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Well, I may have misunderstood your question. If your asking if a good 78 playback system will sound better than
CDs made of the same material that may be the case. However, there are many variables which make it impossible
to provide a definitive answer. If your asking if quality
78 playback will surpass current digital, in my opinion, no.
I am referring to the same material, the music from the 30's primarily, but 40's and early 50's as well. Love the music, hate the sound quality. I just want to get close to the best that can be obtained on this material, understanding that I will never get audiophile sound.
As a side note, I think modern digital can be very good. However, although I am very happy with my Wavelength Brick, the VPI often beats it, assuming I have a good LP.
On some of this old material, I think the CDs are recorded from 78s, based on the noise that I hear in some of the recordings. So, just going directly to the 78 would be get me closer to the source. But I guess going with 78s would only worthwhile if it can make a substantive improvement over digital.
An advantage of CDs sourced from 78s you can be pretty confident they used a pristine copy. That alone is an advantage. Judicious noise reduction can also be beneficial if they don't throw out the music with the noise. There are simply too many variables for 78 playback
(different speeds, eq, etc.) to make it worthwhile for me.
Mark...I have been collecting old blues 78's for the past 5-6 years and have found copies which do indeed sound fantastic. As good as digital? No. However, the vast majority are just not all that great sorry to say. A big problem I see is price. I have many 78's that have cost several thousand dollars each in order to get an excellent copy. Most other types of music are not very collectible and are much cheaper to purchase in mint condition.
Well, as good in what way? as low a noise floor? no, but you won't get that with an LP either. I have heard plenty of 78's that sounded better than cd's and many sound bad just like many lp's and cd's sound bad. A key thing is that there is very little moneuy being put into 78 reproduction right now. Also, depending on the era, the systems now are not really geared for that sound. They made some pretty hi fi 78's though.
Your comments are very helpful. Acusounds comment makes this venture sound intriguing. I appreciate Mags5000's comment about the expense of getting clean copies. I would probably just take an opportunistic approach, picking up 78s I can acquire affordably, passing on the rest. Rather than asking if digital is better, I should have asked if one can, on many occassions, get better than digital sound out of a 78 for a given recording. I'm not sure I follow Mothra's comment about systems geared for the sound, but I think Graham Slee has some intriguing products that at least address equalization issues. Thanks! Mark
in terms of the sound issues, what I mean is that systems are geared and tested with whatever the current software is. Speaker designers are going to be listening to LP's or cd's not 45's or 78's. Jukeboxes sound great for 45's because they were tested listening to 45's.
Back when 78's ruled, things were changing a lot. One thing you can be sure of though is that 78's were not recorded or tested on what your conventional modern system is. This doesn't mean they won't sound great, it's just a fact of life.
In the 50's and 60's a lot of record were mixed on altec 604's. If you listen to those records on those speakers, it may make more sense then on magnaaplanars.
Obviously the intention is for everything to sound good everywhere, but this is more often wished than it is realized.
I agree with the clean copy comment - the professionals obviously had the resources to find very good copies of what they were transferring, not to mention knowing what if any playback curves or eq was needed for each recording. I can imagine the people that transfer 78's are passionate about it.
I would bet if you focused on good digital with tubes in the system, you'd achieve some nice sound.
Incidentally, Soundsmith's new strain gage cart has a 78 stylus option. You need thier filter in the system, but it;s so cool to see them slip one stylus in and swap for another in a few seconds.
I agree with and would like to expand on Mothra's post. I have gear from many eras. My theory is that music typically sounds "best" -- that is, most enjoyable, to me -- when played on the equipment it was expected to be played on when the recordings were created.
With exceptions I tend to enjoy my 1950s 45s best when played on an upgraded RCA 45 changer, my accoustic-era 78s best on a Victrola, 1940s and 1950s 78s on my mono Fisher consol. Phil Spector sounds good on a cheap car radio.
Of course, there are other factors that have to be considered like convenience and preservation of rare or valuable records.
The quality of LPs and CDs of 78s transfers varies a lot. If I have a reasonably good copy, I'd generally rather listen directly to accoustic 78s of violinists than the Pearl LPs. There are some smaller lables reissuing 78s today with offensive excessive digital processing. On the other hand, I have a few CDs that got results far better than those I can get for the amount of money and space I'm willing to invest in my own system, transfers that preserve all the life of the original.
But most of all, they compile recordings that I'd never have the commitment to collect in the original format, and in the case of some rare pre-war blues and country, could not justify paying for even if I could find them.
I have a couple hundred 78s that I care about (down from considerably more at one point). If I didn't, I would't start getting into 78s from scratch (so to speak).
When making a copy from an old 78 for purposes of reissue on a different media there are some highly effective noise reduction and equalization that become available when the processing does not need to be done in real time while the record is playing. One simple example is "click and pop" elimination. Real music transients have steep leading edges and slow decay. Clicks and pops are steep at both ends. Therefore, if you play the record (or a digitized file) backwards any transient encountered is noise and can be eliminated.