it is quite regressive when digital technology is so advanced these days that audiophiles are still going back to the (concept of) analogue sound. i am writing this topic because i am one of them.
you may argue that if you want analogue sound why not play turntable or cassette but that's missing the point. i am telling you that you can get quite some measure of analogue sound even from digital playback like cd. my co-blogger here, mikey, can tell you that as a car audio consultant, he too embraces the analogue sound, that's why he is strongly advocating analogue-sounding head units by the likes of mccintosh.
the main 'problem' with digital playback - especially for car audio - is that it can sound a tad too artificial, bright, thin, shrilly and cold. how then would we be able to convert this sound to a fuller, thicker, bodied and warmer sound, which essentially and collectively constitute what we call the analogue sound? better still how could we combine the best of analogue with good attributes of today's digital playback (such as a quieter noise floor, clean highs and bass)? it is possible, let me tell you.
i am not going to reveal the whole recipe, as it takes years of experiment, system matching and trial and error. of course, a tube-based system helps a lot. i am not saying that you can't achieve analogue sound with a solid-state-based system but it is much harder. just the same, a lot of tube-based system sounds mushy, coloured, overly-romantic, ill-defined ("mong) and" slow.
a good power line management system like the shunyata hydra is absolutely essential. (cos it lets your system perform to the best of its ability, sans the nasties in the power line) in my case, it transforms my system from a rather showy and hi-fi-ish sound to one that is essentially, for want of a better word, analogue-sounding. the shunyata is also stunningly airy and atmospheric.
in the past, i am a sucker for highs, the more extended the better. i did achieve that - rather spectacularly - with the combination of ribbon tweeters, silver interconnects and richard gray but in the long run, it proved to be too much of a good thing. too showy and too attention-seeking. i soon grew tired of that.
to me, highs must be still extended but it must also have body and meat and most importantly, it must not rob the midrange of its body as well. now that's where the compromise/dilemma lies. too much highs and lean mids can often result in better image delineation, giving the illusion of "sharp focus and better imaging". but in real life, images of vocalists are often fuzzy and "fat" and not really as focused. once you get a full midrange, you often lose out in the image/focus department.
in short, the analogue sound i am seeking is one that is full of liquidity, warmth, richness, meat and devoid of digital artifacts like what commonly plaguing most car audio and many home audio systems. the acid test for this is, for me at least (let me qualify this statement carefully lest i offend people) is to check whether your system can play multi-instrument multi-musician studio recorded pop albums. on most systems, car audio notably, these kind of recordings often sound harsh and over-bearing. if you dismiss that as "oh, this cd is badly recorded" then most likely you are running away from the reality ;-)
if you can achieve the above, coupled with the clarity, pristine highs, airiness, quiet noise floor, better headroom, good bass of modern digital playback, you would then have some kind of best-of-both-worlds combination. and my friend, that's where audio nirvana is.
晴空万里的"天空" [the sky is the limit]
5 hours ago