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Why Audiophiles Are Shopping for Vintage Turntables

MattHooper

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The biggest advantage of original LP's is that they used fresh master tapes as their source. Any tape source, original, LP master, or backup copy deteriorates over time to a greater or lesser degree even if they aren't lost, stolen, or burned in a fire.

Yeah, I've been sucked in to buying some vinyl remasters - even box sets - where they purportedly went back to the original tapes that I haven't been happy with. I also have the original LPs which sound significantly better (bigger, richer, smoother...the newer ones sound like someone tried to re-eq to save old tapes or something).

On the other hand, I have some re-masters on vinyl that blow me away. Never can tell what you're going to get.
 

Wombat

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I mentioned this before... I had a Rolling Stones MFSL LP that was amazing, sonic-wise. You could hear all sorts of things separate in the mix that was not present in the regular LP, at least in the same way. But the strange thing: it didn't sound like what I thought a Rolling Stones record should sound like. One of the trademarks of the band was their compressed and 'sloppy' raw sound. LOL

I always knew their sound described as 'muddy'.
 

makinao

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Wow. A blast from the past. My first digital recorder.

I still have my 501 in the basement, but it hasn't been turned on since the early 90s. I recorded a few direct to stereo projects with that. 14-bit had error-correction, and with 16-bit you were on your own. The attached consumer VCR machine had to be rock steady, or else you'd get dropouts all over. I had to hold my breath during each playback. Finally, it had some kind of inter-channel delay, probably because it worked off a multiplexed video signal to and from the VCR. Apogee offered a mod that shortened the converters and got rid of the delay. But it wasn't cheap, and DATs were already on the horizon.

But when it worked, it worked nicely. For direct to stereo projects, it was on par with a Tascam 40 series or an Otari 5050 at 15ips, without any tape noise.


Nothing quite like going from an ok [Thorens] turntable to a Tascam 32 [for editing], to a Sony 501 ES ADC. Downhill all the way.

View attachment 108371
 

tmtomh

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Or baked in the oven.

No, actually, baking tapes is what allows them to be safely digitized, and with all the compression and other mastering problems of new remasters, superior digital transferring is one of the usual benefits of them. There is the occasional remaster made from a fresh digital transfer where it sounds like the transfer itself was poor or the tape source was just worn out - but on the whole the quality of the original source and the quality of the digital transfer is usually very good on modern remasters. That's why the Loudness War is such a shame - so many good transfers ruined by added compression in the mastering stage.
 

paulraphael

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[curmudgeon mode]

Aggh, that one again!

At this point, if I were given a trip in a Time Machine I'd bypass going back to take out baby Hitler to instead be transported to
the creation of that cartoon, and spill ink all over it, before it could get out into the world. That way I wouldn't have to see over and over in every single audio forum and in every discussion about vinyl. It's become like the same guy barging in to every party loudly telling the same joke. "Yeah, I've heard that one..."

[/curmudgeon mode]

Well, I think it's a great cartoon, because along with ridicule it embodies some affection and also some truth. For one thing, I bet the cartoonist is making fun of himself—look at the stereo. It's so real and plausible looking, that I'm guessing it's the system owned by the guy who drew it.

But also, when I talk to my friends who are vinyl-philes / vinyl snobs, including the ones who buy into half-baked ideas, they reveal that a big part of the joy for them is the process and the ritual. Hearing that one of their ideas has been debunked by science is just a buzz-kill, because it misses the point. It's kind of like telling someone that their hand-built wooden sailboat has a poor price/performance ratio.
 

MakeMineVinyl

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Or baked in the oven.
The biggest problem with older tape has been with 'sticky-shed syndrome' on tapes made in the late 1970s through the mid 1980s. Much older acetate tapes suffered from 'vinegar syndrome' if stored in a sealed container. One thing which is generally not a problem with any vintage of tape is loss or significant deterioration of the actual signal recorded on the tape, assuming it hasn't been played to death (thousands of plays), abused, or stored close to intense magnetic fields. I have some tapes which were recorded in the early to mid 1950s which are perfectly playable and sound fine to this day. Things like print through is not really an issue with masters because routine practice was splicing non-magnetic leader tape between selections on a reel. Self erasure also is not a significant problem since it has been shown that this diminishes to insignificance after the first couple plays, and its not an issue which is likely to be audible in any event, only affecting the highest frequencies, and only by a dB or so.
 

MakeMineVinyl

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Yes, see #725.
I just wanted to re-document this data because I've seen a lot of mis-information circulating regarding analog tape longevity. As time passes, there is less and less of a direct knowledge link to people who worked with tape on a daily, professional level. This information is undoubtedly second nature to you, but newer users of tape unfortunately can encounter a lot of inaccurate information on the internet.
 

mhardy6647

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The biggest advantage of original LP's is that they used fresh master tapes as their source. Any tape source, original, LP master, or backup copy deteriorates over time to a greater or lesser degree even if they aren't lost, stolen, or burned in a fire.
Fresh master tapes...?

hmm... that's like freshly re-virginal.
 

sergeauckland

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The biggest advantage of original LP's is that they used fresh master tapes as their source. Any tape source, original, LP master, or backup copy deteriorates over time to a greater or lesser degree even if they aren't lost, stolen, or burned in a fire.
The downside is that old LPs will in all probability have been played on an old blunderbuss, and so be pretty worn. However, I've been buying a fair few classical Quadraphonic LPs that look and sound like NOS, and I'm currently playing a Kay Starr LP of 1960 so 60 years old which sounds great, so yes, old LPs if treated well, can perform very well.

S
 

mhardy6647

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I have a few fresh master tapes.

I made them using different current production tape formulas (some ATR, some RTM).

They're <1 year old.
Mastered from what?
Your own source material, I presume -- that's the only way they can be first generation.
Copies of digital recordings don't really count. ;)
Of course you can have a freshly-made master tape. What you cannot have is a "fresh master" of, say, the original, assembled mix of Abbey Road. You could copy the master or make a new master from the original multi-track tapes, but the master is/was "one and done". There can be multiple first generation copies (multiple masters, "A" and "B" masters) made at the same time, but they're contemporaries. If they were made 40 years ago, it's hard to say one is "fresh" unless this is meant to mean "never played" (which could be possible).

I inferred the earlier reference to "fresh masters" was for new re-pressings of (more or less) vintage materials.

So... tapes.

Every commercial recording (from the tape era) should stem from one master tape.

There is the master tape, made from the final, assembled mix of the album. This is the first generation.

There are safety backups, which are usually, perhaps always, copies of the master (series, not parallel), so second generation. These may or may not have seen use in generation of stampers for pressing records. Either way, they're not the master.

There are early generation(second, third, maybe fourth) tapes which are (were) typically what go out to the pressing plants -- especially "abroad"
and/or for popular recordings (i.e., those pressed in large numbers at multiple plants). The cool guys snag these "early generation" copies when they can find 'em -- they are not inexpensive.

The master is safely stored away for later money-making opportunities and/or to be destroyed in archive fires. :(

...and, obviously, some folks go in and make new mixes and remasters and all that malarky.

This thread looks like a reasonable discussion; note particularly SH's interjection @ post #7
https://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/first-generation-master-tapes-what-are-they.204613/
 
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mhardy6647

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Here, for example, is an early generation copy of a master tape. This was probably used in an ex-US pressing plant to make copies of the album to sell in the country in which the plant was located. Copies like this have a series of tones recorded at the beginning used to calibrate (normalize) the equipment in the plant before using the tape as a source to (ultimately) make stampers.

I asked this tape's current owner what generation it would be -- his response, in essence, was: hard to say, but low: third, fourth, fifth, sixth. That order of magnitude.
Note the date on the label -- quite a few years after the album was released (but it was still in print).


DSC_4345r.JPG
 

mhardy6647

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Yes.

Using the mic input on the decks, me playing bass.
OK, that's cool. :)
I actually went back & looked at the fresh masters post & realized I misread it! :facepalm: (even though I quoted it, I thought for some reason it was referring to modern pressings of classic albums :facepalm:).

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-vintage-turntables.10898/page-36#post-650382
We're good here, and I apologize for going off half-cocked.
The nomenclature is important when it comes to "lossy" media like analog tape.
 
OP
watchnerd

watchnerd

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OK, that's cool. :)
I actually went back & looked at the fresh masters post & realized I misread it! :facepalm: (even though I quoted it, I thought for some reason it was referring to modern pressings of classic albums :facepalm:).

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-vintage-turntables.10898/page-36#post-650382
We're good here, and I apologize for going off half-cocked.
The nomenclature is important when it comes to "lossy" media like analog tape.

i also have some 2nd generation "stale" masters.

They're all from an NPR series of live broadcasts from the (now defunct) Syracuse Symphony Orchestra and include exotica such as live Glass "Satyagraha"

They condition was / is awful, though. Sticky shed so bad that the reels slow sloooowed sloooooooowed...then stopped.
 

mhardy6647

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I've been amazingly lucky re: SSS.
I have some tapes that are known victims (carriers?) of SSS, but the two or three I've evaluated actually seem OK.
But, yeah, SSS is a bad thing.
 

krabapple

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The biggest advantage of original LP's is that they used fresh master tapes as their source. Any tape source, original, LP master, or backup copy deteriorates over time to a greater or lesser degree even if they aren't lost, stolen, or burned in a fire.

I presume you are referring to first pressings. They were sourced from original master tapes....whose sound was altered during LP mastering to account for the limitations of vinyl.

(The mastering moves used during cutting were recorded on the LP master(s), which was used for subsequent runs unless otherwise specified)
 

levimax

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I presume you are referring to first pressings. They were sourced from original master tapes....whose sound was altered during LP mastering to account for the limitations of vinyl.

(The mastering moves used during cutting were recorded on the LP master(s), which was used for subsequent runs unless otherwise specified)
Yes first/ early pressings. The word "altered" has a negative connotation to it... you could also say "optimized" for LP. In any case for these older recordings the mastering engineer did play a role in the final sound of the recording and the artists were usually involved. While not perfect the LP's were the original way this music was listened to and they have a historical and artistic context to them.

I think "altered" or even "adulterated" is a better word for what was been done to many of these recording decades later including questionable EQ choices and radical dynamic range compression.... not to mention old or damaged tape sources in some cases.
 
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