I have a few of these and they are very nice recordings so I wouldn't necessarily avoid them. In general I think they are better than the CD but I tend to prefer vinyl to cd anyway. But as always it is recording dependent.
Some of my favorite performances are on such records, for example, nearly all of Hogwood's output on l'Oiseau Lyre and most of Harnoncourts's survey of the Bach cantatas. I have both CD and LP copies of many such. In my system (listed) not only is the vinyl far superior to the CD, it rivals or exceeds the best analog-recorded LP's. I routinely use such recordings for critical listening, equipment comparisons, etc. They're among the best LP's I own.
Its an error to assume that *recording* digitally necessarily impairs sonics. Most of the problems we hear result from flawed *playback* technologies, not from the recording. The worst case, obviously, is highly compressed MP3. Next worst is Redbook CD. SACD is better. At the top end, I have DVD-As, Blu-ray HD discs and digitally recorded LPs that rival or exceed any analog-recorded LP for sonics. There's nothing inherently inferior in a digitally recorded source.
Vinyl mastering/cutting engineers could and did ignore the bit-rate compression and brickwall filters mandated by the CD Redbook standard. Those are the primary causes of crappy CD sound. They don't affect vinyl releases at all.
I have ~4,000 LPs and many of the best were recorded digitally. Don't hesitate.
Many thanks! This opens up a world of new wonders - Pinnock's Brandenbergs, Gilbert & Schiff playing the Well Tempered Klavier, Uchida's Mozart Sonatas, Brendel's Haydn sonatas etc...
There are a tremendous number of outstanding classical performances on record from the 1980's available on 'digital vinyl'. I will avoid them no longer!
Some digital Vinyl is indeed good but when I see one of those, I look first for a
CD for that title. Sounding good in vinyl also sounds good with the silver disc
(those who do that mastering and know how to do it, can't ruin the digital
process). Most of the Dire Straits vinyl for example is digital and it
sounds good. But when you go back to their first cuts on Vinyl, you can hear the
difference at once (maybe it is System dependent, but generally it is the way it
is), the musical flow is different.
Neil Young once said, listening to digital is like having a shower with thousands
of tiny ice cubes, listening to vinyl is having the shower with water. I don't make
a religion out of it, but when only digital mastering is available, I go for CD.
Telarc is famous for early digital classical...but most of the majors such as RCA, EMI, Denon, etc were releasing digital recordings during this era pre cd....as with most audiophile classical...they incorporated the best equipment at the time...and these are readily available for cheap at most thrift, lp shops....
What exactly was Neil Young comparing? Source tapes? MP3s? CDs? Without knowing what he was talking about his remark was cute but meaningless. If he thought he was describing *all* digital, he was just wrong.
With regard to Dire Straits, I agree that their digitally recorded LP's sound like ice cubes vs. water, but that's not true of classical recordings from the late 70's and early 80's. Whatever mistakes Dire Staits and their studio made were not made in those studios. Every such LP I own sounds better than the same recording on CD.
Note to Toronto416:
The complex harmonics of early/Baroque instrument recordings present a fierce challenge for a vinyl setup. In fact, they're one of my acid tests and most components fail.
It took my partner and me years of work and not a little cash to get a rig and phono stage that could reproduce baroque instruments decently. Beware, if those instruments sound strident or squawky on vinyl compared to the CD it's not the fault of the vinyl. It's the fault of the vinyl playback system. Be prepared for some hard work, but once you get there it's worth it.
At Easter I played Hogwood's rendition of Handel's 'Messiah', a digital recording on six LP sides. The tears were streaming down my face, but not from any problem with the sonics! ;)
You will find a Fangroup for everything :-)
... reading Neil Youngs Authorized Biography written by Jimmy McDonough (it's 738 pages)...
At one point Neil talks to JM about Digital versus Analog .... here is the exerpt:
JM: How did digital get over if it sucks so bad?
NY: Promotion. Nobody realized digital wasn't as good-because it wasn't an obvious problem. It was more obvious after you listended a while. The first time, "Hey - no hiss, wow great!" You didn't realize there was no sound until a little while later.
JM: I notice I can't listen to as much music on CD.
NY: Right. It hurts. Did you ever go in a shower and turn it on and have it come out tiny little ice cubes? Thats the difference between CD's and the real thing - water and ice. It's like gettin' hit with somethin' instead of havin' it flow over ya. It's almost taking music and making a weapon out of it - do physical damage to people without touching them. If you wanted to make a weapon that would destroy people, digital can do it OK?
I found a digitally recorded jazz LP on my shelf from 1988 on the Canadian Sackville label. Jim Galloway, Ralph Sutton, Milt Hinton & Gus Johnson playing 'A Tribute to Louis Armstrong'. It is a real gem musically, and sounds wonderful. I am encouraged by this!
I look forward to delving into baroque recordings from the early 80's. This is going to be fun!
I have put together what I think is an excellent system: Nottingham Space 294 TT, Transfiguration Phoenix cart, Luxman 509u integrated amp, and Verity Audio Parsifal Ovation speakers. Many thanks to John at My Kind of Music in Toronto, and to excellent advice from Audiogon as well.
I also have a Luxman D-06 cdp, but I have not used it much since my TT arrived in March. CDs have their place as so much became available on them in the post vinyl era, but it is wonderful to delve into that which did originally come out on vinyl.
And almost as important as a TT is my Keith Monks RCM. It makes 40 or 50 year old lps in decaying paper sleeves sound better than new, and removes the deep seated gunk - the effort is worth it, even with new vinyl.
We must all be crazy to put ourselves through all this fuss - but how does it differ from obsessing over gourmet food and fine wines? Well, good food and wine taste even better when vinyl is spinning...
Fangroups everywhere, true enough. Believe it or not, some people are even fans of Neil Young! :-D
As I suspected, he was talking about CDs, which doesn't address the OP's question. I wonder... did Neil what'shisname ever hear a Telarc or l'Oiseau Lyre LP record?
+1 on the Keith Monks. I use a "cheap" knockoff, the Loricraft, and yes... we're all crazy.
I have many and probably most of the early Telarc vinyl releases, and indeed many of them are outstanding.
Much of the credit for their sonic quality can be attributed to the "purist" microphone techniques they used. Rather than placing a forest of microphones in close proximity to the performers, as many of the major labels did, they used just two or three or so high quality omni mics placed at significantly greater distances. In addition to the inherent sonic advantage that approach can provide regardless of the recording technology that is used, it reduced the amount of high frequency energy being picked up that might otherwise have brought out to a greater degree some of the shortcomings of digital recording technology, especially in its early implementations, such as the effects of sharp-rolloff anti-aliasing filters.
I should add, though, that in a few of their releases that relatively distant mic placement resulted in what I found to be disappointingly "swimmy" acoustics.
A few other classical labels that come to mind as having in those days put out some very good digitally recorded classical releases on vinyl, if memory serves, were Hyperion, Chandos, Nimbus, and Deutsche Harmonia Mundi.
Oh, and if your system can't handle brief dynamic peaks that may reach 100 db or more at the listening position, without amplifier clipping or other issues, beware of that Telarc bass drum!
Although I would strongly disagree with Doug that digital recording is not inherently flawed, I do agree with him on his digital vinyl selections. Al also has some great ones, and he is spot on in his discussion of why the Telarc recordings were better. Many musicians still consider those some of the best digital recordings ever made. I would certainly say that early digital sounds better on vinyl. The performances are always the top priority for me, and really should be for any music lover, and there are a great many of them. Two from the early digital years that immediately come to mind not mentioned so far are Claudio Abbado's Mahler cycle (DG, not known for their sound quality, in fact sometimes the reverse) and also Charles Dutoit's many excellent recordings with the Montreal Symphony.
Often, the extreme macro dynamics are the most distinctive feature about most early digital recordings on vinyl such as several from Telarc that I recall compared to others, including same recordings on CD, where the format puts a limit on dynamics to some extent.
Some of the early Telarc recordings on vinyl are very good test records to determine the tracking ability of a vinyl rig. IF they do not mis-track totally, break-up or audibly distort during the loud passages, your vinyl rig is in good shape as well as your amps ability to drive your speakers in terms of dynamic headroom.
Learsfool, I agree there are inherent flaws in digital recording technology, as there are in every technology. Sorry if I gave a different impression. The last thing I'd want to be is a digital apologist, lol!
Of course there are flaws in analog recording technology too, albeit different ones that are less objectionable to many ears. Still, if I play an analog recording for a young person, the first thing they invariably notice is the tape hiss. Most of us grew up hearing that and we listen through it without even thinking, but if you've never heard it before it really grabs your attention (especially if you have a youngster's HF sensitivity).
Anyhow, we all seem to agree that early digital recordings of classical on vinyl are highly listenable. The flaws noted by Almarg in a few Telarc LPs were flaws of microphone selection and placement, not anything inherent in digital or analog recording.
The early digital classical LPs have the advantage that they were probably mastered from the native mode of the digital recording, and definitely done through a pro-quality DAC. With CDs, regardless of the original sampling rate and word length, the mastering is downconverted to 16/44.1 and most of the market plays it back through an inexpensive DAC or built-in chipset. With LPs you're usually playing back a high quality analog made from a full-res master.
I do remember a digitally recorded classical record I bought for my brother that I thought was a bit brash, but the ones that I own (including Josh Bell, The Planets, some classical guitar) all sound good--low noise floor, good dynamics and clarity, reasonably rich and full sounding. I do like a full analog signal chain better, but I won't avoid an LP at $2-4 because it's digital, and I end up enjoying many of them very much.
05-22-12: Johnnyb53Johnny makes a good point. The Soundstream digital recorder which Telarc used in those days was 50 kHz/16 bits, as Phasecorrect mentioned earlier, but the difference between 50 kHz and 44.1 kHz sampling is more significant than it may seem from a numerical standpoint (even putting aside differences in implementation quality).
44.1 kHz sampling means that the anti-aliasing filter that precedes A/D conversion has to cut off all frequencies above 22.05 kHz, which only allows about a 10% margin relative to the highest frequency (20 kHz) that is intended to be captured accurately. 50 kHz sampling, on the other hand, allows an anti-aliasing cutoff frequency of 25 kHz, which increases that 10% figure to 25%. That represents a considerable relaxation of the sharpness of the filter rolloff that is necessary, which (everything else being equal) can be expected to significantly reduce the side-effects the filter may have at audible frequencies.
Also, I should add to the comments in my earlier post that (as Mapman alluded to) another major reason for the sonic quality of the early Telarc's was the fact that they applied far less dynamic range compression to their recordings than was typical of releases from the major labels, if indeed they applied any at all. Which means that you'll play them with the volume control set to a higher position than it would be set to for most other recordings. Which will make that bass drum even louder :-)
Just want to remind all about the once popular notion that digital Lps would destroy the bearings of turntables, as 'proven by certain folks back in the day..
After much bruhah over it, turned out no bearings were ever hurt by digitally based LPs.
To this day some folks are gun shy about digitally based Lps.
I am not one of them.
There are no black and white truths on this issue. Some digitally mastered LPs sound very good; some sound nearly as bad as early CDs. The earlier the digital mastering the greater the risk of bad sound. No surprise there. Mastering engineers found ways to work around the digital limitations.
A couple months ago my local college jazz radio station got rid of all their LPs since they hadn't been played for a number of years. I visted the station and walked away with a large box of jazz LPs mostly from the 1985 to 1988 time period. I suspect the station got them as freebies when record labels were trying to promote FM playing time. The records are almost all in pristine condition and nearly all of them were digitally mastered. SOME of them have excellent sound quality but most of the major label records have some pretty obvious digital colorations.
There was a box of free records to pick through at the last audio show I attended. One of the ones I picked was a mid 80's digital classical recording on Angel records. Ughh. The price was right! Not horrible really, but definitely below par.
So yeah, as usual, it is hard to make accurate generalizations and YMMV with digital vinyl as with most all else in audio.