Why Vinyl? What Is Too Loud? Remasters? Dead Wax?

Why vinyl? Easy, it’s more fun. The art is bigger and somehow, it has personality. I’m far more willing to pay a few bucks for a completely unknown, but enticing looking LP rather than take a chance on a $9 CD.

CDs can be very cool, though, and I believe that the argument about which medium sounds better has more to do with who is doing the mastering (or remastering), rather than oil versus aluminum. There are CDs that blow away vinyl, and visa versa. Sure, I own plenty of CDs. But this site is about vinyl and the love of finding it.

What is too loud?  One thing you rarely have to worry about with vinyl is whether it’s too loud. There’s a growing sentiment that many of the new downloads and/or digital files on CD have been remastered to sound louder. Every instrument, every singer, every note is louder.

This is NOT the same as normalization, which raises the gain level of the entire digital file while maintaining the ratio between loud and soft constant.

compression example-webCompressing peaks and valleys (loud and soft) so that there are no more valleys means all the notes are loud. They’re all peaks. Initially it’s impressive but you’ll probably find yourself turning the volume down after awhile, and not understand why. Your ears will fatigue quickly when every note is loud. Ever been to a club where the band was louder than hell for two hours? When you walked out, you wanted silence, right? That’s ear fatigue.

Remastered doesn’t mean it’s better, it’s just different. Whether a newly remastered version of your fave recording is actually better than the vinyl or the first mastering of a CD is open to question. I recommend waiting and see what the online community has to say about what a newly mastered something-or-other really sounds like.

You’re almost better off checking who did the remastering than anything else. If Steve Hoffman, Kevin Gray, Barry Diament, Vic Anesini or Bill Inglot’s name is on the label, it’s a pretty sure thing that it was done well.

RVG-webI found the newest releases on Blue Note records (the RVG series) often sound pretty awful compared to the original CDs released back in the 1980s (mastered then by the aptly named Ron McMaster). RVGs just don’t sound like the Blue Note that everyone has known for decades. I recommend searching out the Ron McMaster CDs if you’re unsure which one to buy, or do some research on vinyl versions worth having. It’s not that the McMaster versions are heaven’s own, but they’re often better than what came later. Hard core listeners pay big bucks for original issue Blue Note vinyl because they feel those are the best sounding versions. They might just be right, but I’ve never owned any first-ish BN to compare to.

Or go online about the Led Zeppelin CD remasters from 2007-ish, compared to the original CDs issued in the mid 1990s. Plenty of grumblings about how the remasters don’t sound as good as the original ish CDs. Some recommend finding the vinyl instead. For example, the best sounding version of Led Zep III might be the out-of-print Classic Records 2000 vinyl re-ish that’ll cost you upwards of $100 plus!

But there are several other vinyl versions of this LP, like the Pecko Duck (!) that can be had cheaply if you search enough. You’ll have to look in the dead wax (or runout groove) area of the LP to discover the matrix numbers. Hope your eyes are good…

Search Steve Hoffman for a great site for getting into the “best sounding version of ….” It can be daunting sometimes, but if you’re willing, it’s worth it. Don’t even get started on which version of any Beatles vinyl sounds the best…it’s a hole you’ll never come out of, not to mention a hole in your pocketbook!

runout groove info-WEB

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