Rituals

April 2, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

There are plenty of audiophile rituals. Though they might seem quirky or odd to the great unwashed they are part of what defines us as purveyors of the art.

Take for example the rituals many of us have for playing a vinyl record: how we carefully remove the disc from the sleeve, cleaning the stylus, perhaps zapping the staticy disc with a Zerostat, the care with which we set the arm over the record, the flourish at the end as we make a last check everything’s in order before sitting down in our listening spot.

Did I mention our listening spot? The sweet seat? The ritual where newcomers to our stereo system are offered that lofty perch from which to fully enjoy the pleasures of the experience?

Or the turning low the lights for that special track?

Or setting the cover of the CD or album upright as if it were being presented as a marquee?

I won’t even mention demagnetizing a disc before playing.

Rituals are there to make sure everything’s in order and that chaos does not affect the outcome.

As Audiophiles, we’ve certainly got our share.

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38 comments on “Rituals”

  1. Being a little elitist today? The great unwashed?

    Most of the time I use an iPad, open Roon, select the system I want to use, select some music and press play.

  2. At this moment I fit the category of the great unwashed. I have had a big day in the garden, pruning and a cutting up timber. I’m filthy dirty, maybe a touch odours, but with a big cloth to protect my favourite chair and a nice glass of red, I’m sitting and enjoying some wonderful music, just like we should all be doing. Maybe sans dirt and odour.

    1. People post here different times. Up at 6:30 today, on the first tee at 7:00, finished 18 holes by 9:30 and posted waiting for the coffee machine to warm up, just before 10.

    2. Ladderman,

      I have a similar ritual, but it takes place after a long day working in the garage. I love restoring old cars and building racecars. I moved my older stereo system into the garage to provide some comforting music distraction.

      But the real listening occurs after a long day while I’m still streaked with grime and my fingers have 1000 small cuts. I pour a nice glass of red, crank up some nice jazz or classical, sit on my work stool, and contemplate what I have accomplished that day. Good times.

  3. (Last time we did this topic someone was talking about sacrificing chickens
    before they switched on their audio system…I just can’t remember who it was)
    My ritual is: Scratch arse; load CD draw; sit down; pick up remote & press PLAY;
    balance on one cheek & scratch arse again; adjust volume.
    My wife doesn’t allow me to be unwashed…life’s tough 🙁

    1. I’m the chicken swinger FR. This only happens at the monthly Santeria Audiophile Club meetings. Usually play Screaming Jai Hawkins “ I Put a Spell On You” before we begin.

    2. Don’t forget about sacrificing 1 of 16 Vestial virgins before they leave for the coast. [I was just watching the YouTube video “Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale, live in Denmark 2006” Long live the Hammond Organ and having a symphonic orchestra and chorus as the backup band detracts nothing in this case. 5 stars.]

  4. I see the described ritual (well, not the light) on audio shows when vinyl is played.
    Some say for the vinyl junkie (or should I say “aficionado”) these rituals are more important than the music. I believe they are right.
    In my house the only vinyl in the room is the upholstery of my couch.
    And, as I wrote before, the black 12 inch discs landed some thirty years ago in the dumpster.
    Since then I only play cd’s and Qobuz streams. The only “ritual” for me is to always grab the cd at the edge in order to keep the surface clean and fat free.
    No more difficult choices and decisions about what arm is the best, what cartridge for this particular arm (MM or MC), what phono stage, what platter mat, dustcover on or not etc.
    I’m totally carefree in this respect and I feel very privileged 🙂

  5. Ritual: Nous Sommes du Soleil. Side four from the possibly over long and over indulgent ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ album by Yes. I used to love listening to their music but haven’t played anything for ages now, will have to revisit. Hard to believe it will be 48 years old this year. Thanks for the unintentional reminder Paul.

    1. “…we love when we play, du soleil…”
      Do the leaves of green stay greener through the autumn?
      Does the color of the sun turn crimson white?
      ….”

    2. You say “over indulgent” like it’s a bad thing. “Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess.” — Robert A. Heinlein Or words to that effect.

  6. I enjoy the vinyl ritual, pleased too seeing that my records remain in excellent condition. As well as the antistatic gun don’t forget the carbon fibre brush and ascertaining the platter is still running at 33 1/3 or 45rpm on the nose. Alexa dims the lights and the show begins in my mind.
    If Carlsberg only did vinyl….

    1. I am with you that the ritual is part of the fun. I just had to buy a new Zerostat my old white one, circa 1970-something, finally died. The Discwasher and carbon brush are still going strong.

      Honestly the whole process takes less than a minute, it is not that bothersome, the whole sequence is all muscle memory 🙂

      I also sprung for a new Ortofon 2M Blue which is on its way to replace a Grado Prestige Gold. Nothing wrong with the Grado, I just got upgrade-itis!!

  7. Paul, My wife and I try to spend at least one hour a day sitting down and listening to music. Our preferred source is vinyl. The “ritual” when one cleans the stylus tip, cleans the vinyl surface, and removes static electricity is NOT a “ritual”. It is a simple, straight foreword operating procedure. Unless you enjoy hearing snap, crackle and pop during listening to music I highly recommend it.

    Do you see the BLACK on the “Post Comment” bar below the comment box. When can we have the black on what we type into the comment box?

      1. I have and I appreciate them. Everyday something new, it’s almost like Christmas—or at least Easter!
        Rituals? Our living room/dining room are ‘L’ shaped, and we often have music on during meals. The ritual is trying to match the music to the food—sitar music with Indian food, Schubert’s Trout Quintet with fish, Norwegian folk music with cod or venison, and so on.

  8. In today’s post there is a redundancy: the Zerostat, is to demagnetize the vinyl, but yes, that in truth for the genuine fan of LPs, part of the pleasure is made up of what has been called a ritual.

    Mine begins the night before the vinyl session, washing the group of LPs that I have scheduled to listen to the next day, I use the VPI hw-16.5, but with my own solution, based on 50% ethyl alcohol (Vodka is cheaper) and 50% bi-distilled water.

    Listening to a dirty vinyl, it is possible that it is associated with an act of masochism, before, this was not so much the case, people were less picky, until the silent CD appeared.

    The cleaning of the needle is still important, not to mention the correct alignment of the arm-cartridge assembly, which must be checked with adequate regularity.

    My Linn LP-12, is very fussy about the type of support where it sits, I use a flimsy table (which does not store resonances) just the dimensions of the plinth, on which it feels comfortable, this too, is part of the ritual.

    The amount of limitations (distortions) of the vinyl-turntable set is so numerous that I cannot understand why its sound is so pleasant to me.But it is very clear to me that most of my vinyls ARE irreplaceable

    An explanation could be that one is capable of listening to music that cannot be done under another medium (digital?) Or that one has a material to which one is linked by personal (emotional) experiences which are very difficult to uproot.

    Listening to music on vinyl is really an anachronism, but for some of us it is practically almost impossible to abandon it, my pre-pre and pre are on 24/7.

    1. I have made it a point to note which albums I have cleaned with my ultrasonic cleaner, but, then never plan to ever wash them again after that high-tech treatment. I do Zerostat them, then use the Discwasher and an AudioQuest anti-static brush, but, that’s it. How frequently do you wash yours and why? Once I get the crud off them from 40 years of ownership I expect it stays off since I do not live the bachelor lifestyle I once did and the cleaning lady keeps my place nice and tidy and dust free 🙂 I have never once considered needing to wash them anew.

      1. Over the decades of using vinyls, I have tried almost every simple cleaning device.

        I discovered that the Discwasher system was a scam, because the brush of the kit accumulated dust, not only from the disk, but from the environment, I am talking about the impalpable dust that exists on this planet, and that, is introduced into everything that is not completely closed, remember the dust covers that protect the speaker coils

        This brush is very difficult to keep clean, or to wash it and its dirt instead of helping, rather pollutes the vinyl. This dust is present in the inner sleeves that protect the LPs, and contaminates the records, we must not forget that we are talking about micro-grooves.

        I have had 2 VPI machines: the hw-16 and the hw16-5, and it is the only thing that has worked for me, I am only talking about my experience.

        Regarding your question, it is possible that, for many people, the impalpable dust that is deposited in the grooves goes unnoticed, perhaps because this, like other anomalies related to the use of passive Xovers, is also masked together with other ” dirt ”that are very typical of these unpleasant devices.

        My speakers lack the aberrant use of passive Xovers, which is why they do not mask or hide all the anomalies that the passive components contained in them introduce into the signal, about which many audio fans do not detect, or do not want to do it for comfort.

        For vinyl, I use a 4-way multi-amplified speaker system with analog ACTIVE Xovers, and for digital systems, another ACTIVELY multi-amplified speaker system, also 4-way, but driven by a DSP, which does it all.

        The vinyls have to be perfectly clean due to the high resolving power of the system.

        As for the frequency with which I wash the discs, here, there is no mystery, I do it as a routine when I consider it necessary and after washing them, I treat them with LAST, which also has an anti-static effect, although I have a Zerostat gun that I do not use it.

        1. Thanks for the reply! I suspect I am one of those who think the micro dirt is indeed part of the experience of vinyl listening. One of the biggest things I have learned since starting my personal cleaning regimen is how poorly pressed many older (mainly 70’s rock and folk) albums are. What I used to think was grunge is just bad vinyl, which no amount of prepping will ever fix. I figured this out after replacing a few and experiencing the same negative sounds, then researching how badly manufactured the labels would push stuff into the marketplace. Happy listening!!

          1. I forgot to mention something related to your question about cleaning frequency.

            I consider my vinyls clean, when in the short period of time in which one piece ends and the next begins, the dirt is NOT heard, in the same way as when listening to a CD.

            These cares constitute, without a doubt, a high price that I have to pay to keep my records as new: Caliope, Lyrinx, Harmonia Mundi, Mark Levinson and so many other labels that, for me, constitute true musical gems that I cannot find. in other formats.

            In those vinyls that, due to a fortuitous accident, the perfect integrity of the surface has been compromised, they are simply discarded, because in this case no machine can solve this oversight.

            Happy weekend,

  9. And here I thought the snap, crackle and pop, the static electricity, the bits of dust, the rumble from sympathetic vibrations, and all the rest were the reason vinyl sounds “better” than digital. I didn’t realize they were there to justify a ceremonial pre listening ritual.

  10. Yeah I’ve got em’. Rituals that is. Hard not to have some kind of routine or setting up a fantastically comfortable environment before engaging in a beautiful, yet serious listening time.
    First. I warm up all the gear. Get the light show going. 😉
    Second. I set up my pillows on my couch to get me as comfortable as possible.
    3rd. Cd artwork/case gets placed on the armrest of my couch along with headphones, then I lightly skim through the cd booklet.
    4th. I get my coffee.
    5th. I turn on my star projector, especially when I listen to Tangerine Dream.
    6th. The headphones go on.

    7th. I say goodbye to the outside world. Lol

    I think maybe rituals are associated with intense comfort.
    Psychologically it does not matter.

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