Groove Wear: The Elephant in the Record Store

March 30, 2015 /
To the readers of Deep Groove Mono: While the original publication of this article cited high tracking forces as a potential cause of groove wear, I have since realized that this is a questionable claim and have made the appropriate changes below.

– Rich Capeless, March 6, 2018

Although I have been collecting records of all types for close to twenty years now, I have been a persistent collector of vintage jazz records for the last five. While I’ve managed to hunt down some original pressings in that time, I’ve often had to settle for reissues. The hobby has proved rewarding but also challenging, and if I have any wisdom to share with collectors at this juncture it’s this: Beware, the phantom menace that is groove wear.


Before I started collecting vintage jazz LPs, my collection consisted entirely of records with origins dating back no further than the late ’60s. Little did I know there was a time when all vinyl LPs were at risk of permanent damage caused by improper use of playback equipment in the 1950s and early 1960s. This inconvenient truth became apparent after only a few purchases as a novice collector of vintage jazz records. This first batch of LPs were not in the greatest shape visually, but pops and ticks weren’t the real issue. All the records had this fuzzy sound to them that I had never heard before. I didn’t understand what I was hearing, so I began looking for an explanation.

I soon learned that this type of distortion is caused by a phenomenon called mistracking, which is likely to occur on any part of a worn record where the groove has extreme modulations, including any combination of dynamic peaks, upper-midrange frequencies, and envelopes with fast attack times (for jazz, brass and pianos especially). Mistracking is also common at the innermost part of each side where the modulations are packed together tighter than at the outer edge (for more information on inner groove distortion, see this helpful Hydrogen Audio thread).

What causes groove wear?

If mistracking is caused by groove wear, what causes groove wear? Many setups of the ’50s and ’60s incorporated high-mass tonearms with low (vertical) compliance cartridges tracking at 4-5 grams, and while this type of configuration in and of itself does not appear to be a major cause of groove wear, that leaves worn styli and vintage mono cartridges with low horizontal compliance as prime suspects. Excessive play is also a potential cause, but once I started reading about the quick-to-wear sapphire styli and poor horizontal compliance of mono cartridges from that period, it made sense why I had never heard this type of noise on more current rock and hip hop LPs.

Fortunately, advances in vinyl playback technology during the mid to late ’60s included increases in both horizontal compliance and stylus life. Learning this made me suspicious that instances of excessive wear might be lower for jazz records pressed in the time period following this technological progress. I have acquired numerous vintage represses since, and though surface noise seems no more or less common, audible mistracking has been quite rare. Though there could be other unidentified factors involved, at the very least this suggests that there is a connection between the early days of high fidelity playback and the higher number of instances of groove wear I have encountered with original pressings of classic jazz LPs.

What does groove wear sound like?

‘Fuzzy’ is a good word to describe it. ‘Crackly’ is another, but it’s not to be mistaken with the crackle caused by surface marks; crackling caused by groove wear is more apparent during dynamic bursts corresponding with louder moments in the program. If you’ve never been able to identify groove wear by ear or you’re having a hard time imagining what it might sound like, I have included an audio comparison here. Upon listening it’s not hard to hear the damage done in hi-fi’s distant past:

Johnny Coles, “So Sweet My Little Girl” (Original 1964 mono pressing of Little Johnny C.)

Unworn Copy:

Worn Copy:

What Does Groove Wear Look Like?

Though it doesn’t seem to be an exact science, groove wear can manifest as clusters of miniature greyish lines running with the grain of a record’s grooves. At a distance, this can cause a record to look slightly dull, as if it has lost some of its original glossy finish. But even if you know what to look for it can still be tough to spot.

Below are photos provided by Cohearent Audio vinyl mastering engineer Kevin Gray comparing the grooves of worn and unworn copies of the same title from the same pressing run. As pointed out by Gray, you should be able to see the regular presence of wear on the upper part of each groove wall in the photo to the right.


Grooves without (left) and with (right) wear


Grooves with and without wear (photos optimized with filters for added emphasis) –
notice the thicker black area of the groove on the left representing smooth walls versus
the greyish, spotted area of the groove on the right indicating rough, worn surfaces

Mastering and the Prevention (or Promotion) of Groove Wear

Vinyl mastering engineers have a difficult job. They are expected to cut a record with great signal-to-noise ratio, but at the same time the record should not be prone to mistracking. In the heyday of high fidelity vinyl playback, many studios played it safe, cutting their records at a moderate volume. Since the dynamic peaks of these LPs are less extreme, groove wear is less likely to settle in. However, pops and ticks are then more likely to overpower the music as marks collect on the record’s surface over time. I have found that vintage jazz records cut by labels like Columbia, Atlantic, and EmArcy generally fall into this category.

On the other end of the spectrum, some mastering engineers worked to obtain a superior signal-to-noise ratio and took more risks in the process. They applied heavier doses of compression and cut their records as hot as possible without causing skips. This allowed the music to easily overpower surface noise, but the tradeoff was that over time the record would be more prone to wear. Rudy Van Gelder, the darling of vintage jazz collectors everywhere, was the most infamous proponent of this technique. He is also responsible for hundreds of the most collectible classic jazz LPs released on labels like Blue Note, Prestige, New Jazz, and Impulse. So while the higher amplitudes of Van Gelder’s masters will usually dominate pops and ticks, these records are also more likely to have excessive wear dating back to the dawn of hi-fi.

Ironically, this approach to mastering is probably one of the major reasons why Van Gelder originally won over so many industry types. The technique’s benefits were immediately apparent, and his mastering work would have been the toast of the New York bop scene. The only problem is now we’re stuck with a bunch of fuzzy-sounding records.

The truth can be bittersweet, but all hope is not lost for collectors of Blue Note and Prestige originals. If a record was properly cared for and made it through the ‘50s and ‘60s in tact, it’s quite likely that it traveled the remaining distance to us today safely as a result of the technological improvements that followed. Vintage jazz records of this elite class may be few and far between, but I have found that they do exist, albeit in small numbers.

“Vintage Jazz Records Sound Better Than They Look”

There appears to be a popular sentiment in the jazz collecting community that vintage jazz records sound better than they look. While I have found this to be true in a few rare instances where a hotly-mastered record was scuffed up but surprisingly free from wear, I have come across many more instances in which the opposite is true, where records virtually free from surface marks are concealing the distorted scars of yesteryear.

Why don’t the majority of sellers address the phenomenon of groove wear in their auction descriptions? It could be because most sellers simply don’t play grade and groove wear is more difficult to identify on sight than surface marks. It also might be because groove wear is more prominent near the center of a record (think inner groove distortion), and even if a seller play grades they may only give a quick listen to the beginning of each side.

Yet another possible reason why groove wear’s existence is on the hush might be because most listeners may not even notice it. In its mildest form, distortion from wear will only be audible to the most discerning of ears at the end of each side, and when it does pop up it will only be audible intermittently during louder moments in the music. This contrasts with the regular popping and clicking of surface noise. Keeping in mind that groove wear is much less common with records pressed after around 1970 might then explain why many people’s ears seem to be more accustomed to the consistent crackle caused by marks on a record’s surface.


Groove wear has proven to be one of the greatest obstacles this hobby has to offer. What kind of preemptive action can an informed collector take to avoid ending up with these pesky records? Unfortunately, most online sellers don’t play grade, and it’s difficult for the untrained eye to see groove wear. As far as styli go, a modern 18-micrometer (0.7-mil) stylus can help reduce distortion by avoiding the upper edges of a groove’s walls, but in several experiments I’ve conducted with a variety of styli I was disappointed to find that the symptoms of wear remain mostly incurable. Though it’s no guarantee, I’d say that the best way to avoid groove wear is to only bid on records with high grades (VG++, EX, NM, M-) and to only buy records in person that retain their original glossy finish.

For one reason or another I’ve found that the majority of hobbyists rarely bring up the topic of groove wear despite its regular presence amongst original pressings from the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. In this sense, groove wear truly is the elephant in the record store. I am simultaneously fascinated and frustrated by this, yet I encourage collectors to push on in search of those diamonds in the rough, those hard-to-find, amazing-sounding vintage LPs that make all our efforts worthwhile.

  • Kristian K

    The use of a correct mono cartridge is A and O for good sound quality of old mono records. Much groove noise that you may hear by playing with a stereo cartridge will disappear when played when a mono cartridge. And the sound on these old originals when in prime condition is fabulous.

    • I agree with all of the above, Kristian. I mean, listen to how fantastic that near mint copy of Tokyo Blues sounds! I find that a stereo cartridge summed to mono also does a good job of reducing distortion from wear. I have, however, not yet found an instance where summing or using a mono cart was successful at eliminating all distortion on a word record. I have plans to address the topic of modern mono playback in a future article that focuses on cartridge options, which will include audio clips of examples from research I have conducted. Thanks for the footnotes.

  • Dig in Japan

    This is really excellent stuff, Rich. As someone who owns a lot of Japanese reissues I found the discussion of how this problem relates to the choice engineers were faced with in terms of signal-to-noise ratio particularly interesting. When those records suffer even the slightest nicks you’re really going to hear them.

    I just listened to those Blue Train rips again and the problem is even worse than I originally thought after comparing them to the Horace Silver one hosted here. Though the distortion peaks during the Fuller solo and at the end of the track, it is actually apparent throughout (Lazy Bird). Please feel free to use that rip as a further example.

    Great post.

  • Detroit digs

    Great topic. I have found that groove wear can also be identified by the presence of “waves” in the groove pattern when holding the record at an angle to a light source. For me, groove wear results in greatly distorted highs, rather than crackles. And, I have come across this wavy groove wear in records that were otherwise clean and shiny. If I see waves, I shy away.

  • Shaft

    Hi all,
    Listening to the sound clips my opinion is that the bad one really hasn’t what I call typical Groove Wear. Sure there are som crackle and constant background noise but the thing with Groove wear for me at least is that the instruments high notes “break up” – not that they are “covered in noise.” In the excellent text you mention trumpet and piano and that is my experience too.
    Buying vintage jazz records can indeed be troublesome. I think half of my EX or better grade purchases go bad. Discussions with seller about grading, sending back or refunds. All to avoid bad feedback for the seller. To try and avoid som of this I’ve started to PM the sellers befor an auction and ask about potential problem like surface noise and groove wear. If the don’t answer or state that there are some problems I stay away.
    I don’t understand sellers that sell big $$$ LPs and don’t even bother to play grade. Is it really so hard. When I get the LP it takes me 1 minute to establish if the LP is OK. First a strong light check and the just play some parts of the LP. Not so hard.

    • Thanks for your comments! Since I published this article I have questioned my choice of sound clips. I believe the distortion is audible in the clip I posted but it’s also a noisy record in general so I agree that it’s not the best example. Make no mistake about it though, I have plenty of other examples (unfortunately). I think I’ll go ahead and switch up the clips…a record with less surface noise would be ideal.

    • Okay, check out the new clips!

      • Anders Wallinder

        Yep even though I hate the sound of groove distortion I must say that’s more like it 😉

  • woody_f

    When I started collecting jazz at the flea markets in the 90’s I was finding a fair number of records from the 50’s that had different levels of groove distortion from bad or worn stylists. An audiophile neighbor of mine gave me several different phono cartridges with different size and shaped stylists. Depending on it’s shape the stylist rides on a small area on the side of the groove. Most of the lps I was finding at that time had only had one owner so if they had groove damage it was from the same bad stylist. The trick was to choose a stylist who’s shape would ride above or below the damaged area. It was a great learning experience but overall not very practical.

  • Cristian

    Time for an unfounded, poorly researched comment 🙂

    I live in Germany and I buy a lot of old jazz records here and what I found out is the fact that most used German pressings I buy (sometimes dating back to 1956) mostly sound great and have little groove wear, while most US copies I come across are terribly worn and/or scratched. And almost every time I come across old records in record store, my findings get confirmed. I wonder if there is a cultural/historical meaning behind this. I know that LPs were a rarer commodity in Germany compared to the US, especially during the 1950s and 1960s. So maybe those that DID buy LPs also tended to take more care of them. Which still doesn’t explain why there is so little wear on those records despite the heavy arms… Who knows?

  • AZDiver

    Excellent article and explanation, thank you! After picking up an original pressing of Grateful Dead’s American Beauty in overall great condition, I was a bit disappointed to find groove wear in the inner track. I hoped it would just be dirt, but it’s still there after spin-cleaning the record.

    I’m arriving at the conclusion that it might simply not be worth investing in sought-after copies of original pressings. For the same $20 I paid for this album, I could buy the reissue and enjoy phenomenal sound. For me, sound is more important than collector’s value, so I’m starting to think I should look for reissues wherever possible rather than trying to hunt down original pressings.

  • Bud Clay

    What are your sources for this? VTF, Low Compliance Cartridges, and high mass tonearms do not extensively contribute to groove wear any more than a low mass tonearm with a highly compliant cartridge. All of the high grade, broadcast level gear of the vinyl era that was used by RCA, Decca, etc. for testing and broadcasting playback featured those characteristics that you classify as contributing to groove wear. If VTF was the major culprit in contributing to groove wear then MOST of the Blue Note records you fiend for would sound terrible but that’s not the case. I’ve also seen you refer to the Denon DL-103 cartridge as a “mono” cartridge, it is not. That is just one of the many factors that leads me to doubt your credibility and authority on this subject. I’ll leave you with a quote from JELABS who HAS extensively investigated and experimented within the playback realm of Monaural recordings and “vintage” gear.

    “I have yet to hear LP damage or groove wear caused by using the DL103 [2.5 grams] and the SPU [4 grams] for almost 10 years. Besides if high VTF significantly wear out the grooves, we will not be enjoying LPs from the 50s and 60s. A misaligned elliptical stylus tracking at 1.5 grams can cause more damage in my opinion. For years elliptical and various other complex stylus profiles have been touted to retrieve more information from the groove. Looks good on paper and charts but I’ll take a musical sounding spherical stylus equipped cartridge any time over something that is just retrieving more gunk.”

    • “If VTF was the major culprit in contributing to groove wear then MOST of the Blue Note records you fiend for would sound terrible but that’s not the case.”

      Sadly, that *is* the case in my experience, with vintage records (especially LPs mastered by Rudy Van Gelder) issued between approximately 1954-1964: most of them do sound worn to my ears–not everyone’s apparently, I find that most vintage record collectors aren’t anywhere near as picky as I am when it comes to noise.

      My statements in the article above regarding VTF and compliance were initially formed as a hypothesis after a couple years of research and experimentation. Since you asked, I had renowned mastering engineer Kevin Gray proofread this article before I published it, and he was so pleased to see someone touching on this subject for the first time that he called me to thank me. Sorry, I don’t mean to brag but you asked what my sources were. 🙂 He added a few comments to the article including the one about the low *horizontal* compliance of vintage mono carts. It all seems very clear to me personally: high VTFs + worn sapphire styli + low horizontal compliance (and for Van Gelder, super-hot lacquers) = lots of worn records.

      Where did I mention the 103? I have definitely referred to the 102 as mono because it is, it is single coil and has two prongs on the back, right? Just because it has high vertical compliance (meaning that it won’t damage a stereo record) doesn’t mean it’s not mono to me. There is certainly little consensus on what the ‘correct’ definition of a ‘mono cartridge’ is, but to me a cartridge being ‘mono’ means that it is either single-coil and thus single-channel (as the 102 is to my knowledge), or it is dual-coil with both coils rotated to be perpendicular to the horizontal axis (instead of 45 degrees).

      At this point in my time blogging I’m used to people being critics and being ungrateful for something I do just because I love my hobby and want to share what I’ve learned with people. I also gather that I have controversial views within the vintage record collecting community. I’m a strange sort of vintage collector who doesn’t unequivocally think that vintage records always sound better than reissues, be those reissues vinyl or digital. (For some reason I find that most vintage record collectors would rather listen to a worn, distorted record than a clean reissue.) I think hunting for and listening to vintage records is infinitely more fun than listening to reissues, but I really just think I have a good ear for distortion (experience as an audio engineer has probably helped with this) and I don’t pull any punches regarding what I’m hearing when I’m listening to a record. I tell it like it is and I find that vintage jazz records (especially those cut by my hero, RVG, sadly) are much more likely than not to sound distorted.

      Please feel free to stay and have a humane, civil conversation. I do hope that you can eventually sense my sincere appreciation for being rigorously scientific about these things–as a hobbyist, albeit. To be clear, I am not a professional audio or electrical engineer–which is why I had one proofread the article. 😉

      • Bud Clay

        “couple years of research and experimentation.” What kind of research was that? Did you base all of your research using the Shure cartridge which is neither mono nor spherical, playing through 2 speakers? Have you ever listened to vintage recordings through a low compliant cartridge with a properly matched high mass arm? Again there are people who have significantly more experience than you that have been measuring and experimenting with vintage record playback for decades that don’t share the same conclusions as you do so it’s offensive to me to say that its “quite clear.” I’ll also quote Art Dudley “Perhaps 40% of the thousands of records in my collection were bought secondhand, and many if not most of those are mono LPs that were originally played, presumably often, on the equipment of their day—well before the early-1960s introduction of the elliptical stylus and the ensuing VTF wars. Those records don’t sound just fine—they sound amazing.”

        And you referred to the DL-103 as mono here:

        • That was a typo, I meant the 102…come on…fixed.

          I don’t intend to come across as an expert, it’s just my experience. Yes, you have successfully exposed the fact that I don’t have any experience with a through and through mono system, but I think I did the right thing by checking my hypothesis (again, not made up out of thin air but based on my experience) with an authority with plenty of experience with all kinds of equipment, someone who is highly respected in the field of audio engineering. I don’t expect everyone to agree with the conclusion. I just don’t understand your compulsion to ‘question my credibility’ in the comments of my article.

          My research was based on using 0.7-mil and 1-mil styli. Yes, I have never heard a single-coil mono cart, but to be honest the science I’ve read about them doesn’t make it seem to me that they would ‘magically’ make all the records I’ve heard sound ‘amazing’. I strongly believe that the most important variable in the complex equation of vinyl playback is the record, and that a clean, well-manufactured record should sound good on just about any properly set up equipment. If the problem was my equipment, why would any vintage records sound stellar? If you listen to some of my clips on my blog, I’d say some of them indeed do sound amazing.

          I am seriously open to hearing a counterargument to my thesis here but I’m not hearing anything from you that qualifies as hard evidence, just opposing opinions. Opposing opinions/experiences/theories are fine, but at the moment it sounds like we’re both just arguing that our respective authorities are right/wrong and that our experiences aren’t the same.

          Finally, I would love to hear a through and though mono system sometime, and I’m not opposed to working toward having one myself someday. Despite all the challenges I have faced coIlecting them, I love vintage mono vinyl and when everything’s right it’s probably my favorite kind of listening experience. 🙂

          • Bud Clay

            It’s the way you present the “information” is very matter of fact even though you don’t offer any evidence to support what your saying or have much experience with the subject matter. And thats fine that you got someone to proofread your article, he didn’t write it but you did, so I will address my criticisms as such.

            Leading with this statement:
            “The high tracking forces of consumer-grade turntables in the ’50s and ’60s wreaked havoc on the earliest microgroove LPs”
            What is your proof for this statement though? Which playback equipment, brands, etc? How much vintage playback equipment have you used? Tonearms, carts, tables, etc? How many records did you listen to form this opinion? A lot of what you’re saying just seems like conjecture to me and making assumptions based on a couple things you’ve read.

            “I am seriously open to hearing a counterargument to my thesis here but I’m not hearing anything from you that qualifies as hard evidence, just opposing opinions”

            Like I’ve said, the opinions from people who have extensive experience with the playback gear of that time and have been critically listening to records for decades disagree with you so how can you not re-evaluate your “hypothesis.”? Or take it into consideration.

            As you know the recording, mixing, monitoring, and reproduction of the music during this time was all done in Mono. The records were conceptualized and designed to be used with a Mono cartridge and a single speaker. So for you not to use a mono cartridge because you read something about them feels a little irresponsible to me. Also I’m surprised that for someone like you that enjoys the subtlety of vinyl would have such an aggressive stance about not using a mono cartridge. Nothing in audio playback is gonna “magically” make anything sound “amazing,” It’s about subtle increments and using proper monophonic equipment would definitely improve the experience and the sound. Listening through a pair of stereo spaced speakers introduces phase incoherence that leads to loss of detail and compression of dynamics.

            “I find that most vintage record collectors aren’t anywhere near as picky as I am when it comes to noise.”

            Well vinyl records have the highest signal to noise ratio out of all the playback mediums and then compound that with the vinyl being 60 years old…maybe records aren’t for you 😉

          • I think the comment about vintage playback gear “wreaking havoc” on vintage LPs was a bit aggressive and am happy to revise that line to imply that I’m making a mere conjecture…point taken.

            I’m going to have to disagree with your comment that I “don’t have much experience on the subject matter.” I’m not claiming to have as much experience as Michael Fremer either though. I think I’m beginning to realize that you feel compelled to defend vintage playback equipment, perhaps because you use it yourself? The article is not intended to criticize vintage equipment or claim that it’s inferior. The intention of the article is simply to offer an explanation for why I hear so many fuzzy, distorted records. Again, they don’t all sound that way so I have to conclude that the problem is not my equipment. And I feel very strongly that I do not need an authentic vintage setup to appreciate vintage mono vinyl.

            I have listened to hundreds of vintage mono records on a variety of equipment including tube amplification, just not an authentic vintage table with a single-coil cart…not that I think my telling you that will do anything to change your mind about your decided stance on my “inexperience”.

            I have not just read “a couple of things”. For better or worse, I have tirelessly investigated the issue, and again, my intention is not to present my thesis as dogma, it is merely to offer a hypothesis. You are certainly free to refute it, but I’m still not seeing any hard evidence suggesting that what I’m proposing is not the case.

            i am certainly taking your opinion into consideration and will continue to do so as I move forward as a collector. It seems that you want me to completely retract my thesis simply because of your experience (counter to mine) and the experience of Michael Fremer and Art Dudley. But even if I hear a true mono setup and it does make all these fuzzy sounding records sing, it won’t change the fact that many of the records I have heard sound fuzzy, it won’t change the fact that those records sound fuzzy on my system, and, most importantly, it won’t change the fact that numerous vintage mono records *do* sound good on my system.

            I’m not summing a stereo cart simply “because of something I read about” vintage mono gear. I want to be very clear about that. Despite what I have written here, I would LOVE to own a through and through vintage mono playback system (well, a vintage table and amplification with a modern tonearm, an Ortofon CG25 and a modern speaker anyway). Alas, effort and finances stand in the way. Perhaps the article deserves a rewrite clarifying that I do not believe that “all vintage playback equipment sucks”–but I don’t think you’ll ever catch me tracking above 5 grams. 😉

            We could argue forever about the science behind analog and digital playback and how the noise floor of digital playback is much lower than the noise floor of analog mediums but neither of us will get anywhere, I’ve seen those debates and taken part in them too many times to be naive enough to think it’s worth going down that wormhole. And for the record, I’m much more apt to have this type of discussion with someone who recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of all mediums.

            Again, I understand that I’m a very rare breed of collector in that while I strongly prefer vintage vinyl for the music of that era, I don’t hate everything about digital audio like the vast majority of vintage record collectors. But that won’t stop me from voicing my opinion about how difficult it has been for me to find vintage records that truly sound amazing.

            I appreciate your wink at the end there, and not suggesting that you’re guilty of this, but for someone to claim 1. that vintage mono records *must* be played on a vintage setup to sound great and 2. that anyone who cannot do so shouldn’t be collecting vintage vinyl in the first place has a strong elitist tone that is quite off-putting.

          • Bud Clay

            Again I will say that you are coming to a conclusion based on assumptions you’ve made off things you’ve read on the internet vs people who have been critically listening to Mono records through a variety of playback methods for decades. Just have some self insight guy. Also you still haven’t shared any of your sources or any kind of evidence that supports your claims. And on top of that you don’t have any kind of experience with the equipment that you are saying causes groove wear.

            “And I feel very strongly that I do not need an authentic vintage setup to appreciate vintage mono vinyl”

            I never said that you couldn’t appreciate Mono records. But they will sound better on a true monophonic system, which is what the records were engineered and designed for, that’s a fact and not up for debate. Also Mono equipment does not mean vintage and I never said that “you have to listen to Mono records on vintage setup” show me where I said that.

            “how difficult it has been for me to find vintage records that truly sound amazing”
            Like I’ve said before maybe records aren’t for you…stick to cds 😉

          • The hypothesis that the problem is my equipment only makes sense if all vintage mono records sound bad on my system. And they don’t.

            It seems that you don’t like a collector in your midst that doesn’t worship vintage vinyl as the end-all-be-all of sound reproduction. Sorry if I hurt your feelings.

          • Bud Clay

            I never said anything about your equipment being the problem. You still haven’t answered any of the questions I’ve asked about your “hypothesis” or have provided any sources your claims.

            “It seems that you don’t like a collector in your midst that doesn’t worship vintage vinyl as the end-all-be-all of sound reproduction. Sorry if I hurt your feelings”
            No need to get passive aggressive just because you can’t keep up with the debate. I don’t worship “vintage vinyl” I have just as many reissues and new releases in my collection. Also you’re deflecting.

          • We’re definitely failing to communicate here…ah, the Internet. Have a good one.

          • Bud Clay

            The only thing failing here is your reading comprehension, no offence. Like I’ve asked you so many times what your sources are or how you came to the conclusion you did. But instead you respond to things that I didn’t even say.

          • However, I will consider investing in a vintage table and a high-mass tonearm and an Ortofon CG25. Thanks.

          • Bud Clay

            Why vintage? What turntable?

          • And for the record, I’m certain that the distortion I hear is not caused by phase anomalies from listening on two speakers.

          • Bud Clay

            That’s great, I never said it was.

          • Let me try to make my point very simply: I collect vintage mono records. The majority of the hundreds of vintage mono records I have heard, some clean, some in not-so-great condition, play with some amount of distortion. Not every collector has had the same experience as me. Some people claim that vintage mono equipment is necessary to make mono records sound great. I have not found that to be the case. While I have heard numerous duds, I have also heard numerous great vintage mono records on my humble solid state setup with a summed stereo cart. Mono records made after 1965 seem to have less instances of distortion. I have a hypothesis for this. Some people believe it’s valid, some don’t. Take it or leave it and enjoy music whatever medium and whatever way you choose. 🙂

          • Bud Clay

            “Some people claim that vintage mono equipment is necessary to make mono records sound great. I have not found that to be the case”
            Why do you think that?
            Also I’m still not entirely clear with how you came up with your hypothesis. Myself and the people who I’ve posted about have used high mass tonearms with low compliance cartridges, tracking at heavy force for years and years and have not found any kind of “groove wear”. So how do you explain that? The Japanese have been using American broadcast turntables with heavy SPUs since the early 80s and continue to do so…I guess all of their records can’t be damaged.

        • I also think my wording here was extremely fair: “Though there could be other unidentified factors involved, at the very least THIS SUGGESTS that there is a connection between the inferior playback equipment of the ’50s and early ’60s and the higher number of occurrences of groove wear with original pressings of classic jazz LPs.”

      • Bud Clay

        And a quote from Michael Fremer:

        “More damage is done by attempting to track too light than tracking at the upper limits of the manufacturer’s recommended tracking force range. Years ago I foolishly ran a V-15 Type III at 3/4s of a gram (the lowest recommended tracking force) and damaged many records, leaving them with a crackling sound caused by the stylus bouncing from groove wall to groove wall.”

        • I always track with the maximum recommended tracking force and I agree with this statement…it doesn’t mean that vintage setups didn’t track at insanely high tracking forces.

          • Bud Clay

            What are insanely high tracking forces? The new SPU from Ortofon recommends a starting tracking force of 4 so…

          • If the vintage SPUs tracked a 4 grams, great! Awesome! That’s probably why some of my vintage records sound great, because they were played with one of them! Come on, that obviously doesn’t mean that everyone was using them. My understanding, which comes from (older) experienced collectors is that most people played these records with crap equipment. That’s certainly not irrefutable, again just a conjecture, and you’re right, I need to emphasize when in my article I am merely stating a conjecture, and I’m happy to provide quotes from the highly respected and well-known engineers who have informed me. 🙂

          • Bud Clay

            What makes the equipment “crap”?

    • To comment on your added quote here, my understanding is that vintage equipment tracked at much higher forces than 2.5 and 4 grams. I do not have evidence of this but if you do I’d love for you to point me in that direction. 🙂 Being rigorously scientific about this is of upmost importance to me, while justifying my humble setup is not a concern at all.

      And I have been playing my vintage records almost exclusively with a spherical stylus of late.

      JELABS makes excellent points that, though certainly are ultimately just hypotheses from their own personal experience, are valid. And I still think my hypothesis is valid. Of course, in matters such as these where so many people are not professional electrical or audio engineers, “validity” in argument is ultimately more important than agreement or disagreement.

      With so many variables and so many opposing opinions and theories, we all must ultimately rely on our own personal experience…perhaps I should emphasize that in this article as well. And I’m open to experiencing a vintage mono system.

      • Bud Clay

        But your hypothesis is based on pure conjecture…and you still haven’t given any sources or any kind of specific equipment that has contributed to the issue. His ideas and perspectives have been shaped from decades of critical listening while yours is based entirely on things you’ve read.