks of 2014 according to Nielsen SoundScan data. As it turns out, both I and the other panelist had incorrect sales numbers. However, I stand by my opinion that the vinyl resurgence is cool, but not very large and not very significant in the big picture. The only reason I brought up this issue in the first place was to give the conversation a little perspective. Talking about a resurgence of something in a vacuum of like-minded people can lead one to a slightly skewed view of reality. It was my intention to offer an additional data point for perspective. My opinion had absolutely nothing to do with the sound of vinyl or its efficacy as a physical medium that many people love.
I’m looking forward to the last, and hopefully less controversial, day of the show on Sunday. It has been a blast running into CA
readers all over the place. I hope to see more tomorrow.