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Vinyl having better sound imaging?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by old tech, Oct 3, 2017.
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  1. 71 dB
    Ok, if CD and vinyl sound different only because they are mastered differently then why are they mastered differently in the first place? Why aren't CDs mastered to be as "wide" as vinyl? People seem to prefer that. My way to explain this is that vinyl has it's limitations that force a different master. Strong bass might call for reducing it etc. Yes, some music don't contain strong bass, but you can't call a medium transparent if only certain types of music can be recorded on it transparently.

    To my ears the theory of different masters explaining all differences makes no sense. Maybe it's the turntables I have heard in my life, but to me vinyls sounds as if noise and distortion is added to the the signal. I have wrote nyquist plugins for audacity to "simulate" vinyls sound and adding brownian noise and different kind of distortion to L+R and L-R channels do make the sound "vinyl-like" so that's why I believe in what I have been saying here. I believe you can make vinyl sound very transparent in "laboratory conditions", but real life turntables are different and people listen to their vinyls with worn out styluses and what not. How about anti-skating? 1.5 g? 2.0 g? How can you ever get it right?

    Now, I still have all of those materials of course, and could get them to you to compare for yourself. But frankly, if I shared them, I'd expect you to take shots somehow at the material, the mix, doubt that I didn't spin the test somehow, who knows what. And that's not worth my time. A had an open mind and wanted answers, that's all. And then we'd probably volley back and forth about how many lacquer masters each of us has ever cut, how many cartridges have we each run full tests on, and on...and on.. and on...

    Sorry, close, not loose. My opinions are based on what people say about vinyl. I got interested of why some insist the superiority of vinyl when technically CD is superior. If my theories are wrong and you are right then I can only ask why CDs aren't mastered to sound like vinyls if people find vinyls better?

    Maybe I should leave this forum. I don't have facilities to study these things the way you ask. Opinions is all I have. Sorry.
  2. 71 dB
    Crosstalk as such doesn't increase spatial cues. My opinion and understanding is that the noise floor and distortions of vinyl create illusions of spatial cues and therefore an illusion of wider sound. In other words, the brain interprets the noise and distortion and incorrectly discovers phase/ITD/HRTF -information, because brain is a pattern-recognition organ.

    When I listent to music outdoor on portable mp3 player, the outdoor noises leak to my ears and are incorporated to the music making the music sound wider. When I return home and the background noise drops from 70 dB (?) to 30 dB or so, the "augmented wideness" disappears. This is my opinion and my experiences, but for me these effects are reality.
  3. 71 dB
    Here is the nyquist code of the audacity plugin I wrote to simulate vinyl-sound. Simply copy paste it to a .txt -file and then rename it vinyl.ny and move to the plug-in directory of Audacity. Next time you run Audacity, the plugin is added to the effects. Works on stereo audio only.

    Red noise = vinyl background noise
    Black noise = "dust and scratches"

    ;nyquist plug-in
    ;version 2
    ;type process
    ;name "71 dB's vinyl effect"
    ;action "Processing..."
    ;info "Vinyl Effect by 71 dB.\nWritten Feb. 2, 2015."
    ;control cutoffef "Bass summing cutoff" int "Hz" 150 150 300
    ;control level_noise "Red noise level" int "dB" -35 -120 -20
    ;control level_black "Black noise level" int "dB" -20 -120 0
    ;control level_dist "Distortion level" int "dB" -20 -40 0

    ;; RIAA pre-emphasis EQ
    (defun riaapre (sig)
    (eq-highshelf (eq-lowshelf sig 160 -20 0.5) 6300 20 0.5))

    ;; RIAA de-emphasis EQ
    (defun riaade (sig)
    (eq-highshelf (eq-lowshelf sig 160 20 0.5) 6300 -20 0.5))

    (setf level_black (db-to-linear level_black))
    (setf level_noise (db-to-linear (+ 8.6 level_noise)))
    (setf level_dist (db-to-linear level_dist))

    (setf left (aref s 0))
    (setf right (aref s 1))
    (setf center (mult 0.5 (sim left right)))
    (setf sideef (hp (mult 0.5 (diff left right)) cutoffef))
    (setf vleft (riaapre (sim center sideef)))
    (setf vright (riaapre (diff center sideef)))

    (setf lowpassc (lp (sim vleft vright) 5000))
    (setf lowpasss (lp (diff vleft vright) 5000))

    (setf distortionc (lowpass4 (mult -1 level_dist lowpassc lowpassc) 20))
    (setf distortions (lowpass4 (mult level_dist lowpasss lowpasss lowpassc) 20))

    (setf noisefloorc (mult level_noise (lp (noise 1) 20)))
    (setf noisefloors (mult level_noise (lp (noise 1) 20)))

    (setf blackleft (mult level_black (s-max (sim (noise 1) -0.9999) 0) 10000))
    (setf blackright (mult level_black (s-min (sim (noise 1) 0.9999) 0) 10000))

    (if (arrayp s)
    (vector (abs-env
    (riaade (sim noisefloors noisefloorc blackleft vleft distortionc distortions )))
    (riaade (sim (mult noisefloors -1) noisefloorc blackright vright distortionc (mult distortions -1))))))
  4. pinnahertz
    Yes, vinyl has more limitations, of course. And yes, that can force different mastering, but not always, and not necessarily. One thing that forces different vinyl mastering is the desire for a loud record. Because the vinyl system has a non-flat maximum level curve, and a different maximum level for the vertical component, if you want to be as loud as possible you have quite a bit of processing to do. And then there's the noise floor, you want to be above that as much as possible. CDs, any digital format, has a perfectly flat maximum level curve and a very low noise floor. However, it is possible to master for vinyl and do nothing special (like my test). You won't end up with a super loud record, but it will match the digital master quite well.

    I'm not at all sure that all people prefer vinyl, or perceive its sound to be better, though. I'm afraid I'm one who mostly prefers the digital version, with some exceptions where the mastering on the digital was really awful by comparison. I don't think the vinyl limitations are the cause of those situations, though. They are the result of poor choices. Playing vinyl is also a very visual and tactile physical experience. The noise and distortion mean different things to different people. I'm one who made the transition to digital while working in a professional environment where we'd tried our hardest to make vinyl sound clean and quiet. CDs were like a breath of fresh air, but I embraced the technology where those that didn't thought they sounded harsh. I also had live mixes to compare too, and digits matched live perfectly, nothing else did. So my perception isn't in line with yours.
    I set anit skate using a grooveless record and setting for a slow inward tone arm drift. Pretty much nails it, then confirmed with a test record.
    Again, I don't think the opinion that vinyl is superior is universal. I think it's the vocal minority. And there are CDs that sound better than vinyl, always exceptions.
    All of us have access to research materials.
  5. pinnahertz
    Thats a fascinating opinion. I don't know if it's universally shared, though. That's where we need more data.

    I tried mixing in simulated vinyl crosstalk (taking the test curve of a cartridge as my reference), it never widened anything. Perhaps I'll try mixing in noise.
  6. pinnahertz
    I'll try that later today.
  7. Arpiben

    I understood that this plug in is supposed to simulate vinyl sound by adding some crosstalk and noises ( Red(Brownian) & Black(Dust & Scractches).
    As such, is this plug in also supposed to add the soundstage 'wideness' effect ? Is my perception correct?
    Considering myself like an audio layman, my aim is not to interfere in the current vinyl discussion but rather to learn a bit more in human hearing cues (ITD/ILD) or how they are artificially created.
  8. 71 dB
    Thanks for you interest. This plug-in does "mess up" with the spatial information so that it becomes a bit blurry and kind of "relaxed" compared to original sharper imaging in my opinion. I believe this together with the distorted spatial cues causes an illusion of wideness. Anyone familiar with LISP and signal processing math can see how this plugin makes the amount of channel separation to modulate distortion. I believe that vertical movement of stylus affects lateral movements and vice versa. They modulate each other a bit depending on the shape of the stylus and how worn out it is.
  9. 71 dB
    Probably is up to the music style. I don't think compressed pop music works this way, but classical music seems to "benefit" from "augmented enviromental noise." making headphone sound appear wider.

    How did you try simulated vinyl crosstalk? By "wide" I mean the sound goes further away from your ears, not more left or right. Reducing separation is likely to do that, because there is more "common" sound for ears interpreted as reverberation meaning the sound source must be further away. Sounds originated very near one ear cause very loud direct sound to that ear and much more quiet sound for the other ear and even the reverberation can't even out the loudness difference.

    Cross-feed does this. The hard-pan left/right sounds "jump" of my shoulders were they have been annoyingly "touching/rubbing" my ears in front of me on left and right sides maybe 0.5-1 meters away from my body. Vinyl seems to do something similar, just in a blurry and less stable way.
  10. 71 dB
    Oh, ok. I have never seen these grooveless and test records. Good to know there is a way to do it.

    No, it's not universal at all and it is just a vocal minority. I want to understand why they are so vocal. I have never seen anyone say vinyls is better than vinyl for classical music, but maybe raw electronic music can benefit from the analog feel vinyl gives? They say Tangerine Dream sounds fantastic on vinyl, but my TD collection is CD only… …just today ordered the three newest TD releases (Quantum Gate, Sessions I and Light Flux) on CD.

    Yes, given that this has been researched by someone. Not much has got on my radar.
  11. bigshot
    One mastering may sound better than another, but if you want to talk about soundstage, there probably isn't a lot of difference. The soundstage is established in the mix, and if the mix is the same, the potential for soundstage should be the same. Your reproduction format might mess it up through cross talk or phase error of some sort, but it can't present it better than it was mixed to be. Headphones are incapable of putting across soundstage, that takes speakers. And with speakers, soundstage can be degraded by speaker placement and room acoustics, but the recording is what it is.

    There is one huge exception to that... Nothing provides as "wide" a soundstage as my 5.1 speaker system with a well chosen DSP, even with 2 channel recordings. Instrument placement, distance cues, sense of space... they all sound vivid and natural. The reason the sound field in multichannel sounds so real is because it is real. It isn't just two speakers in front of you. The whole room is filled with a natural sounding acoustic. There are limits to how much you can do with just two speakers.

    Mono is to stereo as stereo is to 5.1. DSPs can make mono sound almost as good as stereo, and stereo sound almost as good as discrete 5.1. You can't really fully understand what soundstage is or how it works if all you listen to music on is headphones.
    ev13wt likes this.
  12. pinnahertz
    I took the channel separation curves of several actual cartridges from test data, took an average (they weren't that different), built an EQ curve that follows the crosstalk curve. Took a sample of L, applied the EQ curve, and mixed it into R with the same gain offset found in the averaged cartridge test data. Did the same for R > L. I could then vary that gain from no signal to 100%, but the "normal" setting corresponded with the crosstalk level of the test data.

    Monitored on headphones (that's all I have with me, I'm traveling). At no time did the image seem wider to me with crosstalk.
  13. pinnahertz
    The Nyquist script has a few issues:

    1. Real surface noise is not fully random, it's partially cyclical (the plugin is random)
    2. LF noise, primarily rumble, is out of phase (the plugin is random)
    3. Surface ticks are not always uncorrelated, they usually are partially correlated (the plugin has them fully uncorrelated)
    4. The distortion slider changes the waveform radically on the waveform editor, but the actual audio is unchanged, and the spectrum analysis shows no distortion even when the slider and waveform shows what should be a lot
    5. Using the preview function, the distortion slider has no effect on played audio even when run between -40 and 0.

    Test conditions were: Silent file, then 1kHz sine wave at -20dBFS.
  14. 71 dB
    Techically a sound reproduction chain can't make the signal "better", but subjectively it can. The fact that we have this thread illustrates it.

    Headphones are capable of almost anything if proper signal is fed to them. Unfortunately most of the time people feed their cans with signals intended for loudspeakers and think headphones have fundamental limitations (some of us use cross-feed to fix this problem at least partially). It could be the other way around: Almost all recording could be binaural in nature and optimazed for headphones. These recordings would sound not so convincing on loudspeakers and people would think loudspeakers have hard limitations of what kind of soundstage they can create.

    Well, for non-binaural recordings this is true, even stereophonic recordings often sound great as multichannel versions but not always. Depends on how the recording is produced. Acoustic recording done in a real room/hall/church sound good decoded to multichannel, synthetic music with synthetic spatial effects not so much.

    Multichannel speaker system does not produce "real" sound field (you need soundfield synthesis for that), but the soundfield is nevertheless more controlled by the recording. It makes some of the soundstage of the recording to mask the soundfield generated by the acoustics of your listening room, especially from the sides and behind of the listener. Sounds coming from behind correlete more with the original soundstage of the recording, because they are not just the reflections and reverberation in your room. Yes, there are limits to how much you can do with just two speakers in a room, but the possibilities of 5 speakers is also limited, just less limited.

    The best recorded classical music recordings I have listened with headphones cross-fed properly produce pretty stunning wide and deep soundstage. This applies to church music especilly because the reverberation is so massive and full of spatial information. I recommend classical music hybrid SACD recordings, because so much attention has been given to capturing the acoustics, that even the downmixed stereo CD layer sounds often very good. One doesn't even have to own a SACD player to enjoy the high quality spatial sound. My Cambridge Audio Blu-ray player can downmix multichannel sound to Lt/Rt stereo (stronger spatial information than normal L/R downmix for Dolby Pro Logic decoding) and cross-fed to headphones it sounds really good!
  15. 71 dB
    So these channel separation curves tell you the amount of crosstalk as a function of frequency? I see one problem here. If you take the magnitude spectrums of left and right channels to determine how much say left channel has leaked to originally silent right channel, you have lost the phase information. Did the leak happen in phase or out of phase? Due to the way stereophonic signals are stored on vinyl, it is possible that leaking happens also out of phase. My understanding is that leaking happens at random phase which is different from your in phase approach.
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