it all sounds good, but.....

So, I've been building up my system...(theta miles, art audio px25, cain-cain single horn bens). it sound great, but it doesnt sound real. every upgrade I've made makes small differences. the only time ive heard a dramatic difference is when an LP was playing.

i've heard plenty of sub $20k systems, but they dont sound real, unless an LP is playing. i really dont think its the amp or the speakers... Im thinking its the digital/redbook source.

are there any digital sources that sound real? or do I have to get into LPs?
I think you answered your own question...
Real may be what you are used to or grew up with. Stick with LP's and you will be happy. Digital does not replicate anything close to Vinyl.
A great DAC can do wonders. I'm thrilled with my Dodson 217 Mark II D with 218-like upgrades.
I found a lot of the "high end" CD players sound more uptilted and artificial...and less like analog. For example, the Meridian G)7 or Naim CDX, sans power supply were both disappointing in my systems. The most musical player that I have used in my systems is the EAD 2000, a 20 bit player. This player will never leave my system alive.
I think many members of this forum would agree that the question of whether LP's sound better or more "real" than digital sources of reproduced music is soley a personal preference and choice. Some "philes" absolutely prefer to listen to only vinyl and others want nothing to do with LP's and stick with CD's, etc. For me personally, I sold my Rotel turntable and all of my LP's about 1-1/2 years ago and couldn't be happier to be rid of them. But that's just my own personal preference. Only you can make that choice. Good luck.
I have to agree, the resolution of a good LP playback system is truly the best, IMHO.
I'm sure you can get a CDP or transport/DAC to your liking. But it's expensive. However, so is a good turntable/arm/cartridge.
the only thing that sounds real is real. don't expect reality from a stereo system. listen to live music, preferably unamplified.

a signal travels through a microphone, microphone cable, recording device, media, then it travels through some components before it reaches your ear. so many steps=distortion, inaccuracy and not reality.
Check out Wadia.
Indeed, I have to agree with Pawlowski132. There's nothing like vinyl. Get some awesome albums. The 180g or 200g pure vinyl albums sound quite wonderful. When you can pick up those pressed on 200g, one-sided, on 45T, you will forget all about digital and find it sounding cold and distant. The more I listen to vinyl, the more I think digital isn't that good at all. Digital is perfect when you use it in a computer system, but in a home hi-end system, there's nothing more wonderful than the sound of vinyl, pops and cracks included. Don't spend too much on digital gear, buy a pile of vinyl records instead. You won't regret it. Trust me. Tubes and horns simply shout vinyl. So don't worry about it, and just play those records! Good Luck!
Once you listen to LP's, it's tough to listen to other sources for natural sound.
Either avoid LP's altogether, or give up.
first of all, you've got a great digital frontend.
While horns have their pluses a good pair of full range dynamic speakers can change your opinion for the better;me thinks.
thanks for all the responses.

It is sounding like LPs are the easiest and maybe only way to get REAL sounding music(not real as in imaging, spacing, etc., but for a clarinet to sound like a clarinet, alto sax to sound like an alto sax, etc.). I used to play different instruments, so i know what i'm hearing just doesnt sound right... I've even heard $70k systems with digital front ends... its sounds great/good/pleasing/almost 3d/etc., but not real.

Reason for this thread, is b/c a lot of the other threads on high-end front ends make it sound like they are reproducing real sounding music... i guess not.
Although all the responses offer valid points, I would take this more in the direction of Avguygeorge, and suggest looking at the speaker/amp combo and dynamics. However, finding the right combo for a "realistic" presentation could be significantly dependent on your music preferences, which you did not state. Rather than go looking for the holy grail, you might want to first take some of your favorite cd's and go listen to them on your friend's systems or at your local dealer's to get a better feel for the type of sound you are looking for.
I have to say, that while LP is great, that great digital is available. IMHO, you should try other speakers than single drivers. All single driver speakers are colored and cannot reproduce all music accurately. If you listen to primarly acoustic or real simple stuff without much bass or much complex music passages then yea, you may be ok with the single drivers. But, you will grow tired of them. At first they are amazing because of there transparency but, after a while you will put on something that demands more than they can handle and it will be very obvious. Been there ,done that. You can get a speaker that's just as transparent and be able to reproduce more music accurately. Sorry for the spelling mistakes.
I've even heard $70k systems with digital front ends... its sounds great/good/pleasing/almost 3d/etc., but not real.

You obvioulsy prefer Vinyl. Nothing wrong with that. All audio reproduction is limted to what the studio engineer can achieve on a given format. And it never perfectly equals real live music although both Vinyl and Digital can sound good (but different) - given a great mix and great master.

Your choise of speaker indicates that you prefer a certain type of sound. Nothing wrong with that. Just recognise that very few of the Vinyl records that you buy will have been mixed and mastered on single driver speakers how all these LP's can end up sounding "Real" is either a fluke or it may be you just like the sound of your system compared to others (even those with $70 K systems). Again nothing wrong with that except that I don't see the need to criticise those who have invested $70 K in digital systems (I get the impression that for all their $$$, people with $70 K digital systems have something synthetic, inherently inferior and unreal about them).

IMHO, you are happy and that is what counts! The system suits your tastes perfectly. Enjoy what you have: an awesome system!
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Real is sometimes very dependent on room acoustics. Before you start with lp, try playing around with room placement and maybe a little at a time add some acoustic treatments to your room. I would still purchase a budget table, then play around with vinyl. Then GO start collecting vinyl, it really is that good.
"I don't see the need to criticise those who have invested $70 K in digital systems"

not criticising about how much a person spends. just saying it didnt sound real. I dont really care if you spend 200k on a system. like you said, as long as it makes you happy.

Something that sounds real, may not sound good and something that sounds good may not sound real.

Oh well... gonna have to go kidnap the musicians and lock em up in my closet takin them out when i wanna listen.. hehe
You have to get a system that makes you happy. No matter if it sounds real or not. Most mixes on CD' s are not real. Lots of music today is mixed in a studio from different recordings taken at different times at different locations. Anything real about that? But often the sound is fantastic.
LPs do not sound real either , because their frequency response was limited below 50 Hz in order to get all the music on the vinyl (no real deep bass on them) and in order to avoid power line noise sneaking in. All that was corrected for with the RIA equalisation.
Very little is real real today. Which does not mean that it is no good. Look at all the women with silicone implants. Some look terrific. They may not be real but wouldn't you.?
I presntly have a digital front end system which reproduces live music quite well. I go to Operas, symphonies and Jazz concerts, come home and almost duplicate the performance with a similar performance on a red book CD. See my system. Lots of tweeks have helped. On the other hand when I played vinyl for about 30 years with a good front end, my music sometimes did not sound "real" for a variety of reasons including some sterile sounding SS amps! I also had some very unreal sounding CDPs. The expensive equipment is not necessarily the answer. Sub 20k digital systems can sound quite natural. Getting rid of "digital grunge" RF and EMI noise problems is very important. It's also that odd order distortion that grates on the ears, All my electronics seem to be low on that. The master tape remastering to CD format is much better then previously. JVC K2 technology has been very good. I have many beautiful remastered CDs from the late 50s and 60s. CDPs in the last 5 years or so seem to sound much more musical.
Scott Nixon DAC through a tube pre-amp or a Tube Dac will warm up the CD sound. Being old enough to remember when CD didn't exist, I also remember what a pain in the rear vinyl was.
Dennis, you can make vinyl sounding like digital and the other way around. A good LP copy sounds more like CD to me. Some CD's are also better sounding than LP's, some are not. But you shouldn't get the illusion that digital and vinyl could sound the same, because these are inherently different media.

Try to get something that sounds good and enjoy it for what it is, while vinyl does sound better, a well recorded CD is great aswell. I think any true music lover cant do without digital even if it is flawed, there is simply too many tittles that will never be pressed on vinyl. Just like I listen around vinyl's pop's tick's and flaws I try to listen around digital's flaws by fucusing on the music, sometimes it is harder then others but I have many CD's I truely enjoy. Even as much as I prefer vinyl sometimes I play digital so I dont have to clean and change the record every 25 minutes. I also think burning disc's to a black CDR makes them sound better.
My system sounds real to me ;). You have to put together something that you
feel good about. It DOES NOT have to cost a lot of money. My current system
costs about 1/4 of what it did a year ago, and sounds much better as well.

The sooner you let "reality" go and realize that every component in the hi-fi
chain, including the recording--is an interpretation, a step closer to
happiness you will be.