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Your question has no universal, true in all situations answer. Depends on the care and methods used in the creation of any given release. In the case of say, the Fleet Foxes eponymous release, there's no difference between the vinyl and digital in terms of quality. In the case of Robert Plant's newest release Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar, the vinyl sounds much better than the digital cd. Don't know about the high rez release. I have many duplicates of digitally recorded cd's and vinyl where the vinyl sounds better. In some cases, the music is recorded at better than cd format resolution and those higher resolution files can be used to master the vinyl. I have many, many digitally recorded classical music lp's that sound fabulous. I also have digitally recorded classical music from some labels that sound mediocre at best. So, short answer IMO, is that it's throwing the baby out with the bath water if you dismiss all vinyl releases simply because they were digitally sourced.
These days, after 50 years of listening to records, CDs, tapes, you name it, my gut tells me the records with unique sonic merit over the alternatives worth investing in are mostly those from the days when analog gear was used solely in their creation, which was often the case through the sixties and somewhat into the seventies after which digital took over.
Having said that there are many recordings from that era even that benefit these days from a good digital remastering. At that point, I'd just go with the digital source material but I could see where newer vinyl renditions might have something unique to offer. But even then, modern vinyl is not a slam dunk soundwise. Its more expensive than ever and quality control became more hit or miss over the years since the early "golden age" of vinyl/analog.
Regarding recordings from the 80's, like "Joshua Tree", I think there is still merit in some records made during that time period, however mastered, over many CDs made then when the technology was still new. CD sound quality overall did not mature really until perhaps the early mid 90's. Modern DACs used in a lot of home gear has come a long way in the last 5-10 years or so to finally complete the puzzle, "loudness wars" related issues aside.
For a recording from teh 80s like "Joshua Tree", these days, I would probably look first to a good modern digital remaster on CD or higher res if available and desired. The vinyl version might still be top notch as well. Digital remastering done well is usually a boon, not a curse.
I would assume you are an "MBL fan"? Me too.
I have heard a top notch mbl setup expose weaknesses in format and/or recording quality in a/b comparisons. With a good mbl setup, one is likely to be able to hear any limitations in detail or dynamics incurred anywhere in the recording and manufacturing process, be they a result of analog or digital technologies.
Personally, I may never buy a "new" record again.
But always on the lookout for old releases in good playing condition, especially when they come on the cheap. I'll listen to almost anything for a couple bucks and there are many sonic treats out there from the golden age of vinyl, prior to digital taking over almost completely.
"Well, I might be to nit-picky but doesn't that defeat the purpose? We love vinyl because it's an analog source which has all the beauty and vibrance of analog recordings. If you run it through an A-D converter, remaster and then run it back through a DAC (who knows what hardware they're using?) and press it in vinyl, you might lose the analog kick, don't you?"
I would agree with that. Once digital enters the chain, it just sounds like better digital (at best). I'm not familiar with the U2 recording. If it was recorded in analog, I would just get a regular LP original version. If it was a digital recording, then maybe a remaster on something high rez digital like SACD.
Of course you could just listen and decide which one you like best. I have a lot of vinyl, CDs, SACDs, DVDAs, and digital rips and hi res downloads. I have some fabulous recordings in all formats.
Examples: I recently bought the Analog Productions reissue of Junior Wells and Buddy Guy's Hoodoo Man Blues. It sounds shockingly good. I also have Beck's Morning Phase in 24/192 and it's wonderful. And I bought the aforementioned Famous Blue Raincoat for $5 in a used record bin, got a nice copy, and it sounds great too.
It would be interesting to hear the digitally remastered to vinyl version. I've been listening to my first release Masterdisk DMM Joshua Tree I bought the day it was released and comparing it to the the 20th anniversary deluxe edition remastered cd. I mention which version of the lp I was listening to because there has been some online forum complaints about the sound of the lp in its later pressings. The first DMM release is wonderful sounding however. The first issue seems to bring a considerably higher price on Ebay. The digital remastering sounds good, but different. The treble of the remaster is a tad crisper with better articulation and separation of little high frequency nuances. The mid bass and bass are less bloomy and the general sonic picture is tighter, less atmospheric. All in all, I prefer the vinyl to the remastered cd. My Luxman digital playback is pretty well matched tonally to the sound of my vinyl rig, so I think most listeners would hear things the same way.
Many Rock albums in the 80s were still being recorded on analogue tape. Look at their corresponding CD and see how many say ADD or AAD (AAD...using an analogue mixing board and tape).
I don't know how U2 with their budget would record back then, but my point is when a CD from that time period is remastered, using the analogue sources can provide a very good digital master.
Usually the record label will just remix the digital sources and we get a crappy sounding new CD and LP. Jimmy Page used the original sources in the recent LZ remasters and IMO, the vinyl sounds terrific. Another outstanding remaster is Pink Floyd's DSOTM.
In a case like the "Joshua Tree" LP, the "tell-tale" sign of a questionably sounding product is the term "Digitally Remastered"
which is so vague that it usually means they did some tweaking to the digital files and the end result is a record that you'll never play again. "Digitally Remastered from the Original Sources" is the one to look for.
Personally i do not listen to digital in my system at all (no CDs or files).
But i can speak for analog when it comes to vinyl. I preffer original vintage vinyl. Just normal vinyl, not a 180-200g press or reference LP super-duper pressing. Talking about regular vinyl from 60s, 70s, 80s ...
Since my music is mainly Jazz, Soul, Funk, Latin i'm aware of many reissues on the market. Reissue labels always (90% of them) use digital remastering. I have some reissues pressed in the last 15-20 years. No matter it's 45 rpm (7 inch singles) or LPs but my originals of the same tunes always sounds better when i can do direct A-B test.
Again i'm not talking about biggest labels on the market, maybe some of them can do digital remastering much better but i'm not interested in mainstream music. Regular independent small labels still reissue good music (not for audiophiles). I've never heard any reissue with better sound than original even if the condition of the original is not mint-
They always try to make sound more punchy, fuller etc but ends up with big loss in dynamic and naturality when they remastering music from the 60s/70s.
Direct analog mastering from the master tape also possible. This is how it should be done - that's the best! Digital touch is evol :))
Also modern cheap pressing is sucks compared to old pressing. But i have some awful vintage records as well :) Or maybe i just need phono stage with all possible RIAA curves for real vintage stuff.
What a superb thread. I was wondering about most of the issues raised here, most of which have been answered. Can I just say though that as far as I understand large studios went digital as from the 80's which meant that mainstream albums were nearly all breathed upon by digits - real shame. What I am curious is as to whether the recording was at a higher resolution that found it's way onto red-book CD, therefore, in other words did vinyl continue to have the edge in terms of resolution. If that is the case I guess the vinyl is still worth buying. Reading from this the vinyl pressing were often better 'mixed' than the CD's. I agree with the post about heavy vinyl being largely pointless. I will add that my vinyl front end is significantly better than my digital source and as such getting vinyl whether or not digitally mastered does not change the fact that the LP sounds significantly better than the CD equivalent. I tend to only buy CD's when there is no LP.
I cannot abide digital. I'm referring to CDs right out of the box, untreated. So in that sense I don’t agree it’s all about the music. Did you ever notice that of the three recording/mixing/mastering variations one sees for CDs, you know, the AAD, ADD, and DDD, that AAD sounds the most analog whereas DDD sounds the most synthetic, thin, uninteresting, monochromatic, kind of like papier mâché? And as I intimated earlier digitally remastered cassette tapes actually seem to get the best of both worlds - dynamics, low noise and analog sound.
I am usually listening to a vintage Sony Walkman portable cassette player, I have a bunch including the Sony Professional Portable Cassette Player. I use vintage Sony ultralight headphones. I listen to standard issue commercial audio tapes as original as humanly possible. Generally speaking I find audio cassettes much more true to actual musical instruments than CDs and more dynamic as well. One assumes it’s due to no house AC, no interconnects, no big old speaker cables, no power cords, no fuses, no big honking transformers, no big honking capacitors, not a lot of wiring period for that matter. Oh, and also due to the medium of tape. It's a natural medium. It breathes.
I’ll probably get castrated for this but don’t give a ****
If you vinyl junkies want to make your digital sources sound like vinyl this is all you have to do.
All you have to do is "ruin" the channel separation of digital (110dB-120dB) with a left + right bleed network for different frequencies across the digital sources (L&R) output stage.
Bring it down to around 30dB-40dB max at 1khz, and 10dB-15dB at 20hz and 20khz, this then mimics the channel separation curve of a phono cartridge on vinyl, and "monoize’s" much of the audio band , and you’ll be in digital heaven without the noise.
I’ve done it and it adds body and weight to those old digitally transferred master tape recordings to CD’s, to sound just like vinyl original replay but with no noise!!!, eg: Beatles ect.