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45RPM Singles - poor sound quality

Posted: 15 Mar 2014 21:35
by jmurray01
Why is it that almost all my 45RPM 7" singles have quite bad sound quality (I.E. distortion when playing)?

My equipment is well maintained and plays LPs flawlessly with exceptional sound quality, but with a single it sounds like the stylus is very worn, which it is not.

Am I just unlucky in that I have bought worn records or was it that singles weren't made very well in the 1960s to begin with?

Re: 45RPM Singles - poor sound quality

Posted: 15 Mar 2014 22:37
by tubewade
Several things at play here and you mentioned some of them above. I have experienced the same thing.

45s were generally not cared for as well as LPs and their sleeves do not protect them as well. A lot of people who bought 45s were young and were not knowledgeable in maintenance of their turntables, so the stylus oft went longer than should have and was possibly not adjusted correctly. As you mentioned, I believe 45s often were not pressed to the same quality as their LP counterparts. Here, in the United States, many 45s were pressed on polystyrene rather than vinyl and the styrene is a brittle material that does not tolerate any abuse. Aggressive styli will damage these very easily, and I did it to some of my own back in the 1970s before I knew any better.

Further, many turntables today have their cartridges adjusted for best performance from LPs, with their inner alignment null at 66 mm. Distortion rises drastically once that null is crossed on the inside and many 45s are cut to as little as 55 mm.

The solution that has allowed me to enjoy many 45s again is using a conical stylus such as a Shure M75C or M44G or an Audio Technica AT3600 and using the Stevenson alignment, with inner null at 60 mm, rather than the Baerwald. For 45 playback I find that I prefer styli that track at about 3 grams.

I am not going to tell you that you can make worn 45s sound like they are new LPs, but I have achieved some very satisfying reproduction of many used records and I am able to enjoy 45 singles now better than ever before.

I hope Kent Teffeteller comes along and adds to this. He knows about as much about 45 single playback as anyone I can think of.

Best regards.

Edit: If you are playing mon-aural records, very common before 1970, and have the capability, engage the mono switch on your pre-amplifier. The distortions in the left and right channels are not symmetrical and adding them together can give a much better presentation than hearing that distortion in stereo.

Re: 45RPM Singles - poor sound quality

Posted: 15 Mar 2014 23:51
by analogaudio
I agree with Tubewade about the hard life that singles experienced, there may be some that were handled with care but most were party music. If you were there in the 60s and 70s when singles were popular you would understand how quality was not the number one priority. Imagine a cheap all-in-one record player, Dansette was a popular UK brand, it was sitting on the floor in a dark room crowded with people, with discs scattered around underfoot, the primary focus of activity was chatting up the girl you fancied, so long as some music kept playing everyone was happy :-) worn stylus? what's that? No money for stylus, gotta buy the new hit :-)

Re: 45RPM Singles - poor sound quality

Posted: 17 Mar 2014 19:20
by eddie edirol
Just as Tubewade said, you might be dealing with worn Styrene records.

In this forum, I made a thread on how to tell if you have styrene records.
viewtopic.php?f=95&t=62462

If you do, your best bet would be to replace them with regular vinyl copies, usually from outside the USA. Only because once the Styrene gets worn, it cant be fixed, its worn forever and only gets worse.

But it could help to find out your setup, what cartridge, turntable, it is aligned properly...

Re: 45RPM Singles - poor sound quality

Posted: 17 Mar 2014 23:16
by Singlemania45
jmurray01 wrote:Why is it that almost all my 45RPM 7" singles have quite bad sound quality (I.E. distortion when playing)?

My equipment is well maintained and plays LPs flawlessly with exceptional sound quality, but with a single it sounds like the stylus is very worn, which it is not.

Am I just unlucky in that I have bought worn records or was it that singles weren't made very well in the 1960s to begin with?
I reckon at least 3/4 of the 60's singles that have passed through my hands over the years have suffered with distortion to varying degree which is probably due to damage caused by a combination of mishandling and being played on badly maintained equipment.

As others have pointed out a spherical stylus will improve playback quality as well as a mono switch on the amplifier but to give the best possible sound a mono cartridge feeding a mono amp and single speaker is probably required. I have a fairly large collection of mono 45's and LPs so I'm seriously looking at getting a mono cart.

Re: 45RPM Singles - poor sound quality

Posted: 19 Mar 2014 23:14
by jmurray01
analogaudio wrote:I agree with Tubewade about the hard life that singles experienced, there may be some that were handled with care but most were party music. If you were there in the 60s and 70s when singles were popular you would understand how quality was not the number one priority. Imagine a cheap all-in-one record player, Dansette was a popular UK brand, it was sitting on the floor in a dark room crowded with people, with discs scattered around underfoot, the primary focus of activity was chatting up the girl you fancied, so long as some music kept playing everyone was happy :-) worn stylus? what's that? No money for stylus, gotta buy the new hit :-)
I see your point, but all (and I mean literally, all!) my 1960s singles are Roy Orbison songs which I doubt would have been used in the above mentioned fashion (though I could be wrong).

I suppose in years to come people will look at CDs and think "how did people let these rare things get so scratched?".

Re: 45RPM Singles - poor sound quality

Posted: 20 Mar 2014 18:49
by BMRR
I have some vinyl singles that sound awful (even though they look perfect visually), and some styrene singles that sound just as good as vinyl LPs. It really depends on how well were they manufactured, and how well they were cared for.

Re: 45RPM Singles - poor sound quality

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 04:36
by vinyl master
BMRR wrote:I have some vinyl singles that sound awful (even though they look perfect visually), and some styrene singles that sound just as good as vinyl LPs. It really depends on how well were they manufactured, and how well they were cared for.
It's true...It's true...it depends on how well they were recorded, too...And some labels were generally of better quality than others. I have a lot of singles from the 80's and 90's and beyond that are in perfect shape, as new as the day they were pressed. That doesn't mean that there are some bad sounding pressings out there. A good cleaning helps, too, with many of these. Also, if you have a few of those beat-up thrift store finds like me (my collection is pretty varied), use a conical stylus. Ellipticals can bring out more details, but sometimes they bring out the ones you DON'T want to hear...

Re: 45RPM Singles - poor sound quality

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 10:15
by Hugues TR4
Hi All,

I usually play my 7" singles on the RCA RP190 mono changer I just restored, with a ceramic cart and a diamond conical stylus wired in mono and they sound quite nice (close to the way they probably did in 1960), maybe just a little better because I'm using better amp and speakers.
Conversion of the ceramic to mag entry was made through a little device using a 47 pf cap between cart and mag entry. Works very well.
Also, I washed all my 45's (about 1500!) in my Knosti and that really made a difference.
Of course, some of them have survived parties (many!) and worn stylus but most are still playable, even if the styrene ones (ABC Paramount, and some other US labels) have a little background shuffle sound.
This all do not prevent me from still enjoying them!

Cheers,

Hugh.

Re: 45RPM Singles - poor sound quality

Posted: 30 May 2014 13:09
by KentT
45 singles are cut loudly. And need to be played with .7 mil conical styli in broadcast cartridges played at practical tracking forces. My favorite Stanton the 681A is long discontinued, but I love the Shure M 44 line and the M 35x a lot for 45 RPM duty. The Ortofon OM DJ line also work well.

Re: 45RPM Singles - poor sound quality

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 15:19
by spittenkittens
My RCA Victrola pretty much shows why. 45's where made mostly to be stacked and played over and over. People often tossed the sleeve and never cleaned. Plus many people never changed the stylus. Maybe it was a good thing crystal carts went bad, that is probably the time they got a new stylus. If you can find a good 45 in it's sleeve they can sound better than a lp, in part because of the faster speed.
My Garrard type A with a pickering 380 is my favorite way to listen to them.
There where many good tunes that would never have come out unless it was on a 45. It was sort of the replacement for the 78.

Re: 45RPM Singles - poor sound quality

Posted: 31 Oct 2014 01:43
by JDJX
A couple of points...

Back when 45s were popular as well as LPs, it used to be common practice to use all the recycled vinyl (from edge trimmings) for 45s.
This was because recycled vinyl can often contain impurities that could effect sound and contribute to "pops" etc.
45s were considered almost "toys" for kids and teenagers by audiophiles and fodder for juke boxes.

Also, I suspect the the pressing masters for 45s were often used well beyond the point when they would have been replaced for LPs.

Re: 45RPM Singles - poor sound quality

Posted: 05 Dec 2015 22:38
by plyscds
I used my browser's FIND function, and did not find the word "sapphire" used on this page. Which means the lower cost sapphire needle option (instead of diamond) for mass-fi record players has not been mentioned. In rounded approximations, the sapphire needle had half the usable life of the diamond needle and was sold for half the cost, and still some people couldn't be bothered to replace them once in a while. I actually knew record player owners who thought if the machine still made noise everything was fine. There should be a moment of silence for those poor records that were sold to owners of cheap sapphire needles who replaced them once for every trip through their teen years. Maybe sapphire needles were what started the psychedelic movement. I'll need to do more research.

Re: 45RPM Singles - poor sound quality

Posted: 26 May 2016 21:02
by Retro Supply Store
Styrene was only really used in America, and has a different sound when worn, a loud Tisssssssssh (which it does easily, and cannot be DJ'd with as backqueing and stopping record with needle on groove will cause instant audible wear!)
I agree with all of the above, it's a perfect storm of loud records, played on cheap equipment, with worn stylus, and without a lot of handling care. Early beatles records especially almost always sound trashed I find, soul records usualy were better cared for it seems, maybe first owners were slightly older?

Re: 45RPM Singles - poor sound quality

Posted: 28 Aug 2016 14:54
by TudorTurtle
Adding; lots of 45s being sold by the bix today came out of jukeboxes, with their heavy ceramic carts.