Scraping, lasering, streaming

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There are a number of ways to get music into your system: Dragging a needle through record grooves, shining laser light onto a CD, streaming out of some magical cloud.

However you wish to bring music into the system, the quality of that source is critical to good sound.

You’ve read in yesterday’s post where I advise putting funds first. Loudspeakers. Speakers are the toughest engineering challenge we have. Getting them close to right is next to impossible, so the more attention you pay to these ungainly beasts, the better chance you have of making good music in the home.

That said, there’s truth to the adage garbage in equals garbage out.

And here’s another problem. The better your speakers the worse bad sources sound. The hallmark of a great speaker is its resolving ability—good sounds better, bad sounds worse.

If you’ve chosen vinyl as your main source the situation’s problematic. There are very few low-cost turntable/cartridge/arm combinations that you’re going to be happy with. The truth is, you have to drop some coin on a turntable. Used isn’t a bad option for the table and arm, but then there’s the cartridge. They don’t age well.

CD and streaming are lower cost options up to a point. It’s true you can spend less on digital sources and get good results. The downside to digital is that going from good to great is tough. There’s a large financial chasm between the many good options and the few great ones.

My advice is simple. Choose one, ignore (or give low-cost lip service) to the others.

It’s hard enough to get one right, let alone several.