LP's... Do they sound better now than 30 yrs ago?


Thinking about getting back into LP's. Do they sound better than they did 30 yrs ago? I remember , no matter how well you cleaned them and how well you treated them they always( after 1 or 2 plays) sounded like crap! Pops and clicks. Scratched easy. Are they better made? Thicker? I don't want clicking and popping over my system!                Thanks for your input!



rsa
If that is your memory of how LPs sounded back then I would not revisit the format again, I on the other hand am willing to put up with some of the short comings of LPs for what I perceive as their advantages. Short answer to your question, yeah things are about the same.
Good recorded vintage LPs sounds amazing, it depends on the pressing quality and your equipment. Thickness of records means nothing to me, some of the 180g reissues remastered NOT from the original tapes, but from digital source, often overcompressed, and not suppass the good old original pressing. There are exceptions of course. In other words there is nothing wrong with the old records and nothing to surpass, really. Those fancy audiophile pressings are very expensive for modern LPs, you can not buy everything on virgin vinyl pressed in Japan. You’d better think about the cartridge/turntable and the whole system instead. 
Chakster is bang on
Chakster is bang on
It’s still going to be a lot of effort but since you were last around record cleaning has come a long way. Ultrasonic in particular is a major step forward so if you do get back in I’d make that part of your LP regime
I also agree with Chakster. Another issue is the limited production volume for current vinyl releases. Compared to the huge numbers produced for a given release back before CD, and now with way fewer record pressing plants, these limited runs and tight production schedules don’t allow for the same level of QC sampling and production process optimization. Granted there was junk produced even "back in the day".

The noise you are referring to is due to voids hidden under a thin layer of vinyl. In haste to crank things out or due to sloppy QC, not enough time is allowed for "degassing" of the blank while the vinyl is still semi-liquid. Play the record a few times, the vinyl is worn away and the pit below revealed with attendant snap, crackle, pop. Sampling and good QC would allow process step timing to be optimized to ensure a nice uniform slab of vinyl with little or no void spaces.

I am mostly as skeptical about audiophile vinyl releases as some others are about the value of so-called "hi rez downloads". Just another money grab. Of course there are always exceptions. The quality of the source material is one of the keys as has already been noted. Some labels seem to be more dependable than others for putting out a quality product.

I mainly listen to digital sources but have been carrying around boxes of records for 30-40 years. I still enjoy buying the occasional piece of old vinyl...and I don’t mean first releases exclusively. It’s a pleasure to put on an LP that is 30, 40 even 50 years old and enjoy great sonics and a quiet surface. It is possible. Case in point a recent antique store purchase of Al Stewart's "Year of the Cat" for like $5 bucks (some will no doubt say I overpaid!).  They did know what they were doing back when vinyl was king.
First of all, if you bother to educate yourself on routine care of an LP, and if you acquire decent equipment with which to play them, your experience with ticks and pops would never be repeated.  What you experienced was the result of abuse. Either your cartridge was badly worn or your set-up was way off such that the stylus was damaging your LPs as you played them.  I hasten to add that this does not make you a bad person.  If you spend some time learning about this discipline, you will learn what to do and what not to do to avoid repeating your old experience.  First rule of thumb is that second hand LPs, unless you know and trust the source, probably will benefit from a good cleaning BEFORE the needle hits the groove.  Playing a dirty LP can per se damage it.

Nearly half of my 2500 LPs were purchased used and most of the rest I have owned for 30-40 years.  I don't tolerate ticks and pops unless they occur only rarely. Most of my LPs offer background noise as low as the medium permits, and that is actually quite low, certainly low enough to be no issue as far as my listening pleasure.  Anything that's noisy enough to bug me goes into the trash.  I can count on two hands the number of LPs that I have had to discard for that reason in the last 10 years.  (That's less than 10 out of many hundreds that I have listened to.)
There’s a ton more RFI/EMI now than there was 30 years ago. So, all things being equal, LPs definitely sound a lot worse now. Final answer.
Modern LPs including 180 gram heavy pressings sound a lot worse than vintage. Of course, there are a few exceptions and the quality of source material is essential, as ghosthouse pointed out. I have learnt my lesson and have stopped buying reissues and seek for original pressings only, unless they are hyper expensive rarities I really can´t afford.
Just recently, after a very long time I revisited "What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits", 1974 orig US edition by The Doobie Brother and the sound is quite unbelieveable, I never new it was that good - what a clean and yet so dynamic recording ! A very nice surprise, after about fifteen years :)

I´ve never cared for "backround noise" as it depends on certains variables on production, the actual signal (above backround noise) is all that matters really. I don´t care for little surface noise (pops) and I`ve never cared for tape noise either, actually I record LPs to c cassettes without noise reduction (Dolby) and listen to them in my car, and in home.
they sound like typical reissues or worse. often lacking original dynamic headroom (yea compression) and also priced unreasonably large. used originals are cheaper an sounding substantially better. 
classic records reissue of black sabbath is one of the typical examples of how pathetic these are.
@harold-not-the-barrel - Funny you should mention that Doobie Brothers record - "What Were Once Vices are Now Habits". I just listened to my original 1974 US release - W 2750 last Saturday night with one of my music loving friends and it sounds amazing! My buddy was shocked at how awesome it sounded on my modest/moderate system. Really good music and excellent sound.
reubent, you have got a great taste. Yes, I know it has always sounded awesome (all those decades) but today w/ HQ system it sounds terrific :)

@rsa - "Do they sound better than they did 30 yrs ago?"

Maybe, maybe not. Part of it depends on what and how you were listening 30 years ago. I can tell you that I have records that are 30-40 years old, or more, that still sound fantastic. I treated them pretty well back in the day. Admittedly, I accidentally scratched a few of them and there is an audible click on every rotation where they are scratched. However, I don't let it bother me. But most of my records from the '70s and 80's sound pretty good. Some of my new wave/electronic records from the 80's sound pretty bad, but its the recording, not the media. Those same recordings on CD sound just as bad, or worse.

It also depends on what you were using for playback 30 years ago. I bought a great turntable as soon as I got out of college and could afford it. At the time I had a CJ Walker 55 with a Lustre 801 tonearm and a nice Grado cartridge. The Walker was a little finicky regarding it's suspension and I replaced it with a Linn Axis and lived happily for many years.  Those records that were played 10's - 100's of times on those 2 turntables still sound very good. Yes, some of them have various degrees of noise, but I tend to listen to the "music", not the "sounds".

If you are a music lover and you can get past a bit of noise, go for it. However, if you can't tolerate any noise, I suggest you don't bother. That said, I feel that if you are a music lover, especially of music from before about the mid 80's, you are missing out if you can't play vinyl.

Regarding modern records vs original/vintage, I tend to prefer originals if they are in good condition. Modern releases are mostly heavy weight vinyl and are clean, quiet and flat. However, they are expensive and don't necessarily sound any better for the extra cost. Plus, its just cooler having an original. For new music, I'll buys special stuff on vinyl, but most I just get via digital download or the rare CD. 
Thick records change the VTA, and I am not going to adjust it each time I want to play them. Besides, they are heavier and change the balance of the playback system. And that's in addition to what others said. I am not interested in them. Ultrasonic is a luxury, if you have top system, good normal machine does excellent job if you take your time and make an effort.
My double LP of Rastus sounds amazing and better than anything else because this Tower of Power style band was never re-issued apart from the original few LPs.
Chakster...I have lots of older RCA's, Mercury's etc. that sound wonderful....I also have some digitally recorded LP's that also sound wonderful.  New records (popular especially) are highly processed and not lifelike...  While I'm writing I'll recommend the original Vangelus recording of Blade Runner.  (I know it can't be lifelike - its 1 guy playing a computer)
Everybody bringing up his own anecdotal singular experience to prove a point one way or the other. Like Bogie said to Bergman in Casablanca, it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.
LPs still sound as good as they did 30 years ago.  The MAJOR difference is that the new equipment we are using to reproduce LPs provides us with sound quality that far surpasses any other souses developed since the introduction of LPs.  It's not about reproducing the tunes, it's about reproducing the subtleties and hidden nuances that are hidden in the grooves.
Far better now.

First, ultrasonic cleaning systems are readily available. If you haven't heard an ultrasonically cleaned record on a good system, you have no idea of the potential in terms of silent backgrounds and micro-detail. See the Rushton thread.

Second, playback systems today are far superior to what was available 30 years ago. There have been several revolutions since then: air bearings, tangential tracking, amorphous core step-up transformer technology, exotic stylus shapes and materials. Also, there is a widespread understanding of the benefits of precision set-up. Who ever heard of a torque wrench for cartridge mounting screws back in the day?

Bill Gates' system of 30 years ago can't compare with my modern one. Period.
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As far as stylus shapes cantilever material that technology was around 30 years ago . My Technics SH305S SUT has a amorphous core . The best vinyl play back gear was already made in the late 80s  . The biggest improvement is in Phono stages  
Engined, I don't think so. Line contact is now commonplace. One piece integrated diamond cantilever is available. The best amorphous core step-up transformers from Lundahl are of superior quality. I tried Koetsu transformers from 30 years ago, and they aren't even close.

Grant you that phono stages are much improved, especially solid state, now that more people can design with complementary devices.

Hi Terry read about the Sony XL88D  .The Japanese spent the money to develop these products years ago with large budgets .Do your research and you will see what I am talking about .
I find very few current pressed records that can match 60's and 70's pressings which  most of my collection is comprised of....a good cleaning ritual and a sizable investment in playback has kept digital out of my blood.
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I can certainly understand someone might enjoy the loudness of overly compressed LPs or the solid state electronics the industry wisely went to in the 70s and ditched all that finicky tube electronics stuff and tube tape machines. 😛
Engined, thank you. I had no idea that anyone had produced a one piece diamond cantilever/stylus before. If Koetsu has not evolved with stylus shape or platinum magnets, then a similar cartridge was available 30 years ago.

Listen to a modern reissue by Analog Productions / Quality Records or MoFi and they will take your head off they sound so amazing.  
However it does take a fairly decent vinyl setup (cart/tuentable/phono preamp) properly set up to get there.  noise is rarely a pervasive issue.  despite having a really nice digital setup with lots of uncompressed FLAC and DSD files I prefer listening to records ~ 90% of the time.  this is after getting back into vinyl about 2-1/2 years ago having not played an LP for 25 years.  
Despite all of the minor issues vinyl sounds more natural in timbre and is more life like.  
Case by case, record by record. I buy old pressings 10/1 over new ones. I have nothing against reissues or remasters as such; some do actually improve on the early or original pressing (whatever you want to call "original" also varies); some are obviously inferior sonically to early pressings. First pressings aren’t always the best sounding ones either.
I typically buy a reissue when the original is so costly that I’d likely not buy the record at all, given the price.
As to the gear, yes, agreed, we live in an age with more turntables, arms and cartridges than ever. But, some of that vintage gear is pretty killer too- the EMT tables, the refurbished SP-10, Micro-S, etc. I don’t think there is a single answer to any of this. In my case, records I have owned for 30 or more years sound better now than before because my analog front end has improved over time and, with respect to old records, as @lewm and @terry9 noted, knowledge about record cleaning is better and my methods and equipment have improved. (The Monks, which is essentially the same now as it was in the late ’60s does a very good job, as do ultrasonics, with some limitations in my experience, a subject for another thread perhaps).
To come back to the records, there are some terribly recorded, mastered and/or manufactured records from the ’60s and ’70s, just as there are such records today. You’ve got to dig in, trade listening notes with people you trust rather than rely solely on reviews and go through the experience of comparing pressings of records you like. My biggest complaint about audiophile pressings is that for obvious business reasons, the same stuff gets reissued again and again. The obscure, harder to find stuff is often not reissued, or is reissued "unofficially" (read: counterfeit or bootleg) and when it is legitimately re-issued in many cases, it is not by an audiophile label, source material is likely a digital file (not that this is always bad, but...). Occasionally, a good reissue label will do a bang up job on something that is not a warhorse but I think those are exceptions.
To me, this is half the fun of having records- the research, the comparisons, the history behind the recording. The real grief in old records, apart from sorting through the thicket, is condition. That is also a subject for another thread (about which there are already many).

I agree with lewm.  I have some from the late 50's and early 60's that sound incredible.  Nearly half of my LP collection was bought used and they sound wonderful. 

Find a friend with a good system.  Bring your favorite CD and it's LP counterpart.  That should be all it takes to convince you.  I usually prefer older pressings to newer ones, but I must say today's pressings are really getting good. 

Playing a clean LP (I wet clean using the formula from the December 1996  Stereophile at every play) and my Records are clean, quite and dynamic.  Using a quality record cleaning machine is a wonderful idea if you find cleaning your records a bother.

If anyone  wants a PDF of the record formula email and I will send it to you.  n@normansizemore.com

N.

I was planning on buying a very basic Player with a Cartridge already included for around $200.00 from Music Direct. Should I get it and try out LPs ( which I have none) or save my money and buy a better player and cartridge? Thanks for your Input!
I think the minimum spend is
$500 for TT buy a good used one there are many.
$100 min for new cartridge.
$600

A lot of people go digital because the required investment is less ie at $600 you might find digital = same quality as Vinyl. I am not sure where the crossover point is. Digital will be be easily better than a $200 turntable

that's my opinion.. i have both
mick
Buying used turntable is a gamble and turntables don't like shiipping, as if anything did, right.
I think, $600 $800 buy something acceptable to begin with, new, not including phono stage and cleaning devices. Dirty vinyl ruines the experience.
Agreed, dirty vinyl does ruin the experience. That and when the previous owner played the records with a nail.

Get a good cartridge, always listen to used vinyl before you buy it, and get a good TT.

There are plenty of good options in the 500-700 range.
I would rather see you buy a $500 TT and a $300 cartridge than a $700 TT with a $100 cartridge.

MusicDirect has a few great OpenBox options, some even with cartridges.

  • Rega P2 $675 (No Cart)
  • MusicHall 2.3 $500 (No Cart)
  • VPI Cliffwood $900 (w/ Grado Green)

What does the rest of your system look like in terms of equipment? Will you need a phono pre-amp?
LP's... Do they sound better now than 30 yrs ago?

No



My experience is many of my older recordings (30 yrs, or older) sound very good and most are very quiet noise wise. Condition of those older pressings is critical though. I have bought newer audiophile records and have had somewhat of a mixed bag of results. The one thing they all had in common was a high price tag. To the OP.  I have said this before. If you buy a  $300 turntable, tonearm, cartridge combo, and a $125 phono stage, and expect analog bliss, you are going to be sorely disappointed. If you're serious about analog playback, put as much money into it as you can afford and make sure to do your research! It takes a lot of effort to put together a quality combination on a strict budget.
Cheers,
Tim 
There are so many variables with vinyl production it's almost impossible to say old is better than new or one is better than the other.  When vinyl was still current I recall returning albums that were simply bad pressings.  Bad pressings can happen anywhere at any time.  I returned a warped brand new Parlorphone album recently.

That said if you have an original pressing of a classic album that was made from a fresh stamper you'll have a good album.  If you got one at the tail end of the stamper's life don't expect it to be as good.  Same goes for the new pressings.  All one needs to do is to take a tour of any new pressing plant or watch a video of same and you'll see nothing has changed.  The question of one being better than the other is perhaps a matter of different. From what I've been able to sample the new pressings sound fine.  Certainly a new pressing of just about anything is going to sound better than a pressing that's been played 10,000 times regardless of what it was played on.
Buying vinyl today is a crapshoot in terms of quality, especially if the records are pressed in the US.  You may have better luck purchasing from the UK.  I never have issues with vinyl from the UK. 
They made two fatal mistakes. The first was going to solid state for mastering. The second was thinking that aggressive dynamic range compression was a good idea. For those reasons I'm out.
30 - 40 years I had a B&O table.  Enjoyed every minute of it.  Also old records still great on my much improved vinyl setup of today.
Truth is...It’ll never be as good as it was. Your equipment might be better but your ears are 30-40 years older. Sorry : (
Well, it's not too bad. More reason to get the best equipment possible. May be unable to fully compensate but hopefully enough.
Having bought a couple of thousand lp's over the last 5 years, vintage, new, a few audiophile releases too. For a general new vinyl re-release, non-audiophile 1 in 3 has a problem, usually warped, pre-scratched at the factory, surface inclusions etc, like a previous poster mentioned, some of the US plants are problematic, no QC.
(Best to buy these through Amazon, for ease of return/replacement).
 
I even try to buy the occasional expensive Audiophile release through Amazon if I can, for the same reason, the Doors 45rpm Analogue Productions series spring to mind, as i live far from the US, (returning a damaged Lp to Acoustic Sounds was not cheap).

For vintage vinyl, Discogs is a better bet than ebay  for general condition, but for me Germany is the country to buy from, cheap overseas postage and usually premium condition. On the other hand you get buyer protection on ebay which is good.
My experience,
All things been equal ie. good condition and played on the same good system for comparison with best set up.
1. many 60's 70;s  1st - 2nd pressings - excellent
2. a few 70's repressings of 60's vinyl - excellent and surpass no1
3. some modern first pressings - good
4. mostly modern repressings - terrible
5. some 60's amd 70's 1xt-2nd pressings and repressings - terrible

If you would like to have a comparison then we might be able to have aget together with a few Lp's we have in common. I'm in Melbourne Australia

Harold re: Doobies’ LP. Could not agree with you more. Another great sounding one in their canon is Toulouse Street...particularly the title cut.  Spectacular sound on my first pressing.  Those olive green label WB LPs are hard to beat.  
No doubt about the original US pressings, Wices is my only US though.
I´ve Nautilus Half Speed of "The Captain and Me", another fantastic album, and it´s great as well, all others are German editions and they also are great. Cheers
Most of my records are original US pressing and i have never had any problems if the condition if fine. What i can say for sure is that the Japanese pressing from the 70s is superb. Pallas pressing plant in Germany is fine for new releases, but United pressing plant in US is also fine. I bought that Doors LPs from Analogue Production and they are fine, but that’s the only one rock band i used to listen in high school, bought it for curiosity to check what is an audiophile pressing @devilscucumber Some of my farovite records from the 70s are much better engineered, especially those library LPs recorded to use in cinema and on tv (mostly mid 70s jazz-funk stuff) and pressen on normal vinyl in USA and in UK, so i do not support that hype about audiophile reissues for the prices they are asking for.
Great thread.

I have a collection of almost 10,000 records and, honestly, there is no unifying truth to old vs. new. Old Blue Note vinyl played with a mono cartridge sound incredible. Much maligned RCA flexibly-discs often sound incredible, too. Lots and lots of inferior labels/pressings are out there. For me, the biggest issue has been groove damage. Most average record players from the 50s-80s pulled on the grooves as it moved closer to the center, permanently damaging the record and giving the dreaded ‘frying bacon’ sound. But, for the most part, i’ve had great luck with old records. 

All that said, the Music Matters 45rpm reissues of the Blue Note catalog and the Analogue Productions 45rpm pressing of Ben Webster’s Soulville are quite possibly the finest sounding records I have ever heard in my life.

And your gear does matter. I have a Sota vacuum turntable with an Ortofon 2m Black cartridge going into Mac tube gear and out Harbeth speakers and it really brings out the best of my vinyl. Before that, I had a lower-quality cartridge and the difference between the two is like being in the front row of the show vs in the hallway. Gear matters.
Prior to the early 70s, most vinyl was quite good. When the petroleum prices skyrocketed, the record industry was forced to scale back on the weight of vinyl used to produce a LP. This led to thin, easily damaged and warped LPs from that time throughout the 80s. So a well produced LP today was probably better than many 30 years ago... not so much if you go back 40 years.