How Hi-Fi Magazines Write about Cables, Part 22: Getting Up and Dancing

Who wouldn’t want a turntable that makes them want to get up and dance? A reviewer at Cnet seems to have found one. He says:

I play music all the time at home, but I couldn’t help but notice that my wife was grooving and dancing more when I played tunes on the Pro-Ject Classic SB belt-drive turntable. She didn’t have to say it’s a great sounding turntable, her actions spoke louder than words.

Well, that’s impressive. I assume she never, ever wants to get up and dance when you play music on a different turntable. Because it’s not the music; not the mood; not the presence of, perhaps, mood-enhancing substances. It’s just the turntable.

I find it interesting how high-end audio reviewers – and listeners – ascribe life-changing audio quality to a single element in the chain, yet at the same time try to explain how every item in an audio chain has an effect on the sound. Let’s take the minimal system required to play back music from a turntable, and look at all the elements that audiophiles constantly say make their music sound so much better:

  • Power cable
  • Power conditioner (Optional)
  • Turntable
  • Cartridge
  • Stylus
  • Rack (to keep the turntable rock-solid, and somehow improve the soundstage)
  • Records
  • Interconnect cable to pre-amplifier
  • Pre-amplifier
  • Amplifier
  • Speaker cables
  • Speakers (or headphones)

This is a simple audio chain, purely analog, so there’s no DAC, USB cables, and no worries about getting a good sounding hard disk.

In any case, the reviewer here was convinced that it was the turntable that changed everything. It’s pretty magical too:

Oldsters remembering the bad old days of crappy turntables, and the new-to-vinyl convert who frets over LP’s surface noise, clicks and pops will find newfound quiet spinning LPs with the Classic SB. Of course it can’t totally eliminate those noises, but they recede into the background.

Somehow this turntable is muting noise on records; that alone would make it product of the year on any audio website.

But, as always, the reviewer waxes acidic when talking about the music he listens to:

Bob Marley’s “Natty Dread” LP almost completely disarmed my reviewer brain, I had to force myself to listen critically, but there wasn’t much to criticize, the sound was lively and Marley’s soulful vocals were beyond reproach. The band’s solid support threw a party for my ears.

And, as always, nothing he says above has anything to do with the sound of the turntable; it’s just the music that he’s describing. Or:

That led to Prince’s “Purple Rain” and the energy level surged a few notches. The Classic isn’t the sort of ‘table that sounds soft or mellow, Prince’s ‘classic album sounded fresh as the day it was minted.

Translation: “Argle bargle wargle.” There are journalists that really think writing something like this is journalism.

Finally:

For some reason the Classic had me spinning my jazz LPs more than I usually do — there was just something about the way it brought out the band’s interplay, especially among the rhythm section.

Notwithstanding the fact that he doesn’t say who “the band” is, this is audiophile-grade BS.

26 thoughts on “How Hi-Fi Magazines Write about Cables, Part 22: Getting Up and Dancing

  1. I think the audiophiliac tries to appeal to hifi enthusiasts, both analog and digital, well heeled and less well heeled, by being enthusiastic and at that he is quite successful.

  2. I think the audiophiliac tries to appeal to hifi enthusiasts, both analog and digital, well heeled and less well heeled, by being enthusiastic and at that he is quite successful.

  3. This is a much more appealing shtick when you’re actually writing about grotesquely overpriced cables and the transformative powers ascribed to them by reviewers. Trying to find hyperbolic audiophile snake oil in an effusive review of a really nice, relatively affordable turntable you haven’t heard and don’t care about (as a non-vinyl spinner) seems merely dyspeptic and irritable.

    You’re also wrong about the capability of well-designed and calibrated turntables and cartridges to reduce vinyl noise. Of course it’s absurd to claim that clicks and scratches can be “muted.” But quieter playback is achievable with good gear and not just reprehensible magical thinking.

    Compulsive skepticism can be its own form of religiosity.

    • I totally agree about the noise reducing help a well built turntable can bring, even if on a decent turntable this capability is more of the cartridge responsibility.

      But I think that the object of the critique was the 100% non-scientific and 100% not-measurable approach of the reviewer.

  4. This is a much more appealing shtick when you’re actually writing about grotesquely overpriced cables and the transformative powers ascribed to them by reviewers. Trying to find hyperbolic audiophile snake oil in an effusive review of a really nice, relatively affordable turntable you haven’t heard and don’t care about (as a non-vinyl spinner) seems merely dyspeptic and irritable.

    You’re also wrong about the capability of well-designed and calibrated turntables and cartridges to reduce vinyl noise. Of course it’s absurd to claim that clicks and scratches can be “muted.” But quieter playback is achievable with good gear and not just reprehensible magical thinking.

    Compulsive skepticism can be its own form of religiosity.

    • I totally agree about the noise reducing help a well built turntable can bring, even if on a decent turntable this capability is more of the cartridge responsibility.

      But I think that the object of the critique was the 100% non-scientific and 100% not-measurable approach of the reviewer.

  5. “Somehow this turntable is muting noise on records; that alone would make it product of the year on any audio website.”

    Not really. Well-engineered ‘tables — and especially ‘arms — are acoustically dead. The effect is that surface noise from the disk simply marches down the arm tube and “falls off the end of the pier”, rather than being reflected back, or exciting resonances. My Well-Tempered system is so good at this, that I stopped using a Burwen TNE 7000.

      • Read what I said. It doesn’t “get rid of” the bad sounds. It prevents them from being emphasized or exaggerated.

      • If we are talking about “surface noise, clicks and pops” a well balanced turntable and tonearm absolutely help in preventing the cartridge to pick up dust particles and dirt on the surface.

        • “If we are talking about “surface noise, clicks and pops” a well balanced turntable and tonearm absolutely help in preventing the cartridge [sic] to pick up dust particles and dirt on the surface.”

          The stylus does not “pick up dust and dirt particles” — it rams into them. That’s what causes the noise. No amount of “correct” balance will change that.

          • “The stylus does not “pick up dust and dirt particles” — it rams into them.”

            you are just giving a different and maybe more correct naming to what I wrote

            “No amount of “correct” balance will change that.”

            not my experience, in some case even just adding weight to the arm contribute to less click and pops, also a correct cartridge angle helps.

            • We used to put pennies on the cartridges back in the days. That’s a real high-tech audiophile solution.

            • There’s a classic “Stereophile” cover showing a famous tonearm (SME, I think) with a stack of pennies, to obtain adequate tracking force.

              God, I miss Gordon.

      • Also, this is not only about not picking up dust particles or not.
        For example the inner tracks on any LP are, for physical reasons, much difficult to read than the first tracks.
        A good, well balanced turntable, arm and a good cartridge absolutely help in reading better the inner tracks.
        This is easily proved, with cheap components or bad settings almost any LP inner tracks sound quite distorted at high volume.
        There are tons of youtube video about how a tonearm setting or a better cartridge tracking can determine better sound.

        How this can make a wife dance more, still I don’t understand though.

  6. “Somehow this turntable is muting noise on records; that alone would make it product of the year on any audio website.”

    Not really. Well-engineered ‘tables — and especially ‘arms — are acoustically dead. The effect is that surface noise from the disk simply marches down the arm tube and “falls off the end of the pier”, rather than being reflected back, or exciting resonances. My Well-Tempered system is so good at this, that I stopped using a Burwen TNE 7000.

      • Read what I said. It doesn’t “get rid of” the bad sounds. It prevents them from being emphasized or exaggerated.

      • If we are talking about “surface noise, clicks and pops” a well balanced turntable and tonearm absolutely help in preventing the cartridge to pick up dust particles and dirt on the surface.

        • “If we are talking about “surface noise, clicks and pops” a well balanced turntable and tonearm absolutely help in preventing the cartridge [sic] to pick up dust particles and dirt on the surface.”

          The stylus does not “pick up dust and dirt particles” — it rams into them. That’s what causes the noise. No amount of “correct” balance will change that.

          • “The stylus does not “pick up dust and dirt particles” — it rams into them.”

            you are just giving a different and maybe more correct naming to what I wrote

            “No amount of “correct” balance will change that.”

            not my experience, in some case even just adding weight to the arm contribute to less click and pops, also a correct cartridge angle helps.

            • We used to put pennies on the cartridges back in the days. That’s a real high-tech audiophile solution.

            • There’s a classic “Stereophile” cover showing a famous tonearm (SME, I think) with a stack of pennies, to obtain adequate tracking force.

              God, I miss Gordon.

      • Also, this is not only about not picking up dust particles or not.
        For example the inner tracks on any LP are, for physical reasons, much difficult to read than the first tracks.
        A good, well balanced turntable, arm and a good cartridge absolutely help in reading better the inner tracks.
        This is easily proved, with cheap components or bad settings almost any LP inner tracks sound quite distorted at high volume.
        There are tons of youtube video about how a tonearm setting or a better cartridge tracking can determine better sound.

        How this can make a wife dance more, still I don’t understand though.

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