Just to attempt to be perfectly clear, which is not easy - this was just meant to be a question I asked myself before I knee-jerked into spending a few thousand to replace my digital setup. I never contemplated the idea of giving up on CDs until this incident, in which this young man’s reaction to hearing a decent vinyl setup, probably for the first time, reminded me of how much better my LPs sounded.
Obviously, the choice is individual.
I find there is a price threshold around $5K that is required to get analog to sound notably better than digital. I've never heard a $500 analog rig that sounds better than a $500 Node2. From my perspective it takes about a $2K table, $2K phono stage, and $1K cart to start making meaningful improvements over digital. And above $5K the separation even becomes more profound even against $5K digital front ends.
I have a similar vinyl setup--Basis Debut (with vacuum clamp), Basis power supply, Vector arm and Orpheus Transfiguration L cartridge. For a digital setup, I have a Naim ND 555 streamer with Uniti Core ripper/hard drive. I think both have their strengths and weaknesses when it come to the sound, and quality is mostly dependent on the particular recordings. With most material originally issued on LP, the original LP sounds better than the digital reissue. But, this is not always the case. Particularly with some classical reissues from labels with poor sound in the original issue (e.g., 1970's DG classical recordings), the digital reissue sounds better.
I tend to like classical on digital because of noise issues with records. Given the extreme dynamic range of classical music, ticks and pops are much more annoying which gives digital the edge. On top of that, there is a LOT of classical music that was never issued on vinyl. Of my 3,000 or so classical CDs, about 50% was never issued on vinyl. Current recordings of jazz are also hard to find on vinyl.
I need both a vinyl setup and a digital one and I think both can deliver great sound; as to which is "better," this is more an academic interest rather than something that should affect practical decisions.
FWIW, lets face it, while analog systems can sound superb, to get that sound you not only need quality recordings but the experience to properly set up and maintain your turntable. If you don’t do this properly your sound will just be ’different’ from, or worse than, digital. On average I think that most folks will find digital systems better, if for no other reason than they are, relatively, plug and play.
For myself it’s about the music, the sound not so much.
With so many content avenues and varied equipment available to music fans these days, I'm surprised the "vs" conversation still exists.
I'm guessing chayro's vinyl components were methodically selected and run several thousands of dollars in cost. (not knowing the specifics around the gear mentioned).
Should anyone be surprised the Oppo purchaser preferred the analog system's sound over a player whose main selling point was that of all-in-one convenience product? Would the experience have been different with a digital system where an equal amount of selective decisions were made?
Is vinyl better sounding than digital? Sometimes.
Is digital better sounding than vinyl? Sometimes.
The gear from both camps continues to improve, and its a great time to be alive for music fans. Don't waste your time picking a hill to die on.
If someone already had amp/pre and speakers, and had $10k to sink into combination of digital streaming/dac and analog table/cart/phone stage,
and their criteria was 50/50 listening to each and they wanted the best compromise of best sound from both, what would be the best budget breakdown to achieve said digi/analog nirvana?? (I’m asking)
$2-3k for digital streamer and dac (e.g., Teac NT-505 or Cambridge 851n or Lumin or Mytek Brooklyn Bridge or Benchmark dac and node 2i),
and $7-8k in analog (for all of table/cart/phono stage)??
Or some different breakdown?
Sorry to sidetrack thread a bit, hope question is okay.
I recently did some comparison listening between my turntables, my CD player, and my streamer. Vinyl won, but my CD player was not far behind, and while streaming came in last in terms of sound quality, it wasn't such a night and day difference that I can't stand to listen to it. To the contrary, it sounds pretty good until I compare it to my vinyl system..
The "debate" for me has more to do with selection and convenience than sound quality. Do I want to hear some new music that I might not listen to otherwise? Put on some music and just let it play without fussing with anything? Check out something I've never heard before? Streaming is the answer. Do I want to listen to something I don't have on vinyl, but want it to sound better than streaming and not have to start, stop, and flip records? CD is the answer. What is my first go-to? Vinyl is the answer.
I'm probably not going to go spend $20 or more for a vinyl record that I could listen to along with dozens of others for my $15 a month music subscription service. If I really like it, I might go buy the vinyl, but chances are I won't because so many newer vinyl pressings sound like crap and I'm running out of room.
Why limit your choices?
@larryi - the Naim 555 series are in a class by themselves. I could definitely give up analog for a 555 CD player. And I don't know if I'll give up digital. It was just the first time it even occurred to me.
@twoleftears - you may be right about obscure composers, but I would say my lp collection is at least 50% classical, albeit pretty mainstream stuff. But all I was saying is the argument that a lot of music is not available on vinyl is less true today than it was years ago. If your music is not, that's certainly a good enough reason to stick with digital.
Big subject. If there's music you just can't live without and its only on CD then I guess you will just have to listen to CD. But if your enjoyment is in listening to really good music really well recorded and played back there's just no reason to subject yourself to substandard audio. ie, CD.
I'm old enough to have gone from records and tape (open reel) to CD, and to CD/records, and now all records. Just reached a point in life where doing just for the sake of doing no longer cuts it. Variety for its own sake is such a waste. What few hours I have to enjoy listening to music, by God, I'm gonna spend it listening to music.
The OP is absolutely right about the sound quality. That one is so done beat to death its silly. The last guy who even questioned it was 20 years ago. Played both, never asked again.
Pretty much all the complaints are made up out of whole cloth and easy enough to dismiss. Surface noise? With CD the signal is the noise. My wife pointed this one out to me, saying she was shocked by how much less noise there was with records. I thought for sure she was mistaken. Surface noise is a lot worse with records. Eventually realized she meant the music itself, the whole signal, was turned into noise by the CD. She's right of course.
Fiddly finicky setup? Get real. Of course you can do that. It sure is not necessary. Half the stuff they pretend matters, really doesn't, not so much. My vintage 1973 Technics SL1700 with Stanton 681EEE was set up by eye ball and Shure teeter-totter VTF gauge forty years ago. When I dug it out of a box and played a record my wife from the next room who did not know what was going on asked me what sounded so good. Well we had been CD only, this was her first time in years hearing vinyl. So get real.
The rituals of playing a record? I couldn't play a CD without cleaning it either, and demagnetizing, and coloring, and then after all of that sitting down and.... sorry, what were you expecting? No matter what you do its still just a CD.
So now I play records. Records only. Well, movies. And technically I do play CD. The XLO demagnetizing tracks are on CD. So I play that. CD is great for that. Mindless, repetitive, programmable, nothing you would ever want to listen to. The appropriate technology used appropriately.
In the late 80's and early 90's, I had what was then considered a fairly SOTA analog system - Goldmund Studio table (T3 arm, can't remember version) with a Koetsu MC cartridge, AR SP10 preamp. But my music collection was slowing moving toward CDs for convenience, and after moving four times in five years for my job, dealing with the analog source become too much hassle.
I regret selling off my LP collection for pennies on the dollar (pre-ebay days), but I don't really miss dealing with setting up the cartridge/table correctly, cleaning records, having my blood pressure skyrocket any time someone else in my family wanted to use my system, etc.
I don't disagree that a good analog front-end can sound glorious. I've heard some modern systems that are pretty amazing.
What I'm curious about is what makes LPs sound better to so many people, given that the vast majority of LPs are digitally mastered these days. Is it that most digital playback systems just aren't up to the level of the gear used to produce the recordings, or is it that a good analog system adds a quality to the signal that can't (or hasn't yet been) replicated in the digital domain? Or is the preference for analog only for recordings that were mastered completely in the analog domain?
Had the pleasure of hearing Christian McBride's Quintet last week at the Village Vanguard. We live in a time of wonderful possibilities and no HiFi system will ever replace live music. That said Analog, Digital, it's all great. Whatever you choose please don't forget to Enjoy the Music!!
PS. Thanks to all who have contributed to my knowledge thru this Forum
Season Greetings to All !!
Live music is great, but I found very few venues with great sound. Carnegie Hall is surreal, but Lincoln Center should be ashamed of the sound in there. I haven't been to the Vanguard in 100 years. If you're old enough, you may remember Hoppers on 6th Ave down by NYU. Saw Getz there, Monty Alexander. It was glorious to see top-notch bands. Saw Michele Legrand at Buddys Place. But hifi is its own thing, IMO.
What I’m curious about is what makes LPs sound better to so many people, given that the vast majority of LPs are digitally mastered these days. Is it that most digital playback systems just aren’t up to the level of the gear used to produce the recordings, or is it that a good analog system adds a quality to the signal that can’t (or hasn’t yet been) replicated in the digital domain?
Well first of all in my experience its not so much "so many" people as nearly all. That’s based on years of playing records and CDs and the only ones who didn’t express that its flat-out no contest were, sad to say, audiophiles. Precisely zero non-audiophiles prefer CD. Wives of audiophiles have come up and told me privately how amazed they are. As one said, "I could listen to this all night!" Which I thought was the idea.
Its not the level of the gear. That’s not it. When my wife first noticed how much better records sound she didn’t even know she was listening to a record. Simply heard the music, asked what sounds so good? She was used to CD. As far as she knew it was a CD. She had no way of knowing I had dug my 30 year old Technics out of a cardboard box in the garage and hooked it up. So mull that one over. 30 years old. Patch cords. POC power cord. No shelf. No nothing. Versus brand new California Audio Labs CDP with Synergistic interconnect and power cord and sitting on BDR Cones. Should be no contest. Well, it was. But the other way. Its just not even close.
Except, remember, among audiophiles. So maybe the question should be What is wrong with audiophiles? Heh.
or is it that a good analog system adds a quality to the signal that can’t (or hasn’t yet been) replicated in the digital domain?
We report, you decide:
Jennifer Warnes, in an interview found somewhere on the web, is asked about the digital recording and mastering of Famous Blue Raincoat. Four master tapes were compared, three digital, one analog. The analog master was identical in all respects except the analog tape deck. Famous Blue Raincoat is supposedly an all-digital recording. Reading this interview I learned it is not. Warnes, the producer, and I’m forgetting if it was Cohen or who the other two were, but the four with approval all preferred the analog master.
@millercarbon - that may be (likely is) true but it doesn't answer the question. Why do LPs sound better when the recording was mastered digitally and never converted back to analog before making the CD? It's my understanding (which may be incorrect) that this is the way almost all music is produced now and for the past 15-20 years.
There are, of course, exceptions, but that's not what I'm asking about. I can completely understand how an analog master will sound better transferred to LP than to CD. I absolutely loved the sound of the Sheffield Labs direct to disc recordings I had in the 70s and 80s and, despite the fact they weren't always the greatest musicians/performances, the sound was amazing.
The only thing I can postulate is that the surface noise on LPs is masking the digital artifacts that we find most offensive and letting the beauty of the music come through. But if that is the case, it seems like it would be easy to add this kind of noise to a digital source (although it would obviously make the device measure must worse).
I suspect that even if this is a factor, it's not the only thing that makes analog front-ends sound the way they do.
But they were converted back to analog ... DAC in the cutting machine. This is the dirty little secret it appears no one wants to address in threads like this.
Can't say I know many younger audiophiles who have the view of the OP, which was really not a question at all, just begging the question fan-boy vinyl. Maybe it is just old ears or old brains that prefer vinyl?
I have been a tolerable musician at times in my life. I have heard very good vinyl system, and very good digital systems .... have them myself, and the best mastering is usually the one that wins for overall presentation, but when it comes to realism, a good digital system wins for me every time. Let's not forget, that almost no record, live recorded or not sounds much like what you hear live. Microphone positions, mixing, etc. are not remotely like what Joe audiophile in seat B13 is hearing.
No serious music lover is going to choose one format over another. I have lots of LP’s that have yet to be released on CD, and lots of albums that are still available only on CD. You think I’m going to let the available format of any given recorded music determine if I will obtain and listen to it?!
Superior sound quality is a bonus, not the point. Some of my favorite music is available only in far-from-great recorded sound quality. Toscanini’s Beethoven Symphonies, Glenn Gould’s everything, Hank Williams’---the Hillbilly Shakespeare---songs of longing, Howlin’ Wolf’s primal screams, Little Richard’s and Johnny Burnette’s insanely great Rock ’n Roll masterpieces, Louis Jordan’s Jump Swing band, the list is very long.
You listen to your great sound, I’ll listen to my great music.
Early eighties with a pair of MCIntosh 275s, JBL 250 Pyramids and a Theta tube pre, Win Strain Guage cart. CDs came out and I went for the format. No noise, how cool! When my interest waned just figured I had outgrown sitting around listening to music. Semi permanent listener fatigue. Got rid of all the equipment, kept the albums.
2013 started reading on this forum and realized I had been TRICKED! Not going to be tricked again. OP, you got it right.
IMO, If you want vinyl to sound better than a good digital setup (say comparing to a $7-$8k dac), you need to spend many times that in a vinyl setup to get better sound. The Oppo is not a good digital player so it doesn’t surprise me somebody preferred vinyl over the Oppo.
For almost 20 years, you had SACD that competed favorably against vinyl. Then you have DSD and now MQA, which to me sounds better than vinyl most of the time.
I’ve been into vinyl for over 40 years and most of the new music I listen to now (jazz like Fourplay, rock like dream theater, new age, and others) doesn’t come on vinyl and I really got tired listening to old music.
I sold my $14,000 vinyl setup a couple of months ago because my digital setup with a very good dac surpassed vinyl for < 1/3 the cost if you also include the phono preamp, cleaning gear, etc.. Now I’m concentrating on selling all of my vinyl albums
In much of classical and jazz original or early LPs, all analogue, can be overwhelmingly present. It may be historically arcane, but original London/Decca, RCA Living Stereo, Mercury Living Presence, Blue Notes, etc. Also the best HMV/EMI can be amazing.
I have a modestly good system and every time I compare Beethoven quartets my wife always prefers the LP sound. (Here Quartetto Italiano on 60s and 70s Dutch pressed Philips.)
A couple of long stories. For me some CDs can be quite good, but a fine early LP in good shape always amazes. Klemperer’s Mahler 2 on an early EMI pressing or Dorati’s Firebird on Mercury or Ansermet’s Falla Three cornered Hat or Kertsz’s Hary Janos on London/Decca or Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue on Columbia are classic in performance and sound.
But as many have said enjoy the music as fully as you can.
I always think my streaming from Qobuz sounds very good.
Then I will throw a disc in the old C.E.C belt drive transport and I think streaming was maybe not so hot after all.
Then I will spin an album on one of my tables and ok right, maybe CD playback not too great either.
Then I will thread up a tape in my Pioneer reel to reel and ... WOW.
Not sure what any of that means as no format makes me want to ditch it.
Oh then there are all my cassette tapes courtesy of three different Nakamichi decks but don't mention them as Miller gets frothy at the mouth over cassette format......
Really enjoying this thread as its pertinent and timely to me. Been building out and replacing old gear. Like many, I've dusted off the vinyl and discovered what I've been missing and that's not even on 5k or more of analog gear. Next up to replace is old Sony ES CDP. Can I ask don_c55 what gear he was referring to that's warmer etc than the Oppo? Is there an approach or design that brings digital closer (like Cambridge Azur interpolation, or say older Vincent tube front end CDPs) to the sound of vinyl?
As to why or what makes vinyl sound like it does (I didnt say better), I feel it owes much to what may be considered noise. I find the emptiness in the space of digital sound just makes it seem less organic to my ears. It's most apparent on the attacks and dynamics of notes.
I do/ask this so I wont be unhappy with one half of my music collection and making the choice that is being discussed. Very little overlap at this point.
If one were to put together similar systems, both digital and analog I think they would be “different” but not necessarily better/worse. SO much relies on source... stream, cd, album, whatever and the process which they were recorded and mastered, pressed etc. that its a moot point to some degree. If we could have a first press, original master and a perfect sonic room of one song, or album, then we could perhaps determine which is “best”. Here is something to ponder... if analog, strictly as a signal type, is indeed better (I’m not arguing one way or the other) will we see a resurgence of VHS and one day have 45k VHS players? JK...
@akgwhiz a lot of people thinks that R2R dacs are warmer and better than more common dacs. For very expensive dacs tech does not seem to matter, they perfect whatever they use.
I think I heard a Kallista Dreamplay a few days ago, in a very good system (Apurna amp, MBL 101 speakers) and it sounded great, but I am used to digital.
I am a bit hesitant in recommending anything based on what is most like analogue because I suspect that listeners differ as to what aspect of performance they latch on to and are describing as "more like" or "different from." A lot of analogue fans really like Audio Note digital gear, so I would generally recommend that you at least get to hear one of their DAC's. Their stuff varies enormously in price, but, the fundamental sound is the same, even when comparing their cheapest DAC with their top of the line stuff. But, I say this with the caveat that you must still audition the gear.
@audiozenology - Your comment about old ears or fan-boy vinyl certainly may be true in many cases, but in this particular scenario, it was the impression of a young person who had never heard a decent vinyl setup that made me question whether I was going to spend thousands to replace my digital setup. Been listening to CDs for so long that I never gave a thought to just giving them up. My guess is that I'll probably buy something after Christmas.
Yes, that perfectly explains why I play the Mobile Fidelity CD and LP both made from the exact same master by the exact same Mobile Fidelity and everyone hears and no one can believe how much better the record sounds. Because the digital source material is poor. Even though its not digital. Nor poor. Nor even different. Right. Got it.
In my experience, it takes a $6k DAC to sound nearly as good as vinyl, and a $15 DAC to really get there. I agree with others that this presumes a $2k table and $1k cartridge.
I think I finally understand why. For many years the conventional wisdom was that human hearing was only 20-20kHz, etc., entirely missing the point that timing is what is critical to human hearing. We need to localize unspecified threats precisely (in the woods at night...).
Digital, sampling at fixed intervals, throws away 90% of the timing information. It always sounds completely unlike anything in nature!.
I believe this is related. Sugar Cube...does it take away that "vinyl" sound. Reviews say it is very minimal to inaudible. Thoughts?
Here is what my high end audio dealer advised me back in May of 2019:
The idea behind the Suga Cube is enticing - making great sounding vinyl to digital transfers simple. To me, the most important aspect of that is the ability of the unit to accurately populate metadata, and they still in Beta for that part. I will say that the sound quality of the transfers is outstanding. The de-click function seems to be very good as well. As this point I'd say that some computer-fluency is important, so the idea of realizing the process truly simple isn't quite there.
Same master recording, does not mean the same thing was cut to vinyl and CD. They have barely produced CD's since the 90's, only SACD and Vinyl.
For over twenty years, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has continually searched for the ultimate audio experience. During this search MFSL engineers and associates created The GAIN™ System, a proprietary mastering technology which brought warmth and ambience to the compact disc format.
millercarbon2,233 posts12-17-2019 11:13amYes, that perfectly explains why I play the Mobile Fidelity CD and LP both made from the exact same master by the exact same Mobile Fidelity and everyone hears and no one can believe how much better the record sounds. Because the digital source material is poor. Even though its not digital. Nor poor. Nor even different. Right. Got it.
@chayro great way to start off this discussion. Everyone has their preference and stories.
As a music lover who just turned 60, I have gone the complete spectrum when it comes to music. While serving in the Navy in late 70’s I invested in a high end audio system (Sansui G8700DB Receiver, Technics Turntable, Bose 601 Series 1 Speakers, Sansui Graphic Equalizer/Reverb, and Teac Cassette Deck). Sounded amazing and invested around $2,800 in 1979 dollars (with the service member overseas discount). Along came the 80’s, copying LP’s to cassettes, CD’s taking over and the halting of LP sales. Then the millennium with MP3’s and other digital music files, and of course out with the CD’s and CD Player and in with more modern equipment to stream....
Two years ago I came across a vintage Sansui G-8700DB Receiver and decided to go back in time. I always regretted selling my old unit and loved that massive silver face piece of art. Since I still had my albums, I then found a mint Denon DP-62L Direct Drive Turntable https://www.tonepublications.com/old-school/denon-dp-62l-direct-drive-turntable/ and returned to my old records and what a sound it was.
I still stream with a DAC and play CD’s connected through the old Sansui Aux input, but what a treat to listed to the vinyl records. Everyone that listens to my system agrees the sound is unique and better. I am now back to collecting records once again. Although I prefer listening to records, I still stream music (Amazon HD and Spotify) and play CD’s depending on the mood. One thing for sure, my current equipment (Sansui G8700DB, Denon DP-62L, Kenwood GE-1100 Equalizer, Klipsch Forte I’s) playing vinyl sounds amazing and will stay this way until time makes me replace pieces. Incorporating a decent small PC and CD Player running thru a DAC is an added bonus! (Not to mention using Klipsch Gate Play-Fi Wireless Multi–Room Hubs to complete the package)
Long live Vintage hi-fi!
A group of SoCal guys, I'm one of them, get together pretty often and compare stuff. We compare amps, tub, SS. Some guys have some really nice stuff. I normally use my Chord Qutest DAC as a source for amps. We recently started comparing DACs and TTs. The best of the best is a 45 RPM record - Vanessa Fernandez I Want You, or RoadHouses and Automobiles - that track by Chris Jones for $67.30 Vinyl on Amazon.
But in the $15-$30 Vinyl range many of us prefer the DAC. IT depends. REMs Automatic for the People is awful on my pressing. It is brighter. My Diana Krall albums sound better on my TT. The rest, I prefer my DACs (Qutest, Fiio M11Pro) - pumped through a Cary 300B SET amp or a a restored HH Scott. I think the tubes and speakers make the larger difference.
Oh my God, not this again....
Neither medium is perfect. Vinyl is an "illusion", recording goes thru all the RIAA curve matching before it is even fed to the amplifier. Digital is quantized and may lose some detail. NEITHER MATTERS COZ NOONE CAN HEAR THE DIFFERENCE.
Unless you go & listen to the recording LIVE in the studio, that is the way it is.
End of story.