New vinyl's noisy little secret

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the current crop of vinyl formulations just have higher noise levels than LPs made years ago. A case in point--I stumbled upon an old, original copy of Henry Mancini's 1962 soundtrack to the movie "Hatari" in my collection a few days ago (I had never even played it), and was astonished at its deathly quiet playback. Simply no surface noise. What gives? OK, you may make fun of this black-label RCA pressing (LSP-2559) for its content musically (though it's actually pretty fun), but it sure reminded me what we are missing with new releases--super high quality vinyl with very low surface noise. Even the occasional mechanical clicks from scratches seemed subdued. Most of my (expensive!) new vinyl comes replete with very onerous surface noise. Is it just impossible to make this old-generation type of vinyl currently?
"Is it just impossible to make this old-generation type of vinyl currently?"

You would think for the prices charged it would be possible.

Then again, when records were plentiful 30-40 years ago, new records cost more or less what most CDs cost today. Factor in inflation, and maybe it just is not cost effective at all to make 'em like they used to anymore, especially for a niche, low volume market.

BTW, the only records I buy these days are either used titles that I can pick up for a pittance (less than cost of CD) or older higher quality records that may cost more but are not similarly available on well mastered and produced CDs these days.

For apples/apples choices between vinyl and CD, I will generally chose CD. You may call for the straight-jacket for me, but I think good CDs sound just fine and often better than vinyl equivalents.

BTW, I agree that some of the best sounding records are old MOR/pop/orchestral vinyl recordings from those days. Henry Mancini is a good example, but I can think of many others as well, soundtracks, etc.

Of course we were all too cool to listen to that stuff then, but armed with our ultra performing modern rigs now, those old geezer recordings are often something else!
the days of using virgin vinyl are long gone, as are the days of hundreds of pressing plants competing to top each other, and 'cost effective' pressing runs. even the cardboard cover runs today are incredibly expensive. add the above to numerous costs including 180 or 200gm vinyl(bs),the cost of shipping, and yes, the good old days are gone. the above mentioned 'mancini' record probably had an initial run of over 100k units alone back in the day. the days of hundreds of thousands of turntables being made that are dependable and affordable?...yeah, they're gone too.
07-08-09: Jaybo
...The days of hundreds of thousands of turntables being made that are dependable and affordable?...yeah, they're gone too.
Well, except for the Technics SL12x0 series--over 3 million manufactured and available for $400, which is equivalent to $107 in 1976 when they came out for around $350.

No matter how you feel about the Technics DD turntables, they are indisputably "dependable and affordable".

And speaking of the soundtrack to Hatari, I would imagine that's a fun record. I've found many RCAs from the early '60s black label era to be a real hoot. I usually heard the music from those albums on my plastic-bodied Zenith AM clock radio, so when I play these records now on my relatively hi-rez system, revelations abound.

I just played "Baby Elephant Walk" (written for Hatari and also won a Grammy), and I was really surprised to find that the instrument that drives that song is a real, honest-to-God calliope. You can hear the air pressure and rush whenever it's playing.

Similarly, I have some Al Hirt records (RCA black label), and I was surprised to find that his hit songs like "Java", "Sugar Lips", and "Cotton Candy" all make extensive use of vocal harmonies in the crescendos.
"I usually heard the music from those albums on my plastic-bodied Zenith AM clock radio, so when I play these records now on my relatively hi-rez system, revelations abound."

Yes, I agree.

I suspect a lot of us heard some really good recordings back then on some really crappy playback gear, the most common of which was the basic am radio.

Some of the best audio treats I've encountered over recent years have come from listening to old stuff that I had written off years ago once again on my current good rig.

BTW, this can happen with well remastered CDs as well. Try any CD from the remastered Time/Life Fabulous Fifties CD Collection and you will be treated to many pleasant and one of a kind audio surprises, albeit mostly in mono.
Was your Hatari album sealed? If not, it was prabably played by somebody. I find that with albums pressed today, in lower volume production, a lot more mold release is applied to insure better quality pressings. HOWEVER, that means it's more important to make sure you remove it before playing the record.

Back in the day, playing the record would eventually get the stuff off (at least where the stylus contacted the groove) because the pressure on the groove with spherical or elliptical styli was much higher than with today's line contact styli.

So if you have a high quality vinyl rig (which you do) and a great (and extraordinarily quiet) cartridge like a Temper W, you're not going to like the sound of today's pressings right out of the box. You have to 'clean' them first.
Clean before playing.

The time it takes me to clean one album is approx the length of one side on the album.

That leaves me not complaining about today's pressings, just some grumbles about the time to clean.
Agree with Nsgarch and Bosrt.

There's no RCM listed in your system. There should be, and all LP's - new or used - will benefit from using it.

I don't enjoy cleaning LP's any more than Bosrt, especially new ones, but the sonic benefits (at least in my system) are indisputable.

Bosrt, You have evidently adopted a very onerous way to clean your LPs. With my VPI HW17, it never takes more than a total of 5-6 minutes to clean both sides, using my conventional cleaner (dilute non-ionic detergent in a water/alcohol mix). If I am using the Walker Audio enzyme-based cleaning method, it takes only a little bit longer (for the extra steps). I cannot imagine spending 20-25 minutes to clean one LP.

Kipdent, it's funny (to me) that you should mention this. Last night I played a Columbia LP I bought used for a few bucks some years ago, Dexter Gordon Quartet/Manhattan Symphonie. I was pleasantly surprised at the quiet and the quality of this pressing, altho there were a few crackles at the beginning of the first cut ("As Time Goes By"). George Cables piano playing on this LP is superb, not to mention the work of DG. Then I remembered having seen the re-issue for sale just recently, for $34, while I was placing an order with MusicDirect. And I was wondering whether that (new) pressing could possibly sound any better. (Mine is a "promotion"/"not for sale" copy; those usually do sound better than run of the mill pressings.)

Forty years ago, LPs cost $3 to $6. I used to save my money to buy just one at a time back then. I suppose if you correct for inflation that the cost was even higher than that of a CD today.
I read something, somewhere that discussed the new vs old pressing plants. In the old days they wer running full stream every day. The presses were making thousands of records a day.

These days the plants are making only hundreds of records in small, custom batches. As a result the presses are barely warmed up before they are finished with the run. As a result the vinyl isn't flowing as smoothly and imperfections are more prominent.

Now I have no freakin idea if this theory holds and water at all, but it seemed plausable to me when I read it.

Other issues aside, if you want to reap the sonic benefits of vinyl, you had best always be prepared to clean as needed first before panicking when something doesn't sound right.

Having said that, when I used to buy new records, my expectation was that they at least started clean, but I know even then that that was not always necessarily the case.
I purchase approx. one new album /month and frankly am astonished at the condition these sealed records arrive. Everything from fingerprints, smears,smudges and always a good coating of loose cardboard dust. I would never subject my cart to this gunk so I always steam clean before using.
I wonder what the process of loading an album into its packaging is, anyone know? The last album i got was Dave Mathews latest and it was horrible when I opened it. Fortunately after a cleaning it played perfect and was nice and flat, otherwise back it goes. They look as though they were packaged by monkeys that just finished wrestling in mud.
Yes, good quality vinyl, for the purpose of making records, is no longer available. I read an interesting article about a new pressing facility in New York City. The proprietors admit that even the best vinyl they can buy falls short of the quality that could easily be had years ago. They compensate, as well as they can, by taking the new stock and "regrinding" it themselves (not talking about using old records that have been ground up to make new records, but carefully grinding virgin vinyl to achieve the right consistency).
I don't know. The releases I'm getting from Music Matters play very nicely. I do, however, clean new vinyl always. Premiere, steam, AIVS.
Dan ed,

A number of companies do put out decent quality records -- Music Matters, Speaker's Corner, etc., but, I still wonder if these records are as good as those from 30-50 years ago. Some of my recent purchases seem a bit delicate, compared to some older "bullet-proof" records. They seem to get noisier over time, while some older records seem never to acquire new ticks and pops. It may be other factors, such as recording level, but, I do wonder if the vinyl is of the same quality.
Has anyone heard anything released on the Clarity vinyl from Classic Records? What are your impressions of it?
apologies johnnyb...yes, the technics is an exception.

My experiences and memories (those still with me) tell me that I spent a good amount of time taking LPs back to swap for a non-defective copy. That was pretty normal for the shops I remember, and I think it also targeted me as a potential future customer from those that also sold nice gear. I guess it just seems about the same on average to me. If anything, I'm more worried that I am getting less picky. :-)
My cleaning techniques are much better now.
I have the 45rpm pressing of Adderly's "Somthin Else" on Clarity Vinyl. It is silent with excellent sound. Expensive, though.
Thank you everyone for some great responses. And yes, the "Hatari" album I cited is a hoot. It was very used and looked terrible, which makes it even more amazing that it is so quiet.

The early posts reminded me I should have made it clear that I scrupulously clean LPs, both old and brand new pressings, before I play them. I use a VPI 16.5 and a multi-step process ending in a distilled water rinse. I've also dabbled with steam cleaning, including on the newer "noisy" records I alluded to. Nothing seems to help these duds. In fact, an unscientific test at home has lead me to believe perhaps the best way to handle new releases, contrary to the mold-release compound theorists, is NOT to clean them. In my small test cases they seem quieter if you just leave them alone. This lends some credence to the suspicion that new vinyl seems overly delicate, as one contributor suggested.

As far as quiet new vinyl examples go, I have to disagree with some saying Speakers Corner being a good source. I recently tried two copies of Eagles' "Hell Freezes Over" and they were intolerably noisy. On Classic, two copies of Sarah McClachlan's "Solace" were miserable. And in response to Timztunz, the Clarity vinyl releases I've tried were hit and miss: The Armstrong/Ellington "First Time Together" was spectacular; "The Great Reunion" was like a popcorn popper was in the studio during the recording. (Most of my Music Matters releases have been good, by the way, but not all of them.)

I just don't get it--why do we have to suffer so with new releases when the technology, whatever it was, existed to make quiet pressings in days gone by? Some have provided some reasonable explanations (run rates, the rarity of truly virgin vinyl, etc.), but I continue to be astonished that after dishing out $50 a pop for some of these releases, that's all we get--pops.
I'd guess during the preponderance of my new vinyl purchases (1959-1988 approx 5,000 pieces) less than a half dozen were returned for noise or warpage or other defects.

Over the past 20 years most of my buying (1,500-2,000 albums) has been to fill in my collection along with a handful (less than 50) of reissues/remasters.

Today's product, outside of the inordinate price, is much more problematic.

Most know how went down when the the pressing plants closed in the 90's (in general, vinyl mixture, care in the cooling process, mastering etc.).
do you think anyone of the industry will read all about this? I'd wish so very much.

Meanwhile I buy 20c second-hands and clean them.
I have noted that those are AT LEAST as good in terms of noise, as some new Classic re-issues.
The new stuff is dynamic, most of it anyway, but the more you clean it, the noisier it seems to get...
I don't think they care.

So long as the analog public waits in line to spend $30-$60 per album, why should there be any change(s)?

No sense fixing a business model that isn't broken right?

Personally I don't buy many new albums anymore; perhaps one of two a year. I did just pre-order the Eric Clapton/Steve Winwood Madison Square Garden set to be released in August and very anxious to see how good (bad) it sounds. The majority of my money is spent with vendors/stores who sell high quality originals and offer a return policy.
If there is to be a new golden age of vinyl it will be fueled by audiophiles like those on this site.

High prices are an issue but poor quality to go with it is not a good omen for a workable business model for the target audience.

I think you have to ask yourself is buying new vinyl really worth it? IS the price of trying to re-live past pleasures really worth it? For some it will but for most I suspect not.

The good news is that there are still a lot of good records out there at good prices that were made well back in the day when the times supported doing it right on a large scale.
the labels used to own the manufacturing plants for all media...they don't today.
"manufacturing plants for all media"

For better or for worse, eventually, everything will be accessed and downloaded digitally and there will be few or no manufacturing plants for any audio media, unless perhaps analog media manages to hold on somehow. If it does, however, be prepared to dig deep into your pockets if anything of quality is produced.
Well, ironically, the local music store had a used record/cd sale today. I added about 40 new records across various genres all in very good/excellent shape at 4/1.00 or about the price of a gumball each.

I also bought 1 new CD that cost more than the 40 records combined at that price. Lots of great listening ahead!

How much for that new, possibly noisy vinyl again??
I wonder how much of this phenominum might be due to the aging of the original Master Tapes? There might be only so much you can do with a 50 or 60 year old Master Tape when transfering it to new Vinyl. I notice allot of newer Re-issues on CD, and Vinyl don't seem to sound as good today as opposed to 30 or 40 years ago, despite advances in todays technology. It is sort of like Butterfly wings, once touched they can never be the same again.
Nothing to do with master tapes. They are just downright poor quality control. Noisy surfaces, warps, defects. Plus some of the manufacturers have a no return policy even if they are defects so either the retailer or consumer gets shafted.
Dear Ducatirider,
Point well taken. Fewer Manufacturers, less competition, less drive for improved Quality.
Still think deteriorating Master Tapes are a separate, but big problem. Even if you improve the quality of the Records, what are you going to transfer onto that Record with Tape deteriorated.
Quality of the Record is a separate issue. Quality of the Recordings seem to suffer with every New Generation of Listeners.
Aren't records mastered on metallic plates?
I know the 78's were from metal master discs.
>>> Aren't records mastered on metallic plates?<<<

Well, firstly mastering was/is done on tape.
Digital mastering on tape also, and later on with digital, on hard drives, on digital master consoles etc. etc.

I guess what you are referring to is the DMM process (Direct Metal Master) which came pretty much at the end of the vinyl process --- and was supposed to cut out a lot of the 'normal' vinyl processing i.e. to create superior quality LPs (the price reflected this too).

Normal processing was cutting a 'lacquer' (disk) from the tape master by applying RIAA when the cutting lathe produced/cut it.

From the lacquer was produced a 'father' from which was produced a mother (all by electro-plating) from this 'mother' were then produced the stampers of numerous generations.

I hope I got most this right. So I think your idea of 78s! being produced with metal masters seems a bit off.

As you can see a lot of delicate manual work went/goes into the 'normal' process with plenty of opportunity to screw it up. Also the 'father 'pulled' from the 'lacquer' needed to get some hand 'cleaning' (under the microscope picking out residue etc.) followed by polishing also a labour intensive job and rather delicate.

DMM has/had its own issues, and cost was not the least to say. But it did produce a superior product just by looking at it. Those disks are/were also usually a LOT more quite in terms of groove noise.

I'm sure e.g. Atmasphere may be able to correct or corroborate the above.
There are many new recording with bad quality as well. How many of you have a clean copy of Pop Pop or Just a Little Lovin?
It's the quality of the vinyl used today, virgin is evermore expensive and ever harder to source. Plus, I think they should leave the pressing longer in the stamper to allow the poorer quality vinyl a chance to flow longer.
Ducatirider wrote:

"How many of you have a clean copy of Pop Pop or Just a Little Lovin? "

Exactly! I always thought the name "Pop Pop" was a little more than ironic. Terrible pressing.
Thank you Axel for the great explanation. I found out about 78 rpm metallic masters from the NY Times article this past Sunday. Paramount Records in Wis. evidentley used these back in the 20's and 30's for their Blues artists. They have never found these original metal masters, some saying they were melted down for the war effort, others thinking disgruntled workers threw them into an adjascent river after the factories closing (divers have even scoured the bottom of the riverbed looking for them)
Check out the article (there is a link posted on the music threads)
:-) Zenblaster
that's funny and sad at once.
I was NEVER aware that direct(was it?)-metal-mastering was already done in the 20s - 30s!

In fact, I have no real knowledge of the actual process. All I understand is, that in place of a lacquer (cut with a diamond) a metal disc is cut from which then the stampers (I guess!) would be 'pulled'.
This cuts down a couple of steps from the normal process. But that cutter (of the cutting lathe) will have some tough job, and I guess plenty more diamonds will be used.
In fact, that disk would have to be non-ferrous (some alu-alloy mix I guess) since one can not use diamonds cutting ferrous metals.

There's a bit of misinformation in this thread. If you want to understand the pre-tape "mastering" process, watch a two-part video on ewetube called "Rca Victor records manufacturing process" and you can see it for yourself step by step.
Actually this is interesting as today I picked up some old (second hand) vinyl from my favourite charity store and playing one of the records this arvo, I realized that despite the occasional click and plop, the basic noise (vinyl) floor was very low and considerably quieter than more recent vinyl records. Regards, Fap.
Hi Zowie
can you provide a link at all?
Hi, just to try and keep this a bit less cryptic:
"pre-echo associated with conventional lacquer mastering are eliminated and transient response is greatly improved. DMM record pressing sound brighter, cleaner, more detailed, with 15% more playing time than with lacquer technology. Stampers are plated directly from the DMM Copper Master, eliminating two of the three plating steps required for lacquers."


"direct metal mastering (DMM) : A system for cutting a metal mother on a record mastering lathe, eliminating the lacquer master and metal master steps. Release pressings made from a stamper are thus only two stems from the DMM and thus have less noise and distortion than those made by the older, five-step process. The DMM process is also used in CD mastering."


"DMM is a modern process, developed by Teldec in Germany. Rather than cutting a lacquer, then plating, then creating a mother then stampers, you use the DMM cut disc as the mother and create stampers directly from that. Hence 2 steps saved. So, the theory is the steps saved lead to fewer "generations" in the record-making process, hence better sound."

No misinformation this far as i can see.
My own information is derived from the current (non-metal master) of the Pallas press-plant from an article in Image HiFi some time past.

I think the mis-information is about 'metal-masters' (i.e. not master*ing*?) of the pre-tape , so:

will provide some, if not most of those pre-tape aera answers.

I did not notice any mis-information, but unimportant.

A fascinating subject if your into vinyl. Here is a link to the NY Times story
not trying to be mean about those old 78s, but only listening to some early mono versions of 'His masters Voice' (By Appointment to Her Majesty, before the birth of EMI, etc.) easily 180g vinyl if not more ---- sooooory.

You got to be some collector to get a rise from it. Those micros had some darn bad distortions and as far as I can say just about the inverse of even mid/low-fi :-) Toscanini through a megaphone, oh no!

In German we say: "Jedem Tierchen sein Pläsierchen..."
In this here (SA) part of the world the stuff is junked on a daily basis, since it also breaks so easily. So sorry for that.
Here is the link to part 1.

It is an interesting video, I've had it on a DVD for some time and was glad to see it's now on line. YouTube should give you links to Part 2 and also to a more succinct video on the subject that was made with Duke Ellington.
Oh, too bad --- I have: JavaScript turned off.
Because of all the malware BS, and I'm not thinking of turning it on. Guess I have to miss this one :(
Yesterday, I happened to play the dirtiest record ever that looked clean to me on inspection, an old 60's orcjestral recording on COlumbia Masterworks I picked up for 25 cents.

I cleaned it as I usually do but shortly after playing it it started sounding so bad and there was so much gunk on my stylus, even after repeated stylus cleans, that I thought for a while I had damaged the sylus during cleaning. Eventually, after multiple stylus cleanings with the stylus brush, things sounded pristine again. I wonder if the vinyl itself was in bad shape and shedding itself onto my stylus as it played.

Haven't had a cleaning experience like that in quite a while. Just goes to show, you never know what to expect whenever you bring a record, old or new I suppose in for the first time.
Mapman - Be sure your stylus isn't chipped or damaged and scraping the groove.
Toscanini through a megaphone, oh no!
I'd take Toscanini through a mattress vs. most conductors, even live! :-)
Doug, :-)
and you do sound so sure of that now.
He had a pretty serious 'fascist' conducting style and known for it.
The likes of Reiner, and Karajan pale! And then there would Munch, Dorati, Ansermet, Kubelic, Beechham, Kertesz, Monteux --- just to mention a few, and NON would sound like through a mattress :-) Eish!
Next we gonna argue about osmium-needles and their contribution to a more high-end 78 sound, eish!
Are you then also a shellack collector?