Reducing Background Noise On Records


Hello.  I'm looking into ways of reducing background noise on LP recordings. Some of my records just have a lot of noise (most likely from how they were recorded). My system consists of a Yamaha DSP-1A integrated amp, Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable (acrylic platter equipped) with an Ortofon 2M Blue Cartridge. My speakers consist of a pair of Wharfedale Rubiance RB-27's in the front and RB-23's in the rear with a Mirage FRX-S15 powered subwoofer.

I recently integrated a DVD 3BX-DS into my system to improve the impact and dynamic range of my records. Should this be sufficient or are there other devices (such as the KLH Burwen Research DNF 1201A Dynamic Noise Filter) that can better reduce the background noise of my records in question?  By the way, I do clean my records with a VPI HW16 record cleaning machine and rinse off the cleaning fluid twice with distilled water. I also use a Zerostat 3 to remove static before playing a record.

What do you think? 


cspiegs
Noise and limited dynamic range (and a few other issues) are inherent to the vinyl medium. You could of course rip to your computer and apply all kinds of digital tricks. But if you do, why bother with vinyl in the first place?
Do you  know if your cartridge is properly mounted and aligned on your tonearm? Unless your vinyl is of poor quality to begin with, that is what I would suspect could account for the noise you're experiencing.

Hi, cspiegs,

I don’t know anything about using a DBX expander but reading the manual it seems like a sophisticated tone control. You may be able to reduce the volume level of the frequencies associated with "noise" but you’re also reducing the output of music within that same frequency range. Not sure about the DNF 1201A either; it does look interesting but there’s probably a reason why you don’t see this type of gear sold anymore. The only true (optimal) vinyl noise reduction system that I’m aware of is the Sweet Vinyl SugarCube, but it’s a spendy piece of gear.

I’m not sure that records inherently have a lot of noise because of how they’re recorded; at least not the records I listen to. You didn’t mention if the noisiest records were purchased used or have had a fair amount of record play; perhaps with a lower quality tonearm and cartridge or before you began cleaning them with an RCM? Groove wear is permanent so once damaged will always sound damaged. Just throwing out possibilities.

I found that using a Herbie’s Way Excellent platter mat with my Music Hall turntables (Pro-Ject tonearms) helped to reduce background noise. That and certain cartridges can either highlight or downplay groove noise, especially cartridges with a micro-line stylus, which tend to trace sections of the groove that haven’t been abraded as much. The drawback with a micro-linear stylus is that it may take a bit more finesse in setup to get it tracking right. And it’s not a universal solution for worn, noisy records.

The other thing to consider is the phono preamp you’re using. Certain preamps can highlight the frequencies and dynamic contrasts associated with groove noise. While the phono stage in your Yamaha integrated may be fine, that amp appears to be designed more for home theater than vinyl playback. Vinyl was all but forgotten when that amp was popular. If you have a way to compare your phono preamp to another phono preamp you might find a different phono stage helps to reduce background noise. Speculation only.

Other than the Herbie’s mat I don’t have a definite solution to reducing groove noise, just a few things to consider. Perhaps someone with direct experience with your DBX expander, 2M blue cartridge, and Yamaha amp will chime in.

Regards,

Tom

The DBX dynamic range expander is exactly what it sounds like.  It increases the perception of dynamic range.  The 3BX does so with separate dynamic range controls for treble, midrange and bass.

Since you have an acrylic platter, you may want to try Herbie's Audio Lab's "grungebuster mat".  The "way excellent" is for aluminum platters.

Check your cartridge alignment.  I can attest, from personal experience, that it does make a HUGE difference in the quality of your sound and the tracking ability of your cartridge.  Try calling local audio establishments to see if they have "a guy of gal" who is an expert at set-up.
Try an outboard phono stage.  Perhaps your built in unit isn't very good.  As others have said, check stylus setup first.
Your records are not noisy because of how they were recorded, unless there is something very unusual about these specific records. Are you playing only picture disks?

Records can be noisy for a few reasons:

Excessive wear, playing on a junk record player, or playing when dirty can cause damage making them noisy.

Bad cartridge setup can emphasize surface noise, and some phono preamplifiers can also exaggerate noise.

Bad recording or vinyl, especially on picture disks.
I'll add to what JPerry said. Some pressings are just noisy, even some audiophile pressings can come out noisy, I've returned or exchanged a few. That just comes with the territory. For example I just received a Diana krall record that sounds nice and quiet except for one spot where some foreign debris was pressed into the vinyl, so I will return it. I have a Mazzy Star record purchased New that is noisy all over. 

About your table and cart, both have good reputations for the price as far as music reproduction goes but may not be the best reducing surface noise. I went from a technics 1700 (using shure, audio Technica, and ortofon carts) to a clearaudio concept (using concept MC and maestro v1 and v2 carts) to a Nottingham 294 (concept MC cart currently). Each step up has moved noise lower and lower. Phono preamps are the same way, some will be noisier than others. 
Also, static can be an issue especially with some platter mats
I suspect your cartridge isn’t aligned as good as you can get it. My LP’s are almost as quiet as my CD’s. Check it all again...I’m sure you missed something.
@cspiegs,

I have the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB with a Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge. I believe it is the same as your setup, with the exception of a built-in speedboat speed control. I don't hear any unusual surface noise from the TT. I do hear a bit of what I consider to be motor noise, but it is minimal and does not affect my enjoyment of listening to LPs on this TT.

If the noise in emanating from the TT, I think you may have a setup problem. Since your Yamaha DSP-1A is an early digital HT Processor/Amp, is it possible that the noise you are hearing is not coming from the TT, but is emanating from another location in the processor/amp? How does it sound with other sources, especially analog sources?
I'll tell you what...You can spend a lot of money on more electronics that add un wanted color to your sound, or you can buy a cheap can of Gruv Glide this spray will kill all static and lowers back round noise greatly. This stuff also protects your stylus from wear. It works!

 http://gruvglide.com/

Matt M
I have also used Gruveglide, and it seems to work as advertised. The biggest improvement though, came with building my own Ultrasonic Record Cleaning machine. Fairly easy to build, and inexpensive, at $200 including the Ultrasonic cleaner.

If you are interested, look up the design by BBtx at DIY Audio. A complete list of parts and photos are available for free. You really can't go wrong. Best of luck,
Dan
I suggest a $20 test.

Send a record or two out for ultrasonic cleaning. I had a VPI 16.5, and now clean ultrasonically. Big differences, noise among them.
 islandmandan and terry9 have it right.

 If you have a TT you`ll eventually/inevitably end up with an US cleaner....period 

Has anybody else noticed how many VPI RCMs seem to be popping up  on the 'bay ??

Yeah...there`s a reason for that, so either buy one outright or have fun and save a few dollars and put one together yourself.

You`ll be listening to records that you thought were hopelessly noisy/unlistenable and you`ll be hearing so much more in records you thought you knew so well.
  

Hello all.  Thanks for all your suggestions, there is a lot to consider here.  And three noise issue is just with certain recordings which could be how they were recorded/pressed or they are worn. 

Does anyone think a device like the Burwen DNF 1201A is redundant with my DBX 3BX-DS?

Interesting suggestion about the Gruv Glide.  When I first collected records 30 years ago, I used a record preservative called Soundguard (similar to another product called Last). There were mixed reviews if it affected music quality.  It was more to make records last longer. 
How many of us have left these pages?

Reading these responses has left me scratching my head.

Azimuth adjustment is the most important of all the cartridge tweaks. Until your azimuth is perfect, everything else is meaningless.

cspiegs, start reading past threads about azimuth. Even if you don't have the adjustment on your tonearm, there are numerous 'tricks' you can use.

good bye.
I'm with Mattmiller; try GruvGlide. Also, LAST  2 Record Preservative. They make a real difference. Of course if your LPs are really badly recorded -- or very worn -- then nothing will really restore them. But try these.

GBose
Try a better shielded phono cable as well as a sheilded power cord for your preamp. Blth should cut out noise.
scm
islandmandan and terry9 have it right.

 If you have a TT you`ll eventually/inevitably end up with an US cleaner
I don't know if it's inevitable, but I agree that the best path to good LP sound includes an ultrasonic cleaner. No amount of GroovGlide or other goop can substitute for the results you can get from a truly clean record. 

Your records are not noisy because of how they were recorded, unless there is something very unusual about these specific records. 

I agree. Can you provide more info about your record collection? Are you playing used store-bought vinyl, new vinyl, or records that you played on a previous system?

I started buying LP's in the 70s using a middle of the road Dual TT and Shure cart and I they still sound pretty good to me with my upgraded system. I took very good of my vinyl and very few records have noise problems recorded-in from the manufacturer.


Noise and limited dynamic range (and a few other issues) are inherent to the vinyl medium.
This statement is inaccurate.

LPs generally are mastered with less compression than CDs, for the simple reason that there is no expectation that an LP might be played in a car. This applies to non-CD digital tracks as well.

LPs only have limited dynamic range if the label or engineer is being lazy because sometimes it takes some engineering time to sort out how to do a cut properly without compression. Its not inherent in the medium any more than Redbook; although the noise floor is considerably more variable in practice.

(FWIW I run an LP mastering operation. Our equipment is fairly stock, Scully lathe with Westerex 3d cutterhead and 1700 electronics. Typically lathe cuts are so quiet that the playback electronics are the noise floor.)

I am very used to playing LPs without a tick or pop on the entire side. When people listen to my system they often ask me if I'm actually playing digital while appearing to play LPs since there are no ticks or pops.

Here's a tip on ticks and pops: a lot has to do with stability (how likely an oscillation might occur) in the phono preamp. If the preamp is unstable, a tick or pop that would be inaudible because of its short duration or amplitude can become exacerbated by the phono preamp by oscillating briefly.

The design issue best I can make out seems to have a lot to do with stopping resistors in the circuit since it has nothing to do with feedback or EQ technique (IOW, preamps that employ active EQ can be just as stable as a preamp using passive EQ). Most inexpensive Japanese designs I've seen don't employ stopping resistors anywhere in their designs and most of them are unstable.

A stopping resistor is a series resistance at the input of a transistor or tube and is there to prevent oscillation.  They interact with the input capacitance of the active device to create a low pass filter (usually at ultrasonic or radio frequencies). For this reason they can also make the circuit slightly lower noise.

So we have an entire generation of audiophiles that grew up thinking ticks and pops and noise are inherent in LP reproduction.

One other thing: if the phono preamp is unstable and is otherwise able to work with low output moving coil cartridges, it will be seen that loading of the cartridge is critical to obtain the best sound. This is because LOMC cartridges can inject RF noise into the preamp- imagine what that can do if the preamp is already an unstable design!

It is this fact that has given rise to the idea that LOMC cartridges need to be loaded for best response. They do not- the loading is only needed if the preamp is unstable.
On the off chance nobody mentioned it already what ever happened to playing records wet?
Ditto to what Ralph (Atmasphere) wrote.  

Once you have tried all the passive adjustments, tweaks, mats, VTA fine tuning, etc., if you still want to reduce noise, you can start with filters and signal processors like you have done, but they will affect the sound in ways you might not want, even as they reduce noise.


If you are referring to the noise like clicks and pops, I can recommend the Sweetvinyl Sugarcube.  I am a beta tester for the SC-2 ($3000 list), and it removes abouit 95% of the clicks and pops without altering the underlying signal in any way that I can hear.  The SC-1 ($2000 list) will do this as well.  However, you should know that removing the clicks and pops makes the record's surface noise (the steady state/rythmic hiss or groove noise) more apparent than without the click and pop filtering.  Overall, I still vastly prefer the results of the click and pop filtering, but I was surprised by how much more detail and surface noise are revealed once the clicks and pops are gone.


Sweetvinyl has hinted that they are working on additional processing that will reduce surface noise, but this is a complicated algorythm, and may be available in the future, but not free of charge, as a downloadable software upgrade.  I think that means it may only be available as an upgrade on the SC-2, since I am not sure the SC-1 has software that can be upgraded via the web.

@geoffkait - playing records wet is dangerous, according to Mike Fremer.  The intense pressure at the stylus/record surface point of contact creates heat.  If wet, the liquid will become steam and vaporize from this heat, potentially damaging the stylus and cantilever, or even the cartridge itself. 
I’m pretty sure that’s the funniest post I saw all week. Heartfelt thanks to both you and Mr. Fremer. 😀
This post is a nonsense from the start, sorry.
I'm not sure why do you need vinyl then? 
You'll more happy with a digital. 
It’s not nonsense until the OP defines what type of noise he is hearing. Is it from improper setup of his analogue, or simply tape hiss or surface noise of this medium that he finds objectionable. Maybe he is comparing the noise levels of analogue vs. digital. And we don't know if they are new vinyl pressings or used records.

Background noise produced during the whole manufacturing process could be tape hiss. Do I win a prize? You should be happy 😃when you hear tape hiss from the original tape since digital has somehow been able to eliminate tape hiss, along with a lot of other high frequency information. 

@geoffkait - Feel free to amuse yourself. Here’s the link with miscroscope picture evidence:

https://www.analogplanet.com/content/dont-let-happen-you

And there’s this thread:

http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/wet-lp-playback.127223/

And this:

https://www.discomusic.com/how-to-clean-vinyl-records#wet-play-records


In support of your idea, there is this:

https://www.vinylengine.com/turntable_forum/viewtopic.php?t=22360


So, you can take your chances depending on who you wish to believe. Better still, use an old cheap cartridge you don’t care about with an LP that you don’t care about and experiment for yourself.






What ever are you talking about? I played LPs wet for years with Mapleknoll Special TT edition TT and Grado Sig cartridge with no problems and no surface noise. Double distilled H2O wouldn’t hurt.
@geoffkait   Perhaps that's why you're listening through a walkman now.  Puddles of molten vinyl!🔥
I couldn’t take all the steam. It was like a steam room in there.  I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. It was horrible.
@geoffkait  Glad you survived it!!  Look at how the "Hound's" experience (GoT) with fire as a young lad scarred him both literally and figuratively.  He is a mean dude now.😡

To your credit, you have maintained your sense of humor and share it with the rest of us routinely! 😃
@geoffkait - Okay, you've made your point.  For the record, I included links both critical and supportive or playingwet LPs.  I choose not to go the wet route.  YMMV, as they say.
Faint heart ne’er won fair maiden. 🤠
Assuming the cartridge is properly setup (if not get this fixed before anything else), culprits should be a dirty album which is solved by something like the Record Doctor V or similar, hum from your interconnects or dirty power which is harder to fix. I have dirty power and a good power conditioner helps but improving the ground at the circuit breaker and better wiring can be a big help. This could be pricey however.
@islandmandan , I'd pay you $300 to build me one.
I agree with 'Atmasphere"--also, total inertia of the revolving mass affects noise.  My Avid Diva 2 sp (15 lb platter) naturally has a pretty high background noise-only 12 mNm of torque, pretty small. I added Teres Audio 'verus' high torque drive system-somewhere close to 200mNm, and the noise all but disappeared.  I later upgraded from a Moon 5.3 phonostage to a Whest ps30rdt-special edition, and the background became BLACK. NO NOISE is not the same as actually hearing BLACK.
@cspiegs, When you have the Yamaha set to phone; but the tonearm is in it's rest do you hear noise? Is it a hiss or a hum? Have you had this issue since you got your TT/cart? Did you have it with a previous set-up?
Also, no matter what method one uses to wet clean LPs; the solution does matter. A lot. When I started using a solution of Triton x100, HepaStat, and alcohol my old LPs sounded much better. Better than using commercial solutions and LAST. 

@mattmiller & @gasbose , Good to hear that GruveGlide does the trick. I am not impressed with LAST and have been looking for a replacement for Sound Guard for decades.

As far as phono preamps go, I have gotten pretty "black" background on MM carts with a Schiit Mani ($129) and on MCs with an Emotiva XPS-1 ($180?); but the my integrated is very black to begin with. I've moved up to a Musical Surroundings Phonomena II; but I was not motivated by surface noise. @atmasphere , would you know if any of these have stopping resistors?
You should watch the video below.  It is long but quite enlightening.  I just installed a Sound Smith cartridge and the surface noise on records that I thought were inherently noisy, all but disappeared. 

https://youtu.be/F65mODzn4Gk
@try1256, which cartridge?
I have the Aida. I am very happy with it. 
That's a beauty. I got a damaged Hana from a mail order dealer and he offered me a trade up to a Zephyr MK III for a marginal price. It would have been great; but I had to turn him down because my tonearm maxes out at 8 grams.
The Aida is much lighter than the Zephyr. You should see if has any left over Bohemes. They have been discontinued but are more similar to the Aida in weight. 
What I’ve found is the way the head shell is coupled to the cartridge can be an issue, it’s important to use or not use those little white/clear washers with the screws. Dampening can make a world of difference. I would also experiment with VTA as a possible culprit.
I was able to lower surface noise by a pretty large amount by replacing stock VPI Classic feet with GAIA II feet.  I thought things were pretty well isolated on a 3" maple block with isolation pads in each corner.  Obviously, pops and clicks are still present but the static/rumble type of groove noise was reduced by 10dBs on average (measured a lead-in groove before and after).  So isolation can help with perceived background noise.  And there are inexpensive ways of isolation if you don't care how it looks.
Has anyone found carbon fiber headshells to help?
I've tried both Ortofon and Sumiko carbon's , I think they helped a bit , enough to justify the price anyway .
when you clean your records, do you get them wet then brush then let the liquid sit for 5 minutes?  I dont do this with every record but for the ones that need the most help.  Then rinse.