I'm still working to love digital, are you?

I'm wondering how many on this forum are still trying to love the "sound" of digital, as compared to analog. After my 15 long years of digital updates (9 cd players, 3 transports and 5 D/A converters), I still relish the midrange purity and harmonic structure involved with analog, that is not nearly as prevalent in digital. I know that digital gets better every year (I've spent well over $20k myself staying abreast with the latest in digital updates), but digital still doesn't grab my soul the same way that analog does. How many feel the same about analog as I do?
I certainly agree with your viewpoint. At my age however, I have come to understand that I am as addicted to other aspects of vinyl as I am to the sonic superiority. I love flipping through the albums, looking at the cover art, reading the liner notes, feeling the heft of the vinyl and all the rituals associated with the care and feeding of this habit. I've trained myself to be this way for over 35 years and seriously doubt I can ever discover these types of joys in the digital realm. Long live music in whatever playback form.
Happy listening,
The problem with digital is that they are computer technology and they outdated very fast. The $20k that you spent will be worth US$10000 in less than a year. In a few year, it will become something like the 486 computer. Who want a 486 when you can have PIII! Clearly not a very good investment. And the worst is with all those money spent, you are still not happy!
With the $20k, you can get a world class turntable, the best tonearm and the best mc cartridge and they will never outdated! And the sound will be out of this world.........
I don't think the digital crap will ever have this kind of performance.
Well, in some ways it's a moot issue. If you want to listen to almost any new music released in the last 15 years, you have no choice but to go digital.

So, facing reality, I accept digital sound for its strengths and listen past its weaknesses.

Ironically, this is the same approach I take to listening to analog.
Hi Ehider; I like "good" CDs because they sound good in my rig. I have specifically put my stereo system together to sound good with digital, and yes it's expensive, but then so is good analog. But what really begs the question here is why one would beat oneself up trying to "love" a format they obviously do not-- and never have. I would have thought after 5-10 years they would have given up and bought some LPs and a TT and lived happily ever after.

Ghostrider45 puts it in good perspective by noting that each format has it's strengths and weaknesses. Personally after being into digital for a few years (I love the quietnesss and dynamics), I tried going bact to a modest (but decent) TT/LP setup, and quite frankly, I could not listen past the noise inherent in the format, and I'm NOT just talking about "ticks and pops". So, unless you're just trolling for some action, your query is kind of puzzling? Craig
Well I agree with you all. However, I feel digital does not become obsolete that fast, unless you believe all the hype. There are many 18bit and 20bit designs that still hold there own today if subjected to a blind listen. Wanting the latest technology in peoples minds probably causes the constant upgrading more than what is really necessary.

Vinyl is no different. Once you go beyond the classic looks and designs of the Rega, Lynn and other classic turntables; those sci-fi looking turntable designs that cost mega-thousands quickly lose their appeal and value as the "new look" comes out. Also, each time a new version of a big buck cartridge comes out, the old version loses value the same as digital, even though there is really nothing wrong with it.

But no matter; I enjoy both formats very much.

Eric, while i don't mean to come across as being rude, i'm going to ask an honest question here. I know that you are a big fan of Stan Warren products. Knowing that and having read the praises heaped upon his mods to DVD based players ( some of them by you ) as being the finest digital based playback systems made, reading a post of this nature coming from you seems kind of shocking. Are you not running Stan's gear or do you think it still falls that short of analogue ?

Having asked that, i used to think the same thing. Going to tube based DAC's was a big step and then onto a good SS upsampler was even better. While most of the problems with digital ( much like analogue ) are still based on poor recordings, i'm pretty happy with what i'm running now. It might not be anywhere near the ultimate in terms of digital systems, but it is the first time that i've ever been able to say that about ANY form of digital music reproduction.

I will not deny that both formats have their strengths and their weaknesses. I like them both for what they each have to offer. Too bad we don't have the technology to combine the best of both worlds. Sean

In response to your question, yes I'm a big believer in Stan's work. His modifications are world class and produce more analog sounding digital than most other offerings that I've auditioned. This does not change my opinion of digital versus analog sound though.

To me, analog still has a fluidity and harmonic integrity that is less prevalent in digital playback. It's this fluidity that I long for and cherish more than any other part of the musical experience. I've been a musician since I was a child, and have been exposed to both classical and modern music all my life. Being around live instruments for 35 years has me focusing on subtle harmonics and this "fluidity" that defines realism.

I realize that great digital gear has now surpassed analog in many areas (bass authority, image stability, silent backgrounds, etc..). When I listen to digital, I try to embrace and appreciate all that it does right. Unfortunately it still does not stir my soul the same way that analog does. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy digital immensely, I just enjoy analog more emotionally, i.e. "love".

For me, great digital is like having great sex with a perfect looking playboy model that knows all the right moves. Analog is like making love to your soulmate who's not as perfect looking, and not necessarily the absolute best physical lover, but her inherent substance warms your heart and stirs your soul, each and every time you are with her.
Well to avoid such "digital stunt-racing" I've got some analogue and somehow manage to be less active in digital terms -- useless!!!
Hey Eric...most of all that you love about analog *should* be present in hi-res digital (if they ever get their act together). You're missing all of the details that 16 bit audio just can't hold. Some info has to go when the music is transferred to 16 bit, and it ends up being all of the subtle details...all of the little cues that make it more "real" sounding. 16bit technology keeps improving and I know it sounds better and better, but it can only get so good. A certain amount of info is not on the 16bit disc, and no new technology can chage that. I also think part of analog's charm lies in the actual physical contact between the stylus and the groove. The music you hear has no ending...it goes from music to the sound of that contact (even if you can't hear it on your system). All digital has a finite starting point for each sound. The background is silence until a 1 or 0 pops up and the sound begins. It does make for a better listening experience in some ways, but I do think the fact that the noise seems to float, untethered, has a different psycological effect than the analog sounds which are all grounded in physical contact...just like voices, birds, the wind, waves, cars, non-digital instruments, and almost every other sound that we hear everyday. I think that physical beginning is one of the things that we enjoy about analog (consciously, or not), and I don't see how that can ever be present with digital technology...no matter how good the resolution may be.
If you will tolerate a viewpoint from someone firmly in the digital camp, I think Ehider's illustration, just above, is an apt one. After years of listening to both live and recorded music with ears that have generally, sometimes grudgingly, been acknowledged to be pretty good, I find myself among that group of audiophiles who believe that the attraction of tubes and analog is not that they reveal things that digital conceals but that they impart subtle distortions that many people find extremely pleasant.

There is another thread running right now dealing with pro monitors vs. audiophile speakers. Quoted is a classic Stereophile piece by Gordon Holt in which he remarks that the real reason many audiophiles dislike pro monitors is not because they don't sound enough like live music but because they sound too much like live music. He goes on to discuss the subtle distortions that are customarily built into audiophile speakers and why people like them. I won't go on but commend that thread to you for your own reading.

A little case in point, albeit one dealing with tubes. I was listening last Sunday to a CD by Gloria Dei Cantores. I hasten to say that this is NOT a world class ensemble but they are popular with many folks and their music tends to be reasonably well recorded. The listening session began at my house, played through a Rega/Belles/JMLabs system. It migrated to a friend's home where the CD was replayed through a Njoe Tjoeb/CJ/Thiel system. Listening through my SS system, I found myself dissecting the Howells Gloucester Service as I would have done in my days as a singer and conductor, hearing parts, listening for ensemble and intonation, even noting room effects. Listening through my friend's valve system, I was transported to the experience of a cathedral evensong. Both were wonderful experiences. Very different experiences. I can certainly understand why many would find the latter the more "nirvanic" of the two. All that being said, however, there was not the slightest doubt by either of us that the SS reproduction was the more musically accurate, while the tube reproduction was the more euphonious.

A digital example of the same phenomenon: The same friend once played for our comparison an RCA vinyl recording (don't have details at hand) of Biggs playing some overplayed Bach on the Busch-Reisinger organ up at Harvard, followed by a re-release of the same tracks on CD. On the CD, I could listen with delight to the mechanical travails of that wonderful little organ, the nuances of the old man's articulation (how could he play like that with those gnarled, arthritic fingers?), even the uneven voicing of a chiffy flute on the gigue fugue. On the LP, I could sit back and enjoy a concert by a great player at the end of a great career. The vinyl was less accurate, less detailed, less revealing, but certainly more musical in the sense of being a pleasant aesthetic experience. Only the fact that some idiot was frying a pan of bacon in the background kept me from being tempted to dust off the old TT. :)

Please, oh please, don't read this as a flame and start writing polemical rebuttals. I realize that many of my fellow a'goners have invested tons of money in analog and tubes and have done so because they firmly believe they are getting closer to the holy grail thereby. That is precisely my point. Rather than having these endless debates over which is better, let's just talk about which we enjoy and why.

After all, isn't this supposed to be fun?

Eric and Will, i agree with both of your posts and understand EXACTLY where you are coming from. I just happen to think that the defining lines between the "soulmate" and "perfect lover" have become permanently blurred for me within the confines of ONE of my systems. Detail and musicality are now "married" just as two become one when in the throes of mutual passion. When i heard the results that i was getting, i knew that it was "magic". The lack of "prat" and "soul-less-ness" that i had been experiencing with digital had been banished to another realm.

As to what i'm hearing out of the other systems that i have, they still lean towards either the "accurate" or "musical" camps. That invisible barrier that separates those two camps still shows how tough it is to break the wall down and have one unified presentation of everything involved. Sean
when i play records i occasionally get one that sounds really great - no ticks, pops, silent backgroung, no wow/flutter etc and i'm estatic. but what a pain in the ass to get there! i really only listen to vinyl for special performances when the condition of the playback is not relevant and i just want to hear the music. i've tuned my system so that i don't hear the most objectional sounds of cd's. now when i play cd's i just listen to the music also. may not be optimum from a equipment devotee's point of view but it sure lets me get into the music, not the recording artifacts which i can never get away from with vinyl.
I have mixed emotions about digi and analog - I've been into digital for so long that I've accepted its flaws and relished it's strengths. A great digi pressing whether from AAD or DDD is excellent on a great system. A lousy transfer sounds lousy. I was at a buddy's house recently, he has a nice analog rig, tube pre and amp and I couldn't stand the noise, mainly the pops and ticks that I forgot about all those years ago. On the other hand I just bought Peter Gabriel's remastered cd's and they sound like digital shit, especially "So" - pardon my french. fatigue and quick.
Like Sean, if I understand him correctly, I have one foot in each camp and find either camp onesided and sadly incomplete. What I have always worked toward is common ground. At the moment I can tweak my system either way, depending on having the right software. With big orchestral classical music I find software suitable for this rather on vinyl, than on redbook CDs. But since I'm using an upsampler, things are looking up. I do see Will's point, but still contend, that with classical big orchestal music, an analog setup, say top of the line Spectral gear with the right wires and a first class vinyl front end meticulously set up, will put the best digital playback to shame as far as see through accuracy is concerned, because vinyl will bring out subtle details, which CDs simply do not grasp. But then I have not heard his system, nor does he have mine, so I fully share his point of view, that any argumentation along these lines is not only time and energy consuming, but also useless , because it proves nothing. Getting the fine balance within the best of both worlds is a very difficult undertaking. It takes time, an astute ear, a very (self)critical mind, quite a bit of dough and much experimenting. My "solution" for the moment is a mix of different amplification chains, pure SS and pure tube, together with a quite a complex array of speakers (mostly planars), which will be blended together according to the music at hand. It is a solution far from perfect of course,but nearer to anything else I have heard in blending both aspects together. This has evolved slowly through the years , this quest for the best of both worlds. I love it, and as Will rightly says, that's all what counts.
I'm alright, you're alright. Alright? Digital is digital. Analog is analog. LPs are the sore point. A diamond stylus gouging its way through vinyl at every turn of the table. Argh.
Okay, I know that I'm likely to suffer some slings and arrows posting this, but fire away (don't get too personal, please) because I believe this is important. I admit that I don't have the most whiz bang audio system by a long shot (It's trailing edge) but the totality of the enjoyment is huge. I recently purchased here on Audiogon a used active system and must say that everything is more musical. It's hard to describe but I'll try. First, all but the worst recordings are enjoyable in the ways we are all looking for; three dimensional sound stage....wide, tall and deep. Second, harshness (digital and poor vinyl) and background noise (vinyl) is reduced by a huge degree. Third, music simply washes over you. Fourth, the feeling is that it is effortless. Fifth, as a result of the other benefits you will play and enjoy music that you love but can't stand to listen to. Put another way, most, if not all, of the annoying characteristics of a not-so-stellar recording are dimenished more than I can describe.

Assuming that most of the fine folks here are somewhat open minded I suggest the following: Grab three examples of each vinyl and CD. You should have you best, so-so and worst case of each format. Find an active system to audition your software. Then report back in the forums what you experienced.

My guess is that many of you will be listening to waaaay lesser systems than you own and I ask that you only compare the active vs. standard crossover in the same system used in auditioning. Somehow, reference mentally the differences if applied to your own equipment.

I have become quite satisfied with digital sources even on what most would consider a rather mediocre playback device. This concept has become quite an equalizer in my own system, and this is coming from a vinyl guy.

I may as well confess to owning an all Linn system. I know that there are "better" turntables, "superior" solid state and "finer" speakers than what I own. I only know that now when I try to be a critical listener I can't focus on that for long but find myself listening to the music instead.

Sorry if I sound like I've gotten religion here. It's that big an improvement, though.

Happy listening,
You don't sound at all like you've gotten religion, lugnut. You sound just as you should sound: Someone happy with his equipment and enjoying his music. Long may you wave.
Sixteen bit CDs were certainly the 8-tracks of the 90's. They had very little to offer other than, as pointed out before, they were the only source for new music, hardly a ringing endorsement of sound quality. Appologists for the CD always rattle off the great strengths of the medium, strengths that rarely gell into a complete and unified whole.
Although I find myself sharing Eric's views in the digital/analog comparison debate, I'm not trying to learn to "love digital." I'm hoping that I can improve my digital playback equipment so that someday it will bring me as much pleasure as my analog playback equipment because there is so much wonderful music available on digital media that is not (or no longer) available on vinyl. Thus, for me, whether or not digital is more "musically accurate" than analog (with the greatest respect for Will's opinion, I think not), or whether or not analog provides more "comfortable sex" than digital, are regretfully irrelevant questions. Unless you have no interest in listening to anything but stuff you already have, one really has little choice but to jump on the digital bandwagon and rejoice at every practical improvement.

Still, being from the analog camp - I must end by saying that if you've never heard a good analog set-up and have a chance to do so, do yourself a favor . . .

Ron. In the same sort of thread a good while back, I asked a vinylist (is that a word, I like it...) who posed this sort of challenge (again is that the right word?) what was his suggestion insofar as a tt/arm/cartridge combo that is a must hear and insofar as decent recordings to feed that thing with for such a test, but the gentlemen never got back to me. Therefore, I ask you the same question: what should I track down and listen to in order that I convince myself of the musical superiority of the analog tt over digital cd ?

Very few local shops have any anlog rigs set up for audition. Will I hit upon a correctly set up rig, or will the out be, as is so often cited, that the package did not gel in some way and my audition should be disregarded? Can I go with any kind of vinyl recording or should I limit my audition to mint special pressings of music with a steady musical content?

An answer to my first question is all I actually need. The rest probably tips my hand a bit.

And, for the record, I have kept a tt in my system, for what I can, pompously, call archival reasons. I just wonder how good vinyl can actually be without my having to spend a bundle and feel that I have to bail out or else justify my purchase by smiling sweetly.

Whatever tool you use, may the art of the music itself shine through.

I anticipation of your answer, I remain ...
Further to sexual metaphors, perhaps digital is more like paying for a "date" from a mercenary escort service.

Aggressively marketed, at a glance looks "perfect", supposedly technically superior, but in the end, a mechanical, soulless, overpriced and deeply unsatisfying experience.

(Not that I would know -- but that's what I read on the internet and what my bachelor buddies tell me....)

Before you suggest that analogue is the overpriced option, remember that we could make the same argument about a loving wife. So I suppose it's about long term value and happiness.

I am still working to love digital and it hasn't happened yet.

But I did finally buy that Sony SCD-1 yesterday and I will keep you posted.....