Longtime S&V readers know how much your humble Editor-In-Chief loves vinyl. But my old turntable was, well, old, and the more I listened to my LPs, the more I realized I had to bite the bullet and get a new 'table. I never enter new-gear purchase modes lightly, so, after months of research, a few sort-of clandestine listening sessions at CES, and some persuasive expert advice, I decided to go with the Pro-Ject 6 PerspeX turntable and a Sumiko Blackbird cartridge.
And I am sooooo glad I did.
I had to wait one weekend longer that I wanted to before I could devote the proper time to set the 'table up properly. I got the 'table itself set and level on a wood table out of the line of fire of my speakers and subwoofer on Saturday and installed the cartridge and adjusted the tonearm on Sunday. I, of course, took meticulous care in optimizing tracking force, antiskating, overhang, zenith, azimuth, and the arm's VTA (vertical tracking angle). As soon as I was satisfied with my adjustments, I connected the PerspeX to my receiver's phono stage and got down to putting needle to platter. . . .
I kicked off my listening session with the brand-spankin' new Bob Dylan album, Together Through Life (Columbia), which I had listened to on CD in my car a number of times on Friday. "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'," Track 1 on Side 1 of the first platter in the two-platter set, was the right way to christen the 'table. "Nothin' " is steeped in his Bobness's preferred gravel-blues groove of late, and I enjoyed the song's open, non-compressed feel. It was a welcome breath of fresh air.
Next up was the 180-gram limited-edition version of Steven Wilson's Insurgentes (K-Scope), an album I've loved to no end in surround sound. I went with "Harmony Korine," the explosive opening track on Side 1 of the first disc. Wilson's vocal harmonies and layered guitars on the choruses had serious impact, and nothing distorted whenever the song's dynamics changed scope.
After that, I went with full album sides. First up was Side 1 of the 180-gram stereo reissue of the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Axis: Bold as Love (Experience Hendrix), which sounded like it could have been recorded yesterday, not 1967. Jimi's wah and lead playing are in full command. I still dig the wild stereo panning of Jimi's otherworldly guitar calisthenics on "EXP." Meanwhile, the transition from the tender "Little Wing" to the defiant "If 6 Was 9" was seamless.
From there I went directly to Side 4 of the Beatles' Love (Apple), which opens with George Harrison's acoustic take on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." "A Day in the Life" immediately followed, and both the second orchestral crescendo and subsequent resonant signature E-major piano-chord pounding held true.
Finally, I closed out my initial session with an old favorite - my original copy of Rush's 1981 classic, Moving Pictures (Mercury). There were a few pops and clicks evident during quieter passages, but the impact of Neil Peart's cowbell hits during an instrumental break on "Witch Hunt" on Side 2 was undeterred.
I was reluctant to end this LP fest, but a Blu-ray review beckoned. Future vinyl sessions will be chronicled here with more detailed critical commentary -- this first go-round was more about reveling in and enjoying the music the way it was meant to be heard, analog-ically speaking.
- Mike Mettler, S&V EIC