Analog experiment

Hi everyone. Some of you will remember my post from a couple weeks back about trying out vinyl. My dealer setup that old AR for me and I listened to it for a while and then listened to the same records on a new Pro-Ject RM 6 SB with a Sumiko Blue Point #2 cartridge. I liked the Pro-Ject better so I took it home for an audition in my system.

I borrowed some basically new LPs from my dealer's collection. Most of them are the 180 gm. "audiophile grade" limited editions. I got U2 War, Eagles Hell Freezes Over, John Lee Hooker, Pink Floyd DSOTM and REM Document. I was familiar with all these and own the CD counterpart of each album for direct comparisons.

I carefully setup the turntable making sure it was level. My dealer has been selling turntables for decades so I trust the other adjustments. I used the C42 to level-match the outputs of my Sony C333ES SACD player and the Pro-Ject, again for fair direct comparisons.

I listened to each album on its own on the turntable and then I went back and played the Sony in parallel. I switched between the two sources from my listening chair. In this case, I would keep the turntable 40 seconds ahead of the Sony so every 40 seconds I could hear the exact same passage in digital form. Hearing memory is short so I kept the interval short. I also made longer comparisons to be sure of my thoughts.

The bottom line is that the Pro-Ject didn't sound any better than my Sony. They had exactly the same tonality and soundstaging. On DSOFTM in SACD, the Sony was virtually indistinguishable from the turntable. I couldn't believe it. This is the first time I can't hear a reliable difference between two different components.

With other records, the turntable seemed to have a slightly more extended and weightier bottom end. But then the Sony had slightly better definition so it was a wash. After these tests, I see no reason for me to go with vinyl. You think maybe the phono stage in my C42 isn't good enough? Or maybe the turntable should be a better one? Well then, I am even less interested in vinyl if that is the case. The Sony costs about $350 these days.

I am sure some of you will be upset with my decision but I have to say I was excited to try it out and I kept my outlook totally unbiased. I loved the looks of the Pro-Ject and my dealer has an awesome collection of vinyl for sale at really good prices so I wanted to tap into that. But I don't see any reason to do that now. Oh well!

I am new to analog. Last night was my first night with my new set up. Voyd TT - $1200.00 Dynavector XX-2 -$1150.00
Helius Omega arm $1200.00 Audio Note S3 SUT. - $500.00

Digital: Audio Note CDT-2 $1400.00 AN Dac $1700.00 and CCa Gray Plates $400.00 Digital I/C Sogon $500.00

IMHO there is no comparison between the two. I can't see why anyone would want to listen to digital but for convenience sake. I sat there in amazement on how good analog sounds. This was playing some LP's without cleaning as my VPI 16.5 will get to me on Friday.
If you do vinyl right it surely will openly reward you.
I feel like selling my digital gear it sounds so good.

Now I know what all the fuss is about with those who are into vinyl. You guys are right on!!!!
Your method of comparison/evaluation strikes me as very good. Of course, you are you would be if your ears had heard it the other way.

My last investigation of vinyl was done differently. I went to a dealer and asked to hear the best he had available, price no object. ("Only" about $60,000). It wasn't much better than my old vinyl rig, and inferior to my digital in some respects, so I didn't upgrade.

I am a bit surprised that you didn't hear more difference, because LPs are usually mastered differently from digital discs, even if they start off with the same master recordings.
Aball, thanks for posting the results of your experiment. You've found a good place to be in your enjoyment of just a single format! One thought on your methodology, however: you might find that you begin to notice the difference between vinyl and CD more readily if you do more long term listening with just one format, not switch rapidly back and forth. I.e., live with listening to vinyl-only for a week. Then play some of the same music on CD and see what reaction you have.

I am not too surprised with your findings. Unless you are certain that the LP's were pure analog originals or well done analog remasters then all you have is a digital recording on an LP which will sound like a CD with some surface noise. I my opinion (and I recognize others may differ significantly in this view) not much good vinyl was produced after the 60's so even the pure analog stuff of the 70's doesn't hold a candle to the 50's and 60's. Yes, there are some truely well re-mastered recordings in the 90's to today but as many have pointed out, even Classic Records and the like can be hit or miss in quality. On the other hand, I could play you an old original Blue Note, Prestige or Savoy etc. LP from the early 50's that would blow your socks off compared to the CD.
I have found that when evaluating any change, it is best to spend several days of listening before undoing the change and listening again. Do not try to analyze what is happening - just listen and enjoy. The difference, if there is one, will really jump out at you when you switch back.
I was probably more surprised than any of you. I have heard vast differences between different components in my system (particularly preamps) and to have so little difference between analog and digital, after hearing all the hooplah, was a total letdown.

So many people have told me "oh vinyl will blow the socks off CD" and yet I couldn't see it whatsoever today. Maybe I do need to hear it a while and see - I have already planned on having it a week and I will have other vinyl to hear on it in a day or two. But I kind of doubt it. Maybe I'll be wrong but...I know my system pretty well now. I listen 4 hours a day every day.

The part I am really surprised about is that I happened to come across a turntable with exactly the same tonality as my Sony. I have had so many flavors through my system and never have two been so close and yet so physically different. I am beginning to think I should try a different one to be sure but the Pro-Ject is decent, no??

Aball, you say that you found good things about both formats. Is it not an option for you to enjoy both? Not that you have to, just asking the question. There are certainly many recordings available in one format that are not available in the other.

I also agree with Jyprez, many times the heavy vinyl re-issues do not sound as good as their standard pressing counter-parts.


I don't think any of my LPs today were standard pressings - I assume that means they came out before CDs were invented, no?

Well I would enjoy both but to be honest, I already have two sources I prefer - the Sony and my Audio Aero Prima Mk2. The Prima is quite different and is basically what I think analog guys call the "digital" player. I don't see that as a negative - I love its detail and rhythm and pace which beat both the Pro-Ject and Sony hands down. Yet it doesn't have the flat and lifeless sound I have heard from some megabuck CD players but rather has emotion and impact. I have heard better than the Prima but I am satisfied with it.

I just wanted to give analog an honest try to see what I thought of it. If I have to find special pressings to get the analog sound, I might as well stick with finding special CDs to get the best digital sound. SACD version of DSOTM was really awesome today. I had forgotten how good SACD can sound. It really was just like the vinyl in this setup - minus the crackle and pop. :)

Arthur, you are right in realizing that you must find the right pressings to get the analog sound. It is difficult (or easy but expensive) to put together a good vinyl collection today that allows you to enjoy the advantages of vinyl over CD. Believe me, (and countless others on Agon) these advantages are real but if you are starting from scratch, the biggest problem is software not hardware. Ebay does afford a vast collection but you will pay dearly for the most sought after LP's. On the other hand, there are hundreds of nice LP's for under $10. It's all a question of where your musical tastes lie and what is the best way to satisfy them. But remember, the best analog rig in the world will not make a digitally mastered LP sound anything better than a CD.
Different strokes. Nobody should be upset at your decision, it is your money and you need to spend it on what works for you.

Personally, when I hear good digital setup vs. a good analogue setup, I cannot really tell which one sounds better - I enjoy both.

What I did find is that I can listen to analogue for many hours (4-5) in a single sitting without fatigue or loss of interest. With digital I found myself getting distracted after about 30-45 minutes and would normally not be interested in listening more than an hour and half tops.

I had a digital-only setup for about ten years. During that time I almost lost interest in the audiophile hobby and weeks went by without me even sitting down to listen. I went back to analogue about 5 years ago and since then my listening time has increased dramatically.

It may just be the fact that going through the motions (i.e. hassles) of playing LPs is entertaining to me? :-)

Without knowing the specifics of which lp's you used - keep in mind that many of the so-called 180 gram "audiophile" remasters are nothing of the sort. Many (if not most) have been digitized, slightly re-EQ'ed, and then pressed into mediocre vinyl with little skill evident in the cutting process. Then they sell it for more than you'd have to pay for a mint original pressing in many cases!

Also, some of the newer LP's you mentioned were ORIGINALLY digitally recorded and/or mastered. REM Document is DDD I believe, and U2 War is ADD - so those are not valid test subjects. Digital cut into vinyl is just degraded digital - it's a miracle the vinyl didn't sound slightly worse.

And certainly too, there are some very well done CD reissues - and I'm sure that DSOTM is one of them. But I'd suggest that if you plan on having eventually having a deep and wide music collection with many titles and genres - not just "audiophile picks", CD alone won't cut it.

Also, and this is truly not a value judgement - the type of music you demo'ed with seems more oriented to dynamics, slam, intensity - i.e. rockin' - which CD does fairly well. If you also listen to classical and jazz, I would argue that you need to give vinyl a further try as to it's ability to reproduce subtlety and nuance - such as comparing an early Rudy Van Gelder mastered Blue Note lp with a CD reissue. Or a Starker Solo Cello on a Living Presence RFR-1 pressing compared to it's CD counterpart.

Vinyl does have it's drawbacks, but for those of us who are interested in extensive collections of pre-1980's music, the original vinyl is very often much better than a CD reissue (if it even exists) - if only because so many CD's are poorly mastered or produced from degraded copies of master tapes.
p.s. Though I was somewhat critical of your software choice for comparison purposes, I also meant to applaud your A/B technique in attempting an "objective" comparison - something sorely lacking in many audiophile opinions. I use a similar "parallel" technique with a foot switch or remote. If I keep my eyes closed and go back and forth a number of times without keeping count, I'll totally forget whether I'm on "A" or "B" - which yields a pretty unbiased result.

Sometimes - when she's in a really good mood - I'll have my wife work the switch so i don't even know which is which.
Over the past several months I've been digitizing lots of 60's and 70's LPs for a friend. I'm using a Bang & Olufsen 4002 turntable with a Soundsmith SMMC20EN cartridge through a Grado PH-1 phono pre-amp to a $40 iMic to an iMac G5 and the free Final Vinyl software. The music files are all uncompressed AIFF files and are subsequently burned at the slowest speed onto CDRs. When I A/B the CDs played on my Marantz DV 8400 to the vinyl I have never preferred the vinyl playback and a lot of times preferred the CD and sometimes couldn't hear a difference. I have heard a phrase (analog coloration) and my theory is that the gross distortions that color vinyl reproduction actually tricks peoples hearing into a better listening mode. I love my CDs burned from vinyl and even sometimes cassette tapes. I can crank it up even with the subwoofer rockin' and hear all the glorious distortion of analog with the convenience of digital.
I'd keep the turntable as an utilitarian and enjoyable analog playback machine for abundantly cheap used vinyl and for numerous recordings never released on CD. That's if you can spare the space and don't mind the extra labor that LP playback deserves.
Thanks for the interesting update to your original old AR turntable post. Happy to hear you reached a sensible conclusion in the som,etimes worrisome world of hi-fi. But to be fair, it sounds like you tested the software as much as the equipment - meaning it's not surprising the high signal to noise selections you used in your evaluation sounded great either way. One day try the test again with much simpler (solo opera singer with piano accompaniment) or impossibly complex (free fusion hard blowing jazz) orchestrations. No knock to your taste at all, those are great records, just every now and then I run across a cut that doesn't make any musical sense at all. It's those difficult ones that sometimes reveal musicality in the equipment, moreso than the usual, familiar, ear candy ones.
You know I found that when Lp's were sounding like Cd's and you couldn't tell the difference it was because my turntable set-up was incorrect.Usually too much tracking weight and not spot-on,and the VTA was out as well.I also agree with much of what Jyprez said about whether the recording is true analogue or not and you have yet to convince me of the 180gram pressing in reality.Van Den Hul(Cartridge maker) himself says that recordings were made better in the 60's and Decca engineers in those days knew that vinyl above 160 grams in weight starts to become problematic for good audio.
Aball sez:
You think maybe the phono stage in my C42 isn't good enough? Or maybe the turntable should be a better one? Well then, I am even less interested in vinyl if that is the case.
I understand that. That's exactly the problem many people have with vinyl -- basically a financial-practical combination problem. OTOH, the sonic result trying analogue on the fly wasn't bad, as you note.

I loved the looks of the Pro-Ject and my dealer has an awesome collection of vinyl for sale at really good prices so I wanted to tap into that.
In your case that would be the only reason (the music) to go into vinyl. OTOH, in order to have a better sonic result than you experienced, you need to tackle 3.5 crucial parametres:
1) Correct TT+arm+cartridge combination
2) Correct SET-UP of the above
3) Correct matching between TT output and phono input
Later: 3.5) A good phono: i.e. exotic or diy or very expensive anyway you look at it.

Most of us never achieve 3 and few of us can afford 3.5; we all battle with 2 (which isn't rocket science, fortunately).
So, you're probably OK as you are:)
I don't think 40 second intervals are even close to long enough to acclimate your ears to what you are hearing, and allow you to appreciate the differences that matter. Your strategy was extremely artificial, and your head cannot have been into the music at all -- just the sound. Your brain will also under such circumstances attempt to normalize what it receives.

I had friends over the other night, and we listened to a bunch of music -- several songs from a given LP or CD at a time -- in a casual, talk-over-it-if-you-like-kind-of-way. People seemed a helluva lot more inclined to talk over the CDs than the LP. They even talked about how good the CDs sounded. But they shut up (more anyway) and listened to the music when the LPs played. Not a scientific test, by any means (but then neither was yours). But I find this typical.
The best reason to go back to vinyl is if you have access to large collections of old LPs.
The idea of spending $thousands on a TT then searching for a few LPs to play is (In my opinion) foolish.
Yes a nice TT can sound great. but is it worth it?
I say only if you can get some LPs! Buying them one at a time at over $10 is not really a great idea. (If you are wealthy, disreguard this!!)
I have 10,000 I got over a few years just three/four/five years ago. The vast majority (except Jazz) were $0.20 each to $0.50 each. (I got these to satisfy my needs when I retire in only 5 years)
NO classical LP is worth more than $0.50 IMO (and I collect and listen to a lot of classical.. 5,000 LPs) (well, maybe a few Merc 90000 series, RCA Living stereo shaded dogs, but still, moneywise, not much more)
Rock is worth a buck, except a few pristine originals.
Jazz is different, finding a fine pristine Jazz LP is hard to do... (So I only have under 2,000 or so...)
Anyway, This is my story and I stick to it.
And LPs sound different than CDs... Usually better.
Anyway, for the due/dudette thinking about getting back into LPs... Consider the quantity of LPs available to you besides the cost of the TT/cart/phono section.
Thanks for all your thoughts.

Rnm4 - As I said already, I did listen to at least one side of all the LPs before ever turning on the CD player. This represented a little more than 3 hours of analog listening before going to CD. Maybe 3 hours isn't enough either but the differences were very clear the whole time so I think it gave me a pretty good idea before the quick A/B session. I will continue to listen to it this week and if the sound drastically changes all of a sudden, I will let you know.

I trust my dealer. We are very good friends and I spend many hours a month in his store. He has had numerous vinyl rigs in store and in his system in the last 30 years. To say he doesn't know how to adjust one, I feel, is incorrect. He is very meticulous (more so than just about anyone I have ever met) and wouldn't tolerate something not being perfectly set. I don't think wrong adjustments are to be considered as a variable here.

It sounds like my original suspicion was right. So many LPs aren't very good recordings - the same problem CDs have. Well then analog doesn't make any sense for me. The first system I ever remember my parents having when I was growning up was CD-based and the first piece of music I ever bought was on CD. I have about 1200 CDs and I have designed my system to make CDs very enjoyable. I took great care to match components that won't make me lose interest in CD playback after an hour. Instead I listen entire evenings in one sitting (except for getting drinks of course :).

I think that if you don't like CD playback, then the setup isn't right. Same story some of you gave me for the analog not sounding right. It is a two way street! There is a lot of overlap between the two so it can't be that one is always worse or better than the other - which I why I posted my results here. I see that some of you already agree with me on this point.

I think for my tastes and collection of music, I will be perfectly happy to stick with my CD players. If I really want analog, I can listen to my Sony and pretend it is a Pro-Ject playing a perfectly clean record. ;) Thanks again

the blue point #2 (i have one idle) doesn't really make it happen. there are actually better mm's for the same money. that said, the only reason to have different front ends (phono, cd, tuner, etc) is to have access to recordings that are exclusive to that media. this is about buying, listening and collecting for your shoot out, a project with a no.2 competing with a nice sony front end is a big win for the phono.
I agree with Zargon. I have done the same a/b thing evaluating vinyl and also CD and SACD. It is usually a pain to get the volumes corrected for gain when going back and forth between vinyl and CD/SACD. Even if you think you have done a good job making the adjustments, differences in vinyl and CD/SACD can be elusive in this type of comparison. Lot of factors to consider ie. cartridge, room, how good is your phono section/phono pre, TT setup, arm, the recording, room...the list goes on. But if you listen to vinyl for a couple of hours and then put in the same CDs, I'll bet you will find yourself feeling differently about vinyl. I would rather listen to vinyl and I have a modest rig (AR ES1 modded with AQ arm, Goldring 1042 cart.) I have an Arcam CD23 for CD and Denon 2910 for CD/SACD neither of which are shabby. I have well recorded albums and CDs and some that are not. Bottem line I listen to CD about 60-40 to LPs, out of conveinence. That being said, if you are happy with your CD playback hang in there with it. Vinyl is a pain compared to CD and unless you want to amass records pre 80's don't worry about it, just enjoy your music.
My experience has been that switching rapidly between one component and another obscures the differences we normally hear when we listen to one, pause, and then listen to the other. Or it may be that the second approach exaggerates the differences. But in terms of hearing the magic of vinyl that so many audiophiles describe, I am not surprised at the results you got given your evaluation methodology.

Your experience matches mine although my experimentations were done in the mid 80's. Analog can produce excellent sound, so too can CD digital. For a given recording one or the other may win out. I could not find a consistent difference to say that one is significantly better than the other (although CD digital seemed more durable and had a lower noise floor - no surface noise. CD digital has the potential for better dynamic range, however, this is rarely exploited on either medium).

If there is a difference then, IMHO, it is dwarfed by the individual differences in recording and mastering. I find CD's much more convenient as I listen to lots and lots of music.

I may have tin ears. ;-)
Arthur, if the ProJect and your Sony are close on 40 second comparisons I would say that the table is fairly well set up.

I would also go along with an earlier post suggesting you just relax and listen to music on the table. I too find I can't listen very long to cd whereas I can (and do) play LPs all night. It's over extended listening that you appreciate the absence of digital artifacts.

Having said that, my advice to someone without an existing vinyl collection is to stick with digital and if you need a new toy, buy a Squeezebox and rip your cds to your computer's hard drive.

Most of the music I enjoy most was released in the 70s and 80s (and earlier in the case of classical) and the cd re-issues were never mastered as carefully, so they are genuinely inferior to the original LPs.
I think one experiment you haven't done and hasn't been mentioned could be potentially useful: try to locate 5 or so of your favorite pieces of music, regardless of format. then try to find them on the other format. do your listening in a less analytical way, simply playing the music as you normally would. if there's a meaningful difference (to your ears) it really should jump right out at you. the point of the experiment is that since you are theoretically very familiar with the music, you are more likely to hear the differences between formats (if there are any).

it seems to me that all of the talk about the quality of the pressings and masterings etc., while relevant, ultimately are a distraction from what you're trying to determine; those issues are present with both digital and LPs and you're trying to figure out something which transcends that question.
Good experiment Arthur. This is what I envision as part of the audio hobby: trying out different things and relaying the experience.

I just bought a new VPI Scout / JMW 9 tonearm / Dynavector DV20XL cart / Dynavector P-75 phono and have done comparisons with new vinyl and its corresponding SACD version. I like vinyl better - haven't really disected why.

Do not try to analyze what is happening - just listen and enjoy. The difference, if there is one, will really jump out at you when you switch back.

So True, so true.
Anyone prefer gold and bartering with real commodities to the convenience of cash and credit cards...?

One is real and the other is a mathematical representation ...kinda like the difference between Analog and Digital. (LOL, perhaps I need to play my Matrix DVD again, I haven't watched it for a while!)

I like your testing methadology.

I have heard that the Sumiko Blue Point cartridges have a CD sound. Don't know if I agree but with my setup my vinyl and CD are very close. I enjoy both formats.

Vinyl Project RM4 with a Sumiko Blue Point cart into the onboard phono pre of a Musical Fidelity A308 integrated using Synergistic Research Kaladiscope Phase I active cables.

I put my modest vinyl rig up aginst a Theta Digital Data Basic II Transport connected to a Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 21 DAC with a Synergistic Reaearch Digital Corridor Phase II Active cable. Using a SR Kaladiscope Phase I active to the MF A308 integrated.

I have about 150 albums that I collected in the later 70's and early to mid 80's. These are the only reason I even decided to go with a vinyl setup.

IMHO if you have no need to go with vinyl as in the fact that all of the music you want to listen to is on CD then stick with CD and don't put your self through the trials and tribulations that a vinyl setup brings.
Used Lp's = $1 at my local Record Exchange.
Used CD's = Lots more than $1

Lots of music for little money.
Aball, I'm going to have to disagree with what you said. I think you will have a much easier time finding better mastering on vinyl, as opposed to cd. Secondly, in theory, I think I might agree with your findings although I have never done similar tests. Discounting software, I think at low spending points, digital is probably just as good or better. Move up past $1K and it's a whole different ball game (or, even a few hundred more from your spending point for the especially crafty).
I agree with Dan. Why not add another format to your system. I listen to digital and vinyl and enjoy both. More often it is records I turn to, but that's not to say there aren't numerous seedees that I love as well. If you don't spend another penny on your analog front end, you will have a cheap source of good music that you cannot find on CDs or SACDs, and by your own admission it is the equal of your Sony. So what's the downside for you? More good music at bargain basement prices is definitely the upside.

I've re-read the same advice from folks on this thread and others that sounds something like this, "If you're on the fence about going vinyl and you don't have a big collection, stick with CD." I just can't understand why people say that.

1. It's very easy to find LPs and your potential to get 'em cheap is huge.

2. You'll have access to lots of music that wasn't releaed on CD

3. It sounds better. Isn't that what this is all about? I don't recall anyone saying don't buy a SACD player unless you have a large collection of SACDs already. Or, Don't buy that DVD player because you already have all those VHS tapes.

I don't get it.

"If you're on the fence about going vinyl and you don't have a big collection, stick with CD." I just can't understand why people say that.

The whole digital thing is a conspiracy to get people to part with more money for less quality....the truth is out there. I read somewhere that CD's may have hidden encoded programs to control the masses... ;-)
My first thread asked if cheap used LPs are decent quality/condition and many replies said that they aren't. I guess the analog camp is divided on this point. However, I do know that many used LPs I have looked at in the past looked really rough and I don't see myself using them in a high resolution stereo. My dealer's LPs are quite nice but they cost more than used CDs.

For the amount of money that adding an analog rig (and disc cleaner, and new LP collection) would cost me, I would prefer to buy 400 CDs isntead and just listen to the music. If I had been blown away by the turntable experiement, I would have considered otherwise but that wasn't the case. I feel I already have enough high quality gear to enjoy music so I don't see myself needing any more stuff. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything.

Pawlowski6132, the reason I suggest someone with no LPs sticks with cd is because it is expensive to get a turntable/arm/cart that is better than a cd player. Add on a record cleaning machine and then start buying lps.

Sure the cheapest Project table has a nice analog sound and is more relaxing than a cd player, but it doesn't resolve as well. The same amount of investment would yield more pleasure in buying maybe a DAC or more cds.

Investing in a good turntable is more compelling for someone who wants to listen to their old lp collection or who wants to collect and play music that isn't available on cd.
For fun, take your Sony to your dealor and repeat the experiment exactly as you did at home on one (or more) systems other than what you have at home. Doing so will help determine whether your results are specific to your test setup or whether you prefer cd to vinyl in a more generalized manner. Then, trust your ears. I appreciate the test you did and look forward to the results of you taking your Sony to the dealor (if you choose to do so). Jeff
Pawlowski6132, I would agree there are lots of cheap LP's out there but in my opinion Arthur would not find most of them to be of satisfactory quality (i.e. low noise) Dofferent people have different tollerences for this but a very well cared for '50's LP generally cannot be found at the local Salvation Army LP bin and costs big bucks on Ebay.
As to hearing the differences between LP's and CD's many posters above were right on the money with their advice in my opinion. You can't do this with 40 second sound bites. Put on an LP or CD and then think about something else like what you need to do that day. If after 15 or 20 minutes you find your toes involuntarily tapping and your fingers snapping - that's the real deal - ignore all else.
Jeff - That is a good idea and I will do that for sure. My dealer will love to hear the test as well - he is always up for comparisons.

Shardorne - you crack me up!

For the record, I don't prefer CD over vinyl. I prefer my Sony SCD-C333ES over the Pro-Ject RM 6 SB with Blue Point #2 cartridge in my own system and with my type of music.

Aball says

"However, I do know that many used LPs I have looked at in the past looked really rough and I don't see myself using them in a high resolution stereo."

Maybe the samples you saw were too rough, but often one does not really know until the stylus meets the vinyl. Of my 1000 or so records I would say that close to 90% were purchased used. Until I clean them and actually play them I still can't tell from looking at them how they will sound. Obviously, there are always exceptions and with experience I've learned how to pass by many that just aren't going to play well at all. But with most others it is not so simple. I have records that have scratches across them but when played don't make a sound. Then again, I have some that look perfect, and this includes some of those newly purchased audiophile pressings you mention, that have clicks and the occasional pop.

But I do understand your position because I've taken the same stance regarding SACD. I just can't see buying into that format when the selection is somewhat limited. That could change, but with the growing DVD-A selections I think that would make more sense for me. And I think DVD-A is much better sonically than SACD.

Anyway, I know I will always have analog and digital in my system. Good luck in your search and enjoy the journey!
Ok - I got some other vinyl and have been listening to the turntable for 3 days now, off and on, seriously, casually and as background music. This should take care of those who got hung up on the one part of my test were 40 second bites were used. I have been working at home a good bit lately so I listened a whole lot. So here are my thoughts at this point:

It doesn't have as much definition as my CD players and the rhythm and pace kind of suffers as a result. The toe tapping is induced but not as much as my CD players where their better control of leading edges gives the music a pulse of life the turntable can't quite match. Its ability to keep complex music clear and layered is another shortcoming, probably due to the same problem. The differences are slight, of course, but they are there.

However, the bass is excellent - good weight and strength and probably betters my digital sources in many cases. But I am not a bass freak and pace for me plays a bigger role in my decision to keep something or not. The coherence, soundstaging, high frequency extension and midrange smoothness were all basically like I am used to hearing - which means, very good.

When I take it back to my dealer, I will bring my Sony or Prima along too so we can hear them there together. Though some of you will dismiss this test because it doesn't go on for days, I am curious to see if anything will change in another system. But my system is what counts so it probably won't change my mind regardless.

I really enjoyed my time with the Pro-Ject. The problem with definition is an issue though because it hurts the musicality and "liveness" which are core requirements for my tastes. Maybe a different turntable or cartridge would improve it but I already have better for less money so I don't have a drive to try another analog setup. I am satisfied with the conclusion that my CD players are all I need. I am going to buy a few hundred CDs instead of the turntable, disc cleaner, and new LP collection. Thanks for all your comments.

Arthur, For fun I'll be curious to see what happens when you plug your cd player into another system(s). I believe that if you find another vinyl setup that floats your boat, it will be immediately apparent. A significant upgrade, and I think that is what you are trying to test drive (not necessarily purchase) should not IMHO require long listening sessions and should sustain itself over a wide variety of vinyl (and cd if that is the objective). In short, plug in your cd player with another system or two at your dealor. Switch back and forth with your cd player. Then trust your ears. If you don't go WOW pretty quickly, it is probably not an significant upgrade for you. Just my three cents. Jeff
Congratulations, Arthur: go for the music, always!

Also: thank you for your good hearted willingness to explore and then to simply say what you're hearing. I commend you for your contributions here.
Arthur, kudos to you for going through the process, and even more kudos for being diligent in recording your results and sharing them with all of us.
I also commend Authur on valuable, honest throughs from what is surely a useful exercise, and one which might have saved me a lot of expense had I tried something similar, as I took the plunge into vinyl about 3 years ago (it's the reason I'm still driving a beat-up car).

One comment I'd like to throw into the mix is that the digital/analog comparison here was at the relatively low $$ end of the audiophile scale. From my limited experience, my sense is that as one spends more money on the front end, the law of deminishing returns hits harder on the digital side of things. Hence, a relative comparison of rigs costing $5k or $10k etc. might yield different results. Just a thought - I'd love to hear findings from such an exercise.
Outlier...In my 10/24 posting I referenced my audition (at a dealer) of vinyl source costing about $60,000, where I concluded that it was only marginally better than my humble (and old) $1,500 rig. That old vinyl rig of mine is, with respect to my priorities, (surface noise important) very inferior to my digital source, also costing less than $2,000. In the dealer vinyl audition the speakers were identical to mine, and the amplification probably better.

I think that preference for vinyl or digital is not greatly affected by price level, but rather by the importance the listener places in the various aspects of sound reproduction.
Well said. El.

I still contend that Aball's testing methodology is suspect in his results, but the rest of you seem to feel differently. If you were interested in humoring me (a big if, I know) you might try this: with levels matched as before, listen to records for an hour, then listen to CDs for an hour, then maybe back to records. Doesn't have to be the same recordings, necessarily. For the moment, set aside which one "sounds better" and focus on how much you are enjoying yourself and getting into the music. Because at the end of the day, isn't that the more meaningful criterion? (If I could only take my own advice...)