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 Post subject: The truth about the vinyl sound
PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:46 pm 
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Diffraction
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The simple truth about the "vinyl sound" is that it simply doesn't exist. Naturally, a piece of vinyl will sound like something when you play it, but there are simply so many variables in play, sometimes major variables, that an uniform thing called the vinyl sound is an oxymoron.

When you make a track in your studio, send it to mastering and receive the file later it will sound pretty much the same everywhere. You can play it from your phone, an XDJ/CDJ, even a high end player and the music will sound more or less the same, because DAC's today are pretty good and most of them don't colour the sound much. There are some, but not many variables and those variables aren't that major in 2017.


However, with vinyl this doesn't hold true. The chain from the piece of plastic to the amplifier has several steps that can change the sound, sometimes radically. From the top of my head, these variable include at least, in the order that they appear:

- Mastering. Voidloss can probably tell more about this process, but there are some things that are done differently due to the limitations of vinyl.

- The choice of vinyl itself. The format (7", 12", LP etc), 33 or 45 RPM, the thickness, colour/picture vinyl etc.

- Pressing. Some vinyl presses make consistently quality records, some have a bad rep. They also sometimes make mistakes which can result to noisy records or records that easily make the needle jump because of excess bass.

- The condition of that particular record. A scratchy, dusty record will obviously sound different than a record straight out of the vinyl press.

- The turntable itself, before we even go to the electronics. A plastic 10€ turntable with an old, worn belt will sound different than a Technics DJ turntable, which will again sound different than a hifi/high end turntable meant for listening records in your own home. Vinyl records are played mechanically so if the turntable is very flimsy it can cause the record to wobble and a bad motor or a belt can cause fluctuations in the rotating speed. And of course, if you play in a loud club the bass can cause all kinds of problems that need to be prepared for.

- The settings of the turntable. Needle weight affects of course, but there are typically other settings as well, which can affect the sound.

- The needle and the cartridge. A DJ scratching cartridge with a worn out needle will sound very different than a pristine needle in a quality hifi cartridge.

- The tonearm and the electronics inside the turntable. There's a reason why, for example, some like to change the tonearm of an SL1200 to a better one or change the wiring inside.

- The phono preamp of the amplifier, DJ mixer or even a standalone preamp. There can be huge differences in these, from crappy to fairly neutral to preamps that even seem to enhance the sound.


As we can see, there are several variables that affect the sound of a vinyl record and some of these variable aren't even that minor and of course, when you combine them you can get wildly different sounding vinyls. The same song pressed on one side of a new, black 12" single, played with a quality setup in a good condition will sound EXTREMELY different than the exact same song from a 20 minutes a side picture vinyl album played with a plastic thrift store turntable with a worn out needle, crappy cartridge and some 50€ Behringer DJ mixer as the preamp.

This is why talking about the "vinyl sound" is a bit silly, as the same song can sound either MUCH worse than the wav file of the same song but also in some cases it can sound better than that file.


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Note: I wrote this very quickly and might edit it later in case I forgot something or noticed a mistake. Kinda wanted to make a statement about this issue that gets talked about a lot, often by people with limited experience on the matter. I'm not an audio pro, but I've had my fair share of testing over the years.

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 Post subject: Re: The truth about the vinyl sound
PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:06 pm 
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Well yes.
But there is still a general trend with the sound of vinyl, certain overarching trends. Sure bad pressing, different needles etc.
But vinyl does have a "characteristic" sound.
Along with that characteristic comes a host of imperfections. Some add and some take away from the enjoyment.
It's a personal preference really.

I'm ambiguous about it myself.
I don't play vinyl, but it is nice, for pure materialistic reasons, to have your music on vinyl. It's not better nor does it make your music more valid, despite what some twat head producers/DJS might say.

"When I hear the words "oh I only release on vinyl" that's an instant cunt indicator to me.

But I digress.

I like the process of vinyl mastering, and the process of cutting, plating etc. It's fascinating.

As a medium vinyl is softer in the top end due to the cutting needle not liking high frequencies, and rounding the lows due to the inaccuracies of cutting and tracking with transients.
This adds up to "warmth". It can be emulated in mastering processes with digital audio.

I think, personally, it's qualities are appropriate for some things and not others.
Jazz and motown, soul music, sound perfect on vinyl.
IDM seems better in full range digital.

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 Post subject: Re: The truth about the vinyl sound
PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:56 pm 
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I don't care THAT much about the difference in sound but I do think that it tends to sound nicer in the club than digital, the rounded lows and highs and the high frequency dropout towards the inner side work quite well in a club context. There's also just something magical when someone puts on a dusty old chicago record or something and you can hear the crackle on a soundsystem. And of course there's als the natural wow and flutter when mixing but that's a different story.


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 Post subject: Re: The truth about the vinyl sound
PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 3:52 pm 
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skaghead

Joined: Sat Jan 02, 2016 3:03 pm
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If the OP had said 'the vinyl sound' doesn't sound 'better', I'd wholeheartedly agree, but as it is I can't agree as vinyl definitely sounds different. The long list of factors that affect the sound of a particular record being played on a particular system is surely part of the whole thing anyway, the sound varies depending on all of the above, for better or worse - that is integral to the 'vinyl sound'.

I do get what the OP is saying as far as a predictably uniform 'vinyl sound' being elusive, but yet (as a layman) you can comfortably say that vinyl sounds different to digital, and make some generalisations as to what the differences would be in an optimum listening setup. It does annoy me when people insist that vinyl sounds better, automatically and indisputably, but in my experience this usually comes from people who don't really know what they're on about.

But who really gives a fuck anyway. I like records, I like listening to them, I like fiddling with the equipment to try and get the most out of it, I like paying attention to who cuts a good record and who doesn't, and I also like just sticking on a CD, Ipod, or digital file. At any rate, there is clearly 'something' about vinyl, as it is still around and actually going strong now, despite many many technologies trying to replace it over the past, what - 100 years?


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 Post subject: Re: The truth about the vinyl sound
PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:30 pm 
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If dance music had not kept vinyl alive for the 20 years or so after the official mainstream label abandonment of it. There would be no vinyl explosion today, no hipster represses, no conversation like this.

It is a shame now that mainstream labels are capitalising on this and are taking up all the pressing slots, that those plants and cutting rooms who we supported for 2 decades have now abandoned us to the back of the queue like whores after richer clients.

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 Post subject: Re: The truth about the vinyl sound
PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 11:20 pm 
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Component
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"Vinyl sounds better" = dumb
"Vinyl sounds characterful" = not so dumb

Just imperfections and limitations, plus aging. And of course the ritual of putting it on and such. Definitely lots of joy involved there.


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 Post subject: Re: The truth about the vinyl sound
PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 11:47 am 
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Pig

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Vinyl distorts in a way that makes it pleasant for the ear.
The effort (time + money) put in to production and consuming compared to digital makes its value increase enormously. Convenience is overrated.
It deteriorates which makes you care for it more.
Also nostalgia and the fact that music in general got worse post-digital.


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 Post subject: Re: The truth about the vinyl sound
PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 12:31 pm 
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I think music got better. So much variety, so much creativity, much better musical awareness in artists.
There's almost too much good music to keep track of.

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 Post subject: Re: The truth about the vinyl sound
PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 2:56 pm 
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Pig

Joined: Fri Feb 14, 2014 1:08 pm
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Lost to the Void wrote:
I think music got better. So much variety, so much creativity, much better musical awareness in artists.
There's almost too much good music to keep track of.


Right, I should rephrase it to music got less valuable. Which is basically the same.


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