Vinyl dynamic range questions

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by SergioRZ, May 26, 2010.

  1. SergioRZ

    SergioRZ Well-Known Member

    Lisbon, Portugal
    The maximum dynamic range we can put on a vinyl record is around 60 dB.

    CD (16bit), on the other hand, can achieve 96 dB dynamic range.

    The dynamic range of human hearing is roughly 140 dB.

    The dynamic range of music as normally perceived in a concert hall doesn't exceed 80 dB, and human speech is normally perceived over a range of about 40 dB.

    Is this correct information? I took these numbers from wikipedia... so I don't really know how reliable this information is.

    So, according to these numbers, is vinyl really bad to reproduce acceptable dynamic range in recorded music? Or is it a non-issue because maybe most existing "comercial" recordings don't really need anymore than 60 dB for accurate playback?

    In pratical terms, what can we say about the real benefits of 96 dB from CD over the 60dB from vinyl? Is this something we can perceive everyday? How many CD's out there actually take any advantage from their increases theoretical dynamic range?

    I'm trying to understand what is the main issue with Dynamic Range... I'm starting to think it is much more an academic and theorical issue. I've been listening to vinyl for the last year and I can't really say I agree that Dynamic Range is a major problem for vinyl, compared with CD. Actually, in my experience, I have more problems with Dynamic Range when listening to CD's than with vinyl records...

    So, what's going on with this Dynamic Range difference and how much does it really matter? Maybe our domestic listening enviroment, our audio systems at home, can't really take advantage of the increased dynamic range from CD's?
  2. alfeizar

    alfeizar Active Member

    Maybe the sounds recorded for the music we listen to don't take advantage of the extra dynamic range, just a thought
  3. acdc7369

    acdc7369 Well-Known Member

    I don't know how accurate the information is, but if it's not totally accurate, it's not far off the mark either. Those numbers seem reasonable.

    There really isn't really any music in existance that has 140 dB of dynamics. I don't think vinyl is good enough though because a noise floor of -60 dB still has noise that affects playback listenability, especially on classical recordings. Plus, the signal to noise ratio of most amplifiers really doesn't exceded that of the CD, rendering anything above 16 bit quantization pretty much useless unless you have a good enough amplifier. So it's not just the format you're listening to, it's the effective Signal to Noise ratio your system produces from the beginning of the signal path to the end.

    I'm not saying there isn't room for improvement. I'm just saying that amplifier manufacturers have no motivation to manufacture clean amplifiers with 140 dB signal to noise ratio, and who knows how expensive speaker wire/interconnects with that kind of S/N ratio is. I'm personally OK with 96dB dynamic range because my amplifier has 110 dB signal to noise ratio.
  4. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker Formerly Philip Hamm

    Northern VA, USA
    I guarantee if you become a fan of classical music that dynamic range will be anything but an academic issue.

    Vinyl dynamic range is adequate for most Pop/Rock and Jazz music. For classical music it is quite limited. There's a reason the first group of music fans to adopt the compact disc was the classical crowd.
  5. kevintomb

    kevintomb Forum Resident

    One word:

    "Classical music"!

    At its best vinyl has a decent dynamic range, but to keep the loudest momentary peaks from breaking up or distorting, the lowest level sounds must be very low. Surface noise overwhelms these minute sounds IF there are extremely loud peaks. I know many will say "" my rig is extremely quiet" and with the absolute best vinyl surface noise isnt a big deal, but the truth is, MOST vinyl is not top notch and most average vinyl users cant find or afford truly quiet pressings.

    Thats why mainly for me CD was chosen. Its background noise is extremely low and consistant from Disc to Disc. With a very well defined peak level its easy to see it wont break up or distort.

    Pop/rock music "in general" doesnt take advantage of CDs extremely wide dynamic range most times.
  6. Feisal K

    Feisal K Active Member

    mr pedantic says Classical Music is two words.


  7. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker Formerly Philip Hamm

    Northern VA, USA
    LOL I was going to post the same thing.:nauga:
  8. 5-String

    5-String Well-Known Member

  9. kevintomb

    kevintomb Forum Resident

    ..........Intentional humor.......:shh:
  10. SergioRZ

    SergioRZ Well-Known Member

    Lisbon, Portugal
    I was convinced that the main reasons for classical music lovers adopting CD earlier were related to vinyl surface noise (mostly resulting from dirt and dust) and also because unlike pop/rock music the "tracks" are usually longer meaning the listener would play less full tracks per side, or even require producers to cut tracks in odd places to make them fit on multiple LP sides...

    I'm aware of the fact that classical music with full orchestra usually require a lot of dynamic range... but this raises a few other questions:

    - Is this potential Dynamic Range coming through the capture and recording and mixing and mastering processes, untouched all the way to the final format (CD or LP)? I mean, if a particular performance averages 80dB, with a few 110dB peaks, is this preserved during all the phases until actually mastering to LP/CD?

    - If that is true, then we need to compress the recording to fit into the CD and LP dynamic range (say, 60dB for LP and 90dB for CD), right?

    Is this common? Apparently it's not common for pop/rock music... but is it common to have classical music recordings with such a wide dynamic range? And is it common to have it preserved all the way through to the final format?

    Or are we talking about a few CD's, let's say, 5% or 10% of all classical music CD's?
  11. Raunchnroll

    Raunchnroll Forum Resident

    According to our forum host vinyl = 75 dB dynamic range.
  12. Scott Wheeler

    Scott Wheeler Forum Resident

    60 db is not the dynamic range of vinyl. It may be the dynamic range of some inferior system used by some one to measure dynamic range at some point but it ain't the limit of the medium at all. Here is a nice little article that sheds some light on the real world of dynamic range for both media. And note that the tests done for this article were not done with SOTA vinyl or SOTA vinyl playback gear.
  13. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker Formerly Philip Hamm

    Northern VA, USA
    Surface noise. Yes. Longer time between human intervention to continue listening to longer pieces. Yes.
    Yes. Easily. Even on older tapes from the 30s and 40s. Studio quality reel-to reel tape has been really excellent for a very long time. Tape hiss is there, but the s/n should easily reach the mid to upper 80s on even older magnetic classical recordings.
    No. Classical fans would cringe to hear you suggest compression on their recordings of the 1812 overture. :) Nice thing about vinyl (and tape for that matter) is that you can hear recorded sounds that are quieter than the 'noise floor' of the medium.
    More like 50-70% in my experience, but I only have a few hundred classical selections and a very limited composer selection. Innergroove distortion is a major problem for classical buffs. Just when the piece is hitting its loudest crescendo you're most likely to hear the sonics break up.

    Also, remember with vinyl S/N varies with many different factors. Sure you may be able to achieve 75dB s/n on a 45rpm record with a running time of 10 minutes for a 12" record, but you'll be lucky to get 50dB or even less on an album with 30 minutes on a side running at 33 1/3 RPM. LOTS of other variables as well, of course.

    That said I love my classical records. :)
  14. Tony Plachy

    Tony Plachy Well-Known Member

    Pleasantville, NY
    Sergio, If I were you I would not worry about it. The amount of music out there that has a true 60 dB or greater dynamic range is limited. While it is true that surface noise and /or tape hiss (assuming the music comes from an analog tape) can interfere with low level music on vinyl, most people can ignore these because they are a non-musical noise sorce (unlike harmonic distortion which is hard to ignore). You can hear "through" the noise. OTOH, noise in digital recordings is actually quantization error which as you probably know already is most sever for the LSB and the other lower level bits, thus digital music comes with its distortions on low level music as well.
  15. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Fresno, California
    Conditions on the Ground

    Sounds right to me.

    Depends entirely on the kind of music you listen to. If you're a big fan of one of the golden ages of music on the radio then you are accustomed to music of deliberately limited dynamic range. Frank Sinatra records, Beatles Records, Michael Jackson Records all were designed with playback on devices of limited dynamic range in mind. The 10-transistor Sony AM radio I first heard the Beatles on was the iPod of its day.

    However, there's a lot of music that requires a much greater dynamic range. Someone willing to invest a lot of bucks in their LP rig can make significant improvements in the overall obtrusiveness of the noise floor, but it can only be as good as the LP being played and frankly, that is a variable in LPs that is rather audible.

    I've got a couple of iPods and some halfway decent earbuds from Sony. I take very long walks in the morning with the earbuds blaring away. The different noise floors are quite noticeable even in iTunes 256 kbps files. The difference between these MP4 files and uncompressed files is also quite noticeable. With needledrops you hear the clicks and pops. That rumbly, hissy rush of vinyl noise varies from LP to LP. The surfaces of Steve Hoffman's recent LP remaster of the Ellington Nutcracker are near silent, the inner tracks of my well-worn Parlophone double box Help stick out like chalk squeaking on a blackboard.

    I suppose that means that you are encountering CDs with very wide dynamic ranges or brickwalling is bugging you, as it should.

    If you listen to Mahler or Bruckner, and I've been listening to it a lot lately, it's easy to hear the difference between CDs & SACDs—there's more of a sense of solidity to the instruments as you approach to noise floor with pure DSD than there is with Redbook CD. In that context, very few of my Bruckner or Mahler LPs sound as good as the CD versions of the same recordings.
  16. acdc7369

    acdc7369 Well-Known Member

    I disagree that he's using a recording of his pre-amp playing a CD as a reference point. Who knows what kind of distortion his amplifier applies to the signal, and his CD player's DAC for that matter. He claims it's a good indicator for "real world" performance instead of "theoretical" performance. I attribute it moreso to his system's inefficiencies rather than a flaw of the format maybe it's "real world" performance on his system.

    Besides, vinyl quality is so inconsistent. I find it very rare that a vinyl contains a higher noise floor than ~70 dB. The fact is that the compact disc constantly contains data at a 96 dB S/N ratio at ALL frequencies...even his experiment shows that the noise floor of the average vinyl on his system goes down to -60 dB in the upper bass/lower mid range - WELL within audible frequencies. Plus, he's measuring dynamics of the vinyl against the CD, neglecting to take into account the fact that they are totally different masterings, with the CD probably more compressed.

    To really do this experiment, you need to flat cut the master tape to vinyl and then do a flat transfer of the master tape to a CD and compare both against the master tape. This article is junk science.
  17. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Fresno, California
    Sonic Massage

    Yup, pretty much. This is far more common in the recording of Orchestra music than pop music, which is really massaged into final form.

    The old Mercury Living Presence LPs are like that. There are others.

    Something not brought up is that analog tape continues to record signal 40db below the noise floor, 16bit/44k digital not so much. But these days productions are in higher-bit formats then dithered down to redbook as a final step, so a lot of the advantages of high-bit recording are retained in the final product.

    Unless the last step is brickwalling :hurl:

    LPs of Mahler are obviously compressed for LP. The ones that don't have passages buried in surface noise.

    Common enough. But most people don't notice this sort of stuff anyway.

    More and more common all the time.

    Hey—that ain't 5% of nothing!

    Yeah, it's not that common, this is more like audiophile obsession than the work of popcult fanboys. 6 of 1 . . .
  18. Tony Plachy

    Tony Plachy Well-Known Member

    Pleasantville, NY
    acdc, It is not junk science, it is a good comparison of what you find in the real world, and you, yourself, have touched on a major real world limitation of CD's. Most CD's today are compressed to the point where CD's would be just fine if they only offered a 50 dB dynamic range. :rolleyes:
  19. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    Because they're old and deaf?

  20. GreenDrazi

    GreenDrazi Well-Known Member

    Atlanta, GA
    This article is so flawed and has been linked to before in this forum. It was designed to "prove" that vinyl is equal to or superior than CD’s instead of taking an objective approach, IMHO. No music representing wide dynamic range (such as a classical recording) was even selected and he does almost nothing to assure that the titles used in their different formats represent the same mastering, let alone the best possible mastering.
  21. GreenDrazi

    GreenDrazi Well-Known Member

    Atlanta, GA
    Just the opposite. They're not deaf from listening to highly compressed pop/rock music.
  22. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    Well, that brings up studio added compression which is the subject of countless threads on recorded music already. It is trendy to have rock and pop hits compressed and as such the CD specs are pretty usesless. It is mostly mp3 quality then and since that is also the gaining popular format, no one really cares. At least no one outside of these few music forums. Most kids and even adults who buy pop music are perfectly happy with their crappy, compressed, mp3 compacted garbage. Ignorance is bliss. :rolleyes:
  23. acdc7369

    acdc7369 Well-Known Member

    The mastering has nothing to do with the format. Besides, I dispute his findings that recording the output of a CD player from his amp gives a higher noise floor than a vinyl record would doing the same thing. There's no logical way that would ever make sense, except for noise being added by his amp. Again, that has nothing to do with the format itself or any of its limitations.

    Plus, you can't just say the vinyl has a lower noise floor because it's down lower than the CD at one particular frequency. You measure the noise floor at its highest point.
  24. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    No, but perhaps from other activities. My old dentist is as deaf as a post. ;)

    It was a joke really, but when you think about it, the reason that it's funny is the amount of truth in it. I remember the first CD player that I saw/heard. It was one of the first available, a Magnavox, and there were only a handful of CDs available to feed it. As expected, most of those CDs were classical, perhaps all four of them... At any rate, I heard it and other than the fact that there was added noise (surface noise or playback tape noise) or speed issues, it sounded dreadful.
  25. Baron Von Talbot

    Baron Von Talbot Well-Known Member

    I was not patient enough to read more than half of the answers her, but you mx up two things. The human ear can hear sounds with a db range of say 120. 140would be standing nxt to a starting plane or to a shooting canon and you'd lose yourhearing at least fro a while, so a maximum of 130 db seems to be more realistic. This is btw the loudest any headphone plays for DJ use - Sennheiser HD 25 and i swear it starts to hurt really bad lon before you reach maximum- Peaks don't exist in Techno Music- When you record that you get one solid block most of the time. This brings us to the dynamic range of a recording. This number mean the difference from the loudest vs the kowest faintest sound. n clasical music this can be extreme and I hated thatwith my NAD amp, for some rason the low parts were nearly inaudible and when the orhestra came back in wih molto vivace the music was FAR TOO LOUD ,
    Careful. In Pop Music this is avoided I know only one record that uses the same extreme efect Dexy's Midnight Runners - OLD.
    Usually the DR is anywhere from 4 to 14 , 5, 6 o 7 are the absolute maximum oin Rock Music Mtal is maximu 4. jazz is a bit like classical.
    Anyway - 65 or 75 means that the vinyl can play a widerange of music, the rest comes via the amplification. Just listen to whatever sounds and the Lp can give it bak cannon shots a needle falling to the ground. Another big advantage is that the range of hertz i much higer than that of a CD. Whatever you record directly to Vinyl can be played back 1:1 with a good set-up.

    Yes Herbert von Karajan was very important for the development of the CD. It is because of him that the CD playing time is / was first 73minutes, later 79 minutes. Meaning that a complete 9th symphony from Beethoven could fit on one CD. The longest I know is Karl Böh'slast readin 79.03 playn time fits exactly...
    Most classical LP's had really long playing times and were a bit quiet and reduced in dynamics because of that. I bought the 8th symph from hvK yesterday and the whlole symphony i on side A, 3 long Overures on Side B. Another extremely long Deutsche Grammophon LP is a box set with the 5th , 6th and 9th. The 5th and 6th were on one LP. 1 symphony around 30 minutes each on LP 1 a and b and the 9th by Eugen Jochum on the second LP. Running time nearly 35 minutes on each side. Still it sounds very good. (old Box set but still sealed when bought). All I had to do with raise the volume. That is the main difference with CD (High Level Inpt) and analog / Vinyl playback with a special PHONO input. pops and ticks can be annoying with very low level parts (that is why Techno records usually sound so good on viny You never hear a pop and tick on a good mix bya DJwith Vinyl.. No parts with no music.).