mkgus, you will hear arguments on both sides. If noise bothers you most than there is no question CDs sound better but you'd better get yourself a computer and a big hard drive because CD's days are limited. In the future all music will be downloaded. As far as sound quality goes vs analog it depends on the mastering. Because of the loudness wars many CD are uni volume, the loudest they can make it with severe dynamic compression. If the album is remastered specifically for vinyl it will have a more realistic dynamic range along with the distortions that make vinyl endearing. I but vinyl and hi res files. No more CDs for me.
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The thing about digital is you have to look at source issues for converting to digital formats.
once turned to digital the information is brick walled, nothing more can be retrieved from it.
The next point is that there is a fundamental flaw in all Analog to Digital converters. You’ll have to dig around to really get into it, but the flaw is a real problem and no one has been able to deal with..or correct it, so far. When I say all, I really mean all A/D in existence.
Words are cheap, as in "First...we’ll convert the signal to digital".
And then, more sentences connected to the first are uttered.
But..but..the following sentences are meaningless if the fundamental flaw in the original simplistic pronouncement is unknown and unrealized by most. The technical challenges of fixing the mostly unknown fundamental flaw that remains deep inside the equation... is not swayed or altered by a bunch of grouped letters.
But it is glossed over fairly efficiently.
I have owned and listened to a heck of a lot of music since 1960, age 12. Inherited quality equipment and began focused listening 1973, 47 years.ago.
My system: same music, all 3 formats: everybody picks LP over CD, and everybody picks R2R over LP. Also, everybody picks tubes over SS.
How can two systems, both progressively more ’noise’ beat CDs with ’ZERO NOISE’?
People yap about even/odd distortion, ... My KISS explanation is this: Analog captures and reproduces the timing of the fundamentals and overtones better, a more involving way. No listening fatigue occurs.
Want More Music: Quit Something!
I quit smoking in 1988 (32 years ago) coincidentally when quality CD players became more affordable. Perfect, stopped listening to LP’s for years. I decided to spend all my tobacco money on music or music equipment as an encouraging treat. Carton a week was $700 a year in 1998. As tobacco cost went up, I gave myself a rise in pay every year, carton a week now costs $4,400. in NJ; $5,700. in NYC.
I stopped doing this when I semi-retired 10 years ago, carton a week then $3,500. so it was 22 years.
I was just thinking about a treat, it’s crazy how 22 years accumulates.
Around 5,000 CDs, 2,500 LPs, and 500 Reel to Reel Tapes. I’m cleaning old LP’s, weeding, selling, buying new LPs. It never occurs to me to buy a new CD, but recently, to get a certain pianist (Paul Shrofel) I bought a few.
That got me listening to some favorite CD’s. Musicians, and Content can be terrific, but, in any format, it’s the recording/engineering that makes the huge difference, degree of involvement we have come to be aware of and appreciate.
A TT system must be properly setup, successfully aligned to beat CD, so very many have never had or heard one properly set up, and never thought an LP could sound as good as or better than a CD.
R2R was a rich man’s game, got more affordable, especially for servicemen stationed in Asia (cameras too). Again, I inherited both tapes and player, amazing, instantly amazing. Out of the box, no special alignment needed when new and for many years.
R2R is my best source material, but, content is limited by time: newer performer’s music does not exist on pre-recorded tape.
I’m really appreciating all the feedback!
Teo - does multibit solve the problem you are talking about?
Skypunk - you are right. Who cares what other people think as long as you enjoy what you hear? I definitely enjoy what I hear! I suppose I’m curious for feedback to determine if I should keep sharpening my sword on digital or if at some point I should branch out and go deep into vinyl. I know it will be a significant expenditure of time and money if I do. I don’t go half-ass with my audio system. And I’m sure most people here don’t either.
My first few years were devoted to CD. Took a good solid 3 years working on every aspect and at last my dream system was done. Until that damn Robert Harley went and said the turntable is the heart of a high end audio system. WTF?
Well my 1976 Technics SL1700 was still in its box in the garage so I dug it out hooked it up and spent the rest of the day flabbergasted how easily this ancient relic clobbered CD. Wife came home and agreed.
First rig was a Basis 2001/Graham/Glider/PH3SE. Had quite a few CDs, tried and tried for years to get them to where I wanted to listen to them as much as records. You want stories of people who dug into it? Got a player so modded you can hardly get the lid back on. Pretty darn good for what it is. Sounds like crap compared to my current Miller Carbon/OL Conqueror/Koetsu/Herron rig.
Couple weeks ago I was over at Mike Lavigne’s place. Talk about digital taken to where you can’t imagine, he actually has done it. Sounds like you said, better than you can imagine. Best background music I ever heard. Because once he fires up his vinyl all bets are off. Any one of them. Doesn’t matter. Records rule.
Many times over the years I’ve had people want to compare. Always use one of my MoFi recordings because those are consistent in terms of source, sound quality, and mastering between the two formats. Never ever have anyone be less than stunned how much better the record sounds.
All except, that is, for audiophiles. Some of them are capable it seems of talking themselves into anything. That at least is the only explanation I can come up with. Not all audiophiles, mind you, but some.
Okay not the story you wanted. But it is true. And it even comes with a happy ending: you just might decide to try a turntable. This is how Harley got me. You can thank us later.
The music is more important than the medium to me. On a 2019 vintage transport (with optimized lps) and six complimentary cartridges (two new) they both sound fine.
R2R? I am listening to Bel Canto #2 (Rach) as I write this.
LPs wear from play only. Tapes degrade daily from magnetism decay.
There is no substitute for Direct Disc LPs, (bypassing tape.) Except for live performance.
Although a Sugar Cube or Parks Magic make a huge difference. At least for me.
I never thought of trading my former tobacco dollars for audio dollars, good thought. I used to smoke a pack of Marlboro's each day, quit on October 1, 1982, 13,968 days ago. At today's prices I may have substituted my cigarette expenses with audio expenses.
With equal amounts invested in vinyl and CD in my setup CD actually sounds often better compared to Vinyl. Vinyl only comes out ahead with audiophile pressing i.e Mofi. Some CDs sound fantastic, others are terrible.
It all comes back to the mastering when the gear is roughly on equal footing.
Analog rig is Kuzma Ref 2 + 4 point 11+ car 50 cartridge + Herron VTPH2
CD is Esoteric K01x
both wired with Cerious.
Teo, I believe the "fundamental flaw" you are talking about is Quantization Error. This is the error that occurs when a voltage falls in between the smallest digital values. The ADC then has to round the voltage off to the nearest value. These errors are dithered into noise. The signal to noise ratio of a 24 bit ADC is 120dB! That is seriously quieter than any signal you are going to get off a record, by at least a factor of 2. In other words, vinyl's "fundimental flaws" are a lot worse than digital's. Brick wall to what? Once any information is recorded permanently in any format it is "Brick Walled." You can not add or subtract anything from either format. You have to repeat the performance.
If you like the sound of vinyl better then just say it. Nothing to be ashamed of. But coming up with absurd explanations just does not cut it.
I have an old copy of the Byrd's Turn Turn Turn. It is a bit noisy to say the least. I digitized it and put a copy on my hard drive. I make like I'm playing the record but in reality the input selector is on the hard drive which I surreptitiously cue up at the same time as the record. One friend in particular was floored when he discovered it was the computer. With volumes matched nobody can tell the difference reliably.
It is not the format which determines sound quality. It is the way the recording and mastering were managed. If you love music throwing all your eggs in one basket is cutting off your nose to spite your face.
Last night I listened to a Steve Hoffman transfer of "The Best of Ray Charles" on a DCC compact disc. Ray Charles was in the room. I could see down his throat. Then I switched over to vinyl and put on the Impex Records reissue of Duke Ellington's "Indigos." The Duke Ellington Orchestra was in the room and the solo instruments just hung there between the speakers in all of their tonally correct glory. Then, I switched back to CDs and put on Yusef Lateef's "Live at Pepe's." I swear I was sitting at a table at Pepe's amid the audience. So, which format was better last night? Who cares?? It's the music, the performance, and the emotional impact that really counts.
For me it all depends on the quality of the original recording, and the quality of the remasterings into the different formats. The skill of the dudes/dudettes in the control room conquers all. I have some superb sounding compact discs. More often than not, I thoroughly enjoy the remastering sleights-of-hand that Qobuz works on stuff I have on vinyl and CDs. It's not that I don't love vinyl. I'm also pretty tolerant when it comes to clicks n' pops, if not crunches. The only thing that really pushes my buttons the wrong way concerning vinyl are off-center pressings.
Where’s the over/under line where a top analog system will beat out a top digital system at that money? $1k? $2k? $5k? $10k? $20k?
Here’s what I mean. Let’s say those numbers above are just for the front end, digital or analog ( and let’s say the best new front end that can be had for that money), and that you’ve got a sufficient amp and speakers and everything else to nicely complement the front end (nicely balanced at that price point).
So then, if we can agree that a top $300 digital front end beats a top $300 analog front end, how high up the source cost ladder must one climb before analog overtakes?
"People yap about even/odd distortion, ... My KISS explanation is this: Analog captures and reproduces the timing of the fundamentals and overtones better, a more involving way. No listening fatigue occurs. " --Yep
"Yes. Manfred Eicher (ECM) no longer produces LPs. Case closed" -- Yes he does, has never stopped. Do you me to have him call or email you?
Wrong question. To think or ask if one medium sounds better than the other implies there is a definitive answer. As you can see from the previous comments, this will never the case :-)
A better question to ask, which medium makes you tick more? Which one is preferred, but on a personal basis. We know this will yield the usual massively long thread.
Here is my brief response: I use two mediums the most, a 40+ yr old Thorens turntable with a decent cartridge, alignment tweaked to perfection, and only a modestly priced cable upgrade. The second medium are FLAC and DSD files, collected over time. But here is the catch. I play each digital file through different DAC’s depending on my mood. Sometimes I have a cheap (R2R equivalent) DAC if I want my 16/44 - 24/96 files to have a more analog feel to it. Next time I might want the super-micro-detailed dynamic sound signature of the main DAC. I give myself choices to cover a broad playback range (without breaking the bank).
Most comments here are spot-on: You cannot change the recording techniques, the mastering, the PCM conversions of the original. Everything I do to manipulate the sound is cosmetic, after the fact. If you ever heard an original master tape of a recording session, (or worked in a recording studio) you will be blown away by how much "better" it sounds, more realistic and 3-dimensional. Hard to achieve this in a home system situation, but you can come close to it.
A good example of a well-recorded, well-mastered, with good dynamic range, and life sounding recording is the vinyl version of Exile on Main Street (re-master on 180g)
I never liked CD players that try to mimic the "analogue sound", in the end they become softer on treble, induce false warmth in the mids and have less leading edge response and become lifeless.
I always felt that analogue breathes better, is more live, whatever the source (LP, Tape, even FM) without even being noisy with clicks pops and hiss, but at the same time i can enjoy digital, especially through SACD with its believable foundation. The quality of the recording helps a lot to bring a smile in my face.
I have yet to hear any digital out of my system (CD player, CD transport, custom audio server) which beats my vinyl system (Triangle Art table + TA speed controller + TA Zeus + Reed 2A arm + Hashimoto SUT + Chinese all-tube phono). The key factor appears to me to be the sense of real-life dynamics and tone. Actually the tone is pretty close now and the addition of the Yggdrasil DAC has closed the gap somewhat on dynamics, but the vinyl system still wins.
The key factor in my vinyl's superiority seems to be: very high-quality pressings from an analog source. Modern digital source pressings can sound virtually identical to CD. The best analog I heard, period, was actually from a reel-to-reel deck at AXPONA a few years back. No digital system I've heard approached that.
What are you in it for?
Some LPs sound better than CDs. Some CDs sound better than the same content on LPs. Can you find a clean copy of a given album on LP? Maybe. Is it a good pressing of that LP? Are there important extra tracks on the CD? Is is the best CD remastering, since CD releases can vary in quality dramatically. This is not a simple question.
If you’re in it for the music, there is a lot of great stuff on CD that was never offered on LP. Live jazz recordings for example. There are historic recordings that have been dramatically cleaned up using modern technology that either sound much better than the LP release or were never released on LP, especially classical performances. If you like opera, not only do the CDs often sound better, but that’s many fewer sides to get up and flip.
Availability is key, too. There are "ethnographic" recordings and recordings of the traditional music from around the world that offer a much richer selection on CD. If you have interest in Hindustani and Carnatic music, a CD player is a must.
When I am looking for a piece of music that was recorded in the analog days, I read up on which sounds best. Recommend Steve Hoffman’s forum.
Mind you, I keep a Victrola because some 78s will just never sound as good any other way. Listen to Ellington’s Blanton/Webster recordings or the Paul Whiteman "potato head" 78s or even early bebop in good shape on a quality gramophone- nothing like hearing horns through a horn.
Bottom line: I’m as concerned as anyone about quality of reproduction. But I am in it for the music. I go where the music is.
kren0006: So then, if we can agree that a top $300 digital front end beats a top $300 analog front end, how high up the source cost ladder must one climb before analog overtakes?Millercarbon:
Well my 1976 Technics SL1700 was still in its box in the garage so I dug it out hooked it up and spent the rest of the day flabbergasted how easily this ancient relic clobbered CD. Wife came home and agreed.
What I neglected to mention, the cantilever got bent somehow and was eyeballed straight with pliers. That table was about $325 new in 1976. The California Audio Labs CDP it clobbered was three times the price. So I think it safe to say no amount of money will suffice. Analog, even with a bent cantilever, is street level. The source cost ladder you are talking about for digital does not climb up, it descends down through a manhole into the darkness.
Granted, if what you do is tick off boxes on your typical audiophile checklist then a lot of those cheap old turntables are going to come up short. In fact if you are entrenched to the point of refusing to accept what you hear to the point you require every item on the list to be better, well then I give up you win. Because as we all know all you have to do is say, "noise" and digital wins hands down.
Which is why I said up front the only ones like this are audiophiles. Normal people do not listen with a pencil in one hand and a list in the other. Normal people simply experience music. When that is the criteria records are unbeatable, and its not even close.
I think it costs too much to get a system to play LP's to the level of CD's. LP's were compressed to fit the format. Today I prefer SACD or HiRes Streaming. Most new artists have vastly superior CD's - like 21 Pilots Blurryface - awful on vinyl. John Prine's last album sounded GREAT on LP, but never heard the CD. I have pretty much abandoned vinyl.
My perspective is that cds have always had the potential, and had the advantage spec capacity wise, to outperform vinyl and to be an excellent source medium but have failed to live up to their potential for several reasons.
One of these reasons or issues, as mijostyn already identified, is that the cd record companies virtually forced their recording engineers to mix their cds to attain a higher average SPL level which sacrificed the very good dynamics the digital cd format is capable of, resulting in 'uni volume' and the 'loudness wars'.
The cd format, after all, is just the lowest resolution current version of the lossless digital recording and playback format. As such, it still has numerous distinct advantages over both vinyl and reel to reel tape formats, such as lower distortion, lower noise floor, a greater frequency range and greater dynamics.
I have no reason to doubt teo_audio's claim that there is a fundamental flaw in all current analog to digital converters except for my personal experience listening to hi-res downloads recorded direct to digital and with minimal miking and mixing, mainly from The Sound Liaison Music Shop in Europe.
These are all recorded direct to digital as the music is played live at their fairly large studio that has excellent acoustics. However, I have no idea about the analog to digital conversion technology or equipment they utilize. I've only downloaded the 24 bit/96 KHz FLAC file versions thus far, but all of these recordings are clearly superior to the hundreds of ripped cd recordings on my hard drive. The most obviously superior attributes I notice are an extremely low noise floor, very high levels of detail, stereo sound stage imaging that is very well defined with a natural 'you are there' presentation and the naturally high dynamics normally only perceived on music played and experienced live.
I should also note that I have nothing against vinyl and know it can also be extremely good. I just perceive high resolution digital, that's recorded direct to digital and played back at 24 bit/96 KHz or higher resolution, to be superior in overall sound quality and a heck of a lot more convenient.
I understand that my post doesn't strictly adhere to the OP's thread question, but that's my take on what type of sources I prefer to listen to. I believe the fact that most cds are mixed poorly and very few are recorded direct to digital, explains why their overall sound quality performance level is not consistently superior to vinyl.
It depends on your hearing, or what’s left of it in my case. The point is, play what you enjoy in any format. Life is too short now to become over absorbed in background noise or some other audio imperfections. Have a Coke and put on something that you haven’t hear and imagine yourself in the studio or hall.
even on top notch equipment, i still find surface noise to be bothersome. the odd click or pop startles me like a firecracker would amidst the calm. i find that only PERFECT analog [everything top-drawer and in top spec/adjustment] is "fatigue-free" while all the rest irritates me after a while. when program content analog tape hiss pops up between the comparatively hiss-free [but still broadband-noise-laden] "silent" grooves, that bugs me also, they should IMHO put the hiss all through the record and not just during the music tracks. off-center pressings [the rule rather than the exception, i have found] bug me as the pitch wavers. the pinch effect towards the end [engineer tom dowd expressed frustration with this aspect of LP reproduction] makes the music with the rotten luck of being put there near the end of each side, sound frankly subpar. being a hunter of good old musics, i can't count the number of discs i've found that look shiny clean but have been ruined by blunted needles/accumulated mistracking damage, that are fit only for airborne target practice. for all these reasons plus some others not mentioned here, i much prefer digital, even compressed [not lower than 320 kb/s VBR] digital is preferable to all those aforementioned music-wrecking nasty little hummers.
Thoughts from the dark side.
Of course it is, why do you even need to ask the question. Just look at the hassle you go through to purchase, maintain and play vinyl. Look at the pain you go through to set up a high end turntable! Then there’s finding the perfect pressing or long sought album, only to get it home and find it off centered, warped and twisted with a nice noisy run-out (ah don’t mention surface noise)! Then there’s storage (spare room anyone), cleaning them before use and of course if your are serious you have your ~$3K Degritter record cleaner!
And we are supposed to believe that a Turntable with its power supply, tone arm, cartridge, stylus, tone arm cable, phono cable, phono stage, excluding vodo record mats, dampers and isolation issues is really better?
Hi end vinyl is pressed the same way cheap vinyl used to be - by hand! Modern cheap vinyl is pressed automatically. I used to work for a record pressing company (many years ago) and did Quality Control for the physical presses (rather than the sound quality), so I had plenty of first hand experience of trying to produce decent vinyl and procure it for my collection. Anyone that thinks their vinyl is flat think again!
As soon as Meridian produced their MCD Pro, I stopped buying vinyl and gradually replaced the vinyl I had with CD’s.
So when you say "better", for me it’s never even been a question. And, the quality/musicality of digital audio is (and has been) gradually tracking upwards. Given how long "LP’s" (in their various incarnations) have been around, digital audio is, well not nascent, but still improving.
I’ve been doing studio quality LP to digital (CD) transcription and remastering, often for commercial release, for nearly 25 years. It’s been an interesting and insightful journey.
Technically, there is no reason whatsoever why Red Book CDs shouldn’t be superior to LPs in nearly every respect. Not that it’s perfect, but digital signal communication is superior in essentially all ways to analog.There are far more possible audio pitfalls along the way in the analog production of LPs from initial recording to playback. That the medium has been so perfected over the decades is remarkable.
THAT SAID, there are several often overlooked points where digital sound recording and production can be problematic, and where LPs have some ameliorating features.
FIRST, technically, jitter results from a very slight variation in the sample clock rate. In most cases, jitter is a non-issue that can and should be ignored. HOWEVER, any jitter that occurs during analog to digital conversion becomes hard coded into the digital file and AFAIK there is no way to remove it. Any mathematical manipulation of that jittery file necessarily assumes that the sample rate is completely constant. Thus, jitter can increasingly distort the digital sound as it’s processed, and it gets significantly worse the more times the music is bounced from digital to analog and back to digital as often happens in many studios. For the first few decades, ADC was often very jittery yet this problem was largely ignored. The result was that both DDD recordings and digital sound boards somehow just didn’t "sound right." Current technology has reduced jitter to vanishingly low levels so it’s ceased to be so much of a problem in digital recording for the last decade or so.
SECOND, very well produced and mastered digital recordings can sound unnaturally perfect. No one sits at the perfect distance from every instrument and vocalist in a perfect acoustic environment. Older LPs especially can sound more "real" simply because they haven’t been overly perfected.
THIRD, digital technology is wondrously powerful, but like the sorcerer’s apprentice it’s all too easy for it to be abused and get away from one in manifold ways. The "loudness wars" are but one infamous example. Again, the results can be untoward in ways that were never possible with analog recording and playback.
FOURTH, the types of distortion and significant limitations in analog recordings, LPs especially, are often rather congenial to the ear. Digital recording has a number of other technical concerns besides jitter which, while typically occurring at much lower and minimal levels, can be more subtly disturbing to the ear due to the intrinsic transparency and low noise floor of the digital medium. In this case, digital’s advantage may be something of a disadvantage.
LASTLY, there’s stochastic resonance. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stochastic_resonance_%28sensory_neurobiology%29 Simply put, a certain amount of completely random noise can serve to amplify an otherwise undetectable low level signal. I’ve never seen this considered here, but I believe it’s a very significant reason why many people enjoy LPs and tapes. It’s that low surface noise or tape hiss that allow a person to more sense than hear that "inner detail" or whatever. Stochastic resonance in analog and biological systems is somewhat analogous to dither in digital systems. In any case, I find that completely removing the surface noise from an LP transcription has a rather "deadening" effect to the sound. A small bit of surface noise seems to really help.
There. Enough. Just one more little thing for millercarbon. I just sold my old Technics SL-1700, still in good working order, two months ago. Got good money for it!
Both mediums have their up and down sides. I've largely switched over to Redbook CD's due to several factors, even though to my ears vinyl sounds more natural.
1) The pops, clicks and and other surface noises of vinyl are too distracting and appear even on albums that look to be in perfect condition.
2) As mentioned above, you can play a whole album through without having to get up and flip it over, which does distract you from enjoying what you are listening to. CD's do usually have more playing time too than their vinyl equivalents
3) Used CD's are usually in perfect shape and stay that way. Used records not so much. Used CD's that play flawlessly are readily available at a fraction of the cost of new vinyl records. I don't bother any more with used vinyl due to both the likelihood increased surface noise with age plus used records cost.
4) As mentioned by Gone, above, there appears to be more material available on CD, especially of more obscure recordings.
6. I could be wrong here, but there seems to be a lot of remastered CD's that correct some of the limiting factors of the original vinyl pressings with the remastering onto CD's. I recently read an article of what those factors are, maybe compression, but I can't remember for sure. Maybe someone else here would know.
7 You can't beat the ease of use of CD's, and don't need a record cleaning machine for them like you should use with your records.
Just barely touched on here, but most newer (since the early 80’s) lp’s were mixed from digital recordings. I have done a lot of comparisons over the years. Digital recordings on lp’s have the “vinyl” sound just like those analogue sourced. Thus, the media and playback itself imparts much of the smooth, tonally warm sound. Which sounded best? As I moved up the developmental food gain, from crappy 14 bit early cd’s played on the highly colored but musical Adcom CD player, to the warm, analogue sounding CAL Alpha/Delta RTR player, to the more analytical but more detailed Sony5400 ES SACD player with high-res recordings, analogue records began to be approached or exceeded where I had both digital and analogue media.
The game changer for me was the remastering or initial recording to much higher quality digital high resolution with fewer artifacts, and most importantly the acquisition of a top notch DAC (Schiit Yggdrasil). Now, everything is better with the high res digital recordings, including the sense of space and air. The new DACs are really great. Yes, I am a ladder RTR guy, thanks Mike Moffat. I also note that entry level phono cartridges are in the thousands of dollars for highly fragile and twiddly equipment that is short-lived. The prices seem insane. I miss my $81 Sonus Blues ($375 or so in today’s dollars for SOA in a phono cartridge). The relative value of a Schiit Yggdrasil or Mytek or Chord DAC seems much higher.
Later recordings that were done using digital, CD wins out.
Early recordings that were done analogue vinyl wins out, "until" I put a left to right bleed switch on the output of my CDP/dac that brings the channel separation back down to 30db at best like vinyl, then cd wins out because of no surface noise.
When you "monoize" (down to 30db channel separation) early cd’s like I do with the switch, with early left right ping pong cd’s (Beatles, Beach Boys etc) it gives more body to the bass and mids and a more solid centre image like the vinyl does.