How much has audio reproduction REALLY advanced?

Today I listened to some old 78 recordings. These were copied by me using Rega 78, to Nakamichi CR7 and later to via Korg MR2 from the cassette recordings to FLAC.

Many 78s were bequeathed to me by an elderly neighbour more years ago than I care to remember, and I bought the Rega to listen to them. Couldn’t keep the Rega (space reasons etc), so copied the music to cassette etc as above. The 78s are still sitting in my loft in the inevitable cardboard box.

The first one I wanted to listen to the Beethoven Violin Concerto (especially the sublime slow movement and while thinking about which version (of several) to listen to (usually I choose the Schneiderhan) I decided to have a look at the 78rpm copies on the NAS. I’d forgotten that I had the Ida Haendel/PO/Kubulik version, which was recorded in the year of my birth!

Listened to it and although there is a high amount of surface noise, which didn’t bother me at all, I have now decided that this is probably the best version of the concerto that I own! Recording quality is remarkably good, and I found it much more involving than the Kyung Wha Chung version. Every instrument clearly discernible. The only downside is the occasional slight hiccup when I was moving from side to side of 78s while copying it. 2 generations of recording loss don’t seem to have bothered the music at all.

I was going to post this in the Music Forum, but it makes me wonder just how much we’ve REALLY advanced in music reproduction.

Thoughts?

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I bought some second-hand LPs a while ago and added a couple of old Percussion LPs because they were cheap and they had funky covers.

The were recorded in the 1950s and I have to say it´s not my favourite music, but the recordings are just sensational.

If you like the recordings it might be worth getting the discs properly cleaned and having some better quality first generation digital copies made?

Cleaning not a problem as I own an OKKI, but as I said, I no longer have the Rega 78. Hopefully its new owner is enjoying it. Most of the 78s I inherited are of old 40s and 30s favourites such as Bud Flanagan etc, although there are some classic gems such as Caruso etc. My 2nd generation copies are OK. I don’t feel inclined to buy another 78 turntable or ask someone else to do it for me.

About half of my listening is to vinyl. The digital side alas has to include some MP4s and MP3s for material not available in any other format - but even they are still enjoyable via the NDS.

When I had a precious 78 of my grandfather singing that I wanted to copy for other family members as well as preserve for posterity I used my normal TT. I had an old MM cartridge lying around as a spare so I bought a 78 stylus for it on t’internet for only a few £, and played at 45, ripping using a computer and Audacity - and used that to correct the speed/pitch, also cleaning up a bit of surface noise. Worked surprisingly well!

There are two main areas that spring to mind…

  1. Mastering and production technology… massive improvements here that allow our music to sound more enjoyable, and communicate better with us and allow for better more enjoyable reproduction… a big advancement over the relatively crude compressors and processors of 10 years or more ago.

  2. DAC reconstruction technology… the advancements of high power multi core processing with very low power consumption has opened up the world to better analogue audio reconstruction with less artefacts or limitations than before. This has been a huge improvement in the last 10 years. However arguably some may prefer the DAC reconstruction limitations of earlier generations… it’s a bit like choosing your sports car… state of the art performance or vintage class… both have their admirers.

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Hi Dungassin,

My thought is that in the past there have been some spectacularly capable systems as there are today; who is to say whether the present is better than the past, lots of factors. What I think is true today is that you can get some VERY capable gear for a very reasonable price. The issue then is how good the recordings are. I think the quality of digital recording has improved markedly over the last thirty years, but we then have high compression to deal with if you want something other than classical or niche.

In terms of the software the ready availability of the music is a massive boon.

M

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Interesting replies. I think I wasn’t very clear in my original post. I can easily detect the improvements made in reproduction technology, but at the end of the day, what really matters is the original material.
i.e. the music and performance itself. I can happily listen to my car radio and lossy files on my iPhone when on holiday. Rarely stops me enjoying the music itself. When I really appreciate my rather expensive gear is when I am analysing a piece to try to figure out how to play it. Most of the time the NDS/LP12 etc are “just what I like listening to”.

The Beethoven on 78 event led to me getting the Ida Haendel 10 CD boxed set. Got to hear how she does on the other old warhorses such as Bruch, Mendelssohn etc. Amazon delivered it whilst I was writing this reply.

… Off to search t’interweb to see if I can find a replacement for the now defunct Riffstation on my Mac … then I’m going to sit down and play with my new toy (Boss RC3 looper). :grin:

There are some seriously fine recordings from the 1940s onwards and some seriously fine recordings on 78’s.
In terms of sound reproduction, I can guarantee that if you played that same 78 on a 1940s record player, you would hear a massive difference compared to when replayed on an RP8 through a decent system today!

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The biggest current letdown in hi fi nowadays is the continued use of most manufactureres using the low grade rca phono sockets. We will never get the next level in SQ unless they start using din or much higher quality connections between amps, CDP, and all other equipment. The rca cinch is an outdated resricted way of delivering music when it shouldn’t even exist.today. TV video through the HDMI digital and now soon 2.1 socket will bring the next level in video quality. Meanwhile audio is still in the stone age.

That’s a very broad statement!

I’m not convinced personally, as some phono/RCA connectors are pretty good (though maybe your observation excludes them):however I do much prefer XLR connectors: there is a reason why pro audio has used XLR connectors for decades, and some hifi amps have done likewise, and indeed my system uses XLRs. Din connectors were used fairly widely in hifi in the 1960s, and when I built my first hifi I used DIns - however I thought they were pretty crummy, and switched to RCA when I rebuilt and upgraded my amp! But that was probably due to whatever the supplier sourced, rather than the style per se, and I guess that the Dins Naim uses may be not very much different from XLRs.

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What phonostage did you use with the Rega 78? The EQ issues put me off trying to play 78s a bit.

Thanks.

Nick

I used to use the AQ Ruby cable which is a very good rca cable though not top end on my set up. I moved over to an average Flashback 2 rca to Din cable and noticed a decent upgrade to the SQ. I have recently purchased a VFM new 2 rca to 5 Din VFM cable called the Gotham Gac1 Preh Din whatever that means and am just awaiting the return of my newly soldered naca5 cable to be used in the set up. I will be swapping the cables around to test which is best in the CDP which is an analogue connection and which will be beat with my new M Fidelity V90 dac. I’m really happy that the Nait 5i-2 has two Din sockets and i can’t believe other hi fi nakers don’t use similar to connect esp CDP and source as a din to din would be even better. I’d be over the moon if some dacs had a 5 pin din output socket, some have BNC, dpn’t know abpit XLR and how it compares to BNC if it’s similar ot not. I think it’s rather wasteful to have to buy an expensive boutique rca cable just to get the best out of the rca sockets. I just think they’re flawed when much better options are available. Maybe not on very budget hi fi but at the price when SQ gets quite good separets costing £500 plus, all boxes should have a higher quality connections like the Din or XLR.

If you mean me - well it was in the days when I still had my NAC32.5 available. IIRC I just used the supplied Naim moving magnet boards. Of course, it was a long time ago and my memory is far from infallible!

Just for clarity, because there are potentially confusing standards in use:

RCA vs DIN vs DIN relates to analogue audio. I assumed you were referring to this, and my last response was on that basis.

BNC vs RCA that you mentioned usually relates to SPDIF digital via 75ohm cable, and the input to a DAC not output. With the high frequencies involved, matching of the characteristic impedances of connectors and cables is important to prevent adverse effects such as part of the signal being ‘reflected’ back. BNC connectors are generally superior as they were designed for RF use, and are widely available in 75 ohm versions (though also other impedances, like 50 ohm). RCA connectors are also available in 75 ohm versions, or so they are claimed, but there is doubt as to whether most, or any, really manage it because of the inherent limitations of the RCA dimensions. AFAIK XLR connectors are only used in digital transmission by AES/EBU 110 ohm.

Thanks. Not sure why my post did not indicate I was writing to you @Dungassin.

Hi, @Innocent_Bystander.

When I had a pro-installer put in long runs of RG-6 for flexible future use, they recommended and installed it using 75 Ohm BNC terminations at the wall, and provided RCA to BNC patch cables for each end. I ran analog video and audio through this panel successfully for many years. I eventually used four of these segments to connect my AV system to my Naim system, both directions, to serve the whole-house.

Nick

On the face of it there would seem to be nothing fundamentally wrong with using 75 ohm cables both for video and for analog audio, and indeed SPDIF digital audio, and by using appropriate BNC connectors your installer has ensured that the wiring maintains its characteristic impedance.

My understanding is that matching of connector and cable impedance becomes increasingly important with increasing frequency, so at radio frequencies, especially VHF, and more so UHF, it becomes increasingly vcritical to avoid degradation of the signal. I am uncertain as to actually how important it really is with digital audio streams, which aren’t as high frequency as VHF - but as it is possible to ensure impedance matching it would seem to be good practice to do so.

Analogue audio is rather different, firstly because the highest frequency is lower, and secondly because it is not normally dealing with matched impedances in the first place, generally having a low source impedance and very much higher sink impedance at the input to the amp. What may matter more is the effect of capacitance and inductance of the whole cable, rather than its characteristic impedance.

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Thanks, so the only output from a dac to an amp is an rca sockets as it’s analogue only just like the din. In that case the analogue output from a dac would benefit greatly from a din plug ie; 5 pin din to Naim amp 5 pin din input. And maybe get the input from an rca digital source or bnc connector. But will this BNC cable digital source be any higher quality signal or different than the rca digital cable or will it be the same being pure digital?

Some DACs have other analogue outputs, e.g. Chord Hugo TT and Dave have balanced XLR as well as RCA (and, not unexpectedly, the Naim DAC has DIN as well as RCA).

RCA connectors on digital may give as good a signal as BNC. As I said in an earlier post perfect impedance matching of plug to 75 ohm cable might not be possible, but that might not actually make any difference at all to the digital transmission.

Alternative digital connections on some DACs, to suit matching sources, include AES/EBU (though does not seem common outside pro audio), USB, and of course optical.