Pieces of music that digital can't get right

Ok I have a litmus test for digital when ever I have the rare option of upgrading my digital front end. Its tough on digital. Brutally tortuous and unforgiving. Digital proponents have a difficult time accepting these sonic tests. 
1. Ok here is the first one. On the opening of America's "Ventura Highway" the opening dueling guitars are ambient and bounce off each channel very pleasantly in the analog domain. In the digital domain the channels are totally separate and too clean and sterile lifeless sounding. They are  not talking to each other It was like this with ny Marantz 8005 but the SA-10 gets halfway there.
2. In the opening of "I Feel Fine" by the Beatles the electric guitar sounds alive with ambiance and decay. The Digital is clean and lifeless.
 Ok am I right with these observation?. I have a pretty good SACD player in SA-10. Its no slouch. Do the mega expensive super smart and accurate DACs get my two above mentioned  passages right? Or are we hearing colored vinyl artifacts. Well if we are I like the record better!

"Ok am I right with these observation?."

Blueranger, your using the same components for both sources. One input is "tuned" to your Table. Your CDP needs it's own system so you can tune it in to your digital source.

Systems using CD's require completely different sonic settings vs systems tuned to vinyl.

Michael Green


John Cage 4’33.
The Black silences in Digital are so unrealistic.  In a real concert performance, audience members will be shifting in their seats, whispering to their neighbors, blowing their noses, passing gas, whatever...Vinyl, with it’s pops, clicks, wow, flutter, cartridge hum, and other assorted sonic detritus would be so much closer to the real thing

Actually 4'33" is a good example. If someone is experiencing black silences with digital that's a sign that the system is out of tune.


4’33’’ is the most stupid thing imaginable, I feel genuinely worried for the sanity of anyone who goes to concerts or puts on vinyl or a CD to ’’listen’’to it. I once walked out of a concert because the Quartet announced they were going to play it as an encore. It is an assault on our intelligence.
It looks like you’re comparing two completely different pressings. That introduces a variable that makes drawing any conclusion about the differences between analog and digital invalid.

One way to conduct a meaningful comparison is to digitize a good LP. If the digital copy can reproduce all of the LP’s nuances - or not - then you can draw a meaningful conclusion from that.

Blueranger, your using the same components for both sources. One input is "tuned" to your Table. Your CDP needs it’s own system so you can tune it in to your digital source.
I think this is completely mistaken. A properly set up system can play analog and digital recordings equally - within the limits of each format. Over the years, as digital has continually improved, I have found that good digital and good analog sound increasingly alike on my system. The notion that each source requires its own system is really misguided, imo, and suggests that neither system is sounding its best.

Old proverb: A man with two clocks never knows the correct time.

It looks like you’re comparing two completely different pressings. That introduces a variable that makes drawing any conclusion about the differences between analog and digital invalid.
This.  You aren't controlling for the differences in how the source discs came to be produced.  A digital copy of a needle drop will still be producing the unique qualities of the analog.  I don't see any way of really comparing apples with apples.  There are always differences introduced into the recording or processing chain before the medium gets to whichever player.

For me personally, I don’t use multi-source same system settings for doing any referencing.

This was a big issue back in the Tape Vinyl source days, and was one of the major reasons Equalizers were used. It never really worked, using preamp sections with multi-sources but we always had frequency adjusting tools to somewhat help, but it never really was a purist approach. In reality to have a true discrete system you would only have one source, or even one input, for the system. HEA tried to bend the rules on that one, but that’s not being discrete.

You know, saying systems that only have one volume control with several inputs is being discrete is a bit of a scam. Saying one volume control is discrete period, is a scam when you think about it.


Every source device may require unique tweaks to get optimal results, whether in same or different systems.

I would go one step further and say "every source device does require unique tweaks to get optimal results".


"Old proverb: A man with two clocks never knows the correct time."

It turns out that in order to get all sample-rates, digital requires two different base clock frequencies, so digital uses two clocks.....

There are a number of effects that you could be hearing here:

1) pressing is different

2) your digital front-end/DAC is not up to snuff - too much internal jitter or too much distortion from the D/A in the CDP

3) your commercial disks are creating too much jitter - treat them and apply a rubberized coating to the tops to reduce jitter.  Rewrite the disk to a good quality CDROM disk like Mitsui gold audio master.

Steve N .


For me personally, I don’t use multi-source same system settings for doing any referencing.
I'm not even sure what this means.

Post removed 
The best way to avoid the two-clock jitter problem is to go pleisiochronous. Problem solved.
Digital cannot get Heifetz’ Guarneri violin to sound right at all. It makes it sound like a respectable Chinese violin. Even the extinct audio cassette does much better.
Really good cymbals---Paiste 602's, old Zildjian's made in Turkey (played the best Jazz drummers in the 1950's and 60's), and modern Turkish-made Bosphorus---all of which I own and play---can sound too "splashy" after sub-par digitization.
I would go even one step further and say "every source device does require unique tweaks to get optimal-for-your-taste results".

As far as original post goes, you are comparing different products (CD vs. LP, I assume) that were processed differently and should hardly expect them to act in the same way. Even if everything after the disc itself is perfectly aligned in the universe (which it probably is not). For that reason, both Michael Green’s and cleeds’ inputs may be correct in their own ways. If it is about listening to music,you may need to tune/tweak each set-up to achieve the sound you prefer on both or, if academically trying to compare analog vs. digital, you may need to digitize the record first.

I guess, in theory, you could also press a record of your CD and see where that leads you. Who was it that said that inconvenience is not that important in this sport? It was on another thread.

America's "Ventura Highway"  on my SACD  is superb and I play via Marantz 8802a through a  L.K.S dac 

I've always though two recordings sounded much better in analogue : Frank Zappa's Hot Rats and Harris's  3rd. I can't tell the difference with a lot of recordings but then again I'm just a sub-audiophile.
Even though I enjoy the convenience of digital, I most love my analogue.
Analog, wither tape or LP, for better or worse, is the product of - Tit for Tat (for every action an equal and opposite reaction - from the performance to the master recording. Along with a bit of noise, there is a sense of ambiance and life that digital just doesn’t quite capture.
But then, who am I to say - I still prefer the images captured from an old Hasselblad 8x10 to any digital camera on the market...Jim

I was at a friends home to help him move in a new set of speakers. He has a very nice system and thought he would impress me by playing a 180 grain vinyl pressing of Van Morrison's "No Guru". As soon as the stylus hit the surface, there it was, that unmistakable background rumble and snap, crackle, pop. I have the same recording on CD which I'll take any day. The quality of the recording also plays a major role in sound quality.  
@falconquest Your friend might benefit from a higher quality phono amplifier.  High quality units have enough dynamic headroom that the pops and clicks present on some vinyl are minimized.
... He has a very nice system and thought he would impress me ... As soon as the stylus hit the surface, there it was, that unmistakable background rumble and snap, crackle, pop.
It sounds like his "nice system" isn’t so nice. If that’s what you heard as soon as the stylus landed on the LP, something was amiss. And given that you heard both rumble and a noisy LP surface, it’s likely that more than one thing was wrong with his system. That’s not especially surprising, however - I’ve found that many users have improperly setup turntables.

Or, perhaps he just had a really bad pressing. That can happen, too.
Every Symphony ever written .
I think the title should be 'Digital, that a system can't get right'.

Compression of the cd sounds like the issue? I left analogue a long time ago due to the artifacts I got with lp’s. However there is a lot of crap cd’s I have bought that sound like they are playing out of a paper sack. Even some HD track 24/96 recordings sound awful. But when digital is done correctly to me its hard to beat. Steely Dan Gaucho in 24 bit is good. I do foundly remember DD Sheffield Lab I’ve got the music in me - Pressure Cooker. Kinda wish I had analogue gear to hear it on my system now. If analog consistantly trumps good HD digital then I would go back, but I doubt that’s the case from my limited listening.
Post removed 
The best way to avoid the two-clock jitter problem is to go pleisiochronous. Problem solved.

I don't have any jitter problem because it's solved.

What is pleisiochronous and how does is solve jitter better?

bdp24, what mics do you recommend for recording cymbals?  I'm thinking an overhead configuration.

I have yet to find a track that digital does not "get right". It all depends on the software, equipment and cables used. I am talking about a track that sounds better on a good vinyl system or reel-to-reel compared to good digital. Not heard one yet. The digital is at least as good and usually better, more dynamic and extended top and bottom.

I recently discovered that I had 24/44.1 tracks of most of the Beatles albums. Sound amazing. I also have "let it Bleed" from the Stones in 24/176.4. Wonderful sounding. Some of the recordings of the 70’s are a bit lacking in bass and dynamics because they were transferred to CD at too low a level. These include some of Carly Simon, Carol King and others. Remasters sometimes solve this, as in the Beatles 24/44.1 tracks.

Steve N

Empirical Audio

Steve, thanks for chiming in here. Specifically the into of "Ventura Highway". My Marantz 8005 doesent have the ambience/aliveness that my analog rig has. My new SA-10 gets about half way there and sounds better than the 8005. My main question. Is the ambience in the TT  an analog artifact or aka. bleed thru of the channels. Or is the TT actually playing it correctly. 

@onhwy61, as you may already know, a good small diaphragm condenser mic is best for cymbals. I’ve been recorded with Sony’s (don’t know the model number, but I believe they cost over a grand), the Shure SM81, AKG’s, and Neumann’s (very expensive, found in major studios only). Two used as an overhead stereo pair (one purely left channel, the other right) creates a natural image with "spread".

Whatever mic you use, try using a pretty hefty amount of compression on the pair. A ride cymbal (played with the tip of the stick) so recorded creates an intense CLICK sound, very percussive. That really helps with mediocre ride cymbals, which typically lack attack and focus, Ginger Baker’s being a perfect example. Mushy!

My main question: Is the ambience in the TT an analog artifact or aka. bleed thru of the channels? Or is the TT actually playing it correctly?

I would have to hear it myself. I suspect that the ambience is either real and your DAC cannot reproduce it or it is not real and an artifact of your LP system. I will listen to these tracks (Ventura Highway and I Feel Fine) streamed through my high-resolution system this afternoon and report back what I hear.

It is really easy to go down the garden path with either analog or digital. The best way to determine what is happening is to get a high-quality, low-jitter DAC and source into your system (not Marantz) and see how that sounds playing a .wav version of the track or using a transport with low jitter.

Digital jitter can easily muck-up the ambience and less expensive DAC can cause compression and distortion that also muck-up the ambience. I assume you are talking about the venue echoes when you say "ambience".

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Thanks Steve. Its the venue echos that give it an alive feel. I value your opinion and have read that your CD Player mods back in the day were nothing short of spectacular. Mike

I played both pieces on my digital playback system:

"Ventura Highway"

(Mac Mini streaming Amazon music 256K MP3 -> WireWorld Platinum USB cable -> Off-Ramp 6 XMOS USB converter -> Empirical Audio Reference S/PDIF BNC cable -> Overdrive SX DAC)

A rhythm guitar is centered and front with two lead guitars playing the same riff on the left and right, also front. The left lead guitar seems to be leading the right one slightly. Not sure if it is a dub of the same guitar with a slight delay or two separate guitar players. All three guitars seem to be acoustic, probably with pickups. May be amplified with solid-state amps. Vocalist is slightly back with little or no echo applied in the mix. Drum-set and bass is centered and slightly back, but appears smeared. Bass is a bit muddy. I don’t hear any venue echo at all. I sense significant compression in the mix causing everything to be loud and the guitars to be in-your-face. The clarity is good for the guitars, but the compression causes things to be not 3D. Fairly live and rich sounding for the guitars if you lower the volume, but the drums and bass are not good. I don’t find it "clean and sterile" at all. The biggest issue is the Drum-set and Bass and the compression IMO.

"I Feel Fine"

(Mac Mini playing local re-mastered 24/44.1 track using Linn Kinsky/Minimserver/BubbleUPnP -> in-wall Ethernet cable -> Modded Router powered by LPS - WireWorld Platinum 0.5m Ethernet cable -> EMO EN-70e isolator -> WireWorld Platinum 2.0m Ethernet cable -> Overdrive SX DAC Ethernet interface)

The electric guitar (probably a solid-body Les-Paul) is front right. It is definitely amplified with a tube amp. The drum-set is left and pushed back about 8 feet. Vocalists are centered and pushed back even more, with a little echo applied in the mix. The vocalists are a bit tightly clustered in the back-middle so it’s hard to tell if they are all singing into the same mic or not. It would be nicer if they had been spread out more. Nice attack, sustain and decay, although the dynamics are not quite what you would hear in a modern recording. Definitely not lifeless. Hard to hear the venue echoes, but there are some that help you locate performers. Very little compression I think. Good 3-D rendering with decent focus and imaging. Good separation with nice blackness between the three performers. Guitar is quite live sounding.  I find it fun to listen to.

Both of these are recorded at high levels, which is unusual for recordings from this era. I prefer the sound of the Beatles track, even though is it older. The compression makes Ventura Highway not live IMO, although it sounds fairly live if you are not in the sweet-spot.

I will say that the Ethernet has a slight advantage over the USB, but eventually I will get a device like this that solves the USB problems and brings them on-par:


I think the problem is your digital electronics and digital sources. There is nothing boring or clinical about either of these tracks.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

After listening to the " Ventura Highway" track again, I decided that the bass flabiness may be due to USB, but the lack of depth and splashiness of the close cymbols is probably compression  The cymbols in the back are actually okay.  The vocalist is actually fairly narrow and 3-D, although not very deep.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Thanks Steve! Wow I didn't expect such a detailed answer. Mike
I have just downloaded the 24/96 file of Igor Levit called Life. It is the equivalent of two CDs and I am stunned by the quallity of it and if this is a recording that digital can't get right I will eat my Stax phones. The recording places you up close and personal to the piano and it is a trully sumptuous recording. It does benefit with a bit of wellie on the volume control but you will be awed by the volume and dynamics of the piano. The second track is the very famous chaconne of Bach's violin partita in D Minor but not by Busoni as we are usually given but the reworking by Johannes Brahms and to make things worse this is for the left hand alone. I was so shocked by it that I played it three times in a row and it is 15 minutes long , this guy defies logic with a superhuman technique and a piano tone to die for. It is the best piano recording I have heard.