Vinyl and VOIP

This is the turntable I owned back in the 90s. It represented the start of the art in vinyl playback at that time. The picture does not really convey the size of this rig but keep in mind that the whole thing weighed about 80 lbs. If you look closely you’ll notice that the motor drive system was doubly isolated from the platen (i.e. the thing that the lp sat on) through an outboard fly wheel and two sets of belts. And there was another level of isolation, another belt system suspended by a tri-pully subframe. Forming a triangle, this belt drove the platter through 3 tangential touchpoints to even out the load on the center bearing. Very quiet and very solid. The phono pickup I used was a Japanese Koetsu Black moving coil cartridge.

It was a rockin setup.

Today, digital audio is of course the dominate form of sound recording and reproduction. The cost and convenience of digital is undeniable. Whereas not that long ago you needed to rent time in an expensive recording studio to record your music, today it can be done on an iPad and mixed on a Mac. Playback can be had on a multitude of devices and form factors that could not have been imagined a generation ago. In my case, I don’t go running or ride my motorcycle without my ipad nono. We truly live in a wonderful age.

And yet, and yet, after all that progress and change is it possible that something may have been “lost in translation”?

In my experience, in some recordings at least, the part of the signal that sends a ‘chill’ down your spine is missing in digital sources. The air and the body of instruments seem to have been left behind. My guess is that ambient information, when digitized alongside the main signal, is either not recorded accurately or is not retrieved when converted back to analog. When compared to a high-quality analog rig, digital often has less “there” there.

Analog and turntables were left for dead with the ascent of digital music. But now we’ve seen a rebirth of this medium with dozens of new designs pushing the state of the art to new heights. And there’s been a resurgence of vinyl manufacturing as well. The story of analog playback is still being written.

Although the analogy is not perfect, it reminds me of what I’ve seen with the cloud-based phone systems of today. These systems use a technology called Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP. If you are asking if the “Internet” in VOIP is the same as the internet that you use every day, you would be correct. And just as the internet connects your computer or device to the world virtually for free, VOIP systems can do the same with your phones. And because the internet can connect you to anything anywhere, it allows you to replace your old telephone system with a system that can be in a distant city. In theory, you just plug in your phone into any internet connection, and you can use it as if you were at your desk at work.

Very powerful.

And yet the technology behind the internet that makes all of this possible is also the source of some very serious problems. A VOIP system allows you to use the internet to make phone calls. However there is one problem:

The internet was never designed to carry voice signals.

Successful voice transmission relies on the digital voice signal moving from source to destination and arriving on time. This has to happen accurately and reliably. Small delays can cause distortion or “robot voice”. Large delays are heard as awkward pauses in the conversation. If packets are missed or dropped, the listener will hear gaps or dropouts. I’m sure you’ve heard these same types of problems on your cell phone.

The multitude of “cloud pbx” systems such as Vonage, 8x8, or Freedom Voice are appealing due to their low price and convenience. But what many people don’t realize is that the phone “system” they are connected to is usually located in another state. And all of the drawbacks described above are made worse. And just imagine, if you call someone in the office down the hall, your call goes to the phone system in another state before coming back to that office.

I’ve never met anyone who was happy with this type of system.

A traditional phone system is physically installed at your office. And although they now use the same cables that your PC does, it’s a closed system and therefore works great for voice traffic. And these systems connect directly to your local phone company, which have built a system designed from the ground up for just for voice. Just as you will never hear a dropped call, awkward delays, or robot voices on your old wall phone at home, you will not have these problems with a traditional phone system as well

And what many people don’t realize is that modern small office phone systems are about the size of a hardcopy book. They do not require special wiring, and can be placed virtually anywhere, even remotely at your employees homes.

The cost? Would you be surprised if I told you that they are on par with, or even less than those cloud systems you’ve heard about. And that’s including the phone system, the phones, and the phone service provided by a local telephone company.

And above all, they work. A properly set up phone system should work tirelessly for you, year after year. It should help your business success, and not be a source of frustration.