The Magic of Vinyl

Barry Thornton - Austin Audioworks writes: "It's MAGIC. Listening to a vinyl record takes you to a place where real Magic actually happens.

The Magic of vinyl music occurs inside your cartridge in an empty space between the magnet and coil. On one side of the cartridge, mechanical energy is picked up from wiggles in the grooves on your record. In that gap in the cartridge it is converted to an electrical energy signal doing the same thing; carrying signal information that is a model of the groove wiggles. Thus we can recover that music stored in time. It's always about time.

Ultimately, you want your loudspeaker or headphones to faithfully replicate this motion in the air. To do that we need to take energy from the cartridge (literally billionths of a watt) and increase it into full watts so we can hear it.

Our magic space-time, namely that gap between the two elements of the cartridge (the coil and the magnet) is about the use of Faraday's Law and the Lorentz Force. A set of most remarkable quantum based effects that creates a bridge between the magnet and the coil through, you got it, space-time.

Why is this Magic?

Magic has traditionally been the word for things we don't understand having seemingly supernatural qualities or powers. As civilization has grown, and with that our knowledge of how the world works, magic is diminishing.

This thing that goes on inside a phono cartridge is then magic. We can tell you what, where, when, and why it happens, but I'll be damned if we can explain how it happens. Somewhere in the netherworld of quantum stuff magnetic flux causes quantum particles (electrons by definition) to move in a conducting matrix. That's the 'why' answer, that's not the 'HOW' answer. How it happens between the fields involved is not known with any certainty yet. As long as we don’t know it has seemingly supernatural qualities or powers. Thus it is an issue of magic and certainly worthy of reflection. 

But this little sojourn into contemporary physics philosophy is not the point I wish to make.

The point is that the true operation of the phono cartridge is outside our simple understanding. Optimizing that operation is our goal. Not understanding the 'gestalt' of cartridge physics doesn't mean that we can't optimize it. I'm just saying that while useful calculation of all the variables is beyond our ability, there are in fact two major electronic components of the equation we can control. These are the cartridge Resistor and Capacitor loading.

And of course we have the most accurate piece of test equipment available to analyze this and thus correct the deficiencies in this issue. The most primary system is called your EAR, attached to the best processing system around, your BRAIN.

While we may not really understand how it works, we do know that ‘tweaking’ the loading of R and C until we like what we hear works well. It is the way we can change the world and have an awakening emotional sonic experience while doing it.

That's why I put real-time controls for R and C on the front panel of the Black Swan, to let you get the sound field results that justify the time and money you invested in your playback system.