Acoustic Sounds
By: Michael Fremer

May 28th, 2024


Hi-Fi Shows

Has Vinyl Playback Technology Gone As Far As It Can Possibly Go?

watch and listen to what this panel of experts At High End Munich 2024 has to say

Last winter I was asked by the High End Society, organizers of the High End Munich show to assemble and moderate a panel discussion revolving around vinyl playback. We agreed on the topic "Has Vinyl Playback Technology Gone As Far As It Can Possibly Go?" and I got to choose the participants, all of whom agreed to take part.

In the photo above, (L-R): Ortofon's Chief Officer of Acoustics and Technology, Leif Johanssen, WAM Engineering / WallyTools Research and Product Manager J.R. Boisclair, Dohmann Audio's Mark Dohmann, Wilson-Benesch CEO Craig Milnes and yours truly.

The High End Society produced this video in an excellent space created adjacent to the press center, featuring good lighting, a fine sound system with a well-designed and implemented stage monitoring system, and everything else technically required to produce this outstanding video.

I think the content matches the production. I hope you enjoy watching it!


  • 2024-05-28 04:58:40 PM

    Zaphod wrote:

    NO, just like it was NEVER dead.

  • 2024-05-28 07:54:45 PM

    db wrote:

    Wow! Really impressed with these experts. Extremely interesting.

  • 2024-05-29 12:57:44 AM

    Come on wrote:

    Im half through with a bit of cue‘ing, have to continue later, its really interesting!

    I’d appreciate such sessions also with the one or other manufacturers to hear their opposing reasons for doing things never ever or as a must, like vacuum hold down or not, direct drive, belt drive, mass, sub chassis and more.

    • 2024-05-29 09:19:47 PM

      jim tavegia wrote:

      The record labels need to standardize the thickness of the LPs. choose 180 gram, 160 gram, or 140 gram and then no adjustments to SRA/VTA need to be made. Great video.

      • 2024-05-29 09:56:39 PM

        Come on wrote:

        But first, cartridge manufacturers have to build cartridges, which allow the correct SRA together with the correct VTA and a zenith tolerance which puts any meaning in all this accuracy at all. With todays’ tolerances and (lacking) production know how and accuracy, we just can get 1-3 of the multiple adjustment parameters straight at all. It is not least thanks to folks like Wally tools and research work and few manufacturers, that we can do this at all and even a bit more meanwhile. I’m always flattened by the missing depth of most manufacturers and major reviewers of even the very specialized magazines.

        • 2024-05-30 12:10:59 AM

          Zaphod wrote:

          Replying under COMEON but statement is NOT directed to him, but rather to all.

          Even with all said failings of vinyl, Wow, it (Vinyl) still keeps us coming back for more!

          • 2024-05-30 12:37:46 AM

            Come on wrote:


            • 2024-06-01 06:28:09 PM

              jim tavegia wrote:

              As of now the only standards for LPs are the 12" diameter and the speed of 33.3 or 45 rpm. Until the thickness of the LP is standardized the SRA/VTA will always be out to some degree. Yes, manufacturers need to do a better job with Zenith, but I am not holding my breath for carts under $500. With digital these days the real problem is poor recording and mastering.

  • 2024-05-30 06:05:36 AM

    jim tavegia wrote:

    My list: So to me what needs to happen to take LPs to the next level"

    1.) Get pressing LPs out of the widget factory setting and into more of a clean-room setting. Doesn't have to be perfectly clean, but much better than it is.

    2.) More consistent dis cutting muST come about. Some engineers are so much better than others at cutting lacquers. I know it is not easy. But too many are doing it and not always the best.

    3.) Review the plating process and see what improvements can be made and that needs to be moved to a cleaner area as well.

    4.) Probably most important; a new vinyl material needs to be found that is quieter and better and that might be pressed with less or no mould release.

    5.) If 4 can't be done, then a more consistent way to apply that compound that will allow never too much to be applied.

    6.) At the prices of today's vinyl at $30 -$100 an LP it should not be up to the buyer to have to clean a new release.

  • 2024-05-30 10:32:03 AM

    Jake wrote:

    Loved the video and discussion. A few random thoughts, and I'm a fan of vinyl records: Will the improvements in vinyl playback bring the sound closer to digital? In some ways I hope that turntables will still have a sonic flavour that is distinguishable from digital and sound more pleasing. Secondly, the manufacturing of records, from source to mastering, cutting, pressing also needs to continuously improve or it will hold back the improvements made in the playback sector

    • 2024-05-30 01:49:36 PM

      jim tavegia wrote:

      To make digital STOA one must spend some money on a outboard DAC to really hear it all and then the rest of our system must be up to the task. with vinyl playback there are so many things that can go wrong or right and all must be taken into account. I have outboard DACs on all my spinners, but are bad just as many bad CD mastering jobs out there and in LPs. Michael Buble's Higher is one for the ages. If you view tracks in your DAW you will be amazed at that you see. My new Technics Sl-100C has upped my LP playback greatly with just rock solid speed and stability. It has rear arm pillar height adjustments as do the 4 feet to get it flat, and it even has arm lift at the end of play which is nice if I get called away by the wife. It is an improvement over all my belt drive tables I have and have owned. WE cah just hope that some of my list gets addressed.

  • 2024-05-30 05:08:04 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    3 things- clean rooms or something close to it.. all of the dust is issue. 2nd- Let the damn records cool down. Screw your timing and requirements- Warping wasn't happing like this back in the 80's, 90's etc. Rushing is the issue. Putting out shit product means you don't deserve the profits you make.

    3rd- Make sure the records are concentric. If you get the 1st side right, you can get the 2nd side right. I also don't believe SRA VTA is a huge deal. Most records are spot on if you have 91 or 92 degrees figured. There are exceptions and those companies not paying attention do suck.

  • 2024-06-01 08:08:37 PM

    John Lewis wrote:

    Why no mention of optical cartridges? Would like to hear whether Ortofon are working on them. And since this was about the future, someone should have talked about the potential of the laser player; the MLP has lots of room for improvement. The discussion reminded me of the cartoon of the guy looking for his keys under the lamppost.

    • 2024-06-02 03:53:54 PM

      jim tavegia wrote:

      I did a test yesterday with a Keith Jarrett album: Arbour Zena that I always thought was slightly thin sounding. I took off my Shure M97 Jico and replaced it with my Audio Technica AT95C with cannot have zenith error and the bass was greater, but surely some loss of detail. I will now go back today and recheck the mounting of the Shure. Anything with an HE or Micro Line contact will be more susceptible to zenith error.

  • 2024-06-03 06:46:01 PM

    Lemon Curry wrote:

    Aside from cutting with a lathe, have the lathes themselves been subject to review? Can a lacquer be cut better by design? If we want everything out of the groove shouldn't we want to investigate if everything is going in? And might a review of the entire record manufacturing process be in order? For instance, DMM is out there. I've heard a couple of DMM pressings, and they are silent far beyond anything I've ever heard cut to lacquer. Why not further the exploration around this approach?

  • 2024-06-06 02:52:37 PM

    jim tavegia wrote:

    The other thing I want to start seeing is real measurements of phono cartridges including frequency response graphs base on different loading. We test everything else to death, especially digital gear, but only talk about how some carts sound to a reviewer. Stereo Review could do it back in the day and this needs to change.

  • 2024-06-06 06:52:01 PM

    Michael Fremer wrote:

    We are having a "glitch" with the upgrade at the moment so replies don't appear under comments. To Jim Tavigia: different thickness records have very little effect on SRA/VTA. Other variants do! Raising or lowering a 9" arm 4mm produces a 1 degree change in VTA/SRA.

  • 2024-06-07 05:13:58 AM

    jim tavegia wrote:

    In your opinion what are the other variants? I would guess cartridge body height? An incorrect pillar height from manufacture when the cartridge used is unknown? A change in platter mat thickness? A compliant stylus with too much tracking force applied? Not trying to be argumentative, but it seems to be that in the WallyTools world it all matters

  • 2024-06-07 07:13:05 AM

    jim tavegia wrote:

    Sorry, I should not have mentioned this anymore as I was just playing one of my Diana Krall LPs and watching my tonearm on my Technics SL-100C swing left and right as the LP cycles round and round since the spindle hole is not centered. So many issues and just need to let it go and just enjoy the music. Thanks for the great coverage.

  • 2024-06-10 03:42:19 PM

    John French wrote:

    If measuring down to the tiniest micron level helps identify the sources of distortions that get in the way of truly state of the art vinyl replay ( from the turntable base to the platter motor to the Arm, cartridge alignment to the cartridge materials) and the cost of materials to try to solve these issues are beyond the means of 95% of vinyl lovers, where does a vinyl fan who spends a median price of $1,000 for a turntable/cartridge package ever get to hear what has been discussed in this video?

    The answer: At trade shows and of the few Hifi stores still in existence

    It is remarkable that vinyl still gives a listener great satisfaction at the most basic consumer level with all the limitations and technical problem’s addressed so eloquently on this panel Only those with the most revealing of systems will ever hear things that can be revealed through the finest of playback devices. Progress always starts at the top and (hopefully) reaches down to the masses eventually.

  • 2024-06-16 07:42:23 PM

    WesHeadley wrote:

    Just excellent Michael. So much information to process from this. I've always suspected that no matter how high the quality of your turntable system, there was likely much more to extract from those grooves, if for no other reason, than just following you on your own journey and watching you get more resolution each time you took your game up yet another notch using gear that I can only aspire to at this time.

    J.R.'s discoveries give me hope that there is so much more musical completeness just waiting to discovered from whatever one's setup is. I think there ought to be a school or some kind of certification program available for those that want to learn and practice turntable setup as there's such a great need for this. Yes, I could buy my own tools and learn how to work on my own Ferrari, but the occasional mechanic will never be as comfortable and competent as the experienced mechanic. Yet I want to do it anyway.

    So I guess I'm heading over to WAM to see if they've got a kit put together for people like me that are willing and able, but just need the flow worked out in advance so that I have a clear path to follow. I loved this video. Great discussion.