Need advice on Vinyl Studio/NPC equalization for a 1954 mono record

I’m using Vinyl Studio and the Nuwave Phono Converter to record a copy of the Toscanini Missa Solemnis which is a 1954 mono vinyl recording on RCA Victor Red Seal and marked as using “New Orthophonic” equalization. The performance recording was in 1953 (presumably to tape) and then cut and released in 1954.

The sound I hear on playback is very “tinny” like I remember 78s used to sound (high frequency emphasized, low frequency de-emphasized). I applied software RIAA equalization in Vinyl studio and got a more realistic tonal balance. However, the NPC should have already applied the RIAA curve shouldn’t it? By applying software RIAA equalization am I applying RIAA twice to this recording?

I’ve recorded 100+ other records (almost all from the 60s/70s) and this is the first album I’ve had this kind of an issue with. I realize 1954 was the year where RIAA was being implemented so I was wondering if “New Orthophonic” (1953/1954 version) is somehow different from the current RIAA (according to Wikipedia it should be very close) or if something else could be going on here. I tried setting Vinyl Studio to apply reverse RIAA and then “New Orthophonic” but that produced sound almost the same as the original. Can someone out there hazard a guess as to what is going on or perhaps how I can more closely approximate what the record should sound like?

Two things come to mind.

First, make sure you have the NPC set to mono - you can find the selection on the Play screen.

Second, (and I’m hesitant to bring this up) it’s probably beneficial to make sure the cables from your TT didn’t get swapped around to the wrong input. I doubt this is the case, but if you were feeding into the analog input instead of the phono input, the sound would be all sorts of wonky.

Thanks for the quick response.

I tried the mono in the NPC (had been using mix to mono in Vinyl Studio) with no difference. Checked the cables - if I had been plugged into analog, wouldn’t I have needed to select Analog in the Input screen? - at any rate cables were correct and the NPC was set to input from Phono. Also, if I’d have been plugged into analog, I doubt the Carbon MM cartridge (set for 47K ohms at the NPC) I’m using would have enough output voltage to drive the analog inputs. At any rate, while waiting for your reply, and without changing any cables or settings, I recorded one side out of Mozart’s Silver Flute and it was flawless. So I wasn’t particularly concerned with either the mono switch or cables - so back to my question on equalization…

What I suspect is that somehow the actual equalization used for the record may somehow not be a true “New Orthophonic” or somehow different from that curve but of course that’s just a guess on my part. When I use software equalization (to RIAA) in Vinyl Studio, the music comes alive. However, I can’t believe RCA would release a recording that was un-equalized (or grossly mis-equalized), even in 1954. So I’m wondering if maybe its just a bad recording/pressing.

Is there a setting on the NPC that disables the RIAA curve? I thought RIAA was hard wired for the phono inputs. However that doesn’t make much sense either because why would a recording of different vinyl sound good with no other changes to cables or NPC settings?

For the record, the record’s liner notes specify “… For best reproduction, High Fidelity phonographs should be adjusted to the ‘New Orthophonic’ characteristics. Where it is not designated on the instrument it can be obtained by selecting the AES position and then, using the tone controls, boosting bass and reducing treble, each by a small amount”. That sounds like what the RIAA curve does and if so, the NPC should have taken care of it.

Its a mystery…

I’ve never tried to use my NPC for recording, let alone use Vinyl Studio, but I’m a little confused as to how this works. As far as I know all phono preamps apply an equalization curve (primarily the RIAA curve), I don’t think any regular (i.e., not phono) preamps can apply an equalization curve. As such, when using Vinyl Studio why would you be applying equalization curves again? The only thing I can think of is many early recordings used non-standard equalization curves. Perhaps Vinyl Studio is making a correction from RIAA to the selected equalization? On a related note, I do know there are a few phono preamps that have alternative equalization curves, but once again they have to apply one of the curves prior to passing on to the regualr preamp. If I’m missing something please enlighten me!

Your and my understanding of how phono preamps work I think are identical.

To my knowledge, the NPC applies the RIAA curve to the phono input and then for my configuration, outputs via the USB to my computer (working as an ADC). Vinyl Studio, running on the computer, in turn takes the incoming PCM signals (by reading the USB) and writes them to disk. As stated above, this has worked for me for 100+ albums. All the records I’ve tried that were published in 1960s/70s sound exactly as you’d expect (i.e. with RIAA applied by the NPC). Its only this one album I’m having issues with.

Vinyl Studio typically has 4 steps for recording:

  1. record each side to a file (typically in wav format - I record at 96khz, 2 ch, 24 bits)
    a) you can apply equalization to the incoming signal if you wish but I don’t do that
  2. Split the tracks - which includes naming the tracks and then mark the beginning end of each track
  3. Cleanup - remove clicks/pops, apply eq (if required), etc
  4. Encode the tracks to their final destination (I usually use flac) and write to a network share.
    a) this step writes the tracks just as if you had ripped a cd (which is how it appears in JRiver)
    b) You can also choose to write to a lossy format such as MP3 (e.g for a phone)

As stated above, you can select from a set of equalization curves to apply RIAA, AES, etc., to the incoming PCM (step 1) or recorded PCM (step 3). Normally you’d only apply equalization if your phono pre-amp does not have RIAA or if you were recording a tape (via the NPC analog inputs). There are some preamps that can switch to other eq curves and I suppose that the makers of Vinyl Studio want to be able to sell their product to them as well. So the following screenshot is an example of some of the eq that can be applied via software)

All that being background, in my case I have a 2 record set with what the liner notes say has “New Orthophonic” equalization, an eq curve that was the precursor of RIAA (RCA published New Orthophonic specs and it became the de facto standard). So theoretically, if I record it via the NPC via Vinyl Studio with no eq applied either at step 1 or 3, it should sound good because the NPC has applied the RIAA. – It doesn’t! – But when I apply RIAA at step 3 above, it sounds great. How could that be? I don’t know…

  1. Was New Orthophonic eq applied twice in this pressing?
    a) so that it requires removing once by the NPC and once by Vinyl Studio (?!)
  2. or was the New Orthophonic standard in 1954 significantly different from what finally became RIAA?
    a) so that I am really over compensating by using NPC and Vinyl Studio to eq the signal

I really don’t know what happened for this one album but perhaps I’ve cleared up a bit of your question on how Vinyl Studio works…

I think we understand each other! One thing I didn’t think to mention, does the LP sound ok when played through the stereo, but not ok when processed through Vinyl Studio? Your thought of double equalization is a possibility, I’m sure it’s happened. Personally all the classical LP’s I’ve collected over the years were from the dawn of the stereo era onward, so most have the standard RIAA equalization. Never had the opportunity to try a phono preamp with other equalization curves, it is a fascinating idea, but the ones I saw reviewed were out of my budget. Some day I may just take the leap and start recording my LP’s, I have a lot that I don’t have on CD.

The LP only sounds good when played through Vinyl Studio with the extra equalization applied. I was about give up on this LP before I discovered I could make it sound acceptable by applying extra equalization.

I acquired this album about 40 years ago. Not sure of the circumstances of buying it anymore but since I was poor at that time, I’m sure it was in a bargain bin. Perhaps the poor sound quality was the reason I didn’t play it much - at any rate, I can listen to it now. I just don’t understand why I need all this processing to make it sound acceptable. It must be a bad pressing…

I pretty much gave up on vinyl when CDs began to come into the market in the early 80s. The surface noise of LPs was driving me crazy. I think I can safely say now that Vinyl Studio and a record cleaner (huge thanks to @jeffstarr for recommending I buy one) have made the biggest improvements to my system. After cleaning the LPs and then running the LPs through VS, I’m rediscovering tons of music that I thought was lost forever - many of the LPs were never reissued on CD.

Should you ever decide to rip your LPs to disk, all you need is an Analog to Digital Converter (if your pre-amp doesn’t already have one), a USB cable, Mac or Windows, and Vinyl Studio (get the pro version - $50). VS allows you to lookup the LP on discogs for track names and then after you record, all you need to do is mark the beginning and end of the tracks in the spectrum analyzer, run it through the pop/click remover and write it to disk. Its really a great piece of software - and their customer support is similarly stellar (although AlpineSoft is a UK company so in the US it takes a day to get a response if your question doesn’t get to them in time to answer during business hours).