This is the page where I record brief, digestible, comparable reflections on my LP12 Modification Frenzy.


This table judges each modification by the average change in sound quality it produced. For instance, if adding the Mober made Test Track 4 go from “Digital +5%” to “Vinyl +5%,” the Mober made a +10% difference in favour of the vinyl system. The number you see below is the average change across all 12 tracks.

Step% changeComments
Base(The base system can’t make a change because it’s just the base system :))
Mober+8.8%Swapping out the Cirkus subchassis and laminated armboard for the Mober one-piece subchassis/armboard made things sound considerably better. There was more detail, more texture, and more space.
Khan+5%Swapping the stock stainless steel Linn top plate for the aluminum Khan improved the sound on most tracks, in some cases considerably. The music was more natural and the soundstage wider and cleaner, with greater separation between instruments. However, on two older pressings (possibly worn) the sound got worse.
Audio Desk+5%Cleaning discs with the Audio Desk Vinyl Cleaner Pro ultrasonic machine increased clarity, improved separation between instruments, and gave a more natural presentation. Every track except two (the two best-sounding tracks in previous rounds) sounded better, and even in these I thought I perceived a slight improvement.
Lingo 4–0.4%My Lingo 4 had a noisy motor and actually made my system sound slightly worse. I’d like to try again with one that has a healthy motor. In the meantime, I’ve removed the Lingo and reinstalled the Hercules/Mose.
SSP12+6.3%The SSP12, cheap and easy to install, made music sound considerably better. The difference was not subtle: the music was “springy,” energetic, colourful. As a value-for-money upgrade, this is the best yet.
XX-2–15.4%Probably through no fault of its own — rather, alignment issues, an arm/cartridge mismatch, or some other setup issue — the Dynavector XX-2 mkII cartridge made things sound considerably worse.


There is nothing very scientific about the % numbers in the tables below — just an attempt to boil down a lot of words into an easily comparable number. If it says “+5” in the vinyl column, that means that vinyl sounded 5% better than digital on this particular listening. I’m going to stick to increments of 5%. 5% means the difference is slight, 10% the difference is easily noticeable, 15% there is a big difference, 20% is when you switch from the good one to the bad one and say “gross,” 25% is “beyond gross.” 30% is when you switch from one to the other and are appalled — morally outraged — by how bad the bad one sounds.

Anything whose name is struck through is something I removed after performing the listening test (usually because it made the music sound worse). In cases like these, comparisons of subsequent upgrades are to the state before the “struck through” equipment was installed.

1. The Beach Boys, “I Know There’s an Answer,” Pet Sounds (1966)

Base+5%Slight hardness to digital, vinyl more controlled — but more bass heft on digital
Mober==Hard to compare with loudness difference, but no evidence of digital hardness. Sound the same.
Khan+5%Some minimal evidence of the vinyl sounding a little bit better: tympanis are rounder, cymbals a little sharper. But the differences are small.
Audio Desk+10%Definite flatness, background haze to the digital. Heavier bass on vinyl, and more texture on harmonica and shakers. 
Lingo 4+15%Flat, constrained, mushed together, clunky on digital. Wide, full, clean, clear, harder-hitting on vinyl. The difference between sugar that’s congealed into a rock while being heated versus lots of lovely, fine, separated grains of sugar.
SSP12+15%Vinyl is sweet, golden, sunlit. Digital is hard and boxy — lit by those pure-white LED bulbs that make everything look terrible.
XX-2+25%Glaring difference in smoothness, richness, and detail.

2. Charles Mingus, “Track B — Duet Solo Dancers,” The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963)

Base+10%More control, more extension, more detail on digital.
Mober==My comments are confused. With slight delay, “more presence, more texture, rounder drums, more detail, smoother, less harsh.” Second-to-second: “the vinyl seems a little muted in comparison to the authoritative, muscular digital.”
Khan+5%On balance, digital has a slight edge on texture, digital a slight edge on detail. But I’m not terribly happy with my choice of this record any longer: the surface noise makes it tricky to compare, adding a bit of graininess to the whole track. [Note: 2019 Vital Vinyl pressing sounds 10% better than digital: “Richer, smoother on vinyl but still with tons of detail.”]
Audio Desk==There are areas that digital excels: control and power. On details, vinyl is better in some ways, though, especially the ride cymbal, which is very tizzy on digital and much more natural on vinyl. (2019 Vital Vinyl is still 10% better than digital: It’s huge, powerful, more detailed.)
Lingo 4+5%The detail on cymbal and high end (and on drums in the quiet part) is much more listenable and pleasant on vinyl. (Vital Vinyl sounds the same as in previous rounds.)
SSP12+5%Less detail on vinyl, but so much “juicier” — so much more saturated with colour.
XX-2+15%Vinyl has closed the gap on detail (now totally equal) and maintained its advantage in terms of “colour,” cymbal texture, and spatial presentation.

3. The Pentangle, “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme,” The Pentangle (1968)

Base+10%Lots more detail with digital, especially noticeable with triangle
Mober==The rim hits have a bit more lifelike detail on digital, a bit more kick on vinyl. 
Khan+5%A little bit more “ting” on the triangle and cymbals on digital, perhaps? The surface noise is annoying and definitely adds a bit of filter to the music.
Audio Desk==Yes, the surface noise is there, but vinyl has all the detail, plus a bit more detail around edges, a fuller, more balanced sound, more heft.
Lingo 4+5%Yes, the graininess on vinyl is there. But there’s a tinniness to the digital that really shows up in the rim-hits: they feel blunt, hard against the soft landing of the vinyl.
SSP12+10%The digital presents a very narrow band of sound, like a shallow depth of field. Vinyl is much deeper and wider.
XX-2+5%Slightly congested sound on vinyl compared with digital. The vinyl evens off some of the harshness of the digital, so it’s more pleasant, only slightly.

4. Mariah, “Shinzo No Tobira,” Utakata No Hibi (1983)

Base+5%More detail on digital, greater sense of space, especially in the “rattly” drum. Warmer and more bass on vinyl.
Mober+5%More detail, more attack and definition, more crunch, more texture, more slam on vinyl. 
Khan+10%There is more of everything in the vinyl: more slam, more high end, more focus, more detail. 
Audio Desk+20%With the vocals at exactly the same volume level, I’m getting the bass and the rattles with what feels like twice the impact and presence.
Lingo 4+15%The staleness, flatness of the digital is definitely really clear even outside of back-and-forth comparison.
SSP12+25%Oh man, the analog synths on vinyl are just so crunchy, like running candy-sandpaper over my eardrums. 
XX-2+5%A very, very slight edge to vinyl. Just a very slightly nicer timbre on vinyl.

5. Joy Division, “Atmosphere,” 12″ single (1980)

Base+5%More slam and a rounder sound, especially on the drums.
Mober+15%Not subtle. Both sound great but vinyl is just better, fuller, harder-hitting, more detailed, more focused, less hazy.
Khan+25%The quick drum playing in the right channel is beautifully distinct on vinyl, barely even audible on digital. No impact to the drums on digital; tons on vinyl. Everything is squeezed into a muddy little snowball in the digital; it’s like looking into a whole galaxy on vinyl. Seriously. Massive difference. 
Audio Desk+25%Not a fair fight. Cloudy, narrow, confused soundstage on digital — dead clear on vinyl. The question is not which is better but how much.
Lingo 4+25%So much more detail, impact, reality, edge, bite. The critical vocabulary is the issue now. Gross? Definitely. Beyond gross? Probably.
SSP12+30%The emotion of the song is so buried on digital — it feels almost wrong to listen to it in its diminished state.
XX-2+10%Just not like before. Toms are much more impactful, but they’re rounded off by that thuddy quality. Really spoils the experience here.

6. Low, “Just Make It Stop,” The Invisible Way (2013)

Base+5%Vinyl is grainy. Digital has more heft and detail.
Mober+5%Sounds a little muddy, veiled on digital. Brighter, more focused, nicer, cleaner cymbals on vinyl.
Khan+15%Massively more detail in brush, piano, and bass on vinyl. More definition, detail, decay on vinyl. Muffled, flat, narrow on digital. Lively, dynamic, alive on vinyl.
Audio Desk+20%Most noticeable are the brushed cymbals, which are one little point in space on digital but reverberate in a huge sphere of sound on vinyl.
Lingo 4+20%Clarity, space — no comparison. Clearest in the loud, busy parts. Everything becomes a mush on digital. 
SSP12+25%It’s just sad that digital should sound so weak — and that anyone should have to listen to it that way when the experience I’m having on vinyl is possible.
XX-2+5%Very, very similar — including a confused, muddy soundstage in loud parts. Only advantage is slightly more natural vocals and cymbals on vinyl.

7. Yo La Tengo, “Stockholm Syndrome,” I Can Feel the Heart Beating as One (1997)

Base==Nice detail on guitars and more bass on vinyl. But more detail overall and better control on digital.
Mober+15%Digital is constrained in the soundstage, narrow, muddy, dull. Vinyl is brighter, wider, more detailed, more sparkling.
Khan+20%It’s nuts when comparing individual instruments: the bass is flabby on digital, tight and focused on vinyl; the drums are indistinct and flat on digital, tight and sharp on vinyl.
Audio Desk+25%Wowwwwwwww. It’s really like a room filled with stale, hot, humid air — and then a huge door swings open and fresh air blows through the space.
Lingo 4+30%You know, I think I might finally know what 30% sounds like. I am morally offended and also spiritually deflated at how horrible the digital sounds in comparison.
SSP12+35%The vinyl BURSTS FORTH with freshness and life; the digital is covered in a big, wet, lukewarm washcloth.
XX-2+10%The acoustic guitar sounds better and the cymbals are sharper on vinyl, but it sounds muddy and sounds nasty. Can’t get that Ekos on fast enough…

8. The Beatles, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” The White Album (1968)

Base+5%Great on both, but bass is more present, deeper, and harder-hitting on vinyl.
Mober+5%More air and space on vinyl, more detail. Lots of slam on vinyl, though maybe a touch less than digital.
Khan+15%Vinyl sounds more assured, more natural, fuller. Digital soundstage sounds constrained, mushy. Instruments are less distinct, hazy. Low end is flabby. Really big difference.
Audio Desk+25%Instead of one big, tiring chunk of sound, on vinyl you get a whole room full of instruments, with air blowing through…
Lingo 4+20%The thick, full bass drum on vinyl becomes a flabby empty sack on digital. Imagine a bursting-full wineskin versus one with only a few drops left.
SSP12+30%Like watching a GIF image loading in the dialup days: digital is the first pass, then all the details come into focus switching to vinyl.
XX-2+5%When things get noisy and busy, it’s just too much on vinyl — confused, hazy.

9. Dungen, “Panda,” Ta Det Lugnt (2004)

Base+10%Vinyl slams harder, is much more alive and cutting.
Mober+15%Haze on digital drums. Much livelier, more real on vinyl. Not close.
Khan+20%Digital is hazy, unfocused, lacking in detail, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing. Vinyl just sounds relaxed, open, powerful, effortless, natural. 
Audio Desk+25%This just isn’t fair. Clarity, slam, detail, punch, everything. Unbelievable.
Lingo 4+20%Listening to the opening on vinyl, I feel like my head is actually being sort of pleasantly knocked around, like my headphones are the drumsticks and my head is the drum. No such fanciful effect on digital, where I feel no impact, and where everything is sludged together.
SSP12+30%On vinyl, a totally enveloping world of sonic perfection. What has this SSP12 done to my turntable?!
XX-2+15%The distorted electric guitars sound sharper, more alive on vinyl. The boomy bass and the thuddiness are here, but there’s a harsh glare to the digital that is gone on vinyl.

10. Julee Cruise, “Rocking Back Inside My Heart,” Floating Into the Night (1989)

Base+5%More detail, edge, and bass on vinyl.
Mober+15%Vinyl miles ahead. So much clarity, detail, texture, snap on vinyl.
Khan+20%The palm mutes are very revealing: on digital, one big deep-fried-together thunk; on vinyl, a whole bunch of thin, long, separable little strands working together.
Audio Desk+20%The sax breakdown is crazy: sounds great on digital but AMAZING on vinyl, with so much width, bite, detail, texture.
Lingo 4+20%Switching from vinyl to digital, things get cloudy, dull, mushed together, blunted.
SSP12+25%Snaps, claps, palm mutes — all the “sharp” sounds — are buried and muffled on digital, crisp on vinyl. The sax breakdown is a full-body experience on vinyl, pretty boring on digital. 
XX-2+5%Better treble detail on digital, higher higher and lower lows, more focus. Sax sounds a lot nicer on vinyl, textures generally nicer. But the thud.

11. Can, “Halleluwah,” Tago Mago (1971)

Base+5%Both amazing, but a little more haze on vinyl. Vinyl does have nicer, deeper bass.
Mober+5%A bit more air and snap on the vinyl. By no means a blowout, but definitely noticeable.
Khan+15%Soundstage is confused, compressed, muddied on digital. Drums just sound totally fake on digital; no roundness, no life.
Audio Desk+20%It’s not so much a question of detail or impact but of tone. All the sounds are there on digital and they hit pretty hard. They just don’t sound good in comparison to the vinyl.
Lingo 4+15%More, nicer bass on vinyl, also lots more definition on cymbals. Digital isn’t horrible, though — just a little foggy compared to the vinyl.
SSP12+25%Snap, slam, excitement: so much more on vinyl. “Tickle sounds” totally stale on digital. 
XX-2+5%The bass is just overwhelming in this vinyl setup. In some parts that works, in some parts it doesn’t.

12. Bill Callahan, “Javelin Unlanding,” Dream River (2013)

Base+5%Bass hits harder with more clarity on digital. Percussion may be more present on vinyl.
Mober+15%Fuzz, bloat on digital, cleanliness focus, control, detail, elegance of presentation on vinyl.
Khan+20%Digital is boomy, unfocused. The main thing about vinyl is how clean, open it is, with clarity on every instrument and loads of space between them.
Audio Desk+25%It’s the little reverberations around the hand drums, the little rattling pockets of sound, that you miss most moving from vinyl to digital.
Lingo 4+20%Digital is too bassy, too muddy, total lack of subtlety in presentation of quieter textures and sounds. Space is foggy, congested on digital. Yuck.
SSP12+30%The digital transfer here is clearly just a terrible one. Cloudy, dead, muddy, gross. The vinyl sounded good on its own but sounds incredible in comparison.
XX-2==Wider soundstage, some more natural sounds, no pixel-barf on vinyl. But better detail, more dynamic presentation on digital. It’s a wash, which is nuts.