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Phono Equalization B.S. Continues! or is it ????

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  • Phono Equalization B.S. Continues! or is it ????

    http://www.analogplanet.com/content/...xWlri5gXuSV.97

    A recently posted review of a phono preamp on a website that is not deserving of mention here once again makes the specious claim that curves other than the RIAA were used in the mastering of stereo records. This is simply not true. Yes you can use these pre-stereo curves such as the Capitol, Columbia and FFRR on stereo records but they will be used as TONE CONTROLS and just because one might make a particular album sound 'better' does not mean it is the correct playback curve!
    The review asserts " but records from Deutsche Grammophon, Capitol, Angel, EMI, Decca/London, and Columbia all have unique characteristics that require their own specific EQ curves to sound best."
    This is bologna! In the stereo era Capitol mastering used the RIAA curve. PERIOD. As did Decca/London! How do I know that? I ASKED Ron McMaster as he sat at the mastering board in Capitol's mastering suite. As for London/Decca you can just LOOK at the jackets. They say "use the RIAA curve" but if that's not enough for you, I asked veteran Decca mastering engineer George Bettyes who mastered between 1957 and 1972.

    Read more at http://www.analogplanet.com/content/...vwD1hskCbfS.99
    What say you ? I think I will have to disagree with Mr. Fremer. Having played a ton of original mercury and now "valve" mastered UK Decca's, ASD, SAX, 33CX with RIAA only on my Lamm LP1 Sig, I tried them on my Allnic which has adjustable EQ curves. For Mercury....it was like the heaven's opened up. RIAA Turnover and Roll-Off on my H5000 Allnic are 500Hz/-13.7dB. When I switched Mercury to 400Hz/-11dB the record opened up and bloomed. The hall ambience comes alive. Same thing for my Columbia SAX, 33CX and EMI ASD White gold series which is 500Hz/-16dB or for very early versions 250Hz/0dB. So there you have it. It's more than tone controls Mr Fremer, it's the curve used during the mastering and cutting of the lacquer. I just don't understand why he's so dismissive and think's EQ curves are a figment of one's imagination.
    Christian
    System Gear

  • #2
    Christian,

    The two positions aren't mutually exclusive. While the records could have been cut using RIAA it's more than possible they sound better using some compensation. All sorts of things come to mind as to how this could happen. I think what he gets upset about is when people say the records were cut with different curves. I will take the people who were there at their word but as I have heard some similar results as yours I would think there's something different about the RIAA then and now. Could be tolerance, parts etc. that make using a curve to make the LPs sound better.
    Turntable: - 1. Fairchild 750/OMA slate plinth
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    • #3
      Great question Christian. The truth lies somewhere's between. Some is tonal control and some is needing to compensate for a different EQ curve. My feeling is that one has to accept Mikey's findings for Decca and Capitol. But there is not mention say for EMI, Mercury, etc.I would guess RCA used the RIAA curve.

      I did have the chance to try the Zanden phono with adjustable RIAA and it certainly made a difference say on the Arista release of Alan Parson's I Robot. (Zanden provides a list of recommended RIAA setttings for their phonotage and IIRC used an EMI curve for the I Robot.) You might try that release for the hell of it Christian and see what you hear.

      But Sheffield is one label that didn't use RIAA. Doug Sax told me that he used the Teldec DIN curve for his label.

      I don't know what EQ curve Ewing Nunn's Audiophile label used. There's some weird stuff about using your bass and treble controls to adjust. I also wonder about some of the the other early stereo labels like Contemporary. I could send a note to John Koenig and find out about that .

      Now having RIAA adjustability certainly is essential if you play pre-RIAA adoption monos. Monos can and are all over the place.
      Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
      Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
      ________________________________________

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      • #4
        These are all good points. Perhaps all stereo merc's for example are riaa but some sound better with a slighlly different curve....tone controls as MF likes to say. I will be experimenting with mono. Decca U.K. Valve series sound good with riaa too. I just think -11 roll-off vs -13.7 sounds better most of the time on the Decca's I have...WB ED1&2
        Christian
        System Gear

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        • #5


          Looking back through the lens of history we tend to say: "Stereo Era? Yes, that started in 1957." Back then with each house running their own curves, I wonder if it really was so definitive. The switch over to pre-amps having RIAA circuits didn't happen all at once. I wonder if record labels switched all at the same time. What we don't have for each label is: every record made by our company after XXXXX used the RIAA curve. With only word of mouth to tell us, I don't think we have any reason to doubt Mikey's sources, even though they are looking back over 40+(?) years. For a while he was proud to display the results of his historical fact finding; now whenever the topic comes up he shows no quarter for anyone saying otherwise.

          Playing a 1953 Columbia two-eye LP (turnover 500Hz, roll-off -16dB) I was happy to have a Columbia EQ option on my phono.

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          • #6
            For my ripping project that involved many early EMI, Decca and Mercury albums, I had a custom phono pre built which has adjustable EQ to allow me the choice of turnover, treble, and bass shelf. I definitely hear major improvements in early EMI recordings, and lesser improvements with early Deccas (which I ripped with both RIAA and the so called Decca EQ). While I don't doubt Mikey's sources, I have only read about his Columbia (US) and Decca sources, not Mercury or EMI. I think just about everyone agrees that RCA used RIAA from the beginning of stereo. Finally, I have never read that Mikey actually listened to early recordings with different EQ's.

            Larry
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            • #7
              I thought RIAA was a new worldwide standard adopted in the mono era around 1955 that took a few years to get everybody onboard but by the stereo era of say 1958 was the universal curve. ? ? ?
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              • #8
                I was playing mercury living presence stereo records again last night using RIAA 50Hz Turnover and -13.7dB roll-off then switching to 400, -11. Again, I find the mercs to be much better sounding at 400Hz & -11dB. No question to my ears that RCA living stereo is and was meant to be reproduced using RIAA. With the DECCA UK's I have so far, I can use either EQ and be happy. I need to get more Columbia SAX and HMV ASD (White/Gold) label to make any generalizations of RIAA vs other EQ curves for those records.
                Christian
                System Gear

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                • #9
                  Click image for larger version

Name:	
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ID:	41305 Speaking of Mercury Originals....my top 10. Could easily pick another 15 worthy of the top 10.
                  Christian
                  System Gear

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                  • Guest's Avatar
                    Guest commented
                    Editing a comment
                    The Merc with Ibert's Escales is one of my favs. Dorati's Firebird is a stunner. Been listening to a lot of Stravinsky lately - pure genius.

                • #10
                  I don't have originals of them, but I have firebird and the birds on classic 33.
                  Magnepan 1.6 QR Loudspeakers, Amherst A-2000 MOSFET 150 WPC Amp, Conrad Johnson PV-10A Modded Tube Line & Phono Stage, Electrocompaniet MC II Class A Head Amp, Audio Technica AT-OC9XML Cart (Stereo) , Graham Engineering 2.2 Tonearm (Stereo) , VPI Aries-1 Turntable (Stereo) , VPI Clamp, Denon DL-102 Cart, (Mono) , Luxman Tonearm (Mono) , Kenwood KD-500 Turntable (Mpmp) , Michell Clamp, Marantz 20B Analog FM Tuner, Pioneer SACD, Onkyo DX-6800 CD Transport, DIY 24B/192K DAC, Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones, Headroom Max Balanced Headphone Amp, DIY Silver Interconnects

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                  • #11
                    Originally posted by JCOConnell View Post
                    I don't have originals of them, but I have firebird and the birds on classic 33.
                    all of the classic records reissue Merc's are great and they are EQ'd RIAA.
                    Christian
                    System Gear

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                    • #12
                      Originally posted by rockitman View Post

                      all of the classic records reissue Merc's are great and they are EQ'd RIAA.
                      too bad they didn't really do that many. nowhere near as many as they did living stereo rcas.
                      Magnepan 1.6 QR Loudspeakers, Amherst A-2000 MOSFET 150 WPC Amp, Conrad Johnson PV-10A Modded Tube Line & Phono Stage, Electrocompaniet MC II Class A Head Amp, Audio Technica AT-OC9XML Cart (Stereo) , Graham Engineering 2.2 Tonearm (Stereo) , VPI Aries-1 Turntable (Stereo) , VPI Clamp, Denon DL-102 Cart, (Mono) , Luxman Tonearm (Mono) , Kenwood KD-500 Turntable (Mpmp) , Michell Clamp, Marantz 20B Analog FM Tuner, Pioneer SACD, Onkyo DX-6800 CD Transport, DIY 24B/192K DAC, Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones, Headroom Max Balanced Headphone Amp, DIY Silver Interconnects

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                      • #13
                        Columbia issued an LP in 1958 called "Listening in depth : an introduction to Columbia stereophonic sound". It was accompanied by a booklet which affirmed that Columbia conformed to the RIAA standard for stereophonic discs, including RIAA equalization Click image for larger version

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                        • #14
                          I think Beaur hit on something that rings true to me, even if the companies purported to observe the RIAA curve. I also wonder what effect mastering has--the curve may be set, but a lot of mischief can occur at the mastering stage.
                          FWIW, when I visited the audiovisual conservation center of the LOC in Culpeper, they were using these phono preamps, because they were dealing with a lot of different records from different eras- when we were listening to the Les Paul acetates cut direct to disc on a lathe of LP's construction, who knows what he was doing? This thing actually sounded good in a mastering room type setting: https://www.mil-media.com/LOCi.html

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                          • lasercd
                            lasercd commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Bill

                            I auditioned the Millenia LOCi for a month as a possible replacement for the ASR Basis Exclusiv. Its a very interesting piece of equipment. A swiss army knife for archival mastering. Its also a very complex unit not at all designed for consumers.

                            It did some things exceptionally well and I almost ordered one. Soundstage was wider, taller, deeper. Exceptionally transparent. Ultimately I decided to keep the ASR as it came close in that respect but bass was definitely better and I’m a bit of a bass freak.

                            After I returned the unit (which was an older version) back to Millenia I gave them my feedback of the LOCi. They were disappointed and surprised. They emailed me a few weeks later to tell me that apparently there was some internal dip switch that was set that rolled off the bass. They also told me there was a revised version in the works. The units are made to order so I decided that perhaps at some point in the future I would revisit a new one - if they had a loaner available. At $10k I wasn’t rolling the dice.

                            Millenia would be well served to partner with a company that has a presence in the consumer/audiophile market that has a hole in their product line. A much less complicated version might get some traction.

                            If I listened to a lot of 40s and 50s recordings and needed multiple EQ curves I would order it in a heartbeat.

                          • Bill Hart
                            Bill Hart commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Interesting. I'm always suspicious when something is amiss, and the manufacturer finds some flukey thing, only to come out with an improved model shortly thereafter. Unit certainly has a lot of dials to twist. The archivist using it knew how to use it, but I think in some cases, it was a guessing game as to what curve was used on some older records, particularly off label stuff from the day. Given the price of top tier equipment today, the 10k seems like a relative bargain. I'd order a super custom one- no hidden dip switches. They kill you every time!

                          • DetroitVinylRob
                            DetroitVinylRob commented
                            Editing a comment
                            “a lot of mischief can occur “ I like that Bill, so true to my understanding

                        • #15
                          So here is my opinion on this Topic: Every record needs equalisation. If you are going to alter the tonality anywhere in the chain then alter the equalisation at the place where it is mandatory anyway!
                          Who here does not own 80s records that really need some compensation? If your phono stage offers you the possibility to change the curve then great. Whether that altered curve is called Bass Boost, Columbia or father Christmas does not matter one bit to me...
                          Last edited by Billy Shears; 02-12-2018, 05:35 AM.

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