When can we expect more detailed coverage of the vinyl replay/phono equalization curve issue from TAS? I first leaned of the existence of non-RIAA equalization curves while reading a review of a Graham Slee phonstage outfitted with several non-RIAA curves in the pages of Hi-Fi+, your sister publiction. Of course, both HP and JV have discussed the issue in recent months, and AHC hinted at the problem in his lovely review of the VAS-reissued Citation One pre-amp. However, I would argue that much more needs to be researched and written on this topic.
Like many serious music lovers (I'm in my mid 40s), my LP collection covers nearly 6 decades of recorded history and boasts selections from the US, the UK, Russia, Romania, France, Finland, Brazil, Italy and beyond. I own orignial Blue Notes (far too few), mono and early-stereo Columbias, some DECCAs, loads of Soul Notes, Hat Arts, Muses, Londons, Argos, Vanguards, Nonesuch jewels, etc.
Many, but not all of my Columbias sound crummy, but I now suspect that at least part of the problem owes to my use of the RIAA playback curve. By the same token, to what degree does the typically tinny-sounding piano on many Blue Notes stem from our use of the wrong playback equalization curve and not from sonic colorations in Van Gelder's studio or his electronics chain?
Do most Angel recordings really sound like shit, or is faulty equalization again to blame? My Time-Life Box sets from the 1960s (remastered by Angel from their own and other vaults), while not highly prized or thought of as collectible, often boast superior sound quality. Finally, what equalization cuves do re-issue firms like Classic Records use? The original curves or the RIAA standard? Do the new Blue Note 45rpm re-issues use the RIAA curve (not recommended for Blue Notes) or the more-accurate Columbia curve?
I don't mean to belabour the mundane, but this is a serious issue, as important as cleaning LPs, as involved as choosing the right cartidge for a given tonearm/table combo. I strongly suspect that many of us are not hearing vinyl replay at its best (given the particular limits of our individual systems) and that proper equalization represents the next great wave in vinyl playback. Like many audiophiles, my phonstage only employs the RIAA curve.
Nagra, Graham Slee, Zanden and one or two other manufacturers have gotten on the variable-equalization curve bandwagon, and rightly so. Isn't it time that Audio Research, C-J, Lamm, Krell and all the rest got on board as well?
The great irony here is that proper playback equalization was not a mystery at all to audiophiles who came of age in the 50s and 60s: a review of many vintage equipment websites reveals that pre-amps/phonostages from that era routinely featured several available equalization curves.
Its high-time we re-dicovered the past, no?