Living with popping and crackling

Is there a certain amount of popping and crackling to be expected with almost any lp? I have not owned a TT since the mis 80's, but I have been listening to the brother's. I like the sound, and have an old collection of LP's, but it just seems to me that "some" popping and crackling are just the nature of the beast. Am I wrong. I would like to know this before I proceed. By the way, my brother has one of the Rega tables--lower end I think.
doesn't really bother me too much as long as it's not to prominate. One of the trademarks of vinyl I guess.
honestly, i was surprised how little popping/crackling there is. maybe it's the table? most of my listening is crack-free... ;)
My experience has been that the most important thing is the condition of of the vinyl. You can eliminate some/most if the unwanted noise is due to dirt with good cleaning practices. For many tables grounding the bearing can help. Better table, arm and cartridge also help but there will always be some clicking and popping in your collection. Everyone has to decide what their tolerance level is for noise. I do it for every used LP I bring home and clean up. I rarely put up with it on new vinyl, but even new vinyl develops clicks although I clean all new LPs before playing.
Every aspect of vinyl playback affects surface noise. Just think about each tiny link in this long chain as I'm too lazy today to write about each. The right combination of parts along with proper setup and cleaning will provide very satisfactory results and it isn't that expensive if you do your research and spend your available funds wisely. Everyone that experiences my vinyl playback for the first time always asks, "are all your records in such nice shape"? However, a few used records I have that look new are horrible sounding. This is the result of the original owner carving new information into the grooves with a very dirty sytlus. This cannot be overcome.

I've also found that some audiophiles have a very low tolerance for surface noise having become accustomed to a CD's inherent black background. If this is your mind set then vinyl is not for you.

My feeling is that it will take $2500 for a quality used table, arm, cartridge, phono stage and cleaning system to bring the level of performance to a very nice level. Another $1000 would bring you a level of playback that will compete closely with the best if you choose wisely.
find a friendly dealer who deals in turntables and has a record cleaner, then take in one of the lps you are most familiar with, clean it up and listen to it on a good rig - then you'll get a sense of what's optimally possible. it's in the dealer's interest to do this since he then has you hooked!
I have been surprised more than once by the clicking at the end of a very quiet album, forgetting that i was listening to the tt, not the cdp. Most of my older records have some noise, but its still worth it to me. A lot of album reissues on cd dont sound very good so im glad i still have vinyl. The better pressings still sound better than cds.
Ditto what Dan_ed and Lugnut said...

The following cannot be over-emphasized: proper cleaning of vinyl is essential. This goes for used records of course, but in one sense it's even more important for new ones. If you don't clean a record before its first play, you will ruin it with its first play. Read the "Record-Playing Rituals" thread stickied at the top of the Analog forum page - 97 seperate opinions on how to do it best.

Better equipment, as Lugnut mentioned, will also contribute to quieter playback. As my rig has gotten better, so have my records! I listen mostly to classical, where noisy backgrounds are often revealed by a wide dynamic range. Yet I have many hundreds of records with absolutely jet black backgrounds. Visitors expecting the old pops and ticks are usually astonished.

Vinyl quality also varies from label to label. I've never heard a noisy harmonia mundi, nor a truly quiet Mercury. That doesn't keep me from enjoying the Mercuries however. If the music, performance and recording are right (as they often were on Mercury) then my ears quickly tune out most surface noise, user-inflicted damage excepted. Of course I still wish they were as quiet as those harmonia mundi's!
I find simple cleaning, manually, cleans most LPs up well. Buying used vinyl, at $1 to $10 a piece, I clean 'em and play 'em. If there's too much surface noise for my taste, I take 'em back and trade 'em in, getting about 50% of price paid. For me this works out OK, and you'd be amazed at how many clean $1 LPs I've bought since getting back into vinyl about 1.5 years ago. I wouldn't be intimidated by anyone who suggests that you'll need to spend 2 or 3 thousand dollars for satisfactory LP playback. My rig costs far less and has been satisfying me splendidly since I got back into vinyl. Enjoy.
Dougdeacon (you must like "king of Queens") how is a record damaged by not cleaning it first?
Oy! Doug is correct, there, Mr. Todd. By playing a new, uncleaned LP you risk driving pressing release agents and other manufacturing residue into the grooves, not to mention hauling them around the grooves with your stylus.

It is all in the cleaning and the equipment. That said there are some LP's that will make noise regardless, depending on the pressing, the vinyl, and past care (or lack thereof). This goes for both new and old records. I have 50 year old records which are dead quiet and 2004 releases that crackle - at least until I take them back for a refund.
makes sense
Improper cart. loading can highlight surface noise. Check out Bob Hagerman's paper on his web site that addresses this issue. A MM cart. with too much shunt capacitance loading it will have a high freq. resonance. Ultrasonic noise pulses can excite this resonance and be shifted down to audio band where they can be heard. Similar things can happen to a MC cart. with too much resistive loading. Also, in my experience incorrect VTA can also highlight surface noise. One other point; during the oil crisis in the 1970s, many record companies upped the content of recycled vinyl in their product to save money. Recycled vinyl IS noisy and all the cleaning in the world won't cure it.
Oy veh! 4yanx beat me to it.

If you don't believe it Todd, I'll lend you the two Classic Records and one Speakers Corner I dared to play a few times without cleaning them first. These were ripped-open-the-plastic-myself brand spankin' new. The first couple of plays were pretty quiet but the ole snap, crackle and pop got a little worse each time. Maybe 6 plays each at most. I figured no harm, I'll wash them when I get my RCM.

No dice. The mold release chemicals or whatever else the manufacturer left ON that vinyl is now IN that vinyl, ground in by the stylus. Multiple cleanings on my Loricraft stopped the damage from getting any worse, but nothing will undo it. $100 worth of records are toast.

Be warned or be sorry. Better yet, read the thread I referenced above. I may be crazy, but 95 or so other crazies posted various versions of the same idea (4yanx was about the craziest of them all BTW!)
Crazy like a , well, like a crazy person! :-)
come on now. I never said I didn't believe it, I'm an analog newbie myself.
Surface noise is a fact of life for vinyl. In the last decade before consumer digital media became available many kinds of hardware were developed to address the issue: dynamic noise filters (Carver Autocorrellator) pop and click eliminators (actually digital devices), and DBX noise reduction (similar to Dolby processing for tape recorders, and the only really successful approach). Distortion, dynamic range, and most other deficiencies were overcome by the best equipment, but surface noise just became more and more objectionable as other faults were corrected.

Some audiophiles can "listen through" the noise. Some say spending $30,000 or more on phono playback equipment will solve the problem. (After spending such money, who would admit a mistake!) Others simply deny surface noise exists. Unless you are one of these folk, concentrate on a good digital system.
Oy, revisited.
Todd, take no offense. The idea of needing to clean a new LP is just something that is OFTEN overlooked, even by those who are not newbies! Welcome to the club, I didn't realize this until having an experience similar to Doug, either.
It would seem to me that the more expensive/high end equip. would be more sensitive and thus cause more surface noise if the lp is not perfect.
It would also seem to me that noise filters along with pop and click filters would filter out the musical frequencies that correspond to the pops and cracks. But of course I could be wrong in both cases.
I agree, PT, I have never found the need for filters, but would avoid them at all costs, in any case.
clean your record and turn up the work for me.
Papertrail...Some noise filters were much more effective than others, and used some very clever methods to distinguish noise from music. Nothing is perfect(even vinyl), and some really good LPs did not benefit from the noise reduction. However, for the average or inferior LP (which might be good music) I found that a Carver Autocorrellator made them better. In particular, I found that in a matrix quadraphonic system, where the S/N ratio of the rear channels was lousy, the Carver device made a big difference.

But the real answer is digital.
Throw the baby out with the bathwater! This old argument again! Certain stylus profiles and equipment that emphasize pop and crackle (poor tonearms, bright amps, bright speakers) is the problem, and digital is not the answer, nor are filters necessary. Analogue does some things very much better than digital, and sounds more like music while it's at it. I have almost never had a problem with surface noise, except for certain cartridges which were subsequently relegated to the back pile. In fact, for most of the past 15 years I have often gone to the record deck which was playing to make sure I had remembered to lower the tonearm! For the very low evidence of noise which remained in certain cases (certain LPs), once the music starts it disappears, except for severely damaged records which, unfortunately, happens, for LPs as well as CDs. When one goes to a live event, there is crowd noise and we listen trough it. Tube equipment brings its own noise with it. There are artefacts in the recordings. The issue of total silence advocated by the digital crowd (in lieu of focusing on good 'ol music) is simple neurosis and generating and preying on neurosis. While cleaning new records may be necessary, expensive equipment need not be the answer, let's not intimidate those who want to get into the game. A good wet brush such as the D4 Discwasher ($20) will remove most of the crud. In the case of used records bought at bargain prices, cleaning at the sink by hand with distilled water and some soap and alcohol will do the trick, again by hand, at very low cost. This is rarely needed. Later, when one is convinced the whole thing is worthwhile and worthy of a more serious/more effective investment, one can look into more expensive solutions. I myself still hand wash, after listening to record uninterrupted for 35 years, on a variety of high-end and not-so-high-end record playback systems. Which is not to say I won't buy a VPI record cleaner some day!
Johnnantais...Congratulations!! You are one of those who can listen through the noise.
I have a very decent CDP that I enjoy quite a lot. But both of my TT's beat it IMO. My MMF 7 not so much, but my Basis is significantly better and I don't hear much suface noise to speak of. Most times it reminds me of low volume tape hiss which could also be the average tubes I'm using in my phono stage. This is much different than the occasional pop or click.

Anyway, digital is not the answer. It is a compromise, just as vinyl. To rule out either formats is, IMHO, short sighted.
Dan that was much too reasonable. You're not getting in the spirit here.
Your question is "Is there a certain amount of popping and crackling to be expected with almost any lp??". The answer is no, not with any lp but some yes. But with reasonable care and cleaning of records that are in good condition with a good turntable cartridge and arm it should be pretty minimal. I get very very few ticks and pops and I buy a lot of new and used records (some that are 40 years old!). I would not let it deter your decision and youu don't have to go bankrupt either. And vinyl sounds so wonderful.
It would seem that JBaussie summarized most of the cogent points posted above very well.
Damn digital Hippies!

Is that better? :)
Nice try, Eldartford, but I stopped wearing see-through thunderwear long ago..
!!!!!The Joker is fully clothed but is still the Joker!!!!!
As a new re-entrant to the vinyl realm, I have purchased some 500+ LP's over the past 2 years, mostly used Ebay and private collection jazz from the 50's thru 70's and some early 80's reissues (never go beyond 84 unless your sure it wasn't digitally remastered) I would estimated that less than 5% of everything I have purchased used has any noise (other than the original tape hiss which has been edited out of the digital version along with the soundstage, detail, dynamics etc.). I usually discard or replace any record with even a slight scratch unless very rare. You need, of course, to buy from reputable sellers and buy near mint to very good + records but most stuff is this quality even on Ebay because you can't sell crap for much. (But be prepared to pay well for quality)
If you are getting more noise than this, then record vacuming and cartridge quality (as noted by many other posters) is the issue. You can construct a cheap effective record vac yourself (search the archives) so there is no excuse for poor cleaning. Later you can go for an expensive commercial version if needed.
As a final note, I recently had a party at my home where I played my jazz records to a dumbfounded audience that had never heard decent vinyl. Their expectation was, like yours, that pop and crackle is just a necessary byproduct of vinyl. Their comments went way beyond the absence of this to obsessing over the detail and soundstage they had never realized was possible!
Jyprez, kinda reminds of a couple months ago when my smart-ass brother-in-law came from the Midwest and, when I suggested that the four of us mix drinks and after dinner and repose to the music room to spin some old vinyl, he mockingly said upon seeing the turntable, "Ha! You still have one of these dinosaurs, How can you stand all that noise?!" After about an hour of playing FIFTIES VINTAGE Miles Davis LP's, he was left muttering and I'd wager big money that he muttered all the way home! My turn t0 HA! :-)
For me it's more important to KNOW I can wet-clean with Disc Doctor, than the actual cleaning.

Well, except for really grungy stuff.

You also gotta have a few really shiny-clean records in your back pocket for when digitally-minded folk come over, just for the jaw-dropping effect.
Jyprez...Recordings made prior to the digital age usually had a good deal of "processing", most notably Dolby or DBX. Also of interest is the almost universal use of multitrack recording with subsequent mixdown to stereo, which scrambles phasing, and the "blending" of low frequency material (mix to mono) so as to enable tracking by less-than-highend pickups.

Vinyl does have some virtues, but signal to noise ratio is not one of them. My Dixieland jazz LP's (loud and brassy) sound great. Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (quiet) does not.
Have you heard Ashkenazy's LvB sonatas on London? If you can find an undamaged copy of the 'Moonlight' you might be surprised.

P.S. They weren't multitracked either.
Dougdeacon...No. For artistry I like my Rubinstein LP, which I play in preference to digital discs, but I am always upset by the surface noise. Even when new this LP was somewhat noisy because they cut it at a rather low level, probably to preserve dynamic range. I would prefer a little more compression (they always do some) and less surface noise.
I've got 3 copies of that Rubinstein and I agree, none of them is particularly quiet. I gave up after realizing that I don't even like Rubinstein's Beethoven. Not sour grapes, I love his Chopin like everyone. But he just doesn't "get" Beethoven for me. De gustibus non disputandem est, or YMMV if you prefer Internet-ish.
4yanx, Miles Davis is a great way to demonstate the virtues of vinyl. I always found his muted trumpet to sound harsh on even so-call audiophile cd's. I only heard Miles once on SACD when I demoed it at Sound by Singer in NY. I listened to Sketches of Spain which left me out in the cold compared to my vinyl which is spellbinding. As for the supposed noise issue which Eldartford seems fixated on, perhaps he is not be cleaning properly or has something wrong with his setup. I can't see that the small difference in noise level, even on quiet passages would be an issue to anyone given the other improvements in sound. I have very few Jazz LP's that present any type of objectionable noise level but perhaps its different in the classical realm or his definition of "objectionable" is far more critical than mine. On the other hand, I have several digitally remastered LP's that are dead quiet but not nearly as musically enjoyable as their straight analog counterparts to my ear.
Jyprez...I accept your comment that I am "fixated" on LP surface noise, but I reject your suggestion that the noise is "supposed". This is why I cited (in the earlier post) the many kinds of hardware that the audio community desparately developed to address the problem, before digital came along. Also it is true, as you say, that most Jazz and Pop music is recorded at a constant loud level, which hides the surface noise.

By the way, I hope you realize that ALL of your LPs have very intensive noise reduction in the form of RIAA equalization. Also, all but a few "audiophile" recordings were mastered using Dolby or DBX dynamic noise reduction, compression, and peak limiting.

Perhaps LPs are like don't want to watch it being made.
While I may be coming to this discussion a little late, it matters very little to me if some of my vinyl records have noise. If I wanted dead silence, I would listen exclusively to CDs. After 20 years of CD enjoyment, there is no substitution for a good vinyl album; a CD cannot compare in areas of naturalness, warmth, and life-likeness. Many CDs have an electromechanical overlay to some degree. Fine vinyl has soul and body; it's alive. Whereas many CDs lack bloom and air.

To reduce the noise on vinyl, it's been my experience to use one of those recording cleaning machines from Nitty Gritty, Disc Doctor, or VPI. Brushes don't seem to do as well. The surface of each record needs to be cleaned and then vacuumed to remove all the dust particles that will either contribute to noise or to premature record wear. But I think I may be stating the obvious.

Any work of art, any fine wine, or any great musical performance is often imperfect, but this lack of abstract perfection has never kept me from enjoying these experiences. The same is true of vinyl. Certainly vinyl is not as pristine sounding as digital, but neither is it as sterile or clinical either.

Thus, when given the opportunity to listen to a good vinyl album or its CD counterpart, I will always choose vinyl with everything else being equal.
Hi Papertrail
"Is there a certain amount of popping and crackling to be expected with almost any lp?" Well yes and no.
As 4yanx & Dougdeacon mentioned, it really depends on the vinyl and the label. Doug mentions Harmonia Mundi. There are also the Classic Records releases on Quitex vinyl and some of the other reissues of Jennifer Warnes' "Famous Blue Raincoat", Weavers at Canegie Hall, most singles, Janis Ian's "Breaking Silence", Sarah McLachlan(Classic Records) which are also very quiet.

As someone else mentioned, everything in the playback chain affects the noise level - cart, arm, table, phono and most importantly, the setup. One of the key areas which can emphasize the noise is if the VTA is higher at the pivot point. Lowering VTA can help, but too much and the highs are gone.

Record cleaning certainly goes a long way to removing most of the pops and ticks, but if the vinyl is damaged, nothing can be done. In this respect, Buggtussel is very good and recommended.

"It would seem to me that the more expensive/high end equip. would be more sensitive and thus cause more surface noise if the lp is not perfect."
There was an argument that expensive/high end MC carts can dig deeper into the grooves least damaged by MM carts due to their stylus profiles, etc... How true this is, I don't know, but certainly I find that after a good run through my RCM, the noise level is significantly lower with my MC. Certainly some carts seem to be better trackers than others. Some are more quiet or less affected by surface noise. Perhaps Doug/4yanx can list carts which they have found to be better in this respect.

At the end of the day, there is a certain amount of raw energy in LPs which cannot be matched by CD/HDCD/DVDA/SACD. Though the latter is bridging the gap, I still enjoy LPs tremendously. Its learning to cope with vinyl and maintaining it which allows me to enjoy the music even more.
What noise? Oh that noise. I didn't notice. I was into the music.

Listening to LPs (music) = bliss
Listening to your system and evaluating how good it sounds = pops and cracks
Hi Cmk,
I dearly (very dearly) wish that Classic Records vinyl was as quiet as most 20+ year old harmonia mundis, Telfunkens, Archiv Productions, Eratos...

But it isn't IME. I have hundreds of CR reissues and very few can match any of those labels for vinyl quality, and the newest ones are the noisiest. They should have named it Noise-X IMO.

Sorry for bein' a grouch. I should take Robm321's advice!
Hey Doug
Well, I really, really wish I had access to all your harmonia mundis, teles, archivs, etc... so you should consider yourself one of those fortunate souls who have such treasures. The rest of us beggers don't really have much options. :(

but yeah, the quality seems to be falling of late, perhaps they are just rushing to cash in on this vinyl revival(?). Or maybe its the quality of the vinyl, not virgin anymore?
I quite agree, the quality of virginity has never been lower.

It's pretty frustrating to unwrap a new $25-30 record, knowing there's a 30-50% chance I'll be returning it for replacement. That's my experience in the last six months with both Classic Records and Speakers Corner. I had to replace one disc out of three from both the Starker/Bach Cello Suites and the 20th C. box from SC. PIA, extra postage costs for both the retailer and me, wasted time, etc.

I wasn't trying to make anybody jealous, those nice old labels show up on ebay literally every day. Most of them sell for way less than a new audiophile LP, I routinely snag great records for <$10. If you're on a budget you'll get more music for your money if you're careful. I just had to replace my car so my e-baying binge will have to slow down, for about 60 months! :-( Have at it!