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Objective measurements of phono cartridges

Discussion in 'Analog Audio Forum (amplifiers, cables, etc.)' started by jhaider, Sep 19, 2017.

  1. Cosmik

    Cosmik Major Contributor

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    Of course that is all true, but a certain person could simply have acknowledged it when it was put to him much earlier in the thread! Instead of pretending not to understand what people were getting at...

    This was me over 100 comments ago:
    The reply could simply have been "Yes", or "In the main, I agree, but what I am disputing is...". It was not to be. Eventually, the "Word Salad" link rather gave the game away, and then everything was sweetness and light.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  2. Jakob1863

    Jakob1863 Active Member

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    Of course it could have been easier, but who of us doesn´t miss something from time to time (or more frequently)?
    Wouldn´t it be better to ask if another member might have missed your post and to ask what he thinks about, instead of constantly playing the "BS game"?
     
  3. Cosmik

    Cosmik Major Contributor

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    I don't think I was playing a "BS game" (unless you're saying that's BS?:)), because I was much more interested in the idea that recording techniques for vinyl are themselves affecting what I (a digital aficionado) listen to - if I listen to stuff from the 1970s, for example. This idea seems to have been missed; everyone assuming that it is 'mastering' that makes the recording suitable for cutting, rather than there having been a time, once, when the recordings themselves were made so as to minimise the 'mastering' (i.e. mutilation of the recording) that would need to be carried out in order to commit it to vinyl.
     
  4. Jakob1863

    Jakob1863 Active Member

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    No, didn´t intend to say that you´re playing the "BS game" , but it´s a nice example for an easy misunderstanding, as i thought it would be obvious (that you weren´t meant) because i commented on the allegdly "non hominem" approach while finding "only BS" in some other members post.

    Not so sure about the "recording already made vinyl compatible" as long as we consider as the raw "soundfield sampling" during the original acoustical event.
    Despite the direct to disc cases it is imo hard to imagine that the recording engineer(s) everytime had the vinyl limitations in mind when comparing original sound to reproduced sound in the monitoring room to evaluate what modifications to microphone placement (and choice of) would be best.
    But it might have happened anyway but i´d question it as the general choosen path.
     
  5. Cosmik

    Cosmik Major Contributor

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    I was thinking of articles like this one on mastering for vinyl:
    Clearly there are techniques that can be used in the recording itself that lend themselves to a good vinyl cut without much 'mastering'. I am sure I read an article about how the old engineers used to be very aware of this stuff, but I can't find it...
     
  6. Frank Dernie

    Frank Dernie Senior Member

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    Goodness is this thread still going on.
    On the actual subject in question, the only regular publication I know of with objective data on pickup cartridges as well as the subjective opinion of the people they use to review them, is HiFi News & RR.
    I have subscribed on and off for the last 50 years.
    As a summary, there are makers who achieve a reasonably flat FR up to 10kHz. Some are pretty good from 10kHz to 20 kHz, but most are a bit flaky there.
    Some makes have idiosyncratic FR which will give them a specific sound but be inevitably inaccurate to the recording played, both roll off, extreme roll off and HF peaks are represented amongst these makers.
    Distortion levels of all cartridges are quite high, particularly in the highest octave, here due to the inevitable geometrical difference between cutter and stylus profile.
    Bass performance is inseparable from the arm to which the cartridge is attached, and IME the arm has an influence at higher frequencies too due to mechanical resonance and acoustic pickup - but that has nothing to do with the pickup cartridge itself.

    For me the joy of using LPs is the ability to tune the sound a LOT to taste. With digital sources the variation in sound from device to device is vanishingly small IME, with the big differences being between the files themselves not the equipment used to play them.
    In the case of LPs there is relatively vast differences between pickup cartridges, not to mention phono stages and all the various mechanical, acoustic and positioning artefacts which are added.
    I have 4 record players, Goldmund Reference, EMT 938, Roksan Xerxes and a Beogram 8002 (probably the cleverest of the lot).
    They all sound different, whereas with digital you are pretty well stuck with the sound the engineer/artist settled on, with analogue you can change it to taste by your choice of, amongst other things, cartridge frequency response.
     
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  7. Cosmik

    Cosmik Major Contributor

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    Yes, but the person with digital *and DSP* can duplicate the crude colouration of the cartridge and also make other adjustments as precisely as they like. They can also turn all colouration off. Swapping cartridges may give you effectively complex 'presets' - and psychological cues - but DSP is much more flexible.

    Having said that, it's all very crude if you're applying these modifications to the composite recording because you are smearing all the contributing elements together. If you can learn to love the pure digital recording 'as is' rather than messing with it on a whim, you are onto a winner.
     
  8. Frank Dernie

    Frank Dernie Senior Member

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    Yep, but after dicking about with listening to audio files, ie computer audio, for about 10 years I have decided the updates/multiple file formats means I waste precious listening time and end up frustrated and annoyed, so I am back on LPs (about 1 or 2 a month) and CDs. Anything requiring a computer to listen to it is 99% abandoned, the only thing this laptop is used for now in my listening room is replying to threads such as this :)
    For me audio is now something simple and reliable, the technology has been mature for decades.
    I have tried surround sound and been quite impressed, but not impressed enough to invest money in that many speakers.
     
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  9. Cosmik

    Cosmik Major Contributor

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    Fair enough! I am very much a digital and DSP person, but I am also a 'bits are bits' person, so I keep life simple. I never deviate from 16 bit/44.1 kHz source material, for example.

    TBone's philosophy that vinyl is useful as a way of getting at different masterings and then digitising it is fair enough, too. But how long will it be until you begin wondering "What would it sound like with such-and-such a cartridge, and such-and-such a pre-amp..?".
     
  10. Frank Dernie

    Frank Dernie Senior Member

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    Ah but I got that out of my system decades ago. My experimenting with cartridges, turntables, arms and RIAA stages mainly took place between 1968 and 1985 :)
     
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  11. TBone

    TBone Addicted to Fun and Learning

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    very boring indeed.

    Well, if you had asked me this even a month ago, before the recent adoption of a MP50s(super) in place of my Ruby2H, I'd may have provided a very different answer. The last MM type used in my main, and much appreciated, was the Shure V15mr5. But that was decades ago. Since then, all MCs. During the MC era, I've mounted the MP50 and other MM in secondary system(s), but never my main.

    I've always felt the MP50 to be as described by many, good, a bit cool sounding, highs a bit indistinct, not fully fleshed out, brightish leading edges, with a tendency to get even brighter (perhaps a MM trait) as modulation increased (and as such, it tends to "sit on dynamic contrast" (my own very subjective terminology)) . However, after mounting it in my main, I'm not so certain it deserves those criticisms. In many ways, it totally surprised me. (perhaps it shouldn't have really, as a younger 'phile, I used Nags predominantly)

    Fact is, I was well into the process of replacing the Ruby with a very expensive alternative, but after hearing the MP50s in my main, that effort has been put on temp. hold. One advantage of using an MM (in my particular system) is the use of one less gain stage within the pre-amp. So far, it's proved to be very different to the Ruby, in listening and measurements. And I've less than 5 hours playing time (although well over 20 hours of setup time) on it ...

    As for the real-world dynamic capability argument regarding vinyl vs digital, it's a total wash IMO. Both mediums are anchored by the dynamic range of their mastering. Similar masters on both CD and LP measure relatively equivalently. As an example, the noted rip above of Fast Car yielded DR values of ...

    Orig LP(MP50s): L=13.93 & R=14.54 dB
    Orig LP(RubyH): L=13.99 & R=14.36 dB
    (as compared to the Orig CD: L=14.72 & R=14.72 dB)

    From a DR point of view, the vast majority of my LPs measure very similar to the CD. (note: not all CD players outputs measure the same either)

    (fwiw: the MP50 relatively difficult to align properly, it requires very positive VTA in order to align SRA@92degrees, and it distributes a LOT of energy -back- into the tonearm, hence, back into the turntable itself. this un-damped energy can be a real problem for many tonearms/'tables, which suffer accordingly (and measure accordingly), but that's another story for another time...).
     
  12. TBone

    TBone Addicted to Fun and Learning

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    You've mentioned this experience to me in the past, and it's not uncommon. In my opinion, the vast majority of turntables, and especially tonearms, are voiced far differently than CD. And, as I've stated earlier, over the years, my turntable rig has been "voiced" to sound as much like my main cd player as possible. I've not heard any SOTA (the tt brand) that compares.

    Although I tend to agree, but it's so-so funny, I'm not the only one who prefers some of my rips to the similarly mastered CD within my system. I've done so many times over, play one of my better rips -blindly- to a fellow listener, and measure their response. They know something is different, but they near always ask about the sku# of the CD, it's specific mastering/version, and nearly always dismiss the notion it could instead be an LP rip. In nearly every case, they were surprised when informed, meaning they either couldn't tell while listening, or didn't care ...

    And again, if I do the same slight-of-hand comparing the high DR version of the LP to the compressed version (often the re-master) of the CD, the LP wins every time. (vise-versa, a higher DR version of the CD will always win over the compressed remaster LP). When comparing apples to apples, meaning similar mastered DR versions CD to LP, it's often a wash.
     
  13. Analog Scott

    Analog Scott Active Member

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    So you can duplicate the sound of my cartridge? How about the sound of my vinyl playback gear playing any of my records? Can you duplicate that? I know I can. I own my vinyl playback gear and my records so all I have to do is a digital rip. But you can too?

    I do hope you get my point.
     
  14. TBone

    TBone Addicted to Fun and Learning

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    the whole notion of duplicating the sound of a cartridge using digital/DSP is also very much misguided. The fact is; you are not simply duplicating the cart, but rather the entire rig reproducing a specific recording, which in-it-self, may have different tonalities given the specific mastering. With a really good turntable rig, differences may exist, but the KEY differences arebased far more on the quality of the recording itself, rather than the sound of the cart. That said, if you have a rig, or cart, which sounds overtly and consistently colored, perhaps measures brightly, or has flabby bass, or lacks extention, then yeah ... even a basic eq may make up those differences ... but true high-end analog isn't defined by such obvious abnormalities, or at least, it shouldn't be. Those that don't grasp this potential, are simply not experienced enough to know better.
     
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  15. Purité Audio

    Purité Audio Major Contributor Industry Insider Barrowmaster

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    Looking at the frequency response of the cartridge would be a start, and then the accuracy of the RIAA equalisation.
    Keith
     
  16. Frank Dernie

    Frank Dernie Senior Member

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    Whilst I agree that there is a bigger difference between recordings than most differences in equipment and media on which music is distributed there really are some pretty extreme frequency response differences between cartridges, a Rega Apheta is much brighter than level and Koetsus and the new Techdas cartridges have significant roll off at higher frequencies. We are talking of peaks or troughs of well over 5dB in the audio range here.
    That is why record players lend themselves to tuning to taste, like loudspeakers which can also have significant Frequency response variations.
     
  17. Arnold Krueger

    Arnold Krueger Member

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    In an earlier analysis based on the green line data (quiet passage), there were unmistakable artifacts of a 48 KHz digital encoding step.


    The question then becomes at what step in the overall process did that 48 kHz digitizing happen? I realized that if the digital artifacts were masked by LP nonlinear distortion artifacts, then that would be solid evidence that a 48 KHz digitization during production and before cutting the LP master was the source of these digital artifacts.


    So, to clarify the situation, I did an analysis of one of the loud passages on the LP.

    The attachment shows the quiet passage as a green line, The digital artifacts which being very small are most obvious during the brief (0.5 seconds) silence at the beginning of the track. Most notable is the little spike at almost nearly 24 KHz. Reading between the lines, the quality of analog in the Pre-CD days was not always above reproach, but it was apparently good enough to be widely perceived as a big advantage over the competitive analog high-speed tape.


    The red line represents the analysis of the loud passage. Since the digital artifacts are totally masked during the loud passage, the 48 KHz digitization happened during production, and not after the LP was played. Overall, I'd say this is pretty good - the artifacts above 24 KHz suggest nonlinear distortion on the order of 3%, which is pretty typical for the LP format. It also suggests that there was very little actual mistracking. The media digitized and the gear used was probably very good quality stuff.
     

    Attached Files:

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  18. sergeauckland

    sergeauckland Member

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    Any half-decent modern RIAA stage can get to within 0.5dB of the RIAA curve, very few cartridges are that close, especially at HF, and almost none at LF due to arm/cartridge/compliance resonance.

    I've tried measuring the frequency response of cartridges, but always fall down with the accuracy of the test LP. Using white noise or pink noise rather depends on how white or how pink the noise actually is. In many cases, they're not particularly good.

    Many years ago I had the Decca Frequency Response LP, on which it was stated that the bands above 10kHz were good for 5 plays (yes, only 5!) if the accuracy was to be maintained, which if I recall, was something quite good like 0.25dB. Decca were probably being a bit pessimistic, but nevertheless, it's indicative that LP's HF is pretty fragile. Thay may explain in part why the noise-bands of test LPs aren't reliable for frequency response measurements.

    As an aside, this was found to be the case with the old CD-4 quadraphonic LPs where the ultrasonic carrier carrying the rear channel information was destroyed after only a few plays.

    Consequently, I question the accuracy of any of the reviews of cartridges as I can't believe they change the LPs that frequently.

    S.
     
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  19. Arnold Krueger

    Arnold Krueger Member

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    In general, wear goes up with the number of usages and if there are other relevant parameters like speed, then that as well. So, groove wear would likely be a function of relevant parameters like frequency, and then there might be threshold type wear issues such as the point where the stylus tip is larger than the undulations that it is supposed to be tracking.

    I see a lot of danger from projecting wear at 10 KHz or below with experience related to wear above 30 KHz.
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2017 at 6:32 PM
  20. sergeauckland

    sergeauckland Member

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    Yes agreed, however, that Decca claimed their Frequency Response Test disc was only good for 5 plays is indicative of a problem at HF (above 10kHz). At lower frequencies presumably there's much less wear. We're still playing 50 year old LPs that have had countless plays, yet they are still playable, so the mid and low frequencies are still there.
    Having said that, at my age and with my hearing, anything over 13-14kHz is inaudible so I wouldn't know if it was still there or not.

    S.
     

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