“My favorite records sound the worst” - the aesthetics of analog music

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Giacomo Belbo, Mar 12, 2019.

  1. Giacomo Belbo

    Giacomo Belbo Journalist for Rolling Stone 1976-1979 Thread Starter

    True, but that's not the point.

  2. NaturalD

    NaturalD Forum Resident

    Boston, Mass., USA
    Working in the record shop, I will very occasionally come across an older record (usually 60s or older) where the grooves have been really chewed up; there must have been some fairly vicious record players back in the day. But I think that kind of damage on newer records is very scarce; I'm pretty sure even the dreaded Crosleys aren't harming the vinyl.
    Giacomo Belbo likes this.
  3. True but if you remember a big deal with bad sounding cds in the 80 s was the "use of vinyl masters" with that bass cut treble boost. Memory is failing but that was definitely a point of contention in those halcyon days of the first CD masters.
    Thanks, John
  4. Other persons could chime in who know better, but just for the sake of memory and the long talks about why the the first cds sounded thin and trebly was what the engineers and teachers and salespeople of the time concluded that the first digital releases were using the lp masters as guides. It ,this reason, sounded ok since many cds did sound theoretically like the bass cut treble boost of vinyl before a preamp restores the bass and cuts the treble cause of the limitations of the lp groove being able to hold the stylus in the groove.
    I assumed that this reason in those old days was understood and I wouldn't have to explain something that obviously I dont have a full grasp off. John M.
  5. seed_drill

    seed_drill Senior Member

    Tryon, NC, USA
    Black Sabbath's Paranoid. Tan label 80's pressing.

    It probably helps that there aren't that many quiet passages.
    Chris Schoen likes this.
  6. Otlset

    Otlset under western skies

    Temecula, CA
    I understand. That was my comment on the quote only.
  7. VinylSoul

    VinylSoul Forum Resident

    Lake Erie
    I would go so far as to speculate that the cutter head and our cartridges and tonearms add even order harmonic distortion both electrically and mechanically to the signal which we find as listeners pleasant. Of course it's going to vary according to the playback equipment we choose.
    patient_ot likes this.
  8. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Why wouldn't they sound the worst? A lot of musical tastes are formed when someone is young and when you're really young you don't know how to treat your records (usually) and you typically have crap equipment as well. Play an album a couple hundred times that way and it's going to sound bad, period. Ever wonder why there is so much beater, scratched up, groove worn vinyl in the used bins?
  9. Bill Larson

    Bill Larson Forum Resident

    If your album sounds audibly degraded after a few hundred plays, you’re doing something wrong.

    There are CD players that sounds somewhat congested and have a definite lack of detail, but a decent CD player connected to a decent system playing a well-mastered disc should sound every bit as detailed and realistic as vinyl.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2019
    bhazen and Stone Turntable like this.
  10. Pinknik

    Pinknik Senior Member

    When someone refers to a CD coming from an LP master, what they're referring to is a tape copy of the original master that has all of the mastering engineer's moves applied to it already, so the next guy can just do a flat transfer when cutting an LP. LPs at the time often required compression and rolling off the bass to make it easier to fit the music onto a side of vinyl that wouldn't make cartridges of the time skip or distort. CD didn't have those limitations, but if one of those old LP cutting masters was used, you got all the bass roll off and compression that was needed for the LP. The RIAA EQ curve is always up to the circuitry of the cutting lathe. If you play an LP with no EQ, it's obviously wrong as the curve is quite steep. The LP cutting master is sometimes referred to as a LEDO which is discussed here:

    Help Me Engineers: What is a "LEDO" tape??
  11. Giacomo Belbo

    Giacomo Belbo Journalist for Rolling Stone 1976-1979 Thread Starter

    True, but cannot imagine that a mastering engineer doesn't know that.

  12. Pinknik

    Pinknik Senior Member

    Meaning why were they used at all once CD came along? I think these copies were often marked MASTER, so they may have thought they were doing the right thing. Steve Hoffman has said that he would be given tapes labeled MASTER all the time, but the one he wanted was often marked DO NOT USE. If that's what you meant. :)
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  13. Giacomo Belbo

    Giacomo Belbo Journalist for Rolling Stone 1976-1979 Thread Starter

    Ofcourse they would use the master tapes but I thought the point was that they weren't taking into account equalization (which I don't think is probable).

  14. Pinknik

    Pinknik Senior Member

    Perhaps there was less care going on than you suppose.
  15. Tim Lookingbill

    Tim Lookingbill Alfalfa Male

    New Braunfels, TX
    I think this is a good enough sound example of a possible LEDO tape source now that I know what to call all the thin sounding CD's I'ld been getting first released in the '80's especially big band jazz from Fantasy label.

    The following sample is 25 seconds of a Doobie Brothers CD release from the The Best Of The Doobie Brothers album I paid $5 at Big Lots. The song is Taking It To The Streets.

    Listen for the difference of the bass pluck vs the kick drum. It's quite thin and weak. The second 25 second sample is my playing this CD file through my '72 Sansui headphone amp out with the bass and treble adjusted up and recording digitally to my 2000 Mac Powerbook making sure levels didn't clip. You'll hear the "shape" of the bass is quite full thanks to the electrical analog boosting of these digital signals. It is very difficult to get this bass shape editing with an EQ in Audacity without clipping with extensive trial and error adjusting the EQ. That bass peak close to the end is measured at -4db at 80Hz. YIKES! (Crossover network territory and possibly lethal on small speakers cranked up) But my Norman Labs play it beautifully with the analog EQ.

    3 Take2Streets-DoobyBrosABsansuiEQrip

    This is the album it's from...

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  16. Stone Turntable

    Stone Turntable Dedicated Listener

    New Mexico USA
    I bought and read Krukowski’s The New Analog when it first came out, and loved it (and the associated podcasts he did comparing analog and digital).

    But you picked the only passage in the book that made me want to hurl it through the nearest window. It’s total b.s. in the sense that a well-engineered and properly configured cartridge does not inexorably abrade and destructively deform vinyl grooves as the record is repeatedly played. Michael Frener’s short-lived vinyl music radio show was a powerful demonstration of LP resilience and longevity, as he would recall exactly when and where he originally bought his UK Abbey Road first pressing and other 60’s and 70’s vinyl, recall that he has played them hundreds of times, and then spin them with no loss of sound quality or noise. (I’ve got tapes of all the episodes.)

    None of my vinyl records, even the ones in permanent heavy rotation, sound any worse than they did when I first bought them.
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  17. Ray Blend

    Ray Blend perfectly calm

    The Midwest
    Premise is false.
  18. Tim Lookingbill

    Tim Lookingbill Alfalfa Male

    New Braunfels, TX
    I would think the needle would wear out before the vinyl peaks and valleys flatten out due to needle riding on top of them. I've never owned vinyl long enough to play it till it wore out. Scratches on the vinyl was the main issue I'ld deal with but that was back in the '70's when I had a turntable.
  19. Stone Turntable

    Stone Turntable Dedicated Listener

    New Mexico USA
    As we all know from the used vinyl bins, damage and filth due to crummy record players, heedless and negligent handling or storage, and general Animal House debauchery and partying, is very common. But merely playing records with decent gear doesn’t wear them out.
    Bill Larson, nosliw and patient_ot like this.
  20. Giacomo Belbo

    Giacomo Belbo Journalist for Rolling Stone 1976-1979 Thread Starter

    You're missing the point of the paragraph which is not to give you technical details about the wear out effect of vinyl but rather to highlight that it's a deeply flawed medium (as content is actually "shaped" in a way by usage) and it's exactly that flaw that makes it interesting.

  21. Stone Turntable

    Stone Turntable Dedicated Listener

    New Mexico USA
    You're flattering the metaphorical intent — "the point" — which is fine. And it's true that analog media like magnetic tape and vinyl records and print on paper and celluloid film stock are subject to wear in interesting and meaningful ways that digital media are not. The book is full of rich insights into those and other kinds of differences between analog and digital.

    But it's bad writing, in an otherwise beautifully written book, to build a metaphor on an inaccurate and unexamined truism — the commonplace belief that vinyl wears out when you play it.

    Vinyl wears out when abused. But a modestly careful owner will not wear out a vinyl record over a lifetime of playing it.
    Giacomo Belbo likes this.
  22. bhazen

    bhazen Magical Mystery Tourist

    Newcastle, WA
    It appears that the conflict erupting in this thread is down to the writer of the Paris Review piece having a cheap or badly-setup record player. LOL ...

    The basic point is sound, though. Anything friction is applied to will wear over time. On a supremely well-engineered, properly setup record player, it just happens to take longer.

    The idea that vinyl is superior to digital in the 21st century, though, seems risible to me. Those preferences of one over the other are matters of taste, mainly (and mastering); and usually decided over the tiniest of gradations of sound that civilians would just chuckle at -- and just get on with enjoying their tunes.
    Last edited: May 17, 2020
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