Myths (Vinyl)

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Note: These are preliminary notes, are a little opinionated, and are subject to change. Please edit as appropriate or comment on the discussion page.

  • The vinyl surface is heated to several hundred degrees on playback, and repeat play of the same track should wait at least several hours until the vinyl has cooled.
    • Obviously, the temperature of the record is at room temperature except at the stylus contact point - otherwise the record would completely melt.
    • It is true that back-to-back playback will introduce slightly more distortion than a fresh play. This is believed to be a temporary effect and goes away after approx. 10 minutes.
    • Repeated playback (no matter what the timeframe) carries the risk of permanent damage.
    • No published evidence exists of back-to-back playback causing permanent damage.
  • Proper vinyl playback is click-free.
    • Pops and clicks are often not audible during a song on a well-maintained record and should not distract from the listening experience.
    • No evidence exists of a record that is shown to be played back with absolutely no pops or clicks whatsoever.
    • They are introduced at virtually every stage of production, from cutting the laquer to the pressing to the playback itself. Some pops and ticks are pressed into the record itself.
    • Because of the lack of evidence for a tick-free record and the engineering factors making such a record extremely rare, it is quite likely that no record exists that is truly free from all pops and ticks.
  • Vinyl is better than digital because the analog signal on the vinyl tracks the analog signal exactly, while digital is quantized into steps.
    • PCM encoding (used on CDs and DVD-A) records audio data in a quantized format. Analog formats do not have a measurable time or signal resolution.
    • Analog encoding still has many measurable and audible faults, potentially including THD, noise, IMD, etc.
    • PCM can encode time delays to any arbitrarily small length. Time delays of 40ns or less - a tiny fraction of the sample rate - are easily achievable. (Proof here.)
    • Signal quantization (ie 16-bit or 24-bit) only results in increased noise in a correct implementation. No distortion is introduced and the noise is of questionable audibility under most listening conditions.
    • The term "analog", by definition, means that the signal is not and cannot be a perfect reproduction of the original - it is merely an "analogue" of the existing signal, corrupted in the process of encoding.
    • In short, by any numerical basis, vinyl is not as accurate as competing digital formats.
  • Vinyl is objectively worse than digital.
  • Vinyl is objectively better than digital.
  • Adding a penny to the headshell improves tracking/sound.
    • The trackability of a cartridge is related to the mechanical parameters of the tonearm and stylus assembly.
    • Adding weight to the headshell (and adjusting the counterweight to compensate) increases the effective mass of the tonearm and reduces its resonant frequency. If the resonant frequency is excessively high - 15-20hz as measured by a test record - the weight may improve trackability by moving the resonance out of the audible range. Otherwise, it will generally only reduce trackability.
  • Vinyl sounds better with the dustcover on/off.
    • The sound emanated by the vibrating stylus is audible and can theoretically bounce off the dustcover and back onto the record.
    • Moving the dustcover compromises the balance of spring- or foam-damped plinths. The azimuth error, if not fixed, may be more audible than the reflections made by the cover.
    • No published evidence exists of the dustcover having this effect.
    • Keeping the dustcover on can reduce the amount of dust settling on the record during playback, improving sound quality with long-term use.
    • Dust covers keep dust off the record mat, which can also get on the record.
  • A cartridge is permanently damaged and should be replaced if the stylus appears even slightly bent.
    • Bent stylii cause azimuth and alignment errors which may be audible. In extreme cases they can cause record damage.
    • Cartridges are hand-built and always have some finite tolerance in their construction. No stylus is completely straight, down to the atomic level.
  • A record cleaning machine is required for optimal playback.
    • Record cleaning machines were not used by the vast majority of the music-playing populace during the heyday of vinyl.
    • Few record stores use record cleaning machines, and only a few more perform a cleaning regimen.