The character of analog and digital


Having just obtained some high quality analogue components, I want make some comments on the character of both analog and digital.
First of all it’s very difficult to speak of analog in general. Records vary widely (indeed wildly) in sonic character and quality. Digital recordings are much more uniform. When you play a digital file you more or less know what your getting. Of course some sound better than others, but there is a consistency of character. With records, it’s the Wild West. Variation in SQ and character are rampant.


Therefore it becomes very difficult to make generalizations on which categorically sounds better.

128x128rvpiano

In most digital v. vinyl discussions I've encountered, the burden of proof  seems to be on the digital side.  Seems to me, it should be the other way around.  Vinyl is subject to damage from dust, heat, and wear that do not affect digital. Turntable belts stretch, needles wear.  So a fair comparison should be under real-world conditions, between a moderately worn vinyl  record and a digital recording of the same performance, where both are played through electronic components of comparable quality.  And to be fair, really, the turntable and stylus should be compared after accruing some realistic amount of play time.  Prove that the moderately used vinyl, played on a moderately used turntable, with no history of herculean maintenance efforts, has no more audible noise (pops, static, skips, etc.) and just as much dynamic range as the digital recording of the same performance. If not, then convince us that the vinyl has other superior qualities to compensate for the audible noise.

Even if we're comparing pristine vinyl recordings to digital, I've never seen convincing evidence that the vinyl SQ  is superior.  By "convincing" I mean, supported by either (a) objective measurements, or (b) expert testimony.  Anything less is anecdotal.  Not saying it's wrong, not saying it's right.  It's your opinion.  But the fact remains, digital is far more convenient, it is not subject to wear and tear, and the majority of listeners seem to prefer it (rightly or wrongly, for reasons that may or may not emphasize SQ).  I have not listened to vinyl for many years, so I admit, maybe I'm missing something about the sound quality. But I know I don't miss the dust, the warping, the worn needles, the stretched belts, etc., or all the accompanying maintenance fuss.

There's a robust audio club here in the greater New Orleans area. Great group of guys. Fully analog; with some dipping their toes into digital. 

I've heard, maybe three dozen, vinyl systems. Two stand out and I'd love to transport those into one of my rooms. One is in Houston and the other just outside of New Orleans. If I had to choose, I'd take the Houston system over the local one but I'd be blessed to have either.

As someone who is one hundred percent streaming digital there is one commonality that stands out to me about the thinking and approach towards digital from those I know who are fundamentally analog audiophiles: 

That digital should be easy and deliver without much effort

I find this especially surprising given the effort and years it has taken them to get to where they are in terms of sound quality and performance from their analog systems.

The second standout point, in my experience, is spending pennies on the dollar for digital when their budgets for the analog side of their systems are up there, way up there.

Digital takes effort and expense and experience. When executed correctly the results are stellar.

in a perfect world, digital should be close to ’of a piece’ with analog. in other words, you ought to be able to switch back and forth from digital to analog/vinyl or analog/vinyl to digital and while the analog/vinyl is farther down the road to suspension of disbelief, the digital is getting there less only by degrees.

digital is never getting all the way there, but.....it does not have to. digital brings us access to much more music, and ease of use. and so we can live with ’of a piece’ synergy with our analog.

and this is where i think i am in my digital and analog. and i am as much invested in my analog and my digital as anyone here.

i do respect that some don’t agree and see the chasm between digital and analog as much greater; they need to work on their digital. or at least recognize what digital can do at the tip top of the digital food chain.

“As someone who is one hundred percent streaming digital there is one commonality that stands out to me about the thinking and approach towards digital from those I know who are fundamentally analog audiophiles:

That digital should be easy and deliver without much effort.

I find this especially surprising given the effort and years it has taken them to get to where they are in terms of sound quality and performance from their analog systems.

The second standout point, in my experience, is spending pennies on the dollar for digital when their budgets for the analog side of their systems are up there, way up there.

Digital takes effort and expense and experience. When executed correctly the results are stellar.”

+1, @david_ten

You nailed it 🖐️🎤 ⬇️

 

@millercarbon 

Welcome back!

Shouldn’t we compare recent releases of digital and vinyl rather than waxing lyrical about 70 year old recordings where the digital release is cheap and cheerful mastering because you otherwise can’t make money on it? Claiming outright superiority of vinyl givien fast progress on digital seems a bit outdated.