|I am finally listening to lps after going perhaps 20 years without, due to a recent (about 3 months) investment into a vinyl rig. I'm absolutely bummed that perhaps 30 to 40% of my collection really isn't worth playing due to sonic considerations.|
I have an aproximate 2,000 lp collection, nearly all are new album, record show, or garage sale purchases dating from the early 70's thru the mid 80's. These are mostly all very well preserved, with minimal wear, dust pops, scratches etc. My problem is not with the shape or cleanliness of the records (they have been hand cleaned in accordance with 'expert' advice, then cleaned again in a VPI 16.5). Nor are they mistracked, none of that inner groove distortion.
It is also not a setup issue, cartridge setup is absolutely correct, and every other parameter of setup, from the wall shelves/isolation to power cords and ICs has had careful attention.
My issue is in the mastering and/or pressing of the lps. This 30 to 40% have issues, mostly with small soundstaging and/or lack of frequency extension, especially in the bass. They simply sound small scale and lightweight, like mid-fi to me. The other 60 to 70% of my collection sound relatively huge in comparison, large, airy soundstaging, transparent, dynamic, especially the micro dynamics.
Now, the vast majority of the 30 to 40% that sound small scale are what I believe to be, original pressings of 70's rock music. The rest, mostly 50's and 60's recordings from a huge variety of genres, sound wonderful, mostly way better than my digital.
I suspect what I'm hearing is excessive compression due to poor mastering and/or pressing. At this point I'm not sure whether the main culprit is mastering or pressings. As I previously mentioned, most of these recordings were purchased in the early 70's to mid 80's, thus, I believe they are original pressings, which leaves mastering as the culprit. On the other hand, I have digital remasters of a number of these rock recording, a small number sound larger scale than their lp counterparts, which leads me to suspect pressings in some cases.
From this, I extrapolate that mastering is the culprit in most cases. Furthermore, I believe the bad sounding lps sound bad because of solid state recording studio equipment. My 50's and 60's recordings nearly all sound big, large scale, some may not have the greatest frequency extension, especially in the highs, but they all are tonally and dimensionally full, some luciously so, in the midrange. These recordings come from the heyday of tube equipment, both in the recording studio and home audio.
I should add, I'm not trying to make a case of solid state recording studios being the sole culprit here, as a small percentage of my 70's rock recordings sound large scale and satisfying. Rather I think it is solid state done on the cheap, and with bad ears on the part of the producers and engineers that is at fault. The late 60's and early 70's had more than it's fair share of crappy solid state, and most producers and engineers didn't know the first thing about quality sound (as remains the case).
Still, it seems the 50's and 60's producers and engineers could do less harm to the sound, the tube recording equipment always had the relatively voluptuous midrange. And perhaps the tube home audio of the day let them hear at least a semblance of quality, so they tried to replicate that sound in the studio.
As things stand, I'm somewhat disappointed in vinyl at this point. I was hoping these 70's rock recordings would sound much better than their cd counterparts (remastered or not). 30 to 40% of my collection is basically throw away at this point, I don't care to go through all the hassles inherent in the playing of records that sound only as good or worse than their digital counterparts.
I'm now getting the itch to buy lps new, I'm just wondering if the newly minted rock lps of classic rock are worth buying. It seems the digital remasters I have are only marginally better, in most cases, over older digital pressings. I suspect the same will hold true for vinyl, the new remasters will only sound marginally better than my original pressings.
At this point, I'm basically writing off classic rock recordings on lp. While I know classic rock can sound good on lp, the small number of exceptions I've experienced leave me highly skeptical. Future purchases will be mostly limited to recordings (of all genres) prior to the 70's. Future classic rock purchases will be mostly in digital form, for any lp purchases I will have to rely on thumbs up by reviewers I trust. Contemporary recordings are problematic as well, sound quality is all over the place in the digital recording studios, it seems to be a crapshoot, have to rely on reviewers here as well.
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