Vinyl - silent sound first, amplified delay

Not sure how to clearly state this question, but I will give it a try:

Picture the sound you hear when close to the stylus and your amp is on mute. A very silent audio is audible, as it should. With me before the amped sound, when not muted, not sure if it is supposed to be like this, but I kind of think a delay is explainable, this quiet sound precedes the sound from the speakers by a short amount of time. I usually ignore it, my hearing is still very good presumably.

Now my question, when listening to headphones, this silent music ahead of the amped music precedes my music as well through the headphones. Does this make sense? I thought it might be due to the stereo track picking up left from right and vice versa when both tracks are not mega aligned, but that seems far fetched.

It sounds like you’re describing pre-echo.


Thank you. Searched online for this term and it seems you are right. 3 seconds currently on a Tone Poet I am spinning. Puzzles me how this charming vinyl oddity happens. It helps me predict the next key in my head though :sunglasses:

“Minority Report” for music

I believe it happens because in pressing the vinyl, the manufacturer may slightly distort the adjacent grooves, so you could sometimes hear a pre-echo of the next groove. It shouldn’t happen, but not all discs are well pressed, so it does sometimes. You could probably reject such a disc and ask for a replacement if you hear it on a brand new disc and it bothers you.

The time taken for the signal to get from the stylus to the loudspeakers is vanishingly small, so it’s nothing to do with that.


Mmmm… I think I get it. It happened on the last three records I checked since I first noticed it. All supposedly triple A records and I never notice it on speakers, just headphones. I will actively listen for it from now on, it doesn’t really bother me though and it mostly seems to occur on the first 1, 2 songs of a side.

1 Like

It can either be print-through if it came from an analog mastertape. For a 15ips tape it would vary up to almost 2 seconds. The surrounding tape on a roll of analog tape will magnetize each other.

Or it is caused by the cutting engineer keeping the tracks to tight together to get a long playing time on an LP-side. For 33.3 rpm it would mean 1.8s delay.


Tape print through would be my guess, originating from the master tapes from which the LP is created.

Thanks, I will check tomorrow, but if I play the notes in my memory, I would not be surprised if it was closer to 3 seconds.

A lot of it on this vinyl record for example. Digital versions I believe have removed it.

Don’t own that one unfortunately. My latest two it occurred on were Herbie Hancock The Prisoner Tone Poet and Miles Davis ESP Impex 2014 release.

If you want a well know example of tape print through, check Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lot Of Love. At one point there is a very clear pre-echo of Robert Plant’s vocal. This was accidental - and try as they might, Page and the engineer (George Chkiantz, at Olympic) couldn’t get rid of it. So… they left it on…!

In my experience pre-echo was not uncommon on vinyl, but is uncommon on CDs made from vinyl masters, in which case the vinyl itself is indicated as culprit more often than tape print-through. Most commonly evident when a track starts loud, the adjacent groove proximity causing physical shifting of the spirally concentric groove wall, audible because otherwise silent in the lead-in groove. But it will also be present throughout an album whenever the adjacent grooves have loud sounds, assuming groove spacing maintained, simply lost in the remainder if the music so not noticed - but nonetheless changing the sound compared to the correct pure recording. Part of the vinyl character…

N.B. Vinyl pre-echo (or post echo) will always be 1.8s at 33rpm. Mastertape print-through will vary with position on the spool, as well as tape speed.


I will investigate your and Jan’s suggestion. Side B of The Prisoner is almost 22 minutes and ESP side A is also pretty full. Quietly hearing the adjacent groove (same groove, but hey…) 1.8 seconds before sounds logical. Thank you all, I will try to time it tomorrow.

I don’t think what you describe can be pre echo.

The time difference between print through and the actual audio signal will vary constantly as it will be defined by the diameter of the tape on the spool on which it is stored. The time interval may either increase or decrease, depending on which way the tape has been wound before it is left in storage.

Digital versions don’t resolve/remove pre-echo. It’s a function of cutting the master, not source material.

DMM (direct metal mastering) eliminates pre-echo. but it has its own limitations. Since you are cutting copper plates rather than lacquer, the mastering lathe can’t cut as deeply for DMM.

I just read the enclosed letter of the ESP album (by Mile… Davis). Maybe them leaving in the artifacts leading to pops could also suggest print-through occurring?

1 Like

For long term storage of tape reels it was good practice to wind them the wrong way around as this would better prevent print through where the magnetic remanence on the tape would affect adjacent layers. Of course, in practice this often wasn’t done and so print through was sometimes the result. Sometimes because print through would depend very much on the tape being used. Some formulations were very prone to it, whereas others weren’t.

This is of course distinct from pre-echo as an artefact that could crop up during the cutting stage and would usually (but not always!) result in that cut being rejected and the lacquer re-cut.

1 Like

In the case of “Just A Little Lovin” by Shelby Lynne, there is clear echo in places which is surprising as I have the CD.
Does anyone know why this might be the case with this particular album? Analogue mastering transferred to digital and not removing the echo?

That album was recorded on 2 inch analogue tape. I seem to recall reading that one of her albums had print through on the tape (might have been Just a little lovin’, but can’t recall) and she had wanted it to be left there as a true reflection of the analogue tape recording, warts and all.