Letter from NYC 2012 (22): More is Less, Less is More, More or Less
Talk Vinyl: Empire Cartridge redux and Mono vinyl replay (Denon DL-102)
In the last article, I touched upon the importance of feelings in our evaluation. Without honing our skills in evaluating the correctness of our feelings (for they can be incorrect) we cannot begin to talk about "less is more". Here, I assume you know your feelings well.
Less is More?
When it comes to hifi, this much used adage more often than not is less a genuine realization than a mental state. When it comes from the mouth of someone who is simply fed up or in self-denial, it is not the quite the same as when it comes from someone who has done and seen much (no one can claim to have done or seen it all). I am not implying anything, nor trying to be glib, but I do believe "less is more" is more credible when coming from someone who has wandered in the wilderness of hifi for a long time, not from someone who is a mere internet researcher.
Just to quickly toss off some of MY takes on "Less is More":
- Less tubes, less components, less maintenance.Single Ended Triodes While I take pleasure in many vintage equipment, when it comes to simplicity and ability to ease oneself into the music, SET (properly matched with efficient speakers) reigns supreme. Well, in general, that is, and there is one exception...
- Less setup pains.Western Electric (WE)Sonically, nothing else comes close. I think you can hook up anything to real WE and be mesmerized. WE confounds and repudiates. Think of it, I don't usually like interstage transformers, but there are rare examples that I like, as implemented in WE (and perhaps by Wavac). I like push-pull less than SE, but WE is another story...in a way (not monetary unfortunately) it is "less is more" because the rest of the chain becomes not so important, such is WE's overwhelming excellence.
- Less (no) Digits, More Music.Vinyl There is so much garbage written about analog replay by digital nerds, particularly those CAS people. If you do it right, going vinyl is so much easier than getting good CAS sound. Almost any of the plug-and-play entry turntables shall trump an expensive CAS setup. Class A Benchmark or even Weiss? They pale, bleached out of life, when compared with a reasonable and inexpensive vinyl setup! For a song (indeed not much more than some CAS software!!!!) one can start with the Project RPM1.3 (my review here). A little more shall get you the wonderful Clearaudio Concept (my review here and here). I only mention these, because they are plug-and-play and any newcomers can get instant gratification. Lack of software? This is another nonsense perpetrated by the anlaogphobes. In the western countries, one can easily source many used LPs with a little effort, and the new vinyl catalogue is more extensive than one thinks. And then there is always the internet for those who live in less convenient locations. Why not listen to both?
- Less Components We are not talking about "Straight Wire with Gain" here (some even think no gain is better, not me). Although it is not always true that the simpler the circuit/layout the better, in certain areas it is generally true. Well-implemented Fullrange and Concentric loudspeakers, which use less drivers or crossover components. Surprisingly, Surface Mount components when well done (think Linn, Primare).
- State of the Empire As ususal in NYC, in the early morning I listened to My Casual Listening Station, which now has my Empire E/III cartridge in it. This really is a damned fine cartridge! The vinyl replay through the humble setup gave my main system a run for its money. Even my 2000Z with replacement stylus is not bad! More money does not really buy you more cartridge!
- Mono Playback I finally have a proper arm for my Denon DL-102 mono cartridge. The arm on my humble new Thorens TD-309 turntable supports the DL-102 beautifully. Finally, I get all the details and gone were the bloated bass when mounted previously in my Technics SP-1200 arms. More report on this turntable later. The mono cartridge plays stereo wonderfully too.