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Improving sound of old recordings

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Improving sound of old recordings

Postby Spurtz » 09 Mar 2017 20:36

Hello all,

I have a few LPs that were pressed in the 80's that are "faithful reproductions" of big band recordings from 1939 to 1942 (Goodman, Miller etc). Being from an era prior to the existence of the RIAA, they have the typical thin tonality of the time. I don't have a discrete EQ. If I want to improve the tone (ie. better bass response), is an EQ going to do this for me? I'm currently using a pre-amp and am using a midrange receiver and powered sub. I'm asking because up until now, all my LPs are of recordings no older that 1965 - these oldies are new to me.

Thanks for any advice you can give. Admins, please feel free to reassign category if I've selected an inappropriate one.
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Re: Improving sound of old recordings

Postby JDJX » 09 Mar 2017 22:01

It can, depending on the frequency content of a given LP.

Any EQ can not of course add frequencies that are not present but will augment those that that are already there.
Unfortunately, not all vintage LPs have the best low frequency content. So, keep that in mind

I would recommend that you get an EQ with no more than about ten frequency bands for your purpose... if you wish to experiment.
Any EQ with only ten bands only has those bands that are the most useful.

In fact, IMO, about ten bands is about all most need for a home sys that just needs some minor adjustments. :)
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Re: Improving sound of old recordings

Postby analogaudio » 09 Mar 2017 22:18

The simple answer is yes, an EQ unit can help with tonal balance shortcomings, it is not magic, but an improvement is probably possible.
From what you say about your setup the EQ unit will need to fit between the preamp and the receiver. I encourage you to check out the choices at online stores such as Sweetwater and Musiciansfriend and chose something up-to-date. The majority of units are probably in the "rack-mount" style which is a 19inch wide box with sliders on the front. If you can find one with RCA (phono) connectors it will make your hookup easier however most probably use 1/4in jacks and/or XLR connectors so be prepared to get some adapter cables.

"Better bass response"can mean at least two things. Increasing the amount of bass is one, EQ can do this, by trial and error. Adding bass energy lower in frequency than is present on the original recording, EQ cannot do this.

Some recordings that sound "thin" can be improved by creating an EQ curve that is highest at the low frequencies (bass) and slopes gently down to the high frequencies (treble), this has the effect of warming up the sound and can be very effective. This kind of EQ curve is easily set up on the type of EQ called graphic EQ also known as 1/3rd octave EQ, it is the type with a row of vertical sliders.

For your application it would be ideal to find a unit having a single row of sliders that operate on both left and right channels at the same time identically. However this type is less common, the more common type has two rows of sliders, one above the other, and for stereo hifi operation the settings of the two rows need to be adjusted to the same values.
Ted

Technics SL1600mk2, Ortofon VMS30, modified TEAC AH500 as a preamp, Bryston 4B ST amp, Harbeth M40 speakers, all making musical magic :-)
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Re: Improving sound of old recordings

Postby Spurtz » 10 Mar 2017 01:40

Thanks so much for that info. Looks like I have some experimenting to do - yet another reason why I like vinyl so much!
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Re: Improving sound of old recordings

Postby antennaguru » 10 Mar 2017 02:52

I have a modest 78 record collection, and in trying to improve their sound during playback I tried a number of things, and some actually helped - so much so that now when I have people over and they hear some of my 78 records they commonly remark that they had no idea that records so old could sound so good. Here are some things that helped me and may be worth considering:
1. Installed Grado 78C cartridge on a dedicated tonearm for the proper groove width, to greatly reduce record surface noise.
2. Switched to a dedicated 78 non-RIAA Phono Stage that does not roll off the treble, but does basically what RIAA EQ does to the bass.
3. Installed Back to Back Y-Cables between the tonearm and the Phono Stage - to replicate Mono wiring and provide better channel balance.
4. Refurbished and installed a Burwen Dynamic Noise Reduction Filter between the Phono Stage and the Preamplifier.
I have enjoyed playing a large collection of vinyl records for several decades.
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Re: Improving sound of old recordings

Postby romanose » 10 Mar 2017 16:48

Check out the manuals for these two.

https://www.hifiengine.com/manual_libra ... rg-2.shtml .

https://www.hifiengine.com/manual_libra ... 9800.shtml .

I have both of these pieces and they work very well for less than perfect recordings. Just join up and download the manuals. It's Jas's (this site owner) other site if you didn't know. The manuals will give you an idea of what they do.
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Re: Improving sound of old recordings

Postby Spurtz » 10 Mar 2017 17:13

romanose wrote:Check out the manuals for these two.

https://www.hifiengine.com/manual_libra ... rg-2.shtml .

https://www.hifiengine.com/manual_libra ... 9800.shtml .

I have both of these pieces and they work very well for less than perfect recordings. Just join up and download the manuals. It's Jas's (this site owner) other site if you didn't know. The manuals will give you an idea of what they do.


I was wondering about that - the layout and downloads were essentially the same format. Now, I don;t have a tape input on my receiver - are inputs like "DVD" usable for this type of device, or are the levels not suitable?

Appreciated for any info, as always. I'm also considering getting my hands on a vintage receiver or amplifier that I can use just for my TT. it may make this process for acquiring accessories a bit easier (and more fun for sure). There's a shop near my place that sells and repairs vintage gear: https://www.google.ca/maps/uv?hl=en&pb= ... YQoioIcTAK
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Re: Improving sound of old recordings

Postby josephazannieri » 10 Mar 2017 18:05

Yo Spurz:

You will not find much of anything on a 78 that is below about 50 Hz. "Instrumental Fullness" frequency area is about 80 Hz to 150 Hz. Over 200 Hz will put a "cloudy" sound in vocals. I have a number of old opera recordings from late 40's made from disc masters that sound a little thin, and I have bumped up the low ends on these for a little more fullness, but you are not going to get them to sound like modern recordings. Most popular "big band" recordings are pretty good to start with and don't need much help. In many cases if you don't have a graphic equalizer, you can use the bass control on am for a little help. Parallelling the channels (switching to mono or using back-to back Y adapters)will get rid of a lot of the vertical rumble components found in 78s.

Boosting the highs in the 2500-5000 Hz region will get back the "bite" in the brass instruments and the "sizzle" on cymbals. You will have to compromise if the 78s you are playing are worn.

And good luck from that old tone control twister,

Joe Z.
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Re: Improving sound of old recordings

Postby Spurtz » 10 Mar 2017 18:52

josephazannieri wrote:Yo Spurz:

You will not find much of anything on a 78 that is below about 50 Hz. "Instrumental Fullness" frequency area is about 80 Hz to 150 Hz. Over 200 Hz will put a "cloudy" sound in vocals. I have a number of old opera recordings from late 40's made from disc masters that sound a little thin, and I have bumped up the low ends on these for a little more fullness, but you are not going to get them to sound like modern recordings. Most popular "big band" recordings are pretty good to start with and don't need much help. In many cases if you don't have a graphic equalizer, you can use the bass control on am for a little help. Parallelling the channels (switching to mono or using back-to back Y adapters)will get rid of a lot of the vertical rumble components found in 78s.

Boosting the highs in the 2500-5000 Hz region will get back the "bite" in the brass instruments and the "sizzle" on cymbals. You will have to compromise if the 78s you are playing are worn.

And good luck from that old tone control twister,

Joe Z.


Hi Joe - They're not 78's, they're reproductions on 33's. What I actually have are Franklin Mint Record Society Big Band LP's - I came across a sealed set at a local thrift shop. They're pressed with red virgin vinyl, very cool looking records. From what I've been able to research, these are direct reproductions of the original recordings, and definitely have that pre-RIAA sound.

https://www.discogs.com/label/732468-Th ... g-Band-Era

I definitely should have posted this info with my question, apologies for that.
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Re: Improving sound of old recordings

Postby josephazannieri » 10 Mar 2017 21:26

Yo Spurtz:

There was a period in the '50's when a lot of "big band" records from the '30's and '40's were remastered and converted to "HIFI" reproduction. In some cases, the remastering was done with frequency adjustments that were not the best or most tasteful jobs. Your records appear to be relatively late (1980's) remasterings, so they should be pretty good mono recordings. The method was to go back to a master disc, and put that disc onto 30 IPS tape. Tape permitted the elimination of noise by cutting out the gunshot pops and other stray noises. Starting with the master permitted starting with a clean record, and allowed the use of some frequency adjustments. I have a number of LP remastering jobs from the 40's on LPs that have all sorts of excellent detail, such as very clear recordings of brushes on cymbals.

My suggestions for the frequency bands that may need adjustments remain the same, since these are the frequency ranges that the musical items suggested always appear in, regardless of the nature of the recording. I would rather have a nice clean transfer such as this one:
https://youtu.be/uIN01srn45c Or this one: https://youtu.be/M7tdZcP4xa4
(plenty of bass here, and nice clear cymbals and cowbells) than change the balances too much.

And good luck from the old frequency adjuster,

Joe Z.
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Re: Improving sound of old recordings

Postby Spurtz » 10 Mar 2017 22:34

Good stuff, thanks Joe. Will do.
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Re: Improving sound of old recordings

Postby Sunwire » 10 Mar 2017 23:40

What is your receiver? I've rarely seen one that didn't have a tape monitor. The tape monitor loop is the best place to put the equalizer.

The most flexible and useful type of equalizer is a parametric equalizer, not a graphic equalizer.
With a parametric equalizer, one can adjust the center frequency for each band, rather than being stuck with fixed frequencies that may not match the frequencies you most need to adjust.
A true parametric equalizer will also allow one to adjust the width (or Q) of the band affected by each control. For the type of adjustments you hope to make, a wide band is generally more useful than the narrow bands adjusted by a graphic equalizer.
And you only need three or four bands since each band can be completely customized.

Parametric equalizers are not as common, but there are many more on the market now than there used to be. I have owned a couple, an Ashly SC-66 (which I wish I still had) and a Technics SH-9010, which I still own. Although sliders look like they might be easier to use, I find rotary controls to be much easier in practice (one reason I wish I still had the Ashly EQ).

http://www.jlaudio.com/header/Support/T ... zer/287545

Look on ebay for "parametric eq" or "parametric equalizer". Sort the results by price and you may be surprised to find some that are pretty inexpensive.

If you decide to go with the more common graphic eq, try hard to get one that has no more than one octave between bands. A five band graphic eq is pretty useless. The lowest frequency should be 30hz or lower and each higher band should be no less than twice (one octave) the frequency of the one before it.
So, frequency bands of 30,60,120,240,etc. There is usually some "rounding" as frequencies go up, so actual bands will be more like 30,60,125,250,500,1000, etc..

1/3 octave equalizers are often used in professional situations because they have more resolution. But the price is much higher than for an octave eq.

There ARE stereo eqs that have one set of controls that affect both channels, but they are pretty rare. I think these are much more convenient. Especially for your use, there's no need to control the L+R channels independently. Yamaha GE-5 is one example.

Since most of your problems (and most users' problems) are in the bass, it's more important to have a lot of bands in the bass than in the treble.
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Re: Improving sound of old recordings

Postby JDJX » 11 Mar 2017 00:23

........There ARE stereo eqs that have one set of controls that affect both channels, but they are pretty rare. I think these are much more convenient. Especially for your use, there's no need to control the L+R channels independently. Yamaha GE-5 is one example.


I actually have a 7 band EQ that adjusts / effect both channels simultaneously
It's an old JVC SEA-20"
I use it exclusively for the audio output of my TV for music DVDs and TV music programs that can have frequency content all over the map as far as being an accurate mix. I got it specifically for that.

BTW, my TV sound can be feed into my stereo sys that has its speakers on either side of the TV. :)

jvc_sea-20g.jpg
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Re: Improving sound of old recordings

Postby Spurtz » 11 Mar 2017 03:13

My receiver is a Pioneer VSX-523. Other than the DVD input, I have no more line level inputs available.
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Re: Improving sound of old recordings

Postby antennaguru » 11 Mar 2017 03:31

This is a decent sounding and very inexpensive phono stage for playing back most pre-RIAA EQ records. Note the difference in the EQ curve between RIAA, and what generally sounds better than RIAA with these pre-RIAA EQ records. This pre-RIAA EQ generally restores the intended treble.

http://www.phonopreamps.com/tc778pp.html
I have enjoyed playing a large collection of vinyl records for several decades.
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