Changing from Vinyl to Digital in Brave New World

This is bound to provoke some reactions, and I purposely posted in the analog forum since the digital forum is probably preaching to the converted.
(Maybe I don't want to make the change but enough self-analysis). I've owned and played vinyl since the mid-60's and have had numerous good to great rigs over the years, currently running something that is state of the art, big Kuzma table/Lamms/Avantgarde horns. I still have an old pair of Quad 57's which need restoration and a pair of Crosby Quads that haven't seen a charge since I bought the Avantgardes. And, anywhere from 6-8 thousand records.
Here's the question. I retired recently, and am planning to move (to Austin) where I will continue to work at what I love (ahem, it's music business, but that doesn't have anything to do with quality reproduction, I'm sorry to say).
Chances are, I will go from a big dedicated room to having virtually no space, and while I could store all this equipment and records, I'm just not sure it makes sense. (No this is not a subliminal ad for my record collection, not yet, anyway).
So, I'm struggling here with what to do, systemwise. Let's assume that I want small, in the sense of not taking up physical space, and I don't have room for all the vinyl, so I have to go 'digital.' And, to make it really challenging, I'm not going to do a complex system- maybe a very good pair of stereo speakers that don't take up much room, a good integrated (I've been using tubes since the early 70's but if I'm willing to go this far, wouldn't rule out something solid state) and a digital source- everything I've read seems to suggest that good digital sources are in a state of flux, and the standards for hi rez digital files are not fully settled. So I guess the main import of the question has to do with sources other than vinyl- i never really liked CDs for the home but could cope with computer audio if I don't have to spend my time reformatting files. Lastly, I could (and still plan) to refurbish the old Quads at some point, just because they are so iconic and could run them with the ML 2 Lamms, some OTLs or something less esoteric (Atmasphere 60's). But would be interested in views, from the analog crowd. (Let's not use this as a dump on digital thing since that won't help me sort out my thoughts).

Bill hart
My advice - don't do it. There are lots of great record stores in the Austin area!
Hi, well, this will either cost some money or be tough to leave your vinyl behind.

The top of the line digital gear out now is pretty darn good. I recently purchased a dCS Scarlatti and it's ability to deliver music in a natural presentation (what I love about my vinyl front end) is mesmerizing. I won't make you forget about your vinyl, but it will make you not worry about it...and maybe listen more b/c less to fool with...

Austin has a great dCS dealer btw...
Bill: something about your post kinda hit me in the gut and prompted me to offer my thoughts, probably because this change, for me, would be huge. First, I challenge your space restrictions. Downsizing to that degree is scary! I recommend that you next evaluate your emotional attachment to your records and decide if you really can part with all of them. Even if you want to keep your favorite 100 LPs, that sends you in a direction which requires you to keep some kind of TT rig, thus requiring space for it and the records. I don't think that I could give up my vinyl and TT willingly. I recently became re-acquainted with my vinyl after parting for nearly 3 years, due to a long, extensive home renovation, which left me using a very small space for my rig. I used only CD and stored my TT and records. But I was able to use a space of about 8 feet wide and 3 feet deep for quite a nice setup, including TV. Alternatively, without a TV, a 5-shelf rack with TT on top is very efficient nd would allow both CDP and TT. But, when I started playing my LPs again, it was like having my favorite child return home after a long time away. I don't know how else to describe it. I do admit to having a much nicer TT rig than my Rega Saturn CDP, but quality of playback was not the only thing that struck me. Try doing a series of sketches to properly scale the space needed for a down-sized rig, and see if it is feasible with your space, and if it leaves you with any room to grow. One more thing I will offer: Your system is so nice, that if you do downsize, you may always be tempted to ramp up again in some fashion, which also requres space. Instead of a CDP, you may find yourself assembling a multiple-component digital playback system and heading back in the same old direction, just using a new format. If you are looking for a new way to spend your time in retirement, assembling a huge digital music library would be one way. And it would definitely take up less space than vinyl. Best of luck.
Rip CDs to music server on your computer or laptop.

Use Squeezebox Touch to access server or internet radio, Pandora, etc. via Wifi and play. Add an ouboard DAC if needed to get the ultimate sound.

Keep a backup of ripped files in case needed. CDs can be stored away as needed once ripped.

Very compact and efficient way to listen to music.

You have put a large investment in your vinyl music collection. I'd think twice about dumping that if any option not to. Even if you do not listen to records as often, they will probably only increase with value over time, so an investment for the future perhaps at the very least.
I haven't compared the two directly, but why not digitalize your vinyl? It might maintain the relaxation that vinyl gives you.
If you are this accustomed to a life of vinyl and tubes, if you *must* downsize and digitaize, I recommend you do so at the highest resolution available. I attend a high end open house annually at my local high end store, and to these ears, I find red book standard--even played over the best of the best--just doesn't connect with me the way analog does. *However,* when they play 24/96 and 24/192 sources from a laptop-based server, the music comes much closer to the richness and continuity of analog--I'd say it gets you 80-90% of the way there, and definitely crosses some kind of threshold in refinement compared to CD standard.

There are increasing numbers of 14/96 and 24/192 files available from HDTracks and other high-res download services, and the prices per album are getting more affordable.

Portable hard drives have gotten so inexpensive that even at very high resolution you could store quite a few albums in a small space.

Here's another thought: Maybe you could keep your analog front end, downsize the electronics and speakers (there are lots of excellent integrated amps and monitors and compact subs available now) and store most of your LPs in climate-controlled mini-storage. Then swap in a bundle of LPs as your listening tastes dictate.
Some good thoughts here. I am a creature of extremes, so the issue of 'downsizing' but not 'downgrading' meant a total reconsideration of approach. I could probably find a TT which places fewer demands, like the space and isolation of airpump for tonearm, that the Kuzma XL/Airline demands. The AV Duo is not well suited for nearfield listening, and my usual 'go to' speaker type, a planar, is either too big or too limiting in terms of bass (still, I'm gonna restore those old Quads someday). So, once I think about the leap to a smaller monitor (Magico? I haven't listened to the new crop of great smaller speakers), I then get into amp issues- I know the ML2 can be used on dynamic speakers, but it may run out of steam. I like the idea of culling my top 500 records, that wouldn't be too hard - the pleasure of having thousands is the surprise of pulling something out you never heard, or haven't heard in decades. But it takes up alot of space. Right now I have a dedicated room for listening, and extra space nearby for lot's and lot's of records.
I'm considering a smallish house, or possibly a modest loft space, right in Austin. (If I lived far enough outside of town, I could have a free-standing building just for listening, but I don't want to have to drive much to get to town). And though Texas is reasonable by NYC standards, a big house or lux loft in town is anything but cheap. (We have taken a big hit on real estate in the Northeast, Austin much less so).
I don't really have to do anything right now, because if and when we move the hi-fi won't be going at first, my friend, a dealer, will likely help me break it down and store it.
I do like the idea of no fiddling but am worried that computer audio, leaving aside the sonic compromises, involves its own set of PITA processes, compatibility issues, file format issues, etc. I find analog audio enough of a challenge, and i have never been intuitive when it comes to computers.

You'll need to get a smaller Guanyin!

CDs are getting as vintage as vinyls. What's the point of switching to digital when you can get HDD or SSD based computer or network player system with top line modern DAC that would get you much closer to analog than conventional CD/SACD player?
Boy, that is a tough problem for someone so into vinyl. If it were me, and it surely isn't, I would cull my collection to 2000. Store the rest or slowly sell off. Keep the 2000 LPs in a closet on shelves and buy a great, compact, set and forget table like the new SME 20/3A. No isolation, no pumps, little space. Also a pair of small monitors after careful auditioning and a Class A SS amp (or integrated) appropriate for the speaker load.

Live with that for a while as you very slowly explore the rapidly changing world of digital files. Go computer if you are comfortable enough, otherwise a high quality CDP, but honestly, I don't see much space savings really.

If you go iPad and docking station with computer speakers fine. Then you'll save real space, otherwise, maintain great sonics and the history of your collection.

Sounds like a fun way to begin retirement. Enjoy it.
I would keep your LPs until you are very sure you like your new digital system. I did the same thing, and ultimately went back to LPs. I am glad I only sold off a few in the process (which I had to pay alot of money to replace).
this post brings up an interesting point. Just how much space does a typical classic rock album take up on a hard disk? I am thinking about adding a hard disk based front end to my system and will probably start with a TB size portable hard disk drive.
Peterayer: I think you nailed it- a turntable with fewer demands of space, time and energy, and killer smaller speakers. The contrarian in me, after so many years of basic amp-preamp (currently add the third box, phono stage) loves the idea of an integrated. On the digital side, I'm way more intererested in non-CD digital audio, and maybe as you suggested, I could experiment. It is obviously the next wave and while i've never been a computer hobbyist, it might be fun if tied to music. As Rtilden pointed out, there is the temptation to get all crazy on that front, and be in the same place, with expensive black boxes.
Part of this is also motivated by ease of use. I hate to admit it, but the notion of warming up the tube amps, warming up the cartridge, etc. is always an obstacle to just playing music. And, if I don't buy or rent a space with a dedicated room, I'll have the system in my living space, which raises additional issues (ahem, two cats, ahem).
As to space saving, the current pile of vinyl takes up a good amount of space. I just computed, very back of the napkin, using 100 discs per linear foot, and actually probably have 10,000 records, maybe more. The frightening thing (maybe this thread should be relabelled -confessions of a vinyl junkie) is that I have never organized them. Oh, yeah, when i find yet another copy of Way Out West, or the umpteenth copy of Rickie Lee Jones' first album, I put it with the others. How many pressings of Tea for the Tillerman should one person own (especially when the UHQR boxed set that cost stupid money, even when i bought it at the time it came out) sounds far less lively than the island pink label that I bought off the street in Greenwich Village for a buck?
Thank you for helping me think this through.
So, should I start another thread on serious, trouble free turntables? (SME sounds terrific; I had the Kuzma Reference before the XL with a Triplanar and it was also set and forget, no isolation issues; any others that are of this ilk?)
And integrated amps (I love the Dartzeel concept, even the fact that it measured lousy per that Stereophile review; Burmeister? Boulder? I don't need one with a phono stage if I keep the Manley Steelhead, but here we go again with boxes).
And, monitors: I want to hear the Magico V3 which seems like a lot of bang for the buck, used; I have never really warmed up to Wilson speakers. Any other relatively small killer monitor style speaker that is a must listen to and would enjoy a relationship with a SS, rather than tube amp?
Man, this feels like a sex change. But fun. :) Thanks everybody.
Whart, my earlier post was actually very serious. I think, based on what you say, that you would seriously regret giving up on vinyl completely. I would suggest that you cull the collection for the move, and that you could probably replace just about all of it easily in the Austin area. There are quite a lot of great used record stores. I also seriously doubt you will have to downsize your system as much as you seem to think. I would wait to do this until you know for sure exactly where you are going to live and see what space you have.
That's what I'm talking about! By keeping your favorite records and using a reduced and efficient equipment scheme, you can balance your needs and ease into this whole thing. Trying to maintain a truly high-end system with fewer components will also be a challenge in selecting just the right stuff. I was envisioning tall, slender speakers and using a multi-shelf equipment stand with a small footprint. I, too, have space restrictions, and my SOTA Cosmos TT sits on the top of my 24"x22" Billy Bags stand. The suspended SOTA tables have a smaller footprint than most others, AND they look like furniture! One more thing: Unless you sell all your LPs, I don't see any way for you to avoid going through them all to decide which ones to keep!
Another thing on the downsizing: high quality small monitors sonically have a lot in common with panel speakers--lack of box colorations, excellent imaging, fast transparent midrange, not much bass below 50 Hz, etc.

Actually, if you want a small room-filling speaker with excellent bass extension and articulate mids and treble, look into the Neat Motive 2 or Motive SE2. The standard 2 uses a titanium inverted dome tweeter. The SE2 uses a circular ribbon tweeter similar to the one in the Genesis. I've heard the Motive 2's. They're only about 30" tall, no stands required, and have real bass down into the 30's.
Whart, Another turntable to consider, though adding active air isolation is a essential is the Brinkman Bardo. Direct Drive and no bigger than an LP. Or the Grand Prix Monoco, though I have never heard it. I prefer the SME tables to the Bardo.

For small speakers, I suggest the Magico Mini II, (which I own). They are wonderful at used prices and sound very full range and large in a small room with the right power. Also the new Magico Q1 or the Raidho C1.1, neither of which I've heard, but reviews and reputation are good. The Raidho is more efficient, so something like a Pass Labs Class A integrated with their one box XP-15 phono stage would be an excellent combination, IMO. One rack, three or four shelves and you're set.

There is a lot out there and you could have a great time in retirement, slowly sorting it all out. You can send some of your duplicate LPs to me.
Hi Bill, nice discussion here and great points all around. If you want to hear a top class vinyl and digital setup, feel free to private mail me and swing by my house in Austin. It's hard to beat my vinyl set up and even harder to beat my digital setup. This allows for easy a-b comparisons on the format...

My only point of contention on the posters above is a killer good sacd transport still beats hi rez computer, at least in my system. SACD's are plentiful if you listen to classical or a bit less plentiful on jazz. Some of my Jazz SACD's that originated from master tape are my best sounding sources.

I've heard a lot of great mini monitors...I don't think small speakers, if good, really hold you back much. However, if you're going to use a speaker stand you might as well consider Wilson Sasha's or maybe the Rockports along with the Magico's. If you haven't heard the newer Wilson's, you're in for a nice surprise...

Also, I made the move from tube amplification to solid state about 2 years ago. In Texas, the heat from my former BAT VK150SE's was a lot in the summer (actually any time other than dec-feb), and went to Ayre MX-Rs. I did loose a bit of tube magic, but gained a bit of resolution/control and they always on ready to play-so I listen more. Isn't that what it's really about?

Good luck to you, it's been a great thread and I bet more to come!
Just had to go through the same thing, and I wound up with tubes (PrimaLuna mono amps) and NOLA Boxer speakers, with a Primare CD player. I still have a turntable, but the record collection has been dramatically reduced.

CD playback has come a long, long way. I like the Primare quite a bit, and could even be happy with it as my main source if I had to.

Good luck with the quest.
Jfrech: I agree this is a good thread. In the past I have always gotten help on A-gon, on issues as mind-numbing as component and electrical system grounding. For that I thank all of you. Some chat groups I have been part of (cars in particular) always seem to degenrate into a pissing contest, and here, even if there is disagreement, people seem pretty thoughtful. (I'll also email you separately because I'd love to talk about Austin). Peter, the SME and the Mini II sound like things I'll want to explore. Thanks for reminding of the SME and the Magicos, well, I have not heard them. I remember when the original big speaker came out, followed by the Mini, and at the time there were few small monitors at that price point. JohnnyB- will also check out the NEAT if I can; for what it's worth, the horns I am currently using don't allow a nearfield experience and the need to have a big triangle for speakers and sweet spot is part of the space problem I am concerned about.
I won't dump anything just yet. The equipment, once it gets broken down, will likely go to my dealer/friend to store, and if I say 'sell', he can do so. If I say 'ship' he'll probably just come on down to help me set up.
Rtilden: Yep, to cull, I'll have to go through them all. But, you'd laugh if you saw how quickly I was cutting through the stuff in our basement.
Learsfool, I took you seriously. My suspicion is that once I start culling, I could get rid of alot, and maybe I just separate into a few categories, box them accordingly, and know that if and when I decide to get rid of some, they have already been pre-sorted. Some are just stupid: like the complete set of RCA food themed records : Music for a Backyard BBQ will stay with me given my destination, but Music for a Chinese Dinner at Home, well, I don't think I need it. Flamenco Table Dancing cut Direct to Disc? Not alot of nuance. That Billy Holiday record recorded at an active airport, where you can hear planes taking off in the background? Not her best performance.
What about all those Harry Pearson list records- some of the Mercury's I'd keep. I think I have almost all of the Lyritas, a few I listen to. I bought all the MF half speed masters at the time they were released: Abbey Road, LZII, DarkSide, along with a bunch of other audiophile half speed masters, Direct to Disc, etc. Some of them aren't musically that interesting, although they may have audiophile value. Tons of old RCAs, Deccas, etc. some of which I'd keep. I should probably catalog them at the same time i'm going through them, but that's not likely to happen.

02-29-12: Jfrech
My only point of contention on the posters above is a killer good sacd transport still beats hi rez computer, at least in my system. SACD's are plentiful if you listen to classical or a bit less plentiful on jazz. Some of my Jazz SACD's that originated from master tape are my best sounding sources.
Thanks for weighing in on this. I eagerly anticipated the arrival of SACDs, but I haven't been all that impressed by them. I'm probably not listening to the right SACD player. My home machines are very entry-level--a Sony changer and an Oppo DV980H. Still, I auditioned SACDs on a $5500 Linn CD/SACD player and it still sounded threadbare compared to the matching LP (played on a Linn TT through the same signal chain and speakers).

What are some good SACD players these days? Thanks in advance.
In reading this excellent thread, it occurred to me that such an extensive vinyl music collection as yours represents a true labor of love and may contain many works that will be all but impossible to find for digital repurchase. Given this issue and the fact that you also own a state-of-the-art analog source, consider adding one of the better Analog-to -Digital processors to your arsenal of transition tools for ripping your own high resolution files. One possibility might be something like the Ayre Acoustics QA-9 due out this spring that should support LPCM to 24/192 and also DSD.
In any event, wishing you best of success in your new ventures.
Peterayer has my vote. If you have to go to texas, Austin is not bad.

On the digital side it's really come a long way and the convenience will spoil you from day one. A newish Mac Mini and Pure Music software is where my recommendations end. The rest is a matter of time on the internet and diligent homework with you budget as a guid.

Some words of caution. The subjective words you've learned and lived with in the analog world such as "improvement, sounds much better than, a whole new level, and an obviously audible difference," are on a much smaller scale in the digital world.
The word asynchronous needs to qualified. Jitter is a ghost but its real. BNC can be 50 ohms or 75 ohms.

It's become obvious to me that the idea of fidelity in the digital community is different. Not that it's a bad thing or that they are all this way. It's just when you read a glowing comment you really need check the system background on that individual.

I ran across one guy who is very intelligent, well read, very knowledgable of many things digital, and thought highly of by his piers. Only to find out his only system is made up of sound cards driving some questionable powered speakers.

A few manufactures that might be a safe starting point for comparison and white papers: Empirical Audio, Wavelength Audio, Ayre, Metrum Acoustics.

Retirement, you wake up with nothing really to do, by noon your behind.
SENIOR DISCOUNT? Many Parks are now free for you and however is with you.
All of you have been more than generous with your thoughts and time. You have also convinced me (surprise?) that I am not ready to give up vinyl, although I will probably cull the collection, at least by roughly separating what I think is worth keeping, and what I am willing to part with, before the LPs get stored. (No way can I show up in Austin with all this stuff, particularly if we start out renting until we find a more permanent home). On equipment changes, I will likely explore a turntable that takes less attention than the Kuzma XL/Airline (isolating this turntable isn't easy but its the arm pump that's really a pain). I'd like to hear the ARS Emitter with batteries at some point (which, though alot of chassis, eliminates the line stage, its power supply and the two mono amps). I also want to listen to some of the better small monitors. The footprint required for the horns means a big room, which I'm not sure I'll have. On the digital front, I will start experimenting on a small scale. I also want to get my Quad ESLs back up and running. I have a pair of vintage Quad II amps that also need to be gone over, but they deserve to see action again too.
Here's my email address, since you can't send private messages through the new audigon. (Couldn't we do that before?) Jfrech, and any others with Austin connections, I'd love to hear from you:
Bill Hart