33 vs 45 speed quality

I just got into analog recently. My TT is a rega P9 which blows away my cd player for music quality. But...in truth I cannot tell any difference between 33 and 45 speed recordings. Is it just my ears or is my setup to Lowfi? I am using a Mac 6300 integrated amp and audiophysic spark speakers.
On the outer grooves of a 33 there is no real advantage to the higher speed, although 45s might sound better for other reasons simply because they are produced for the audiophile market. However, as the pickup moves to the inner grooves the speed of the vinyl passing the stylus becomes very marginal for sonic quality. Cutting the record at 45 rpm preserves sound quality at the inner grooves (although using 33 rpm and just not recording anything on the inner part of the disc would yield the same result and playing time). 45 rpm was invented for the singles, which were all inner grooves.
Maybe your system is not wide-range enough or dynamic enough for you to tell the difference. There definitely is an audible difference. Record companies don't record at 45 rpm just to take up more space on the record (and charge you more on top of that).

Are you comparing versions of the same recording(s) on 33 and then 45??? If so, then you could have reached the limitations of your playback gear... or your ears.
45 rpm versions of audiophile lp's are more about 'old wine in a new bottle' than great audible differences. i have worked in the music business since the 1970's and unless the lp pushes the limits in terms of 'total time' a 33 sounds pretty much the same. also albums were meant to be played uninterupted through each side(any artist, producer, or engineer would agree).....changing discs to accomodate 45rpm destroys the magic of continuity......god bless classic vinyl for staying in business even though these tricks won't play with everyone.
I'm going to join with Plato here. My experience has been that when all other factors are equal, the 45 rpm release will sound better in almost every sonic category you can name, assuming your system is capable of resolving these differences. If you're not hearing a difference, you've probably reached the limit of what your current system will resolve (as Plato suggests). FWIW, I've previously offered some comments about my comparison of the Classic Records classical reissues at 33 vs 45 rpm. More recently, I've listened to a lot of the Analogue Productions 45 rpm jazz reissues comparing some of those to AP's 33 rpm reissues of the same recordings. The overall sonic differences between 33 and 45 rpm releases continue to hold true, with the 45 rpm versions being clearly better in multiple ways.

Please understand that I have hundreds of 33 rpm LPs that are sonically excellent and often outstanding. I'm simply reporting that my experience consistenly has been that an excellent sounding recording at 33 rpm will sound even better when mastered at 45 rpm. Two quick examples from the Classic Records reissues: the Rozsa/Hendl/Heifitz RCA LSC-2767 and the Stravinsky/Firebird Mercury SR90226. Both are excellent in their 33 rpm versions, but both are clearly better in their 45 rpm incarnations.

While I obviously disagree with Jaybo's assessment of the sonic differences between 33 and 45 releases, I do agree with his caveate about the music being interrupted by the short playing sides of 45 rpm LPs and the impact this has on the "magic of continuity."
I've bought quite a few albums on 33 and then the 45 version when available. These are with various labels, but my comparison is generally within a particular label. In all cases I've found the 45 rpm to be significantly better. Any album that I really treasure I will always seek out a 45 if it's available.
Thanks for all your input. In truth I have not compared similar recordings in both 33 and 45. I guess I was expecting something similar with the difference from LP to Cd which was a BIG difference. The switch to LP was real eye opener. The fuss over amps and speakers seems to be absurd with a system with only CD playback when a TT is such a huge upgrade.
There are a couple of other aspects worth mentioning. The higher rpm does better with more highly modulated passages, offering more articulation in the bass and greater dynamic slam, and allowing the entire record to be cut somewhat "hotter", improving the S/N ratio. (Provided, of course, that your cart and arm can keep up and take advantage of it, as well as your phonostage.) Another difference, not necessarily an advantage, is that what background groove noise you do hear will be in a higher frequency range at the higher rpm, which subtly alters the perceived character of the listening experience vs. the same recording cut at the lower rpm. But perhaps the dominant difference in a lot of instances could be that the 33 and 45 rmp releases of the same material may not have been mastered together by the same people at the same time in the same facility, in which case all bets are off and there's no reason not to expect them to sound noticeably different.
Zaikesman...Interesting ideas about effect on surface noise. I'm not so sure about the "dynamic slam". We are agreement about remastering for the audiophile market.

Have you ever listened to a phono signal without RIAA equalization? (You do this with a microphone preamp). The bass is so severely attenuated in the signal that it is a wonder that anything useful can be derived from it. I think that some enterprising audiophile outfit should toss the RIAA curve and 33 rpm speed in the trash can, and start over with the understanding that appropriate (special) playback equipment is necessary to use the resulting vinyl product. A niche market.

The DBX vinyl records of several decades ago were like this (required a decoder box) and the results were excellent. The DBX system addressed every troublesome aspect of vinyl playback. Too bad that the system came out just when CDs were introduced. Were it not for CDs, we would be using the DBX system today...IMHO.
Eldee: Since I don't buy 45 rpm audiophile remasterings, I can only go by what I hear with regular 7" singles vs. the same cuts as album tracks. But the theory isn't unlike that with magnetic tape, where there can be greater dyanamic and frequency range and a better S/N ratio at a higher record/play speed. (I haven't heard a 16 rpm record in years, and never on a good machine, but I'd imagine they would be decidedly low-fi at best.) Due to the more "physical" nature of tracing a groove with a stylus and the tracking errors inherent in most phono playback arrangements, I'm sure the point of diminishing returns (i.e., practical problems) with increasing speed probably sets in earlier with vinyl than with tape (I doubt the kind of speed displayed by computer data-storage tape transports of yesteryear could be approached by any needle and groove arrangement). But the "stretched-out", "big" groove on a 45 demonstrates that at least to a point, the higher rpm system also makes for a hardier medium, sailing through damage that would render an LP unplayable, though not all of this is because of speed per se. BTW, what leads you to think that if a niche audiophile standard for vinyl disks were adopted, it could sound better for encoding *greater* bass amplitude on the record, rather than less? (Well, you don't actually say that, only seem to imply it.) I have no experience with the DBX system, but I assume it also used compression/expansion? Audiophiles would never go for that, and I'd think probably with good reason...
Zaikesman...The DBX compression/expansion process was not a problem because DBX designed both ends. Master tapes for most LPs are made using DBX processing which is considered to be better than Dolby, the other method. So if there is any problem you already have it.

The most obvious advantage of the DBX processing is the elimination of audible surface noise. But there is more. The groove modulation is always near optimum for cartridge performance, which greatly reduces distortion, and mistracking. More playing time can be put on a 12" disc. There are some other advantages which I can't remember off the top of my head.
Well, most master 'tapes' these days are digital, and the ones from the 'golden era' that audiophiles like to buy remasters of largely predate Dolby and DBX. I can well understand how a compression/expansion scheme could aid LP playback in theory, but since modern carts/arms are capable of tracking pre-EQ'ed but uncompressed records without mistracking, and since no analog compression/expansion system can be totally transparent and without losses, I still doubt this would fly in the audiophile marketplace. Personally, I think if you were going to go to the trouble of developing a whole new encode/storage/decode protocol just for audiophiles (this will never, ever happen), you might want to consider an optical analog system.
Zaikesman...My view about DBX records is biased, in that I actually have some. (But the decoder died about ten years ago and I have never fixed it). It is too bad that I can't suggest how you might have this experience. The audio quality is superb, but the catalog was tiny, with few well known artists. Although modern high end cartridges are "capable of tracking..." distortion (short of outright mistracking)is very much a function of modulation amplitude, and limiting dynamic range (of the groove) is very desirable. The electronic reexpansion process may not be perfect, but has much less distortion that that which would occur if the cartridge had to track the uncompressed groove.

Master tapes made before the days of Dolby and DBX were still compressed...manually by the recording engineer (called "Gain Riding"). This avoids peak overload while allowing higher recording level for quiet passages so as to minimize tape hiss. But with this manual compression the results varied according to the engineer doing the recording, and so could not be effectively reversed on playback so as to restore the original dynamic range (although there were expander electronics that tried). By precise control of both the compression and expansion algorithms DBX and Dolby can do the job without audible problems (eg: "pumping").
Eldee, I think we might be blurring a few different topics: Compression (or gain-riding) applied during the recording, mixing, or mastering processes for artistic purposes (to enhance the desired sonic effect); compression (or gain-riding) applied during the recording process for technical purposes (to prevent overload during recording); and compression applied during the mastering process for technical purposes (to prevent overload during playback). And then there's compression applied during radio broadcast for both technical and 'artistic' purposes. I view all of these as being different from complementary compression/expansion, which are mainly used during recording as part of noise-reduction schemes (Dolby A, DBX) and aren't supposed to limit the dynamic range of the resulting master tape (though it may still undergo compression when mastering the record, or CD for that matter). There's also the rather arcane distinction between peak-limiting and compression, which as far as I can tell seems more of a definitional, quantitative one than subjectively qualitative. Anyway, I agree that most recordings we listen to, audiophile pressing or not, probably make use of compression for at least one of the first two reasons I listed at the top -- compression and EQ are the best friends of the recording engineer, producer, and mastering engineer.
Zaikesman...You have come up with so many ways that compression is used that, contrary to what we often see stated, it must be a good thing!

I don't think that Peak Limiting is arcane...it's just a gain reduction that is applied only when the signal exceeds some high value. So almost all of the time it does nothing, and, if the setup is correct, it only activates when your amplifier was about to clip. I think that even audiophiles can endorse this.
Since we're already this far off topic...Until I bought my Alesis MasterLink, which performs both compression and peak-limiting, I probably would've described peak-limiting the same way you have. Apparently, I hadn't thought about it a lot in relation to compression, technically speaking. The compressor has all these adjustable parameters:

Threshold (level relative to full-scale 0dBfs the compressor begins to affect the audio)

Ratio (of input level to output level of the compressed audio)

Make-up gain (applied after the compressor to compensate for the level lost in the compression process)

Attack (time the compressor takes to begin affecting the audio after it's risen above the threshold)

Release (time the compressor takes to stop compressing the audio after it's fallen below the threshold)

Knee (controls the way the compressor behaves around the threshold by varying how quickly it ramps up to the full selected compression ratio -- a "hard" knee applies the full selected ratio at the selected threshold level, while "softer" knees progressively take effect beginning a selected number of dB's below the selected threshold level, increasing the applied ratio until at some level *above* the threshold it is fully equal to the selected ratio)

There are also controls determining whether the compressor is keyed to peak or RMS input levels, of the left or right or both channels, plus for what the meters measure. Fancier compressors than this one can have multiple frequency bands of compression per channel, each with independently variable parameters.

The peak-limiter in the MasterLink doesn't have all these adjustable parameters (just Threshold and Release, plus an adjustable Output level control, for if you want to preset the maximum output at something less than 0dBfs; make-up gain is applied automatically, equally and in opposition to the selected threshold level), so it's simpler to use. And because it's all-digital, it's able to "look ahead" and begin progressively reducing gain in advance of a peak exceeding the selected threshold (similar to the Knee control, but fixed), for a smoother dynamic compared to traditional analog peak-limiters. But conceptually speaking the two functions involve all the same processing.

According to Alesis, a traditional peak-limiter "is typically thought of as a compressor with a high ratio setting". Due to the look-ahead feature of theirs, they say it functions with essentially an infinity:1 gain-reduction ratio. (I presume the attack time must also be fixed at zero and the compressor keyed to peak level for both channels.) In other words, any signal exceeding the selected threshold level at the input is held to that threshold level at the output -- and that threshold level could be either high, low, or anywhere in between. So peak-limiting is compression with less potentially varied, more narrowly defined behavioral parameters.

Csmithbarc: Sorry man, I'm done! :-)
Csmithbarc, despite all the somewhat off topic discussion, I would have to say that I have not done one comparison of 33.3 and 45 rpm recording where the 45 was not clearly superior. This has caused me to invest hundreds of dollars in duplicates where 45s are available.

If you have friends with vinyl capability, I would visit them and compare 33.3 and 45s there, but beware, if you much prefer 45s, as I do, getting a resolving system and buying many 45s, some of which are out-of-print, is expensive.
Tbg...Returning to the topic...no doubt that your 45 rpm issues sound better than 33 rpm versions. However, except for the inner groove problem that I mentioned, I think that the improvement results from other aspects of the production rather than the speed per se.
Eldartford, that may well be but the question is why he doesn't hear an improvement. Just to once again check last evening I played three instances where I have 45 rpm, 33.3 rpm, and cd versions. No contest once again, and I will continue to buy all the 45s I can find even though their short duration gives me too much exercise.
Tbg...You need a vintage record changer :-)
Yea, my father had a Capehart changer that even flipped the records. I am not sure it did the record surface any good, however.