Q: I am confused about modern vinyl records. I have seen negative reviews regarding the sound of newly manufactured vinyl, at least with some albums initially released in the 1950s-1980s. Why would anyone play with the sound of a perfect-sounding LP?
A: With so much high-quality used vinyl available at low prices, I don't buy much new vinyl. I did purchase two new ones recently. One was the soundtrack from the 1970s Gerry Anderson TV show "UFO" pressed on cool-looking purple vinyl, and the other was a reissue of Frank Sinatra's "Come Fly With Me." Like you, I was a bit concerned about the Sinatra record sounding inferior to the original. But my fears were unfounded. I was very pleased with the sound of both.
I suspect the reports we're getting about poor sound quality are the result of some studios rushing to cash in on the newfound interest in vinyl. The good news is that vinyl sound quality appears to be trending upward, and some suppliers are taking it to the next level. For example, HD Vinyl is upgrading the entire production process with modern technology and materials, and turntable manufacturer Pro-ject Audio Systems is rereleasing some great classical works, producing very high-quality records using a fully analog mastering process. You can learn more at hdvinyl.org and project-audio.com.
Q: Until you mentioned it in your column about speakers two weeks ago, I was not aware that anyone made a reasonably priced tube-type preamplifier. From the picture, the tube looks very much like a 12AX7.
I inherited my grandfather's Dynaco tube preamp, which is in superb original condition except for the 55-year-old tubes. Is there a source for audiophile quality replacement tubes? It needs several, including a 12AX7.
A: The Bellari PA555 does use a 12AX7 tube. It is one of the most common, if not the most common tube used in stereo preamplifiers. It's not hard to find, but prices can vary widely.
Check out tubedepot.com. They have a wide array of vacuum tubes available, some of them recent production from overseas, some of them new old stock from manufacturers like GE and RCA, among others. The Sovtek tubes made in Russia are very highly regarded and quite affordable. A Sovtek 12AX7 sells for less than $15. On the other extreme, an old stock RCA 12AX7 sells for $199, and an old stock Telefunken 12AX7 from Germany is a whopping $499. That's a lot of money for a single vacuum tube, but some audiophiles are willing to pay it because they think they sound better. (Personally, I don't think it would sound $484 better than the Sovtek.)
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.