Soundtrack Central The best of VGM and other great soundtracks

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jb May 29, 2015 (edited May 29, 2015)

Not sure if anyone has seen this, but Data Discs is going to be printing VGM on vinyl, if you're into that kind of thing.  The first two available are Streets of Rage and Shenmue.

http://data-discs.com
https://www.facebook.com/datadiscs
http://www.twitter.com/datadiscs
http://www.soundcloud.com/datadiscs

I ordered them both because they seem like neat items, we'll see how long they continue to print things.

... which brings me to a slightly off-topic question/concern.  I'm not really a vinyl person, I primarily buy vinyl for artists who I have a significant amount of respect for, the album has a significant impact on my music taste and the album I'm purchasing is stellar front-to-back (in my opinion).  Needless to say, that is few and far between.  I only own maybe 20 records in total?

I have heard, though, that in the vinyl collecting community (I am not part of this at all so I can't speak to it), they are not really happy with the new "hip" popularity of vinyl.  Not just because Urban Outfitters sells them to preteens to put on their wall to "look cooler" (that's really a thing, believe it or not).  I believe it mostly stems from Record Store day, which, while is immensely lucrative for independent record stores, is a very big groan within the music industry itself.  From what I understand, there are very few vinyl record manufacturing plants that are left and they are so inundated with orders from record companies to fulfill Record Store Day releases in the future that this causes a huge backlog and takes forever and a day to get anything printed on vinyl.  That, and the fact that major labels are picking up on the resurgence of the popularity of the vinyl format and basically filling that queue with "Deluxe" and "Remastered" versions of albums that have been around for 30, 40+ years that have hundreds of different reissues already (bands like Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, etc.). I think this is what is putting a sour taste in a lot of true vinyl fans mouths, though I can't say for certain.  I heard that Record Store Day is such a huge winfall that they're looking to extend it to a weekly type thing.

I can't really say that I'm not part of the problem, since I buy records as collectible items (as infrequent as it may be) and I don't even own a record player to listen to them on.

So to veer slightly back on topic, my question is -- do you think that this has a possibility to see a similar resurgence in the physical, collectible product that most of us here remember from the early days (i.e., that thread discussion the small vgm community!)?  I can see it becoming a little more popular but I'd be concerned if it was a monumental effort looking to cash in.  Thoughts?

XLord007 May 30, 2015

jb wrote:

So to veer slightly back on topic, my question is -- do you think that this has a possibility to see a similar resurgence in the physical, collectible product that most of us here remember from the early days (i.e., that thread discussion the small vgm community!)?  I can see it becoming a little more popular but I'd be concerned if it was a monumental effort looking to cash in.  Thoughts?

No, I think it's just a fad. There will always be a place for high end physical releases for super collectors who can afford them (see Kickstarter reward tiers), but I don't see physical ever making a mainstream comeback. In the mainstream, convenience is king, and digital is just too convenient.

GoldfishX May 30, 2015

I suspect it has something to do with people not being satisfied with the most common playback methods nowadays and wanting a "music only" solution to get better sound. The hipsters that frequent record stores nowadays don't strike me as collectors. I honestly want to believe it is the perception of better sound in vinyl (well-meaning, yet misguided, especially if the mix that is pressed to vinyl is brick-walled), as well as the coolness factor that is making the rounds.

Here's the thing: An entry level vinyl rig sounds better than an average phone or mp3 player or even a lower end CD player (let's not even discuss the ear buds people usually use to listen to these). The chips that companies use in phones for DAC's and the amps in these units are lacking and are implemented cheaply. This shouldn't surprise anyone, as companies love to cut costs. Vinyl bypasses the whole digital conversion bottleneck and the result is a better sound fed to your amp. If you don't know where to start when putting a serious digital rig (source/DAC/amp/headphones or speakers), a vinyl rig is much simpler and cheaper to assemble.

I have a modest/crappy turntable setup, mostly for about 20-30 releases that were never properly addressed in a digital format. With the only tweak being a small $30 cartridge upgrade, it sounds pretty damn good when I use it. And yes, I got a kick out of hunting down 30-40 year old records and marveling at how pristine they looked (I have a picture disc of Iron Maiden's "Piece of Mind" hanging on my wall). As far as being collectable goes though, if these same albums could be had on CD, I'm not sure I'd be sticking with the records.

Let's be real: 99.9% of VGM is released in digital formats. People serious about VGM are no doubt better off investing in an upgrade to their digital audio setups, as opposed to going the vinyl route. If they got, say, 100 or 200 of the most classic scores and/or arranged albums pressed to vinyl, maybe it would create a bit more of a stir. Even then, there would still be debate about whether or not the CD or vinyl versions sound better (the Streets of Rage albums sound fantastic on their CD versions, IMO).

student41269 May 30, 2015

Pretty interesting, and depending on their sound source and mastering procedure these could sound good. I'm finding it hard to imagine they're using anything other than the CD releases as a source, though. I think the Shenmue tracklist is well chosen - most of my favourite tracks from the original set.

I still collect and listen to vinyl regularly, but only old albums which were originally produced for and released on the format, as you have a good chance of hearing them as they were meant to be. Jarre, for instance, is in my view unbeatable on original vinyl.

Ashley Winchester May 30, 2015

Speaking of VGM of vinyl, I hear that the Final Fantasy VII Vinyls are being reprinted? I'm going to try and nab a copy.

jb May 30, 2015

GoldfishX wrote:

I suspect it has something to do with people not being satisfied with the most common playback methods nowadays and wanting a "music only" solution to get better sound. The hipsters that frequent record stores nowadays don't strike me as collectors. I honestly want to believe it is the perception of better sound in vinyl (well-meaning, yet misguided, especially if the mix that is pressed to vinyl is brick-walled), as well as the coolness factor that is making the rounds.

Here's the thing: An entry level vinyl rig sounds better than an average phone or mp3 player or even a lower end CD player (let's not even discuss the ear buds people usually use to listen to these). The chips that companies use in phones for DAC's and the amps in these units are lacking and are implemented cheaply. This shouldn't surprise anyone, as companies love to cut costs. Vinyl bypasses the whole digital conversion bottleneck and the result is a better sound fed to your amp. If you don't know where to start when putting a serious digital rig (source/DAC/amp/headphones or speakers), a vinyl rig is much simpler and cheaper to assemble.

I have a modest/crappy turntable setup, mostly for about 20-30 releases that were never properly addressed in a digital format. With the only tweak being a small $30 cartridge upgrade, it sounds pretty damn good when I use it. And yes, I got a kick out of hunting down 30-40 year old records and marveling at how pristine they looked (I have a picture disc of Iron Maiden's "Piece of Mind" hanging on my wall). As far as being collectable goes though, if these same albums could be had on CD, I'm not sure I'd be sticking with the records.

Let's be real: 99.9% of VGM is released in digital formats. People serious about VGM are no doubt better off investing in an upgrade to their digital audio setups, as opposed to going the vinyl route. If they got, say, 100 or 200 of the most classic scores and/or arranged albums pressed to vinyl, maybe it would create a bit more of a stir. Even then, there would still be debate about whether or not the CD or vinyl versions sound better (the Streets of Rage albums sound fantastic on their CD versions, IMO).

I'm curious if you could recommend any decent setups for playing music since you seem to know a lot about them.  I don't really know anything but I'd like to start listening to music on things that aren't my basic computer speakers.  I'd also like to purchase a record player at some point, to actually listen to some of these albums, but that is probably separate research.  I recently bought a pair of Blue Mo-Fis (http://mofiheadphones.com/) and I really like them, although I don't really know anything about them other than they got pretty good reviews and they sound really good.  I imagine I'm probably not using them right since I just plug them into my line out on my PC, would be cool if you could send me some recommendations or link me to something that is like an idiots guide to a decent audio setup or something like that.

GoldfishX May 30, 2015

I can certainly make some recommendations. Just remember three things:

1) A lot of gear is very personal. What sounds good to some people might sound like shit to another person. I've had to resell quite a few pieces over the last couple years.

2) A lot of gear is hyped by shills, either fanboys or people in the industry. Don't believe everything you read. It is why I consider the headphone communities a toxic online environment (and the higher end home stereo forums seem just as bad).

3) Your source feeds the DAC, the DAC feeds your amp, the amp powers the headphones or speakers. There is always synergy between those four parts. Sometimes units will combine these four parts. A CD player, for example, traditionally handles both the source and DAC parts. There's also a lot of trial and error and no true "right way" to do things. If you find something that works, stick with it. But one thing I've learned is that if the headphone does not sound good, usually it is an indication of a problem with the source.

Headphones:

I favor these guys: https://mrspeakers.com/shop/closed/mad- … ort-strap/

It's a mod of an existing headphone, but a very good one. They handle any type of music I throw at them, are comfortable and are not picky with amplifiers. I've had the chance to listen to some of the more megabucks headphones (Audezes, Hifiman) and I think these hang right in with them. I ended up getting one for work and I liked them so much, I bought a second pair for home.

The HD600 and HD650 are amazing audiophile headphones for their price tags (both can be found for under $300 with some light searching normally). A lot of people end up seeing them as a starting point and then end up sticking with them. They're stood the test of time pretty well.

You can rent high end headphones from these guys: http://www.thecableco.com/Product/NEW-H … ng-Library

Headphone amps:

I recommend the Schitt amps: http://schiit.com/products


They out-perform their price by leaps and bounds. I have a Magni, Valhalla 2 and the original Lyr. The $100 Magni is frighteningly good for the price and will drive pretty much anything. It's slightly bright, but that pairs good with the Mad Dog IMO. I was able to score the Valhalla used and I use it for my HD600. It is an OTL amp (directly driven by the tubes), so it specializes in driving the HD600. It struggles with the Mad Dogs though (Mad Dogs are orthodynamic, which means they need a lot of power pumped into them, especially for bass control). OTL amps can't feed them that.

The Lyr gets the most work from me at my work place and I use it with the Mad Dog. I had to do some "tube rolling" with it to tweak the sound (long story, but basically I'm using 1970's Russian Voskhod 6n23p tubes in place of the tubes that come wit the the amp). It gives a BIG, lively sound to the music.

Schitt gear holds its value really well. Usually it can be resold for about 80% or more of the cost if its kept in good condition. I feel like it's hard to beat these amps without spending a ton of money and getting into the multi-thousand dollar range.

Source/DAC:

This is where I run into problems with digital audio. Admittedly, I'm still in the experimental phase and there really isn't a highly agreed blockbuster solution.  A lot of people use their computers and they run the audio out from a USB port to a separate DAC that has a USB input. The problem with this is computers produce a lot of noise and that affects the digital signal that gets converted. It's where digital sound gets that harsh, analytic reputation (as opposed to the "smoothness" of vinyl). Schitt offers their Wyrd "USB decrappifier" to help, but I'm not really confident in USB audio yet. I'm always interested what people's individual solutions are.

I view the source and the DAC as necessary evils. That is, once you get something together that is serviceable, you can tweak the sound with the "analogue" parts of the rig better (the amps/headphones). But if you're feeding the amps/headphones crap, they will reflect it in their performance. A $2000 headphone powered by a $6000 amp can't sound sound good if it's being fed crap. This is where vinyl kicks digital audio's butt, by skipping the whole conversion from 1's and 0's and any associated issues.

At work, I use this: http://www.amazon.com/iBasso-DX50-Maste … B00J6RVQJM

It has two ports at the bottom. One is for a regular iPod-style headphone jack that is driven by a small portable amp. I almost never use this, because if you feed it into an amp, you're "double-amping" (people tend to do this when they hook their phones into the Aux jack in their cars). The other (the line-out) is designed to feed into an amp and comes directly from the DAC inside the unit (using a Y-cable) So basically, I control what goes into the Lyr via the unit. I also installed Rockbox on it, which is leaps and bounds ahead of the stock firmwares (iBasso never figured out how to stop their firmwares from altering the sound on the units, Rockbox fixed that, so it's outputting a pretty neutral sound across the spectrum). The firmware navigation is clunky, but it works. I also use it in my car, again, much like people using their phones with the Aux jack to play music, except I'm just using a regular 1/8-to-1/8 cable from the line-out.

It doesn't get a lot of love from the audiophile community (Ibasso has always had a slightly tepid response to their gear) and admittedly, if I knew for sure something would work better, I'd upgrade. But for the price and convenience, it's hard to beat. Prior to installing Rockbox though, I nearly gave up on this. It's also pretty rugged: I pretty much beat the hell out of mine on a daily basis and have had zero issues with it.

At home, I'm currently using this: http://www.amazon.com/Sony-HAPS1-Hi-Res … ony+hap-s1

Jack of all trades, master of some. The headphone port isn't so impressive (I haven't tried running the speakers from it either) but for a file browser and something to handle the digital-to-analogue conversion, it's top notch. In the audiophile community, it has one achilles heel: You can't use an external DAC, you HAVE to use the built-in DAC. For 99% of the human population and for audiophiles that are fine with sigma-delta conversion (another long story), this isn't an issue and I think it sounds damn good. The computer uses an app to transfer songs and it can be controlled via remote from a tablet or smartphone. Again, not cheap, but incredibly versatile.

Another solution is the Olive One. http://www.myoliveone.com/Ones/tech_specs

I've had my eye on this for both the looks and the digital output (which lets you connect an external DAC). It's newer and there aren't a lot of impressions, but it falls right in line with what the Sony does. Has lots of potential, especially when there aren't a lot of options out there.

If we're using CD's, I recommend a player that has SPDIF output. A CD player has a built-in DAC and a lot of them simply aren't very good. SPDIF means you can use the CD player as a straight transport and have your separate higher-quality DAC do that conversions. There are a lot of bad, consumer-grade CD players out out there that either have movement in the CD tray (causes jitter) or bad DAC implementation and I believe that is where digital audio gets a bad rap. I used to have a pretty nice player (Marantz SACD-8004), but I sold it to fund the Sony file player.

One last thing: Upgrade the power cables and interconnects from the stock ones on any gear you pick up. The stock ones tend to have a bit of that "digital harshness" you want to remove. Nothing fancy is needed (so no $1000 power cables or $500 RCA interconnects that people rightfully poke fun at), but a pair of $50 RCA interconnects and a copper power cable in the $80-$100 range are good enough to clean the sound up. This is a hot topic that many flame wars have erupted over in the audiophile boards. For me, the difference was very noticeable (in a good way)

tl;dr Digital audio is a huge pricey pain in the ass with a ton of variables, but worth it once you find the right combination of stuff.

GoldfishX May 31, 2015

Also, as an example of how extreme digital audio can get, this post is a goldmine of information:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/634201/battle- … s-compared

Here's the guy's DAC setup:

COST:

    DIAMOND DAC: $21995 (starting price pre-upgrades)
    FEMTOSECOND GALAXY CLOCK: $9950
    DIAMOND POWER BASE $4495
    UNIVERSAL MEDIA TRANSPORT: $3995
    PRO I2S Input: $995

TOTAL: $41430

Needless to say, I want this. Just might not happen in this lifetime. wink

Rrolack May 31, 2015

From this article:

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/ … n-20150130

It sounds like the music industry itself doesn't believe in a vinyl resurgence.  I'd say unless the producers themselves are on board, meaning they're both building out more vinyl-production capacity and actively promoting the format, there is a cap on how popular it can get.

jb, I find it interesting that you're willing to buy vinyl, without a turntable to listen on smile  I'm in the same boat to some degree; I don't have a turntable, but I'm thinking about starting to buy VGM on vinyl.  For me, the thinking is that it's easier to find the albums now than it will be later (imagine trying to get a copy of SQ TRAX in 2025).

Unfortunately for now, I don't have the physical space for a turntable and phono preamp, but maybe one day...

Ashley Winchester May 31, 2015

jb wrote:

...but I'd like to start listening to music on things that aren't my basic computer speakers.

This. Moving past basic computer speakers really does open a lot of music up.

However, I can't help but feel bit-tunes (at least those from the NES) gets the short end of the stick in that regard.

Can't tell you how many killer basslines I was missing out on.

Crash Jun 1, 2015

I have a pretty crazy audio setup, but I have stayed away from vinyl because (a) the synergy that Goldfish X mentioned for digital seems to be multiplied for vinyl (cartridge + tonearm + turntable + pre-amp interactions) and (b) the maintenance required is so high. The angle of the cartridge can have an effect on the sound, and the setup has to be recalibrated fairly often. I remember reading an audiophile describing listening to a new release on vinyl, and it seemed like it would take him half an hour to make sure his equipment was in good working order before he was be able to listen to the music EACH NIGHT. The media itself has to be kept clean and flat, and quality of materials used can make a difference in the way a recording sounds. The dynamic range bests CDs, but is variable depending on the physical position of the song on the LP.

(Nothing against vinyl or vinyl enthusiasts, but it just isn't my cup of tea).

jb Jun 1, 2015

Well, that escalated quickly.  That was a rather detailed post, thanks for your insights.  I'm not sure I'm ready to go that deep into audio equipment, though big_smile

vert1 Jun 5, 2015

Ordered the Streets of Rage one in black (has better quality than color vinyl iirc). I generally don't buy albums on vinyl. 12" vinyl is my fixation. If Data Disc is smart they'll release 12" dance mixes of Bare Knuckle 2.

student41269 Sep 15, 2015

Received the Shenmue vinyl - it's very, very good. The first two tracks (busier arrangements) lack punch and I suspect they come from inferior source files, but the rest is quite beautiful and has the deep, warm tones one would expect from the format. The Sadness I Carry On My Shoulders gave me goosebumps all over again.

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