A blog post

Truthful reaction

Posted on the 12 February, 2012 at 1:00 am Written by in Music

This is about getting up to speed, in the sound sense, about 45 rpm versus 33 rpm. The latest Stereophile discloses that some of the engineers behind the long playing vinyl disc actually wanted this disc to play at 45 rather than 33 rounds per minute, at the vinyl turntable. I did not know that, but from experience over the years I agree – 45 sounds better.

Quite a lot better, in fact. I had many 45 singles and EPs from the 1960s, but sadly only have a few (ca 20) today, due to my mother giving my collection away (never quite forgiven). The ones I have include some key examples, like the first record I ever bought, the Shadows: Apache, and their Foot tapper EP, both from the early 60s, The Beach Boys: Good vibrations, Roy Obison: Pretty woman, Fleetwood Mac: Oh well, Shadows: Mary Jane, Youngbloods: Darkness darkness, and others – important inputs to the pop industry.

The amazing thing about these records is how well they sound – far later. They should have been pushed aside by later reworking and remastering, but they are not. Especially, I think, EP’s sound great.

What do I mean great? I mean that the sonic landscape is very clear and textured, even if the recording is so-so. If there is a cow bell in the recording, chances are, it does sound like a cow bell, like the one in the beginning of the single by Unit 4+2, Concrete and clay, that I have. As  a whole, my 45  rpm collection  sounds truthful and good – even if the recordings are in many ways inferior to what are available later. The larger speed, 45 rpm, seems to contribute quite a lot. 45 rpm music sounds clearer, better textured, and more meaningful. This is true, in my case, even with old copies that have seen a lot of parties, compared to new 33 rpm versions.

Why did the late 1960s see a “pop explosion” leading to many other developments? Could it, also, be due to an overlooked variable, audio fidelity? That singles and EPs simply sounded remarkably good? When I listen today, on a quality sound reproduction system, the difference seems quite obvious. The singles that won the day in the 1960s sound good even today, and the EP’s often even better. These were the two formats performing at the higher fidelity speed 45 rpm.

Of course 45 rpm is by itself no guarantee that things will sound good. But it seems to be a consistent trend, from the 1960s onwards, that recording egineers have tried to “push” the best music into the best format yet available – the 45 rpm vinyl disc.