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What's changed in 50 years (equipment)

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Fast996, Feb 4, 2019.

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  1. heathen

    heathen Forum Resident

    Answer my previous question and then I'll play your game.
  2. mongo

    mongo Forum Resident

    Look at his profile.
  3. Helom

    Helom Forum member

    I often question the advancement of speaker tech. I think affordable speakers sound better than ever, and measure flatter than in the past. However, where ultimate capability is concerned, with speakers that sound natural (as opposed to overhyped or analytical - YG Acoustics etc.) I think very little noteworthy progress has been made. Take note of all the rich East Asians seeking out Western Electric horns and the like. Field coil drivers, compression drivers, full-range drivers, crossover-less speakers, paper cones, horns, wide baffles - all old tech and design approaches that are making strong comebacks.

    The ubiquitous 3-way, narrow-baffle towers, with aluminum-ceramic-graphite-nanounobtanium drivers often don't sound any better (and often worse) than an old-school paper/plastic coned 2-way IME.
    SandAndGlass, rischa, Fruff76 and 3 others like this.
  4. Tim Irvine

    Tim Irvine Forum Resident

    Austin, Texas
    My nontechnical answer is that the biggest changes have been finding more ways to reproduce sound (CDs, other hard format digital, streaming, etc.) and more interest in measuring sound quality. Fifty years ago the average stereo was quite different than EarPods or little cube speakers. The better than average stereo, like an AR TT, a Sherwood tube receiver, and a pair of AR3s, was pretty darned good. Add a Revox or a Tandberg and it was seriously good. I think you need to look pretty hard to find much better in an inflation adjusted comparable price niche. A fair number of my friends had something comparable. As to recordings some were terrific and some were meh, but the compressed sound trend hadn’t really taken off. I think some of the newer recordings of all genres are stunning, and I think there are folks out there doing very fine mastering. I also think the super high end has continued to evolve. I’m sure that in the late sixties there was some amazing equipment out there, but in most high end stereo stores the McIntosh separates with a high end Thorens with an SME arm playing through Klipschorns was about as high end as I ever encountered. Today there are sooooo many high end items it’s sort of staggering. Look at any thread on something as rudimentary as an integrated amp and dozens of names pop up. Look at amps in the late sixties and the list as I recall it wasn’t all that long. Also kits are now few and far between. You can find an old Dynaco kit but how about a new Rogue or Line Magnetic or Jolida? Not a chance.
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  5. captwillard

    captwillard Forum Resident

    I’m sure there were plenty of bad recordings made 50+ years ago. We just get to hear a lot of the good ones that survived. Also, Jazz and Classical were a lot more popular back then and recordings saw a much larger budget.
  6. bluesky

    bluesky Forum Resident

    south florida, usa
  7. Thorensman

    Thorensman Forum Resident

    Simply, recording has gone down hill
    Progressively since the 1950,s.
    Compression and reverb were added
    At the start of stereo.
    More processing, especially these days when anyone it seems can be an engineer.
    Listen to mono. In the 50,s records were thick, flat and a worn stamper was never used. There is a transparency
    And fidelity, never heard these days." That will be the day" a 57 Buddy Holly
    Release on Lp is ALIVE, and vibrant.
    Modern versions never sound like this.
    Even in late 60,s there are surprises. "Side by side "( or is it two by two) a double album by the ," Righteousness Brothers 1969
    Is noticeably superior to its 1990,s version
    Which has massive bass lift and reverb added.
    I use Leak TL 12 plus valve monoblocks
    From 1954.
    Don't let it escape the fact that a lot of rubbish in the form of HI - FI was also available in those days.
  8. captwillard

    captwillard Forum Resident

    You are talking about reissues which is different than old recordings vs modern ones.
  9. fortherecord

    fortherecord Forum Resident

    Upstate, NY
    Thé Golden Age of Stereo recording lasted from about 1957-1963. Some of the best audio gear ever made from McIntosh and Marantz were also produced during this era.
  10. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    I think so, a simple mic setup and signal chain is closer to audiophile IMO.
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  11. anorak2

    anorak2 Forum Resident

    Berlin, Germany
    Well it is, but the quality achieved in the analogue era was already very good. The added dynamic range and frequency flatness of digital recordings is real, but there's the law of diminuishing returns. You hear the difference better on headphones than through speakers.
    G B Kuipers likes this.
  12. anorak2

    anorak2 Forum Resident

    Berlin, Germany
    Weren't rock&roll recordings bathed in tacky reverb and echo effects?
  13. Argus1

    Argus1 Well-Known Member

    I know that multi track recordings are huge improvements. I met a guy who worked on Michael Jackson's Thriller album and he said that they delayed two 24 track recorders together for the recording. Then started the mix downward to the final album.
    Also the advent of digital recording and storage are big improvements. Tom Dowd said in an interview the ABB Filmore East recordings were digitized because to ensure the music was saved. Audio tape sheds over time.
  14. ghost rider

    ghost rider Forum Resident

    If nothing else haven't phono cartridges improved a lot since the 1050-60s?
    AutomatedElectronics likes this.
  15. frimleygreener

    frimleygreener "It 'a'int why...it just is"

    united kingdom
    Phono stages as separate modules?Did they even exist in the days of Rock &Roll?
  16. harby

    harby Forum Resident

    Portland, OR, USA

    For what a few reels of 1" tape would have cost, you can go down to Guitar Center and get a Universal Audio Arrow and a Rode NT1 mic, and have an unlimited number of tracks with no generational loss or distortion, and about 20-40dB more signal-to-noise ratio than Abbey Road in 1969 or the self-noise of a U67 and preamp.
  17. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Katy, TX
    For turntables, I would say the Linn Sondek LP12 in 1972 and the Rega RB300 in 1983 were key advances.

    For Speakers I would say 3D cad technology since the late 1990s has advanced low cost speakers. While I think this is very true, Oddly, I don't think this technology mostly has skipped the speakers I've been purchasing since then. I've owned a Vandersteen 1C and Magnepan 1.7 speakers. Neither of these speakers and the newer updates have been affected by this. But I think Vandersteen's more recent moves away the "boxless" design has impacted in Vandersteen at their higher end.
  18. The biggest changes between then and now is that most equipment was tube based into the 1960's with hissy transistors used in cheaper home equipment. Recording was analog and recorded to magnetic tape. With respect to the tape quality a recording speed of 30 i.p.s. was necessary to reduce tape hiss. Multi-track had been around since the 1930's, recording movie soundtracks optically on film, usually 3-track. Multi-input mixing boards allowed as many microphones as necessary to make a recording, mixing them down to from 1 to 3 tracks. In the 1950's, musician/innovator Les Paul and Atlantic Records had Ampex make them 8-track tape recorders. Atlantic Records was among the first to introduce 2-track binaural records. When stereo was perfected and introduced in late-1957, Atlantic already had the multi-track recordings ready to go.
    Those early RCA "Living Stereo" records were great, weren't they? The microphones then, like the ribbon mics, are as good as any today. Though most multi-track recordings were 2 or 3 channels, they might have used over a dozen mics strategically placed in an orchestra and because many had their own input and control into the mixing boards, it allowed certain instruments to be brought to the front, just like with the vocals.
    SandAndGlass and ghost rider like this.
  19. G B Kuipers

    G B Kuipers Forum Resident

    I think it is important to separate musical styles here. Why? Because the fidelity of the recording has had serious commercial relevance in classical and jazz, so serious recording budgets and R&D were spent on them, which can not be said about popular styles. In pop/rock music the fidelity of the recording has hardly ever been used as a selling point (DSOTM being the exception), because the main target audience has always been considered to be teens who are uninterested in that sort of thing. Pop music is generally mixed/mastered for excitement & vibe, not for fidelity.

    In classical (and most jazz), amazingly true to life hifi stereo recordings have been made ever since the late 1950s. Technological limitations of the early years (i.e. not being able to multitrack or overdub without tape degradation) were simply not problematic because the engineers chose to use a small number of microphones and not to overdub at all. Therefore the limitations were mostly practical and they did not really affect the fidelity of the recording.

    Later on, when digital came along, with its added dynamic range and endless editing possibilities, classical recordings became even more accurate, dynamic and polished, even though sometimes lacking a little in musicality, immediacy, or romance. But that's purely subjective of course.

    The fact that digital made it possible to do endless multitracking in pop/rock music without degradation of tape is not very relevant when you're recording and mixing for excitement and vibe and squashing the master with a limiter.
  20. Claus

    Claus Senior Member

    Recording was limited in the 50's. Every new "audiophile" recording blows away these old stuff.
  21. puddleduck

    puddleduck Forum Resident

    Lake District
    Regarding speakers to my eyes it seems to be a huge step backwards as Amazon and Google speakers seem to be ubiquitous.

    I wouldn't have them within half a mile of my house personally, but it seems that the fact that you can 'talk' to them seems to trump sound quality. I admit I'm a complete luddite as I disable Google assistant on my phone. Hate the idea of talking to electronic things....
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  22. G B Kuipers

    G B Kuipers Forum Resident

    I don't think so. Many here, including our host, feel that amazing recordings were made in the 1950s. Are modern audiophile recordings more dynamic and less colored? I would say yes. Better? I'm not sure.
    joelongwood likes this.
  23. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    What's changed in 50 years, since 1969? Much lower noise floors with digital record and digital playback, which expands the dynamic range and detail at the ppp end of the dynamic scale, information that was once buried in the noise floor. Electronics with faster cleaner rise times. Mics capable of wider frequency range (out to 40kHz or more) -- is is audible? Does it matter? Well, can your speakers reproduce it? Maybe not. But transients have energy at all frequencies, and of course they're fast. Faster, wider dynamic range, gear should be able to reproduce them more realistically, maybe check out some of the Channel Classics high res digital recordings. Of course, many (even most) engineers and even listeners are enamored of the old sound, so we're still using a lot of the Neumann mics and vintage equipment like Pultec EQ that were being used 50 and 60 years ago, but that's a matter of aesthetic preference, with their less than flat and linear response.

    Also, smaller size, greater electronic efficiency, on average.

    For average consumer playback, much more power at much lower levels of distortion and noise. My Riva Festival playing a high res stream from Tidal is capable of much wider dynamic range, much lower distortion, much flatter frequency response, and can play much louder more cleanly than the GE Trimline suitcase record player I grew up with 50 years ago.

    Of course recording techniques and aesthetics have changed a lot -- in m opinion not necessarily for the better. I like hearing a performance as performed and a recording that captures the moment and the space. Most recordings in popular music haven't been made like that in decades.

    And most listeners aren't looking for that kind of experience. Someone offered the answer "listeners" as what's changed, and I think that's a big factor. Listeners aren't looking for high-fidelity reproduction of a performance in a moment and space. So engineers aren't making that. Even in the world of audiophila, you the new cult of "if it sounds good to you, it is good" which means everyone has their own personal standard for good sound and the range of sound that's out there -- from flea watt SET amps and horn speakers; to kilowatt solid state amps and planars, from vinyl (with all its mechanical noise) to high res digital streaming -- is all over the place. They don't really sound very much alike, they can't all possibly be equally faithful (the meaning of "high fidelity") to the source signal. But fidelity is no longer a widely shared standard.

    Another big change, for better and worse, the cost of and access to production of professional quality music recordings has plunged thanks to digital tech, so many musicians can and do have access to the means of production at home.

    I also think, for a while there, home theater had speaker designers focusing more than ever on speaker dispersion, not just on-axis response.

    Also, maybe the biggest playback change -- DSP for room correction for time and frequency etc. Which can deliver flatter frequency response at the listening position, more consistently from set up to set up.

    Whether or not you want a DSP based, high res digital system with frequency response out to 30kHz, and wide dispersion speakers, is a choice. Others choose tube amps with circuits right out of a 70 year old RCA book and 60 year old horn speakers. But there is a new and different sound out there
    Mike-48, ghost rider and The FRiNgE like this.
  24. Apesbrain

    Apesbrain Forum Resident

    East Coast, USA
    Fifty years ago, my bedroom system contained a changer, a tuner, and a R2R deck. None of those things are in my home today. My dad had a console unit in the living room and those no longer exist. Its big EICO tuner could get great FM stations from both Philly (WMMR) and NYC (WNEW). "Portable" listening was AM radio powered by 9V battery. Listening to Cousin Brucie on 770 WA-Beatles-C at the Jersey Shore! Compact cassette was around, but not for audio; my grandfather had the RCA version of Elcaset. Within bicycle distance of my house were five record stores and two hifi stores. You could go to the local hifi dealer and see on working display the range of electronics from Pioneer, Sony, Marantz and Yamaha; speakers from KLH and Klipsch; and eventually cassette from Nakamichi. Around 1969 I saw my first "audiophile" LP from Mobile Fidelity. It would be another five years before I saw my first "high end" component: a gorgeous, black pre-amp from Levenson at a little storefront in Rocky Hill, NJ. They had B&W speakers, too. I owned a bunch of LP cleaning supplies that are long since gone. I still have my Dennessen Soundtractor, though, and last used it to set up a cartridge for a disabled friend a year ago. (I was so excited to use it again!) I used to buy LPs, tape them, and sell them. Made a lot of close friends at school this way and developed a reputation as a music expert. Recorded music has been at the center of my life as long as I can remember.
  25. Socalguy

    Socalguy Forum Resident

    Not much has changed. The physics of analog recording and sound reproduction were very well understood by the 60’s and 70’s. And the technology for producing and playing back hi-fidelity vinyl recording was quite refined 50 years ago. I don’t think recordings necessarily sound “better” today.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2019
    timind likes this.
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