Big differences

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I thought it might be fun to replay a few of my experiences with systems. I'll start with the more recent, working backwards over time.

I had returned from a day long visit with reviewer Michael Fremer some months back, enthused with what I had heard. His system, based on a set of big Wilson loudspeakers, sounded excellent as always.

For those of you that know Fremer and his writings, to say he loves vinyl would be an understatement. His listening area is small, squeezed in by racks of encroaching vinyl, like Kudzu strangling its host. It's a wonder he's afforded as much listening area as he has, yet he understands that media's not worth much if you can't play it in a good space.

A day full of great music, hand picked by the master himself, both digital and analog (but mostly analog), sent me home wanting to dust off the turntable and relive some of what tickled me so.

My record collection is tiny, but what's there is wonderful. The needle dropped and I was again enveloped by the warmth of the surface noise, entranced by the ticks and pops and physicalness of it all. What I heard brought back fond memories of days past when this was the only media I listened to. But the euphoria didn't last long and soon I was back to my digital audio sources where the dynamics and life available in the IRSV came alive as it simply cannot on vinyl.

The changing of the source had a dramatic impact on my system just as it did on Fremer's when we switched to digital—and nearly to the same degree. Digital on his setup was good, but not great.

The differences cannot be explained by the speakers alone. Both the Wilsons and the IRSV are glorious reproducers few among us would throw out of bed. In fact, the IRSV was voiced with vinyl and analog tape as the source. There was never a digit to sully designer Nudell's listening room in those days.

My take away from this experience suggests each of us has optimized our sources within our budgets to match our world view of what's best, and the results couldn't have been any further apart if we had tried.

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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