Wow. I don't know if using dollars is a good way to compare the two. It kinda gets back to one's earlier years when a great...moment...happened. Some measure their moments by what they put into(paid for?) them...others by what they got from them. You can't talk about how much your turn table cost and compare it with what you paid for digital nirvana.
I own an Audio Aero Capitole Mark II Cd player that cost some big-time bucks just to imitate vinyl. It just so happens that I don't really like vinyl. CDs are easy to get and I don't mind paying (too!) much for something that gets me the best of both. Quantifying it just don't work. If it did, Radio Shack would rule, and the Devil to the rest!
I believe it takes a fairly spendy digital system and a lot of attention to detail to beat a moderately priced turntable with a smaller amount of attention to detail.
I think the answer to all of your questions, is yes.
There are a lot of issues involved in the digital vs. analog debate. It is good thing that satisfying systems can be had with both formats, but I firmly believe that it takes less money to acquire a satisfying analog system over it's digital counterpart.
There are a few analog enthusiasts that don't believe a good sounding digital system is even possible. I don't agree with this assessment.
Ok, here goes. First: what is the definition of 'better'? If the definition is 'most natural'(let the riots begin.... :)) analog will - never - beat digital, since analog adds more distortion, offers less dynamics and a more limited frequency responce then , say, SACD. If you define better as 'most listenable'..... well, that's a matter of taste, not of money. Yeah guys, I know there will be hundreds of you out there trying to kill me now, but I'll give you one example. When I worked as a sound-engineer, we once made some recordings of a barbershop-choir. We kept things as simple as possible: two B&K condenser-microphones high in the air (X-Y), fed them into a pre-amp, which had double outputs. One was fed into a Nagra reel-to-reel recorder and, as a back-up, into a domestic Sony DAT-recorder. No dubbing or whatever, just one take and then next song. The DAT beat the Nagra hands-on....... And then, almost all recordings nowadays are done digitally, so even the masters for all those 'audiophile vinyl pressings' are digital........
But I prefer the sound of my turntable over my cd-player most of the time, depending on the records.
I may have led a sheltered life, but I've not heard a lower cost turntable/phono pre-amp combination that lights my fire to the degree that a similarly priced digital system does. The analog system requires the turntable, tone arm, cartridge and phono pre-amp (and possibly a very good record cleaning machine). A decent combination seems to run well into the thousands of dollars. Once you get into the bigger money, analog sounds pretty darned good.
Everything is relative, and going used can help a lot and everyone has different preferences. Having said that, my personal impression is that digital gets you more bang for the buck (i.e., better sound to me) under, say, $3-$5,000. Once you hit $15-$20,000, analog sounds really good. In-between are trade-offs where I can kind of go either way depending on my mood and what I'm looking for at the time.
Before anyone shoots me, I am trying to answer the question from my perspective. The exact dollar ranges may not be right, but it's only when I hear pricy analog systems that I go "wow, that really sounds great".
Satch - What tape speed and formulation were you using with the Nagra? My Nagra running at 15ips/30ips with GP-9 beats the pants off of any recording I have been able to make with 16 bits... throw in a different recorder with 1/2 or 1" tape to the mix and it takes an awful lot of digital beyond 16 bits to compare.
As far as all of the audiophile recordings being done digitally and then transfered to analog... while some of that is true, you will find an equal number being recorded on analog (its just a royal pain to drag an analog machine besides a Nagra to a venue). You will also find that pop studios still use their trusty 2" machines. Furthermore, a lot of top mastering houses will transfer their digital to a 1" Ampex to master on and then back to digital for CD production.
I am not doubting your results at the time but my experience has been the exact opposite and only the Nagra D at high bit/sample rates has been able to match its analog counterpart.
Take a look at http://www.atrservice.com/clients/ to see how many people are using analog mastering machines.
My Nottingham spacedeck/space arm/arc ph2 at $3500
is much more resolved than any cd player I have heard at $3500 or less (including my best for the money EVS Millenium II Dac and Teac vrds 10 (wadia) transport)
my $400 used Cal Labs Ikon MKll beats my Bang and Olufsen $350 1980's turntable hands down
Analog is so much more musical and engaging
and the records are cheap by comparison
At all levels. Most of the people out there really don't have the software library or the gear to compare the two formats, nor do they intuitively understand the value of analog. They want accurate and easy, not musical. Maybe they think tubes are a dumb and outdated idea too? If you're a music lover, you go to the trouble, expense, and time to listen to music.
I prefer to not think in terms of better... I would say Cd is better if I want something easy and fast, multi hours of non stop music...
LP is more labor intensive, needs more involvement,(and LP playback is rewarding in being ultimately more satisfying for that effort.) and is equally as interesting, in a different way, than CD.
IF the pre, amp and speakers are the same, and it is just switching from one source to the other... IMHO one would spend about the same on the analogue portion of the system as on the digital... in a mid-fi* system (*$3,000 to $10,000. total all stuff)
In a low-fi system ($300 to $2,000 it all depends on the kind of flaws you prefer...)
I will compare Audio aero capitole mkII with the Nottingham Hyperspace table /anna arm/benz ruby II. I listen to cd's a lot more because its easy and there is more new material than vinyl. That said the resolution and detail is still better with well recorded vinyl. It did cost a lot more for the analog side because you also need a exceptional phono stage. I use the Manley steelhead.
Ozfly, will the Teres be good enough? Just asking. I just purchased a used Dennensean air suspension and granite slab for my creature on steroids and is amazing how vibration can rob the system of clarity, musicality and imaging. Once the creature was placed on Goldmund cones and cork underneath the soundstage expaned outside the speakers in a full manner. I can see that an analog rig would have to be pretty stable and clean in order to bring that out...
Psychicanimal, I would love to get a Teres someday. I honestly believe a superb analog rig would be great in my system. But, $4,000 - 6,000 for the turntable, $3,000 for the tonearm, add the cartridge, add a great phono preamp and you are in the range I discussed above. My company did very well this year. If all goes well, I might just do some shopping in March. I will certainly check the threads here and ask for advice. Someday, I will have both an excellent analog and digital front end. Then, let the tweaks continue ;-)
Oz, you seem like a candidate for the creature on steroids!
When Dan Wright sends back my modded belt drive transport and Lak brings his Ridge Street digital IC I'll have a chance to compare two outstanding rigs next to each other. I think that with the air suspension plus rewiring by Ridge Street Audio the creature will have *nothing* to envy the Teres. Oh, Robert will also mod the 1200's power supply--he took a look at it this past weekend when I went to pick two more sets of MSE Gen II's. High speed/soft recovery rectifiers and adding a smaller capacitor in parallel to the 4700 uF(under the circuit board) to enhance speed--simple yet very effective.