Vinyl / High qual analog tape / High-res digital -- One of these is not like the other

One common theme I read on forums here and elsewhere is the view by many that there is a pecking order in quality:

Top - High Quality Analog TapeNext - VinylBottom - Digital

I will go out on a limb and say that most, probably approaching almost all those making the claim have never heard a really good analog tape machine and high resolution digital side by side, and have certainly never heard what comes out the other end when it goes to vinyl, i.e. heard the tape/file that went to the cutter, then compared that to the resultant record?

High quality analog tape and high quality digital sound very similar. Add a bit of hiss (noise) to digital, and it would be very difficult to tell which is which. It is not digital, especially high resolution digital that is the outlier, it is vinyl. It is different from the other two.  Perhaps if more people actually experienced this, they would have a different approach to analog/vinyl?

This post has nothing to do with personal taste. If you prefer vinyl, then stick with it and enjoy it. There are reasons why the analog processing that occurs in the vinyl "process" can result in a sound that pleases someone. However, knowledge is good, and if you are set in your ways, you may be preventing the next leap.

An excellent attempt to navigate what can be a confusing pathway.

There has always been an immediate divergence in the differing paths followed by audiophiles, namely that vital decision of whether to discover what was actually recorded or to follow whatever pleases you most.

I suspect many audiophiles follow the latter and always will. If they admit it, that's great. It's when they claim it's better, more accurate etc that problems begin.

This is the infamous objectivist v subjectivist dichotomy. This schism exists not only due to personal choice of the listener but also due in part to the existence of the circle of confusion on audio that Toole and Olive talk about.

Hardly anyone can know what the recording is supposed to sound like.

Audiophiles are notorious for casual dismissing of what others say, including producers, engineers, and musicians who were actually involved in the recording! They are often equally dismissive of technical data accumulated over decades.

Yet they will readily listen what some reviewers may have written. Reviewers who have no more qualification in knowing what was recorded than they have.

Reviewers whose opinions immediately disintegrate once the object they're reviewing is hidden from plain sight!

Needless to say that cable merchants, snake oil doctors, magic pebble peddlers etc all tend to all be firmly on the subjectivist side.

No surprises there.

So are we at an eternal impasse or is there a way forward?

Is reconciliation even possible between those who want accurate sound and those who want a sound they like?

I suspect not.

I'm prepared to acknowledge that digital is a more accurate recording medium than tape, at least in theory.

As for playback, again in theory, digital holds a measurable advantage over tape and vinyl. In fact I'd argue that a vinyl record can never sound better than the mastertape it was taken from.

In practice though things are not so clear due to all the futzing around with the sound the recording industry is notorious for.

Certain period albums still sound best on vinyl and will always remain that way due to industry indifference and sometimes the ravages of time inflicted upon the original tapes.

+1 cd318! I always have a healthy suspicion of the conclusions of the "golden ears" crowd! After all, progress in anything advances fundamentally by objectivity!
If the rule you followed brought you to this what use was your rule? Note to self: it’s always charming to see pseudo scientists patting each other in the fanny.
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