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High-Resolution Vinyl Disc Playback, How do you EQ older discs

Jim Shaw

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I have a ton of beloved music on 1950s thru 1980s vinyl. Most are original issues, not remastered. The collection includes what were then 'audiophile quality' classical, symphonic, opera, jazz, chamber, and vocal commercial vinyl records by well-known labels like Decca, RCA Victor, DG, Columbia, Capitol, etc.

Here's the trouble: I have heard many of you have the same situation as I; most of these sound pretty bad (in several different ways) when played on up-to-date playback equipment. I know the hardware is good because new vinyl sounds quite good -- about as good as I expect vinyl to ever get. [There's a list of the gear I presently use below for reference.]

The question to you is, if this is your situation, what do you do, commonly, to improve sometimes nasty recording character often found in old recordings? [If it isn't your situation, kindly sit quietly and listen or check a different topic. I don't need amateur therapy.]

In this, I include boosted high treble, distorted tape characteristics, and often unflat response of vintage microphones. (You know, the mics that bring huge prices today for reasons of 'nostalgia.') Do you use multi-filter digital EQ? Amplifier tone controls? I don't expect to get rid of the ticks and pops that a thorough cleaning can't remove -- they are simply a fact of life and past abuse. Mostly, I'm interested in getting rid of raspy strings without killing oboe solos, blatant brass horns, overly sharpened vocals and like that. (I have one Maria Callas solo record that takes her voice and shrills it terribly.)

I know there's no 'cookbook' solution; I wish there were. Tone controls take much of the bandwidth with them. I currently don't have digital EQ, but this could be a reason to hit the piggy bank. Maybe if I just cut everything above 9 kHz? If I had a solution, I wouldn't ask you all.

I promise to read all offerings. I'm happy to hear educated guesses. Kindly spare us troll offerings and vinyl sermons.

.......
Current playback gear for vinyl:
AT-120 TT, Denon high output m/c cartridge w/ elliptical diamond, Emotiva preamp with m/m and m/c inputs, Schiit Loki analog EQ, Emotiva 150/150-watt A/B amp., Elac DBR62 pair, two powered subwoofers.
 

USER

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Edit: I think that digitizing is the best way to go here. I'm not sure you'll be able to get everything you want in terms of real-time playback tone control, if that is what you meant. The good news is that those would be precious digital recordings when all is said and done.

I had a lot of success correcting cassette and LP recordings with iZotope RX, which is a fancy audacity-like audio editor but with a superior interface and excellent tools.

I think the quickest way to hit the ground running is to run the recording through a spectrum analyzer like the following:

Untitled.jpg


This makes seeing problem areas much easier. While I would micro-analyze and correct on a track-by-track basis, you can quickly see general tendencies here and where to eq to make the slope smoother (I don't like that dip at 6kHz that is probably a recording issue) and you'll be able to see any issues with channel matching. (I would adjust below and above 3kHz separately.) I quickly loaded some tracks to screen-grab so don't think I would necessarily work on this as shown. The de-click filter is pretty darn good once you know how to use it. With my cassette recordings the azimuth adjustment filter helped so much! There is a wow and flutter module too, but I haven't run it yet. I think once you get this looking "right" you'll have a solid foundation for whatever else you want to take on--let's say if strings are still bothering you. Personally, I would not do it the other way around.

The program with all its bells and whistles is expensive, but there is a basic option for $29. If it has the spectrum analyzer, it may be worth it. There may be trials available as well. Expect more professional advice, but you can do worse than investigating this program.
 
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JP

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And Ozone if you really want to get in to it.
 

BDWoody

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In this, I include boosted high treble, distorted tape characteristics, and often unflat response of vintage microphones. (You know, the mics that bring huge prices today for reasons of 'nostalgia.') Do you use multi-filter digital EQ? Amplifier tone controls?

I have an older Luxman preamp that I use with one of my tables, that has pretty useful tone controls, including the ever useful 'tilt' knob. There are some records that just seem to be shrieking at me, where a little tilt down takes that edge right off.
 
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Jim Shaw

Jim Shaw

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I have an older Luxman preamp that I use with one of my tables, that has pretty useful tone controls, including the ever useful 'tilt' knob. There are some records that just seem to be shrieking at me, where a little tilt down takes that edge right off.
Does anybody know what the tilt knob actually does?
 

MakeMineVinyl

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I've built a number of passive filters to address such things. For your instance, a filter in the vicinity of 3kHz would probably do the trick. This type of filter is nothing more than a resistor in the range of 4k7 feeding a series-to-ground string of appropriate capacitor, inductor and variable log taper potentiometer. The output is taken at the junction of the at the junction of the 4k7 resistor and the LCR string. You would start with whatever inductor you can find in the vicinity of 10 millihenries and then use a LCR nomograph to find the series capacitor. The series potentiometer can be anything in the vicinity of 10k to 100k, ideally with a log taper. Wire the pot so that the most active range of the pot is at the upper part of its rotation. The 4k7 resistor value is not critical and is mostly arrived at by the minimum loading value of your upstream component. Most preamps can drive 4k7, but I usually use 2k2 because I have a lot of them.

You just turn the pot to reduce the band in question; the effect is more sharp and deep as the resistance of the pot is reduced to the point of being zero ohms producing a deep and sharp notch. You of course can choose a different center frequency of the filter by choosing a different value of series capacitor.

This is probably more information than you want, but there it is.

Alternatively, you can consider that Schiit gizmo which has 5 bands of EQ if you don't want to get too familiar with a soldering iron. ;)
 

DVDdoug

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Here's the trouble: I have heard many of you have the same situation as I; most of these sound pretty bad (in several different ways)

I replaced most of my records with CDs (and a few MP3 downloads) except when it wasn't available digitally. ;) Most of the recordings from the 1960s seem pretty good but the vinyl production was lacking so it seems like pro recording was WAY above home audio. As you go back earlier, they aren't as good and they might be mono.

I don't "play records" but sometimes I digitize one. When I digitize records the main thing is click & pop reduction. (I've mostly used Wave Repair.)

Then if the record sounds a little "dull" I'll boost the highs.

Then, I think there is commonly distortion because even with noise reduction and EQ it still sometimes sounds like "something's wrong".

Does anybody know what the tilt knob actually does?
I think it's a straight-line adjustment. i.e. If you have flat frequency response you can "tilt it" and you you'd still have a straight line but you might have 3dB of boost at 20kHz and a 3dB cut at 50Hz and no change at 1kHz. Or something like that.
 

BDWoody

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Does anybody know what the tilt knob actually does?

"Specifically, when the control is turned to the First "up tilt" position, it will decrease bass and increase treble by 1dB at 100Hz and l0KHz respectively, while selection of the second "up-tilt " position will result in a 2 dB cut and boost at these same frequencies. Selection of the first "down-tilt" position will decrease treble and increase bass by 1 dB at the same reference frequencies, while the second "down-tilt" position provides 2dB of boost (at 100Hz) and cut (at 10KHz).
Combined use of the Linear Equalizer and conventional tone controls provides a degree of tonal flexibility which cannot be achieved with any other tone control arrangement presently available. Because of the inherently linear nature of this new circuit, it introduces no increase of harmonic distortion at any of its settings.""
https://audiokarma.org/forums/index...text=Specifically, when the,of its settings."
 

dlaloum

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Does anybody know what the tilt knob actually does?
Don't know about the Luxman version - but quad used a Tilt knob rather than bass/trebble controls - it simultaneously lifts bass and lowers treble - or vice versa.... far more useful than treble and bass knobs - works very well!



 

MarcosCh

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by well-known labels like Decca, RCA Victor, DG, Columbia, Capitol, etc.
Sorry in advance for giving you an answer that most likely is not what you want to do, but in general, given the statement above, isn't it better to just track down the best available remaster? People doing a quality remaster from a serious label should have access to the best available master that we listeners obviously do not.... just my two cents
 

Robin L

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I had the best luck playing back older LPs with two things. I first note that the Shure M44-7 cartridge is no longer being made. I had the best luck transferring old records with this cartridge, tracks at 2.5 grams, has a slightly larger than typical conical stylus tip that rides above record wear. The other thing I used with old LPs [used to have a lot of Sinatra and vocal pop from his era] was a Scott 299b integrated amp, a tube design from 1961, 20 watts output and a phono stage that had lots of headroom. Between the transformers and worn tubes there was a useful treble roll-off and suppression of surface noise. I know the little Scotties are rare and currently expensive, but they make me think that having a phono pre with lots of overhead is part of the mix for a phono system with relatively little distraction from audible surfaces.
 

LTig

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I own an old Behringer Ultrafex Pro which has controls to increase bass, treble and stereo width. It helps with old pop/blues/rock/jazz records.
 
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Jim Shaw

Jim Shaw

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Sorry in advance for giving you an answer that most likely is not what you want to do, but in general, given the statement above, isn't it better to just track down the best available remaster? People doing a quality remaster from a serious label should have access to the best available master that we listeners obviously do not.... just my two cents
For better or for worse, the original issues are what I already have. In my general case, I am not buying new vinyl, but I understand the reasons for your suggestion.
 

BDWoody

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For better or for worse, the original issues are what I already have. In my general case, I am not buying new vinyl, but I understand the reasons for your suggestion.

When I was asking the same question of myself, I remember a comment from @restorer-john pointing out the various ways the older preamps had to deal with what was the primary hi-fi medium at the time, and how effective they were. Switchable rumble and high frequency filters, tone and bass controls with some ability to select the bass or treble range being adjusted, tilt or contour controls, etc. They knew the inherent flaws, and gave tools to deal with them.

I started looking into some of the older gear, and found a nice older preamp at a price that made trying it out easy, and I've enjoyed having it in my system since. I'm sure it's measured performance doesn't stack up to my Freya S, but for my turntable it's more than fine.

Edit:
This is what I got.
 
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DSJR

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Hearing any very old recording is going to be fraught with eq issues. I can speak for some Decca 50's and 60's recordings here and one which strikes out is the 1964 issue of Mahler 4 conducted by Solti. The original vinyls were deathly dull in sound and when my mastering engineer pal had the tapes out to do some 'beauty-shopping*' on the digital release, he had the option of using the existing digital dubs or the original analogues and doing it from scratch. he told me the cutting eq was on the tape boxes and sounded awful when he set up like this for the fresh digital dub. He preferred to use the flat setting as the producer signed it off and as I understand it, the CD of this does sound livelier and more realistic. He did the same with the 50's recordings he mastered for their mid price series and there were quite some differences in the different recordings he digitised and mastered for release. His colleagues were less restrained with the equalisation though and in a similar vein, EMI engineers used to go mad with the 'No Noise' software to (ideally) minimise tape hiss or worse, remove it altogether and then eq what was left.

* One thing they did was to add venue 'atmosphere' in between movements in either digital or analogue recordings to prevent deathly 'nothing' in between where blank tape leader would be. he also had a Klark teknik multi-band graphic equaliser to create hiss with similar 'sound' to the tape itself. A fascinating thing, A-D mastering and I wish the engineers here could do little articles to describe some of the conservation and restoration needed.

Really sorry to go off topic. Tell you something @Jim Shaw , I could easily do with a Quad preamp-like tilt and mid-bass cut adjustment here ;)
 

antennaguru

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When RIAA EQ sounds too dull, like with my 78 collection, I instead use a phono stage with the same bass boost associated with RIAA but I don’t use the RIAA treble cut. Instead I insert a Burwen dynamic noise filter (aka DNF) after the phono stage to crush the hiss during the quiet passages. This makes my older records sound more alive!
 

dlaloum

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Before RIAA became standard (60's?) there were a bunch of competing EQ standards - there are a number of specialised sites/threads that keep track of these.... so you can then pick the appropriate EQ and apply accordingly....
 

atmasphere

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I have a ton of beloved music on 1950s thru 1980s vinyl. Most are original issues, not remastered. The collection includes what were then 'audiophile quality' classical, symphonic, opera, jazz, chamber, and vocal commercial vinyl records by well-known labels like Decca, RCA Victor, DG, Columbia, Capitol, etc.

Here's the trouble: I have heard many of you have the same situation as I; most of these sound pretty bad (in several different ways) when played on up-to-date playback equipment. I know the hardware is good because new vinyl sounds quite good -- about as good as I expect vinyl to ever get. [There's a list of the gear I presently use below for reference.]

The question to you is, if this is your situation, what do you do, commonly, to improve sometimes nasty recording character often found in old recordings? [If it isn't your situation, kindly sit quietly and listen or check a different topic. I don't need amateur therapy.]

In this, I include boosted high treble, distorted tape characteristics, and often unflat response of vintage microphones. (You know, the mics that bring huge prices today for reasons of 'nostalgia.') Do you use multi-filter digital EQ? Amplifier tone controls? I don't expect to get rid of the ticks and pops that a thorough cleaning can't remove -- they are simply a fact of life and past abuse. Mostly, I'm interested in getting rid of raspy strings without killing oboe solos, blatant brass horns, overly sharpened vocals and like that. (I have one Maria Callas solo record that takes her voice and shrills it terribly.)

I know there's no 'cookbook' solution; I wish there were. Tone controls take much of the bandwidth with them. I currently don't have digital EQ, but this could be a reason to hit the piggy bank. Maybe if I just cut everything above 9 kHz? If I had a solution, I wouldn't ask you all.

I promise to read all offerings. I'm happy to hear educated guesses. Kindly spare us troll offerings and vinyl sermons.

.......
Current playback gear for vinyl:
AT-120 TT, Denon high output m/c cartridge w/ elliptical diamond, Emotiva preamp with m/m and m/c inputs, Schiit Loki analog EQ, Emotiva 150/150-watt A/B amp., Elac DBR62 pair, two powered subwoofers.
I have plenty of LPs from this period and from those labels. I've not found them problematic, but I have noticed that certain labels had a 'sound' and that sound varied depending on whether it was a classical, jazz or whatever recording (for example Westminsters are always rolled off below 100Hz as are most Everests). If these recordings are from the stereo era then they have plenty of bandwidth (I had a Westerex LP mastering system which used the same cutter design as used in 1958 and it could cut reliably to well past 40KHz...). The condensor mics used at the time (Neumann U67 or the like) had plenty of bandwidth too and are sought after to this day and command high prices as a result.

The way you describe the sound you're getting makes me think this is more of a playback problem rather than anything to do with the LPs themselves unless they are damaged.

For example, you can't use an older (with MM cartridges this means over 5 years) cartridge as its suspension will be perished and it will make a lot of distortion and might sound tinny. Also, the phono preamp itself can cause ticks and pops if it has poor high frequency overload margins! If you are using a MM high output cartridge (5mV) then you should look into cartridge loading as there is an electrical resonance caused by the inductance of the cartridge in parallel with the capacitance of the tonearm interconnect cable, that is just at the top of the audio band or just beyond it, that will act like an extreme treble control turned all the way up. See http://www.hagtech.com/loading.html for a calculator that can help you with this (you can assume your tonearm cable to be about 100pF FWIW).

Edit: if you are not using a low capacitance cable phono cable all bets are off: it will be really bright due to the resonance being so much lower!

Also the alignment of the cartridge in the arm is very important!! -if not dealt with properly you can't expect good results. A protractor must be used for proper setup.



I have a number of Maria Callas LPs and she sounds just fine- I've never heard silibance or shrillness on any of her recordings...
 
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dlaloum

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For example, you can't use an older (with MM cartridges this means over 5 years) cartridge as its suspension will be perished and it will make a lot of distortion and might sound tinny. Also, the phono preamp itself can cause ticks and pops if it has poor high frequency overload margins!
This is highly variable - there are heaps of excellent MM's with their suspension just fine - certain brands and their suspension formulation are known to be extremely problematic over time -eg: technics - absolutely legendary cartridges... but the suspension has to be replaced before use of old NOS examples (which now cost a bomb!!) - their suspension perishes, and basically collapses.

Other manufacturers have had issues where older styli had suspension that hardened over time....

Having said that - I have Shure, Ortofon, Stanton, Sony and other cartridges both MM and MC, with perfectly good suspension 40 years later.

So it pays not to make assumptions, and 5 to 10 year old, is not a problem for any cartridge suspension that I have encountered (issues are usually in the 20 to 30 year category!)
 

atmasphere

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Having said that - I have Shure, Ortofon, Stanton, Sony and other cartridges both MM and MC, with perfectly good suspension 40 years later.
Uh, no, you don't, unless the stylus was recently replaced. There's no cartridge ever made where that could be true except perhaps a Decca and that's on account of it having no cantilever. Of course this degradation occurs so slowly that you don't notice if over time. Its only when you get a new cartridge set up properly you realize how degraded the old one got. I've been able to revitalize older cantilevers (if they got stiff rather than collapsing) by using a tiny amount of brake fluid, but that stuff can take paint off so you have to be really careful and patient with it (the cartridge has to lay on its back for a few weeks) to make sure it can't migrate down the cantilever and contaminate the stylus!

IMO this is one of the weaknesses of vinyl; people don't seem to realize that the suspension is ephemeral. I've seen this problem a lot, having put myself through an engineering program by being a service technician- I've worked on literally hundreds of turntables and owned dozens of cartridges.
 
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