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ARSCLIST  February 2006

ARSCLIST February 2006

Subject:

Re: De-static question

From:

Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 12 Feb 2006 13:05:38 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (141 lines)

Hi Phillip:

I have to argue with one statement:

> Cutting engineers for the audiophile labels like Classic Records try to limit the side to 17 
> minutes for the best fidelity.  They cut louder than the old records with as big a groove as 
> possible.

Actually, a point of pride in the true olde days (NOT the 70s, but late 50's and early 60's) was 
cutting loud and wide. That was definitely the practice at Fine Recording and I know it was at other 
NY mastering places, including the major-label studios (although they were usually more timid). And 
singles were another story too. Today's "loudness wars" are somewhat dejavu because singles were cut 
as loud as was possible to track by radio turntables and jukeboxes. And, in many cases, they were 
compressed to the moon for AM radio.

Cutting got more timid with thinner vinyl, trying to fit more per side, more compressed musical 
content (ie the rise of rock) and automated lathes (plus the desire to avoid clipping with early 
solid-state cutter amps). And we all know how low the quality got for typical USA records by the end 
of the vinyl era (off-center holes, warped due to too-fast pressing or too-tight wrapping, noisy 
vinyl, really bad mastering, etc).

As I said in my earlier post, the first bunch of audiophile-oriented records -- MoFi and Japanese 
reissues of American jazz classics -- were mastered soft and pressed on really nice vinyl. The idea 
was, master timid but with wide dynamic range and count on the vinyl to keep the noise floor down. 
It was a good MO to prevent clipping distortion in solid-state phono preamps of the day. And it also 
afforded tracking on a wide range of turntables. The more recent vintage of audiophile reissues 
(which cost much more money per LP too) take the olden days approach and cut hard and deep and count 
on the user to have a system that can reproduce it well. Deep cutting also never went out of style 
with 12" disco singles. In the audiophile world

My bottom-line feelings about LPs and, for that matter, 78's is that they are what they are --  
mechanical reproduction systems with century-old technology. They are capable of being very good 
under the right conditions, but like with CD's the run of the mill is usually far from perfect. I 
would argue that CDs stand a better chance of being mass-produced to a very high standard but 
mastering them properly is as much an art as it was for mechanical grooved disks.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "phillip holmes" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, February 12, 2006 12:20 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] De-static question


> What kind of cartridge do you use?  You could buy several different stylus tips to experiment 
> with.
>
> Mono LPs were cut with a wider groove, so that a microgroove stylus will ride much further down in 
> the groove than it should.
>
> I think that the old vinyl was a little noisier from the start (in my experience with mint 
> records), but took much more abuse before becoming unplayable (compared to a Columbia or RCA from 
> the '70s that had a much softer vinyl formulation and was thin and floppy).
>
> Cutting engineers for the audiophile labels like Classic Records try to limit the side to 17 
> minutes for the best fidelity.  They cut louder than the old records with as big a groove as 
> possible.  That gives the best sound with the high end cartridges.  If you play one of those with 
> a junky cartridge, it may mistrack during loud passages.  A good example of what can happen is 
> with the first pressing on RCA of The Pines of Rome.  It was cut without compression and bass 
> summing making listener's cartridges literally jump out of the grooves.  A modern cartridge like a 
> Shure V15 tracks it without problem, but 40 years ago, a Shure M3D couldn't play it.  So they 
> pulled the 1S pressings they had left, re-cut it with bass summing and some compression and the 1S 
> pressing became a one of a kind sonic spectacular that would fetch $400 easy.  The louder cutting 
> is harder to track but brings the music that much further above the noise floor of the vinyl, the 
> stylus scraping the vinyl, the rumble of he bearing, any hum in the arm wire and RIAA circuit, and 
> any other problems you may have with limitations to the playback chain.  But you need a good 
> cartridge.
>
> That M44 cartridge is very modern in its execution.  It'll track almost anything a V15 will track, 
> but it has either an elliptical or conical tip, where the V15 has a fine line or microridge tip. 
> I know one of the things that you are hearing with the M44 is that it has a heavy and ridged 
> aluminum cantilever designed for heavy use.  Couple that with a conical tip, and the high end 
> starts to roll off very quickly.  It acts as a mechanical filter because it doesn't respond 
> quickly to reproduce the tics and pops the way a hyper elliptical with a light/fragile cantilever 
> will.  The conical tip won't track the high frequencies depending on what the loudness is, or if 
> it's close to the end of the side, or if the frequencies are high.  Picture the groove as 
> mountains.  The big peaks are bass and midrange and the scrub brush is treble.  And hear comes a 
> huge boulder.  It's coming down a slope that has very few crags (no loud bass or midrange) and it 
> can track the scrub brush (highs) just fine.  But all of a sudden this big round boulder hits some 
> big ridges (bass drum whacks or organ pedals) and in the process, since it is big and round it 
> can't go all the way down into the craggy area. The boulder because it is big and round will skip 
> from the top of one ridge to the top of the next because the size of the boulder prevents it from 
> riding all the way down into the valley (the valley is narrower than the thickness of the 
> boulder).  It can track the brush as long as something bigger doesn't get in the way.  With a 
> microridge diamond the think acts more like a garden trowel with a thin edge and can go all the 
> way down into the valleys.  So Tom's theory is correct.  The big needle just doesn't reproduce as 
> much of the noise cause it can't reach it.
>
> How about a humidifier?  I have one going during the winter months for my allergies and to cut 
> down on static.  Works like a charm.  It's an evaporative type, not the heating element kind.
>
> If you are playing mono records, I would suggest investing in a mono cartridge (true mono, not a 
> stereo cartridge strapped to mono internally). I have the Denon dl102 and it makes hammered 
> records play much better.  It has a conical tip and it ignores any vertical information (the 
> vertical noise on a mono record is only noise; the signal is the horizontal back and forth). 
> Vertical noise is 30dB down from the horizontal signal.  I played a hammered copy of Dial 203, 
> Charlie Parker Quintet.  I would grade it as Poor.  With a modern cartridge, it was unlistenable. 
> With the mono cartridge and proper EQ (another variable), it was still noisy, but you could make 
> out the music much easier.
>
> The DL102 is described here: http://www3.sympatico.ca/murraya/DenonMonoPage.htm
>
> Sorry to go on and on.
> Phillip
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Tom Fine"
>
> I do not know this for a
>> fact, but my experience is that older LPs were either cut with wider grooves or the grooves have 
>> widened with time (vinyl is, after all, a plastic and plastic is inherently unstable over time). 
>> Or the vinyl was much "chunkier" back in the day, so prone to crackle. Generally, when I play an 
>> LP pressed in USA from pre-1970's or so, I use a more rounded cartridge type and experiment with 
>> tracking weights if it's crackly. Sometimes you can get better results doing this, sometimes the 
>> vinyl is just plain crackly. Everyone knows that at least some Eurovinyl was better all along, 
>> and the Europeans tended to put more content per side so the groove pitch was generally smaller 
>> (and levels lower), all factors making playback on a modern system more likely satisfying. 
>> Audiophile labels copied that approach and now I notice they've gone back to the old-school 
>> methods of "cut the hell out of the laquer" but press on very quiet and rigid vinyl.
>>
>> I have, use and love a VPI cleaning machine. Cleaning is the best vinyl noise-reducer I've found 
>> but it doesn't have to be a pricey machine. > I own and have transferred many (thousands by now) 
>> of LPs, and I do not like to listen to noisy surfaces, so I've worked this problem for many 
>> years. People scoff at cartridges like Shure M44, but sometimes that or an old radio station 
>> cartridge will play an old record best. My only theory is that the needle is thicker and/or more 
>> rounded so it doesn't ride as low in the groove. On the other hand, modern or very pristine vinyl 
>> seems better with a modern cartridge. When a client sends or brings a vinyl record in, I wash it 
>> and then play a little bit. If it's hopelessly crackly or loaded with groove distortion, I'll 
>> turn the work away because neither of us are going to be happy with the results. I'll fix ticks 
>> and pops (no auto-digi-fix here) if they'll pay the time, but I can't do anything about groove 
>> distortion caused by too many plays, bad storage/care or tracking with the dull nails that passed 
>> for stylii in some cases back in the day. Some records are just literally played to death, the 
>> downside of grooved mechanical disks.
>>
>> Finally, Zerostat can't hurt. I use one and like it. Some days, a record just gets full of static 
>> (particularly this time of year). But the kind of crackle you describe won't come from static 
>> unless there's a grounding problem in your system, and even then I doubt it. But do feel free to 
>> post or send around a short sample of what you're talking about.
>>
>> -- Tom Fine 

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