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The Truth About Vinyl Records

Jimi Floyd

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Which one is able to reproduce the original master recording more faithfully? Hint: it is not vinyl.
Your post illustrates nicely how the fascination with vinyl is mainly about things that have very little to do with appreciation of music. Vinylphiles seem to prioritize the stylistically correct act of listening to music over music itself. A fine hobby of course.
Dear Leporello, it all depends on which music we are talking about. If we are talking about albums recorded digitally and released in the last 30 years or so you are totally right, digital is the only correct way to listen to it. I have "recent" music on CDs and digital files.

BUT

The music I like most, the one that I listen to the most, the music stored in 95% of my vinyl records is albums recorded and released in analog equipment from 1962 to the late eighties. Blues, Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Progressive Rock, Krautrock, Funk, Post Punk, Reggae and some Jazz. Practically all the LPs in the picture I attached to the post you quoted have been produced in a time different from today. In music, it was an era in which all the recording, production mastering and pressing chain was totally conceived and setup in function of the final product, the work of art, which was the vinyl record. The producer and the artists could hear of course the proposed master tape in the studio but they didn't decide listening to that. In order to check the final result they required test pressings on acetate records, to be played on turntables. The multitrack tapes, the mixing tapes, the mastered tapes were nothing but intermediate steps, all functional to the only sound that mattered, and still matters, the vinyl LP in his glorious jacket or the 7" single.

You are asking me: Which one is able to reproduce the original master recording more faithfully? That does not matter at all for the music I like most, for which the right question would be: "Which one is able to reproduce the sound the artist and the producer intended more faithfully? and the answer is of course: vinyl, because that was THE intended final form of the production process.
 
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Anthony T

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Dear Leporello, it all depends on which music we are talking about. If we are talking about albums recorded digitally and released in the last 30 years or so you are totally right, digital is the only correct way to listen to it. I have "recent" music on CDs and digital files.

BUT

The music I like most, the one that I listen to the most, the music stored in 95% of my vinyl records is albums recorded and released in analog equipment from 1962 to the late eighties. Blues, Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Progressive Rock, Krautrock, Funk, Post Punk, Reggae and some Jazz. Practically all the LPs in the picture I attached to the post you quoted have been produced in a time different from today. In music, it was an era in which all the recording, production mastering and pressing chain were totally conceived and setup in function of the final product, the work of art, which was the vinyl record. The producer and the artists could hear of course the proposed master tape in the studio but they didn't decided listening to that. In order to check the final result they required test pressings on acetate records, to be played on turntables. The multitrack tapes, the mixing tapes, the mastered tapes were nothing but intermediate steps, all functional to the only sound that mattered, and still matters, the vinyl LP in his glorious jacket or the 7" single.

You are asking me: Which one is able to reproduce the original master recording more faithfully? That does not matter at all for the music I like most, for which the right question would be: "Which one is able to reproduce the sound the artist and the producer intended more faithfully? and the answer is of course: vinyl, because that was THE intended final form of the production process.
Honestly, you’re wasting your time.
The impression I get from the frankly ignorant opinions expressed on this forum is that the average record owning members record collections are rescued from a skip and played on a revolving microwave motor with a rusty nail for a stylus. I own a lot of Krautrock & Psychedelic tinged records and a listen to the CD reissue release of a 70’s release is frankly pitiful, sound is often closed in or sounds like a portion of the soundscape is missing. Awful and does the music no credit whatsoever….
 

sofrep811

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Great read! I love my Rega RP1 but I don’t confuse myself on it’s purpose- it is fun. Buying records at brick stores is fun. I rarely buy online because I enjoy the store experience and talking with the owners. That’s all.
 

Awsmone

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Great read! I love my Rega RP1 but I don’t confuse myself on it’s purpose- it is fun. Buying records at brick stores is fun. I rarely buy online because I enjoy the store experience and talking with the owners. That’s all.
I bought records when they were so cheap they were giving them away sometimes, so built the physical media , from a collectors and historical perspective , I enjoyed the collecting for years , and it’s fun
 

Awsmone

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I think I've seen a 16-inch turntable, but maybe it was only in pictures. I've never seen a 16-inch record. When I was a DJ on the college radio station in the 1970's we had regular 12-inch turntables. They were direct drive and probably Stanton.

I'm in the same age bracket and the "snap", "crackle", and "pop", ALWAYS bothered me, more than it seemed to bother the average person. But overall, I preferred vinyl to cassette hiss and more-limited highs. When I 1st heard a CD I was amazed by the dead-silent background!
I have a 16 inch turntable that Sony built for radio stations in I think 1979 if memory serves its playing now ;) Psx9
 

Chrispy

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TLDR but seriously? If you like the options available to your particular interests in vinyl recordings, go for it....for the vast majority it's just more audio bullshit.
 

Jim Shaw

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"By contrast, the dynamic range of a CD is 150dB without any special conditions needed"... uhmmmm...
Incorrect. The maximum dynamic range of a Red Book CD is 96 dB. That's the theoretical maximum of information from a 16-bit, fixed-point digital system. In practice, it is that or less than that.

SACD is theoretically capable of a max. dynamic range of 120 dB, but recording and playback physical hurdles always lower that.

There are many undisputed references in the literature that testify to this.
 

Frgirard

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Incorrect. The maximum dynamic range of a Red Book CD is 96 dB. That's the theoretical maximum of information from a 16-bit, fixed-point digital system. In practice, it is that or less than that.

SACD is theoretically capable of a max. dynamic range of 120 dB, but recording and playback physical hurdles always lower that.

There are many undisputed references in the literature that testify to this.
In PCM, The dynamic D is function of the resolution R.
The resolution R is the given by the bit number.

R=2exp (bit number )

D=20*log(R)
 

Azazello13

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One thing to keep in mind when talking about good vinyl, is that the concept of stereo and two speakers does not equate to a "you are there" but an attempt to get you to believe enough in it that you are there. It is a degree of belief, and many of us simply accept it as the poorish attempt it is to bring the venue into our listening room.

Stereo worked well in cinema to project sounds from either side of the screen, and with vision combined it works quite well. Without vision it does not work as well, and is a rather weird effect for your brain to work on when your eyes are open staring into the space between and around your speakers. The "trick" of stereo is pretty week for sure.

The way I see it is that vinyl weaknesses happened to enhance the illusion and not hurt it with two channel stereo. Is it inferior to digital in all respects when it comes to science, yes, no question. However, it does for many folks enhance the experience of the very week stereo two channel playback system when not watching a video or movie with visible cues.

This is really interesting, and I suspect there is something to it. I try to take vinyl enthusiasts seriously (sort of) when they talk about how it sounds better to them. I too suspect that the blurred channel separation (an inherent technical limitation of the format) has something to do with it sounding more "realistic" to them.

For my own part, I think vinyl playback is cool as hell, despite all the hipsters, poseurs, and wooo practitioners trying to ruin it. The listening experience is cool because it's more intentional. It's fun as a hobby because tinkering and upgrading with your playback system are actually rewarded with better performance. Yes it's kind of a useless effort when you can bring up a high res digital copy of the same music with a few taps on your phone, but most fun hobbies are kind of useless efforts or at least have that aspect to them.
 

Azazello13

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You are asking me: Which one is able to reproduce the original master recording more faithfully? That does not matter at all for the music I like most, for which the right question would be: "Which one is able to reproduce the sound the artist and the producer intended more faithfully? and the answer is of course: vinyl, because that was THE intended final form of the production process.

I don't think that's right. Even if the final master was designed around vinyl's limitations, that doesn't mean vinyl is somehow the perfect playback medium to convey artist intent for that recording. If a digital remastering can retrieve detail from the master tape that the lathe could not, we want that, right?
Honestly, you’re wasting your time.
The impression I get from the frankly ignorant opinions expressed on this forum is that the average record owning members record collections are rescued from a skip and played on a revolving microwave motor with a rusty nail for a stylus. I own a lot of Krautrock & Psychedelic tinged records and a listen to the CD reissue release of a 70’s release is frankly pitiful, sound is often closed in or sounds like a portion of the soundscape is missing. Awful and does the music no credit whatsoever….
This, in my experience, is true, but stems from a different issue. There was a lot of really crappy mastering and remastering done, especially early in the digital era. This speaks to practices in the industry, not to the advantages or limitations of any format.
 

Frgirard

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I have vynils digitized with a linn lp 12. It's bad. In bass frequencies it's ugly. Ugly as the LP.
 

MattHooper

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This is really interesting, and I suspect there is something to it. I try to take vinyl enthusiasts seriously (sort of) when they talk about how it sounds better to them. I too suspect that the blurred channel separation (an inherent technical limitation of the format) has something to do with it sounding more "realistic" to them.

Years ago when I'd put my micro seiki turntable in to my system to spin my old records, I regularly had the impression that my speakers "disappeared" a bit more with vinyl - that is the sensation that the music was happening in a way more detached from the speakers.

I don't know if I was perceiving something actual about the sound or not, but it was my impression.

I "upgraded" to a better turntable/cartridge etc and I'm not particularly conscious of this effect with vinyl these days, vs my digital signal.
Maybe it's because my system soundstages and images so well there this is a niggling difference if any.

Or perhaps my older turntable/cartridge actually had somewhat worse channel separation, leading to that more "detached" sound, and my new turntable is more focused. Though I'm a bit suspicious of attributing too much to poor channel separation as an explanation.
I seem to remember some (more technically knowledgeable) have said channel separation is perfectly serviceable in decent vinyl playback. So I'm not sure how audible it tends to be in practice (?)


For my own part, I think vinyl playback is cool as hell, despite all the hipsters, poseurs, and wooo practitioners trying to ruin it. The listening experience is cool because it's more intentional. It's fun as a hobby because tinkering and upgrading with your playback system are actually rewarded with better performance. Yes it's kind of a useless effort when you can bring up a high res digital copy of the same music with a few taps on your phone, but most fun hobbies are kind of useless efforts or at least have that aspect to them.

I think you just cited a variety of reasons vinyl playback isn't "useless." :)
(Add another one: if you like the sound).
 

Jimi Floyd

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I don't think that's right. Even if the final master was designed around vinyl's limitations, that doesn't mean vinyl is somehow the perfect playback medium to convey artist intent for that recording. If a digital remastering can retrieve detail from the master tape that the lathe could not, we want that, right?
No. Maybe I wasn't good enough to explain my point of view. We don't want that "lost detail". What went on vinyl at the time was the intended sound, period. Following your reasoning we should retrieve and enhance with photoshop and x-ray imaging all the brush strokes that Leonardo hid painting Mona Lisa. No. What left Leonardo's hands is the original and only Mona Lisa. What left Rolling Stones Records' pressing plants in '71 is the original and only Sticky Fingers. Pressed on vinyl. Maintaining that the artist and the producer wanted to put on the final release on vinyl some detail but that wasn't possible because of technical limitations, so that now we are justified in rescuing it, is a conceited and mean exercise, arbitrary as a concept and debatable in its outcome. Think what you want, it's YOUR thought. Digital remastered versions of 60s and 70s masterpieces are now available all together at $9.99 a month, an original single one on vinyl can go for several hundreds or thousands, and that sums quite well the difference between an original painting and its "more than perfect" current "enhanced" reproduction.
 

Cote Dazur

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I would think the master tape has a lot more credibility as the pole star of artist intent than the first vinyl pressing does
If you ask yourself what will the intended recipient of the music listen to, the master tape or the record? You will know the answer.
 

Robin L

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I would think the master tape has a lot more credibility as the pole star of artist intent than the first vinyl pressing does.
Of course, the master tape is subject to damage over time and changes in sonic character over time. Also finding a deck whose response characteristic matches the tape would be difficult. I've had hundreds of LPs to compare to CDs---CDs from master tapes though not universally. I find LPs blur the top octaves and radically cut the bass for the most part. In my experience, CD renders more detail.

Bright or blurry, I'm sure whatever the artistic/sonic polestar may be, it's situated past the point that landed on vinyl.
 

Jimi Floyd

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Old analog news forecasting the digital future

IMG_4357.jpg
 

Vladimir Filevski

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The music I like most, the one that I listen to the most, the music stored in 95% of my vinyl records is albums recorded and released in analog equipment from 1962 to the late eighties. ...
... Which one is able to reproduce the sound the artist and the producer intended more faithfully? and the answer is of course: vinyl, because that was THE intended final form of the production process.
Well - no. Intended final form in that period were: 8-track cassettes, compact cassettes and vinyl.
AFAIK, from 1965 to 1970, 8-track cassettes format was dominant in US, with market share bigger than vinyl. I couldn't find reliable source to back up this, but we have exact numbers for 1973 and beyond (source: https://www.riaa.com/u-s-sales-database/ ):
8-track cassette from 1973 to 1976 has healthy 24-25% of total revenue by formats, dropping to 23% in 1977 and 1978, with a decline after that.
Compact cassette in 1983 already has 47% of revenue, and 53-55% from 1984 to 1988 - bigger than vinyl.
Vinyl
was below 36% in 1984 and 1985, with 21% in 1986, only 14% in 1987, 9% in 1988, and 3% in 1989 when finally failed down in oblivion.

By the way, you have impressive vinyl and CD collection, plus nice high-end audio equipment. I really envy you. :)
 
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