bad vinylPosted on September 6, 2011 with 0 comments
ever wondered why 80s vinyl sounds so thin and crappy?
i got the scoop recently from my very knowledgeable friend paul millar - an analog tape, vintage synthesizer, and electronics repair savant.
there are two audio signals required to cut vinyl - preview and main - with a .9 second delay in between. the preview signal is used to analyze what will be sent to the cutter head. it monitors any volume spikes that would cause a needle to jump grooves when playing. before the 80s, the preview signal was sent via special .09 second delay tape head configuration to analog compression/limiting devices to level the spikes before reaching the cutter head. once digital came on the scene in the early 80s, vinyl cutting services switched to using digital delay devices because they were extremely smaller, easier to maintain, and less expensive. so excited about the "new toy", engineers must have imagined that the audio signal sounded just as good or good enough going through them.
the digital delay preview signal set up took over for the duration of vinyl's life including modern day releases. with improvements in quality over time, digital delays started sounding better. this helped the sound quality of vinyl releases from the 90s and on. but in the end, if a band used all tube equipment, recorded on fat 2 inch tape, and mix/mastered on high speed 1" tape....it would still go through a crappy digital delay before hitting the cutter head. this includes today, where a band may go to great pains getting an analog tape recording only to unwittingly have it digified before cut to vinyl. there are a couple places that see the value (and have the means) in using the analog tape delay system. these vinyl productions are truly analog in my opinion. a digital signal put on record is just a gimmick in my opinion, but technically a "hard copy" though.
here's a place that uses the analog delay method - http://sterling-sound.com/?page_id=276
i choose to listen to vinyl over any digital media, but it takes a back seat to a good tape recording. i have a good quality audio technica cartridge on my turntable going through a dual mono block tube amps. when i sync the same song on vinyl and 8 track toggling between them. there's no comparison. the vinyl has scooped mids and sounds thin compared to a well recorded original release 8 track. even cassette sounds better to me provided it's played on a good deck. pre 80s vinyl...good, post 70s...bad vinyl.