Record surface noise and speakers - Rega RS3s and Spendor A7s

Hi all,

I have a nice system (restored CB 32.5/HC/160, nDAC, and LP12 w/ART-9i, Karousel, Lingo) and finally updating speakers. I have loved the RS3s, like old running shoes, and the process of checking out speakers has been very interesting and did highlight the fact that there was a ton of music we were missing out on.

The Spendor A7s are our finalists (never have been able to even listen to Devores, that was another contender). The A7s are incredible. I did like the A4s as well but the bass on the A4s was pretty problematic for me, boomy and less controlled. The one thing about the A4s that was a bit magic was a sense of air in the music that I really like. But the A7s generally are just so good, tonally balanced, musical top to bottom, less fatiguing than the A4s, very organized even with symphonic music which for me is the real test.

However, and it’s a big however, vinyl surface noise seems much more pronounced (note I have a Degritter so these are clean records). The A7s seem to give more of everything so that is probably not a surprise. The A7s don’t strike me as that treble-flashy - like a lot of modern speakers - so it’s possible that a hidden virtue of the RS3s is less of everything including surface noise.

I would appreciate any thoughts/reflections about this. I love vinyl, but don’t like surface noise, and could start seeing moving much more to digital direction.

Do folks here think various better speakers vary in their conveyance of record surface noise?

Not a particular difference I noticed when I had vinyl. However as vinyl surface noise has always been evident to me, albeit ignored before I found digital to be better, it could be that speakers whose character I preferred did nothing to mask it.

Err… yes, of course they do. Why would they not…?

Maybe Spendor A7’s are not for you…? Unless they are, say, the 20th speaker you have tried so far…

I guess the A7s are a lot more revealing than the speakers you are used to. If surface noise is there, of course they will reveal that too.
The easy solution would be to move to digital, so that there would be no surface noise. Assuming you want to stick with vinyl, my guess is that your cartridge is low output, and depending on the phono stage you use, perhaps the noise is easily picked up and amplified along with the music signal.
I’m not familiar with your cartridge, but if you stick with the Spendors, or any more revealing speakers, you may need to solve a cartridge/phono stage matching issue that you never previously knew you had.
How old is your turntable, and how long ago was the arm and cartridge installed? Maybe worth getting an experienced dealer to have a look and see if they have any suggestions.

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I have no surface noise on nearly all discs varying from new to second hand 60’s, since getting back to vinyl some 8 years ago. I cannot help much in identifying the reason, my system comprises Origin Live deck & arm with a Hana cartridge. I am still surprised by the absence of surface noise, compared with the system in place when i sold the system and record collection back in 2003. Many of the second hand records I have bought do have surface marks as well.

@b-lilja I had the Rega RS3 in a former all Rega system. I now have the Spendor A4. I found the RS3 speakers to be midrange forward with elevated highs compared to my A4 speakers. Switched from an ND5XS2 to an NDX2 with XPSDR. Bass tightened up considerably. Initially I found the A4 speakers to be warm and rolled off. No longer the case. The A7 speakers are too tall for our living room.

Maybe if not something now different in your system to explain, perhaps older ears?

You need a Denon DL103.

Known to produce very little surface noise. I use one, hardly ever hear surface noise.

Just the music.

I started the vinyl journey with a DL110 which is similarly low noise. I’ve had a bunch of cartridges since (Ortofon 2m Black standout worst offender) and the AT ART9i has seemed pretty low noise until now.

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Generally the hiss is due by a mismatch between the pre and the phono or phono and cartridge. My experience at least.
Some cartridges are also more silent than others.
Not sure that the solution is changing the speakers. But I may be wrong.

Just to be clear, not talking about hiss here, but the pops associated with things in the groove. LP12 in excellent fettle, with a newish excellent cartridge.

We did a close A/B between the speakers last night - pretty clear the A7s just represent the pops more brightly and thus more noticeably. The RS3s represent the pops more in the range of the music, which just make them less noticeable.

The difference is particularly striking at low levels.

The other thing our listening session did was also confirm just how good the A7s are. The the lead in groove on, just grabbed our attention and made us smile. In particular detail, form, voice, and musical bass worthy of note. The RS3s are blurred in comparison. It was uncanny - my wife mentioned she could understand vocals better, and you really can.

I am going to get a pair and we will just work with the pops - probably means a second cleaning, and looking around at cartridges next time around.

I agree with this…surface noise (from the record) and hiss (frequently from a phono stage, particularly if the cartridge output in not a particularly good match to the phono stage gain) are likely to make a similar sound, therefore having an additional effect to each other.

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Surface noise isn’t caused by speakers it could be stylus wear or a less than optimal setup.
Either way surface noise is at the source for whatever reason lots of possibilities might be worth asking who did the last deck setup Karousel etc. :thinking:

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OK, now you all got me thinking.

The phono stage are recapped LOMC cards in the 32.5. Not the quietest things. Maybe an external phono stage would be better?

Yay, another box!

I owned A7’s but found them very hot in the upper mids so it could be they’re exposing the surface noise a bit more

A lot of surface noise could be caused by the phono stage and the gain in your pre amp. Try turning down the phono stage gain if possible to see if that has any effect. I use a Rega Aria into a 72 pre amp and find the high gain setting sounds best but does accentuate surface noise.

I believe you are probably on the right track there.

Just adding to the voices here saying intrusive surface noise is primarily a result of the phono pre. It’s to do with headroom and clipping characteristics. It’s such a bug-bear of mine I built my own as I couldn’t find anything I liked commercially available/affordable.

In that case it’s just the quality of your lps.
I have kept around 400 , bought M or NM, cleaned with an ultrasonic. I have quite no pops, no noise. It happens sometimes, but it’s one or two pops on the entire lp surface. My wife doesn’t know if I stream or listen to an lp, when she is near the room or coming to tell me something.

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Yeah, I have a lot of great LPs, but I do get surface noise on them. Perhaps I just need to run them through the Degritter more often - I’ve only cleaned them all (2,000 of them) once.