Side thread to Darren‘s & Duncan‘s Hi-Fi podcast

https://the-hifi-podcast-with-darren-and-duncan.simplecast.com/episodes

As an early fan of those podcasts of @DarrenMyers and @Duncan_Taylor (I could just listen to about the half, selected ones so far), I always thought about starting a parallel thread as there were so many interesting points to further discuss and there’s no option on that site. As I expressed already at a few occasions, IMO you guys really nail the topics very well with a close to 100% matching with my thoughts on either of the topics I listened to so far (in terms of practical high end experiences, aside of EE matters where I have zero knowledge and just learn)

IMO you provide the most undogmatic, balanced and on deeper experience based view on things, more or less always also matching the one of several open minded professionals of the audio design/manufacturing/recording/mastering scene I otherwise had contact to so far. Even in less long coverages you pull out the essence of elsewhere extremely superficially scratched, and there often rather misleading than clarifying treated topics.

I never really had the time so far to go into detail of the podcasts as I would have liked to (the subwoofer topic, the tubes topic, ultra Hi-Fi, speakers and a few more). I have to start on them step by step slowly and honestly still didn’t want to create the thread, but then you posted about the vinyl/digital topic in your last one (from 1:02 time roughly).

This was the first time, that someone so quite exactly expressed around all this, what I tried to communicate in various threads and Paul’s posts throughout a few years, certainly while being quite lost upon some (active) participants and possibly in more (passive) agreement with others. This site is certainly not the most open minded place for this topic. The for me unusual matching with your basic views on it was why I had to decide to start the thread now regarding this one of your podcasts and let folks and myself then continue on the other topics later.

As you mentioned in that podcast, the topic “why does good vinyl have the magic?” is certainly heavily debated all around, and in the observed arguments very much depending on the existence, depth, gear quality and source media level related personal experience of the participants.

I first liked, that as myself, you seem extremely open minded towards both, digital and vinyl and, as music lovers, you seem to need and cherish both concepts and media, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. So far I often experienced proclaimers for the one or other, using arguments valid only for a certain quality level of either concept or using true but finally insignificant facts or factoids, cliches or at worst falsehoods to imply a theoretical superiority of the one or other. We find this in both directions, in a strong way usually on lesser experience level of participants who either never or not deeper experienced different gear of either camp on an relevant quality level. On professional side in my perception this is most proactively and imo mostly misleading but still warm-hearted driven pro digital by our host here, while most pro’s (except maybe those just producing turntables or DAC’s) generally are approaching this in a quite balanced way, even if they tend in one direction, which seems to be mostly analog/reel2reel/vinyl. If I would post in a vinyl head’s forum, I would easily raise the flag for digital, too as soon as I encounter dogmatic and misleadig arguments.

So what were your statements (which I roughly and analogously try to capture here) that were so special for me to hear from others, too, and reflect a much more serious and balanced experience with both digital and vinyl than many seem to have?
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„a modern 100$ DAC blows away a 400$ turntable“

sure! This is not pleasing some die hard vinyl fans, but I would even extend this to much higher price ranges of both, as up to a certain level of measures taken on side of the vinyl rig, digital‘s strengths dominate those of vinyl imo.

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„there are mechanical problems to overcome until vinyl starts to get competitive to digital‘s strengths“

exactly! I’d even extend this from the necessary effort to implement measures for mechanical optimization (as described above) to measures to set up and configure a turntable properly. For me this means, that e.g. with a Rega arm/player, which you mentioned as a good starting level, I agree on its well addressed mechanical measures of the arms, but I guess we also see and know limitations e.g. on adjustability side in this class to reach a certain level.

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“limited relevance of people’s opinions on vinyl if they have no good turntable at home, dropped it long ago for various personal reasons, having no experience with digital/vinyl on equivalent level etc.”

exactly! I’d add that even those who have heard top vinyl (or digital) rigs somewhere else some time and formed an opinion, valid for them from then, usually don’t have deeper experience with one of the two concepts and its alternatives. You can’t seriously deliver meaningful input from a dogmatic standpoint and/or limited experience.

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“it all depends on the quality of the recordings/masterings compared…there are amazing recordings on digital and analog side”

exactly! When comparing, we have to be aware of mastering differences and the special case when we compare all analog recordings, which usually shine to an even higher degree from vinyl. Both concepts can deliver amazing results and digital can sound better by examples as well.

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”there were tons of negatives in (especially early) digital … digital suffers from different problems than vinyl”

sure! This is where even pro’s completely declass themselves for me, when they proclaim to having heard digital as generally superior to analog already at a quite early stage and in the worst case didn’t question or deepen this impression noticeably over the following decades.

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“digital can sound brighter or darker and with less detail, better or worse than vinyl, depending on the quality level compared” (recording/mastering differences accounted for this statement)
“at a low level of digital and vinyl rig quality, digital can sound brighter. At highest level of both, digital tends to sound darker (but you’d never think so when hearing it alone)”

Bingo! This was my aha moment in your statements, which I thought I run against walls with in my attempts to point out so far. Exactly that’s the point. All the cliches of a preference of vinyl listeners for a colored, pleasant, warm sound mainly match for the era of early and/or bright digital and certainly still for many with rather bright setups or DAC’s, who choose a vinyl rig with still noticeable limitations making its sound mainly warm, rich, colored and pleasant. Those who carefully compared the peak of both concepts, in the opposite recognized a slightly recessed and especially less open top end of even the best DSD sourced digital vs. vinyl, while top class digital since a long time overcame the cliche of a bright, brittle sound as well as top class vinyl’s characteristics since very long overcame the cliche of sounding just warm, colored and pleasant. IMO those understandable classic arguments are mainly used by those who compared on lower levels, have outdated experience, an agenda or no interest in questioning a fixated opinion. What I also pointed out frequently just as you did is, great digital (as e.g. the DS) can be absolutely satisfying without such a comparison.

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“when digital and vinyl are compared on highest quality level, vinyl wins for dimension, detail, imaging and dynamic impact”

again bingo! The other point of view I tried to point out nearly word by word in the past. Forget the cliches, everyone who sticks with them has probably not heard both on highest level yet. This is exactly where vinyl on top level sets itself apart, not in coloration, not in richness, not in pleasant highs or in any preference of a certain tonality, but in those quality criterias mentioned, with even “dynamic impact” among them, which is usually assumed as in connection with the higher dynamic range potential of digital. One can certainly also see a “preference” in those criterias, but imo this would be equivalent of “preferring” a more limited DAC in this regard to another. Digital and analog is on a level without obvious “faults” or eye-catching tonality characteristics since long and this is what really makes good vinyl playback. I would add “openness”.

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“there are mixed results when digital/vinyl is compared based on digital sources, but not only occasionally, vinyl is superior also in those cases. Digital can certainly also beat vinyl releases with digital recorded media”
“when a high quality analog recording was used for producing digital or vinyl media, vinyl absolutely stands out”

exactly! It depends…and why digitally sourced vinyl can sound obviously better in many cases than its digital versions from the same mastering engineer, stays a bit mysterious also to me. And I certainly agree, that although analog sourced recordings often also are the best ones for great sounding digital media, those recordings are in a different league from vinyl, that’s quite common perception of all who ever experienced a meaningful comparison of high quality analog recordings.

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“Vinyl is not a superior format”
“It’s down to the recording/mastering”
“Vinyl releases often get a more ‘audiophile’ treatment during mastering than digital releases”
“a later topic for the podcast could be a dive into the different ways of media production and its influence”

Exactly! The focus on the discussion around the pure limitations of the media or the difference of the playback gear is mostly misleading. The main reason for the superiority of many vinyl releases seems to lie in the limitations of the digital production processes and the focus of the mastering engineers. Several mastering engineers pointed on that already and I’m very interested in having this topic covered by you, too.

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“Vinyl shows up among the recordings with the biggest dynamic ranges, if one sorts online DR databases by DR”
“it’s a fact that vinyl is mastered with a higher dynamic range than digital”

Well, I don’t want to conclude from this in a false way and I think I know how it was meant. Certainly digital has a higher dynamic range potential and recordings can be put on digital media that would exceed possibilities of vinyl if the potential is used. In fact, what we practically hear from average releases is the way you said and the opposite than implied multiple times by not only our host here. The higher dynamic range potential of digital media simply plays no big role at all in the game, even if it theoretically could and would. Mostly what we get practically by a high level comparison is the opposite perception.

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“analog cirquit design plays a major role in making digital equipment sound better”
“digital designers know what they do but are often no total experts in analog cirquit design (geniuses like Ted and FPGA DAC’s in general out of the focus)”

This was an interesting short excursion to why efforts in improving digital not always go or went the right way. I think meanwhile most are aware how important power supplies and other analog cirquits are in this context. And as you said, FPGA DAC’s are a whole different world generally.

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I could go on like this regarding others of your podcasts as well (and probably will do later). Agreement on quite every level and so good to hear less superficially simplified and generalized point of views than elsewehere without needing that more time/words on it. People who listen to your podcasts really get an essence quite fast (even if you partly have to jump over an hour of the podcast to get to the topic of the day :wink:).

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Darren’s subwoofer isolation:

In one podacast you described your sub isolation with a lot of concrete on a sorbothane basis. Full aggreement also here, heavy mass on soft low swinging isolation is optimal not only there.

What I’d be interested in is, if you couple your subs hard on that concrete (without using the effect of e.g. the isoacoustics isolation concept), or if you additionally use the isoacoustics feet?

The solid foundation helps in any case, even with isoacoustics on top, but then the coupling to the concrete is not as good (the isoacoustics effect present instead). What does help more if one is left out? Does both in a combination make sense? What were your thoughts?

Great idea @jazznut I still have a number of episodes to catchup, but will be interested in hearing from Darren, Duncan and others.

I believe he is using Orea’s, but I’m interested as well in pros/cons of direct coupling vs IsoAcoustics.

Wow! Thanks SO much, jazznut. Duncan and I not only appreciate you listening to the cast, but the time you’ve taken to write such a detailed and thoughtful response. Also, thanks for opening the thread.

I found your quotes of my statements specifically interesting and personally informative. You didn’t always quote me word for word. Instead, you rephrased my wording to be even clearer and more to the point I intended to get across. Getting in front of a video camera or microphone and talking can be daunting, especially in the moment when the way you phase ideas is so critical to the exact point you want to make. Both Duncan and I have noticed we have become a lot better at this, but there is no doubt that it’s a skill that does not come naturally to me.

This was a difficult topic because it is one of those highly debated audiophile topics; one that as you pointed out, tends to get dogmatic responses online. It’s our goal to always present both sides of the arguments and provide our point of view. We are all in a constant state of learning and the often dogmatic attitudes online are counterproductive to having intelligent and worthwhile conversations where people can actually learn. So I want to thank you for pointing that out as well.

It can be challenging to speak into a microphone for an hour and a half and not have any regrets about how you worded something. I appreciate you being nice, but to call myself out - I don’t like the statement I made saying, “it’s a fact that vinyl is mastered with a higher DR than digital”. This statement was intended to simply state that it’s factual and ironic that the format with lower technical DR capabilities actually has recordings that are ranked among the highest in DR. Unfortunately, it come across dogmatic and as a generalization. It wasn’t intended that way, however. I’m glad you brought that up so that in the future I can make sure to pay attention to making statements like that clearer.

I recently was listening to a Darko podcast where he was talking about some of the attitudes in the online audio communities and specifically about their dogmatic tendencies. He made the example that the “300B” guys have beef with the “2A3” guys. I can completely see a thread where someone is made a fool of because they prefer the 300Bs sound over the 2A3. When Darko interviewed me, it seemed that we shared the belief that being open minded and excepting that people have different preferences - perhaps some that you will adopt in the future after having “an experience” - is incredibly important.

I hope this thread can be an extension of the podcast where it’s light and fun. No one will agree 100% with us, and we expect that. Let’s keep things positive and informative. Duncan and I are on the journey, just like most reading this. We are after information and experience about this absolutely amazing hobby and hopefully inform/inspire a few if we can. Then look forward to switching the lights off in the evening and getting lost in the music.

Because that’s what it’s about.

Thanks jazznut!

-Darren

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I had wondered about this statement as vinyl is inherently less capable in capturing dynamic range. But your observation of the irony of what can make it to the market is well placed.

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You’re welcome and thanks for commenting Darren, I already guessed that this sentence was meant in a limited context, that’s why I avoided to take it literally in my comment. It’s simply not valid generally, but I think our common understanding was the same…the essence is, as you also pointed out, that not the format with the higher dynamic range makes more use of it in average, but the format with the lower dynamic range.

And yes, I often didn’t quote word by word, rather analogously, but I hope I didn’t put in any false interpretations…seems not.

Interesting points about the subwoofer coupling.

I agree that the best approach would be to literally bolt the top piece of concrete to the legs of the sub. This is because it would increase the mass of the box without adding mass to the stand, which would change the compression of the sorbothane. I didn’t think about doing this but when thinking about the process of actually doing this, it seems pretty involved. Anything for audio! Right? haha. Perhaps a future tweak.

So why the Iso Acoustic isolators? I was imagining the subs on their spikes and foot dishes (to hold the spike). These subs are capable of SO much SPL and energy, its unreal. I was worried about the subs literally moving so the iso pucks keep the subs planted, but mainly…they look amazing IMHO.

:stuck_out_tongue:

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Not at all!! You only further clarified my exact points that I wanted to get across!

Agree, I saw your Instagram post and they look sweet!

Thanks Elk. You are absolutely correct by questioning the statement. It needed more context and clarification for sure and when I read what I had said I smacked my forehead! I’ve made a note to try to be more eloquent in the moment, especially with controversial and important topics like this!

It is hard enough to capture what one wants to express in writing where it can be reviewed before it goes out into the world. Speech is its own flighty animal.

You are doing a great job.

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Thank you so much. That means a lot, Elk.

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What you say by speech is definitely less controlled, but often more honest, rarely aside of ones true thinking … we know this from politicians :wink:

He said pucks (that’s the Canadian in him Eh!). I’ve got Hockey Pucks under all my Speakers and Speaker Stands. My Broke Ass can’t afford any better at the moment and I’ve got a lot more important parts of my rig to focus on ($$$).

Now I have to set aside some time and listen to the podcasts. Darren did a great job during the Zoom event with our Arizona A/V Club last May.

Hockey Pucks are simply awesome. You have to be from north of the 45th parallel to even think of that solution.

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Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Born and raised. Phoenix is home now. I don’t miss the Snow or the Cold.

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Thanks jazznut for the heads up on these, and of course to Darren and Duncan for creating them. I checked out the one on the basement sound system - really interesting discussion!

Hadn’t heard of the Dueland cable before, but might have to try some with my klipsh tangents (heresy IIs in a larger ported cabinet) I have in my second system.