The trick to listening to old recordings, I mean OLD
recordings, mono LPs and 78s, is listening through the record surface noise to
the music behind it. Some audiophiles who specialize in mono-era music prefer
an all-tube stereo because of its ability to put record surface noise on its
own plane in front of the music, making it even easier to listen through the
noise to the music just on the other side of a diaphanous noise curtain.
Listening to The East River String Band’s Radio show,
featuring the cartoonist R. Crumb and his record collection, I was struck by
how easy it was to separate out the noise from the music on my computer desktop
system. Even though the obviously originally-analog signals of the old 78’s
Crumb played had gone through at least one A/D and D/A before reaching my ears,
my system was still able to separate out the noise from the music.
I’m sure having a mono source made it easier – the music
came from a very small spot in the soundstage while the noise spread out over a
far wider area. All I had to do was listen to what was coming from one spot and
forget about the rest.
During the narration sections of the broadcast, the sound is
in stereo. Periodically Crumb gets a bit too jiggy with the microphone and you
can hear it clip. But if you are into early European jazz you are going to find
his commentary fascinating. But I must warn you, his political comments may
alienate some listeners…but his take on jazz history is solid gold.