Is Vinyl better than Digital?


#1

So I had a bit of a smack in the head today. I got a 45 RPM vinyl of the same disc I have in 88.2/24 - an Emily Barker EP. I played it through and then listened to it via the Bridge and the DS. I was… still amazed by how much better my TT sounds. Now in reading how the vinyl and PCM versions of this EP disc were made it sounds like apart from RIAA on the vinyl there were "treated the same’… suggesting I should be hearing the same base content on either medium. And they do sound the same, but the vinyl struck me by how much easier it was to pick out the cues layered front to back in the soundstage, and how much more “balanced” the music sounded to me. The DS actually appeared to strongly “bias” toward the midrange in comparison, and the low end - which I spent considerable time trying to balance with a change to a more compatible IC - was clearly not doing the same kind of job “propelling” the music. My TT laid down a driving low end that seemed more in balance with the rest of the music, without sounding bloated or congested.

Funny, the DS really is a large step up in digital playback, but at least in my system (assuming the two things I listened to really were “the same”) it still can’t trump good vinyl playback. I had to shake my head and ponder.


#2

Tony- that’s my experience too. Ds Dac kills for certain, but vinyl is still king.


#3
woot said Tony- that's my experience too. Ds Dac kills for certain, but vinyl is still king.
I don't have the DS yet, but expect a similar result.

#4

The topic you just struck on is a heated debate on many forums. It drove me to hear a few really high end TT or open reel systems. But the funny thing most who have vinyl or reels do not do digital music . A direct comparison of the two is for me to complex to get correct as the even though the master may be the same there is to many other variables to make it a fair contest. Add to the fact the sound that the components add to the mix and there is no wonder for me why they are so different. I think they both have there good qualities but I feel you have to spend more for a really good digital front end than a TT. To obtain a closer contest the the dac alone would be far more than a DS in comparing the higher end of digital reproduction . As I do not know what TT or phono stage or cartridge you have it’s hard to gauge . But it sounds like what you have is pretty damn good if it bested the DS like that. The qualities of vinyl are not as you stated if the dac and TT setup is about the level of quality it becomes more of an ease of Presitstion and dynamics without glare . Also vinyl in most cases is recorded different as you stated and given the recording industry lies at every turn I honestly beleave nothing said except what my brain tells me. Now 45 are more dynamic over 33 if all is the same and wide groove is better with reel to reel being top on analog . But now we have dsd and given the reproduction chain is up to the task I think we have reached the level of vinyl and passed it . But to have this we need to spend plenty of money. The DS is a very good product in it’s price range and looks even better but do not sell digital short here .

Just my two cents . PS I bought a very expensive dac setup from a person who had vinyl and wanted to go digital . He only owned the setup a few months and sold it to me , go figure and you know he had no dsd at all to play and just red book cd,s. I was happy as hell but what he did made no sense to me. If you want to make the contest a little more fair compare a any vinyl recording to the same dsd from a good company as in acoustic sounds or the other ones spoken about here and not the clowns at HD tracks they are just rip offs mostly.

Enjoy the music and kind of you to post the results

al


#5

Al, I don’t disagree. In this case Linn Records provided the PCM source in its native form. I think Linn is at least on the same playing field as Acoustic Sounds.1_gifWhile recording companies are generally unreliable, we have been seeing in recent years with the likes of groups like the Cypress String Quartet and others that they are taking much closer ownership of their produced output. From what I’ve been able to discover I get the impression Emily Barker and her team fall into the same category.

There is no doubt the DS can easily trounce other digital gear within and above its own fighting weight. I found it interesting, though, that the areas where I heard the most distinct differences were those that have been discussed by a number of people in this thread.

it becomes more of an ease of Presitstion and dynamics without glare
Yes, these areas were more pleasant as well, but if I want the best digital I can find or afford I'm happy the DS is here to do it.

#6

As my writing skills stink , my takeaway comment was dsd is the format to do a comparison with . An example is Elvis stereo 57 or something from opus 3. These are reference tracks or albums that were used to illustrate the points I made. Cinder peters house of the rising sun on vinyl and dsd 128 download. Even with the DS up against a 50 k vinyl rig it gets much closer . I even I got to hear the opus tracks on open reel top shelf stuff and yes it’s was over all better as you stated but it was tough to pick out why . And my comments of just ease and dynamics with out being loud came to mind. Someone here a while back I think Gordon said if done right music does not get louder it gets bigger . Meaning it does not glare . Well I never felt that way about the Pwd mkii. But really do about the DS and vinyl really good vinyl has this same quality

al


#7
tony22 said

Funny, the DS really is a large step up in digital playback, but at least in my system (assuming the two things I listened to really were “the same”) it still can’t trump good vinyl playback. I had to shake my head and ponder.

The answer may not be so difficult. About 6 months before I bought my current (mid-level) TT setup (VPI Scout, Shelter 901, Lyra Helikon mono), I bought the Electrocompaniet EMC1UP CD player because it was, according to the reviews, "so close to analog". The same words are often used with descriptions or reviews of high end digital equipment. "close to analog". I think it has also been said in this forum about the DS.

Basically, I think the goal of high end audio developers (Ted probably included, please correct me if I’m wrong) is just that: to find a way to get digital music to sound as close to analog as possible.

Back to my Electrocompaniet. Six months after I bought it I thought “well, if so close to analog sounds this good, why don’t I try analog?”. I then bought the TT and started to collect records again (this was in the beginning of eBay, so there were lots up for grabs). Eventually, the ECM stayed in my rack, but I now use it maybe one or twice a year, when someone brings a CD that I don’t have on vinyl.

With a decent TT setup and good quality records (not necessarely audiophile records, they often sound worse than the original off the shelf pressings), I have yet to hear a digital version of an album sound better than analog.

So why buy digital? I did, after all, buy the DS myself (first impressions coming soon)!

Well, again it’s easy I guess. NM original early pressings are becoming scarcer and scarcer, newer releases are often only available in a digital format, so the only way to continue to listen to all the music that you like is to have a digital setup next to your analog setup.

In which case, you want to make sure that your digital stuff is… as close to analog as possible!

(come to think of it, I’ve never seen a manufacturer of digital equipment or a reviewer claim that something sounded “better than analog”, only “close to” . Go figure)


#8

Why digital? Convenience and flexibility, if nothing else.

I like to play ‘sets’, various tracks from different albums. I rarely enjoy an entire album straight through. Piles of CDs would accumulate as I constantly flipped discs and went back to the rack to choose more stuff.

It seems as though I never had a chance to sit in the sweet spot to just listen.

I’ll give up some of the analogue sound (not like I know what that is anymore) in order to have the convenience of sitting in the zone and choosing cuts off an iPad or MacBook. Heck, it sounds good to me, particularly when I’m in the chair. I listen so much more thoroughly now.

Futzing with equipment is not my favorite thing to do, either, and my sense is that once one gets into turntables, they spend an awful lot of time tweaking, adjusting, and perhaps cursing. Different cursing if you want that pristine vinyl version of MoFi “Dark Side…” Oh, and where am I going to put all those large-format albums? I’m already tight on space.

Just a few reasons. Getting that extra “analogue” sound would be a pretty long reach for me.


#9

I am certain everyone here knows the vast majority of contemporary vinyl releases begin life as a PCM recording, are mixed and mastered in PCM and finally transferred to vinyl - typically with some additionally overall compression than its CD counterpart given vinyl’s lesser dynamic range.

So if you directly compare such a vinyl pressing with its PCM counterpart do you still find the vinyl superior? If so, why?


#10

I would not call a record that was recorded as PCM, comped and eq’d, often cut from the CD master, analog. In that case, vinyl is only the material the thing is made of. I would probably call it a big black CD. The vinyl version of the newly remastered Beatles catalog is a good example of that, they were in fact so disappointing that the mono versions that will be released in September were cut directly from the analog master tapes.

By analog or vinyl I mean “real” records, that were cut from analog master tapes, so all records released in the 50’s 60’s, 70’s and the first part of the the 80’s. Good, clean copies of early presses from those years definitely sound more “direct”, lifelike than digital.

For everything else, use the DS :-)

If you like, I can send you a PM with a link to 2 recordings I made directly from my phono preamp to dsd128. You’ll be surprised!


#11

Please understand I am only positing the question, not taking a position.

Others disagree with you, and find vinyl as the playback medium to be superior to fully digital - even when the original source is digital.

And there is nothing surprising with respect to recording vinyl output with high resolution digital. High resolution digital is fully capable of capturing and playing back vinyl. Somewhat ironically, Michael Fremer was the first to point this out when he started to record vinyl to an Alesis MasterLink, a pro two-track hard disk based mastering deck.

Horrors! A vinyl aficionado advocating both digital and a pro unit. :)


#12

Sometimes I read a German audio test magazine. If you would believe them you will need a record player from about 120.000€ (Which is the best they ever tested) to beat a “simple” cd player from 4000€ for soundquality. CD player above 4000€ mostly have higher ratings.

for the “record” I like vinyl. Easy listening, nostalgic


#13

Vinyl does have a different type of sound, even when played back on a modest inexpensive 'table. I do not find it to be “better,” although it can be very enjoyable.


#14

Yes indeed!

It is really enjoyable and in many cases very good.


#15

Probably better fitting into some compression and dynamic range discussions here, this is just an example, how different opinions and given information varies. I just found this review after posting here some time ago about the same Mahler recording.

Pictured here's one excerpt of Clearaudio advertising their extreme cartridge's dynamic range (Diagramm) and several excerpts out of a TAS review/comparison of the really great SFS Mahler cycle on LP and SACD/DSD.

Some of the previously here discussed following statements are opposed:

- all vinyl cuttings of highly dynamic material are compressed

- only chamber like dynamics can be fully caught by vinyl but no highly dynamic symphonic recordings

- classical listeners prefer digital

- vinyl sounds less dynamic than digital

This is certainly also flavored by personal preferences of the SF Symphonies manager and the TAS reviewer, but I just want to share it as an alternative view to many digital flavored views here, not declaring any view as generally correct or false. Not caring for theory, I can at least confirm the listening comparison as described, as I also own digital and vinyl version of this exceptional cutting. But it must be said it was once more differently mastered for vinyl than for SACD, both with most care taken for good sound as they describe.

My answer to the thread title is: both have strenghs and weaknesses, I need them both for various reasons.

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#16

An interesting article and it appears this particular vinyl is a remarkable product. I would enjoy hearing a demo.

But this is an extreme outlier. As the article states, this is a highly specialized, exquisitely produced LP capable of reproducing dynamics “for the first time in 50 years.”

And only as tracked by an $8,000 cartridge. :slight_smile:

This is not vinyl as normally produced 99%+ of the time.

Regardless, those who love vinyl need not justify their preference. If it sounds better to you, it is better.


#17

What @pmc7027 said.


#18
Elk said An interesting article and it appears this particular vinyl is a remarkable product. I would enjoy hearing a demo.

But this is an extreme outlier. As the article states, this is a highly specialized, exquisitely produced LP capable of reproducing dynamics “for the first time in 50 years.”

And only as tracked by an $8,000 cartridge. :slight_smile:

This is not vinyl as normally produced 99%+ of the time.

Regardless, those who love vinyl need not justify their preference. If it sounds better to you, it is better.

I think you might have confused something (respectively it was easily misunderstandable):

First time in 50 years was the statement of Clearaudio to their own cartridges dynamics of 100dB (independently of the Mahler recording, which was another article and although it was cut with full dynamics, it quite surely doesn’t have 100dB DR. This Mahler review didn’t use this cartridge)

I personally love vinyl but in the same way, for different but not less important reasons love digital and couldn’t live without it. Vinyl is not always better for me, even more recently, as my cartridge is quite worn. And on a comparable level with best digital it is really much more expensive.

Mentioning the articles was not meant to justify a love of vinyl, but to show that as some of the die hard vinyl guys theories, also the one or other of those of the die hard digital guys could be little by hearsay, outdated, incomplete or based on limited own experience with adequate equipment and media. At least there are very different opinions, not only by amateurs, but also by more or less neutral, professional and/or experienced people. However no one seems to have final explanations for some effects.

What I really think in all serious acknowledgement of several vinyl concept restrictions is, that this Mahler (there’s an even better example by the Järvi Beethoven box) is no absolute exception in sounding clearly better to all ears than the SACD version. I guess nearly all modern heavy vinyl reissues of the better labels like Analogue productions, ORG, ORG Music and several others are cut quite like that with no to unnoticable restrictions, even many classical symphonies.


#19
jazznut said

What I really think in all serious acknowledgement of several vinyl concept restrictions is, that this Mahler (there’s an even better example by the Järvi Beethoven box) is no absolute exception in sounding clearly better to all ears than the SACD version. I guess nearly all modern heavy vinyl reissues of the better labels like Analogue productions, ORG, ORG Music and several others are cut quite like that with no to unnoticable restrictions, even many classical symphonies.


As I have noted many times if it sounds better to the listener, it is better.

Many, many people prefer the sound of vinyl’s natural compression, the necessary manipulation of EQ, width of soundstage, etc. when cutting an LP, and more. When done well it is unnoticeable , or at least wonderfully euphonic. We cannot change or ignore these restrictions, but we can work wonderfully well within them.

It is akin to the realities when comparing Redbook to SACD or 96/24. The later simply have greater dynamic range, a lower noise floor, allow for gentler reconstruction filters, etc. Vinyl similarly has physical limitations which are simply a matter of physics. But, like tape saturation, we are often drawn to these limitations.

We also often do not notice what is going on, such as how the cutting engineer will move the string basses toward the center when things get really loud so that a cartridge can track the resulting record. We do not notice as low bass is less directional than high frequencies, and we are accustomed as listeners to bass in the middle. But, if you listen for it, you will hear it. These things are present in vinyl even of the master is the same. Mastering is not the final stage when making a record.

Arguing over whether digital or vinyl is better is silly. They are fundamentally different.

Is beer better than wine? Vice versa? It depends on what you enjoy. Both will get you drunk.

Similarly, both vinyl and digital will get you drunk on the music.


#20

Agreed to several necessary vinyl manipulations and limitations, which might be heard at times but often seem to be quite secondary compared with other results of the sound. What personally bugs me the most is when high dynamics occur in only one channel of vintage ping/pong Stereo recordings that can hardly be reproduced by vinyl. Big advantage for digital.

Also agreed that we can greatly get drunk by both and that a general argumentation what is better is silly, that’s not my point even if might be the point of those reviewers (but IMO it’s silly because it varies depending on music, mastering etc., IMO not because concepts are fundamentally different, which they are).

I think individual comparisons with certain recordings can easily be done and they sometimes show such obvious audible quality differences, that I doubt, there wouldn’t be an agreement of open minded fans of either concept, which sounds better.

I think that concepts are like beer and wine doesn’t mean we can’t say which audible result is sounding better with certain recordings. We also compare final results of very different digital or analog concepts of source or amp components without a blockage in mind that we couldn’t do it just because their base concept is very different (like beer and wine). What counts is what comes out and only sometimes and only in some aspects, not always, it’s in the range of a pure matter of taste. But both parties have to be flexible and open minded for this.

I agree that a comparison trying to find out, which of both concepts is better sounding with certain recordings, is silly to be done with die hard followers of either concept. And therefore maybe silly to be discussed in a forum :wink:

What’s definitely more than silly is to say that one of the concepts is generally better, regardless of gear’s price range and used music/recordings (which is not rarely said by vinyl fans).

And I can easily understand people wondering why someone should spend much money on a still imperfect sampling process as for vinyl playback…the same as I’m wondering why people still spend good money for physical digital media drives, which are totally avoidable in today’s even more convenient streaming era (for pure sound reasons).

I personally could live with digital only at a quality level as the DS, if all masterings and music was available (which isn’t unfortunately). I’m not one of those cherishing vinyl for its inconvenience and expense as a well known cartoon says :slight_smile: