Bass of Mono Records

the thin end of the wedge
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Tympani1982
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Bass of Mono Records

Post by Tympani1982 » 14 Nov 2018 08:11

I have a lot of RCA mono records (LMxxxx records). I seem never hear one with good bass. I play them with my stereo phono cartridges because I do not own a mono cartridge. Will a mono cartridge pick up deeper bass from my mono records? I got plenty of bass from my stereo records without any problem.

There seem to be quite some people who like mono records. I bought them partially because of this. But I am a bit disappointed because of lack of bass from them. I have tried to set my preamp to mono and there is no difference whatsoever. Any suggestions?

Coffee Phil
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Re: Bass of Mono Records

Post by Coffee Phil » 14 Nov 2018 19:16

Hi Tympani,

Typical mono records are from an earlier period with older recording technology, yet not so primitive where bass would be lacking. I have not experienced this. I do have a GE RPX which is a mono cartridge which dates from the '40s. I like it for my mono Lps and 78s but I would not say it has more bass than my Sonus Blue.

My first thought would be that the channels are out of phase in your cartridge wiring, but that would effect stereo records as well and also you said that you invoked the the mono switch. If your channels are out of phase the output would drop ~20 dB and be noisy and distorted with the mono switch.

What is the music? In other words, is there supposed to be much bass content?

Phil

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Re: Bass of Mono Records

Post by josephazannieri » 14 Nov 2018 21:19

Yo Tympani1982 and Hi, Phil:

If the bass on your mono records sounds thin, check the wiring on your cartridge. Make sure that the red wire in your arm is connected to the right signal pin of cartridge. Then make sure that green wire is connected to right channel ground pin of cartridge. Then make sure that the white wire is connected to the left signal pin of cartridge, and the blue wire is connected to the left ground pin of cartridge. Your mono records mostly should sound full and balanced, but they may not have that HUGE bottom end like rap records, or even some late '60's rock and roll records. I remember getting a copy of the Janis Joplin "Cheap Thrills" album and marveling at the HUGE bottom end. I also remember the Stones' "Honky Tonk Women" and the BIG bottom end on that one.

If you are using 2 channels of a stereo amp, there is another experiment you can try. can take one of your speakers and place it directly in front of the other speaker, front to front, a couple of inches away. Turn up the bass and see what it sounds like. If your cart is incorrectly wired, the sound will be thin even with the bass control nailed, and you will have more bass by using the balance control and shifting from side to side. The sound will be full with the balance control set to one side, and really thin when it is set in the middle.

My experience with even late '40's mono records is that they don't sound thin, and you can follow the bass line, or Les Paul's overdubbed half speed guitar parts, easily, but the don't sound like Grand Master Flash's big bumps. In short, I agree with Phil. Check your cartridge wiring, and also check to see if your speakers are wired properly.

And good luck from the old record listener,

Joe Z.

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Re: Bass of Mono Records

Post by bhuston » 14 Nov 2018 21:43

not owning any mono records I'm not absolutely sure of this but, I believe mono grooves are cut differently in that a conical stylus is better than an eliptical or shibata and mono cartridges will just sound better for those records. Someone on here with more knowledge will chime in on this and we'll both know.

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Re: Bass of Mono Records

Post by theclosetguy » 15 Nov 2018 02:59

This is what I was told by a few audio engineers. In the early days, cartridges were much stiffer. If there was to much bass, they would jump out of the groove. We have all seen and heard about people putting additional weight on their cartridges. So when they mixed, they EQ'd the recordings to have less bass. The Beatles early Albums were notorious for this. A big deal was made when the re-issues came out that the bass had been brought up to contemporary standards.
I have 50's and 60's and 70's mono recordings that have thin bass and others with good bass.
Bhuston. Mono grooves are cut to read side to side. Stereo grooves read side to side and up and down.
Mike M

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Re: Bass of Mono Records

Post by JDJX » 15 Nov 2018 15:43

Also, there was a time (when mono was king) that music by design did not have as much bass as more modern music.

I have several mono LPs and they all sound good with adequate bass.
I have even played them with a Jico SAS stylus with good results but, I do prefer an elliptical stylus for general use.

BTW, consider this.. ...
Do all modern stereo LPs have the same exact bass level? Of course they do not. :)

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Re: Bass of Mono Records

Post by josephazannieri » 15 Nov 2018 18:10

Yo bass equalizers, and especially closetguy:

You are right. cartridges used to be , and are still, unable to track the HUGE waveforms of bass notes. ALL RECORDS, both mono and stereo, are equalized to roll off the bass about 20 dB, and the lower the frequency, the greater the reduction in amplitude. From the end of the acoustic recording era (or about 1920 when Lee DeForest invented the audion tube), until 1955, each company had its own equalization curve, and there were many different curves. For example, RCA had its own curves. There were agencies that created curves, such as the Audio Engineers Society (AES). Finally, in 1955, the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) came up with a curve that not only rolled off the low end, but increased the high end to get the high frequencies up out of the background noise. The RIAA curve was originally set up for mono records, and just continued into the stereo era a So, when you play a record, the phono preamp in your amplifier does two things. First, it increases the bass by the correct amount to get back the proper bass level in the master recording. Second, it reduces the high frequencies, including the background noise, to a proper level, leaving noise free high frequencies. This means that when you play back and post-acoustic record, you should get a nice full sound, even if you don't get a knee-bending low end.

@ JDJX: You may have a point when you say that music recorded years ago didn't have the HUGE bottom end that you get on modern CDs, but any Elvis record will still sound full, and any full orchestral record with double basses scored into the music won't sound thin. Of course if it's a solo violin, it won't have the same low end as a full orchestra, a dance band with a bass, or a rock and roll band with an amplified bass guitar and a microphone on the kick drum.

But, going back to the complaint of the OP, the system should be checked to be sure that the cartridge and the speakers are wired correctly. I still agree with Phil.

And good luck to all from the old equalizer,

Joe Z.

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Re: Bass of Mono Records

Post by smee4 » 16 Nov 2018 10:07

Tympani1982 wrote:
14 Nov 2018 08:11
I have a lot of RCA mono records (LMxxxx records). I seem never hear one with good bass. I play them with my stereo phono cartridges because I do not own a mono cartridge. Will a mono cartridge pick up deeper bass from my mono records? I got plenty of bass from my stereo records without any problem.

There seem to be quite some people who like mono records. I bought them partially because of this. But I am a bit disappointed because of lack of bass from them. I have tried to set my preamp to mono and there is no difference whatsoever. Any suggestions?

Do you have any other mono records from a different company that have better bass?

Also, don't compare it to the level of bass squeezed into a modern stereo record. A lot of the time it comes down to the preferences of the recording staff doing the mixing/mastering. I think it's fair to say most music from back then doesn't have the exaggerated bass of some later recordings.

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Re: Bass of Mono Records

Post by Tympani1982 » 17 Nov 2018 03:27

josephazannieri wrote:
14 Nov 2018 21:19
Yo Tympani1982 and Hi, Phil:

If the bass on your mono records sounds thin, check the wiring on your cartridge. Make sure that the red wire in your arm is connected to the right signal pin of cartridge. Then make sure that green wire is connected to right channel ground pin of cartridge. Then make sure that the white wire is connected to the left signal pin of cartridge, and the blue wire is connected to the left ground pin of cartridge. Your mono records mostly should sound full and balanced, but they may not have that HUGE bottom end like rap records, or even some late '60's rock and roll records. I remember getting a copy of the Janis Joplin "Cheap Thrills" album and marveling at the HUGE bottom end. I also remember the Stones' "Honky Tonk Women" and the BIG bottom end on that one.

If you are using 2 channels of a stereo amp, there is another experiment you can try. can take one of your speakers and place it directly in front of the other speaker, front to front, a couple of inches away. Turn up the bass and see what it sounds like. If your cart is incorrectly wired, the sound will be thin even with the bass control nailed, and you will have more bass by using the balance control and shifting from side to side. The sound will be full with the balance control set to one side, and really thin when it is set in the middle.

My experience with even late '40's mono records is that they don't sound thin, and you can follow the bass line, or Les Paul's overdubbed half speed guitar parts, easily, but the don't sound like Grand Master Flash's big bumps. In short, I agree with Phil. Check your cartridge wiring, and also check to see if your speakers are wired properly.

And good luck from the old record listener,

Joe Z.
Thanks a lot for the quick reply.

I checked all my cartridges. There is one that indeed has the right and left reversed but all others are correctly wired. I think cartridge wiring is not the cause of the problem I have been disappointed by the bass of a lot of my mono records for years. The preamp I use is a Yamaha C-2 which does not have a bass issue with most stereo records. Since I do not have a mono cartridge I wondered if a true mono cartridge will yield much better bass.

Most of my mono records are classical music records. I played just now one London (US London) mono record, Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake by London Symphony Orchestra, the bass sounded thin too. However, I have a Mercury Olympian mono record of the same music by Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antal Dorati. This record's bass is no less than any stereo records made in the 70's that its dynamics really rocks my listening room. I wish most of mono records were like. This is the only mono record (it is a set of 3 record album) with sufficient bass that I own. I have several hundred mono records.

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Re: Bass of Mono Records

Post by Coffee Phil » 17 Nov 2018 04:45

Hi Tympani,

I’m thinking that the offending mono recordings may not have RIAA EQ. Google the album number and you can find out when it was recorded. RCA’s New Orthophonic came in the early ‘50 and was adopted as the RIAA standard ~1955. The Bass turn in RIAA is ~500 Hz. Some of the older EQs used different points (~300 HS was common). This will make difference.

This is my legacy phono stage:
gallery/image/18919/medium

The above phono stage will sum the stereo channels to mono, either lateral or vertical as well as provide most any bass turn and treble cut frequency you might want.

Feel free to build one for your own use if you would like. There is a little up date which only exists in my head so far. If you are going to build one ask and I’ll draw it up an scan it for you.

Phil

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Re: Bass of Mono Records

Post by H. callahan » 17 Nov 2018 06:21

I´m not sure if i remember correct, but somewhere a designer of a phono-preamp had built a special circuit into his preamp for ceramic cartridges i think.
It was a very expensive preamp and i didn´t understand all of the philosophy but i think the deal was that ceramic cartridges aren´t as linear as magnetic cartridges. I cannot remember the curve but its possible that creamic cartridges do produce more voltage at lower frequencies than a magnetic cartridge would and because of that old (mono-)records might have been cut with fewer bass-modulation as ceramic cartridges would compensate for that.

At least that was the reason for this preamp being special as the designer had taken this into account, as he claimed. I think there were switches on the preamp for records from different periods, as the compensating cut for ceramic cartridges was droppend when magnetic cartridges became majority - but i´m not sure about that.

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Re: Bass of Mono Records

Post by Tympani1982 » 17 Nov 2018 07:19

I had to be away for half an hour or so. When I return my draft was already posted automatically. I will continue the post here.

I have several hundreds of mono records. I just played another one, a Boston Pop by Arthur Fiedler the Grand Canyon Suite. The treble and mid range of this record is absolutely fabulous. But the bass is a little weak. When a cello hits some bass note I really like to hear them. When the timpani roll I like to have the deep beat with dynamics. This recording has a stereo version I believe. I might have it too but I have to dig it out. I have many of such Boston Pop records. They all seem to lack bass.

My Yamaha C-2 has an excellent RIAA stage. There is no doubt it does the equalization correctly. I tend to believe those mono records were not recorded with correct RIAA equalization or they were recorded with less bass for some reason.

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Re: Bass of Mono Records

Post by Tympani1982 » 17 Nov 2018 07:38

Coffee Phil wrote:
17 Nov 2018 04:45
Hi Tympani,

I’m thinking that the offending mono recordings may not have RIAA EQ. Google the album number and you can find out when it was recorded. RCA’s New Orthophonic came in the early ‘50 and was adopted as the RIAA standard ~1955. The Bass turn in RIAA is ~500 Hz. Some of the older EQs used different points (~300 HS was common). This will make difference.

This is my legacy phono stage:
gallery/image/18919/medium

The above phono stage will sum the stereo channels to mono, either lateral or vertical as well as provide most any bass turn and treble cut frequency you might want.

Feel free to build one for your own use if you would like. There is a little up date which only exists in my head so far. If you are going to build one ask and I’ll draw it up an scan it for you.

Phil
Thanks a lot, Phil. You brought up great points. I did wonder if I need a different equalization than a standard RIAA for these mono records. I had recorded a few records (using Audacity) to play on my cars. A few of the records (stereo though) when played on my Toyota Sienna there is a lot more bass (especially drum notes) than my listening room stereo system has. I had always wondered how Toyota CD players could boost the bass so much and still sound very well. My Yamaha C-2 bass knob is a terrible one. It seems it can not boost any bass at all.

By the way some of my British London Phase 4 records have very little bass too. Most of my London (British and American) do have good to great bottom end. Only a few phase 4 records do not.

I also found that a lot of Clumbia stereo records with 8 tiny eyes on the label have no or insufficient bass too. Those 6 eyes and 2 eyes older ones are on the other hand are great sounding with well balanced bass and treble.

I like my mono records but I really need to find out how to get the right or balanced amount of bass out of them. Without the right amount of bass they sound thin and mind bothering. Thanks Phil. If I have the time I may try to build your preamp.

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Re: Bass of Mono Records

Post by Tympani1982 » 17 Nov 2018 07:45

My home stereo system has good bass. The bass is deep and solid. So it is not the problem of the bass issue of my mono records. My Chet Akin's Country recording does rock my house extremely well. I listen to my classical music records about 80% of the time. The deep solid bass is required to yield the amount of dynamics for symphony orchestra performances. The bass makes a huge difference. SO I really like to have the bass out of my mono records.

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Re: Bass of Mono Records

Post by tlscapital » 17 Nov 2018 12:53

Two things to consider. First as you implied would be to have a dedicated MONO cartridge with a large (.7) conical stylus whose compliance will meet your tonearm effective mass.

And likely as 'H. callahan' stated that some record's mastering where done with the intention to be played on phono gear fitted with ceramic cartridges. This will limit even MONO MC's performance there.

Record collectors know the issue with those 33rpm's 6 track 7" records made for mini diner's juke-boxes that sound "tiny" as you describe for they where made to be played with ceramic cartridges...

As a collector of mainly 6T's and 7T's USA 45rpm's out of which most are MONO records, I know that that the MC MONO transition really helped my playback experience over the decades.

Finally to get the best juice out if such rather "exotic" cartridges one should really benefit from an adjustable preamp to really allow the cartridge to perform best in and out of the RIAA curve.

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