Do you have a record cleaning machine?
Cleaning records is one of the best(only?) ways to reduce those unwanted noises.
Cleaning records is one of the best(only?) ways to reduce those unwanted noises.
There are many variables that affect how much surface noise you hear from vinyl. How clean the record is, how clean the stylus is, stylus profile, platter surface material, phonostage components and power supply, all play a part. There are probably a few more that I'm missing. Doing vinyl well does take working at it.
Since you ask if it can be reduced and not if it can be eliminated, I assume you are aware that it will never be as quiet as digital.
Sometimes surface noise is exaggerated if the vertical tracking angle is not correct or if the tracking force is set too high. Maybe you should check those things too.
You don't say which arm and Benz cartridge you have, but I know some of the more expensive Benz MC cartridges (especially recent ones) are very picky about those adjustments.
As the other poster suggested, investing in a good record cleaning machine is a good idea, especially if you buy used records.
But setting up a high-end turntable is not exactly plug-and-play, like CD players are. Getting all the adjustments correct can yield huge improvements in sound quality (especially with expensive MC cartridges). Often, a lot of patience and the correct measuring instruments are required. But when you get it all right, it's amazing how great a good turntable system can sound!
A record cleaning machine is certainly a first step.
However, although some vinyl fans insist vinyl can be "as quiet as a CD" I have never heard it that way. You should audition a top notch system either at a dealer or one of the several Audiogon members who offer such help. Decide for yourself if the possible surface noise reduction is worth the cost, which by the way can run to several tens of thousands of dollars. I auditioned a rig listing for upwards of sixty grand, and found it to be only marginally better than my system (with respect to surface noise).
I admit to being highly sensitive to surface noise. It is possible to learn to "listen through" the noise, a skill which was highly developed before CDs came along. I was never very successful, but if you can do this you can enjoy the other desirable characteristics of LPs.
Before CDs were introduced surface noise (and rumble) was generally recognized as a problem, and many electronic devices were developed to reduce it. Bob Carver produced a device he called an Autocorrelator which I used, and it was probably the best. It implemented several band-limited filters which were controlled not only by noise in the band but also by analysis of lower musical fundamental frequencies to determine if any program signal "should" exist in the band. It also had a peak unlimiter, and dynamic rumble filter. Very clever, like much of Carver's work. However, it didn't take care of "clicks and pops", but there were other devices to remove these. The only LPs which I found to be "as quiet as a CD" were ones produced by the DBX company. These were only playable using special DBX electronics, which the company stupidly refused to licence for manufacture by others, and CDs killed the format. This was a shame because the processing had other benefits besides the obvious noise reduction.
By all means investigate improvement of your vinyl set up, but your expectations should be realistic.
Sometimes we forget that many of us were listening to vinyl for decades before the invention of CD, so we were accustomed to the normal surface noise of vinyl. Our expectations of what is possible regarding quiet vinyl are not the same as those of vinyl newbies who have only the sound of CDs as a baseline. For these folks, silence on LPs may be an unrealistic expectation.
You can experience virtually no surface noise while listening to vinyl. I have many LPs that are silent. They are clean and I keep them that way. Not by cleaning over and over but by handling them and storing them correctly. This yields good results. Cleaning LPs that have surface noise does improve noise as stated above. However you will not be able to remove scratches. If you have a favorite selection with scratches you can most likely get another copy on E Bay or new if its been re-released.
On the other hand, I have many CDs that are unlistenable due to compression and/or hiss. Obtaining, cleaning, and taking care of your LPs will give you enjoyable results.
I have found several things are important to significantly reduce LP surface noise:
1) make the cartridge track. The tone arm, the cartridge, the setup, the platter pad and proper grounding all play vital roles.
2) a quality phono preamp with zero feedback. I have found that phono sections that employ feedback will also exacerbate ticks and pops. Tube preamps that employ feedback may be more noisy than transistor preamps, but they will make less ticks and pops. Tube preamps without loop feedback will make the least.
The items of number one are things that can cause the cartridge to momentarily mistrack if not attended to. Mistracking can be the difference between a record seeming to be somewhat worn, when it is not, or a record seeming to be noisy when in fact it is quiet, were it simply played back competently.
The item of number two if not attended to will be an added layer of crackle. This is due to the propagation delay present in the phono circuits, being exacerbated by the loop feedback. Small ticks and pops that may well have been masked will suddenly be displayed in relief.
Once these things are taken care of, and as long as the LPs are in good reasonable condition, ticks and pops will be far less prominent- you may find that your friends are assuming that you are playing CDs when its really an LP playing.
I am one of those who say that vinyl can be almost as quiet as CD, however, and this is crucial....you must reread Plato's advice above. I have a Benz also, and indeed it is quiet - nearly no hiss on the vast majority of LP's. When the occasion pop, scratch, etc. sounds, it is on a different plane than the music. The music extends deep beyond the wall where the speakers are, and the clicks, pops, etc. are in front of the speakers. It is easy to disregard those sounds.
I will work on the suggestions above thanks....
I will note however that the dartzeel preamp has no feedback so the issue is not the preamp.
the lp that I was suprised to hear surface noise was a brand new lp from radiohead "in rainbows" So the issue is not cleaning the lp either.
I will try working on the tonearm/stylus suggestions to improve the situation.
Has anyone heard the above lp without any surface noise? there is a version that is double lp and plays at 45 rpm but I have the more common version which is just ol 33 lp.
Plato, Atmasphere and Stringreen are right. If you do things properly, which needs experience and patience and quite a bit of dough alas, vinyl reproduction can be so quiet that Tvad would be quite surprised. Perfect setup, a well designed TT and properly cleaned LPs are essential. The importance of a quality phono preamp is often underestimated. I run a Benz and a Souchy, have highly sensitive plasma speakers next to my stators and am never bothered by hiss and it is exactly as Stingreen points out, if there is an occasional scratch on the lp, it is heard on another plane apart from the music and as Atmasphere so rightly says, often my friends think I'm playing digital and are wondering why suddenly the music has so much bloom.
By the way, I do not wish to enter or fuel the digital-analog debate here. With certain kinds of music, I find digital preferable to vinyl, but only if treated with the same care to detail and not as plug and play.
I'm certain this is true. However, I maintain that the simple physical contact of a polished and sharpened gemstone on a vinyl surface makes it impossible for LP playback to be free of surface noise.
I'm also not interested in the vinyl versus digital debate.
Readers should also be aware that the OP has budgetary considerations mentioned in another thread, and unless he has changed is budget from one allowing the purchase of an unmodified Technics SL1200 and a stretch to purchase a Benz Micro Ace cartridge, then the discussion as it pertains to the OP may be moot.
Well, I haven't picked up a Radiohead LP for a while so maybe I'll check this one out. It is possible that it is just poor quality vinyl. But then, there needs to be a reason to get people to shell out for the 180/45 double lp. ;-)
Some will argue otherwise, but I do clean new records. Better safe than sorry to my mind. Anyway, I would think that the surface noise should be no greater than tape hiss. If that means anything to you.
Tvad, reason and what has remained of school physics demand that I agree with you. Often enough surface noise is masked by the music, no doubt about that. But with some LPs, even in silent passages, there is just no surface noise and I swear that my ears are still good. Of course this is not true of all Lps, but there seems to be vinyl which is practically without noise, if everything else is done right. Wished I knew why this is so.
Dan, I listen to a lot of tapes, old prerecorded ones and the new ones from the Tape Project. Also here, no tape is like the other. Some hiss terribly, others don't at all, however even the avarage LP runs much quieter than the average tape, at least with my rig.
I would think that the surface noise should be no greater than tape hiss. If that means anything to you.IMO, that's a very good analogy for someone familiar only with CDs. Plenty of CDs have tape hiss in the quiet sections.
It's interesting that LPs would not also have the tape hiss audible, since they are manufactured from magnetic tapes that often have tape hiss (unless the LPs are rare direct to disk recordings). This doesn't make sense to me.
Tvad, I've found this especially true with SACD, mostly of course with those made from old RCA or CBS three channel master tapes. Oddly enough, if comparing this to the the original LPs drawn from the same sources, you hear no such thing, possibly because it is masked by surface noise, when playing the LP. But some of those old Shaded Dogs can be very quiet, have good highs and plenty of bloom there and no hiss at all. So this is puzzling and perhaps food for another thread, because now I am really of topic. My apologies to Radiohead.
That's my belief. Tape hiss being masked by surface noise.
I suspect those quiet LPs that are free of tape hiss were mastered from tapes that had very little tape hiss.
Being relatively new to vinyl, I am now convinced that LP cannot be as quiet as the CD and the best one can do is to 'put up' with the noise and just enjoy the music.
I have bought over 50 new LPs in the past 2 months. Most of them are so-called audiophile records costing $50. I clean all my new records before play, I have a record cleaning machine, but I do more than just record clean. I use 3-step cleaning process using Audio Intelligent Solution, vacuum off the solution at each step, I also use steam-cleaning. It took me about 40 minutes to clean 2 sides. My LP is as clean as it gets.
But does it get rid of ticks and pops? Well, only if the ticks and pops are due to dust/dirt. I found out that the occasional pops/ticks that I'm still hearing is due to the imperfect 'pressing'. For example, one LP - "Debussy: Clair De Lune by Agoult, 45RPM", is just noisy all around, ticks and small pops all over, even though the grooves look prestine. I have brought this LP to try in different setup at friends place, I hear the same kind of noise.
Another LP that I bought: "Ray Brown Trio - Soular Energy, 180g vinyl". Have 4 small successive small pops on track#1 around 4:31 minutes of the song. At first I thought I wouldn't want to tolerate this because it's my favourite song so I returned it for another copy. And guess what, the new copy has exactly the same 4 succesive pops at the same place.
Another LP: "Schumann: Fantasy in C Op. 17, 180g" has unbearable surface noise (no ticks/pops), even though Michael Fremer rated it 11 for sound quality and 11 for music. (http://www.musicangle.com/album.php?id=139)
But overall (and luckily), most of the LPs do not have too many pops/ticks that deprives me from enjoying the music. One of the quietest LP that I have is "Jazz At The Pawnshop, 180g".
I agree there are LPs with very little surface noise and I have several. It is quite easy to get lost in the music and think how quiet the background is. And then you lift the stylus and feel the slight drop in room pressure.
I believe it would depend on the tape machine used when the master was made. I have some recordings that I've listened to for many years where the tape machine noise has become ingrained as part of the performance. Some I also have a copy on CD and they have the same noise. I don't think they would be the same to me if I ever heard them without it. :-)
I, too, listen to and enjoy both digital and analog formats.
LPs and surface noise, love it, hate it.
I've had this same dilemma over the years, but there have been a few things which you can do to reduce noise/enhance your listening pleasure. Most have been stated above already, but I suppose it maybe good to recap some points which I found to be worthy of attention:
a) Clean LPs = best method already discussed here at length is the steam cleaning. I follow that up with another round of detergent solution, followed by distilled water with a 2nd clean brush. Brand new LPs must be cleaned to remove the release agent, and usually benefit from >2 cleaning cycles. Depending on where you live, cleaning every side before listening at least once with pure water may help.
b) Proper cart/arm setup = getting the offset, VTA, VTF etc... is critical to reducing tracking errors/distortions. Even with pivoted arms, when the cart is alined correctly, even end of side distortion is reduced significantly to the extent it does not interfere with the music.
c) Generalization: line-contact/micro ridge profile styli tend to be more quiet in the groove. The most quiet carts I have are the Dyna XV-1s and some Soundsmith line-contact retips.
d) Get the Loricraft or equivalent RCM = I reckon that in all the efforts to reduce surface noise, this was on par with a component upgrade, so much more detail and music was reveiled. This was by far one of the most worthwhile upgrades, though costly.
At the end of the day, you cannot fully remove tics and pops from all LPs, some are badly pressed and some masters are obviously damaged, so you can't do anything about those except to return the LP. However, what analog has to offer is a sense of ease and natural smoothness which even the top digital rigs can only aspire to.
I use a RCM with the 3 step AIVS that Viper_z uses, then zap the record near the edges in three spots, then once in the middle with a Zerostat 3. Gotta have a Zerostat! Most recordings still have a very slight surface noise, but is very, very negligible. I bought a used lp for a buck, did the 3step cleaning, zapped it 4 times, and put the stylus in the lead-in groove. It was dead silent, and I thought I had left the mute switch on. When I saw the mute was off, I turned the volume up more, thinking it was all of the way down, then the music began and startled the crap out of me! Yes, some lp's can be as quiet as a cd, but I find most have a very, very slight surface noise that is only to be eliminated when the music begins. I can live with that. I listen to about 60 percent cd's, 40 percent lp's.
I hardly ever clean my records...yes I do take the dust off of them before playing with a microfiber cloth with a touch of distilled water. I had a Rega and right there in the owners' manual it said to listen and not worry about the record's cleanliness. I have a Nitty Gritty, and a steamer, but aside from initially cleaning the record from a garage sale, I am not that fastidious ...and yet, my vinyl playback is quiet.
Stringreen, that's my experience too.
When I get a noisy record from a bargain bin, I set it aside for steam cleaning. Otherwise, for the already clean ones, I use the microfiber cloth to dust it. If it's a little grungier, I spray the cloth lightly with record cleaner. If it's grungier still, I spray the record instead, and do a wet wipe followed by a drying wipe with the microfiber. Pretty soon the records are quiet from play to play. And if they aren't, I steam 'em.
Ever since I incorporated the microfiber cloths into my record playing routine, my dirt/dust/surface issues have largely disappeared.
Clean records and correct tonearm/cartridge alignment are the keys.
Unless the vinyl has been damaged by improper alignment (irreversible), most records can be cleaned to at least tolerable noise levels.
I own 50 year old records that are dead black quiet and others that, despite purchased new and cleaned immediately, display some background noise. The quality of vinyl, pressing operation, etc. are beyond your control.
I would seek out well kept original copies in lieu of new and reissued records. Much of the new stuff is junk and almost all of it is overpriced.
Radioheadoplayer: As many posts have already pointed out some noise is inherient with record playing. I have found, a significant amount can be eliminated by careful cleaning.
A record cleaning machine(RCM) can do much to lessen noise especially in combination with Steam Cleaning : Read the Steam Cleaning Thread for details and free suggestions.
Radio, dispite all cleaning efforts some recordings are noisey due to manufacturing defects and prior owner abuse. If that's the case get another copy. I suspect that extensive cd playback has made you extra-aware of noise.That's ok because Steam Cleaning has the ability to silence many a groove noise. If all of his sounds like work-It is but look at the audio discoveries to be found. All the best.
So far all the Radiohead LPs I've gotten have been quiet.
In the CD world, those with analog master tapes are frequently reissues of older LPs. Older master tapes have degraded with time; its not that the original LPs covered up the hiss, the hiss was often simply not there. If you get a chance to play with a 1/2" format stereo tape machines you find out what I really mean.
A lot of transistor tape machines will make a sort of 'modulation noise' that is absent on the tube tape machines, and it is transistor recorders that often are used to master CD reissues. So CDs will often have tape hiss that the original LP issues will not, though no fault of either media- its more of a mastering problem.
There are many reasons reasons Lps fail most having to do with the creation of the LP recording, far fewer after that. Too many newbeyee's are unware of the manufacturing thresholds that must be crossed before a "pure" recording is possible. It takes years with a mentor and with to understand the thresholds to overcome. All the best.
A far better explanation would have been to focus on manufacturing defects. "Fail" was a short-cut term to denote a negative experience that that i used to "cross-bridge", as a reference for persons that have little or no experience with needle-discs ,but have some connection to CD's,tape ,or I Pods where fail is sometime outlined in trouble shooting-type texts.
My mistake to the keen eye but I think we both can agree that LP ownership does require a learning curve that is quite different than what the young adults experience with other media. All the best.
The longevity of LPs is something I can't argue about. The very first LP I acquired, used, about 1954, the musical "Wonderful Town", I can still play today. In that time interval Mag Tape, which until CDs was the only alternative, has gone through several format changes rendering earlier formats unplayable.
I can't tell you how many "new" pressings I bought were very noisy. I thought I was getting all the crap and everyone else was getting the good stuff. Many times it's the pressing. Trying to lessen the effects is the trick. So many things control surface noise intensity. The preamp, the phonostage w/in the preamp. Certainly all the things others have mentioned.
I use a tube phono with my SS gear. Depending upon the tubes used I can make srfce noise better or worse. anything that accents the HF will generaly increase SN. Room acoustics is a BIG one as well.
Compared to others systems I have heard my SN was always exagerated. Now most of my SN issues are from the loud noises eminating from the LP sometimes singly or many in short time frame. I can't say that I get a continuous groove noise such as maybe you are describing. That would be red flag as a arm/cart/TT set up in my book. You may want to look at the cart loading as well.
Presuming that all equipment matching and tone-arm set-up issues have been resolved And you continue to have LP noise, what's the next step? Record cleaning. Specifically, steam cleaning has demostrated it is the single most cost-effective method to remove pressing compounds and other "stuff" from LPs. The deep steam cleaning post is long but well worth a read.
Couldn't agree more!! I just got into vinyl 3 months ago and 99% of my vinyls are new pressings priced between $30 to $50 a piece. And I spent 15 mins cleaning each side of the new LP with Audio Intelligent 3 step solutions. I found that most LPs from Speaker Corners are pure crap - one out of every two that I bought was noisy. I have a bunch of Classic Records release which was pretty bad too.
The labels that consistently deliver the quietest background noise is MusicMatter 45rpm reissues. I have some very nice LPs from Pure Audiophile records too. The Analogue Production 45rpm reissues ($50) have been huge disappointments - loud surface noise, scuff marks all over LPs.
I will stop buying any records from Speaker Corners and Classic Records from now onwards.