Vinyl masters

December 5, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

I’ve often spouted off about why vinyl sounds so different than any other medium. In those gushing (isn’t that what happens at the output of a spout?) I have said many times over that it’s the mastering that mostly makes the difference.

While that may be true for many vinyl releases it certainly isn’t true for Octave vinyl. When we release an album to vinyl it is a direct output from the same master you download from us.

And yet, identical master or not, vinyl sounds remarkably different. Many (most) would tell you better.

A lot better sounding.

When it comes to the sound of vinyl I will certainly own up to different and will even go so far as to agree there is an inviting lushness to vinyl playback that is missing in listening to the DSD masters.

So if Octave vinyl is a direct reproduction of the DSD master what makes it different?

My simple answer (which I open up for lively debate) is the phono cartridge. Like a speaker transducer, the phono cartridge is a collection of wires, magnets, and suspension that together color the sound.

Just like no two tweeter types sound the same, I would dare say the same applies to cartridges.

Is the cartridge the main source of sound quality between vinyl playback and the vinyl masters?

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82 comments on “Vinyl masters”

  1. There could be many reasons.
    We have the sound of vinyl imprinted into our psyche from our youth.
    Maybe vinyl takes some of the edge off the DSD master…a combination
    of old & new, like why does a ‘D’ class amp sound better with a vacuum
    tube input stage…does the tube smooth-out some of the ‘D’ class hardness?
    Yeah, it could be the cartridge, or it could be the RIAA/Phono stage amp.
    Does vinyl sound different when the ambient room temperature is 98F,
    as opposed to 60F?
    How many coins should we toss?

    1. I like stressing the aspect of “influence of room temperature” when focusing on electro-mechanical parts. However every serious audio designer recommends to play the drivers of a loudspeaker and the phono cartridges at least for 30 min for warming-up. There are even turntables with heated bearings (similar to heated quartz for clock circuits). 🙂

    2. So, are the reasons that vinyl sounds different due to different phonograph [Arcana! Yaayyy!] cartridges, et cetera? Of course, especially since cartridges are mechanical to electrical transducers, just as loudspeakers/headphones are electrical to mechanical transducers. Nobody with a reasonable [What’s that?] amount of experience is even the slightest bit surprised that different loudspeakers/headphones (transducers) sound different, either subtly or overtly. No great stretch to figure that the same thing applies to cartridges (transducers). And yet you have to admit that if you put aside any judgments of the relative superiority of all analog playback versus digital/analog playback, they both manage to sound quite good, even excellent.

      Now lets get to the less than 500 lb. gorilla (mostly) in the room (which is a subject for another day), a.k.a. the human being. The human central nervous system is an enormous kludge, yet one that has been gradually optimized for survival (and reproduction) within the existing environment at the local time-space through God only knows how many experimental iterations (reproduction) ever since differentiated multicellular life became established (and to an extent even before with less elaborate, yet still amazingly complex, biological entities at an individual cellular level) on this Earth. So, it’s been an ongoing process for a very long time with lots and lots and lots of permutations. And here we are. Neitzsche’s ubermensch? [Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-hah!] No, not even close. The current human central nervous systems share a generally common template, but it’s all custom grown individual systems that are also constantly ‘rewiring’ themselves as nerve cells die off, etc. To expect anyone else to experience macro-reality exactly the same way that you do is a near impossibility. A simple experiment: try wearing someone else’s eyeglasses. Why should the way we hear be any different?

      And now for my personal untested (as far as I know) hypothesis as to why many people continue to love analog and disdain digital. It is not difficult to measure that a competently designed digital encoding/decoding music reproduction system will have a lower noise floor, greater dynamic range, and commonly greater linearity at the frequency extremes of audibility and beyond. “But wha’ o’ that?” Between the extremes within the ‘sweet spot’ in the middle, a competently designed analog recording/playback system can achieve very, very good, even excellent results. There may very well be those individuals that discern with their own central nervous systems that, even with their limitations at the extremes, this is what they prefer to listen to for enjoyment of music. Are they right? For them, yes. For you, maybe not. So enjoy the music, however you listen to it.

  2. If you take a recording and transfer it (a) bit perfect digitally or (b) by cutting a groove in a bit of plastic, running a small rock through the groove and amplifying the resulting signal hundreds of times, then it is a small miracle that they actually sound fairly similar.

    It really doesn’t matter why, and if you want to debate that and go further and debate which is better, then you will waste much of the rest of your time on this planet doing so without a getting an answer.

    One reason is because it depends on the type of music. You might as well argue whether coffee tastes better with a bit of sugar, which first of all depends on the coffee beans used.

    Recorded sound is just a way of tricking your brain to think you are listening to a real sound, whether speech or music. Some people are more easily tricked than others, and some poor souls are not satisfied until they know how the trick is performed. So the skill and style with which the trick is performed is as much determined by the expectations of the audience, and part of the magician’s task is to know what their audience wants.

  3. “When we release an album to vinyl it is a direct output from the same master you download from us.”

    That implies that your vinyl releases can handle the same dynamic range as the digital versions, which implies your digital releases are dynamically capped more than is, perhaps, ideal.

    1. First just take this as a fact:

      Then realize that few recordings only have a dynamic range that can’t be pressed on an LP (the whole, very dynamic SFS Tilson Thomas Mahler Cycle was released on vinyl, mastered/cut by Kevin Gray without compression used). Paul repeatedly recommends the DSD Version as one of the most dynamic symphony experiences.

      Then realize that hardly anyone is able (at home) to make use of a higher dynamic range than tape or vinyl offers. Measure the loudest level you’re comfortable with at home, substract the usual environment dB level and you’ll see that you’ll usually be quite a step below it.

      Independent of this I’m sure Octave never cuts dynamic range on their DSD recordings. I just think it rarely exceeds the range being able to be pressed on vinyl and if it does, no compression (with a compressor) but maybe some gain riding is used, which you wouldn’t notice compared to the other sound quality benefit of the vinyl release.

      That said…I’m an absolute fan of dynamics and I prefer the most dynamic range possible. It’s just that the dynamic performance of our equipment is way more essential than the available dynamic range.

      1. So the maximum SPL you can experience in an orchestra, probably sitting in front of the brass is 110dB. The ambient noise level in a quiet room is going to be about 35dB. So that’s 75dB from very los ambient to the level that results in deafness over a sustained period. LPs can do about 60dB and CD 96dB. Even 30-35dB is considered a wide dynamic range on most recordings.

        In reality, my only symphonic DSD download (Liverpool Phil, Shostakovich 2 and 14) has too much dynamic range and the opening is virtually inaudible if you don’t want to get deafened later on. My only Mahler on vinyl is Barbirolli 5 for old time’s sake, and it has more than enough dynamic range.

        So I would like to know why vinyl or lossless digital present any limitations in respect of dynamic range.

        My experience as described above is that a live recording with DSD results in too much dynamic range, making the recording difficult to listen to. An engineer using PCM would not allow that to happen.

        1. I would take exception to what Steven just wrote.

          “My experience as described above is that a live recording with DSD results in too much dynamic range, making the recording difficult to listen to. An engineer using PCM would not allow that to happen.”

          The dynamic range of both formats are about the same—in the 120dB range. A DSD or PCM recording have the same dynamic issues that a recording engineer must deal with despite the format. At the time of recording nothing would be different between DSD and PCM.

        2. I’d say the only basic differences (most commonly agreed) between PCM and DSD are that DSD sounds better as a recording format (in respectively transparent environments), is more complicated to mix/master and less distributed on the market (because less compatible with common gear and for those reasons less used in recording studios). Beyond that, there’s nothing wrong with it.

          1. The recording I referred to was a live recording, together with using DSD may have been the reason for the extreme levels on that recording. I know of a couple of orchestras in the UK that record live with DSD. Pyramix seems to be widely used in the UK in DXD, but I’ve yet to find a single recent studio recording captured in DSD, let alone then transferred to vinyl.

            I have no problem with DSD other than the fact that I buy recordings based on the musical content and next to nothing has been released in DSD that I have any interest in buying. I did recently buy Kiril Gerstein playing Liszt (on Myrios DSD64). I think I’ve bought 3 DSD recordings since buying 5 for test purposes back in 2015.

  4. As you stated, most vinyl (re)masters are usually (partly far) superior sounding to their digital (incl. DSD) counterparts for several reasons (more care taken, better engineers used, better gear used, better sources used, analog mixing for vinyl release vs. digital mixing for digital release in case of digitally sourced vinyl releases). But all of those don’t apply for your Octave releases.

    They also don’t apply for Analogue Productions reissues released as SACD’s (same mastering engineer, same master tape source), which sound clearly worse on SACD than on 45RPM vinyl…probably similar to Octave releases (but I suspect even more so as they are analog sourced, so AAA on vinyl).

    The Octave situation might be most comparable to e.g. the digitally sourced ECM releases which also sound better on vinyl, although they are not differently produced for vinyl in any way. But they just sound a bit better compared to the much bigger difference of the Analog Productions example or even bigger in cases where the mastering differs.

    So why is this in case of Octave Records?

    There might be additional losses in the digital media production, but as you compare the vinyl to the DSD source files, this doesn’t apply here. So I think you’re right, the mechanical cutting and playback process (cutter head, cartridge as well as their amplification) add whatever beneficial harmonics, distortion, which leads to a more realistic presentation, although it’s not “pure” as the DSD file anymore.

    Why can it sound better although it’s less “pure” than the DSD source?

    Theory 1: because the digital playback process has further losses compared to the analog one.

    Theory 2: because the DSD source file already had losses (harmonic structure etc.), which the mechanical vinyl cutting/playback/amplification processs compensates and possibly even exaggerates in a beneficial way.

    In the 80’s I recorded some CD’s to a Revox R2R tape. Those tapes definitely sounded “better”. Just because they added some harmonics and beneficial distortion to those awful CD productions.

    “Accurate” (the key argument of digital) only makes sense if the source and the recording and the playback process is perfect. As none of them IS perfect until further notice (partly far from it), the argument is meaningless. That’s imo why we (most or many) still prefer tape and vinyl and appreciate (even those who abandon vinyl do) when new digital formats and technology exactly approache this kind of realism and harmonics (while staying superior in accuracy).

    We among other cases experience this in the preference of many of the HDTT tape transfers to DSD256.

  5. This is a plausible cause of why Vinyl is never twice the same. Each Turntable type introduces physical and electrical characteristics to the playback. The whole playback chain has to sound different, due to electro-mechanical colorations. This is also so true for the multiple differences in the stylus profile, the cartridge types and tonearm design. I would conclude that vinyl playback is a highly subjective topic. Subject to the combination and harmony of the playback elements. There are many more factors in vinyl that affect the extraction of the recorded sound from record grooves, no wonder the digital vs. vinyl playback debate still exists and will continue to generate all kinds of limbically fueled controversies. If we realize that Digital playback is not subject to so many electromechanical deviations in such a minuscule scale, we can rest assured that the end result, when executed in a manner consistent with low distortion and fidelity to the original is what really matters. The advantages of Tape playback were the elimination of clicks and pops, the advantage of digital has opened an awesome amount of benefits in the capture, sampling and storage/playback of analog signals. I think that the vinyl debate would end the day that we as Humans generate binary audio streams instead of moving our vocal chords. After all would telepathy between multiple people sound different for each person, just a humorous ending to a debate that continues to rage on despite all of the variables that are introduced into the recording chain. I say Analog is never twice the same….. that is what makes it so Human and less Robotic.

  6. The question posed today will raise more questions than answered.
    Here’s a couple or so. Go back a little in time…
    Does Vinyl sound better than the master tape it was cut from?
    If vinyl is cut from a non dsd digital source does it sound better than that original source?
    Is the original DSD source copied exactly as is onto the vinyl or is the vinyl edition mastered a little different?

    The obvious and most simplest answer is the cartridge used for playback. It’s the easiest answer to defend. However things are not always as simple as initially thought when asked.

    In a vinyl set-up the cartridge is the first thing to generate the signal in a playback system.
    In digital it’s the DAC. Which one of those is most accurate in that initial generation?

    1. The DAC is most accurate!

      But the signal the DAC and the record player play back, is already compromised (so to accurately reproduce a compromised signal doesn’t necessarily result in most satisfaction)…or even if not compromised…doesn’t sound as impressive at home as it would if a little “enriched”.

      The whole recording process already enriches the sound you’d experience live (soundstage, pin point imaging etc. which is not available live)…nothing or very little in a recording/playback process is really accurate…the result is an artificial product anyway.

      Anyway we certainly want it as accurate as it makes sense. But ask Paul how he voiced the DS by choosing some parts over others to make it sound as he preferred in his monitoring chain (which meanwhile changed). Which of those choices within a digital component was accurate…and to which reference?

      To compare an analog sourced album on vinyl and digital media is another fish…there vinyl playback not just “enriches”, there you’ll hear more information of various kinds, too, on the AAA version whysoever.

      1. Thanks for your thoughts Jazznut.

        To boil down the essence of what you said (my interpretation). Sacrifice absolute accuracy for something less accurate but more enjoyable to the ear (yours, mine, anyones).

        That seems to go against every grain of the stated audiophile goal. It’s always been about how accurate and real something should sound as defined by the industry and manufacturers. ✌️

        1. Yes Mike, more or less, but I’d express it a bit differently:

          sacrifice ultimate accuracy for a more realistic, natural sounding alternative to an accurately transferred but initially already compromised recording. This still means I’d prefer as much accuracy as necessary and helpful for realistic sound.

          We do that with every amp and speaker anyway, the engineers do it with every live recording by their choice of microphones, mastering etc., the manufacturers do it with the voicing of every component.

          As you say, “more enjoyable” (I’d add “in terms of more realistic sounding”) imo is the right description. I wouldn’t agree to “more pleasant”, as I connect this with a loss of accuracy I prefer (as much as necessary and helpful for realistic sound).

          1. Thanks Jazznut ✌️

            I wasn’t trying to put ‘words in your mouth’
            even most realistic can vary – from person to person – system to system – room to room
            It’s the degree of Realistic and accurate we take into account individually.
            I think we’re on the same page

    2. That’s an easy one, Mike. The DAC. Even simple measurements will show the DAC is a perfectly flat line FR and phase response while the electron mechanical response of any cartridge looks closer to a loudspeaker than a ruler-flat line of phase and amplitude.

      1. We’re crossing in real time 😀
        See my response to Jazznut above.

        So we want accurate, but not analytical.
        A quick thought, maybe a perfectly matched cartridge and speaker should be developed.

  7. I can attest that Paul is right. I have some 45 rpm records and SACD’s of the same album that were made from the same DSD256 file and they do not sound the same. And as Paul said, I prefer the vinyl ( not by a huge amount, but I give the vinyl a slight edge over the SACD ). Paul has refereed to this difference as the”magic” of vinyl. I think that is a good way of describing it.

    Now, like many of you, I am a crazy man when it comes to audio. I have a TASCAM hi-rez digital recorder that records in DSD128 then down samples to DSD64. I have made DSD64 copies of a few of these 45 rpm vinyl records and the DSD64 copy sounds like the vinyl. The “magic” is there. So, IMO, there is clearly something about making vinyl and playing back vinyl that adds the “magic”. My prime suspect for the “magic” is the RIAA encoding and decoding process.

    1. Tony,
      Following your experience and logic, if someone is going to produce ‘audiophile’ recordings, then the whole process needs to change. Record at some level of DSD, mix & master that. Then cut a master for vinyl pressing. (45rpm?) Take that master and play it back converting it to DSD for download or SACD playback.

      Isn’t that how parts of the Octave Records release of Otis Taylor were done?

        1. You’re probably correct Tony.

          After Reading here for a period of years, you could come to a conclusion that no one is truly over the top happy (satisfied) with home audio. (Current acceptance is all that’s obtained) That observation in and of itself speaks volumes.

    2. As a consumer of both Octave vinyl and SACD’s I have to agree that there is something about the vinyl versions that seems better than the SACD version. With one exception. Even Octave’s vinyl has too much background noise, at least what I have does. So most of the time I will opt for the SACD over vinyl. Still, I will buy vinyl in hopes that I get that ultra clean pressing that is clean enough to to allow the better overall sound quality to shine over the SACD version.

  8. We are not robots; we are creatures with analog ear-brain systems. Since a digital waveform is always an approximation of an analog waveform I think our brains will always tend to prefer analog information.

    1. This is my second comment about another commenters comment, and it will be identical.

      I like the cut of your jib,hrboucher.
      It makes a whole lot of musical sense to me.

  9. Hi Paul,
    Could you expound on the difference(s) or no difference at all, concerning the dynamic range of Octave Recordings DSD 256 vs Lp recordings? And perhaps if the full dynamic range of a DSD 256 master can be recorded on LPs?

  10. A DSD256 has an approximate dynamic range of about 120dB where the best vinyl has about 70dB. That’s a 50dB gap.

    What’s interesting is that the majority of difference is wasted. Basically, we run the maximum peak levels as high as we can get without distorting. That means the useable (listenable) range is about 70dB or so, everything below that too quiet to really hear on a stereo system in a room where the average background noise would overwhelm anything that soft.

    The vinyl engineer simply has to let everything below a certain loudness level just be lopped off—which, while that sounds bad isn’t because the surface noise of the vinyl is greater.

    1. Surely the average background noise mentioned wouldn’t really be perceived as such by the listener in the room. For them it would seem to be a silent room but that will still measure at 35dB or slightly more. For all practical purposes useable dynamic range in audio systems starts at 35dB not 0dB which makes claims of 120dB dynamic range impressive but confusing. I assume from the explanation that the 70dB range quoted for vinyl is a fully useable range and doesn’t also require 35dB of background noise deducting as in the DSD example. Just trying to clarify I’ve got my head round this.

        1. Yes, definitely, very acceptable, but I want to be sure the comparison is like for like. If 35dB of ambient room noise has to be deducted from DSD256 120dB’s of dynamic range then surely that same 35dB of noise has to be deducted from vinyl’s 70dB capability making vinyl’s effective in room dynamic range 35dB. The ambient room noise (which is effectively the sound of silence) is the same for both mediums. I’m no expert on dynamic range, have I missed something?

          1. I’m glad that you posted ‘the follow-on’, ie. 70 – 35 = 35dB for vinyl.
            I don’t think that you’ve missed anything here.

            96 (44.1/16) – 35 = 61dB…just thought that I’d throw that one in 😉

  11. Just make a DSD recording of the signal being produced by the phono preamp and play it back by the DS DAC. I bet it will sound as the vinyl record. Thus the whole analog chain from the cartridge-tonearm-TT combo to the preamp including cables and power supplies and impedance settings in the phono-preamp inherently influence the final sound quality!

    1. Excellent idea PS!

      A whole new audiophile product range. A to D conversion – off the shelf converters? Or Discrete components that are voiced? All in ones? And it could be done at 4xDSD. It’s perfect! As it covers all the bases of the vinyl lover, the digital lover loses nothing over what they already have. It adds a whole other category of audio component to a manufacturers arsenal.

      1. Linn and Devialet systems have been doing this for years, I’ve been using such a system for 6 years.

        My unit converts the line input from my phono stage to 40/384 (DXD) and it still sounds like vinyl. You can record it at up to 24/192 from the usb socket if you want.

        It allows for DSP to analogue input signals, a feature of both of those brands.

      2. Indeed. And this new “product” could finally make available the “sound” of the most expensive cartridges, turntables and tonearm to those poor vinyl aficionados who will never be able to afford those mega buck devices. 🙂

    2. My old turntable/arm/cartridge combo is not the last word in phono playback, and my PS Audio NuWave phono converter is probably not the last word in phono preamplifiers, but that said, in my system (i.e. using the NuWave’s built-in ADC) I can do exactly as you suggest. And my findings are pretty much in line with your stated expectations.

      1. There we go Richard 😀
        The answer already existed and is somewhat available.
        I can’t help but wonder, especially with the resurgence of vinyl why this hasn’t caught on as an ‘audiophile norm’.
        It sounds like a win/win in almost every single aspect.

        1. As you are well aware, the Vinyl universe has a ‘flat-earth’ element to it, and digitizing analog, whether to PCM or DSD, can still afflict it with ‘digital’ in their minds.

          1. Sometimes painfully aware 😀
            Back to lasers for me. A watt is a watt. A nanometer is a nanometer. And so on.
            I don’t mind subjectiveness at all, except when it thinks it’s totally correct.

            1. As someone who spent his career in lasers, I can remember a time when what a Watt was (try saying that three time rapidly after a skinful of beer!) depended on which authority you used to calibrate your detector …

              1. 😀

                it still does…. but the standards are less ambiguous. Now a days color on a thermopile matters also.
                When it comes to pulse width what’s a femto second or two between friends 😉

  12. Paul,

    Having read your post and all of the replies up to this one, I must say that it seems to me you have made a rather profound discovery. Clearly the cartridge has to be at the crux of the difference. It would be interesting to learn what others think of your discovery and I encourage you to share it with a wider audience. Perhaps on YouTube or with one or more of the print magazines as well as with someone like Mikey Fremer.

    1. It’s not a discovery. Plenty of us have different cartridges at our disposal for their different performance, I have a choice of three every time I play a record.

      1. Steven,

        I was referring to Paul’s discovery of the difference in sound between vinyl and other digital playback media from identical DSD files.


        1. Bill, I remember doing that with Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo back in 2013.

          I went to hear the band play their album “Dear River” live at King’s Place, and when I got home I listened to the vinyl and the 24/192 digital download. All on the same evening.

          King’s Place is a newish ultra-modern mid-size venue in London with a superb acoustic, often used for recordings. “Dear River” is an extremely high quality recording by Linn Records and the vinyl was pressed at Pallas in Germany.

          It was a bit of an experiment because it is rare to hear such good music in near perfect acoustics and then have such a high quality recording on both digital and vinyl.

  13. I’ve maintained for years that if you set out to design a playback system with the greatest chance for the end-user to color the sound, intentionally or not, you couldn’t do better than vinyl records.

    Cartridges sound different. Stylus shapes track differently, which can affect sound. Turntables sound different. So do tonearms. Phono preamps. Step-up devices, if needed. Cartridge loading. Then there’s setup – tracking angle, VTA, azimuth, tracking force, antiskate. So many variables!

    That’s not to say digital playback doesn’t also vary from one person’s equipment and setup to another’s, but the number of variables is vastly fewer, and the chances of hearing something approximating the artist’s intent is correspondingly greater.

    This is all notwithstanding the age-old question of whether analog is better than digital (or even vice-versa), which is an entirely different matter. I do hear differences, but they’re not always differences of quality, at least not to the extent they were 40 years ago. The quality gap is closing, if not closed, but differences in sound remain. Given the number of links in the respective chains, can it be any wonder?

  14. No matter how it’s recorded, for you ( Hyper Audiophiles) out there that have spent multiple thousands of dollars on equipment and don’t get a tear in your eye or goosebumps when you listen to your favorite music, I think you’ve wasted a lot of money

    1. In the past, I have wasted quite a bit of money, but not anymore. I go by music reviews and YouTube videos that review music, then purchase from Amazon, where they’ll take anything back. If I get a bummer recording from Amazon, I just call customer service and they don’t even blink an eye let alone shed a tear. My refund comes within two days after I send the vinyl or CD back. Discogs is a whole other story. Many of the sellers are lying through their teeth about the condition of vinyl and CD’s. It’s difficult to badmouth these sellers because when you give negative feedback, as a buyer you’ll get rated poorly. Bring back the old days where I could walk into a store and thumb through the record and CD sections.

      1. I have purchased a few albums on discogs without any problem, but last year a bought one that ended up being a reissue that was missing two of my favorite tracks. I ask for a refund ,and finally got one after posting negative feedback. Afterwards I removed it. My post was aimed at folks who never really listen to the music, because they are always listening to the gear trying to improve it. When I was growing up in the early sixties, I was mesmerized and fell in love with my classic rock albums of the day playing them on a record player. Not a Turntable. I still have them all and still listen to them thru the pops and clicks. It takes me back to those early days for a short time. Happy Hollidays. Keep Listening.

        1. I’ve had quite a few problems with the way that some sellers claim the condition of the disc and case are. I shudder to think how vinyls are described and I’m not going to purchase any vinyl records on Discogs.

          I just purchased a copy of the 1987 reissue of the Beatles Revolver CD at a pretty low price on Disccogs where the seller, ‘The Declutter Store” with a 100% positive rating and a huge number of sales claimed that this CD was in mint condition and so was the case. I wish I took photos of what arrived. The case was totally scratched, scuffed, and cracked on both sides, and the CD was absolutely filthy with light scratches covered with dirt, grease and a tiny black spot which I could not remove. with a 100% positive rating and a huge number of sales claim that this CD was in mint condition and so was the case. I wish I took photos of what arrived. The case was totally scratched, scuffed, and cracked on both sides, and the CD was absolutely filthy with a tiny black spot which I could not remove on it. I treated it with Last CD cleaner and conditioner and got it as clean as possible. Then I played it on my system and it had no audible flaws so for the price that I paid I kept it because the 1987 reissue is very hard to find for less than $50 plus shipping when I paid $14 in total. I just won’t rate the seller.

          Happy holidays to you and yours.

          1. Hiya Neil,
            Funny that you should mention that, as I have very recently had a similar experience with one seller on ‘Discogs’ who also has a 100% +ve rating.
            He sold me a CD that he had advertised as ‘VG+’ & when I inspected it, it was a ‘G’ at best, with light/medium scratches all over the playing surface.
            It plays through ok, however, I left a negative review, stating:
            “‘BUYER BEWARE’ This seller rates CDs with scratches all over the playing surface as VERY GOOD +”
            Over the four & a half years that I’ve been buying CDs through ‘Discogs’, this was the only disappointing ‘buy’ & so I have to say that buying CDs through ‘Discogs’ has been very successful for me.

            1. I’m having a much worse time with getting the quality claims that the sellers state. It’s more about the case condition than the actual CD. The good thing is that I have found a lot of Chesky binaural‘s at good prices and other CD’s like revolver1987 remaster that I spoke about. The average price for that release date is probably about $60 plus shipping when I paid $14 in total which was supposed to be in mint condition. I knew it wasn’t going to be as stated by the price that it was going for but I never thought it would be this terrible. I cleaned it up I changed the case and since it plays fine, I’m happy.

              1. ‘Meh’…jewel cases can be replaced; they are about 80c each for a brand new one & cheaper if you buy in bulk, ie. 20 at a time.
                The smart sellers will state, “I do not grade jewel cases”.
                Given that the seller has to pay the ‘PayPal’ & the ‘Discogs’ fees, it’s not unreasonable for the buyer to replace the jewel case if said buyer is not happy with the condition of the seller’s supplied one…imo.

                One seller sold me 8 x Bob Ludwig remastered ‘The Rolling Stones’ CDs (1970’s albums) encompassing all of the Mick Taylor ones, for what worked out at AU$9 each…I couldn’t believe my luck 😮
                And all were ‘VG+’ 😀

        2. Hi RC,
          You typed, “My post was aimed at folks who never really listen to the music, because they are always listening to the gear trying to improve it”…THERE IT IS!

          I remember ‘Soundmind’ aka Mark Fischer, when he used to contribute here, posting once, ‘Those audiophiles that have their million-dollar rigs
          & three audiophile recordings to show if off with’…or words to that effect
          …it still makes me chuckle & raise an eyebrow.

          Keep Listening…Indeed!

  15. I’m wondering how the old laser phono “cartridges” would fare as that eliminates lots of mechanical artifacts it would seem. And to a lesser extent the strain gauge variants?

    1. Kevin, You should read some of the review of these DS cartridges ( I forget what DS stands for here, it is not DirectStream ). They use a standard stylus and needle tip to “read” the grooves. But, instead of an MM or MC cartridge the is a mirror at the other end of the stylus that changes how much light is reflected onto a photo diode. I think they use fiber optics for the light.

      What people say who have heard it is that it is so much quicker than an electromagnetic ( EM ) cartridge. When a coil moves in a magnetic field a current is induced in the coil which is sent to the phono pramp. However, that current in the coil induces a magnetic field that is opposite to the field that induced the current, Thus there is a mechanical “drag” on the moving coil in an MC cartridge. People who have heard the DS cartridge say that MM or MC cartridges sound “sluggish” compared to the DS cartridge.

      The signal the DS cartridge produces is dependent on the stylus position and not the stylus velocity as the EM cartridges are. Thus you have to have a special phono preamp that converts the RIAA encoding to a “DS” encoding. I would be very interesting to see if the “magic” of vinyl is there when suing a DS cartridge.

      1. I don’t have own experience with the DS system. From what I read as reviews and heard as opinions, my impression was, that it’s very fascinating but has an identifiable sonic signature and is a great addition, but as an additional option rather than a single main cartridge.

  16. I can picture it now. See last option 🙂
    Choose your format

    $29 Gold SACD with DSDDirect Mastered CD layer

    $19 Download: 44.1k 24-bit

    $19 Download: 96k 24-bit

    $29 Download: 192k 24-bit

    $39 Download: 352.8k 24-bit

    $29 Download: DSD64

    $29 Download: DSD128

    $39 Download: DSD256

    $39 Download: Needle Drop DSD 256

  17. How perfect is the rotational speed of a turntable and how smoothly does a cartridge needle glide? Could one reason vinyl has a certain subliminal interest be that micro variations in the speed of rotation of the platter or in the contact resistance of the gliding needle impart a subtle vibrato (wow and flutter) too small to measure but the brain can subconsciously discern, adding a perceived fatness, warmth or dimension to the sound? An analogy is how subtle variations of wind pressure feeding a wind instrument like a flute or pipe organ add interest and vitality to its sound. Imperfection is the spice of life.

  18. If you’ve recorded microphone audio direct to DSD – which should be the most accurate, and then you then press it to vinyl, spin it, vibrate it thru a stylus, bounce it thru thin air from a magnet to a coil inside a cartridge, across 4 press on pins, down a tone arm, into a phono preamp and then into your amp/preamp – have you not literally run the original thru seven analog sound filters of sorts? Each having potential different sound characteristics resulting in a nearly infinite varying combined sound alteration?
    And wax guys call themselves purists… 😉

    Tinnitus has transitioned up to a high B flat today, a welcomed change…
    Hey Google, play songs in the key of B flat.
    Let’s see if we can’t induce some inner ear wave cancellation here…. 🙂

  19. I began my career at Motown cutting vinyl. What we found was that only a few cartridges didn’t have a built-in smiley curve. That included only the very top-of-the-line Shures and Stantons. Everything else had both the smiley curve and phase variations that gave the impression of more depth.

    1. I believe that and often read about it. Most engineers at this time favored the Shure cartridges (at least for their technical behavior). I still have a V on an old Revox of my father. It tracked incredibly well and sounded detailled and very balanced, but certainly not comparable to today’s better ones otherwise.

      Do you think the CD players at the time were more phase coherent by their filter designs etc.?

      1. I’m talking about comparing tape directly to disk the mid 1960s. It’s hard to imagine anything more accurate but I’ve heard plenty of cartridges that enhance musicality.

        One big difference with CDs is that it’s become SOP to clip the transients. CDs can sound very good, but the market influencers all favor the loudest CDs.

  20. The cartridge is the primary transducer in vinyl playback and it greatly influences the sound. The turntable, tonearm and phono preamp (especially loading) also do but to a lesser extent. That, to me, is one of the allures of vinyl – I can tailor the sound of a recording to my liking. I have a number of turntable systems running, with moving magnet, moving coil, and optical cartridges and belt, direct drive and idler tables. Each has their own flavor and that adds to my enjoyment of the systems and the music. Everyone’s mileage will vary I’m sure.

    1. I really enjoy my Lyra Lydian cartridge even though it used to be the low end from this company but is now out of production. Every now and then I wish I went back to my Koetsu Black Gold Line or drool over a Rosewood. Koetsu is definitely more musical to my ear.

  21. I love vinyl and nobody can make me stop loving it. I just had a dream where someone sold me tens of thousands of LP’s. I was loading them up on a truck with the help of a few unknown people and was a happy camper, until I woke up. 🙁

  22. I agree completely. There are many great cartridges available and each has its own presentation of the sound. I know many TT lovers that are sold on arms with quick change heads for the convenience of changing the sound. I’m a 50 year audiophile and I must say that one day vinyl will be in the group of model T collectors. Digital will continue to make great advances. It will make no sense to own vinyl other than the collector aspect.

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