Webster’s Online Dictionary defines the term “snob” as “someone who tends to criticize, reject or ignore people who come from a lower social class, have less education, etc.” In that strict confine, I really don’t rise to such a standard. However, in terms of what I now seem to want out of analog sound reproduction, I think the term fits.
It all started with the article I wrote titled “Good Bye Yellow Brick Road Shootout,” which posted on July 25, 2014. I had purchased a Mobile Fidelity version of the Elton John classic LP that was produced from the original studio master, half-speed mastered and specially plated and pressed in Japan at the JVC pressing plant. This album sold for the unconscionable price of $149. Despite the cost, it had the best sonics of any LP I had ever heard on any audio system I had ever owned. It even bettered a high-definition download, which on my system at the time made it doubly remarkable. I had, when conducting the shootout, superior components as well as a considerably greater investment in digital than analog.
I simply could not believe that analog could sound this good on my system. It was then that my thought process started creeping into upgrade mode. Whatever the quality of sonics I had would undoubtedly be improved with better equipment. The die was inevitably cast.
Earlier in the year I had already upgraded the phono stage. I then started thinking about cables. Yes, I’m one of those who believe that cables make a difference. First came the tonearm cable. Then the interconnects between the phono stage and preamp, and lastly the phono stage power cord. Those upgrades helped, quite a bit actually, but I still wasn’t there. I decided it was time to replace the turntable and the cartridge. Finally, I got an ultrasonic record cleaner, itself a marvel and far superior to my other conventional-type cleaner. While by no means the best available, my analog section was now considerably improved. I was satisfied and ready to enjoy my LPs, some of which date back to the 1970s, in all their splendor, magnificence and sonic infirmities.
Pops and clicks. As those terms relate to an LP, everyone who has ever spun a record knows what that means. However, that MoFi record was dead silent, and the preference I had for silence should be obvious. Unfortunately, the increased quality and technology I had assembled could not repair what had happened to some of my albums in a college dorm room. So pops and clicks it was.
It was then I became an analog snob … sort of.
When visiting my local music store, my historic “modus operandi” was to go to the CD section, jazz first then on from there. When finished with CDs, only then did I make my way to the LP section of the store. It was not so long ago that I reveled in looking through all the used LPs. I found albums from my youth I never had that now I could own for only a few dollars.
With the vastly superior sonics my analog section now provided, I found myself heading immediately to the LP section when visiting the music store. But something was different. I no longer wanted to peruse the used LPs. They had the same pops and clicks that the shelves of LPs I had at home also contained. So from now on, I told myself, only new LPs. It only got worse from there.
I purchased a new, unused LP and, admittedly, it sounded fine. But it wasn’t the sonic marvel that was the $149 LP. So, OK, fine, I bought four more of them. Just as I wrote in the shootout article, the availability of such albums is very limited, so a music collection cannot be assembled with such recordings.
I did, however, start buying a host of MoFi Reference Recordings in place of a standard release. If I wanted an LP and could choose between a standard release and the MoFi version, I’d choose the latter. Hands down. I even bought Reference Recordings of bands that I didn’t really like all that well just because they were Reference Recordings. If a MoFi version was not available for something I really wanted, then I’d next opt for a 180-gram version. Finally, if there was no other choice available, the standard LP, as long as it was new and unused.
I’m not sure how long I’ll continue in this mode. I’ll probably ride the wave for a while before settling down to something more reasonable. At some point I’ll certainly start looking through the used albums again. Because honestly, the ultrasonic record cleaner does a fantastic job of removing unwanted noise from an LPs surface. For the time being, however, I’m enjoying the highest fidelity analog my system can render. I’m enjoying the sonic marvel that is analog sound reproduction. As long as I can still shake my head in near disbelief when I hear how wonderful an album can really sound, I’ll be mostly content.
Making these types of changes is what makes this hobby so enjoyable. If that makes me a snob, so be it. When you give of yourself in monetary terms for something you so highly enjoy, and are richly rewarded in return, you can revel in the gift that is, from an audiophile perspective, wonderful music. And that is priceless.