Do I expect too much from records/analog?

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

Post by Ghaasl » 07 Mar 2019 22:34

hedgehog35 wrote:
07 Mar 2019 21:39
I have enjoyed this debate and was going to suggest that Bullitt try to audition a good quality, modern turntable, but he beat me to it! I am not at surprised by his conclusions listening to a modern turntable which is at the bottom of the Acoustic signature range. Many years ago, I took my precious Thorens 160S/SME 3009 to my local Rega dealer and compared it to the then, fairly new Rega Planar 3. I was shocked to hear far greater musical detail coming out of the Rega and I was convinced to trade in my trusty Thorens. After 50 years of playing around with hi fi, I have come to the following conclusions:
1. Do not always believe that 'older' is better. I often see advice on this forum that suggests a turntable from the 'golden age' of vinyl (i.e. the 60's to 80's), will sound sonically superior to most modern turntables. I have to disagree. While we can admire the quality of the robust, mechanical components of a 70's turntable, it will very rarely sound as good as a well designed modern deck from Rega, Project, Acoustic signature etc. Many makes have acquired an almost mythical status such as the Thorens 150/160, that we assume that little progress has been made in the intervening years. I have owned a Thorens 150 and 160, and am sure both would be well beaten by a modern, reasonably priced deck. Where they have not been surpassed, is the quality of materials they have been made of.

2. Non - vinyl lovers often assume that more expensive turntables will make poor quality records sound worse as they will reveal a greater level of surface noise such as crackles, pops and clicks. They do, but they also retrieve a far greater amount of musical information from the record, and so the signal to noise ratio becomes greater not less. Therefore a cheaper turntable and arm will transmit an equal level of extraneous noise and musical signal, whereas the better machine will send the same quantity of noise to the phono stage, but a much greater quantity of musical information. Therefore surface noise becomes less, and not more noticeable.

3. I have to agree with everyone who suggested a record cleaning machine. If you have invested a very large amount of money in a very revealing and expensive system (as Bullitt has), then a RCM is not an added luxury but an essential part of the system. I have been amazed at what a good clean will do for a 50 year old record that I thought was ready to be chucked out.

4. Finally (you will be glad to hear), it seems that a modern 180g pressing is absolutely no guarantee that it will sound quieter than a fifty year old well - played record. I have been so disappointed at the quality of some new records - I think they are churning them out as fast as possible to capitalise on the resurgence of vinyl.

And just to stir things up - I do not believe that digital has a greater dynamic range than analogue. Suggest everyone should read "Get Better Sound" by Jim Smith. A fascinating book which takes apart some of the myths about recorded sound.
The only reason I beat the drum on the vintage bandwagon is because of strict budgetary constraints. For some of us, buying a turntable for more than $300 USD is just not feasable. I’ll take my vintage Pioneer over anything in the sub $300 category. I’d love to have the budget for a mid to high end modern turntable with all of the goodies. But I have other priorities and other very expensive interests.

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

Post by soulmerchant » 08 Mar 2019 07:20

When we went from Analogue recording formats to Digital, Tape Hiss was eliminated!

Wait... it's still there..... but its not tape hiss, it's now called "Dither". :D

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

Post by soulmerchant » 08 Mar 2019 08:12

Vinylfreak86 wrote:
04 Mar 2019 09:23
Magnetic tape deteriorates through decades. But those who are responsible for storage of originals have to make the best climate for them or make professional new copy. But sometimes they don`t do the job. In this case vinyl record is better format for storage, it doesn`t deteriorate if it is not on the sun or played. But it doesn`t have so high level of the sound like tape.
Actually, some of us have worked with studio masters, and they hold up pretty well over time. They don't deteriorate so much as one might anticipate.

There was a time in the late 1960's where certain lubricants used on reel-to-reel machines became unavailable. These were originally made from whale fat and the ban on whale hunt (which was a very good thing) meant replacements needed to be found. The replacement lubricants from these times were not so good though..... and some of us believe that they caused certain master tapes to be come dirty with build-up, etc. However it is possible to clean a master tape, and such tapes can be played afterwards. Tape cleaning is tedious and not trivial but it works. In some instances, people "bake" some old tapes (some cheaper non-scotch brands) to get them to play again, but to be honest this is really a bad idea and should be avoided at all cost.

The real issues with Analogue Master Tape are:

1. Studio grade Tape Machines deteriorate FAR quicker than master tapes. They have SO MANY moving parts, and are horribly expensive and tedious to service and maintain. Replacement parts are no longer in production. Rubber parts perish, etc. Tape heads wear out. Also, pretty much all the service engineers for them are in retirement by now.

2. Even simple playback of Studio Grade masters requires real training, etc. A tape that has been in a vault for a long time might need to be spooled for some time before bleed-through dissipates. This process alone can take a few days, or maybe even a week in an extreme case. Or maybe the master was played a lot with machines using lubricants from the late 1960's and has build up that causes play-back problems? It will need pro cleaning... All this adds enormous cost. I know of a few "high end" Lp re-issues where the tape was obviously not correctly spooled enough (or maybe not at all). Maybe they did not have the luxury of time, but maybe they did not know what they were doing and assumed the master tape had "deteriorated".

3. Record companies have very little technical competency anymore due to thin operating margins. The remaining people working at these companies are in legal and regulatory or sales. Even then, the staff is very limited. Every place where cost can be reduced is exploited to the fullest. Proper storing of old master tapes is a real expense for the remaining record companies too.

4. Digital is incredibly CHEAP. Even somebody with only a legal or marketing school background can sign a paper contract and distribute a digital file.

That's the situation folks.

Also, don't assume that vinyl sounds as good as the real original master tape, or even a 3rd or 4th generation copy of that tape. Vinyl mastering always requires EQ. Professional Engineers make (or made) notes on how to EQ a recording for vinyl. These were typically kept with the tape...

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

Post by Vinylfreak86 » 08 Mar 2019 13:48

soulmerchant wrote:
08 Mar 2019 08:12


3. Record companies have very little technical competency anymore due to thin operating margins. The remaining people working at these companies are in legal and regulatory or sales. Even then, the staff is very limited. Every place where cost can be reduced is exploited to the fullest. Proper storing of old master tapes is a real expense for the remaining record companies too.
Some good points here from someone who was working in "better times". Ideology of neoliberalism (which means more compact companies with less stuff and employees and more external contractors) went good with digitalisation through the end of 80`s and the whole nineties. Record companies are not anymore the industry like they were in the 60`s and 70`s. They also became "compact neoliberal demonic concern or corporation". You can find only headquarters with offices, all process of material and production of music formats is made by other companies.
soulmerchant wrote:
08 Mar 2019 08:12
Also, don't assume that vinyl sounds as good as the real original master tape, or even a 3rd or 4th generation copy of that tape. Vinyl mastering always requires EQ. Professional Engineers make (or made) notes on how to EQ a recording for vinyl. These were typically kept with the tape...
But how is then modern mastering where they use a CD, or old vinyl record in excellent condition or some digital files? For many new vinyl releases of public domain labels you really don`t know where they found the material.

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

Post by hedgehog35 » 08 Mar 2019 17:20

I absolutely agree with some of the good points made here.
An older, well maintained turntable is an economical way into hi fi and can provide many years of good service because they were so well built. I think modern designers have learned to use less material in an intelligent way so that a new turntable design can appear rather 'flimsy' when compared to the battleship build of some earlier Japanese decks. I recently had loan of a new Rega 6 where the depth and solidity of the sound belied the incredibly lightweight design. I am, by the way, not totally uncritical of Rega products and there are some aspects of their designs that I do not like. What I do admire, is that they have a totally consistent engineering based philosophy on how a turntable should be designed (and sound). You might not agree or like their sound, but there are sound principles for their designs.
If you were to compare an excellent mass market turntable of the 70's such as the Pioneer PL12 D to the modern equivalent (in terms of price adjusted for inflation), such as the Rega Planar 3, I know which one would extract far more musical information from the record. You might not like the more 'analytical' sound of the modern deck, but it is telling you more about what is going on with the music.
I totally understand that many people prefer the warmer, analogue sound of the 70's - in fact one criticism of a modern Linn Sondek is that it sounds nothing like a Sondek from 40 years ago. In fact modern decks often do seem to get closer and closer to a 'digital' type sound.
I also agree that it was often the arm that was the 'Achilles heel' of older decks and if you are prepared to spend a lot of money overhauling an old Thorens or Garrard deck by putting it into a modern plinth with a modern arm and power supply, it can sound fantastic. I wonder if that is where the greatest improvement has been in that designers are paying much more attention to the design of power supplies in modern turntables?

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

Post by feldman » 08 Mar 2019 17:53

soulmerchant wrote:
08 Mar 2019 08:12
Also, don't assume that vinyl sounds as good as the real original master tape, or even a 3rd or 4th generation copy of that tape. Vinyl mastering always requires EQ. Professional Engineers make (or made) notes on how to EQ a recording for vinyl. These were typically kept with the tape...
And that brings me to my point: seeing how the process of vinyl mastering/preparing the stamper for pressing necessitates further intervention (requiring further EQ-ing), there obviously is no way that vinyl could ever sound like the master tape from which it was sourced.

So now that we have gotten that concern out of the way, the question remains: which, to you, sounds better?

From some anecdotal sources I was able to gather, there seems to be the process of 'sweetening the tape' that is often required in order to produce quality vinyl pressing. If that's correct, then maybe sometimes it is that 'sweetening', made by talented, experienced sound engineers, that produces a vinyl record that, while sounding different from the master tape, maybe sounds more seductive to some ears?

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

Post by feldman » 08 Mar 2019 18:03

hedgehog35 wrote:
08 Mar 2019 17:20
I absolutely agree with some of the good points made here.
An older, well maintained turntable is an economical way into hi fi and can provide many years of good service because they were so well built. I think modern designers have learned to use less material in an intelligent way so that a new turntable design can appear rather 'flimsy' when compared to the battleship build of some earlier Japanese decks. I recently had loan of a new Rega 6 where the depth and solidity of the sound belied the incredibly lightweight design. I am, by the way, not totally uncritical of Rega products and there are some aspects of their designs that I do not like. What I do admire, is that they have a totally consistent engineering based philosophy on how a turntable should be designed (and sound). You might not agree or like their sound, but there are sound principles for their designs.
If you were to compare an excellent mass market turntable of the 70's such as the Pioneer PL12 D to the modern equivalent (in terms of price adjusted for inflation), such as the Rega Planar 3, I know which one would extract far more musical information from the record. You might not like the more 'analytical' sound of the modern deck, but it is telling you more about what is going on with the music.
I totally understand that many people prefer the warmer, analogue sound of the 70's - in fact one criticism of a modern Linn Sondek is that it sounds nothing like a Sondek from 40 years ago. In fact modern decks often do seem to get closer and closer to a 'digital' type sound.
I also agree that it was often the arm that was the 'Achilles heel' of older decks and if you are prepared to spend a lot of money overhauling an old Thorens or Garrard deck by putting it into a modern plinth with a modern arm and power supply, it can sound fantastic. I wonder if that is where the greatest improvement has been in that designers are paying much more attention to the design of power supplies in modern turntables?
Good points. I think we're talking the differences between the so-called 'vintage sound' vs. the more 'contemporary sound'. Rega definitely delivers a more contemporary sound, meaning colder, more analytical sound.

I also tend to agree with you that recent batches of well engineered, well machined tonearms can improve the quality of the playback. Last year I replaced the venerable old workhorse tonearm (Rega RB300) with Jelco SA-750E 10 inch tonearm, and the improvements were not minor.

Following that upgrade, I've replaced the original armboard with a new, laser precision cut armboard made from plexiglass, and that upgrade also propelled the playback quality to brand new heights.

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

Post by Bob Dillon » 08 Mar 2019 18:15

soulmerchant wrote:
08 Mar 2019 08:12


Actually, some of us have worked with studio masters, and they hold up pretty well over time.

There was a time in the late 1960's where certain lubricants used on reel-to-reel machines became unavailable. These were originally made from whale fat and the ban on whale hunt (which was a very good thing) meant replacements needed to be found. The replacement lubricants from these times were not so good though..... and some of us believe that they caused certain master tapes to be come dirty with build-up, etc. However it is possible to clean a master tape, and such tapes can be played afterwards. Tape cleaning is tedious and not trivial but it works. In some instances, people "bake" some old tapes (some cheaper non-scotch brands) to get them to play again, but to be honest this is really a bad idea and should be avoided at all cost.

Whale oil was used a lubricant on the tape itself, until the ban. Synthetic lubricants were then substututed which have not aged as well, causing tapes to squeal and / or shed oxide on the tape heads when they are played. Baking such tapes is highly recommended. Baking older tapes with whale oil lubricant is NOT recommended or necessary.
Last edited by Bob Dillon on 08 Mar 2019 18:27, edited 1 time in total.

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

Post by Bob Dillon » 08 Mar 2019 18:23

feldman wrote:
08 Mar 2019 17:53
soulmerchant wrote:
08 Mar 2019 08:12
Also, don't assume that vinyl sounds as good as the real original master tape, or even a 3rd or 4th generation copy of that tape. Vinyl mastering always requires EQ. Professional Engineers make (or made) notes on how to EQ a recording for vinyl. These were typically kept with the tape...
And that brings me to my point: seeing how the process of vinyl mastering/preparing the stamper for pressing necessitates further intervention (requiring further EQ-ing), there obviously is no way that vinyl could ever sound like the master tape from which it was sourced.

So now that we have gotten that concern out of the way, the question remains: which, to you, sounds better?

From some anecdotal sources I was able to gather, there seems to be the process of 'sweetening the tape' that is often required in order to produce quality vinyl pressing. If that's correct, then maybe sometimes it is that 'sweetening', made by talented, experienced sound engineers, that produces a vinyl record that, while sounding different from the master tape, maybe sounds more seductive to some ears?
I think modern cutting practices and cutting lathes can bring a vinyl mastering very close to the tape or file that it was sourced from. There are several reasons that tape boxes were marked with cutting EQ. Couldl've been a directive from the artist or producer. Or a need to compromise, say the bass EQ so that the records would play on old style record players that tracked poorly, etc.

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

Post by Bob Dillon » 08 Mar 2019 21:21

soulmerchant wrote:
08 Mar 2019 08:12

2. Even simple playback of Studio Grade masters requires real training, etc. A tape that has been in a vault for a long time might need to be spooled for some time before bleed-through dissipates. This process alone can take a few days, or maybe even a week in an extreme case. Or maybe the master was played a lot with machines using lubricants from the late 1960's and has build up that causes play-back problems? It will need pro cleaning... All this adds enormous cost. I know of a few "high end" Lp re-issues where the tape was obviously not correctly spooled enough (or maybe not at all). Maybe they did not have the luxury of time, but maybe they did not know what they were doing and assumed the master tape had "deteriorated".
Bleed / print through doesn't 'dissipate' from spooling the tape, you can't 'dissipate' print through. Spooling is necessary because you want the tape wound as evenly as possible if it's going into long term storage. It doesn't take days to spool a tape, it takes as long as it takes to play it at normal speed. If a tape is not spooled and the wind / pack is uneven on the hub before long term storage, the tape edges can curl.

If a 'high end' label is high end enough to get access to first generation master tapes for their project, a label like Mobile Fidelity, say, I think it safe to assume the ops / engineers at such labels know what they are doing.
Last edited by Bob Dillon on 08 Mar 2019 21:34, edited 1 time in total.

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

Post by feldman » 08 Mar 2019 21:34

Bob Dillon wrote:
08 Mar 2019 18:23
I think modern cutting practices and cutting lathes can bring a vinyl mastering very close to the tape or file that it was sourced from. There are several reasons that tape boxes were marked with cutting EQ. Couldl've been a directive from the artist or producer. Or a need to compromise, say the bass EQ so that the records would play on old style record players that tracked poorly, etc.
Not sure I understand why would the artist or the producer offer directives on how to EQ the master tape during the preparation of the stamper and during the cutting/pressing process? Shouldn't they give those directives during the tape mastering process?

Once tape gets mastered, it goes into production, which is where this additional 'sweetening the tape' process takes place. It appears to be a craft that addresses the constraints/foibles of the process of pressing the vinyl record.

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

Post by Bob Dillon » 08 Mar 2019 21:38

feldman wrote:
08 Mar 2019 21:34


Not sure I understand why would the artist or the producer offer directives on how to EQ the master tape during the preparation of the stamper and during the cutting/pressing process? Shouldn't they give those directives during the tape mastering process?
Because they did. It occured.

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

Post by Vinylfreak86 » 08 Mar 2019 22:27

These days masters are in many cases stored on linear tape-open format (LTO), which is in reality computer data storage which uses magnetic tape. Here only tape as a physical format stayed, in reality we are speaking about digitalised music and stored like a computer file. Not much stayed from analog. But it is a good format which can survive through decades.

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

Post by Bullitt5094 » 08 Mar 2019 22:52

Bob Dillon wrote:
07 Mar 2019 21:53
The arm is a weak spot on older Thorens. The old (fixed) output cables, too. Got to be able to put some decent cable on a 'table.

These refurbed Thorens with upgraded arms from Vinyl Nirvana look very nice : https://vinylnirvana.com/vintage-turntables-for-sale
I've replaced the output cable on my table and resoldered the connections. I don't think anyone at Thorens knew how to use a soldering iron. It was ugly down there.

I also spoke with the really nice guy who is working on Thorens on Vinyl Nirvana. The original guy (Joe?) doesn't refirb Thorens anymore and refers them to this friend. I've also done the bearing maintenance/oil change with the recommended oil. Correct length belt. Etc. There is no sign of problems with the bearing. There are about 10 other things to look for on these tables and mine seems to have none of those other problems. The next step would be the tonearm wiring replacement to the chassis. At this point I was going to send it in and put quite a bit of money into a table that cost me $120. It was starting to feel like the old woodsman that claimed he had the same ax for 75 years. He'd only changed the handle 10 times and the head 4 times but that original ax is still going!

I have the ability to buy something I believe will be better than than a 40+ year old table fully refurbished. I also looked at the Super Thorens Table on VN. But again, I just lean toward the newer technology being a better choice. The Feickert arrives tomorrow. We'll see how it goes...

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

Post by soulmerchant » 09 Mar 2019 09:57

Bob Dillon wrote:
08 Mar 2019 21:21
Bleed / print through doesn't 'dissipate' from spooling the tape, you can't 'dissipate' print through. Spooling is necessary because you want the tape wound as evenly as possible if it's going into long term storage. It doesn't take days to spool a tape, it takes as long as it takes to play it at normal speed. If a tape is not spooled and the wind / pack is uneven on the hub before long term storage, the tape edges can curl.

If a 'high end' label is high end enough to get access to first generation master tapes for their project, a label like Mobile Fidelity, say, I think it safe to assume the ops / engineers at such labels know what they are doing.
yes, the primary reason for spooling is to address winding issues from storage. However:

Spooling does help address dissipate some of the print through due to storage. I know since I have done it on some older tapes and it works! - after a few days the print through was much less. Where did I learn this? From an old sound engineer friend who sadly passed away two years ago.

I do re-recordings for comparison purposes during this process because you just can't trust your ears (learned that from him too). Does it always work? no.... but it is seriously worth trying if you are stuck. Print through that was originally present (from the day it was recorded) will not go away.

I am not talking about MoFi or some of the other really good players like AP. For example: I have a few re-isses of SRV's Couldn't Stand The Weather (ok, I have original US and Holland pressings too). One recent re-issue is a 180g. from Epic that sounds great, but it has some obvious bleed-through. It's not a MoFi or AP.

The AP and MoFi releases have nearly no bleed through (like the original releases). Sound is superb (better than original 80's pressings from Epic). Maybe Epic (or the company they contracted) didn't spool the tape a few times? This is my speculation. I have experienced this kind of thing only in recent years.

You might not believe me, but spooling the tape can help if you have bleed through. Just remember it the next time you are stuck and give it a try. It won't fix it if the bleed through was there from day 1.

My point is this: The people who are left around to play back a master tape at the record company might not have tons of real experience doing it. Maybe there are a few with lots of experience left today, but when they're gone, some knowledge might be gone too. My experience with recent "HQ 180g" pressings has not been so positive...
Last edited by soulmerchant on 09 Mar 2019 10:31, edited 4 times in total.