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Thread: Dynamic range of vinyl recordings

  1. #1
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

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    I'm Alex.

    Default Dynamic range of vinyl recordings

    I've been doing a little bit of comparative listening between my digital tracks and the same tracks on vinyl. Overall, my layman conclusion is that digital on my system sounds noticeably more 'polite', for the lack of a better word. When I analyzed more closely what could be causing that 'politeness', I've concluded that it's pretty much down to dynamics. Simply put, my turntable playback appears to be giving more dynamic range to my ears compared to my digital playback. Hence many of my LPs sound more pushy, more aggressive.

    Now, that doesn't make any sense, because from what I understand, one of the most severe limitations of vinyl playback is exactly the dynamic range!

    Anyone else noticed this discrepancy between what the specs say and what the ears hear?
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  2. #2
    Join Date: Dec 2008

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    I'm Shaun.

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    Oh yes Alex I sure have. I'm going to use Roger Waters' album 'Amused to Death' as an example here. The recent reissue was available on compact disc and vinyl and my partner Sue and I bought both. There is a rather classic explosion on this album that when played on vinyl sort of hits with some serious and worrying impact through the loudspeakers whereas the same thing on compact disc is quite flat and restricted. Of course it could be the case that on compact disc the sound has been compressed compared to the vinyl but I have no knowledge of that being the case. Another example is 'Moroccan Roll' by Brand X. Stunning album that is absolutely staggering on vinyl but quite poor on compact disc. Again this version is quite flat and drab sounding.
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  3. #3
    Join Date: Jan 2013

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    I'm James.

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    Technically CD and digital files have a greater dynamic range than vinyl but sadly this is often not translated in the mastering and therefore vinyl does often sound more dynamic. Again this is dependant on how well the vinyl was mastered but in my experience it usually betters CD.
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  4. #4
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

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    The thing about digital recordings with a large dynamic range is that you have to turn the volume up. They are designed to be listened to with bit of welly. And I mean turn it up to where the peaks are actually frightening in scale and power. Not always possible in a domestic situation hence the 'polite' sound. Brand X recordings have a good dynamic range on digital and although I don't have any Roger Waters I suspect the same is true of his recordings. System has to be able to deliver it without the amp clipping or the speakers straining though, otherwise it will just sound 'loud' and unpleasant.

    The vinyl versions are likely more compressed, especially in the bass, but this will give punch at lower volumes in the same way that a loudness button does.
    Martin



    Current Lash Up:

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  5. #5
    Join Date: Aug 2014

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    I'm John.

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    I've been thinking about this for a couple of years and I have to agree. Objectively I'm prepared to believe CDs have a greater dynamic range, but subjectively in my system (by no means top end) vinyl has it nearly every time - especially old analogue recordings. The worst dynamic range, I'm sad to say, is on many BBC Radio3 live broadcasts. I'm not sure this was always the case on R3, but now, very often as you wait for some great orchestral crescendo, you get the aural equivalent of premature ejaculation!

  6. #6
    Join Date: Aug 2009

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    I'm Martin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnMcC View Post
    I've been thinking about this for a couple of years and I have to agree. Objectively I'm prepared to believe CDs have a greater dynamic range,:
    The technology is capable of it, the recordings placed on it are often not mastered to take advantage of it. The reasons being:

    Recording companies know that people listen a lot on portables or in cars where, with a recording that has high dynamic range, the background noise will drown out quiet passages unless you ramp up the volume; and if you ramp up the volume to hear the quiet bits over the background noise the peaks will take your head off.

    Recording companies also know that a lot of music is listened to through cheap radios or televisions that do not have sufficient clean amplifier power or capable enough speakers to do the peaks properly with a highly dynamic recording. In other words, they will distort badly.

    So they use a lot of overall compression and master for 'punch' rather than fidelity.

    Even if you have good equipment the design of many active pre-amplifiers is such that they will be at full output a third around the volume dial. With a source like a DAC or CD player that has a high output voltage compared to the typical phono stage this means you get a choice between a sound too quiet to do the recording justice or too loud to be comfortable, and nowhere to go that is in-between the two.
    Martin



    Current Lash Up:

    Technics SLP1200 CD Player * Nelson Pass DCB1 Pre amp / Krell KSA50S Power amp * JM Lab Electra 926 loudspeakers *


    'You fool! To think that your ape-brain could contain the full knowledge of the Krell!'

  7. #7
    Join Date: May 2010

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    I'm Alex.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Macca View Post
    The technology is capable of it, the recordings placed on it are often not mastered to take advantage of it. The reasons being:

    Recording companies know that people listen a lot on portables or in cars where, with a recording that has high dynamic range, the background noise will drown out quiet passages unless you ramp up the volume; and if you ramp up the volume to hear the quiet bits over the background noise the peaks will take your head off.

    Recording companies also know that a lot of music is listened to through cheap radios or televisions that do not have sufficient clean amplifier power or capable enough speakers to do the peaks properly with a highly dynamic recording. In other words, they will distort badly.

    So they use a lot of overall compression and master for 'punch' rather than fidelity.

    Even if you have good equipment the design of many active pre-amplifiers is such that they will be at full output a third around the volume dial. With a source like a DAC or CD player that has a high output voltage compared to the typical phono stage this means you get a choice between a sound too quiet to do the recording justice or too loud to be comfortable, and nowhere to go that is in-between the two.
    Excellent explanation, thanks Martin
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    Alex.

  8. #8
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

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    I'm Alex.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnMcC View Post
    I've been thinking about this for a couple of years and I have to agree. Objectively I'm prepared to believe CDs have a greater dynamic range, but subjectively in my system (by no means top end) vinyl has it nearly every time - especially old analogue recordings. The worst dynamic range, I'm sad to say, is on many BBC Radio3 live broadcasts. I'm not sure this was always the case on R3, but now, very often as you wait for some great orchestral crescendo, you get the aural equivalent of premature ejaculation!
    Haha!
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Dec 2008

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    I'm Shaun.

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    Yes indeed I have noticed on the recent reissue of ELP's Brain Salad Surgery where you have to keep the volume low for the loud bits however the quiet bits are then too quiet. A bit of a bugger really which shows that the older recordings are much better all round.
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  10. #10
    Join Date: Mar 2014

    Location: West Wales

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    I'm malcolm.

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    My belief is that it is to do with the way vinyl masters are cut to disc, and the effects of RIAA compensation.
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