Vinyl. Is it me? the producer? cartridge? Record?

It's no surprise that some recordings sound significantly different than others. Different studios, engineers, musicians, arrangers and instrumentation.

I probably have over 1000 albums ranging from 50's jazz, 60's folk, jazz, rock, psychedelic, classical etc.. and I can probably find certain recordings that sound fantastic on my system from any genre. Others not so good.

I am running a Music Hall 5.2 Goldring 1012GX, Scott 340B Vintage Tube amp, Silver stranded cables, Custom Klipsch that would basically be similar to Forte 2, with a 15" self powered sub.

I enjoy the the treasure hunt vinyl offers. It's great when I find an album that:

1: I like the music
2: The album was properly recorded
3: It's a nice clean copy

Of the 1000 records, I probably have 30 real standout recordings that really shine on all levels. It's great to find them.

While I can still enjoy less than perfect recordings if I like the music, it's still much better to have the whole enchilada experience, especially when sharing my system with guests, friends, family etc.

While I have read some who feel the Goldring is a bit shrill or harsh at times, I tend to put the blame more on the session engineer for adding high EQ to the recording or not recording the lower frequencies properly.

If all my records sounded harsh I would blame the cartridge, or some other aspect, tubes, tonearm etc.. but this is not the case. Some recordings simply sound correct, and I would not want them any other way.

At times I feel some of the lesser quality recordings would sound better on a different kind of set up. Probably a system with a much more colored low end, with the higher frequencies rolled off quite a bit. But on the downside, the really good recordings I have would suffer tremendously.

Do some of you feel the need for two systems where you might say "these recordings sound best over here, and these ones are best played on this other set up?"

One thing for sure is that anytime I have both a vinyl and CD version to compare... vinyl wins hands down every time..unless it's one of these new vinyls that was cut from a digital source. (they can't fool me)

Thoughts anyone?
Your post made me think of something I never thought of; as it suggests,
in the manner that some components and pieces work well together why can't the same be said of recordings?

Some just work better with certain combos of equipment than others. Doesn't seem all that far fetched.


In my personal opinion I think your problem is the speakers. The 30 that sound fantastic, I'm guessing are very laid back recordings. I am not a Klipsch fan. I had to live with my sons KG 4.5's - KLF-10's and KLF-20's and to me the KG's were the least harsh/forward of the bunch. Now I do recommend Klipsch for someone who is just starting because they are a lot of speaker for the money. But I do warn them that with long term listening you will get listeners fatigue. So far all 3 people I recommended Klipsch to agreed in the long run.

That being said when I use EL34 tubes in my Octave it takes my power down to about 40w. My speakers are Dynaudio C1 signatures which are 85db @ 1w. Not very efficient compared to any Klipsch. I mention this because should you ever consider better speakers make sure the Scott has sufficient power to drive them properly.

You have my thoughts regarding your question and again this is my opinion
Need for two systems - I'd say no. Wish for two different arms and cartridges - yes.
If only 30 out of 1000 sound great then even though those 30 sound wonderful, as someone else suggested, your system likely sounds bright and those 30 are on the laid-back or rolled-off side of neutral.

If it were the other way around with the bulk of the recordings sounding "right" and the minority sounding poor, then I'd blame the few substandard recordings. Here, I blame the system.

It could even be one small component in the phono playback chain, but I'm pretty sure something is amiss. Phono cartridge, phono preamp, cables, and a mismatch between cartridge and arm are the most likely culprits. I'd try eliminating them one by one, maybe starting with different cables (you did mention silver-stranded cables) and then going from there. Good Luck.
I have found that as I improve my system, more and more albums sound good. You would think that if it is an engineering problem, that a more revealing system would reveal those defects more. While my system now reveals choices engineers made more readily, the music itself sounds better, more alive, more detailed and more open and expansive. So I think your issue is more in your system than in any engineering problem, especially if only 30 out of 1000 albums sound good. Do you really think that 97% of albums were engineered poorly or incorrectly?
It's not easy putting together a system that makes the huge variety of genres you enjoy (not to mention the myriad of recording venues, engineering and record manufacturing variables over decades of time) sound great all of the time. You can, however, make them all sound "right".

I can't advise any one component to replace. My decades of experience is that you just have to swap things out until you get it right. Enjoy the trip, one day you'll reach your destination.
I agree that you have not reached a point where your system has the right synergy. Just don't feel that you must buy ultra-expensive components and magic accessories to reach your goal.
Not sure I made myself clear, but my top 30 out of 1000 probably have more to do with me liking the record front to back, and also owning a pristine early release copy...not a fake digital counterfeit pressed onto vinyl.

My point is that regardless of my system, the constant would be more my system, and the variable factor would be the recording itself.

Certainly Steely Dan records were recorded with much more care than the majority of punk rock records.

If my system lacked bass, it would lack it on all recordings, not just some of them. Same with harshness or shrill.

Are my Klipsch shrill? Well if they ever would sound that way.. it should be quite apparent on Rush' Fly by Night... with Geddy Lee screeching and Peart's attack on the cymbals...however, nothing could be farther from the truth.
It sounds great.

For example if play Jeff Beck's Blow by Blow, vs Wired, there is a big difference. Wired sounds shrill, Blow by Blow sounds beautiful. Different producer. George Martin did Blow by Blow, and it probably made the difference.

All of Ken Scott's productions sound great.

DSOTM sounds much better than Meddle.

I see my system as exposing the weakness of a recording session... and exposing the greatness of a wonderful one.

I don't think my system is deciding which records to make sound great or not.

Bob Marley's Natty Dread sounds much more open and full and rich on the low end than Rastaman Vibration.

These examples are very clear about which albums were recorded better. Not a doubt..

The question really is.. is my system too good? in that it exposes the weakness of the actual recording?

Are cartridges and tone arms better now than they were 30 of 40 years ago?

Were some of the classic albums mixed more for lower end systems?.... making sure the treble cut through 1970's transitor radios? and or 8 track players?

Laid back.. I agree, Getz and Gilberto sounds great.. nothing more laid back than "Girl from Ipa...

But Rush, Chicago's First, and early Santana records sound fantastic and are anything but laid back.
I would say if only 3 percent of your records "knock your socks off" then whatever your system is putting out, it bears little relation to what the folks were hearing when they made those records. I have found that as my setup skills and system have improved over time, it has made all my records sound better, not worse.

If you have entered a wormhole where you believe your system is now revealing the weaknesses of 97 percent of your records, then you best re-evaluate where you are at. This usually happens to folks running MC carts that dissect music like it was a lab-rat, not someone who runs a Goldring MM, so I'm not sure how you got to where you are. I do hope you can find your way out, though.
I do respect a producer's decision on how they mix a record.
Doesn't mean I have to like it. I wish I could hear Steve Hackett's guitar much more up in the mix on the live album "Seconds Out"

I wish Van Halen didn't use so much compression on the drum tracks.

I wish drum machines were never invented!

There are a lot of ways to approach a recording. I spent enough time in recording studios over the years to have a pretty good idea what I am hearing.

My point is that the better your system, the more detail you are going to hear.. at least that is my take on the whole audiophile thing. But of course most people don't look at it that way... anyone into digital music, ipods and so on are buying the big lie as far as I am concerned.

For example, if I am driving down the road listening to the radio, it's not likely I am going to hear much detail in a recording. I hear the song, the melody, the punchy sounding kick and snare hits on a rock record, and the vocal line and solos..etc..

But on my home system, I hear nearly everything. I hear where the mic placement was. I can tell if they used triggers, or gates on the drums, and I can tell if they recorded the tracks in the same or different rooms. I can tell if the vocalist was using a dynamic or a condenser mic.
or if the kit was close or ambiently miked... and how much compression was used on each instrument ... or if they didn't use any.

Not all reference monitors are created equal. I've seen producers compromise a mix by plugging in a boom box to hear how it would sound there because most people don't listen to music on high fidelity systems.

You're going to tend to mix to the speakers you have in front of your ears.

As far as 97 percent of my records.. well, if I ranked them 1 to 1000 favorite to least they would fall into some kind of order. That's not the point here.

The point is records that are mixed thin with a bit more treble bite in them might sound better on boomier speakers that don't have horn drivers. But if detail and tight response is of interest to you.. I can't imagine not having a pair of horns on each stack.

I tend to believe that any kind of horn instruments sound best played back through quality horn drivers. I also believe that rock bassists who used Fender cabinets with a pair of 15 inch woofers is going to sound best played back through 15 inch cones. While the short throw subs deliver low frequencies, they don't deliver reality.
Whow i didnt know that.Thanks.
Just one short year ago, I was having the exact same problems with my system that you speak of, Astralography. I too was listening to a lot of Steely Dan and various jazz records because it was the only stuff I could stand to listen to. In my case, the solution came down to speaker placement (Magnepans) and my preamp. The later addition of a subwoofer added another dimension, but was not the primary leap forward.

I had been through several different preamps (McIntosh, Rotel, Van Alstine, etc.) but then on a whim, I bought a used Luxman CX-100. For whatever reason, it just has a unique synergy with my Musical Design D-140. The phono section seems to be a perfect match with my Denon DL-160, and even CD's now have a musicality that they lacked before.

Don't get me wrong; there are still pressings that sound horrible, but I have totally reversed the ratio of good to bad sounding recordings, and I now enjoy most of what I listen to.

It may take only small changes in your system, but I do believe it's possible at all price levels to do so.

The best part is that I can now listen to music and enjoy it without picking everything apart. As a musician, I thought I would never be able to do that.
I think any ear fatigue I get comes from the higher frequencies, not from the low end within reason.

A crisp high end seems to really bring properly recorded records to a new level and really allows them to shine.

But I do suspect high EQ was added into a lot of recordings..

I agree with Jimmy Page that if you record things properly you don't ever need to add EQ. I've seen a lot of boards in recording studios mixing records with those EQ's rolled clockwise on the high end during a mixdown for any number of reasons.

I don't hear that at all with Zeppelin, Steely Dan, or Jazz records like MF Horn 1, 2, 3... or Miles albums from the late 60's early 70's.

I don't hear it on DSOTM or Crime of the Century, but I do hear it on a lot of other records.

I have a Low Fi system downstairs with a $50 Shure Cartridge that makes these thinner recordings sound much more rounded and easier on the ears over time, but if I put on a properly recorded album it sounds nowhere near as good as my better set up upstairs.... not even close.

I know the Goldring has a reputation for being a bit screechy.. but I feel it is actually a very honest cartridge because it does bring out the shine in the better recordings.

I've heard peoples systems that have that really low boomy tubey sound that rounds everything out and gives it this smokey bar jukebox vibe, and I can dig that for what it is.. but I really prefer more detail in my listening.. not just like a smooth scotch and Cuban.
Mmmmm, smooth scotch and Cubans...but don't forget the "fine Columbian"!

I know it seems impossible that certain records sound great when others sound so bad, but that's right where I was.

I even did the lo-fi "rock" system downstairs for the disappointing records. It was not a satisfactory solution, though. Some may argue that my main system is lo-fi, but I found the synergy, and that's the key. I'm sure there's nothing magical about my Luxman; it just "fit".

What I love about the DL-160 is that it has the analytical qualities of a MC cart with a richness that I don't usually associate with a MC...and the Luxman made it come alive. Now I'd like to try my V15vMxr again to see how the Luxman likes it.

My gut feeling is that your speakers (either by design or placement), or your cartridge may be the weak link . Try bringing your "lo-fi" speakers upstairs. Not that you want them to be permanent; just to see what sort of difference they make. Then put everything back the way it was and swap out the Goldring for the Shure. By swapping different pieces into your system one at a time, and trying different speaker placement, you will more clearly see which direction makes the most sense.

You WILL get to the point where 90% of your records sound great. I gare-on-TEE!!

Good points...

I would love to just have a stack or different cartridges to swap out within seconds and listen to a variety of recordings doing so. A Goldring, a Grado, a Shure, and so on.. would be great to be able to do that with speakers as well.

As far as speakers, I simply have yet to hear a pair that reproduces horn instruments as well as speakers with horn drivers. Right now I am listening to Gerry Mulligan "Age of Steam" on the low fi rig. It's ok... but a universe apart from what it sounds like upstairs.

I'm running a Fisher 100 tube amp with the built in pre amp and a pair of Klipsch KG 5.2 which I like a lot. I also prefer the passive 12 woofer sound as I believe I am getting more honest detail compared to a power driven woofer. The deck is nothing fancy, just a Technics SL 210
with a Stanton. It's just a fill in record player while my Music Hall is in the shop. Good records sound average, bad records sound average. Really doesn't tell me much of anything.
Try to audition the new 3T series interconnects from VDH (model depending of your buget). Then match them with the "Inspiration" speaker cable (because the 3T "Cloud" is really expensive). The flow, integration and conformity they can bring to any system are phenomenal. (I really mean ANY! system, of whatever it's origin!). I have the "Cliff" from phonostage to preamp, the "Mountain" from pre to power amp and yesterday I've change the (fusion series) "Integration" for the (3T series) "Cloud". The new coaxials in the 3T series are cheap and effective. Please give them a try!
I suppose you've allready done with the tube rolling.
George Martin also produced "Wired," but there may have been a different engineer involved, or you have a bad pressing. My "Wired" sounds sweet and ripe. I have to agree that something in your system is off. 30 out of 1,000 seems way low.
They did have different engineers (Wired)

Wired sounds a bit more trebley. Not quite a rich as wired.
I have a couple copies of both.
I dont know if this has already been brought up, but have you checked your tubes/capacitors in your scott. Both bad caps or failing tubes can cause a shift in tonal balance. I had an old Conrad Johnson pv5 that started to sound bright and shrill. Only some recordings sounded good through it (the laid back ones.) One day a tube finally failed in it and when I replaced it I could not believe the difference. All my records came to life!
The fact that you aren't hearing sameness in all these recordings does say that your system resolves, but you might be also resolving information that was never intented to be resolved in the manner that you are resolving it.
It's all if the above...but mainly its the right room...and a producer intelligent enough to not get in the way...find an lp u like...check where its recorded...I like compass studios and capricorn in mason ga from the 70s...
Have to agree...klipsch are not for everbody but they certainly have a loyal following...although this is mainly for vintage era...I had the4.2s and they were pretty good for rock...nice punchy bass..highs are very forward which can be dealbreaker...was me
My feeling is that my system is simply more revealing than most of the studio monitors that these recordings were mixed on. Anything Ken Scott did sounds fantastic. He probably mixed records on similar monitors as did many other producers.
There is a tendency to want to brighten up a recording with a bit of EQ if you are mixing on a set of speakers that don't have horn drivers. It may be as simple as that.

In my humble opinion, I think horn driven speakers are going to offer more accuracy in the higher frequencies than cones are ever going to. Just the physics of it. Horns go nicely with horns.

It would sure be nice to know what kind of speakers were used to mix each individual record. If the problem was really in my system, I think it would show up on all recordings. I have 40 albums that sound perfect. I would not change a thing. But if I put on Highway 61 Revisited, it does sound a bit shrill. I should probably just play that on a different system.
To be honest...there are not that many so-called perfect recordings...if u have 40 in ycollection...better than nothing...although obvisiouly depends what u listen to...phasecorrect
Being a musician and one who has spent a fair amount of time behind a mixing console also, my ears might be a bit more sensitive than most.

I spent a lot of time trying to get things to sound unnatural during the 90's exploring the possibilities of studio outboard gear, and what that could add to the music that was tracked. I'm finding myself now retreating from those ideals and enjoy simpler cleaner recordings, and performances. When you add effects, or even EQ in post production, it changes the sonic landscape often to the point of things simply not sounding realistic. While most seem to like that.. I really don't anymore. I like to feel like the musicians are in the same room at the same time playing music that is truly interactive. I know this is something a lot of listeners are not going to be aware of, but if I hear dry vocals with a bunch or reverb on the drums or a flat sounding kit with a sax solo that sounds like it was recorded in a brick alley at 3 am... I find that quite uncomfortable.

In today's music, it's pretty much standard fair to drop all the tracks into a computer program like Pro Tools and then just fix everything, move all the drum hits to the nearest 8th or 16th note, and use pitch shifters to fix all the flaws in a solo or vocal performance. But it really doesn't sound right. Too homogenized for my tastes. I think it's killing the music and the industry in the long term.

The thing the young musicians are not getting is the creativity that comes from massive amounts of practice time.

Artists used to have to grind it out, and really get prepared for a session, and in that grind would come nuances and articulations that are simply not happening anymore due to modern studio practice. There is way too much "That's good enough" "we'll fix the rest" .. "Ok, let's move on to the next track". I'm just not hearing the lightening being bottled like it used to... especially with the instrumentalists.

The good players now sound too good, too unnatural it can become silly, like most of the contemporary jazz records. There is no realness, no heart in it anymore. Too much over production and manipulation.

Now getting back to recordings... the digital recordings are just that. Digital. I don't care what your arguments are or how many sampling "Ks" you boast, it will always come up short of a proper magnetic tape session. Then the playback issues... CD format, even Blueray disc, it just is what it is. Convenience over quality.
I agree, especially within the "Contemporary Jazz" ("smooth jazz) category. The studio albums are too clean and the playing and sound are sterile. However, if you hear many of these artists live you may change your mind about them. Many of them can really play, but are at the mercy of their producers in the studio.

I would love to see more live albums by these artists, where they are allowed to control their own performance.
I tend to enjoy mid to late 70s recordings...pre digital...pre pro tools...SOTA analogue multitrack...just before 80s hated drums and heavy reverberated...but still some quirky new wave/punk twists...anything at compass studios during this era is immaculate...early b52s, talk heads, etc.
No doubt, a lot of these jazz guys can play. We saw Jean Luc Ponty recenty in Oakland and it was a real clinic. But the records are really over produced. To me it's like the difference between a photograph and a great painting.

A little grit, grain and texture can make all the difference.

But even live albums are messed with digitally in the studio. The producers just don't stop there. If they have the tools to fix something, they will use them...and that is the problem. They really don't get the idea that sometimes less is more.

My ear is trained enough that I can still hear the punch in and outs.