Column

Through the Lens

Focusing on the finest roots music photography

Amos lives in West Virginia, where he works with Mountain Stage and takes stunning photographs of live music performances.

Through the Lens

Focusing on the finest roots music photography

Amos lives in West Virginia, where he works with Mountain Stage and takes stunning photographs of live music performances.

The Endearing Qualities of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings

Thanks, Amos. The pictures are, as always luminous and your narrative shows the depth of your experience and knowledge. I have one question, however. Is the return to analog truly anything more than a appeal to an elitist crowd who can afford the records and reproduction hardware? I'm still interested in someone's conducting a double blind listening test to see whether, in a typical listening setting, anyone can really tell the difference. 

Ted, many thanks. As a guy who still has his 15,000+ record collection (I stopped counting at 10,000 some years ago), vinyl never left, it just went underground so to speak. I ordered LPs from the UK and elsewhere, picked up Japanese pressings at Tower by the armload. I cannot speak for everyone who buys vinyl, but I certainly do not see it as elitist. When I first heard a CD on my home system, I went out and bought a new turnatble. That was 1982. I still have it. I picked others up at yardsales, as well as LPs. Why? They sound "better." Even on a moderate stereo that anyone can afford, they sound better. I have done dozens of "listening" sessions at home for friends who all thought the CD sound was superior. When doing a blind sound test, all of them over the years, both casual listeners and "audiophiles" thought the LP was the CD. I asked why, all said becasue it sounded clearer, voices and instruments more distinct and did not sound "constrained." When I would pick up the tonearm and the music stopped, many were shocked, some even thought I had done something to trick them. No, the trick was done by the record labels to get you to pluck out $15 (at the time an outrageous sum) for an album, promising perfect sound forever. That was the lie, and I will not even get into CD rot and how those 0's and 1's and disappear over time. But, digital has it's place, in the car and the like, and is primarily a matter of convenience. Yes, even in a typical, casual listening setting on even a modest sound system one can tell the difference. 

Another fine article Amos. I saw the show that Gillian and Dave did here in NYC at The Beacon a few weeks ago, and it truly was exceptional. It's interesting to note though that we have taken oppositional sides on the vinyl issue, and my column this week will explain why I have just gone full digital and into the stream. Part of the reason I tipped over was thanks to Dave and Gillian's tour and all the interviews they did explaining the importance of vinyl from their perspective as artists. It's not at all that I disagree that they have the right to deliver their art/music in whatever format they prefer, it's just that I personally listen 'on the go' with no time to have 'listening sessions' and I actually like the sound of digital music in a good pair of earbuds. I also feel and live the value proposition; 30,000,000 songs for $10 per month versus $25 for one vinyl LP. That is where the elitist aspect comes into play...I just can't afford vinyl even if I wanted it. The $75 for one ticket to their show was a stretch. Again, thanks for the great piece and as always excellent pics. ee

Ed, I think we are not that far apart, covenience is a huge consideration for you, me too. It's just when I listen at home, the LP is preferred. Insofar as the Beacon ticket price, that's NY, VA and KY are half that. With the price difference, one can buy the vinyl and still spend less. Forty years ago, I'd pay $12 for a UK LP, thirty years ago $18 or so for a Japanese LP, so $25 now is not so bad, if it's pressed at RTI or Quality, but most are under $20. And to make those digital files sound significantly better, get a DAC to run the signal through to your ear buds. You will be amazed at the difference. Dragonfly makes a couple of extremely small and inexpensive ones designed to go into a USB port and then into your buds. Just check out what Analog Planet, What Hi Fi and Stereophile like.