Turntable got absolutely crushed by CD

Long story short, i've just brought home a VPI classic 1 mounted with a Zu-Denon DL103 on JMW Memorial 10.5 with the appropriate heavier counterweight. Had everything dialed in..perfect azimuth, VTF, overhang, with only a slightly higher than perfect VTA. Levelling checked. All good. 

I did a comparison between the VPI and my Esoteric X03SE and it's not even close. The Esoteric completely crushes the VPI in all regards. The level of treble refinement, air, decay, soundstage depth and width, seperation, tonality, overall coherence is just a simply a league above from what I'm hearing from the VPI. The only area the VPI seems to be better at is bass weight, but not by much. 

I'm honestly quite dumbfounded here. I've always believed that analogue should be superior to digital. I know the Esoteric is a much pricier item but the VPI classic is supposed to be a very good turntable and shouldn't be a slouch either. At this point I feel like I should give up on analogue playback and invest further in digital. 

Has anyone had a similar experience comparing the best of digital to a very good analogue setup?

Esoteric X03SE 
VPI Classic, JMW Memorial 10.5, Zu-DL103
Accuphase C200L
Accuphase P600
AR 90 speakers

Test Record/CD:
Sarah McLachlan - Surfacing (Redbook vs MOV 180g reissue)

Hondo, my friend has that table and it sounds amazing, with both clear audio and soundsmith carts. 
dynaquest4  Let me know what you don't understand and I will try to explain it better
Dear @fleschler and friends: As I said almost all the gentlemans posting in this thread and overall all Agon forums and almost everywhere the internet audio forums always speaks of sound and its quality they are accustom to but almost no one speaks about MUSIC.

What mean I with that statement?, well MUSIC is percieved by us like a sound but it’s not the same speak to just " sound " that the true sound of live MUSIC at near field position experiences and with out these kind of first hand live MUSIC experiences seated at near field position we just can’t even try to compare not only digital vs analog but almost any home audio room/system issues or characteristics.

What we read at almost any audio forum from the " audiophiles " when refering of the characteristics of what they are hearing and like in their systems are adjectives that only exist in their home audio room/systems but that certainly does not belongs to the unique live MUSIC characteristics at near field at near field position.

Some of those adjectives by " audiophiles " are: swetness, delicated, rounded, softness, inner detail, depness in the soundstage, tactile, calm, peace, organic, musical, relaxed, warm, etc, etc.

If we attend to a live MUSIC event and we are seated at near field position ( say 1-3 m. from the source. ) what we can hear is: brigthness, agresiveness, thunderous, very high SPL, even some one could say: harsh and some other adjectives and things are that this kind of MUSIC sound is what the recording microphones pick-up at near field position where the mics are " seated ", some times even closer than 1m.

Ask you how many times were you stand up at 1m from a Grand piano where the player was playing at real live concert SPLs ?, the true sound of that experience tell you that you even can’t " support " to listen it maybe for more than 15 minutes and then you will get back but what if you do it not with a piano but a horn like a trumpet or a Sax alto: you will blow away in a few seconds ! ! ! !

Recording Microphones are really wide frequency range ( say from even lower than 10hz to over 60khz and support SPLs higher than 130dbs with very low distortion levels ) and way superior in many regards that our ears.

Now, if that kind of characteristics are the ones along other like the very fast transients in live MUSIC and fast harmonic developments why we " audiophiles " use other kind of vocabulary with audio systems and by " coincidence " when analog lovers ( like me that like digital too. ) talk about digital recordings the adjectives usually used are precisely the ones I named that are the ones we experienced in a near field live MUSIC events ! ! ? ? ! ! ? ?

My opinion is that not all audiophiles are true MUSIC lovers but " sound lovers ", that’s way different. If some of you never had that near field live MUSIC experiences then do not understand what I’m talking about.

What’s the main diference between live MUSIC and recorded MUSIC?, well transiente response of the notes perceived by our ears/brain/body.

In live MUSIC event at near field exist only AIR between the MUSIC source and our overall body: nothing in between that can degrades the MUSIC sound.
At near field position we listen direct sound coming from the instruments and when seated at 10-15 rows ( in a concert hall. ) that direct sound certainly is not the same because between other things the hall chairs/seats absorb or dissipates that direct sound as does the people seated at our sides, at back and in front of us. The microphones are neither affected by all those. Near field position is way different.

The recording process in analog and digital are way different as it’s too ( and even with more " dramatic "/critical differences ) during play back in our sytem listening sessions.

First recording differences comes in the low bass range where the microphones pick up a stereo signal that never chnges to mono in the digital alternative as always happens in the analog recording process.

Second difference a big one is that the analog process apply a huge equalization of around 20db over the whole frequency range between 20hz to 20khz to even the RIAA eq. curve. This just does not happens in the recording digital process.
The degradation implications in that recording RIAA eq. curve are to many between other things that not only affect note to note but the developed harmonics too.

Third difference is that in the digital recording what is recorded in the recording tape are only zeros and ones that’s way different to the analog recorded signal in the tape where that signal is always added by the frequency range limit of the tape recorder, its noise levels, its distortion levels, etc, etc. that does not exist in the digital recording process.

Fourth difference is that cutting development process to make the mother stamper ( LP grooves ) to press each copy of a LP where at each pressing single LP the next pressed one is degraded by the degradation of the used stamper. All this does not happens with the digital alternative where each single track is an original master due that what is copy are only zeros and ones each time.

But the worst degradation, I can say a " nigthmare ", for the LP recorded signal comes during the playback process that starts with the off-center LPs and surface waves and micro-waves that the cartridge/tonearm must track.
After that the LP recorded signal is added of full of noise/distorions levels at each link where it pass through the playback process: TT own kind of noise/distortions ( evrykind. ), cartridge own distortions, tonearm own developed distortions/noises including the ones coming from the tonearm internal wiring, headshell connector input and tonearm connector output and even from the phono IC cable. In the digital playback process things are different and with lot less signal degradation. Additional and due that the cartridge output is a tiny one level the signal is " open " to be degraded by noise pollution.

The " nigthmare " only began and is followed by the cartridge/tonearm alignment in pivoted tonearms where even if we made that alignment perfect ( that never is. ) always eist a developed tracking distortion levels.

After the cartridge/tonearm/alignment the LP recorded signal is almost at " random " additional degradations due that the relationship between the tonearm and the cartridge mounted on it develops many kind of distortions starting with the in between resonance frequency range that affects the recorded signal.
All those followed by the cartridge tracking abilities to follows the LP grooves modulation in accurate way that never can be achieved loosing signal information.

And that’s all?, NO because way before we can listen in the speakers the signal reproduction the cartridge signal must goes to the " signal killer " named: phono stage where the signal, sometimes, has to be amplified 8k-10K times, depending of the cartridge output level, and inside that " signal killer " the cartridge signal must pass again to the RIAA eq ( this time inverse curve. ) to achieve " flat response but here exist several problems to achieve that " flat response ":
first no single analog phono stage comes with zero db deviation in the frequency inverse RIAA eq. and due to that can’t mimic the original signal ( we loss signal information here: adding or losted. ) and second even with zero deviations in the inverse RIAA eq curve no one knows for sure if in reality can mimic with the RIAA " deviations " developed in the recording process.

Instead digital playback is almost like the direct sound in a near field position listening: starigth, with a lot less signal degradations of everykind that exist in the recording/playback analog process.

After all those no one needs to be a " genius " to attest that analog got absolutely crushed by the digital alternative. Just no contest.

I’m not a sound lover but a MUSIC lover and that’s why I like analog and digital alternatives but I know that exist no superiority in the analog alternative no matter what.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
@ rauliruegas  I agree with you concerning nearfield listening with its less than optimal sound for music listening comfort.  Back in the 70s, I reviewed concerts at UCLA Royce Hall and traded my front row tickets for 10th row.  The first couple of rows were too direct sounding and could be too bright, hard, loud, etc.  

However, despite your criticism of the analog process of music reproduction, I thoroughly enjoy listening to "antique" music recordings from the 1900s to 1925, when eq didn't exist, speeds varied per recording artist and company and many more variables caused sonics to be less than good.  It's the performances I'm after.  After 1925, electrical recording produced very fine sound, limited by the technology, but thoroughly enjoyable on my system.  On most audio systems, the dynamic compression and lack of complete harmonic structure greatly limits the sound quality and enjoyment of post 1925 records which have the ability to transport the music listener to a blissful state.  

I also enjoy a well mastered digital recording (I am an amateur recording engineer for various choirs and chamber music which better results then most current professional recordings).  I abhor the current technique of recording at a great distance and large hall for most acoustic recordings, especially anything smaller than an orchestra.  I prefer the direct sound of pianos to cavernous recordings of them.  A touch of room or hall ambiance is beneficial but not like Yarlung recordings for example.  Sometimes I hear modern recordings such as a flute splayed across both channels as huge as a symphony in a cavernous hall.  Yuk, who would want to hear that live?   
I think I agree with much of what you’re trying to say, but your distinction between ’sound’ and ’music’ is not very helpful. Music is organized sound waves, there’s really no way around this.

What you could say is this: recorded music (whether analog or digital makes no difference) will always be absolutely crushed by live music. There’s a fundamental divide here that apparently cannot be bridged.

We’ve all heard street musicians and you can always tell even from a distance if they play live or not. It doesn’t matter if they play acoustically or with the aid of amplification. If it’s played on the spot, you will recognize it immediately. Especially in cases where musicians play live on top of a pre-recorded tape you can easily hear the fundamental difference between them both. Live music has a different ’gestalt’.

I’ve always wondered if this ’gestalt’ is already lost when the microphone picks up those airwaves. That would make the analog versus digital debate rather moot, because the essence was already lost before hitting the record button. But I have never heard a mastertape in a controlled studio environment, so I might be very wrong about this.

Perhaps the essence of live music does get captured on the mastertape, but gets lost somewhere downstream in the playback process? If this is the case the characteristics of the used ’sound carriers’ (analog tape, cassette, LP, digital tape, CD, SACD, streaming, etc.) become more important. What sound carrier and audio playback system are most capable of approaching that essence? Here opinions are all over the map, which suggests one thing: it’s all subjective. Which goes a long way to explain all those tired ’debates’ about analog versus digital, MC versus MM, CD versus SACD, tubes versus solid state, class A versus class D, horns versus dipoles, etc, etc, etc.......

It seems to me that no recording and/or playback technology is capable of capturing/reproducing the ’whole beast’. I’ve never had the same unmistakable awareness of hearing live with any audio system as I always do when I hear a street musician. Even playing through a crappy amp and loudspeaker and even from a wider distance without any visual contact. You just ’know’.