Last song on most LP's pressed with compression

Over the last few yrs, I have spent more time with my cd player than analog rig. Anyway, the winter is here and I'm feelin the groove and started listening critically to LP again. What bothers me is the last song on a side is often compressed. You have hear this as a reduction in sound quality, akin to what an MP3 does to a cd original. Now if you inspect the LP closely that bothers you. You can see visually that the grooves towards the end are actually cut into the record differently. They are compressed together. I don't care what cartridge or equipment you use, the distortion is there..period . Once your brain locks onto it, listening thru this distortion is very difficult. Now before the experts chime in, I'm not talking about inner groove distortion here. Nor is there anything wrong with my alignment,VTA, tracking,azimuth etc. If you can't hear this on your rig (with an LP that is cut compressed on the last track- not all are)then no doubt your system is not resolved enough. Part of my LP collection (about 500 records)are 12" singles. These do not suffer from this problem for obvious reasons. But I'd bet that 60% or more of regular LP's do. What all this means for me is that the days of investing big $$$ on LP playback are over. What I have is what I have and when it eventually wears out, I doubt that I'll replace it. Yup, I am that bugged by wasting a portion of my valuable listening time listening to a lower quality signal. I modify my own equipment to achieve the highest quality signal that I possibly can. So subjecting myself to a flawed LP format is a step backwards. Before I play an LP now, I examine that groove pattern towards the end. If it looks extra compressed, then back on the shelf that title goes. I'll pick the original (non maximized) cd version every time.

Feel free to chime in.
Grooves being close together is not what is meant by audio "compression". What is compressed is the dynamic range...loudest passage to softest passage. This may, as a secondary effect, permit grooves to be more closely spaced. Minimal LF signal content would also permit closer groove spacing (that's what RIAA equalization is about). Maybe the record producers select which track to put on last with these considerations in mind.
Eldartford is right. The spacing by itself is not the contributing factor. But the closer spacing does reflect music that has less dynamic range and/or less lower bass energy and often the music here has been compressed. I take this to be what you're referring to.

Cutting the inner grooves of an LP has always been a huge challenge for the medium. This is where the skill of some of the great cutting engineers come into play. People like Stan Ricker, Doug Sax, Bernie Grundmann, Kevin Gray, Wilhem Makkee, Chris Bellman, to name a few. These engineers are often able to coax into those inner grooves far greater information than most others without as much compromise.
holy crap, after a lifetime of record collecting, another hi-end-kick-in-the-head. i guess i'll have to just patiently wait for ricker to go back and fix everything ever done.
A perfect example is Neil Young's LP "Comes A Time". Take a look at side 2, last song "Four Strong Winds". 1/3 way into the song you can see the dynamic range/compression limiting in the grooves. You clearly hear the drop off in sound quality when the stylus enters this area. Ruins the experience for me.
I believe what you are hearing but I don't think you have the correct reason. The faster the record is spinning the easier it is to get good sound. That's why 45rpm pressings sound so good. The outer velocity of any record is over twice as fast as the inner so fidelity is lost as you move toward the inner grooves. If your cartridge isn't set up properly and the tracking angle error is increasing as you move inward or if the anti-skate isn't set properly it could compound the problem.
By the way, the inner groove problem that Herman mentions will also affect the visual appearance of the grooves.

What you say is a reality. The way you get round it is to put a quiet track on the inner groove so it won't be as noticeable. The other option is to drop additional tracks and make the overall LP shorter. Since it is a physical problem there is not much else that can be done.

Sadly much of what you buy on pop CD's are compressed just as badly (if not much worse - such as Metallica) simply to get the desired punchy sound for radio play or in people's cars.

Getting good recordings is and still remains a challenge with both technologies....
As others have pointed out, compression is the wrong term. Vinyl mastering is far more difficult than its digital counterpart. One of the secrets to effective vinyl mastering is getting the proper song sequencing. With digital there are no physical considerations in the song sequencing and it's purely an artistic decision. However, with vinyl you have to take into account the side A/side B issue plus the dynamic challenges of inner groove spacing. Add to that the artistic element and you've got several variables to juggle. For symphonic music the situation is even worse than for pop/jazz. I've noticed that many vinyl releases are now two record set. I speculate they would have been single disks back in the day. It's something of a hack solution, but it's better than the alternatives.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the visual spacing of the grooves is not necessarily related to the music's dynamic range. You can have widely spaced grooves and not have wide dynamics. Narrowly spaced grooves have less potential dynamic range, but depending upon the music it may or may not be a factor.
You're absolutely right, but all delivery methods have problems; the "thinning" of sound towards the end of *some* lp's is indeed a compromise. But wouldn't you rather "waste" only a *portion* of your listening time listening to the end of an lp, or waste *all* of your listening time listening to a CD, in which the distortion is interwoven into the information, perverting the rhythm and delicacy of the music, kind of like when that scientist comes out of his molecular transport machine not knowing that now he's a fly.

(Sorry, just wanted to cover all the Lp-only idealogues' (sp) outrageous statements first. : )
As others have suggested (stated), compression is not the problem. During the mastering process the speed at which the cutter head moves across the disc can be varied to compensate groove width for loud and soft passages. This is true across the record when properly mastered, unless that process is screwed up. With an LP of unusual side play time, say 25 minutes or so, bass may be compromised but that should be apparent across the entire side.

But the slower speed of the stylus through the inner groove can affect sonics, just as Herman describes. Another potential cause for inner groove distortion is cartridge alignment, at least if you use a pivoted arm. Among the different alignment procedures, one can select for average overall alignment, mid-record optimization, or latter half optimization. But if you have not carefully aligned your cartridge to one of these, all bets are off and you will likely hear greater distortion on the inner groove of an LP.
WOW - who knew LPs were such a flawed medium for recording and playing music. I'm taking my entire record collection to Tower Records and selling it for $10. Oh wait, I did that 25 years ago.

Never mind.
Some boxed sets of classical music would put third and fourth movements of a symphony not only on the flip side, but on the next disc. This was OK if you used a record changer, but single play people like me had to put one LP away, get out and clean the next before the music resumed.

The vinyl record technology is flawed in so many ways that it is amazing that it sounds good at all.
Edison had it right with rolls (i.e. constant velocity) and linear tracking arms.

Now, how the devil do you press a vinyl roll? Can't without a parting line. Each roll has to be individually cut.

Back to the future anyone? :>)
I can't remember if any records were actually made this way but decades ago there were serious suggestions that classical LPs should be recorded starting in the inside groves and moving outward because , as already pointed out, climaxes come at just the part of the LP that is least able to support them.

PS Obama isn't perfect, Bush just makes him look that way.
Ha! I just went thru vinyl HELL!!! the humming, the buzzing, the wondering if my alignment was right, the wriggling in my seat, listening for hum, giving up on it all...... Finally cursing records, my stupid noisy (when it wants to be)! tube phono preamp, my stupid 'high resolution' cables, and even cursing my TT.
Sickened, I turned the whole works off, and watched some tv.
Yes, vinyl is a flawed medium... there are SO many variables, and so much that can go 'wrong' but when it all goes right.....
I think from now on, when I come stumbling in after a 14hr workday, and have 1 hour to eat, drink a cup of tea, and 'decompress' with some music, I'll put on a CD, grin, and bear it! There, I said it.
I was listening the other night, and I must admit, there are a few albums that I do notice lack of dynamics on the innermost tracks on...... but on the majority of my favorite albums, they just sound good thru and thru...
Thanks for giving me one more annoying thing to listen for! arg!
I just spent a good amount of time meticulously going over my setup. The only thing I found that might be slightly off (and its not getting easier to see these days)is the spindle to pivot point. I increased the distance about .05MM to what appears to be spot on. Then of course spent considerable time resetting alignment, VTA, VTF and anti-skate. The result is a small but noticeable improvement tracking some of those problem LPs. The improvement is basically that of increased transparency but the loss of resolution is still there. So I conclude (as another member stated) the best result is minimizing the problem. Hopefully to the point of acceptance rather than distraction. Again, keep in mind that I lean to the perfectionist side of the spectrum. About 12yrs ago, I got back into vinyl and also started collecting 12" singles. I suppose that next to analog tape itself, the 12" single has the potential for the highest quality home playback. The real challenge to vinyl IMO came about recently in the advent of 24/192 with upsampling. (Yes I tried SACD and DVD-A, definitely preferring DVD-A. But lack of titles ended that journey) I started modifying my own cd players, using vinyl as the A/B benchmark comparison. The differences are still there but not nearly as drastic as once was the case. Depending on the title/pressing/mastering, one might prefer the LP or CD.
If you want the best possible sound try to find direct cut records. Very limited catalog but amazing sound. Were made in late 70s and early 80s.
The Perfectionist side...try not to go there. I've done it, but thank Darwin I don't have endless amounts of cash and therefore limit wasted time--it's so bad for the music. The first thing that happens is the culling of great performances for so-so performances on other formats. If you're like me, you'll be buying back (or digging in the closet for) the imperfectly rendered great or favorite performances again.
01-25-09: Jdaniel13
The Perfectionist side...The first thing that happens is the culling of great performances for so-so performances on other formats. If you're like me, you'll be buying back (or digging in the closet for) the imperfectly rendered great or favorite performances again.
Your experience reminds me of one of J. Gordon Holt's early maxims: The quality of the recording is inversely proportional to the quality of the performance.

--or something like that.

Of course there are great exceptions, but back when he first wrote that, the LP bins were rife with the middle-of-the-road (MOR) "bachelor pad" drivel put out on Command Records, superbly recorded on 35mm mag film like the 1st gen. Everest recordings vs., for example, the RCA mono pressings of Toscanini's Beethoven Symphonies.

It seems to me that the true potential of the analog record was never really reached. Imagine what great sound we could have had on 45 rpm 16" discs, played back with the minimal tracking angle error of a 12" tonearm. A 16" disc would have allowed at least 20 mins per side (like a 12" 33-1/3), but with seriously higher groove speed for less compression and more clarity owing to greater space for the groove modulations.

I also concur that the direct-to-disc recordings offer the most superb, transparent, and dynamic home playback I've heard in any format. The first couple of Sheffield discs were also pretty MOR, but I have later recordings they did with the Harry James Big Band and the great Oakland funk band, Tower of Power. I also have a couple of Buddy Rich D2Ds on American Grammophone, one featuring Mel Torme! Now THOSE have both superb sonics and legendary performances.
"If you can't hear this on your rig (with an LP that is cut compressed on the last track- not all are)then no doubt your system is not resolved enough."
Hmmm........I don't hear it on ANY records so I guess I need to get rid of those damn arms (Copperhead and DaVinci Grandezza) and get a decent turntable to boot (rotten Raven AC-3?).
Perhaps you might enlighten us as to the brand of your super-resolving turntable and arm?
And then you might inform us as to what tool you use to adjust the arm/cartridge geometry?
"Compression" is absolutely the correct term . . . it's dynamic range compression and it's common practice to apply this to the inner tracks during mastering. As others have pointed out, this is done because the linear groove velocity has decreased, and thus a given stylus acceleration corresponds to a lower modulation level. And the tracking performance of ANY cartridge is of course related to the stylus acceleration.

Simply looking at the groove spacing, however, will only give you very little indication of how much compression has been applied. In the 1970s, sophisticated computer programs were developed to control the progression of the lathe's cutting head as it moved across the record, to maximise the utilisation of the available space for the recording . . . and a visual check will only give you an impression of how effectively this was done. Had the groove spacing been increased . . . the compression would still be there.

Groove spacing does affect the amount of "pre-echo" heard, but this is of course much more noticable at the beginning of the record, not at the end . . . and there are other things that affect this, like the processes of plating the lacquer and making the stamper.

The reality of the situation is that we owe a great debt to the mastering engineers who have given us those records that sound great from start to finish, in spite of the necessary compromises involved in doing so. And while some of the harshest words on Audiogon forums are reserved for the CD format . . . this is THE format that brought us extremely consistent performance across the entire recording, in one contiguous block of time.
Halco, it appears that you are quite fortunate. In addition to your very impressive analog rig, its obvious that your LP collection is comprised of only the finest cut records of all. Congratulations, it must have been some effort to put that collection together. Enjoy, and good listening!!! Oh, BTW how old are you if I may ask. I'm 47 and can easily hear that high pitched text message kids use. Most adults can't, get my drift.
"Normal hearing loss due to aging consists of a gradual decrease in high frequency sensitivity over time. The chart is from Modern Sound Reproduction by Harry F. Olson. It shows the average hearing loss Vs age for men and women at frequencies from 250 Hz to 8000 Hz. This means that for a man at age 35, sensitivity is down about 11 dB at 8000 Hz. For a woman at that age, sensitivity is down only about 5 dB. This varies, of course, from person to person but we can infer that sensitivity is down even further at 20kHz."

The accompanying graph is frightening with HF hearing loss increasing (or is it decreasing?) by about 10 db per decade. Makes me think I should really only be buying subwoofers from here on out :)
You conveniently forgot to enlighten us on your turntable/arm/cartridge combination and the protractor tools you use to set up the alignment of your arm/cartridge?
Incidentally, I can easily hear the the 18K Hertz tone on the Stereophile Test CD.