Why do classical fans seem to hate vinyl so much?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by JohnDryon, Mar 1, 2015.

  1. JohnDryon

    JohnDryon New Member Thread Starter

    Not trying to ruffle any feathers with this topic; it just seems like it doesn't get addressed a lot. The majority of classical music aficionados seem to poo-poo the vinyl medium and were proud to switch to CDs when that became the dominant format. On the surface I can understand the preference: CDs produce a clean, undistorted sound image that is an asset for dynamic instrumental music—80 minutes of space is a plus, too. But honestly the virtues of vinyl are the same for classical as they are for rock music: "warm" sound, beautiful tone on acoustic instruments, etc.

    Now I understand this is a matter of preference and that there are excellent sounding classical CDs, but it bothers me that while rock and jazz get truckloads of vinyl reissues (many of them AAA), classical only gets a small handful dumped on specialty labels like ORG and Speakers Corner, and that this conservative output is partly due to classical fans' indifference to the vinyl resurgence. Hi-res digital and SACD seem to be more prominent, but all anyone seems to care about is if that annoying tape hiss was removed (why is it annoying?). As others have pointed out before, although classical reissues on CD usually preserve dynamic range, DNR is prevalent and EQ can be questionable, resulting in tinny, clinical, or bright-sounding recordings. Thus fans of golden age analog classical have no choice but to purchase the original records or an '80s era CD that hopefully hasn't been goosed with.

    Honestly I find the situation really depressing.
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  2. MichaelXX2

    MichaelXX2 Forum Resident

    United States
    It's probably because the poor signal-to-noise ratio of vinyl makes anything less than a perfect copy a chore to listen to. I have a copy of the 1972 recording of The Nutcracker, conducted by Andre Previn. It's a lovely performance, but the vinyl surface noise is present in every quiet part, and every tick and pop has its own moment in the limelight. :sigh:
    Digital recording was a huge, HUGE deal to classical fans in its day, because that dreadful surface noise and all the tape hiss was gone! Classical music recordings seem to have jumped onto the digital bandwagon before most other genres switched, especially rock. In a way, I prefer DSD SACDs for classical recordings, but I would certainly own my weight in classical reel-to-reel tapes if there were enough performances available on that format.
  3. Jack Flash

    Jack Flash Forum Resident

    Probably because they don't like that crackling fireplace in the background sound that is part of vinyl.

    Lots of quiet passages in classical.

    I think CDs were first made for classical fans, if I remember correctly. They were 74 minutes because that could handle the average symphony length.
  4. BuckNaked

    BuckNaked Forum Resident

    Right, popping up at 22 minutes to flip your disc is a hassle. Der Ring cycle on CD please!
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  5. Commander Lucius Emery

    Commander Lucius Emery Forum Resident

    Or the Solti ring on one Blu Ray.
  6. EasterEverywhere

    EasterEverywhere Forum Resident

    I could not agree with the OP more.Very depressing situation.

    Kudos to Universal/DGG for putting out what new classical vinyl there is.
    Scott Wheeler and JohnDryon like this.
  7. Commander Lucius Emery

    Commander Lucius Emery Forum Resident

    Well, actually Beethoven's 9th, which is fairly long, at the suggestion of Herbert von Karajan to Sony
  8. Burt

    Burt Forum Resident

    Kirkwood, MO
    That's right. All engineering is a compromise, and the CD was defined by two things: the diameter was set to be the same as a floppy disc, or not much bigger, so the inevitable CD-ROM drive would fit in the then-standard PC/XT drive bay (or in a DIN standard car dash player) and the maximum play length was set to accommodate Beethoven's Ninth at standard tempo, because that was the longest very common symphonic piece. I think Herbert von Karajan was who had the ear of the Sony team on that.

    True classical music lovers and classical professionals were initially part of the audiophile market, but when mass-market equipment reached a certain point, where it was "good enough", the real classical music lovers parted ways with the audiophiles. For them, unlike audiophiles, it really was "all about the music", and they abandoned high end audio in general the way motorcycle riders that really just wanted to ride long distances abandoned Harley Davidson for the Honda Gold Wing, and in both groups the oldtimers who remember what they consider "the bad old days" can be quite hostile to younger people who have an interest in what they consider "a throwback".

    The average age of classical music fans is definitely getting older and most around here are over 60. Many of them got rid of all their records in the nineties and think it's ridiculous anyone would prefer records to CDs. Others still have some vinyl but consider suggestions they ought to get a decent turntable and cartridge as foolish. I think the biggest factor is that most of these people grew up in an era where it was assumed anything new was necessarily better than anything older and they expected all things to always improve, and sort of think it's socially unacceptable to question progress.
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  9. Urban Spaceman

    Urban Spaceman Forum Goofy-Footer

    I think for many music fans, not just classical, the inconvenience of the vinyl LP is what ultimately drove them to other formats. Before CDs and downloads, the cassette was the most popular alternative (especially since it was smaller and portable). Vinyl is a preference for a small percentage of the population who enjoy the sound enough to put up with the inconvenience of the format. And having to flip LPs to get through long pieces of classical music is quite inconvenient for the average listener. Not for me, though. I'm a relative newcomer to classical and, to a degree, I've been reaping the benefit of classical buffs dumping their old LPs at thrift stores. I keep a blog about my ongoing adventures in this direction.........
    thecomposer10, gss, Laibach and 4 others like this.
  10. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    No classical lover I know prefers CDs to vinyl. On the contrary, they have amazing LP collections full of London Bluebacks, RCA-Victor Living Stereo and many other amazing sounding LP's. Heck, I have a giant classical LP collection myself (well, bigger than most non-collectors, that is) and I love them. I have a bunch on CD as well but the organic sound of a nicely mastered classical LP sends shivers down my spine every time.
    Jivy, Maltman, drh and 38 others like this.
  11. Sax-son

    Sax-son Forum Resident

    Three Rivers, CA
    The one thing that I think digital CD's were successful in was that for classical music. It's not that analog recordings of classical music are not as good, its just that they are quiet and don't distract from those transparent passages that you get in classical music. I am really not in the market for vinyl copies of classical music, however I still do with CD's.
    Antmanbee likes this.
  12. fluffskul

    fluffskul Would rather be at a concert

    albany, ny
    I've also been buying up discarded classical LPs... as much as I love listening, part of the thrill IS in the chase. I've been buying LPs at thrift stores long before the vinyl revolution (~2000) but in the past 2 years I've seen a dramatic decrease in quality rock LPs available in both thrift stores and record stores. Not wanting to spend an hour digging through LPs only to come home empty handed, I started grabbing a few classical titles here and there. At first what I bought was kind of random. Then I did my homework here, and took advice on which labels to look for. And began to find my own preferences amongst composers/time periods/labels... to the point where I've now got a respectable collection of classic LPs. And they get considerable play. I pray hipsters never get into classical LPs.
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  13. googlymoogly

    googlymoogly Forum Resident

    Classical music on vinyl is still pretty popular (relatively speaking, of course) in Europe and in Asia, as compared to U.S. listeners. An acquaintance of mine used to play for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and he and all his colleagues listened to music on CD or the radio. Not a single one still had a turntable. Most classical music listeners whom I know personally reflect the preferences most of the comments above noted - they abandoned vinyl PDQ when the CD came along. There is a lot of classical second-hand vinyl LPs in the shops that I see. One place I frequent often sells them off for 99 cents per record (not the desirable titles or labels, though, like Living Stereo or Living Presence).

    There seems to have been an animus against analog recording amongst some classical enthusiasts - witness the way the classical recording world embraced digital quite early, even trumpeting on their vinyl releases that the music had been produced digitally. It's kind of a shame...many of the late '70s and '80s releases from Hogwood and the AAM have a less-than-pleasant tonality indicative of the early digital world. That has certainly improved, however, with higher bit rates and better DACs. The Smithsonian's boxed set of Mozart LPs was recorded digitally, and it sounds quite good. Not all of that early stuff was uniformly gray and steely.

    EDIT: quite a few of the Reader's Digest classical LPs are very good in terms of sound quality and vinyl "quietness". People almost want to give those big boxes of RD records away.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2015
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  14. EasterEverywhere

    EasterEverywhere Forum Resident

    I know.I was there all through the 90s-mid 200os buying up and sorting through the classical record collections that were being dumped at thrift stores,vinyl and shellac,going back to rare violin and piano records from the 1900s.Great times.I have been collecting classical records for 25 years.

    Steve,I could not agree more.I bet I have a bigger classical record collection than you do.I have near complete runs of non operatic RCA mono and Living Stereo,Living Presence mono and stereo,London from 1949-79,big chunks of the Columbia and DGG catalog,lots of Westminster,Capitol classical,American Decca,Philips,Remington,all sorts of oddball labels and rarities.My big regret was in my first few years of collecting classical vinyl,I concentrated more on the 50s and 60s records,and passed up a lot of the more rare and valuable digital LPs from the mid to late 80s.But I eventually started buying these as well,and very pleasantly surprised at how these sounded.There is a real difference in 80s records digital LPs recorded to tape,with analog equipment elsewhere in the chain,and modern vinyl mastered from computer files.Many 80s digital LPs have popped up on Stereophile and TAS best record lists.

    I think there are the mainstream classical listeners who have abandoned CDs for streaming,then there are the vinyl people,who are a separate sub culture of classical buyer.I like to divide them into the audiophiles,who buy 45 RPM high dollar reissues,and the crate digger,which is what I have always been.If the Facebook groups I belong to are any indication,I do think there is a growing interest in classical music on vinyl in newer record collectors,but it is lagging behind the rock vinyl revival by a few years.If you are on Facebook,please join us in the Classical Music on Vinyl group.
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  15. EasterEverywhere

    EasterEverywhere Forum Resident

    They are starting to.
  16. fluffskul

    fluffskul Would rather be at a concert

    albany, ny
    Well I'm glad I got a 2 year head start! And I say that half in selfish jest. I love that I can almost always find good classical LPs for cheap... it'd be a bummer when/if those titles become more difficult to find. But if it gets another generation into classical music that's a great thing for music and society as a whole.
    Urban Spaceman likes this.
  17. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Fresno, California
    Surface noise in the context of music of very wide dynamics—in pop/rock, sound tends to be compressed. In classical music, the lack of compression makes the self-noise of the LP much more obvious and irritating than with Pop/Rock/Jazz.

    Long patches of long-held notes/harmonies makes eccentric pressings more audible with some classical music than any other musical genre with the possible exception of New Age music, which also trends towards digital replay.

    Playing time—with LPs, Beethoven's Seventh symphony requires two LP sides, on CD they'll thrown in the Second Symphony, both play continuously.

    The comparative sonic neutrality of the format. At least to these ears, which have present at a great many classical concerts as a recording engineer. Those things that make the RCA Living Stereo recordings prized as "audiophile" recordings have more than a little to do with the obvious sonic colorations of the microphones favored, including the venerable Neumann U-47, a very beautiful sounding microphone that is also a highly colored microphone. In general, CDs have a more forward presentation, some might dismiss it as "etched". But compared to reality, that "warm" sound you speak of usually isn't happening in the room while the music is being taped. Often that "warmth" is an artifact of the recording process.

    The short answer is that it's a lot easier to get good results with classical music on the cheap with CDs than LPs. Analog productions of Classical music rarely happen due to obvious fiscal considerations, so recent productions of classical music on LP would be, as Neil Young would put it, a 'fashion statement' with little improvement likely compared to digital formats.
  18. jkauff

    jkauff Senior Member

    Akron, OH
    One of my classical collecting friends has shelves full of reel-to-reel tapes to go along with the miles of vinyl and CD shelves.

    There seems to be general agreement, though, that classical cassettes were terrible, even when played back on high-end Dolby decks. The only reason for their existence was listening in the car.
  19. JakeLA

    JakeLA Senior Member

    Venice, CA
    What does collecting "near complete runs of non operatic RCA mono" etc. have to do with being a classical music fan?
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  20. Burt

    Burt Forum Resident

    Kirkwood, MO
    Yes, astonishingly so, people threw them out along with the RD Condensed Books, which did deserve to be thrown out. The albums are well worth seeking out and are cheap. The Musical Heritage Society was another good source of excellent classical records.
    googlymoogly likes this.
  21. scottM

    scottM Forum Resident

    Santa Clara,CA
    I was starting college when digital recordings and CD's came out. I also started getting into Classical at the same time.

    There were several reasons I gravitated to CD's. First, my existing system was pretty much crap. It was an all in one Aiwa rack system. Japanese rack system were gaining popularity because they took up relatively little space and were economical. In comparison with this, CD's actually sounded better. Second, the majority of folks who never heard top shelf analog systems bought the digital marketing "propaganda". Look ma, no clicks or pops. Perfect sound forever. Third, it was a boon to have entire symphonies on one disc without having side breaks. It was not uncommon for vinyl side breaks to occur right in the middle of a movement. That really interrupts the musical flow. Like many at the time, I ditched my Aiwa system, sold off several boxes of LP's and took the plunge to digital

    I went on collecting classical CD's for over 20 years. By accident I read a local article about a guy (Brian) with a store specialized in analog (The Analog Room in San Jose). I was curious and went over. It took me thirty minutes of listening to the house system and I was bowled over. I bought a pretty basic Rega TT on the spot as my new vinyl entry point and upgraded pretty quickly from there (Brian has a very liberal trade-in policy).

    From talking to other audiophiles in my age rage, my story is a pretty common one.
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  22. 56GoldTop

    56GoldTop Forum Resident

    Nowhere, Ok
    Classical CDs = 5

    Classical LPs = no idea... I stopped counting. Last year a friend gave me his mom's collection. That was over 300 at one shot. I already had far more than that.

    Like a flying squirrel missing a branch at 50 feet up, this CD, in particular, plunged any further consideration for purchasing additional classical CDs (not the engineer's fault). Among other instruments, violins, especially, sound wrong to me on CD.

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  23. williaty

    williaty Forum Resident

    I'm a classical (well, orchestral and choral, since "classical" is too specific") music lover and I refuse to listen to orchestral music on vinyl. CD or file-based only!


    Because, at prices I can afford, vinyl playback gets some things wrong and some things right while CD playback gets some things wrong at some things right. The things that vinyl gets wrong (real-world dynamic range, surface noise, pitch instability, duration of program) are very important to classical music while the things CDs get right (real world dynamic range, lack of any noise in quiet passages, absolute time/pitch accuracy) are very important to classical music. In other words, CD or file-based playback are a better set of compromises for classical music than an LP.

    I can listen to an LP and enjoy rock and jazz and that's why I spent a decent amount on LP playback. Trying to listen to classical from an LP, however, just drives me nuts and I really dislike it.
  24. Stefano G.

    Stefano G. Ab alto, speres alteri quod feceris.

    I have also to add that almost always the used classical music albums on vinyl format that I've seen around, were preserved really very well as regards both the outer cover and the wax itself. No doubt, those who listen to classical music know what they're buying and keep records as they deserve.
  25. TokenGesture

    TokenGesture Forum Resident

    My story is almost exactly the same as scottM above - except I have never gone back into LP, my focus is almost exclusively headphones and computer audio, 24 bit downloads etc. I've tuned my system to provide a deal of warmth and avoid digital glare, doubt I will ever go back now
    willy and Atmospheric like this.

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