My Stereo System - JazzWax

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April 25, 2011


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Doug Zielke

I enjoyed reading about your system, Marc, and you are not alone in your apparent preference for digital. However, the fact that you opened your piece with the image of a (beautiful) Phillips vacuum tube, suggests to me an inner desire for the magic of analogue. Don't fight it man!
(BTW...your choice of turntables is one of the better values on the current market. Pair it with a good cart like an Ortofon Blue, and enjoy the spin!)


With so many factors involved in recording and reproduction, the analog vs. digital debate will always be inconclusive. To further complicate matters, modern recordings usually involve both analog and digital processing to some extent. Everything is back to analog when it comes out of your speakers, then your nervous system converts it back to digital. Not withstanding the above, I also imagine that I hear differences; especially at high volume levels where digital recordings tend to get harsh, and analog ones can be noisy.

joe linker

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a used Ed Bickert album (1976) for $3. I keep the turntable for these finds. But I think there's an irony built in to the "perfect" system sound, and that is that it can't replicate the live sound. Not that the live sound is better, in terms of sound quality; far from it. So what's good? There's a lot more to listening to music than high tech clarity. When you hear a jazz trio in a club, you hear distracting sounds, noises, talking, glasses clinking, fingers on the bass strings like nails on a chalkboard, laughter, shouts, breaking glass, sound from the street or sidewalk maybe. All these sounds are part of the music that even a live recording can't capture faithfully, nor should try to. Ignorance of this is what has trashed Classical music, where the audience listens essentially as if they were in some sort of suspended animation. Systems are seductive. Real music is too, but it's got the warts and the hairs sticking out, the dry skin, the ringing in the ears. There's music, and there's the sound of music, maybe not the same thing.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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