Is vinyl still a "perfect" source?


I'm after your thoughts on this one...
Recently I've started thinking about getting back into vinyl as a source, but nowdays an LP is no longer a true representation of the original analog studio sound as it used to be, since 99% of recordings these days are done digitally in the first place. That of course means the music has to go through a DA converter before becoming a record, which I assume means some of the original analog sound is gone.
Have any of you noticed a loss of recording quality in vinyl over the past few years because of this?
carl109
It's never been a "perfect" source to begin with. Yes, anything that is recorded or mastered digitally is no longer an analogue recording: what you wind up with is digital and the weakest link of LP playback, the grooved vinyl itself. Hardly a recommendation. So, unless one already has a library of vinyl records or is intent on buying someone's collection or is patient enough to sort the grain from the chaff to only buy real analogue LPs, I would simply say give the turntable kick a pass.
Except as noted
Perfect? Sure is..... if you can find the titles you want, can put the time and money into setting it up and maintaining it correctly, can get past the spoils of digital convenience, but if you can deal with all these concerns it can sound fantastic and it sure is cool to own, collect and play vinyl!
Still "perfect"? I've got bad news for you, it never was, and probably never will be.
There is a good deal of excellent AAA vinyl being made today. But by far the joy of my analog rig is finding those 1$ garage sale specials which are wounderful and superior to garden variety redbook in my system. Of course if your taste runs exclusively to current day pop this might not apply.

If you are into audiophilia then source is everything - having analog and digital souces gives you more choice of excellent source material. If you don't have big $$$ an inexpensive vinyl rig plus budget vinyl source can give you a good deal of satisfaction. And chase those digital blues away!
This world's an imperfect place. There are screws falling out all over the place. Yet with a good rig, vinyl is sonically as "perfect" as your going to get. Unless of course you're inviting your favorite musicians over for dinner and a little live event...

Happy Listening!
I agree regarding the digitally recorded masters. There is no benefit to transferring them to vinyl versus CD (or SACD or DVD-A). My vinyl acquisitions are restricted to those made from analog masters...primarily those made pre-1982.
I've come upon an interesting finding of late... It seems that when I play my vinyl through my VMPS RM30 speakers using the digital NuForce Reference 9SE amps that I get noticeably tighter, faster, and more articulate bass than I do from my digital (or any other digital source I've heard, and I've heard quite a few good ones). And this quality has been noticed with two different turntables (a BIX and a Michell Tecnodec) with two different cartridges. Of course the midrange and highs are quite good too; it just strikes me that the bass is the "standout" band...
Seems like an issue with the playback component/preamplifier match, and not the format.
I would not let the sound quality of today's pressinsg dissuade you from deciding to use vinyl as a source. There are plenty of high quality pressings from Pure Audiophile, Pure Analog and MFSL and a slew of others that are pressing great quality records today. Better yet, there are millions and millions of old records laying around for you to pick from.

In regards to standard re-issues today, pass them up, my luck with any of the later re-issues standard pressings is that they do exhibit a totally digital signature that sounds like crap compared to most the pre 1990 albums. Not all records were pressed using digital electronics pre 1990, it is a crap shoot to actually find and isolate which ones, however, even then, the digital recordings sounded better then they do today.

I guess the best way to describe the signature of the pure digital pressings of today, is that they sound flat, with an uplift in the mid and treble and bass, so you end up with oversaturation of the entire audio band with a flat image, less depth and soundstage that is missing and a totally unatural sound, I can't stand listening to most of the re-issues, my ears can't take it. Skip the Black Sabbath EARMARK pressings, they sound way off the mark compared to the original pressings, in which case you can find for several dollars compared to the $30 or so for the new pressings. As you get into this hobby more, you will notice and realize and find out for your self what sounds better and what vinyl sound you prefer more, don't let my experiences or anyones else's personal opinions dissuade you, just do it. I found that there is a big difference in the sound quality of the earlier pressings compared to after the 90's, with the pre 90's sounding better.

This is a hobby, so like any other hobby, investment in time and money should be considered beforehand. I have been using vinyl as my source since I was 12, I am going on 44 soon. Seen the CD and MP3 revolution, passed it up entirely. Use both for working around the house or traveling in the car. It is fun to go to a flea market and look for older records and pick the ones you want or do the same at record stores. E-bay does sell many records and you can get a look at some prices for records in the Album price guide and some other books. Mostly, if you enjoy tweeking and looking for records, then you should be fine, as your collection grows, you might want to invest in a record cleaning machine to help clean those dirty records you do find.

Good luck,
Audioquest4life
Vinyl never was a perfect source, and we all know the vinyl bugaboos such as static buildup, tracking angle distortion, compression as the groove nears the center, etc.

I'd say a better source would be 2-channel 1/4" audio tape running at 7.5 ips or faster. But nobody makes pre-recorded analog open reel tapes any more, and even when they did, they didn't sound all that good because they used cheap noisy tape and high speed reproduction made them noisier and (I think) more compressed.

For all their faults, LPs can provide a really satisfying playback quality that communicates the emotion of the performance with ease.

As for LP versions of digital recordings, I STILL prefer the LPs over the CD versions. Digital recordings today are made at 88.2 KHz sampling or higher--up to 2.7 MHz for DSD. Many are made at 24/96 KHz or 24/192 KHz.

As Michael Fremer said, which would you rather listen to--an analog master made through a professional quality DAC at full resolution, or a CD dithered down to 16/44.1 KHz and decoded through a mass market DAC?

I can tell that digitally recorded LPs are missing a little something compared to analog-recorded LPs, but they still have more treble smoothness and more body to the melody-carrying instruments and voices than the CD version.

LPs are at their best playing back music that was recorded, mixed, and mastered in the analog realm. A CD reissue of an LP recorded between 1958 and 1985 can't hold a candle to the LP. With albums digitally recorded after about 1990, the difference between the CD and LP is closer, but I still prefer the LP.
Thanks Johnnyb53, where you said, "As for LP versions of digital recordings, I STILL prefer the LPs over the CD versions. Digital recordings today are made at 88.2 KHz sampling or higher--up to 2.7 MHz for DSD. Many are made at 24/96 KHz or 24/192 KHz.", that's some of the information I was looking for.
I had thought that studio digital masters might be made at a much higher rate than 44.1kHz (I assumed 96kHz) and that therefore a well-made vinyl copy should retain more orginal info than a normal CD, but wasn't sure.
Thanks to all for their helpful replies!
LP is just a "nostalgia" medium.
Things were never better than in the 'old days'.
I OWN 10,000 LPs, have two turntables etc..
But for folks thinking about getting into LP either again, or for the first time.. you are nuts! (IMO of course)
ONLY if you inherit a LP collection, or have an easy cheap source to collect vinyl.. thne go ahead. Otherwise, you will just be buying stuff you will soon sell to the old farts who still cherish LP.
Playing LPs is a passion. They take way more care, time and effort to play.. and unless you are dedicated, you will soon get bored and wonder what the hell the fuss was about.
Elizabeth, you're right now. Here's a good example. I'm between amps right now so can't play anything (I don't have a CDP). However, I was looking forward to a quiet evening in the basement with some good beer, the radio and cleaning a bunch of records I got two weeks ago. It took me two hours to clean about fifteen records (I do it by hand - steaming, modified hand-held wet/dry vac, etc.) but it was great!!!
04-07-07: Elizabeth
LP is just a "nostalgia" medium.
Things were never better than in the 'old days'.
I OWN 10,000 LPs, have two turntables etc..
But for folks thinking about getting into LP either again, or for the first time.. you are nuts!

Why? I got into vinyl 3 years ago, and bought almost all the classical reissues and I could not be more happy. IMHO the reissues, I am talking about classical music only, are far better than the original ones. One of the reason is that you have to get a 40+ year old, pristine 1S/1S vinyl for a affordable price. Which even if it is sealed, can have all the downsides of vinyl, like scratches, clicks and pops etc. If I buy a reissue and I am not satisfied I return it. And because of the low production today almost every reissue is 1S/1S.

To my knowledge they are not digital recorded/mastered. Just go to http://www.speakerscorner.de/ and under Help click on FAQ. And in my system and to my ears the sound is the closest to my reference system (The Jacksonville Jacoby Hall with the JSO) I can get.

Rudy
04-07-07: Elizabeth
LP is just a "nostalgia" medium.
Things were never better than in the 'old days'.
To me, CDs and LPs are analogous to shirts made of no-iron polyester vs. 100% cotton.

The no-iron polyester is more convenient as it doesn't require prep time; you can pull the shirt from the dryer and put it on right away. The cotton shirt requires several minutes of ironing and more meticulous handling to preserve the creases and not re-introduce wrinkles before you put it on.

Polyester wearers are punished for the convenience by having to wear a polyester shirt all day, which can be scratchy, doesn't breathe well with your skin, and seems to soak up and radiate armpit stink more efficiently.

Cotton shirt wearers are rewarded for those few minutes of ironing and handling by getting to wear a soft, comfortable, breathable shirt all day long.

The point of a shirt is to wear it to look and feel good all day. The point of playing recorded media is for enjoyment and to be moved by the performance.

Records take more care, but I am rewarded with an organic, emotionally engaging sound that puts a smile on my face. CDs are more convenient, but the performances engage me only on rare occasions, and many times the digital edginess and bleached sound makes it a relief to turn the stereo down or off.

I listen to music to be moved by it. This is something that LPs do easily and often. It is something that CDs do fitfully and seldom.
Dear Carl: +++++ " Have any of you noticed a loss of recording quality in vinyl over the past few years because of this? " +++++

Almost all the today LP's production are re-issues that are 100% analog. Most of the today LP recording are anolog ones and only a few ones are digital recorded.

No, there is no loss of recording quality other than ( in some recordings ) poor production/remastering.

The vinyl never been and never will be a perfect source/medium, nothing is, but the quality music sound reproduction through vinyl is ( IMHO and other than master tapes ) today still the best way to be " there ", to feel the music and to developt very high emotions that only through this medium you can achieve.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul.
8 tracks were gone.
Cassettes were gone.
R2R were gone.
DAT were gone.
SACD is going soon and nobody can read/listen to CD 50 years later.

I think LPs are really close to perfect. I can still play a 50 years old mono LP and sounds wonderful.
many modern issues are put out on vinyl from analog (not digital) mixes

some old analog recordings were digitally remastered and shoul be avoided DMM Blue Note Reissues come to mind (Toshiba Japanese) King Japan are analog
OTOH, the only reason to avoid digitally recorded (not re-mastered) Chesky LP's is to avoid driving up the prices until I can fill out my collection. ;-) The few I have already are superb.
Contrary to what has been posted here, I believe that very, very few of the modern re-issues/recordings are 100% pure analog. The great majority of them, even if all analog until the last nanosecond, are subjected to a digital delay in the final stages of the cutting/mastering process. That is not to say that they are not significantly better than a record which has been subjected to more digital manipulation in the recording chain, but it is certainly why most of the re-issues do not stand up to the originals particularly in terms of dynamics and air (notwithstanding noise and groove damage issues which may be present on the originals and may be another factor in anyone's buying decision).

All that being said, I'd still rather take my chances with vinyl, but I'm not really interested in paying big bucks for new vinyl that has been digitally remastered and/or recorded.
"That is not to say that they are not significantly better than a record which has been subjected to more digital manipulation in the recording chain, but it is certainly why most of the re-issues do not stand up to the originals particularly in terms of dynamics and air (notwithstanding noise and groove damage issues which may be present on the originals and may be another factor in anyone's buying decision).

All that being said, I'd still rather take my chances with vinyl, but I'm not really interested in paying big bucks for new vinyl that has been digitally remastered and/or recorded."

This is absolutely right and I agree wholeheartedly. I will continue to look for original albums over the reissues unless it is impossible to find. Kudos goes to the record companies for at least trying to issue LP's again to those of us who use vinyl as our source, even if their is a slight touch of digititis in the mix.
V/r
Audioquest4life
“Perfect” means a lot of different things to different people. Nothing is perfect, that said, Lps are relatively speaking, the most outstanding source of high fidelity reproduction in the modern world.

Trust me, the problem is in most folks TT rigs and not the vinyl, old, new, or reissue, the vinyl is still THE greatest overall consumer medium available. I find that vinyl continues to show with each improvement to our turntables that there is still more untapped music and nuance to be mined from those grooves.

Now whether or not someone will want to fund a good analog source or not and deal with the complexities of the medium is a whole different issue. No one suggested it was the cheapest or easiest.

There is still good vinyl, great vinyl, and yes, bad vinyl today as there always was BUT, again, most of the time it’s the turntable that is lacking, not the vinyl IMHO.

Happy Listening!
04-08-07: R_f_sayles
There is still good vinyl, great vinyl, and yes, bad vinyl today as there always was BUT, again, most of the time it’s the turntable that is lacking, not the vinyl IMHO.

I'm finding this out more and more with my first TT rig in 25 years. My current TT setup is much better than anything I had in the old days, but is definitely entry-level (Technics SL1210 M5G, Shure M97xE or Ortofon OM 10) compared to a lot of the rigs you guys have.

Still, I am totally blown away by how good vinyl generally sounds. Many of the same LPs that I thought sounded mediocre in the '70s sound really good to me now, with low noise, lots of slam, deep, full bass, smooth treble, and dynamic range.

And much of the vinyl I listen to now is from the 99-cent bins at used record stores. I clean them up and they sound fine. For a sanity check, I occasionally play the LP and CD versions for my wife, and to her, "there's no comparison" (her words) in favor of the LPs.
Even though we have digital source, remastered recording, Lps, cd's tubes etc. Our ears listen to analog sound, just my 2cts. I recently did the switch to vinyl hopefully the journey will be fun but I have alot to learn and hopefully I will have the patience to committ
Vinyl and CD share have a lot in common. Both are media which became popular with the public because of the convenience and lower cost (cheap to manufacture) than available alternatives. The lp was a cheap and convenient alternative to reel-to-reel tape; the CD to lp.

I have a lot on lp that is not available on CD, and a lot of lps, jazz in particular, clearly sound better than the
CD reissue. This is also true of a lot of pop/rock reissues. Whether the master tapes have gone bad, or the mastering is just different these days, I don't know, but I am MUCH more pleased with classical CD reissues.

That said, if I had to give up one or the other, I would give up on LPs first. I have FAR fewer lps that cannot be found on CDs than CDs never issued on lp. Almost no new classical releases come on lp, and frankly, if they do, I would still go with the CD. I like the long, uninterrupted "sides" of CD (I have a Taneyev CD that is more than 82 minutes long), I like the ease of finding my place in an opera libretto by using the track number, and the huge dynamic range of classical music does make noise intrusive during quiet passages on lp.
Larryi, your last paragraph echoes my sentiments exactly...including the statement about intrusive noise during quiet passages of classical music. Personally, I cannot go back to listening to classical music on vinyl. My vinyl listening is restricted to jazz and rock.