DAC with "Vinyl Emulator?"

Playing with a Weiss 501. It has a ton of DSP related settings from room EQ, headphones, Loudness, cross talk, DeEssing etc. Having a vinyl emulator I think is interesting to say the least. Just thought I’d throw this out there for comment in case anyone is interested- especially you guys that spin…

4.4 The Weiss Vinyl Emulator
The playback quality of vinyl records often times is viewed as being superior to digital based playback. The technical quality of a vinyl reproduction usually is inferior to a decent digital playback, though.
Obviously many listeners like the specific deterioration the vinyl playback chain applies to the music.
The playback system in a record player is a fairly complex mechanical system with many variables contributing to the sound. If one likes to emulate such a system in the digital domain the most important mechanisms
have to be analyzed and emulated.
Some of the sub-systems and parameters involved are:
• motor driving the platter
• needle geometry
• groove geometry
• playback speed
• position of the tonearm
• masses, rigidity of the various mechanical parts (pick-up, tonearm, bearings, … )
• mechanical to electrical transfer function of the pick-up
• angles of the needle relative to the record
• contact pressure of the needle
• skating effect
One approach to emulate the sonic footprint of a record player would be to simulate all those mechanical/electrical parts one by one for a complete transfer function.
While this is possible to some extent it is fairly complex to implement and also to measure the parts such that their influences are gained isolated from all other effects.
It is simpler and more effective to synthesize the various effects caused by those sub-systems.
These effects are, mainly:
• specific frequency response
• specific distortion patterns
• specific additional resonance frequencies
• specific noise at various frequencies
• specific crosstalk between left and right channels
• specific effects caused by the RIAA emphasis
• specific amplitude modulation effects
The key to a good emulation is to achieve the ”right” amounts and characteristics and sequence of all those effects. Hence the word ”specific”. In the DAC501/DAC502 we implemented a processing chain for the vinyl emulation like this:

The blocks are self - explanatory, except COLOUR_STREAM, which consists of noise generators, resonance generators and amplitude modulator.
Of course there are many parameters involved in all those processing blocks. For the DAC501/DAC502 our goal was to have a single parameter to control the amount of ”vinylization”.
That single parameter influences several of the processing block parameters at once. It leads to a very effective and useful implementation with an astonishingly good sounding vinyl footprint.

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Interesting concept, but - and this is just my opinion - I’d be skeptical of anyone who purports to have designed a highly technical digital reproduction system that replicates the qualities of vinyl playback (whether one views those qualities as better or worse than digital), when that person refers to a stylus is a “needle.”


Lol. Good point. I was wondering how some of you guys would report on this. I wish I could do an A/B with vinyl just to see.

I am 100% digital and I know you guys take your vinyl seriously. It’s a cool source. I think I would love to try tape one day but that’s another post.

Hard to describe what I hear when I enable that dsp. There are others I want to play with today and create a “global preset” and compare with native/ all disabled.

For lack of a better description, when I enable the vinyl emulator, it turns my Pass Labs into a McIntosh. Saturation increases? Sounds pleasing but different for sure.

I have been guilty of the “needle” term but seeing what you guys pay for cartridges and “needles” they are definitely now a stylus !

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These emulators have been around for quite a while for DAWs. They are quite effective at making a recording sound like vinyl.

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My new DAC is a Waversa VDac. One of the interesting features is the ability to imprint the sonic signature of a 300B Western Electric tube. The designer is completely enamored with Western Electric. The DAC uses 4 Western Electric 408’s. It’s completely optional and interesting. I’ve enabled it at times and it’s a very mild sonic enhancement.


So much stuff out there that not only have I never heard, I’ve never heard of. That sounds like a cool concept.

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This stuff is veering into guitar “modeling amp” territory. :wink:


To my all-digital mind, this is highly amusing. I’d love to hear the effect of this. I haven’t heard a lot of vinyl in my life but I recall one experience from when I was a teenager and how vivid and rich and intense was the sound of a particular track with flute and guitar played on a vinyl rig with all-tube amplification. I bought the album on CD and have never replicated that sonic character in any of my (tube-less) systems. The Weiss folks seem to share my hypothesis about vinyl: that what’s enjoyable about its sound is due to the inaccuracies of its reproduction. Would be a fun one to test.


Do you think you know what the Weiss folks understand as the benefit of vinyl and if it’s the same you miss?

I think there’s a good chance you’ll get the opposite except that they’ll add richness compensating for the more intense harmonic structure.

As the real benefit of vinyl (more information/details, more dynamic sound, more natural 3D ambiance and imaging, more open/airy etc.) results from the lack of digital processing (at best from recording to playback), I’d say it’s not really smart to think even more digital processing helps getting it, as it’s not possible to add information and opennes/airiness with processing, it’s just possible to add distortion/coloration.

My experience is that many see a good part of the limitations of lower end vinyl playback as its advantage (because it makes a darker, fatter, recessed sound which can make weak recordings sound more pleasant).

It has been fun to play with. Cool thing is I can make global presets. #1 is no change- native. #2 I made today has slight deEssing and XTC which widens the heck out of the sound stage. #3 could be vinyl. Then you literally switch back and forth at the push of a button on the remote.

Fun to compare.

There is also a room EQ function where you download a white noise track, record times etc. I’m not there yet. Hard part is I don’t know what great vinyl rigs sound like. I need to seek that out. Tape rigs too.


No. I used the word “seem” and said it would be fun to “test”. Both were intended to convey the uncertainty I attach to the idea.

Could be as you say. I’m not likely to ever find out though.

Objectively, vinyl as a playback system is vastly less dynamic than digital, has dramatically more crosstalk and is embarrassingly prone to the introduction of many kinds of noise. Whatever it is that makes listening to vinyl pleasurable, it’s not the things you listed.

On the flip side, I’m aggressively critical of digital-era recording and mastering practices that strangle the life out of music and make nearly everything sound hard and cold. These are faults of human decision-making and prioritisation, not inherent limitations of digital audio technology.

Digital audio technology does have weaknesses which are both challenging and costly to mitigate, and which have audible penalties. In particular, jitter introduced during A-to-D and D-to-A conversion, and phase shifts caused by steep low-pass filters. But with care these can be avoided or minimised and digital systems provide by far the highest fidelity audio reproduction of any technology humanity has yet devised.

But I’m not saying that highest fidelity is the same as most enjoyable. Beauty/beholder etc. And I do agree that many digital albums are inferior to their vinyl counterparts – but the reason is because people crafted them to sound different, in ways that I personally consider to be mostly stupid.

With good quality digital recording and playback gear, you can take a “needle drop” digital recording from a turntable and then reproduce that exact sound on demand. As a matter of principle then, you can try to create a mathematical model of the waveform changes that a vinyl cutter and turntable make, and add that to a digital playback chain to recreate the effect of that analog system.

It’s completely impossible to make a turntable deliver the dynamic range, frequency response, channel separation and noise floor of even a mediocre digital system.


Highest fidelity? What does that mean to you? I think people get hung up measurements, which really don’t measure what it sounds like at the listening position.

There are many true and false statements in your writing (imo), which would take too long to detail for me now. But I understand of which theory you come from with the false ones… You’d understand a good part of it if you had a chance to audibly compare both on a high level and try in practice what you describe in theory.

Your theoretic arguments would already have matched the birth of digital in the 80’s, of which we today know, how bad it actually performed. And you are right, a big part of it was bad decision making, practice, prioritization…but not all.

I think the basic mistake in all theory is, that it only works by the assumption digital recording/playback is lossless (which it’s not [yet], not more than analog in a different way).

The thing I never see discussed about vinyl (though I’m sure just as many would view this as a positive as those who view it as a negative) is that I don’t think there’s ever been another playback medium with so many opportunities for the end user to alter the intent of the musicians, engineers and producers, whether intentionally or not. Choose a different cartridge? Get a different sound. Choose a different turntable? Same. Tonearm? Again. Phono preamp? Ditto. Cartridge loading, alignment, VTA, tracking force, antiskate, stylus geometry? It seemingly never ends. Granted, the changes may be tiny, but they’re there.


Interestingly Steve Deckert of Decware has just developed a 300B amp and is playing around with voicing and final design. He is not transformer coupling it and it would be able to be a fully balanced design as a mono block. Should be an interesting addition to the stable. He decided to do this to support the US Western Electric tube manufacturer who are branching out to produce other tube types presently.

Highest fidelity means that when compared to an original analog source – say the line out from a mixing or mastering console – digitally-reproduced signals can be much closer to the original signal than what is possible via a vinyl cutting and playback chain.

I’m not making any claims about how it sounds or how enjoyable it is. But objectively the digital playback will have less deviation from the original, assuming it has been competently done with quality equipment.

For many music lovers and audiophiles, there is pleasure to be found in the additional changes that turntables and tube amps can make to that signal, and of course we have a huge variety of preferences and priorities when it comes to the characteristics of loudspeakers and even the cables that join things together. If you like vinyl more than digital, I can’t (and won’t attempt to) argue you to a different opinion. But I will stand on the hill that says digital is a more perfect means to reproduce that initial electrical waveform.

(And to keep this on topic, that initially accurate starting point is why it is possible to consider deliberately modifying the signal, digitally, in ways that mimic the effects of a vinyl playback chain.)


For me it seems any CD released in the last five years is compressed absurdly while the LP release not so much.

Yes I am FULLY AWARE that digital is capable of wide dynamics etc. I just find that 1 in 100 recent releases make use of the potential digital has.

If you sat in my listening chair and heard digital vs. my turntable setup I would be very surprised if anyone didn’t prefer the vinyl.

Say what you will about this that and the other thing, when the needle drops it slays digital.

I do listen to digital vs. Vinyl at least ten times as much. I don’t feel I am suffering when I do. It just bothers me that some people say the things they do when I alone know the real truth. :wink:


Hail Cesar! :rabbit:


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@aangen - Al, it’s time to break out the walker.


Age and treachery overcomes youth and skill.