Analog compared with Digital

This thread was started by moving the following post from another thread. I’d been struck by this quote:

“Poorly done digital is dissonant to the human physiology because of the nature of the distortion.” - Frank Malitz of Carver

I often have physiological reactions to analog and digital sound, and wonder what it is about them that leads to those reactions. Picking back up with the original post:

And pardon the following exposition in this thread devoted to the Terse. Sir Elkington - feel free to whisk it off to a more appropriate venue. (Have to say here that the useage of the word “puff” in this regard turns my stomach).

However, much recent experience has informed me FORCEFULLY that Frank’s observation from a couple of years ago at Axpona, in the context of discussing servers, is right on point. Use your collective imaginations - I can’t discuss it publicly. Only talking digital in very general terms, and not making any sort of predictions or pronouncements about any sort of class or type of product in particular. As those you might imagine I might be referring to don’t exist in my experience.:pray:t2:

Despite being alive, working and buying recording gear for work and listening pleasure since Before the Dawn of Digital in the 80’s, I have rarely ceased to have issues with digital vs. analog. Maybe I’m Old-School. So sue me.:stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:. There is a Continuity to Analog that is only recently beginning to be approached by the best digital in many ways, AT - I hasten to add - the price points we typically deal with hereabouts.

Also - despite the comparative rarity of my ongoing inabilty to listen to Windom for any extended length of time on either the Jr. or Sr. (with particular respect to specific areas of the midrange, and independent of its positive qualities on the Top and Bottom – which seems to be what everybody goes on about) - I’d apply Frank’s observation to the difference in these recent-ish Mountaintops (Windom being a year old at this point).

Which, when compared to differences in DACs is nowhere near as profound.

Maybe. Sorta. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

Though I would say that the difference in the Mountaintops has been at times at least as significant, and sometimes moreso, than the differences in a lot of iterations of say, Sabre-based DACs over the past decade. This is not to say that I don’t either like or appreciate Sabre DACs. Have and have owned plenty of 'em. So - far from it. But Time Marches On, Praise Jah :fist:t3:

Recent renewed interest in Ladder DACs due in part to (:flushed: OMG!) Direct Sales! of same from Singapore. US of A’s dCS’s cheapest one being multiples of the cost. But I don’t think any of this can be encompassed or Explained or Accounted For by any discussion of price. Unless individuals can give us firsthand experience with each. Then that is One Vote in each case. But a more Valid Vote in my estimation than 100 Pundits Speculating.

Sheesh - Been reading too much Dickens lately…:stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


@badbeef: Well you’re onto something here in terms of analogs continuity when compared to digital, especially in the cost class I am willing to explore. There is a certain rightness to the overtones that seems to be of a piece, continuity sums it up well.
Regarding ladder DACS I’d agree, as they provide a sound I keep returning to. I moved from a Sabre based DAC to a ladder DAC and don’t miss the former in the least I do enjoy both my ladder DAC and the DSD. I did consider a ladder DAC available direct from the Far East, but my preference to an audition prior to purchase eliminated it from consideration. Your mention again of Windom versus Snowmass gives me pause. Maybe time for me to reload Snowmass. The Windom load was rather unpleasant, as such my reluctance to reintroduce Snowmass. That and the fact the DSD has been hibernating since early spring.
Curious to learn of your experience with the Far East Ladder DAC.

yeah - Continuity. There still, to this day for me is a grid-like timing aspect to most digital, that is a good part of what is only recently being sorted out, IMO. With the exception perhaps of the multiples-of-the-DS $ crowd. Though frankly at shows and at homes of owners of megabuck systems, I’ve often not heard the continuity of analog. Except from those who also had really nice vinyl systems. The reality that I spent half my life in.

And this has nothing WHATEVER to do with the things that are normally referred to regarding vinyl (never mind tape) - “pops, clicks, surface noise, lack of Dynamic Range” (shoot me! :roll_eyes:), etc. Paul - looking at you…

Elk, if you’re so inclined, maybe we start an Analog vs. Digital Thread or something, that these posts could be more appropriately assigned to.

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As it should, it is deliberately respectful and employed with disdain.

Anyway, I moved these last couple of posts in the Quotes thread to here as a good discussion is developing. :+1:

I captioned the thread Analog compared with Digital to avoid encouraging arguments as to which is better. There are too many of these.

Much more interesting is the comparison - what do you hear with each, why does this occur, what do you like and why, etc.

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Hi Beef.
I think you could reduce it to a couple of words:
Analog = natural or organic (goes from microphone to lathe to disc to needle to speaker without ever changing formats).
Digital = manufactured (goes from microphone to 1’s and 0’s immediately)

With that being said I am still much happier with the digital format strictly for the ease of use and the playback experience is plenty good enough for this old dude.


@Elk I replied to Beef in the other thread. Can you magically make it appear here?

Already done! (See above) :slight_smile:


“I think you could reduce it to a couple of words:”

Me? Surely you jest!

But nonetheless, I concur, for the Most Part, my Good Sir! (he wrote, Dickensian-ish-ly)

Off to various stores to acquire commestables.


Do you find all analog has this sense of continuity? That is, if an LP is playing will it have continuity?

Does continuity mean flow, stream (as a component of prat so to say)?

If yes, then it’s something hardly describable as many noted here and there. The DS is also very good at that, but I’d say it’s not easy to identify in A/B. It’s rather something I notice after a few minutes or longer…rather how you feel while listening, how the music approaches you, how you relax and get the groove than “hey there’s the continuity” :wink:

Technically the closest to it I experienced was when switching cabling with less good phase behavior and less focus on transferring the frequency spectrum simultaneously to one better in this regard. In general also everything that improves coherence also improves prat and flow in my experience.

Get your sub out of phase and you loose prat/flow.

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PRaT is definitely the difference between not ideal digital and good analog for me. I used to think PRaT was group delusion like stuff.

At an open house for a local audio shop years ago, a guest brought a couple of CDs. She played one as background music and things kept going on as if nothing changed. She played the other and all conversation stopped as people listened. They were bit identical but she had used an option that “lowers the jitter” when burning the 2nd CD. I have no idea what that option actually did, but it very clearly worked.

I do think that jitter is often a culprit with digital, but also HF noise from the digital affecting the rest of analog systems is often a big problem too.


Not necessarily. Admittedly now talking about good vinyl on a good rig. If we were talking about all analog prior to the dawn of digital, prolly yeah. That’s all there was, and a lot of those recordings are still held in high regard.

Dang - there are SO many possible variables to this - sorta. There are many stages of the recording process where you can mangle it both digitally and analog-ly these days. No doubt.

BUT - ordinarily, the digital opportunities for mangling the sound are many multiples of the analog opportunities.

Bear in mind that - whatever may develop over time in between (at least prolly before most of us croak) music Starts out Analog and Ends up Analog. It is typically sound played by humans, sometimes in a room, recorded with microphones. Possibly directly from electric instruments, whose output is still analog - then, whether recorded analog or digital, ends up coming out of your speakers at the end (even if they’re tiny HP speaks) as an analog signal again.

In between, it may (very likely these days) be digital for a while. Maybe a LONG while. And a lot of how good it sounds when you hear it has MORE to do, I would assert, with how well it was captured from analog to digital on the front end, and how it is subsequently spit out from digital to analog at the back end in your room (speakers, etc.) than a lot of the stuff we lose our minds about regarding the in-between bits on a daily basis.

Tough to get around this fact. :man_shrugging:t2:


What you say and how jitter or HF noise can possibly also influence media production/mastering/conversion etc. processes (without the option to correct this e.g. by a DAC later) might explain why DAC technology today might be on a much higher level compared to what gets lost inbetween. And probably no one cares about HF noise or jitter reduction during usual media production processes.

To assume this might also be the reason, that a digital recording can capture much of the ambiance of vinyl playback from an analog recording, but can not digitally record and produce a digital media of that quality, is probably fantasy.

But after I heard (in a very resolving setup), how copy processes and different hard drives can influence digital media quality, nothing is impossible for me anymore. Bit perfect seems to say nothing.

And it’s not that different with vinyl. An LP with the vinyl unstressed by a certain disc flattener also sounds better than the original production LP.

Not at all sure about your first paragraph. But basically - yeah :facepunch:t2:

You, no doubt, have more music production experience than I do. That said, would you agree that leaving the rest of the sentence out (from the comma on) results in a remark that is even more “true”?


Crap in - crap out, no doubt.

I’d follow that up with, most folks have no idea how crappy most ADCs are compared with the attention and money lavished on DACs. And a lot of amazing recordings were made via those comparatively crappy ADCs. Don’t ask me to 'splain that, cuz I dunno :man_shrugging:t2:

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Steven - don’t even…:stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

A preemptive strike…?