New take on CD vs Vinyl vs CD

What if I digitize a vinyl record, and compare that CD to both it’s rebook CD, and the actual record?

1. Clean record (using a VPI HW-17)
2. Put vinyl on turntable (Ortofon Blue cart)
3. De-magnetize vinyl using a Furutech Destat III
4. Record vinyl using a Harmon Kardon CDR 20

My Parasound Halo integrated allows nice A/B/C comparison.

I used 2 CD players: Sony CDPXA7 ES, and XA 20 ES

I put the song on (‘We got the beat’ Go-Go’s) all 3 sources at the same moment (using all 3 of my hands)

Though the turntable and it’s mediocre cart is the weakest link, it sounded pretty nice. I then switched back and forth and forth a few times till I had a winner.

By far the digitized copy of the vinyl sounded best. Not the outcome I expected.

I then A/B’d both CD players, with the result remaining the same.

Can anyone explain this, besides my psychologist?


You need to match levels among all of the sources if you want that kind of comparison to be meaningful.

You have to measure the voltage levels of the two CD players to get them equal. Otherwise a difference of 0.2 db will favor the player with the higher output. Then do a blind listening test - no peeking! 

I while ago I tried to digitize a few new albums and no matter what I did, I still had some background noise and a click or two. So I gave up.

The record and the recording of the record can't be compared to a CD to do anything but compare how different engineers interpreted what should be on each format and perhaps what they had for breakfast that morning or if they fought with their spouse. That and how your turntable is setup. You are comparing Macintosh and Granny Smith applies. Some like one, some like the other, some like both and different ones on different days.

That you liked the CDR20, a pretty ancient beast now, says the CD format is pretty robust. I doubt the CDR20 gets the most possible out of it.

Interesting. I don’t know about digitizing vinyl. I seem to have a problem with getting on board with that. I’m really impressed with how digital has come along me right now I’m focusing on that with my system. With the right equipment red book cd is amazing along with hi rez music files like dsd. I’ve been an advocate of the bluesound node in the past and all the tweaking that you can do with it,  but after upgrading to an Esoteric Network player, wow. I haven’t played vinyl in a while. The future is truly digital, and after looking at my huge vinyl and cd collection, I’m afraid it’s probably streaming. 

And another problem with your A/B comparison...... The Go go's "We got the beat", are you kidding me, that was your test song. Not exactly the high quality recording one might use for this kind of experimentation. The song has too much going on in it and I would think impossible to catch all of the nuances of a great recording. My opinion has nothing to do with the performance, just the recording. If I were running this test, I might grab a vinyle that truly has a great recording quality..... Anything from say Steely Dan for instance. That would be a better baseline to start with. You may as well have done this with Led Zeppelin..... Love the band, hate the recordings.

+1 dinov. I went the same route as you with a Bluesound node and then up the food chain with an R2R DAC and Auralic G2 streamer. Sold my turntable and phono stage for more than what I paid for it and all my vinyl also at top dollar to one person ( only had about 300 albums). Never looked back.

So many posts about what format sounds better. In my experience it is more dependent on the recording than the format. However, being able to access so much music on demand via streaming has, at least for me, put the fun back in music playback. I guess I'm a music lover first, and an audiophile second.

Too many variables for a valid or controlled A/B comparison here that would apply to anything other than the specific system cited and employed for this particular A/B comparison. For example, there are several ways to "digitize a vinyl record". Not familiar with the TT used but I've done considerable seat-time with an Ortofon Blue + Rega P3 + MAC amp + Luxman amp + Focal Aria 936 + (either a NAIM or Rega CD Player-can't remember which or the model number) + clean (as in ultrasonically cleaned) Mobile Fidelity vinyl repressing of an acoustic guitar artist I can't recall + CD Red Book). My ears definitely preferred vinyl over CD that day and I didn't have to listen hard or for very long to reach that conclusion. Other ears may have preferred CD or the digital sound that day. Who knows? To each his own! That's what makes the world go round!

I've done serious seat-time comparisons with other high-end systems incorporating CD Players and high-resolution streaming services. One system configuration I heard, a couple years ago, using a MAC (either the MA 9500 or the MA 8950 - can't remember which) + a pair of Sonus Faber towers (think it was the Sonetto V) + high-end streamer & high-resolution service (can't remember specifics on that) came about as close to equaling the sound quality of good, clean vinyl recordings that I've ever heard. To my ears, when all systems are equalized or when component synergy & sources are factored in, good, clean vinyl recordings sound more life-like or like actually being there than digital. It's as though you can almost hear or, rather, feel the emptiness or silence of the room or venue the performance occurred in or was recorded in. For me, digital lacks that air or that silent background open spaciousness. Good, clean vinyl recordings capture that and always seem to have just a little bit more or truer top end (cleaner, clearer high frequency) and low end (tighter, cleaner, more realistic bass response) than a comparable digital recording. That's about as well as I can describe it. Maybe it's all a matter of auditory neuroscience? In any case, it's a little like trying to describe what the color blue looks like to a person who's been totally blind from birth. Discussions like this (i.e.  digital sound better than vinyl?) are a lot like the never-ending debate over which speaker cables or interconnects sound better. Your ears know what you like. Listen to them!

I think your results are due in a large part to the level of equipment being used. No offense, but the CDR and CD players being used are not particularly high end. You did not even mention what turntable was used, but an Ortofon Blue is definitely entry level. I believe a comparison such as this demands high end equipment at all points.

Not criticizing what you're trying to accomplish, I did a similar thing 4 or 5 years ago, but using a MoFi gold CD and MoFi Original Master Recording LP of DSOTM.  But, keep in mind what you learn is pretty much useful to only yourself or someone with pretty much exactly the same system.  Upgrade the cartridge and everything changes.  Change CD players and again, everything will probably change.  And as has been pointed out several times, sound levels must be the same or else the louder one will always sound better.  It can be fun to play around like that, but what you learn is probably only useful to you and only for as long as there are not significant changes in your system.

Once you have reference components in your system then you can hear the differences with no problems.  As manufacturers of audio components, we have yet to make digital sound as good as Vinyl period.  That being said, our DACs probably sound better than most Vinyl rigs most have heard.


Happy Listening.

I digitized some lps a decade or so ago, and man it was a lot of work.  The particular recordings used were available digitally and my results couldn’t touch the well done digital versions 

mahler123 hits the nail on the head. And when a rip is done right it will definitely sound better than playing the vinyl. I have about 400 rips and the sound quality is stunning, even in my car on the way to work or running at the gym. Each one took weeks of work. As jDougs says, it's just fun.

Of course the end game is that if your true destiny is the best sound quality possible, then this discussion is a waste of time. Today's HD releases (remasterrs, re-releases, new HD releases) are by far superior to anything you can ever reproduce from vinyl. Just from a frequency response standpoint, case and point: listen to Elton John's 1971 (November I think) Madman Across the Water analog masters straight to digital, in HD FLAC, don't even need the DSD format version for listen to that and we're done here. The vinyl rip is great, but nowhere near as full and rich sounding as this exact copy of the analog masters. 

I enjoy gear and its fun, but I'm audiophile to hear the music I enjoy hearing it in the best possible way, with no budget limitations (from a realistic standpoint). Not listen to music to hear my various gear and convince myself what is best. Great music lifts my day, my evenings, my mood. A little Grateful Dead / Jerry Garcia at "11" and my day is off to a great start.   

Have fun!

Note to self: Don’t ever try to digitize records unless you’re a professional. 

I use a Sugarcube SC2 made by a company called Sweet Vinyl. It records in a number of formats including 24bit flac, does track breaks, and uses Discogs to lookup and match the record you’re recording. It is super easy. It also removes ticks and pops from the recording-- in the digital domain-- flawlessly.

I feed it from one or the other of two turntables; a MoFi Ultradeck with a MasterTracker cartridge or a SOTA Star Sapphire VI with Soundsmith Hyperion cartridge, both into a ’VINYL’ phono preamp from Musical Fidelity. I audition them on a 4 piece set - Genesis III’s + Genesis Servo-12 subs. My vinyl recordings tend to sound much better whenever I’ve compared them to an all digital version like, say, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories-- a very fine recording. No doubt on paper the specifications for vinyl don’t compare to digital specs, but, like others here have said, the ears like what they like.