Vinyl for Digitally Recorded Music - ?


I love my vinyl and I love my well mastered cds. But, I have started collecting vinyl versions of digitally recorded and mastered music and find that the quality just doesn't compare with the older analog recorded stuff. And, then I started wondering about the point of it all...

Obviously, analog recordings produced onto analog / vinyl media makes sense. Same is true for digital recordings produced onto digital / cd media. And for convenience, producing analog recordings on cds makes sense.

But, why should us "audiophiles" bother (other than the novelty and perhaps taking advantage of the studio's high quality D/A) to purchase vinyl versions of digitally recorded music?
poonbean
Because your analog playback chain may be superior to your digital playback chain
In most cases with the LP, you are getting an analog of the original resolution, almost always 24-bit dynamic resolution with sampling rate ranging from 88.2 to 192 Khz. The D-to-A conversion is also usually done on pro-level equipment. With a CD of that recording, the playback resolution has been reduced to 16/44.1, or about 1/4 of the original data.

It's true that my very best LPs were recorded in analog with an unmatched lushness and ampbience, but several of my recent digitally-recorded LPs sound very good as well, such as James Taylor's "Covers" album, McCartney's "Memory Almost Full," and Charlie Haden's "Ramblin' Boy."

I have a modest LP rig at about $1K total-- Technics SL1210 with vibration/resonance controlling aftermarket tweaks and Audio Technica AT150MLX playing into a Cambridge 640P. This deck consistently plays back digitally recorded or remastered LPs with more warmth and liveliness than the CDs of the same. I'll take playback sourced directly from 24/96 over something dithered down to 16/44.1 any time.

What would be a much closer comparison would be a well-done digitally recorded LP vs. the 24/96 digital masters available directly from vendors such as HDTracks.

If you start with a super quality digital master converted to analog at the studio then press to a high quality LP, it's closer to the master than current silver discs.

I've posted on this topic countless times, I wish Sony - Phillips would pull out all the stops with a new digital format disc, maximum resolution without bandwidth limits, even if necessary to go Blue Ray format to hold all the data.

As for your comment that you are disappointed with digital master LPs, that does not match up with my experience.

A LOT of what has been released in recent time is from a digital master, most studios switched out long ago. Some of these recordings are superb.

If you really want to get angry with formats we're offered, get your hands on a few studio master dubs and play them on pro machine. It's a real eye opener.
Johnnyb53 posted while I was composing my response. Seems we are thinking the same thing.
The mastering process for vinyl is so different than CDs resulting in a way different (not necessarily better) sound. I for one prefer that vinyl sound, but I am pragmatic about the fact it's my personal preference, and someone else may prefer the sound from Red Book CDs.

Plus, ironically, with Digitals wider dynamic range CDs are often (especially in the case of Rock music) mastered to be as loud as possible, zipping the dynamic life right out of them. I tend to listen to Rock music mostly, so for me, this is a big deal.

And... A lot of those huge Studer 24 track ATRs out there are being pulled back into service (Rock, again): Record onto multitrack Tape, Send that to Edit in Protools (Digital), Send output of edited tracks in protools back to Tape, Then send final, analog summed mix (i.e. 2 track) back to high resolution digital recorder. My point being even on digital recordings there's more analog stuff being part of the modern recoding process than you might think.
"But, I have started collecting vinyl versions of digitally recorded and mastered music and find that the quality just doesn't compare with the older analog recorded stuff."

Some of the early ones are the worst of both worlds.
Wow. Thank you. All of your responses are really quite helpful and educational. It makes complete sense that much more information can be placed on the vinyl than the redbook. It is interesting to learn that some current recordings are using analog in the processing chain.

My disappointment might be because my recently acquired vinyls are dated mainly in the earlier part of the D/A curve. But, I recently got a few of the 180 gram recordings, and I find most inferior to their cd counterparts. My cd and analog gear is pretty good, and based on $s, the analog chain should be better. My music tastes avoid classical, focusing mainly on rock, pop, jazz, vocals.

You have definitely given me reason to keep consuming vinyl versions of currently recorded music. Is there anything to look for on the label that might indicate the quality of the source used to produce the vinyl?
Albert and Johnnyb53, I would like to test this and hear for myself. Could you recommend couple of LPs where the recording and/or mastering was done in digital? Not classical please.
I only have one record from 1987 where the recording was analog but mastering digital. The record does sound better but still there is a lot of that digital garbage in the sound. However, my analog rig is on the higher level than cd player so the comparison is not quite fair. I have no way to know how that cd would sound on $50k digital front end compared to the record on my Spacedeck.
02-18-11: Inna
Albert and Johnnyb53, I would like to test this and hear for myself. Could you recommend couple of LPs where the recording and/or mastering was done in digital?
My previous post mentioned three digitally recorded LPs that I like. Others include most of the low-cost $11.99 LP reissues on OJC (Original Jazz Classics). Granted, the $35-40 all-analog reissues sound better, but many of the $11.99 ones digitally remastered at Fantasy Studios aren't half bad. Also, Pat Metheny went digital when he moved to Geffen records, and I have a few of the European-pressed LPs--Still Life (talking), Letter from Home, and especially Question and Answer. Q&A sounds especially good, though I had to get it from the UK on eBay.
Johnnb53 got it right and although I have no proof I'm betting the Allison Krauss live LP set on Mo Fi is digital master.

The new Massive Attack must be a digital master, again I don't have specifications but it's a very recent recording. This release is potentially a great way to compare the digital versus LP as Heligoland is triple LP plus (free) CD.

Here's a link to samples at Amazon. I just ordered a back up copy from The Vinyl Factory in London since everyone here is either out of stock or doubling prices.

Heligoland
Thank you both. I'll check it out.
02-18-11: Albertporter
...although I have no proof I'm betting the Allison Krauss live LP set on Mo Fi is digital master.
I have two Norah Jones LPs, "Live from Austin TX" and "Come Away with Me", the latter mastered by Bernie Grundman on Classic Records. On its own, the Live album sounds excellent and I'd hardly suspect it's a digital recording were it not for the incredibly lush and ambient "Come Away with Me." I definitely prefer the LP over the CD regardless.

Speaking of Alison Kraus, I have the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou on both CD and LP. I'm sure it was originally digitally recorded, but I definitely get more enjoyment out of the LP than the CD.

I just recently got the Metheny Nonesuch double LP of Day Trip and Tokyo Day Trip Live. I don't know which way it was recorded, but I suspect it was digitally recorded. Whatever it was, the LP sound is awesome and the ambience is pretty lush. By that I mean you can really hear the room and the instruments' bloom, resonance, and decay.
Yep, that new Metheny, "Day Trip" is a great sounding LP.

I found mine on sale at Music Direct (3 LP + free CD) at $19.99, making it a true bargain and far more enjoyable musically than I expected, especially after initial judgement from the Amazon samples.
Johnnyb53 wrote: "I just recently got the Metheny Nonesuch double LP of Day Trip and Tokyo Day Trip Live. I don't know which way it was recorded, but I suspect it was digitally recorded. Whatever it was, the LP sound is awesome and the ambience is pretty lush. By that I mean you can really hear the room and the instruments' bloom, resonance, and decay."

As Pat Metheny is one of my favorite artists, and I have seen him live more than just about any other performer I like in concert, I am happy to agree with this assessment. I also think we can be fairly sure it was recorded digitally; however, the truth is I find it still lacking and the CD version I think is truly disappointing. Metheny has written many times about how much he likes digital recording techniques compared to "the old days," but frankly, his old EMC analog recording on vinyl I believe sounds vastly better than any of his digital releases. So, in my opinion, Metheny's more recent works--including the Day Trip LP--are good examples of how analog transfers of digital recordings can't heal all wounds.

02-18-11: Albertporter
Yep, that new Metheny, "Day Trip" is a great sounding LP.

I found mine on sale at Music Direct (3 LP + free CD) at $19.99, making it a true bargain and far more enjoyable musically than I expected...
Yeah, I got mine on the same sale (MusicDirect, Acoustic Sounds, and Elusive Disc all had that sale) plus James Taylor's Mud Slide Slim, Ricki Lee Jones (self-titled debut), and Van Morrison and the Street Choir for $11.99, Faces' A Nod is as Good as a Wink for $12.99 and Chicago (the horn band's second album, not the soundtrack or the Fosse musical) for $16.99. I particularly like the Ricki Lee Jones and Van Morrison remasters (and the Metheny, of course).