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

Step-by-step

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+8.75%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 4–0.42%

Track-by-track

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.

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

StepDigitalVinylComments
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.

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

StepDigitalVinylComments
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.)

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

StepDigitalVinylComments
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% / +20%Reprise pressing (+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.
Transatlantic (+20%): Massively more alive, detailed, spacious, colorful, impactful on vinyl.
NB: Future rounds will be based on the Transatlantic pressing.

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

StepDigitalVinylComments
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.

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

StepDigitalVinylComments
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.

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

StepDigitalVinylComments
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. 

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

StepDigitalVinylComments
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.

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

StepDigitalVinylComments
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.

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

StepDigitalVinylComments
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.

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

StepDigitalVinylComments
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.

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

StepDigitalVinylComments
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.

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

StepDigitalVinylComments
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.