Last week during SXSW, DMX unveiled the “Barry Knittel Lounge” at the Austin headquarters. Our CTO, John Paul (JP), spent 400 hours of his own time designing and building a custom stereo system for the lounge; a system that consists of a vintage turntable with tube amplifiers. You can read about JP’s relationship with Barry and the system’s creation here.
As I gathered with JP and some of my co-workers I was treated to what had to be some of the most sonically pleasing sounds I have heard in over 20 years! I let the needle fall on side 2 of Earth Wind & Fire’s 1979 album, I Am. The EWF horns kicked off the disco hit “Boogie Wonderland” and I was FLOORED!
What I immediately noticed was that the song sounded “weird.” It was not as “loud” as I had thought it should be. The horns seem to be more subtle, the strings seem to be underneath the horns in the mix, and they sound so, so LUSH! Ahh, what I was hearing was the difference between modern playback techniques and those of yesteryear. The song was so warm, so vibrant, and so real.
This was the sound of the music I grew up with. My Dad used to put a 45 RPM record on and set it to repeat. I would hear Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” for two hours straight – crackles, pops and all. We used to listen to AM radio with songs played from a turntable like the one in the Knittel Lounge. We loved our music.
Today, the MP3 has made listening to music so much easier but, let me tell you, nothing beats the sound of an actual vinyl record playing through an analog system. I can’t wait to get into that lounge again! I think my next selection will be Smokey Robinson’s first solo album and then maybe Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther album from 1964…
The good news is that modern day listeners can, sort of, have the best of both worlds. There is a large selection of USB Turntables out there that will allow you to hear your old records and even transfer them to MP3 (why would you?) or preferable a lossless format like FLAC or ALAC. These formats take up more space in your mp3 device but the sound is so much better!
– Submitted by Jose Brown, SonicTap
Amen, Jose. When I got to choose an album in the Knittel Lounge I put on an old Guy Clark album that I treasured in 1978. The clarity was unreal. I had to convince myself that it wasn’t a re-recording because of the differences I was hearing. I was just hearing it like I’m sure I had heard it originally, but had forgotten. This system is amazing. Great work J.P. God Bless Barry.