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. These distortions have invariably measured higher than for digital formats, including CD.
    • PCM can encode time delays to any arbitrarily small length. Time delays of 1us or less - a tiny fraction of the sample rate - are easily achievable. The theoretical minimum delay is 1ns or less. (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 has greater resolution than CD because its dynamic range is higher than for CD at the most audible frequencies.
    • The dynamic range of vinyl, when evaluated as a the ratio of a peak sinusoudal amplitude to the peak noise density at that sine wave frequency, is somewhere around 80db. Under theoretically ideal conditions, this could perhaps improve to 120db.
    • The dynamic range of CDs, when evaluated on a frequency-dependent basis and performed with proper dithering and oversampling, is somewhere around 150db.
    • Under no legitimate circumstances will the dynamic range vinyl ever exceed the dynamic range of CD, under any frequency, given the wide performance gap and the physical limitations of vinyl playback.
    • Thread here.
  • 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.