Are there digital front ends with the body...

and resolving power of good vinyl?

I'm mainly just curious; I'm not going to buy one. Getting into vinyl recently, I'm actually surprised by how a (moderately pricey) analog setup can trounce digital - any I've heard, anyway. There are at least two areas: 'body' and image density/separation. These add up to 'naturalness'.

This is not a taunt or anything like that: I'm curious if there are those that feel that there is digital that competes on this level. Price no object.
The APL units do, including the now defunct APL Denon 3910.

A. Peychev designs his digital players to perform up to the level of his reference analog front end (or better, if possible). He often burns CDs with the analog rig as the source, and then he uses the CDs in his players to compare to the vinyl original.
Other's will disagree but for me it's my Esoteric DV-50. Yes, my not too pricy TT's do give it run for it's money. The trade off is software. New vinyl is pricy and the quality is not very good. Used vinyl is a crap shoot. Digital software is for the most part cheap and all over the place. Dammed if you do dammed if you don't.
In the two areas you mention, analog (tape as well) kills any redbook CD.
On the other hand, CD can avoid speed variation, bass noise, mistracking,
surface noise, and so on. As computer chips increase in capability, CD's can sound better and better while analog cannot. Some convert analog to digital for processing. The future of analog is digital.
To my ears, the biggest problem for CDPs (as opposed to vinyl) is not the "body" (or lack of) but the dynamics - both micro and macro.
As several have mentioned you need to stick with something specifically designed to reproduce the old analog sound, such as Tvad suggests. Analog has advantages in many areas such as "soft clipping" on tape etc. Many older generation audio professionals prefer analog for certain applications because of how it modifies the sound in a desirable way - for example analog is very good at compression (reducing dynamics) with less risk of sounding bad. Many people prefer that old analog tape sound as opposed to the unforgiving digital sound.

I think it is hard to deliberately replicate this sound using a device that takes CD digital and modifies it (after all, the analog sound is part of an entire studio and manufacturing process).

Doug Sax (of Sheffield labs fame) still uses his brother's designed tube amp circuitry to help create CD masters that have some compression, warmer vocals and a bass kick drum punch. If you buy Doug Sax Mastered CD's then you may find them a just bit closer to old analog sound than others...just two cents.
Yes, my modded sony scd-1. Great soundstage and texture (body) to the music as well as timbre (air) around the instruments. Vinyl is great but very hit and miss as someone mentioned and much maintenance.

My Audio Aero Prima mk2 (with van den Hul Orchid XLR ics and van den Hul Mainsserver pc) was enough for me to forget about vinyl altogether. No more surface noise ruining the music and no more worry about something getting broken.

Now, it is much harder to get digital to sound good that it is analog. But the effort was totally worth it for me in the end. So to answer your question: yes.

They sound different. I've heard many expensive digital setups as well as owning a few of my own. Interesting to me how the digital fans knock the media side of vinyl. The media side of digital is what drove me back to vinyl. Thought for the day: How often do you think the manufacturers think about us audiophiles? One of the scariest things I used to read on a cd when I went to buy it: "Newly Remastered" or similar. I knew as soon as I read that, I was screwed. That meant I was going to hear a bunch of little details in the recording extremely artificially bloated. That and so many of the all digital stuff just sounds so sterile and fake. YUK! Not for me. You like it, you buy it. I'll put up with my vinyl pitfalls any day over that dreadful digititis. Enjoy the music.
The Audiomeca Mephisto IIX has a very robust presentation. Unfortunately, it is no longer made but they do come up used now and again.
I have done a full AB comparison over a few days between an Orpheus Heritage DAC and Zero cd transport and the exotic Vyger Indian Signature TT/Dynavector Karat. Both above $40k a set.

On the same audiophile recordings, similarly mastered, i could hardly tell the difference, apart from occasional surface noise on vinyl, even favouring the cd on the attributes you mentioned. I suspect a cartridge, cable or recording change, would favour either one over the other.

Short of the Heritage, however, nothing digital before (in my last 25 years of listening) came close to vinyl.
Thanks for all the responses so far.

I heard the Vyger table recently (RMAF) and it is a bit of a dry table. Cannot recall the cart. So, it is not horribly surpising it's close to digital.

My Merrill/TriPlanar/Ortofon setup has considerably more 'body'.
I thought the AMR CDP had lot of body when I heard it at RMAF. It's on my top list for digital front list.
In my own rig, AMR CD-77 fits the bill (although at $ 8.5k perhaps not what you meant by moderately pricey). Admittedly one third more expensive, there is YBA Le Lecteur CD1 Classic Sigma (or Passion 1000 which is the same player in a different outfit) that recently led me to think it would have been very serious competition for the AMR, had I heard it before, exactly for the reasons you mention (and some more).
I very much agree with what has been said on CD mastering, in particular the lack of dynamics, though: junk in, junk out. I guess that is what you get if you produce for all-day-long sonic drizzle out of small dickey boxes that only digital made possible, muzak instead of music (am I getting old or just a bellyacher?).
I guess that is what you get if you produce for all-day-long sonic drizzle out of small dickey boxes that only digital made possible, muzak instead of music (am I getting old or just a bellyacher?)

No you are right on - sonic drizzle!
I would say the best transport/dacs on the market right now are

1) orpheus zero transport/ orpheus heritage dac
2) Zanden transport/dac

Both of these options represent the best digital solutions money can buy.

i have auditioned both closely, and while the heritage IMHO represents the pinnacle of digital technology available today, the zanden combo was more musical and the most analogue sounding.
Both of these options represent the best digital solutions money can buy.

When did you compare "the best digital solutions money can buy" to EMM Labs Signature combo? Any of the newest dCS gear? Latest Esoteric combos? Ayre? AMR? In your system? Direct A-B?

hi alex:

as a dsigner and modifier of digital hardware, you must know that there is no best dac/transport combination, just as there is no best preamp, no bets amplifier, no best speaker, etc. . why audiophiles persist in asking this question is beyond me. perhaps you have an answer.

as far as body is concerned, a subjective term as it is, one might want to consider some of the older tube players, like the cal tempest or aria.
"Body" has nothing to due with accurate, neutral and transparent reproduction of a recording. In addition, there is only as much "body" as exists in the recording's mix, which varies from disc to disc (or lp to lp).

If one seeks "body" beyond what exists on a recording and what is reproduced by a transparent system, then one seeks coloration to please their subjective taste. There's nothing wrong with that, but the term has no bearing on "the best" digital or analog source machine, which by definition should be neutral.

If we're defining "best" based on subjective rpeferrences, then all bets...and comparisons...are of no value unless one happens to know the listening preferences of the person offering the opinion.

As surprising as this may be I agree with Tvad and Mrtennis.
Mrtennis, for me, best is a live performance, preferably unamplified. I have this favorite local jazz trio playing in a nice restaurant for Sunday brunch. It is very noisy on Sundays but I went there on a week day and recorded the piano player live. My brother knows how to play acoustic guitar so I recorded him too. I did this so I can recreate the live performance as close as I can with my audio system. If you can have a natural and realistic reproduction of a piano, guitar and violin, with all details, resolution and natural decay, then your system is indeed “the best”.

In order to properly evaluate my digital players, I have designed and built the rest of my audio system. It is not for sale, it is for a reference.

Tvad, you are absolutely correct. This is why I am always recording my vinyl to CD and DVD-A and A-B in real time with my digital. According to the ears of local audiophiles on a recent test, the digital sounded preferable to my vinyl. We used the direct-to-disc Bassface Swing Trio "Plays Gershwin" and its SACD copy. And the 45rpm Patricia Barber "Nightclub" on Mo-Fi and its SACD copy.

I have a Forsell Transport hooked to an EAD 7000 DAC, the upgrade bug bit me recently, so I tested a bunch of DACs on my system, none were even close, Chord (closer), DCS (good detail,annoying hiss), AN (lower model), Accuphase (nice tone, missing bass), etc.... Of course I have my system highly tuned for this DAC (my own horn speakers and passive attenuator) so I guess that had something to do with it...
Anyway this setup kills my mediocre Analog rig.
My system have tremendous body. There are solid images in the air, drums that kick you in the chest, the whole deal. I am currently using a Mac-mini as a server and running it to a Wavelength Crimson USB DAC. OTOH, it took a lot of work, including changing out my (very good ) preamp.
I'm sure that more improvement is possible, since it always is, but I belive that I'm hitting the "few per cent for many dollars" part of the slope.

I've got a Wadia 830 with mods from Steve Huntley at Great Northern Sound that has amazing body and depth of image when the recording calls for it... I believe this is, at least in part, what the GNSC mods enabled on this player and, based on knowledge of other GNSC modded equipment and discussions with other owners, I'd have to say it is a strong expertise of Steve's.

Do a little searching here and on AudioAsylum for GNSC...
" that competes on this level. Price no object."

Zanden digital combo. Uncannily sounds similar to my analog set up. Induces giddiness everytime I compare ;-)
Nilthepill: If so close, why bother with the analog? I'm guessing that's at least another $20K you've got tied up there? Just because of the records you've got that'll never be on digital?

This thread has turned out to be quite interesting. I am still an analog newbie and, though I admit I'm still smitten and thus not objective, I've just never heard any digital that sounds as 'right' or natural, and I've heard most of the ultra-pricey stuff at shows. I have NOT, however, heard the Zanden combo or even the DAC.

The best I've heard has been the top-line Audio Note stuff, which is very, very pricey indeed, and I still think it is missing some qualities my $12K or so analog rig brings. Those qualities are rather difficult to put into words.
Paulfolbrecht, I have to agree with you about analog. I still turn to vinyl when I want to listen critically, but digital and CDPs have come a long, long way in the last decade or so. It ain't analog but it ain't bad.
Zanden combo sounds rather anemic next to SME30/SME5/Kondo IO-J/Kondo pre vinyl rig. I've heard it with my ears on A-B.

BUT, this vinyl setup is x2 the price of the Zanden. So it really depends what you're comparing.

"If so close, why bother with the analog? I'm guessing that's at least another $20K you've got tied up there? Just because of the records you've got that'll never be on digital?"

Paulfolbrecht, yes I do have lot of music on CDs that is not available on Vinyl and vise versa. Let me qualify my statement where I said 'so close' to analog. It is so close that you could be fooled in to believing you are listenening to analog- until you compare analog and Vinyl playback back to back that is. Analong is still got an edge on resolution but ever so slightly- okay may be 5% more. That is also using Zanden 1200 mk2 phono or Vendetta research phono- Vendetta a little brighter in comparision but still very very good. Zanden digital combo indeed compares very well. And I wish I could say I have tied up only $20K on digital. It is lot more than that.

"Zanden combo sounds rather anemic next to SME30/SME5/Kondo IO-J/Kondo pre vinyl rig. I've heard it with my ears on A-B. "

Hmmm, It is hard to imagine Zanden being anemic next to SME30 set up you describe. I think you mean the bass weight and heft when you say anemic. I have heard SME 30 set up and yes the bass and mid bass is very hefty, some might say too 'fat' but I think I see what you mean. In a way it sounds like there is complement to Zanden digital combo in your statement.

Alex, how does your products compare and sound to the analog combo you describe above?

Alex, how does your products compare and sound to the analog combo you describe above?

Well, I would not comment on how it compares, but here is the system I am talking about:

Audio system with SME30

You can see the SME30 on the pictures and a universal digital player next to it. Before this digital player took that place, there was a Zanden next to the SME30.

Alex, Thanks for the link. Although I had come across these exotic looking horn speakers review. Your name was mentioned as digital-to-tubes maestro. Congratulations!!

The system owner has some very good amplification. Frankly I think as impressive as the speakers look, the complexity of integrating all would be 'gargantuan' ;-) The review was for the 300b tubes only and I would have liked to read the review notes (SME set up vs Zanden digital) they you are talking about. Althoug i don't doubt your statement. Sarajan, as you know, is big fan of Zanden digital.