Trapped in Audio Connection Hell, Send Help

Being an A/V geek can be a real pain in the ass sometimes.

I’ve been recording vinyl for about six years now. During that time I’ve gone through three computers and four turntables. Each change has brought me better fidelity and audio quality. But I’d never be one to claim I’m an expert at this shit. I make up most of it as I go, and pretty much do things my own bass-akwards way that involves three different computer programs and a lot of slow, monotonous, manual editing that can take forever. But I’m an anal retentive prick, so that kind of comes with the territory.

However, I recently have become completely fed up with two incredibly annoying audio problems that I cannot seem to fix, and would like any outside input.

The first is rather small, but annoying. My balance is always off. Not by a lot, just a few dB. It’s not really noticeable, I only can tell because I look at the soundwaves when I edit the tracks. It doesn’t matter what turntable I use or what needle I use, I always seem to have this problem. I’ve even tried an external soundcard and other audio cables. But to no avail. I’m assuming it MUST have something to do with my computer right? How the hell do I fix that?

The second problem is much more annoying. And the best way to talk about it is to use an example. Go to this post and download “LSI (Love Sex Intelligence) (Ed Richards 12″ Mix).” Skip to about three minutes in and listen to the loop of “LSI.” Notice how the “S” sounds generate some distortion, like everyone has a lisp or the audio levels are too high? What the hell is causing that? Now, this problem isn’t across all my records, and I mostly only notice it on older ones, so this might not even be my problem at all. Maybe I’m buying shitty records. I’m willing to accept that, most of the stuff I buy has been (not gently) used. But if anyone knows any way to minimize this problem I’d love to hear it. OH, and I’ve mucked with the tonearm’s counterweight countless times. That’s not it. That thing is perfect.

So, if anyone can help me solve these problems I’ll give them cookies. Or some music. Whatever.

The Shamen
Boss Drum (Justin Robertson Lion Rock Mix)
Boss Drum (Youth Transhamen Ritual Mix)
Boss Drum (Beatmasters Tribal Buzz Mix)
Phorever People (Beatmasters Heavenly Mix)
Phorever People (Tee’s Flying Dub)
Phorever People (Tommy D’s Swing Dub)
The final batch of Shamen tracks! Enjoy.

Bran Van 3000
Astounded (Eric Kupper Mix)
Astounded (Demon Mix)
Astounded (MJ Cole Mix)
This is some sexy shit. God damn. This track uses a previously unheard Curtis Mayfield track, and with great results. Be careful when listening to this one, it might cause uncontrollable sexiness. I still haven’t gotten off my ass and picked up either of Bran Van 3000’s last two albums. Any word out there? They any good? I love me some Discosis.  These are from a 12″ single.

10 Responses to “Trapped in Audio Connection Hell, Send Help”

  1. Homer J from UK says:

    I & a mate had this problem of one level being more than the other-both in the 80’s & 90’s recording on tape decks. Apparently in a studio vocals were recorded more in one side(can’t remember which),we just used 2 alter the recording levels(i.e. boost the lower level til both the same). Have u had the needle long? If not then check wires 2 the cartridge(clean the pins with cotton buds with some alcohol based cleaner).then if u have the type of arm like 1200’s undo cartridge & clean both ends with alcohol based cleaner.then clean phono plugs from turntable,undo ground wire & attach 2 bare metal(if not bare scratch away then reattach ).clean whatever leads go from turntable in2 whatever it goes in2. If that all fails,god knows. Another tip that mite help interference-u can open all the mains plugs unscrew wires & tin ends then rescrew,& make sure all have 3 amp fuses. Computer wise i used 2 have a Creative THX Audigy in the slot of laptop & everything was fine. But phono preamps were a bloody pain,i just bought a Behringer tweakalizer & connected it 2 that(as it had a ground post).
    Another tip a DJ said 2 me was clean all points with Brasso instead of alcohol based tape cleaners-but as he was a Drum & Bass DJ & probably sniffing the Brasso,i didn’t try it(u know who u r DJ Vice !).

  2. c@meron says:

    yay for BV3K, just bought the import single for ‘Astounded’ last visit to Amoeba L.A. – I discovered the used single section & it was a gloriously dangerous thing! personally I couldn’t get into The Rose but haven’t listened to it enough to give it a fair shake (it seemed like similar vibe as Discosis but not as inspired), didn’t realize The Garden even came out!

  3. ~R says:

    You’re running into the physics of playback issues. The masters are cut with a tangential lathe and then played back on deck with a pivoting tonearm — if squint long and hard enough you will always find panty bunching problems. That’s why there are so many tweaks and shit for the vinyl crowd. If the balance is only visible on a display and not auditory, then don’t look at the display. 🙂 You could smidge up the balance with the software too if you feel like it, right? Also, some records are just crap. Mastered crap, or played back on crap equipment in the past so you’ll get IGD on some records that cause the sibilants to drive you insane. Hope this helps.

  4. Musicologist says:

    I remeber a similar problem in digitalising my records. As I used “Sound Forge” to record there was a button at the recording Window that said “AC adjust”. I just klicked it and the balance was right. Maybe the programm you use has a similar option?
    Good look and thx for your good work from germany!

  5. Fictional Queen says:

    Even in Physics class we didn’t pay much attention to decilbels.You just out-nerded yourself!!!

  6. Katalyst says:

    You could always switch the L/R channels from the deck – If the levels are still the same then it’s a computer or cable issue, if they switch then it’s a problem at the turntable.

  7. Joe says:

    I have similar issue with the vocal distortion on t and s sounds, high cymbal hits and the like. From my experience, it’s due to a record having been played numerous times in the past with a lower end needle or used for DJ’ing over some stretch of time. I’ve bought a bunch of used records over the years including 12″‘s, LPs and 45s. Occasionally I get a bad one that exhibits those problems. Years ago, when I had a decent turntable (and had more money to burn!), I’d buy higher end replacement needles. Some of the lispy records would then play much better, or near perfectly with those better needles. Anyway, I my guess is there’s no problem with your gear – it’s the records themselves…

  8. Stevo says:

    Not gonna claim any of my musings are right, just throwing some layman thoughts into the ring. It’s probably to do with the centrifugal force of the record player, the fixed point of the tone arm creating a resistance against the vinyl as it nears the centre. Think of a fairground ride, one of those ones that pins you to the wall as it goes faster. I know a record is fixed at 45/33 1/3 rpm but the closer it gets to the centre the more force exerted to push the stylus out. Which also might explain why one channel is always louder than the other? Another thought as well, are you using an ‘S’ or Straight tone arm? I went from an ‘S’ to a staight when they first came out, thinking they looked cool, but damn the sound was lousy towards the middle. They’re more for scratch dj’s than normal dj”/audiophiles.

  9. Stevo says:

    Not being able to let this lie I had a quick look around the net & found a few people with your same problem:

    No, no, no….with all due respect, you guys, your replies are inaccurate in what the cause of this is. The OP is absolutely correct, the inner grooves of 33 1/3 LPs do produce more distortion by nature; this is an intrinsic design flaw of 33 1/3 LP playback. The problem is rooted in the physics of 33 1/3 playback.

    Read this paragraph by the mastering and recording engineers at Music Matters, LTD, who include mastering luminaries Steve Hoffman and Joe Harley:

    fter 60 years the good ol’ analog LP is still one of the highest resolution sources of music distribution available. It has a solid, palpable, satisfying sound that no digital format has yet equaled, let alone surpassed. The most unfortunate thing about the LP is that it was really starting to flourish back in the mid 80s, just as the record companies tried to kill it.

    Advances in cutterheads (the device that etches the groove in the master lacquer disk) and cutting electronics reached a pinnacle in the early 80s. Digital computers arrived on the scene in their best role: Out of the audio chain, but doing machine-control to adjust the groove spacing on the record for maximum playing time and recorded volume. 180 gram virgin vinyl pressings were the next development, and last but not least, around the late 70s, 45 rpm 12” LPs started to appear.

    Why 45, you ask? Because it sounds better! In record mastering, the higher the recorded level and frequency, the greater the groove curvature. Curvature isn’t usually a problem, per se, on the outside of a 12” 33 1/3 record, but as the groove moves toward the center, its relative speed slows down and curvature increases. Yes, it is still turning at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute, but consider: one revolution takes 1.8 seconds. That 1.8 seconds at a 12” diameter is covering a lot more territory than at the minimum 4.75” diameter. The result is actually a loss in high frequencies, and increase in distortion as the groove moves to the center. The problems start when the curvature of the groove equals or exceeds the diameter of the playback stylus. What can be done about it? Many things have been tried, but there is no “magic bullet”. Keep the recorded volume to a reasonable level (read: On scale on the meters) is the first thing. Play the record back with an elliptical or line-contact stylus that has a smaller tip radius. And, if possible, make the record short enough to keep the music away from the very end of the disk. This isn’t always possible, of course.

    BUT, if we spin the disk at 45rpm we now have a 35% increase in groove velocity at any point on the disk. This is a huge advantage! Yes, the groove still slows down as it moves inward, but the effects are greatly reduced. The only problem is that the amount of recorded time is now also reduced by 35%. What do you do about that? (Hint: split up the LP into 4 sides on 2 records.) Now you’re cookin’ doc! Yep, twice the mastering cost, plating cost, pressing cost, label and jacket costs. It’s enough to make the bean-counters break down and cry. But the sound! Oooooh, yeah! This isn’t sales hype, it’s physics. Listen for yourself. You tell me if it’s worth it. A lot of music lovers think so…and they are right!

  10. Shamus says:

    I realign the needle itself against unbalanced recordings (tilt it a *fraction* inwards) (Stanton used to give some white plastic tool you could use to align your needle perfectly when unscrewed from the tonearm)
    and the final few % of unbalance are fixed in Adobe Edition using a “Normalize to 100%” with L/R channels *not* linked during normalization so each channel is bumped independently to 100% without distortion or quality loss.
    A friend told me the anti-skid control jogwheel (Technics 1200) also helps for this, although I never experimented too much with that.

    The S noise is simple wear, you can lower the tonearm weight a bit or put a new needle, but virtually all discs I have this with are just starting to wear out. Bummer!

Leave a Reply