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ARSCLIST  February 2013

ARSCLIST February 2013

Subject:

Re: late LP era classical records

From:

Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 27 Feb 2013 16:26:35 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (123 lines)

By the way, for the late-era LPs that are paper thin but otherwise high-quality vinyl, just use a 
good thick rubber turntable mat and a spindle clamp. That should tame rumble and assure good 
tracking on any decent turntable/cartridge system.

One other general point I didn't make below is that it's debatable whether superior music-making was 
being done in the classical world in the 70s and especially the 80s. The "golden era" conductors 
were either dead, retired or ancient. Guys like Andre Previn were the first liners. If you're used 
to a Reiner, Toscanini or Bernstein, that generation of conductors won't do. Elsewhere, the last of 
the old-timers were holding on too long (i.e. late years Karajan, Detroit Symphony era Dorati, etc). 
In the U.S., musical tastes were changing so orchestras and their musicians unions were under great 
financial stress. The smaller labels like Telarc were recording in places like Atlanta and St. 
Louis, and do those performances really stand up to the best of the "golden era," no matter how good 
they might sound? RCA and Sony/Columbia were still doing big-budget recordings of operas and Mahler 
symphony cycles in the 80s, but they weren't as common as earlier times. So, in the new-issue 
classical LPs, collectors may not prefer the updated performances, the digital recordings or the 
general way the art was going.

The best news for collectors and those interested is this -- you can find late-era classical LPs all 
over the place, generally dirt-cheap. Many barely-played or unplayed examples lurk in your record 
store's dollar bins. So you can grab up a bunch, listen and form your own judgments.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Clark Johnsen" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 3:58 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] late LP era classical records


> Tom,
>
> Everything you say here comports with my own observations. (Good work!)
> I'll just add that, back in the day we were told by most of the, ah,
> experts that rate conversions had no effect on the sound because it was all
> in the digital domain, i.e. numbers, so it was just a matter of *easy
> arithmetic* to get it right.
>
> Even then I laughed.
>
> clark
>
>
>
> On Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 2:09 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>wrote:
>
>> I tend to agree with Roger that there were some very good-sounding
>> classical LP records made in the 1980s. There were some good reasons,
>> however, why this era is shunned by some collectors.
>>
>> 1. many people don't like the sound of early digital recordings, period.
>> From 1979 onward, many and then most new classical LPs were made from
>> digital masters. The classical labels wholeheartedly embraced digital
>> recording early. So the same mentality that left some without a CD player
>> well into the 1990s would lead them to hate digital-master LPs.
>>
>> 2. this also carried over into the reissue market. Labels would make
>> digital masters for early CDs (we know how good those sounded, by and
>> large) and then cut a "New Improved Digital Remaster" LP. Collectors by and
>> large didn't like these reissues one bit, no matter how good the vinyl and
>> pressing.
>>
>> 3. there were reissues like Mercury Golden Imports which didn't sound
>> anything like the originals, although they were pressed on very quiet
>> vinyl. There were also reissues of mono content mastered to fake stereo and
>> all the quiet vinyl did was show how bad fake stereo sounds.
>>
>> 4. I've heard conflicting stories about the Angel issues of EMI material.
>> One version says that EMI would send over NAB-EQ dubs for Capitol to cut.
>> The other story says EMI would send over CCIR master tapes and Capitol's
>> cutting guys would EQ around their NAB playback curve. Either way, I agree
>> with David Burnham that some of those Angel reissues don't sound right. In
>> contrast, as I understand it, some, many or most of the London reissues of
>> Decca material were pressed from either plates or laquers made in England.
>> If I recall correctly, some of the manufacturing was done in Canada, but
>> maybe that was only the sleeves?
>>
>> 5. Columbia and RCA reissued a few classic titles using gimmicks like
>> half-speed mastering and heavy vinyl. Some of them sounded OK, but I recall
>> reading a lot of bad comments about RCA not sounding like the original
>> Living Stereo records.
>>
>> 6. the final net-net for late-era USA vinyl was it was paper-thin and the
>> sleeves were often cheaply made. Production was sloppy, so you'd get inner
>> sleeves folded over and having scratched the record in process. Non-warped
>> records were less than common. Stuff from record clubs was even worse, a
>> step down in quality.
>>
>> There are some cases with the early digital recordings, where the original
>> LP sounds much better than the CD. The main reason for this would be early
>> sample-rate conversion equipment and early CD mastering in general. For
>> instance some people very much prefer the early Columbia 3M Digital records
>> on their original LPs vs the Masterworks Digital CDs of the late 80s. Same
>> for Telarc and RCA early digital recordings made with the Soundstream
>> system. By about 1985, many original recordings were "born" at 44.1/16-bit,
>> so there shouldn't have been any bitrate conversion issues. However, Decca
>> used its proprietary 48k/18-bit system throughout the 1980s, and EMI may
>> have used its higher-than-CD-resolution well into the 80s. I think RCA used
>> Soundstream for quite a while, too.
>>
>> Finally, you got some specialized audiophile LP reissues, for instance
>> Decca on Mobile Fidelity and various Polygram material out of Japan, that
>> was of very high quality.
>>
>> Many of these comments run parallel in the jazz world. Stuff "Newly
>> Digitally Remastered" and then put on a newly-cut LP usually didn't sound
>> better than originals. This was especially true with Columbia reissues of
>> 78's where someone had gone nuts with CEDAR and destroyed any ambience or
>> room-tone in the original recordings, plus lopped off the entire top end.
>>
>> In the rock world, there are definitely cases of fast-selling albums where
>> later remasters (required because so many copies had been sold that new
>> laquers and plates were needed) sound better than original pressings. There
>> are also plenty of the opposite. In general, record-club versions sounded
>> worse if they weren't pressed from original parts (and they usually still
>> did because they'd be pressed on warped paper-thin noisy vinyl). The
>> overall quality of rock LPs suffered when duped cassettes became the go-to
>> mass medium in the late 80s. LP releases of new albums just about stopped
>> by the time CDs outsold cassettes.
>>
>> -- Tom Fine
> 

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