Why so much variation on how LPs sound?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by 12" 45rpm, Oct 9, 2018.

  1. stetsonic

    stetsonic Forum Resident

    Location:
    Finland
    Sounds like you're not only been a good curator but somewhat lucky as well. I only have something like 3000+ LPs and singles in all and some of the pressings - mostly from the Seventies - are pretty lousy TBH. And that's from someone who isn't too fussy about perfect sound forever.

    Not to say I can't enjoy them nevertheless - I didn't buy any of them for sound quality - but in some cases CD beats the LP hands down. Generally I have no preference though.
     
    Fishoutofwater likes this.
  2. BrentB

    BrentB Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwestern US
    Yes luck plays a hand I admit. Also a Nitty-Gritty machine really helps and the fluid mixture is pretty important. I have machine clened LPs and then done them again later and improved the sound even more. I do have some LPs that are a bit noisy, but I can live with it. The main thing I took the OP meaning is that the tapes made do not sound good at all. That being said if the LP sounds pretty good and the tape does not it should not be considered the LP's fault. Of the tapes I made back in the day from LP most sounded pretty good in the car. Some did not, but that was usually traced back to the tape itself (brand/type), or the levels were not set well by me.
     
  3. ghost rider

    ghost rider Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago
    My take is the OP is able to make tapes and only a few have audiophile sound and the others suck. After thinking about it a little if his/her profile is correct, having a pretty good TT cartridge combo but a $150 amp. Leaves me wondering how one defines audiophile?
     
    Matt I and BrentB like this.
  4. old45s

    old45s MP3 FREE ZONE

    Location:
    AUSTRALIA
    My Technics SL 1210 Mk5 is an okay turntable with decent Shure Cartridge. The outbound cable/ RCA plug is probably the weakest link in my system.
    I may have to take it to the DECK DOCTOR and replace the cables....
     
  5. old45s

    old45s MP3 FREE ZONE

    Location:
    AUSTRALIA
    My vinyl version of Layla is a 12" 45rpm.
    Copied to CD via my mixer tweaking the high end ever so slightly. Didn't touch the lows. Sounds okay now.
    Hindsight is a wonderful thing HOWEVER, if the original engineers were to know this song was to be such a classic they may have shown it a bit more TLC.
     
  6. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident

    Location:
    Surprise, AZ
    Maybe your copy on your stereo, but not my copy on my stereo. A little lite on bass but the rest rocks.
     
  7. stetsonic

    stetsonic Forum Resident

    Location:
    Finland
    Ah, now I see - you were talking about the actual condition of the albums while I thought it was about bad masterings and low quality pressings. :righton:
     
  8. E.Baba

    E.Baba Forum Resident

    ..... because they are analog.
     
  9. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident

    Location:
    Surprise, AZ
    CDs have the same variables - some good, some bad.
     
  10. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland, U.S.A.
    Ya, I think what the OP needs to realize is that music is not recorded the same way all the time, or produced the same way, and on top of that (with vinyl,)
    is not always manufactured (pressed) perfectly. A less than great job in any of these "steps", and the result is a "less than great" sounding record. Is that hard to understand?
    If it is a record pressing issue there is the chance of getting a "better" copy, or if the music
    is "remastered" perhaps they do a good job, and you get "better" sounding music.
    But sometimes "you can't polish a turd" as they say, and you just have to settle on enjoying the music itself.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018
    nosliw likes this.
  11. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland, U.S.A.
    Ya, this is why I have both. I do have many albums on both vinyl and cd, but there is usually a "winner" between the two.
    Right off, I would say any of the DCC, Mofi or AF gold discs that I have are "go to" for listening. But I still keep the record.
    The great sounding albums on vinyl are just that, for whatever reason they "sound better" than the cd issue. Options are good...
     
    Fishoutofwater and nosliw like this.
  12. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    Question of the century..
    An entire book could be written on the nuances of records, what makes them sound great, and what doesn't. As so many of our fellow hi fi enthusiasts say, the pressing quality varies. The reasons for this are many. CD quality can also vary also, however not nearly the incidence of records.

    Starting with used records, far more than 80% were previously played on the typical mass produced record changer, with ceramic cartridge. Records were expected to wear, and eventually wear out, and they did. By audiophile standards, just a few plays on the typical record player renders the record groove damaged enough, that it is audible. The damage may not be audible on the stylus that damaged it, because the stylus can not track the original mistracking that occurred. A record on a record player, sounds like a record on a record player. Now, decades later, these same records show up at thrift stores, online sellers, record shows, etc, most of them, the vast majority are not pristine, even though they may appear pristine. (to the untrained eye) An audiophile turntable and cartridge does track the damage. The result is surface noise (that mostly does not originate from the surface, but from wear in the groove) and distortion. Even a premium pressing can not tolerate more than the slightest wear, and you've lost fidelity and detail.

    A pristine pressing, on good vinyl, clean, from the original source, and quality mastered should sound as good as digital or surpass it. A clean record does not produce background noise. The stylus tells the truth. If a clean appearing record makes noise, it's not clean, or the groove scored.

    Just to touch upon the nature of analog, In the heyday of records, they could not be pressed fast enough. Due to tight schedules, most lacquers were cut to satisfactory quality standards, but not superlative at all. That takes more time and care, that the mastering engineers simply did not have. (certain exceptions that they were free to do the best job possible)

    Additionally master tapes were (are) backed up by safety copies. Each copy loses a "generation", some fidelity loss, increased noise and distortion, and natural tape compression. Tape compression is a nice thing, but not nice after 4 or 5 generations down... we had the club issues, and contracted pressings by RCA, Columbia, (for other labels) these sources not of the highest quality. The club issues can sound ok, but rarely ever as good as in house pressings. (exceptions to the rule in the world of records, some RCA pressed by contract ARE superior pressings made from high quality masters) ..... Master tapes are often played back on a different deck than recorded. The play deck may be carefully lined up, but sometimes, (and too often) not perfectly lined up to the master tape. So then we have phase distortion, or azim error, and no amount of eq can fix that. Mastering engineers may not have the time to adjust more carefully, so the pressing will reflect this problem. (a nasal effect on the sound) In some instances, the lacquer may be test played. The lacquer may sustain slight damage at this phase, or groove scoring... so the mother and stamper reflect this same problem.... and the record.

    Furthermore, the stampers wear out, and so do the mothers that make the stampers. The early run white label promos are sought after, because most of these (but not all) are the first run off a fresh stamper. White label promos are crisp pressings, usually produce the highest fidelity. The same can be purchased at the retail stores back in the day, however unknown how far into the run it was pressed.... maybe the 10,000th record just before that stamper was retired, maybe the 200th just after pressing the white label promos. The stamper number in the matrix is important. For example RCA notation "1s" indicates a first pressing, or Columbia "1a". A hand written matrix may be desirable over a machine stamped matrix number.

    When evaluating a used record look for the matrix number. It tells us what the record is. The mastering engineer may have initialed it, as certain engineers are renowned for their outstanding work.

    When evaluating a record as well, observe the pressing quality by the margin control, the spacing between the groove. Quiet passages should be packed close together, and slightly modulated, louder passages spaced wide apart, with a lot of groove pitch (groove modulation or wiggles) For example if a Led Zeppelin I record appears irregular, a lot of variation of the groove, vs another that the groove appears even and almost visually better... the record with the variable groove margin will be the superior pressing... wider dynamics and almost guaranteed higher fidelity. The record titles known to be dynamic, such as Led Zep I and you see a record that appears nice and even in the grooved area, that record was poorly mastered, and a compressor inserted to make it easier to cut.

    Just to sum up, most used records have been damaged by previous play. Most records were (are) production run, reissues, and NOT quality pressings. This narrows the field to painfully few records which meet audiophile standard. That original first pressing when found, was probably played and damaged. It's very difficult to find a pristine first pressing..... and criminal when some lucky person has one, then plays it on a Crosley. All that good fidelity pressed in the groove wasted and destroyed

    Happy listening... and much more to discover about this fun hobby, but elusive sometimes,
    Records are heaven and hell
    Steve VK
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018
  13. ghost rider

    ghost rider Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago
    Thank you that was the best explanation I have ever read. Odds are the OP has many of these poorly pressed records and can clearly hear the difference when recorded. Me I know some records sound Fantastic and others not so much. I still enjoy listening to them all however I listen to the fantastic ones more often. The other thing I'm wondering is, all things considered everything in the audio chain has an impact. I know from my own experience you can't polish a turd. Bad records sound even worse if you are not very careful when tweaking. You can make it a little better but you can never make it great again. So is it possible that with the OP's setup using a $150 receiver bad records are magnified to sound horrible? Could the OP buy a phono stage and record directly to the recorder removing the Onkyo TX 8020 out of the chain the end results would be much better.
     
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  14. ghost rider

    ghost rider Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago
  15. NettleBed

    NettleBed Forum Resident

    Location:
    new york city
    This is why good reissues are so important. Want to say that an original album from 1971 that has been regularly cleaned and only played on good equipment sounds better than a quality 2018 reissue. OK... But how about in the real world, where the "original" comparison is something with an unknown history? IMO the reissue has a much better chance of sounding preferable to a listener, if he/she is being honest about what they're hearing.
     
    nosliw, The FRiNgE and ghost rider like this.
  16. ghost rider

    ghost rider Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago
    With this in mind and a good bit of what the article fringe posted was saying, how can you tell the good pressings from the bad? I'm guessing start buying books and get ready to spend some coin. The thing is I have bought cheap records that have blown me away.

    I'm talking about sound quality.
     
  17. ghost rider

    ghost rider Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago
    Sitting here listening to needle drops thinking about Fringe's article and a lightbulb went off.

    So does this make sense? A used record who knows what it was played on or how many times it was played even if it looks good may have a lot of surface noise or distortion. The clicks and pops I can clean up but the distortion the way I vastly improved it was through a what I call a perfect alignment.

    This makes sense to me. A older ceramic cartridge damaged the upper wider part of the groove. A microline stylus finer needle rides deeper into the grooves and if it's aligned correct it's less influenced by the damaged area of the groove.
     
  18. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    This is very good news indeed for we vinyl aficionados, but even these can vary from outstanding to mediocre. The prevailing factor is the condition of the source, and if the original master exists, or not... maybe all that exists is the safety copy. Not all original master tapes have survived. The magnetic medium is parasitic to itself, which self-degrades during storage. The tape's magnetic flux diminishes over time. Plus, every time a tape is played, it loses just a tiny amount of its signal (why so important to have a high rez digital copy, since these are more robust)

    So, I do not believe most/ all modern reissues are "better" by default... so much can happen for better or worse. Likewise no one can say all represses are inferior either. (but that is the generality) Some represses can be outstanding. Eventually the process starts from scratch, cut a new lacquer, and go from there. (hopefully from a 1st gen safety copy)

    The only way to know for sure how good a record sounds, Ya just have to play it.

    clarification:
    repress is the same cat#
    reissue is assigned a new cat#
    am I correct? or are these terms interchangeable?
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018
    nosliw and ghost rider like this.
  19. ghost rider

    ghost rider Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago
    I think reissues have gotten better and aside from a few all of mine sound great.
     
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  20. harby

    harby Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    This indeed is one driver of the "sound" of vinyl - it's limitations. We would ideally want the sound of the master tape to come back out of the recorded vinyl, but we must compromise, because there is a maximum level we can record with a particular play length (before the groove must start to overlap itself and becomes prone to skipping). The inner groove area also can hold less volume, and the sound quality also starts to degrade from the lower linear speed on the inner area of the disc, requiring compensating equalization. A 45 RPM 12" single can have much louder and more accurate program material than a long-play 33RPM LP which uses the entire disk area. When mastering a full album, the inner groove capability determines how the entire recording must be set.

    Master tapes from the mix down or mastering engineer also can sound different, but that's something that would come through on CD also, when the producer likes a different sound or it is mixed using different speakers against a different reference recording.

    Vinyl mastering (or acetate, shellac, styrene) refers to the actual cutting engineer who runs the record lathe to "cut" the master used for record production. In the days of tape, there would be another "disc mastering" tape produced for the LP in the cutting studio, where the actual disc contents is composed ahead of time, with individual levels of tracks and equalization tweaked to obtain the best sound out of the disc lathe. The lathe is a heavy duty turntable that uses a cutting head instead of a record stylus to engrave the recorded material into a blank disk.

    This recording, especially created for producing the vinyl, may actually have louder starting tracks, or even songs that start louder than they end -- psychological games to fool you into believing the quality is better than it is. A good mastering wouldn't do this, but instead the engineer would ride the EQ and playback level to compensate for disc position so the audio quality is consistent. The mastering engineer also may use their judgement to tweak the sound so the vinyl is more like reference recordings.

    This tape is then used for the recording with the lathe, which has look-ahead hardware to dynamically adjust the groove spacing for the program material, and applies the RIAA EQ and any built-in manufacturer amplifier EQ to obtain accurate sound.
     
    12" 45rpm and nosliw like this.
  21. NettleBed

    NettleBed Forum Resident

    Location:
    new york city
    That's why I said "good reissues are so important." In case you were wondering, a good many reissues that I've heard don't qualify as "good."

    I won't comment on specific records myself, but a quick search through here should let you know where the board consensus stands on various reissues, as well as objective information about them, like the source, who cut them, etc.
     
    The FRiNgE likes this.

Share This Page