Revisiting Digital?


Have you done more than consider going back to Digital? I have only put my toe into the analog world, and found it to be the lost "High End" format. SACD and DVD-A failed to gain acceptance as a next generation High Definition audio format (Weird Huh..) With more and more vinyl being printed each month, customers are voting with their dollars.

However, I have not been able to get over the snaps and pops associated with vinyl. I have bought too many new albums, only to have a high noise floor, and distract me from the experience.

If you have any of these feelings, and have tip toed back into digital, what did you consider for your digital system, knowing you have drank from the TurnTable Cup!

To be fair, my system is decidedly Mid-Fi, theater led. I have a NHT 2.9/AC2/HDP2 - Velodyne 1210x 5.1 system. I use a B&K 31/50 Processor, and a Parasound 2205at 5ch amp. It is nice for theater, and in two channel mode with my Denon 300f turntable/phonopre.

Your journey - thoughts are appreciated/welcomed.

Jeff
jbryngelson
Hi Jeff,

I never let digital leave. IMO there is too much good music that can be had if one does not get caught up in the format wars of old. I do plan on kicking it up a notch in my system with a digital music server and a quality DAC so that I can have high res digital, cd, and vinyl. I'd love to get R2R (the real high res) but it is just too far out of my reach.

I recently spent some time with A'gon member ckniker's Rakk DAC and server. High res digital gets about 90% of it right, much better than redbook.
Jeff,

I also had problems with pops and snaps when I first re-entered the world of vinyl about 8 years ago. Through the use of record cleaning machine's, and/or steaming, proper grounding, and eliminating static with a Walker Talisman, I now have vinyl that is as quiet but more involving than digital. Of course, like Dan_ed, I never gave up on digital either, though I have simplified. No more digital seperates for me.....a nice CDP does just fine.

Cheers,
John
A Mac Book Pro is good enough for Digital.
John,

If you ever get a chance to hear lossless you may just decide to give up the CDP all together. It really is that good, with a big assumption on the DAC side. ;-)

Syntax,

I agree, that is a good way to go. My neighbor is using one of the new HP all-in-one PCs. Very compact footprint. The downside is having to turn off the wireless keyboard and mouse since my electronics pick up the noise. :-)
Jeff,
No doubt about it ,analogue play back can be frustrating at times with a capital F...

Though I wouldn't dump it for any other format.

I agree with Dan and John digital play back has come a long way recently and should not be disregarded.

Good analogue play back demands a bit of knowledge going into it , patience, work and money....

If your going to stick with it, a cleaned Lp new or used is a good place to start.
I have a stock Denon 3910 and an Esoteric DV50S. Although I prefer the esoteric, the Denon should do just fine. You can get them on Agon for $550 or less. They play all the formats you would most likely encounter today including multichannel of course.
I have read two articles, nearly 3yrs apart on the differences between McIntosh Media Servers and good CD playback. Read the article yourself, it is a good read, but here is the punchline. To get the real deep base, the impactfull midrange that hits you in the chest. And yes, that elusive AIR and space we all covet is far more present in the stand alone player vs the media player. Bits are not just bits, if you take these guys at their word.

http://www.stereophile.com/mediaservers/108mac/index.html

This is essentially, what I want to get from my digital source. I want the best from digital, so I think I will give up the ease of use of a music server, for the purity of great digital. I know Analog-Vinyl offers the best of this, but as mentioned earlier, I am nearly done with the issues of vinyl. I have listened to the VPI cleaned albums after a three step process, and find still find myself lacking the sound I seek. It needs to be new, and perfectly clean to get it to the point I hope to hear.

So if you are still with my, what would you put on the list for great digital playback? I need to add a great BluRay player to my system, but would be happy to add a universal player for great SACD or DVD-A in addition to Redbook.

Jeff
The digital I've ever heard comes from Audio Note DACs. The combination of no oversampling, no filtering of any kind, a very good power supply, and a very good tubed output stage (NOT a buffer!) does absolute wonders for digital.

I tried a kit DAC 1.1 (used) and it was so revelatory I bought & built the Kit DAC 2.1C Signature. This $2200 DAC fed by a Mac Mini stomps any other digital I've heard at any price - although I would have to guess that the expensive factory AN DACs, ranging up to about 25x the cost of mine (!), are indeed better, there's no doubt that their entry-level stuff fully captures their house sound as well.

As good as this DAC is - it is tonally accurate, detailed without *ever* being fatiguing, extremely dynamic in the micro & macro senses, very smooth & liquid *without* glossing over anything - my somewhat modest vinyl front-end does stomp it.

In a good system, there is no digital that is the equal of even middle-of-the-rode analog in terms of musicality - period.
In a good system, there is no digital that is the equal of even middle-of-the-rode analog in terms of musicality - period.
That's right. It's just like the way a $250 Blu-ray player will give you a better image (playing a Blu-ray disc) than a $7K upconverting DVD player can give you with a std-def DVD.

CDs have pathetically low resolution compared to an LP. The best player or DAC can't manufacture data that's missing on the disc any more than a multi-thou DVD player can create picture detail that isn't on the std-def DVD.

My humble Technics/Audio Technica LP rig blasts to smithereens the most expensive redbook players I've ever heard, especially regarding resolution of low level and inner detail.
I don't think it's resolution - cause I tried SACD for a while and it couldn't equal vinyl either.

I think it's jitter/noise/other issues that plague the A/D and D/A processes and I think we're a long way from fixing it.
This is my concern about turning my back on this "New" found high resolution format called RECORDS. I do love the musicality of Analog. Instruments sound like real instruments. But changing a record from side to side every few songs, the cleaning mess-trying to get a clean noiseless sound, is not optimal. What I am hearing is what I fear, I will not get the real sound from even a great digital system in 2009.

Bummer
04-13-09: Paulfolbrecht
I don't think it's resolution - cause I tried SACD for a while and it couldn't equal vinyl either.
SACD still can't touch analog in fine resolution. It's better than red book, but it's still not good enough.

There could be jitter and other noise issues as you mentioned, but I wonder if it doesn't come down to phase relationships. In an Absolute Sound forum, Bernie Grundman said that the one thing LPs do very well is preserve phase relationships, and that is essential for imaging, soundstage, and "hearing the room."

The thing I think is most important is how well a medium resolves tiny changes in amplitude. 16-bit red book has at best 64K increments of amplitude. At 2.7 Mhz sampling rate, I'm guessing SACD provides 2.7M increments of amplitude. 24-bit (as in DVD-A) provides 16M increments, which I think brings us closer than any of the other digital formats. 2.7 M increments simply isn't enough to replace the infinite amplitude resolution of analog. The 16M increments of 24-bit gets you about 80% of the way there in my estimation.
04-13-09: Jbryngelson
This is my concern about turning my back on this "New" found high resolution format called RECORDS. I do love the musicality of Analog. Instruments sound like real instruments. But changing a record from side to side every few songs, the cleaning mess-trying to get a clean noiseless sound, is not optimal.
If you want the magic of analog and long-playing convenience, try this labor-intensive, but inexpensive solution: Get ahold of any garden-variety VHS Hi-Fi machine. The blank tapes are still readily available. Record some of your LPs to a VHS tape. You should be able to fit 6 or 7 albums on a single tape at ELP speed.

VHS Hi-Fi is an analog medium that has 20-20K response and an S/N of 90-96 dB. What do you have to lose but a little time? Maybe it's your solution, especially for parties or relaxation. A wire-to-wire transfer also avoids the compromises of in-room feedback at higher volumes.
Johnnyb53,

It could well come down to phase - and/or several other things too, as suggested.

I just don't think that resolution is a big part at all of what's 'wrong' with digital because the fact is that it just can't get things like instrument tonalities (completely) correct and that has nothing to do with resolution.

Every time I get 'acclimated' to my digital (which, again, is damn good, frankly), and then I spin vinyl, I am amazed at how truer the tonalities of horn instruments are and how much better the instrument separation.

And, the low-res redbook on my Audio Note DAC is really superior to any high-res digital I've heard. Whatever benefits the higher res provides either come with related weaknesses (high-freq noise from higher sampling rate?) or are just not very significant in relation to the other factors that make or break digital sound.