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Can anyone explain the vinyl renaissance?

Newman

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So the CD bass is an undistorted replication of the original studio production, but the LP bass is better every single time?

Where do I send the tin foil hat?
I didn't say that; pretty obvious strawman. Logical fallacies are inherently false FWIW.
Well here’s what you DID say:
I've yet to encounter a CD that has better bass than the same title on LP; not saying that couldn't happen.
So…you said your experience of the LP bass has been never worse than CD, so either you hear them as exactly equal an awful lot, or the LP as better pretty much all the time. You are certainly saying the LP bass is equal or better than CD bass every single time you have listened. To which I still want an address to send the tin foil hat.


As for your repeated appeals to self-authority:-
…outing yourself as a vinyl gear designer tells us all we need to know about your biases and the credibility of your opinions digital vs vinyl. Thanks. Appreciated.
FWIW I also outed myself as a mastering engineer. Not so much bias as it is direct experience, which to me holds more cred than made-up stories.

Let’s take a look at what Floyd Toole writes about LP in his book Sound Reproduction, about its undoubted problems and their audibility, and even more importantly to your claims, what he writes about the credibility of those who get too familiar with its sound:-

First, some context on enforced sonic changes: “In LP mastering, the changes are substantial: mono bass, dynamic compression, rolled-off highs near the center of the disc, and so forth to cope with the limitations of the medium. Digital media need no such dramatic manipulations, but mastering engineers may choose to tailor the sound…

Regarding preservation, often the predistorted masters were kept and undistorted masters lost: “There is cause for some sadness, because some of the old analog tapes being converted for delivery through digital formats are not the original masters, which were lost or reused, but the LP master tapes used to drive the cutter heads for creating LP master discs. It seems that important decision makers thought the LP was the final development in the delivery of audio signals. These tapes have been skillfully manipulated—predistorted, in fact—to compensate for some of the significant limitations of LPs and therefore cannot sound their best when played through digital devices. The art has been compromised. This is an example of an old technology executing a strange form of revenge on the new.

Importantly, Toole also says that the limitations of pre-digital audio also caused musicians to modify their instruments and playing styles so that they don’t overwhelm the medium: “Spectral and dynamic limitations did not flatter instruments like pianos and drums, so substitute instruments were used. Live performances came to reflect some of these substitutions and sometimes even playing styles. For example “slap” bass playing was a means of minimizing bothersome low-frequency output but retaining some of the essential sound of the upright bass. Said Katz (2004), “The bass drum was a troublemaker even into the 1950s” (p. 81). (Wrapping it in a blanket was a common studio remedy.) Katz explained as follows: “Whether in France, the United States, or anywhere in the world, most listeners who knew jazz knew it through recordings; the jazz they heard, therefore, was something of a distortion, having been adapted in response to the nature of the medium. The peculiar strengths and limitations of the technology thus not only influenced jazz performance practice, it also shaped how listeners—some of whom were also performers and composers—understood jazz and expected it to sound.”(p. 84)”. So, in the pre-digital era, the recording medium’s mediocrity didn’t just influence behaviour in the recording studio: it flowed right through into playing styles and choice of instruments when not in the recording studio. The inherent badness of vinyl has a lot to answer for.

Toole also explains how repeated exposure to LP sound over time results in LP-specific perceptual masking coming into play. This is why LP lovers, even in this thread, insist they hear no problematic artefacts or distortions —they are in a manner hypnotised to the point where they bite into an onion and think “mmm, apple”— whereas when a non-hypnotised audiophile with critical faculties intact comes across vinyl, there is a good chance they will not like all the icky artefacts that they are not perceptually masking out. “Auditory masking is a natural perceptual phenomenon…it has assisted our musical enjoyment by suppressing audience noises during live performances and, over several decades, by rendering LPs more pleasurable. If we talk here about compressing data, it would be fair to say that LPs perform “data expansion,” adding unmusical information in the form of crosstalk, noise, and distortions of many kinds. More comes off of the LP than was in the original master tape. However, because of those very same masking phenomena that allow perceptual data reduction systems to work, the noises and distortions are perceptually attenuated. So successful is this perceptual noise and distortion reduction, that good LPs played on good systems can still sound impressive.” Well, at least to the long-term LP listener.

And that’s why LP gear designers and LP mastering engineers are the worst possible judges of what that gear actually sounds like, to the unindoctrinated mind. Their words relate only to fellow indoctrinees.

FWIW

Cheers
 
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atmasphere

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First, some context on enforced sonic changes: “In LP mastering, the changes are substantial: mono bass, dynamic compression, rolled-off highs near the center of the disc
Floyd clearly hasn't spent time with an LP mastering system. 'Mono bass' isn't a thing (its not endemic); these days there's more dynamic compression in digital releases (as I also explained earlier; think about listening in a car) and I've yet to measure any rolled off highs near the end of the disc. That last bit is a common myth; its associated with playback using antiquated phono cartridges. Its not on the record side.

Again, the mono bass thing is done with a passive processor and is not part of a mastering tape.
For example “slap” bass playing was a means of minimizing bothersome low-frequency output but retaining some of the essential sound of the upright bass. Said Katz (2004), “The bass drum was a troublemaker even into the 1950s” (p. 81).
:facepalm:
Obviously this predates the Westerex 3d cutter head, which ushered in stereo. In fact the comment sounds pre-war (emphasis added). Really, you gotta update your sources.

Floyd is a great guy but his comments point more towards cheap LP mastering (LP engineering time is expensive; mono bass and compression are used to save time) rather than taking advantage of what the medium can do. No tin hat needed and I stand behind my comment that I've yet to hear a CD that has bass better than the LP. Its not a limitation of the medium so mcuh as it is the budget. The simple fact is that digital is a lot cheaper to do; the typical LP mastering time is $500-$600/hour; digital mastering is no-where near that.

The mistake you seem to be making is conflating personal anecdote with the medium itself. They are not the same.
 

RichB

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Floyd clearly hasn't spent time with an LP mastering system. 'Mono bass' isn't a thing (its not endemic); these days there's more dynamic compression in digital releases (as I also explained earlier; think about listening in a car) and I've yet to measure any rolled off highs near the end of the disc. That last bit is a common myth; its associated with playback using antiquated phono cartridges. Its not on the record side.

Again, the mono bass thing is done with a passive processor and is not part of a mastering tape.

:facepalm:
Obviously this predates the Westerex 3d cutter head, which ushered in stereo. In fact the comment sounds pre-war (emphasis added). Really, you gotta update your sources.

Floyd is a great guy but his comments point more towards cheap LP mastering (LP engineering time is expensive; mono bass and compression are used to save time) rather than taking advantage of what the medium can do. No tin hat needed and I stand behind my comment that I've yet to hear a CD that has bass better than the LP. Its not a limitation of the medium so mcuh as it is the budget. The simple fact is that digital is a lot cheaper to do; the typical LP mastering time is $500-$600/hour; digital mastering is no-where near that.

The mistake you seem to be making is conflating personal anecdote with the medium itself. They are not the same.

What are the specified maximum dynamic range limits for Westerex 3d cutter head?

Why not provide some measurements, the playback equipment, the room?

Without data, the " I stand behind my comment that I've yet to hear a CD that has bass better than the LP" might as well be followed by a Harumph, Harumph :p

- Rich
 

Yuhasz01

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I'm a member of a couple of reddit audiophile threads where people post pictures of their rigs and most of the time they include turntables and every time I see one my mind is blown because I outgrew vinyl only a few years after buying my first CD player in the '80's. Back then I had a tape deck, a turntable and a CD player but once I heard digital I knew they was no going back yet people en mass are and I find it baffling given all the benefits of youtube. The first and most obvious benefit is, it's free. Secondly, youtube has an almost endless catalog of music, with the original music video, the karaoke versions of songs, live versions and videos that include the lyrics. Thirdly, the convenience of simply clicking my mouse a few times and opening up a world of music is pretty alluring. I always wondered about the sound quality though so I bought a CD a few years ago to compare youtube to CD and couldn't hear any difference. LP's on the other hand can only be played one at a time, require time, money and effort to obtain and play and also require money and effort to maintain and as your collection of LP's grows it obviously becomes more expensive and takes up space-something youtube doesn't yet most reddit audiophiles are flocking to them

Does the vinyl renaissance make sense to you because it sure doesn't to me
Same people who want to bring back Hulu hoops, film for photography and stick shift cars. Everything old becomes new….
 

atmasphere

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What are the specified maximum dynamic range limits for Westerex 3d cutter head?

Why not provide some measurements, the playback equipment, the room?

Without data, the " I stand behind my comment that I've yet to hear a CD that has bass better than the LP" might as well be followed by a Harumph, Harumph :p

- Rich
The cutter amps of the Westerex 1700 mastering electronics make 125 Watts into 8 Ohms. The cutter head is about 10 Ohms and needs about 7-10 Watts maximum before you fry the hell out of it and do a lot of swearing. The idea is to not be able to overload the system and this will be so as long as you have your levels set properly to begin with. It can cut 4 mil grooves without distortion; a lot of pickups are challenged to play that back without distortion. Typically you're not cutting more than about 2 mil groove width. Some cartridges can't even do that! The real danger you have when mastering is making sure a loud passage does not overcut a prior groove which will result in distortion. That is why there is a preview head on a tape machine or some other process (we used an Arduino to read the incoming audio and generate a motion file for the lead screws that advance the cutter head- it was cheap and worked really well) to advance the cutter well enough ahead so when a loud or complex passage occurs there's enough room for the groove when its cut.

(I use a Triplanar arm which employs the hardest metal bearings made anywhere (Triplanar has a security clearance to get them), a damped arm tube and is the most adjustable tonearm made. For years I had that mounted on an Atma-Sphere 208 which is a belt drive machine that had a damped plinth machined out of 1" solid aluminum and a platter damped well enough that you could twack it with your index finger while it was playing and not hear it in the speaker. But I think the Technics SL1200G is a better machine, owing to 6 damping systems (including the platter) and the best speed stability in the business. So I'm running that with the Triplanar mounted and a different platter pad- its stock pad is so much junk IMO.)

The low frequency limit is defined by the mechanical resonance of the tonearm and cartridge. The cutter itself has no problem cutting grooves right to the LF limit of the mastering electronics. On the top end the electronics are bandwidth limited to 42KHz mostly to prevent damage to the cutter, since the RIAA pre-emphasis has a rising 6db/octave response. Just for fun I cut a 35KHz signal and played it back on my studio's older Technics SL1200 which was equipped with a Grado Gold. That machine was used to represent the 'average' playback situation. No problem playing a signal that high. You may recall the old RCA color video disks, which also used a needle in a groove. You need a bit of bandwidth to reproduce chroma information of the old analog video system; and of course the old CD4 4 channel system also relied on the fact that vinyl has very good HF bandwidth as well.

One problem in playback is the platter pad of the turntable. For it to work correctly, it has to have the same durometer as the vinyl itself so it can absorb vibration from the LP when its being played so as to prevent resonance. One clue about this is if you can hear the needle tracking the groove when the volume is all the way down then you know the platter pad isn't doing its job, which means most platter pads. You won't get the bass right if this is a problem. Its well known that if the arm isn't set up right you won't get the bass right either; the stars really have to align (let alone the cartridge; you have to be careful and do proper measurements- there's an app for that...). That is really the strength of digital- you don't have all the crazy setup issues and misinformation around it like exists with analog!
 

Don Hills

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The cutter amps of the Westerex 1700 mastering electronics make 125 Watts into 8 Ohms. The cutter head is about 10 Ohms and needs about 7-10 Watts maximum before you fry the hell out of it and do a lot of swearing. The idea is to not be able to overload the system and this will be so as long as you have your levels set properly to begin with.

I believe the technical reason for the high power amps is because the cutter head (like a tape record head) is current driven. Like a tape head, its impedance rises as the frequency increases. The amplifier has to have enough output voltage swing to drive enough current through the head at high frequencies.
Edit: Ooops, said this back in May. Memory is the second thing to go with age... I forget what the first thing was.

You may recall the old RCA color video disks, which also used a needle in a groove. You need a bit of bandwidth to reproduce chroma information of the old analog video system; and of course the old CD4 4 channel system also relied on the fact that vinyl has very good HF bandwidth as well. ...

There was a groove, but the rest was totally unlike an audio disk setup. The groove contained a vertically cut sawtooth pattern and the pickup stylus tip was designed to run up the ramp of the sawtooth and drop off the top. The movement was picked up by a piezoelectric transducer and the result was an FM modulated signal. Freeze frame was accomplished by stopping the tracking motor, forcing the stylus to jump over the wall to the previous groove once per revolution.

One of the other systems used a pattern of pits and lands like a videodisc, but the pickup slid over the surface. It had electrodes plated on its sides which sensed the difference in capacitance between pit and land.

Yeah, more than you ever needed to know... :)
 
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atmasphere

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I believe the technical reason for the high power amps is because the cutter head (like a tape record head) is current driven. Like a tape head, its impedance rises as the frequency increases. The amplifier has to have enough output voltage swing to drive enough current through the head at high frequencies.
Edit: Ooops, said this back in May. Memory is the second thing to go with age... I forget what the first thing was.



There was a groove, but the rest was totally unlike an audio disk setup. The groove contained a vertically cut sawtooth pattern and the pickup stylus tip was designed to run up the ramp of the sawtooth and drop off the top. The movement was picked up by a piezoelectric transducer and the result was an FM modulated signal. Freeze frame was accomplished by stopping the tracking motor, forcing the stylus to jump over the wall to the previous groove once per revolution.

One of the other systems used a pattern of pits and lands like a videodisc, but the pickup slid over the surface. It had electrodes plated on its sides which sensed the difference in capacitance between pit and land.

Yeah, more than you ever needed to know... :)
The old RCA disks were also subject to all the issues of the surface -scratches and like- glad they're gone.

The impedance curve of the cutter isn't all that simple (although its flatter than some speakers I've seen; its principle of operation is the same, using low power voice coils) so you need an amplifier that can behave as a voltage source. Like any transducer the impedance does rise somewhat with frequency, but its affected by the suspension as well. For this reason a feedback winding is provided, which also allows the operator to monitor the cut in real time. A feedback amplifier is part of the 1700 electronics and insures that there is 30dB of feedback at all frequencies. This helps insure that distortion does not rise with frequency; pretty forward thinking of Western Electric (Westerex is one of their brands) at the time. The original amplifier design was also pretty advanced for a design from the 1960s, all-silicon, employing a Darlington output section and differential input. Because of the low power requirement of the cutter, the actual overall distortion of the cut groove is actually quite low. The cutter amps are about 0.2% THD at full power, but the the cutter would be damaged long before that since it can barely handle 10 Watts. The amps were pretty unstable and known for that; being a bit daring design for the time. I was always holding my breath every time I turned the system on. It was equipped with adjustable current limiting as a protection circuit, but IME foolhardy to rely on it.

Before I sold the system I was thinking of replacing the amps with class D modules; our class D module would run easily in that environment and a nice feature of self-oscillating class D amplifiers is extreme stability, plus the distortion would be lowered as well as the noise, although to their credit, the Westerex amps were very low noise.
 
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