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An Odyssey from Vinyl to Digital

Posted on January 3, 2017 at 4:25 PM

Snap, Crackle, and Pop


Vinyl LP records are a physical medium. By that, I mean that a stylus (needle) is in physical contact with the walls of the record groove. As such, the friction between the stylus and groove walls produces some amount of background noise. There are different compositions for vinyl, some of which produce less background noise. Unfortunately, unless you are playing audiophile pressings like those from Sheffield Labs or Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, there is no way to know how quiet the vinyl is for a given record.


Vinyl also suffers from noise created by contamination on the record. If the stylus encounters a spec of dust, for example, that will result in a snap. Or a crackle. Or a pop. A clean record is a quiet(er) record. Mishandling that scratched a record produces unwanted noise as well.


The lack of background noise is one of the big benefits of CDs, DVDs, and streaming sources over analog records. (Of course, portability and ease of access are big benefits to digitally stored music, too.)


My album collection has been carefully cared for over the years. Even so, many of my records have some degree of snap, crackle, and pop. Good news: VinylStudio has a built-in filter that addresses these issues (as well as the inherent background hiss on cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes). After creating my recordings in VinylStudio, I ran its "Clean Up Audio" function. It counts the number of snaps, crackles and pops that it removes and shows the statistics when the error correction is complete.


My noisiest album is an original, mono pressing of "Bob Dylan", by Bob Dylan, from 1962. I am not the original owner. Each side counted in excess of 100,000 corrections. My quietest album is "The Guess Who - #10", from 1973. Each side counted about 800 corrections.


A note about the Guess Who album: it is an RCA, four-channel, "Quadradisc". A lot of four channel ("quad") records were made with a different grade of vinyl that resulted in lower noise. This album is noticeably quieter in live listening.



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