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Do I expect too much from records/analog?

Posted: 25 Feb 2019 15:32
by Bullitt5094
First the question: can records/analog come close to acceptable base noise levels? Acceptable meaning not annoying noise when no music present on 80db-ish playback levels.

And the facts... I've participated the Audiophile hobby since I actually got my first job in the 70s. I've ridden the evolution wave of Digital while still enjoying my TD-165 that I originally purchased new in the 70s. Only TT I've ever owned.
BUT, I'm becoming less enamored with records. I've recently gone through a system renaissance that includes some of what I consider high-end speakers, amps and digital hardware. This digital signal path seems to be really exposing the limitation of the record format on several levels. Adding to the impression is a very quiet, properly treated dedicated listening room also with a very low ambient noise level. The limitation I'm most concerned with is the base noise of records.

So I know it's hard to quantify, but are expectations too great for vinyl format to have ignorable noise levels on decent playback levels? Am I likely to need a more modern turntable than my well cared for TD-165 with a Hanna SL and Whest Two.2 preamp? BTW there is zero noise present until the needle hits the groove. And I've tried everything from my old collection of albums to new 180gr pressing with varying levels of success. Or non-success as the case may be.

I expect the final answer to be "Yes, you expect too much, but above the noise level analog sounds better. Just use selective listening". Is this the final answer?

Thanks for any input!

Re: Do I expect too much from records/analog?

Posted: 25 Feb 2019 16:43
by plyscds
Nothing within the universe will be perfect. At least to humanity as an entity in the universe. We're too picky. We can imagine perfection, but nothing we can put out hands on will meet those lofty standards. So, we are left to live with the best we can come up with.

As limited as we are, we have one capacity that makes the universe livable: the ability to ignore a certain level of low-amplitude imperfections. We do this with our spouses, our friends, our homes, our lawns, our <shudder> minivans and extended cab pickup trucks, our workplace associates, and often, ourselves. So why shouldn't our audio gear receive the same consideration? Maybe the biggest impediment to achieving this goal is the audio pressure from outside to reach with super-superhuman effort to achieve that scintilla of "even more perfect perfect".

Re: Do I expect too much from records/analog?

Posted: 25 Feb 2019 18:50
by abs1
"There is zero noise present until the needle hits the groove."

Is your Hana SL set up (aligned) properly? That's normally the first place I'd look with your complaint. If you're certain that cartridge parameters are correct have you tried a different cartridge just to hear if there's a noticeable difference?

Edited to add:

How do you like your Tektons? I have a pair of M-Lores (relatively small room) and am seriously thinking about trying out a pair of their Perfect SET's. I have a thing about efficient two-ways with simple crossover networks. :wink:


Re: Do I expect too much from records/analog?

Posted: 25 Feb 2019 20:43
by Sunwire
Are you hearing noise *during* the music?
Or only between tracks?
How loud is the music? And what type of music are you listening to (pop, rock, jazz, folk, classical)?
Most pop and rock music has very few quiet passages where groove noise or tape hiss would be audible, but many classical pieces and some jazz and folk recordings have a wider dynamic range.
It's probably not super accurate, but there are numerous smartphone apps that allow you to measure sound pressure levels with your phone. I installed one called "Keuwlsoft SPL Meter".
Most analog recordings will have some level of tape hiss, although later recordings reduced this to inaudibility.
I think you're always going to hear some groove noise if you have the volume turned up loud enough. But usually the music will cover up that noise as soon as the music starts.

Re: Do I expect too much from records/analog?

Posted: 25 Feb 2019 22:41
by AudioFeline
And some phono stages are quieter than others.

Re: Do I expect too much from records/analog?

Posted: 25 Feb 2019 23:01
by Sunwire
If he's not hearing any noise until the needle hits the groove, I don't think a quieter phono stage is going to make any difference.

Re: Do I expect too much from records/analog?

Posted: 25 Feb 2019 23:14
by dysmike
Does the background noise vary with the record played, or is it always constant?

Re: Do I expect too much from records/analog?

Posted: 26 Feb 2019 00:08
by patient_ot
With a system like that I assume you have an RCM? If so, reevaluate your cleaning process.

I've not heard the Hana SL but how revealing would you say it is? You could try a less revealing cartridge.

Other than that not much to say other than record playback will never be 100% perfect. Nothing wrong with listening to lossless digital or CDs. I often do.

Re: Do I expect too much from records/analog?

Posted: 26 Feb 2019 00:12
by Bullitt5094
Very good question dysmike. The low/rumble is pretty constant. But some records are certainly noisier than others. Most of my collection is in very good shape for it's age because my SOP in my youth was to make a cassette from it asap on my Nakamichi 500 (still have it) and stash the record away. Then CDs came along and I didn't touch them for a number of years. Not too many clean copies of Uriah Heep Demons and Wizards floating around, but I have one! I've also invested a lot of time cleaning them which has helped also. Again, it may just be a format limitation. If I could get the rumble to be inaudible at the listening position, that would be a big plus for me.

Re: Do I expect too much from records/analog?

Posted: 26 Feb 2019 00:19
by Jim Leach
Here’s an idea from left field. Or low earth orbit perhaps...

Has anyone ever tried using a gate on their system? Recording drums you pretty much need one on every mic or you have a wall or noise on your hands.

Probably crazy; but, I’m known for such things. A really good quality gate might just allow true silence between tracks. BUT you set the threshold somewhere, and program equal to noise level (everything below threshold level) is muted.


Re: Do I expect too much from records/analog?

Posted: 26 Feb 2019 01:10
by AudioFeline
A gate might cause a "breathing" effect, I would prefer to hear a constant noise.
However, some systems benefit from a high-pass filter, like the KAB rumble filter, good for systems that are picking up low-freq. noise/feedback/vibrations that interferes with the sound. ... ABRF1.html

Re: Do I expect too much from records/analog?

Posted: 26 Feb 2019 02:26
by analogaudio
There are many sources of noise in the analogue path, some larger some smaller. A recording made using the best digital equipment removes the contribution of the analogue record/playback path (which with professional noise reduction is not much to begin with), however LP mastering is not perfect and LP playback noise is inescapable. The best we can do is take great care of the discs we are given to preserve the quality and use decent quality low noise phono preamp. LP playback can be pretty good under favorable conditions, much better than it has any right to be! But not all LPs were recorded using the best digital systems, most of the legacy of three decades of LP manufacturing from analogue source tapes are going to add some noise. Nothing can be done about it. Nor is there a remedy for snap-crackle-and-pop except scrupulous cleanliness and even then some that are pressed in the disc remain.

Digital audio was new in the 1980s, we are now nearly in the 2020s. Forty years of digital audio engineering under the bridge has delivered digital recording systems having outstanding quality and that have found wide acceptance in the pro-audio world to the exclusion of analogue which is now a niche technology. Personally I don't agree with the sweeping statement that "above the noise analogue sounds better".

Re: Do I expect too much from records/analog?

Posted: 26 Feb 2019 05:31
by zlartibartfast
"can records/analog come close to acceptable base noise levels?"

Yes, but...
You have to do things - special things. Such as (but not limited to):
RIAA curve.
Direct Drive.
high-pass filters.
1/2 speed masters.
Direct-to-Disc recordings.
premium vinyl.
short stamper runs.
dbx noise reduction.

All of these special things cost more money than a modern digital playback system and can be a hassle to deal with.

I think we decide for ourselves what we think is best. I used to enjoy playing dolby cassette tapes with the dolby turned off and i wasn't bothered by the hiss. Then I moved up to a 3 head dbx deck. I used to think the Shure V15III was the best cartridge I'd ever heard, then I got a Precept PC440. I used to be OK with 128kbps MP3's but now FLAC has shown me the error of my ways.

For myself, I'm pretty happy with the average 75db SNR I get from my records. Some of them are quieter, but none are at the 90db mark that we've come to expect from digital media. That's OK. There's still more information in the record groove than any digital file will ever hold ;-}

Like the Rockman said - "You hear what you want to hear...."

BTW - studio grade gates such as dbx are great with rock music but not as much with symphonic. Dynamic expanders are usually more musically effective but "breathing" can be a problem, plus they can emphasize pops and ticks.

Re: Do I expect too much from records/analog?

Posted: 26 Feb 2019 07:36
by simonineaston
My record collection varies from modern 180g reissues to mono pressings dating from the '50s, with all sorts of dodgy, wobbly examples in between! The noise floor varies... some, but not all are virtually silent - must say though, that the magic X factor is my Moth record cleaning machine. Wouldn't be without it.

Re: Do I expect too much from records/analog?

Posted: 26 Feb 2019 10:45
by Vinylfreak86
Old records, even those in good condition (this doesn`t mean for never played ones) are little worn out, so some surface noise present. New records are made out of digital remasters, so even those perfectly made have less wide range of sound than those 100% analog treated. That can be seen even on records from 80`s which were already digitally recorded, somewhere after 1984 practically all of them.