Rediscovering the Joy of Digital?


I've been into analog for a long time, and it's always been a royal pain in the neck to perform all the necessary adjustments to keep my tt at its best; not to mention the record cleaning rituals and the inflated prices they're charging for high-end analog gear these days.

I bought an early generation CD player back in the mid 80's, a modified Magnavox CDB-650, which was considered good at the time, but is not so good by today's standards. I also invested in some of Audio Alchemy's early DDE's, but they had some problems as well. So I went back to analog and bought a VPI Aries/JMW 10 and more recently, I have moved to a Michell Orbe SE with a Wilson Benesch arm and a Shelter 501 II cartridge.

It took a lot of work to get the Orbe/WB combo to sound its best and in reality, it's not a whole lot better than my much less expensive digital gear, but it sure is a lot more work. It's been my experience that you have to spend a lot more money on analog to get it to sound as good as today's respectable digital gear. I own a Parasound transport, a Bolder Cable modified ART DIO, and a Perpetual Technologies P-1A and it kills most of the Linns, Regas, and all but the highest priced VPI's that I've heard.

With my digital, there's no futzing with VTA, no worries about an expensive and delicate stylus assembly, and I have instant track access. Plus, it sounds virtually as transparent and liquid as analog and eschews those annoying ticks and pops.

My records and gear are sure taking up a lot of space. Perhaps I should dump my whole lot of LPs at the local Salvation Army and be done with it. Then I could sell that expensive analog front end that is a constant source of angst and buy something really cool with the money like a lot more CDs. Whadaya tink?
Without engaging in the "which medium sounds better" debate, the portion of your thread that I identified with the most was:

"With my digital, there's no futzing with VTA, no worries about an expensive and delicate stylus assembly, and I have instant track access. Plus, it sounds virtually as transparent and liquid as analog and eschews those annoying ticks and pops."

That was my thinking about 7 years ago. I gave my vinyl collection to a buddy and I have used CD as my main source ever since. Granted, I am sometimes tempted when I see really nice turntables, but for me CD's were just a lot less aggravation. There will be some who will question your audiophile chops ... check out this thead from a few months ago ... but , do what makes sense. Regards, Rich
I hear and know what you are saying. I own an expensive turntable setup (SOTA) and rarely use it except to play recordings not available on CD.
The problem with a turntable (like tube equipment) is that you never know when it can sound its best. There are to many variables to account for (VTA, cartridge condition, arm friction, record thickness and type of vinyl, speed, belt stretching, level and balance, anti-skating, weather) and any of these things can make the sound tedious to listen to from one record to another or on a daily basis.
However, when all conditions are about right, the LPs (like tubes) is unsurpassed.
However its just easier to pop in the CD!
I suppose next you'll be dissatisfied with just instant track access on a single CD and want your whole library at your fingertips, automatically inventoried and viewable in any manner you find convenient at the moment, playable in flexible ways. You'll probably start expecting to have your full music collection available to you any time and anywhere you have access to the network.

Convenience! In a pasttime no less! What has this country come to, when people allow paradigms to change so indiscriminantly?
It's a darned nuisance to feed the horse, clean up the stall and hitch up the buggy every time I want to go somewhere, but it sure is enjoyable to trot down a country lane in my rig. Why do I need one of those new-fangled automobiles?
Frank, I note a little sarcasm in your thread. Having a little fun, are we? :^)
I'm sure your Michell is doing just fine.

Nothing wrong with enjoying both media.
Frank, the altitude in Tucson clearly has gotten to you. You need some good old Jersey smog to bring you back to your senses!! Send me the records, I'll hold them till you get over this urge. :)

Don't send your vinyl to Rcprince! If the NJ smog doesn't eat them first, he hinted darkly at returning them to you. What kind of friend is that? You're trying to go cold turkey and he'd be hanging around with your old stash, just waiting for you to give in.

Stick to your guns! Be a man! Send all the LP's to me in clean-aired CT (Hack. Sneeze.) I promise you'll never be tempted by them again.

P. S. Did you ever remove the suspension from your Orbe? You were going to try that once. It would eliminate at least one thing to fuss over.
I don't think you need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Buy CD's as new media and enjoy your digital, if you find you are not using your analog gear over time, sell it.

Different strokes for different folks, I never liked using LP's regularly in the past, so I prefer using CD's.
Dougdeacon, now you've done it -- giving me yet another variable to think about and fret over... To suspend ... or not to suspend.

In NJ I had a concrete floor because my listening room was in the basement. I did end up using a fixed suspension on the Orbe and it really sounded stellar. The sound was very detailed and focused and the dynamics were excellent. But here in AZ, my room is upstairs and the tt is more susceptible to footfalls, so I reinstalled the spring suspension, but I don't think it sounds quite as good. It could, and might, but with different speakers and room acoustics, it's impossible to say. My gut feeling is that the overall performance is just a little diluted, but that could be all in my mind (I think it is, but I'm not sure).

I guess I could put back the fixed suspension and be careful to walk around on tippy-toes, and maybe make a sign to let guests know to be careful. Or maybe I could get a wall shelf, or perhaps I could suspend it from the ceiling on bungy cords, or maybe get an elaborate air-suspension platform of some sort.

With digital, the suspension choices are easier (and easier to install!) Let's see, do I go with the wood blocks or the BDR cones -- very simple to lift the DAC and/or transport, and try whatever feet or platform(s) I have on hand.

Hey, if I send you those records you've got to really promise never to give them back no matter how much I beg, plead or snivel...
Plato, You put your post in the right forum this time! It was clear that you were set up for an assignation when you posted in the analog columm where the vinylphiles rule with a heavy hand. It has happened to others before you - been there, where reason doesn't appeal, even if you are a vinyl lover your self. To even suggest that excellent CD reproduction is the equal to LP's, albeit different, brings the crazies out of the wood work. And they aren't a bit polite. Now they come to the digital forum to attack people who enjoy CD's. IMHO, people who see vinyl as the end all of sound reproduction, are really just equipment freaks, who would spend their lives enjoying the sound of train whistles if the sound justified their investment in their analog rigs. Hell, its even more fascinating to see that a lot of the folks who proclaim the loudest about vinyl don't even know how to properly set up a table/arm/cartridge (assuming they had good analog stuff in the first place) and their references to the CD formats they have used shows little experience, and great expectations in that format as well. It was fun saying that......But keep that analog rig and LP's so you can play those records which have music that is dear to you. Much of my musical memories are on LP's and I really enjoy them for that along with the good sound.
I'd be happy to save you the aggrivation of shipping all those LPs across the country and pick them up personnaly, since I'm also in the Old Pueblo. :)

I've been revitalizing my analog system over the last few years and now get performance that I only dreamed about since I started in audio. The biggest change was getting rid of my Thorens TD126mkII and installing an SME-10 (with arm). The fixed suspension was a tremendous improvement over the spring suspension and the arm is much better as well.

I would certianly consider going to a shelf arrangement and back to the fixed suspension before dumping your analog collection/system. There are just so many pieces of music that aren't available on CD, or don't sound good, to justify such a drastic move.

I do however, agree that the convienence of digital is wonderful and, with the right gear, it can sound incredible. It makes perfectly sense to have and enjoy the best of both formats.
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Plato, ever consider trying something like a Seismic Sink under your table? I've got a spare heavy duty one, if you want to try it.
I’m just sorry I wasn’t the first in line to ask for all those “old sorry” vinyl LP records.

At least run a list by me, I might be interested in buying.
Great replies! This is turning into a fun thread; keep 'em coming.

Newbee you make some very good observations. I'm happy that I got out of that analog thread yesterday with my skin intact. Some of those guys are scary; they should learn not to take things so seriously and/or personally. I had thought the Civil War was over and that things weren't so black and white anymore. I hope we're all in this hobby for the fun of it and for the joy the music brings. :)

Russ, I also have an unused HD Seismic Sink. I guess it should go under the BDR Source Shelf with BDR cones in between??!! But then my custom dust cover won't fit anymore. :( I'm seeing a lot of interest in the LP collection... hmmmmm...

Hey Elizabeth, I'm glad to know that you have a sense of humor too. Congrats on your devine enlightenment. ;)
Those belt drives are no fun--get a 1200 and do the mods!............

If you have one of those belt driven Parasound's I can understand--I also have one. Let me tell you, though. There IS quite some tweaking with digital. Don't be misled.
Plato--Do not, repeat do not, get rid of your vinyl. Many years ago, I made the mistake of committing a large collection of LPs to cassette tape and then getting rid of the LPs--because the tapes were more convenient. Years later I heard one of the LPs, and was dumbfounded at how much better it sounded than the CD of the same material. I have since invested in a decent TT, and my record collection continues to grow. Hit some garage sales--come home with some great tunes for peanuts. Learn how to clean these things--check Agon forum for info. Yes, there are weeks that I don't get out an LP, but like today, I got a stack of LPs and languished in the wonderful, smooth sound of analog. I still want someone to kick my posterior for getting rid of all those LPs. Give it a few years, take care of them, and there's a good chance that you will re-
discover them at some point.
Plato, you should try the Sink with the BDR as you mentioned--if it works, see if you can trade Vinh for a new dustcover. Heck, there's no dust out there, anyway...

Offer still stands on your vinyl, but I don't think you'll be able to pull the trigger! You really need the rituals (I guess Elizabeth, in her new calling, would call them "habits") to feel like a bona fide audiophile.
Yeah Russ, you're right, I do need the rituals for self-affirmation. Now you guys got me going on the suspension kick again, and today I swapped back to the rigid suspension. I tentatively have the Source shelf sitting on some AQ Sorbothane pucks and a small mahogany wood block in the front which sounds marginally better than the BDR cones. The bass is just killer now (deep with great articulation), and the treble seems more detailed and extended; transients are very fast and clear and the dynamic contrasts are impressive. I think I'm going to live with it like this for a while and play through some more recordings before deciding what to change or not to change next. And the installation of the rigid suspension components on the Orbe looks really cool. :)

On the CD front, I should mention that I have recently discovered a couple of CDs in my collection that are less than 10 yrs old, that contain areas in songs which now skip and are unreadable by the laser pickup. These CDs look perfect and have undergone no apparent trauma (unless the ride across the country in the moving van somehow caused this). So this is a disturbing finding. Have any other CD collectors out there seen this yet?
Ha...the nostalgic sound of wax...hiss,pop,crack...then hiss some more...and this is on a brand new record just cleaned with imported Jap Whale semen! next trip down memory lane...shortwave radio...I long for more distortion!
On the CD front, nope, I've never had the problem you describe. I have 1300 CDs collected over 20 years and I've never had one that wouldn't read correctly except ones that had been seriously abused. In fact, it's just the opposite - I have many CDs I can't believe can be read that have no problem.
Frank, I always recommend a rigid turntable support whenever it is possible. I have always gotten best results in my system that way.

I haven't "rediscovered" the joy of digital yet, but I am always on the lookout for something better. Unfortunately, the industry seems to be going in the opposite direction. I was out looking at new cars and some of them are coming with MP3 players in them now. I'm wondering who the first "audiophile" company will be to come out with a "high-end" home MP3 player? You know it is going to happen.

My non-suspended TT is sitting on a large Salamander Synergy stand (Triple 20). Hardly the last word in audiophile vibration management, but with all the components it weighs nearly 400 pounds. I'm on a wood floor too, so I put heavy duty sorbothane hemispheres under the feet of the stand. $4 apiece from McMaster Carr. This handles all footfalls without damping too close to the TT and killing dynamics. I may try spikes under the rack someday, but that's a major project and I'm not sure I'll hear enough benefit to compensate for the increased vulnerability to pedestrians. My TT/arm/cart are inherently strong at bass, transients and transparency, so I don't think I lose much from the sorbothane beneath the rack. (Wishful thinking?) Cheap and maybe worth trying in your setup.

Albert, no fair scarfing up Plato's collection! You already have a big head start. Remember, if you own ALL the vinyl we'll all be hanging out at your place every night. Hey, do you need a secretary or something? :)
Hmmm, high-end MP3 -- I don't know Tom, in a car, it kind of makes sense because you can fit so many hours of music on just one MP3; and because of the noisy environment, quality isn't as big of an issue. But if they do come out with home "audiophile" MP3 players it would probably be relegated to a secondary source in any decent system; and maybe just a way to record your other media for playback in a car or portable player.

I think a large part of the appeal of MP3 is that it's cheap and you can download the music for free from the Internet. So once you make it "expensive" the market for such a product could evaporate. In any case, no one could force us to buy one...
Twl, You'd BUY a car? We kinda figured you'd make your own.

High end MP3 players! Ouch. Actually Phasecorrect sent me his test report on one last week. Let's see, "The Hitushi Whale Semen MP3-XXX offers 2,056x upsampling for only $25K. It closely matched many of the $75K, multiple chassis MP3's we've tested recently. Strongly recommended for true audiophiles on a budget."
Plato, Everytime I had a a clean and undamaged disc skipping problem I utimately traced it to the CDP or transport I was using. It needed cleaning, repairs or replacements. Take those bad CD's some where and see if they skip on other players. I have a fairly large collection and even those disc's we were all warned about which have turned bronze haven't been a problem (yet).
As far as high priced analog, it has been my own personal experience that you can definitely better CD with good analog, but you have to spend much more to do so. I realize this may have to do with poor matching, or bad synergy, so this is not to be taken as an absolute statement. I have a relatively entry level turntable setup: Rega P2 with RB250 arm and Grado silver cartridge. I bought it used for $350 bucks. In the same system I have a Sony SCD-CE775 that I bought used for 175 bucks.

The Sony at least matches the Rega as far as redbook playback goes. Of course it is recording sensitive, but more CDs sounds better than LPs sound better.

My brother has a no holds barred Teres setup that sounds glorious; there are recordings that sound better on my SCD-1, but more recordings sound better on his TT than recording that sound better on my CD player. However his turntable setup cost a helluva lot more than my CD player.

Now if you compare SACD to the vinyl, there is no comparison at the same price point. I couldn't tell you whether a 10k digital SACD setup sounds better than a 10k TT rig, because I have never heard a 10k digital setup. But I do know that at the entry level of both, SACD sounds better. My cheap little Sony playing back SACD surely has some glare, ill defined bass and lightened highs, but those weaknesses are not as pronounced as the weaknesses in my TT.
But I do know that my 3k SACD play rivals my brother's 13k TT setup. It may not be better, but it is damn close. 10k is a lot to pay for something that is only sometimes marginally better.

I realize software is another issue altogether, but I am just talking about analog prices here.

Has anyone else noticed this, or am I just goofy?
Just the other day I was doing some comparitive listening to recordings I own in both formats, in order to help get a handle on some analog upgrades I've added recently. On some disks, the LP wins, on others, the CD. Some were about even, with strengths on both sides. There are certain advantages that CD always enjoys, but these hardly equal universal superiority for the format. All in all, mastering quality takes the cake - it is far more determinative than which format. IMO, both vinyl and CD are inherently compromised formats from the sonic standpoint, and if all we were concerned about was obtaining best sound - no holds barred - then we'd all be listening to reel-to-reel.
Zaikesman, I am listening to reel-to-reel and I have a small collection of prerecorded tapes that I cherish. When I started listening to the tapes on a decent machine, I was shaking my head thinking about all the money I had spent on my TT gear. But frankly, all my sources sound quite good and there are variations in the recording quality of R2R tapes too (not to mention losses from just sitting around for decades). But it's too bad that the R2R format fell out of favor because with today's advances, better parts, and improved tape formulations they could make machines that would have unbelievably great performance. It's unfortunate that most people value convenience of operation to quality of sound -- the general population, anyway.

Newbee, that's a good point that the CD skipping could be a transport-related problem. I'll check into that.
It's very hard and probably misleading to make comparisons between CD, SACD and vinyl versions of the same music. Mastering engineers commonly tweak with EQ and compression/limiting to better match the strenghts of each medium. It's virtually impossible to know for a fact that the source material used is exactly identical.

I agree wholeheartedly with Zaikesman's and Plato's comments about R2R.
Yes Plato, the everlasting problem with R2R - aside from its particular brand of impermanence, which is in actuality likely no worse in its way than the real-world impermanence of LP's (and who knows? maybe even CD's) - was always its lack of commercial success as a prerecorded medium. It may have blossomed in this capacity if not for the upstart cassette (and really, the 8-track too, at the time), since it was once quite popular as *the* home-recording format, and obviously the possibility of superior fidelity was always there.

I don't play R2R and haven't since I was a teenager - the only machine I owned wasn't even very good, and I never owned any prerecorded tapes - but anybody who's been exposed to properly maintained studio-quality machines running at 15 or 30 ips realizes that the prevelant consumer formats, while they may be convenient, are like but toys in comparision.

Audiophiles tend to forget this, and equate analog with vinyl, whereas the LP has no monopoly on the claim. And it's intrinsically true that analog disk/electro-mechanical cutter and pick-up technology can never fully impress/recover all the information into/from the grooves that is available on the analog mastertape, while introducing a heaping helping of added distortions and noise along the way.

If/when digital recording processes ever improve to the point where engineers agree that they can capture/preserve enough original event information to render the analog mastertape definitely second-class (we might be close now, but we might be closer tomorrow - time has a way of reevaluating these things), then possible consumer digital media at least hold the theoretical promise of being able to transmit virtually all of that digital mastertape information, uncontaminated, directly to our playback systems in a convenient format - something LP's could never do vis-a-vis the analog mastertape.

But stop salivating guys: Despite the above rant - and come what may - my record collection ain't never going anywhere... :-)
Yes Zaikesman, your points are well taken. But if and when there is a consumer level digital format that truly is better than analog mastertapes there are two likely scenarios that could follow. One is that the music business people will insist on a copycode that will render it second rate and delay its release for about a decade; the other is that there will be a substandard "MP3" version of it that will ultimately be less costly and will dominate the marketplace...
Prerecorded tapes face a great economic problem relating to their manufacture. To record a tape you must draw the tape past a recording head (a serial data transfer). Although the tape speed can be increased (at some cost of quality) it still takes a while to record a tape. LPs and CDs are stamped out (a parallel data transfer). The whole symphony gets recorded in one quick operation.
Plato and Eldartford are both correct, but I'll add:

Of course I don't think that any analog tape medium will be making a comeback in the consumer marketplace, but the serial-transfer problem didn't prevent the industry from embracing the cassette as the replacement for the LP and 45 once upon a time (lo-fi high-speed tape-duplication standards notwithstanding).

And I wouldn't be (pleasantly!) surprised if the recording industry actually embraces and promotes hi-rez digital from here on out, simply as another tool to try and combat easy file transfer/storage, or to at least help differentiate the prerecorded medium from what's available online.
with the latest generation on cd/sacd players, i think we are the entering the reniasance of the digital age.

digital has never been enjoyable or musical compared to a class c analog unit until the last year. i have a marantz sa 8260 and i can listen for hours without fatigue. it is the first musical unit that i have heard and have no desire to upgrade or tweak.

hopefully the manufactures will continue to make quantam leaps over the next couple of years and move into class a /b of analog playback.
Zaikesman..True about the cassette tape, but it's only because the cassette tape speed is so slow, and the recording quality so undemanding (because of Dolby processing) that the format was able to gain some acceptance. In the pre-CD age, convenience, and automobile-friendly characteristics were important. However, the serial data transfer difficulty is one of those fundamental truths which it is better to avoid than to overcome with fancy technology.
Eldee, not only does avoiding tape circumvent the serial-duplication problem, it by the same token permits random-access cueing upon playback, an even more important consideration for me as a consumer.