Vinyl Is Back! Everything You Need To Know About LP Records

Still Spinning, Still Grinning… Vinyl Is Back!  

Everything You Need To Know About LP Records

by Anthony Chiarella


I’d forgotten just how great LPs can sound. This point was driven home a couple of years ago when I added a new turntable to my reference system. At the time, I had a $65,000 digital front end, and I thought the sound it produced was about as good as High End could get…until I started spinning records. My analog rig—turntable, arm, cartridge and phono preamp—cost less than half as much, but outperformed my digital stack in almost every respect. Instrumental timbres were richer, with finer harmonic detail, imaging was more three dimensional, and the spaces between the images more palpable, with an airiness and cohesion that was just, well, more lifelike than even the best digital systems. I found this especially true with older, analog masters, but surprisingly, many modern digital transfers actually sounded better on vinyl! (In fairness, I should point out that there are many digital masters which outperform their analog counterparts.) Of course, sound quality alone doesn’t explain the renaissance of the LP record. The tactile pleasures of holding an album cover—an experience that was diminished with the “compact” disc and eliminated completely with streaming—provide a powerful sensory experience. The ability to see and savor album artwork, not to mention lyrics and other “extras” included with many LPs, is sorely missed with CDs and modern digital formats.


The “chore” of removing an LP from its jacket, placing it on the platter, clamping it, cleaning it and carefully lowering the needle into the groove was supposedly one of the reasons why CDs became more popular than LPs; however, for many LP lovers, the ritual of preparing the record for playback actually enhances the experience. And then, there is the hardware. Does any other component in the stereo system equal the beauty or visual artistry of the turntable? Since the time of Edison, record players have been sources of pride and collectability, as well as the focal point of most HiFi systems. (There are several turntables in the Museum of Modern Art’s Permanent Design Collection.) Once you’ve decided to “take the plunge” and join the Analog Renaissance, there are a few vinyl-specific things you have to know. Whether you’re looking to spend a few hundred dollars or a hundred thousand, here’s everything you need to get started… Today’s top ‘tables are true works of art, designed for aesthetic appeal as well as performance. Brinkmann, Kronos, TechDas and many others offer superbly crafted analogue systems, engineered to last for several lifetimes. At lower price points, Rega, Project, EAT and VPI offer entry-level ‘tables whose sound quality approaches state-of-the-art, though without the visual beauty or obsessive craftsmanship, which defines cost-no-object products. Ortofon and Sumiko dominate the market for reasonably-priced phono cartridges, while Kiseki, Koetsu and Lyra continue to develop exquisite cartridges for music lovers who demand “the best” regardless of cost.

Being a high-performance software format, there are two more variables you’ll need to address if you want to extract the highest possible performance from your analog rig. First of all, pay attention to where you mount your turntable and the structure upon which you place it. Record players are vulnerable to “acoustic feedback” (which sounds like a loud, uncontrollable hum) if placed too close to speakers, especially those with prodigious bass; additionally, a turntable placed upon a wobbly floor or rickety stand will be prone to “groove skipping.” Of course, a rigid, high-mass—and expensive!—equipment rack is ideal, but budget and décor often render such purchases impractical. Here are a couple of hints… First, make sure you place the stand upon which your turntable rests near a load-bearing wall (usually one of the exterior walls of the house), as these are the most solid points in the room and the least prone to footfalls and other mechanical interference. A wall-mount shelf—available online for under $150—offers great isolation at a very affordable price. Next, if you’re using a piece of furniture, make sure it’s top surface is level and that it doesn’t wobble. (Small pieces of plastic can be used to “shim” the legs of your furniture to keep it stable and level.) Finally, in order to minimize acoustic feedback, try to position your equipment rack as far from your speakers as possible. We’re almost done!

You’ll also need a few accessories to make your ‘table sing and maintain those precious slabs of vinyl in pristine condition. If your turntable has a detachable phono cable, you may want to consider and upgrade. The signals that are sent through a phono cable are the most delicate in your hifi system, and you would be surprised at the nuances that a high quality cable can bring to sound fidelity. Companies such as Nordost offer a wide range of tonearm cables that run the gamut cost-wise. Another thing to consider is record cleaning machines. Record cleaning machines haven’t changed since vinyl’s “golden age” of the 1960s through ‘80s, when most libraries owned “wet-system” machines that would wash and vacuum their vast collections. The best of these are made by Okki Nokki and VPI, range in price from approximately $500-$1,000, and are recommended for music lovers with large record collections. (Even for small collections, the improvement in sound quality is amazing!) Need to spend less? Spin-Clean makes a dry-system vacuum machine which starts under $80, while AudioQuest and MoFi offer manual brushes starting at under $15! Assuming you’re setting up your own analog rig, a protractor and stylus gauge are essential…and cheap!  Add some stylus cleaning fluid and a package of record sleeves (to replace the old sleeves of used records) and you’re ready to discover the pleasures of LP Playback. Enjoy!


Dealer Spotlight: LYRIC HI FI

By Steve Greene

Lyric Hi Fi outside

Whether you are a visitor or a resident of metro New York City, any trip uptown or north of the city in White Plains would be incomplete without dropping by Lyric Hi Fi to see and hear the latest high-end audio gear in some of America’s best sound rooms. Lyric was founded in 1959 by the venerable Mike Kay, an icon in the audio industry for over 40 years. When it came time for Mr. Kay to retire, the New York audio community was fortunate indeed to see him sell his business to longtime and beloved key employees Lenny Bellezza and Dan Mondoro. In fact, both gentlemen have enjoyed working with Lyric’s fine clientele for over 30 years, so the transition to new ownership was incredibly smooth! Lenny can be found at the Lexington Avenue store in the city, and Dan at the White Plains, NY store. Lenny and Dan exude the very definition of professionalism and class, making sure every customer is treated like a family member, and ensuring each customer’s experience at Lyric turns them into a lifelong client. Both stores are staffed with experienced installers and very knowledgeable sales people, including Mike Deutsch, Bob Herman and Scott Trusty.

While Lyric was a leader in early remote controlled custom audio installations, they became the leader in high-end audio in both metro New York City and the US as that industry began its formation and growth, particularly in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Lyric Hi Fi became an oasis for manufacturers to showcase their latest high end products. Music lovers, and even magazine editors and writers, flocked in to see and hear these cutting-edge hi-fi components perform in special, custom-built sound rooms— and the same remains true today! Lyric’s sound rooms are very unique for an audio store, allowing you to hear everything the selected equipment being demoed is capable of. The floors are decoupled from the walls, which are not parallel to each other, eliminating standing waves and hiding any interference from New York’s famous underground subway. The construction of all the special materials used to build these awesome sound rooms was actually done in the Lexington Avenue store’s basement level cabinet shop! In fact, some manufacturers even used these facilities to build, among other things, speaker cabinets. Industry luminaries like Rudy Bozak, Saul Marantz, Dick Sequirra, Bob Carver, Harry Pearson and so on were known to frequent Lyric Hi Fi! This continues today with the industry’s top designers and manufacturers making frequent visits.


Today, customers still reap the benefits of Lyric’s vast customer service experience and superior demo facilities perfected over the years. The product mix in both locations run the gamut from affordable but great sounding components, up to the very finest audio components that most can only aspire to buy. Brands like Wilson Audio, B&W, McIntosh, VPI, Rega, dCS, Audio Research, Marantz, GoldenEar, PrimaLuna, Dynavector, Audeze, Sonos, Magnepan, NAD, and, of course, Nordost, just to mention a few, are on display and available for demo. Both locations also offer a wide range of accessories to enhance your system, including a huge selection of Nordost cables, Sort Kones, and QRT products. It would be difficult to visit either store and not find something in your budget that you just can’t leave the store without! Parking is quite easy with spaces often available directly in front of the Lexington Ave location, or just around the corner on 83rd St, which is where I usually park during my visits. A public parking lot is directly next door to the White Plains store as well as directly in front of it. So, make sure you visit either store when uptown or north of the city; you’ll be very glad you did!


2016 AV logo.color


The Hong Kong High-End Audio Visual Show is being held this year at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center August 5-7th and Nordost is excited to be taking part! Come and see us in the Radar room, S421, where Nordost representatives will be there to perform demonstrations and cable comparisons as well as answer product questions. The Hong Kong High-End Audio Visual Show is one of the most important events in the audio and visual industry in Hong Kong and South East Asia, and we are happy to be involved once again!



Nordost Playlist – July 2016

Nordost is lucky to have a wonderful team of representatives and product trainers who travel around the world educating and demonstrating the effects of Nordost’s products. As part of these demonstrations, it is our job to find an interesting and diverse selection of music to showcase our cables, power devices, sort system and accessories. Whether at shows, visiting our dealers and distributors or even in our own listening room in our headquarters in Holliston, we are constantly getting asked what music we are playing (or if our audience is not so bold to ask, we can see their Shazams working overtime). So we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to share our favorite songs of the moment. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your taste, but one thing is for sure …it’s all great music.

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this July.


  1. Smoke—Luke Levenson—Smoke
  2. Le Marteau sans Maître : Commentaire III de « Bourreaux de solitude »— Pierre Boulez, Hilary Summers, Ensemble intercontemporain— Le Marteau sans Maître
  3. I’m the Man to Be—EL VY—Return To The Moon
  4. Way Down in the Hole—The Blind Boys of Alabama—…and all the pieces matter, Five Years of Music from The Wire
  5. Gold—Chet Faker—Built on Glass
  6. James Dean—JR JR—JR JR
  7. Mean To Me—Sarah Vaughan—Sarah Vaughan In Hi-Fi
  8. Pale Blue Eyes—The Velvet Underground—The Velvet Underground
  9. The Sinister Minister—Béla Fleck and the Flecktones—Greatest Hits of The 20th Century
  10. Samarkand—Lucia Micarelli—Music From A Father Room