Yesterday I entertained my elderly Mother, Brother and his wife.
On their arrival mid-morning R3 was playing on the Nat 05 and as she sat down with a cup of coffee Mum asked which CD was playing, and when I told her it was R3 on FM she was very surprised, she said that is just wonderful, she loves classical music.
After lunch I played her the Beethoven Eroica (Tennstedt), a perennial favourite, on the CDS3 and she said “very nice but didn’t sound as rich as the radio earlier”. Conversation then got on to vinyl and I played her the Mozart Clarinet Concerto by Gervais de Payer on the Roksan and she said “that was truly beautiful”. My Brother then asked to hear On Every Street by Dire Straits and we compared the vinyl with the CD on the superb Planet of New Orleans and the conclusion was that whilst the CD was very clear and precise the vinyl smoked it for timing, tone and involvement, and nuances also emerged which weren’t there on the CD.
Conversation then turned to cost. I explained never in itself an effective indicator of performance, but whilst not knowing what a CDS3/555 would cost today let’s say £12K which would be more than the Xerxes configuration at current prices, notwithstanding that of course you have to factor in a cartridge re-tip every 3 years or so on the latter. But then came the genuine shock when I explained that when the Nat05 ceased production it cost about £1,200 and that the CDS3 was by reputation one of the best CDPs ever produced.
Conversation then turned to the whys and wherefores of all this. Now I’ve never hidden from the possibility that their is, or at least could be a psychological aspect, I bought the greater part of my musical collection on vinyl when I was younger so my psyche is that way, we get conditioned. However, the music on R3 on the Nat05 would have been rendered in the BBC studio digitally, and many/most of the recordings would have been digital as well. Similarly, On Every Street was a DDD so is it that the final stage of the reproduction in the home ultimately impacts the nature of the sound at least as much as anything else? But then my Brother, completely unprompted, reminded me of something when at the Anglia East Show back in 2019 how awful the ND555/552/500/Dyn Confidence room demo was and how brilliant the little all Rega system based around a P3 was in comparison. Now as we know show conditions are never a good way to evaluate the sound of a system and the room (barn) that the ND555 system was certainly not conducive to good listening. But I did notice that day that the volume control on the 555 was up at about 10 so was everything working that much harder? However, that would contradict with what happens at home where for my FM/vinyl listening I normally have the volume between 9/10 whereas for CD I’m normally set at 8/9. I often wondered if there is a car analogy here, allow a few more revs through the engine and you’ll be rewarded?
I may be coming round to view that, possibly, I need to consider other digital solutions, but I’ve been at this hi-fi stuff since I first acquired a Pioneer 512/amp/Wharfedale Dentons in 1978 and I still dont get it!