When is digital going to get the soul of music?


I have to ask this(actually, I thought I mentioned this in another thread.). It's been at least 25 years of digital. The equivalent in vinyl is 1975. I am currently listening to a pre-1975 album. It conveys the soul of music. Although digital may be more detailed, and even gives more detail than analog does(in a way), when will it convey the soul of music. This has escaped digital, as far as I can tell.
mmakshak
The answer is very sad....NEVER.
A lot of tubes help.
Never I'm afraid. I'll keep my TT - SACD improves in all areas, but nothing is as "real" sounding as vinyl (studio equipment excluded).
There was a story about a recording session in Stereophile where the engineer used 3 different mediums for recordings, hi-rez digital, redbook digital and analog tape. The performers, engineer and others compared the results and they all concluded that the hi-rez digital sounded most like the live event, but they all preferred the analog tape sound. I can only conclude that a little dynamic compression and distortion sounds really good. Some people even give human attributions to this phenomena and call it "emotion" or "soul". Don't get me wrong, nothings wrong with liking distortion, personally I like it too! But let's call it what it is and stop this analog is magic mumbo jumbo.

BTW, the processing step from analog tape to vinyl adds another layer of dynamic compression/distortion. If it sounds good, it's good, but it's a purely physical, readily understood effect.
I just need the machines to recreate the event in a reasonably accurate way (no hiss, clicks, pops or chops).
Once it's in my head, MY SOUL does the rest...
Yeah, I used to think that digital couldn't or wouldn't be able to convey the soul and emotion of analog. I'm happy to report that I was completely wrong.

The acid test for me is whether the reproduced music can affect me emotionally enough to bring tears to my eyes. Mind you, this happenstance is rare enough with extremely competent all-analog systems.

But recently, my digital source has managed that feat and managed it on several occasions. This is how I can tell that digital is getting extremely close to the live performance -- provided you use the right gear and set it up properly. This really did not happen until I tried my latest system configuration. So it is possible and it can be done if you're lucky enough to hit on the right combination of components (and the synergy is with you).
I'm not going divulge all the components I'm using at this time, but I can tell you it's an all solid-state system using NuForce Reference 9 amplifiers into VMPS RM30 speakers. Listening to it, I don't miss tubes, and I don't miss vinyl, or even R to R tape.

Now I'm off to the CES. I'll see you all later.
Is not the path to the soul through heart, rather than through the hardware? Seems that'good'equipment (Plato wrote, above: "..use the right gear and set it up properly") - be it tubes or ss, analog or digital - is a vehicle to get you where you want to go. The final common pathway is the individual ear, hear and gear, rather than the a blanket dismissal of one form or sound reproduction. To set up mutually exclusive false dichotomies, engenders ideological conflicts - already rampant - regarding which camp is the keeper of audio truth.

Simply put: there are many roads that lead to mecca, or in this case to conveying "the soul of music"; and each listner will find it as s/he will.
You have not listened to the right digital.

Regards,
I am just getting in to analog, along with digital system I already have. I agree with Plato. If you are lucky enough hit the right combination of components, it is possible to get there.

My digital system, at most times, makes me feel that I got it made. I am trying find faults and kind find any at most times. I have tried much more expensive source, pre-amp, cables- but I keep coming back to my this combo. My recent very good analog system (goose bump amd wow factor inducing) auditions only confirmed that I got it made. My digital (nothing fancy- no upsampling, no multi buck) source is pretty basic and cost under $2000 retail. It somehow works in my set up. And all this in not an optimum room set up. This system sounds almost like analog, with little more detail and presence. No hash. Zero background noise. Very Dynamic. Music emerges from black front or rear of the soundstage.

So it is possible to get soul with digital.

Although I am learning that getting there in analog is much more easier than digital. I would say analog gets you there rather easily. Digital I am finding out is stroke of luck and much more difficult. Buying best source, best preamp, $xxK amp does not gurantee this in digital.
About half a dozen years ago Red Book started to get it with processes like K@20 Bit.Listen to and old Miles davis "Kind Of Blue" from mid 80's and it new speed corrected latetsversion (the fith I believe).Or an old Pretige LP or say Creedance Clearwater Revival that now uses K2 20 bit. Blows away early CD's.Some SACD's may be neck and neck with vinyl as we speak.I still prefer the ritual and sound of LP's (nad maybe becausse like us them seem more mortal) but I uised to crap over digital and it's true everyone with Ipods and MP# has been 'dumbed" dow but I am also after 20 yers of digital excited to se PURELY ON A SOUND BASIS if a $300 CD playyer (or whever format they call it) sounds like a/b'd with $500 or $2K analogue rig.We may be in for a shock.That plus even if it is LP's it will be played through digital amps.Take how a DEQX 2.6 for a rsonmable price and have our jaw drop at what it does to the 50% factor of your room.Someone will have to help you pick your jaw up and jam, your tongue in again even if it's that 1957 deep ghroove ABC/Paramount LP that was the source.
Chazzbo
It does now and might not have heard a well matched digital front end system.
You might listen to smoe "non" oversampling. filterless digital like Audio Note or 47 Labs to see if there is "soul" there. I'm not suggesting that it is identical t analog, but there is a certain flow and tone that is VERY close.
I'm trying to understand how one gets off on digital. Is it the individual sounds sounding so life-like? I have heard some incredible sounding digital. For instance, at the Stereophile hi-end show in San Francisco in 1988(?). They were using Apogee speakers with Krell electronics, and were playing the Bodyguard(not sure of the title) cd by Whitney Houston. The sound absolutely astounded me. I could hear where, in her throat, the sound was coming from. The problem, for me, was that it didn't drive me nuts(like analog lp's) to listen to it again. Why is that?
I agree with Johnnyturbo.
I have some LP's I love on my modest rig, and some CD's and SACD's that are equally as satisfying on my setup.
It is all good these days. :)
I'm trying to understand how one gets off on digital.

This sounds to me like a question of fetishism rather than one of audio. You might have better results by asking a therapy professional.
I also wonder if the recording mechanism of digital is inherently flawed. How easy would it be to double the sampling rate(this question dates me, as far as when I was last interested in digital)? And Tvad, I'm working backwards. In other words, analog does it for me, and digital doesn't. My question is why?
In other words, analog does it for me, and digital doesn't. My question is why?

I understand your question, and I'm suggesting to you that you won't find the answer in any responses in this thread, because it has to do with your personal perception of the listening experience. Audiophiles are not professionally trained to help individuals understand themselves.
I have heard some incredible sounding digital. For instance, at the Stereophile hi-end show in San Francisco in 1988(?).
1988? End of discussion.
"Audiophiles are not professionally trained to help individuals understand themselves"

Yes and so very well said. Digital "gets me off" and I enjoy the "soul" of the music on my digital system. I could not enjoy my friends killer analog system as I could not get passed all that LP noise. You know those aweful pops and clicks from the record. He has a great turnable, cart and phono preamp. I just could not get past the "pops" to "get off" on the music. Another Aphile can. In fact, my friend can and I just look at him with amazement.

I cant explain him or his ability to get past LP noise. He cant explain my ability to get lost in digital music. Let's not judge each other as it just is and will be into the future.

Bill
"Ah Nostalgia, Nostalgia, even you ain't what you used to be!"
Anonymous Bard
You might have better results by asking a therapy professional.

Actually I am a licensed therapy professional for 20+ years.
Tvad- you are correct. The manner in which the question is posed indicates one who is probably not really seeking insight, but rather confirmation of an already held view.
That is fine as long as one is not dogmatic that their view of the world is the absolute and correct one.

Analog/Digital - it is all good these days for the end user.
We are lucky as audiophiles.
good question... it is "getting there" for the most part...however, there are several limiting factors-

-dvd/a & sacd didnt make it as format....so digital is crippled in regards to recording(ie we are pretty much stuck with redbook)

-great digital=$$$$ money (system synergy is important)
(i have heard a couple pieces that are musical for digital playback- the tube technology cd player & the electrocompinet gear)

it is a lot better than it was 5 years ago.

it will be interesting to see what happens to the digital format over the next couple years..
Mmakshak.... would have to agree with you on apogee's setup with big krell/classe amps.... there is a very vivid audio session that i remember to this day..

we were listening to apogees duetta sigs, big classe mono's blocks & top end classe preamp, vpi tnt turntable (listening to def lepard photograph). volume was all way (i was much younger)and the intital kickdrum was a giant billow of air...it was absolutly incredible (bitchen.....okay i said it...)

uhmmm sorry to get off track..
Maybe when the original poster buys a decent CD player. I find many (not all) people who trash CDs have two things in common:

1) they love rock music - many, many rock music CDs are abominably produced. Classical and jazz fans have better luck with CDs. Even then they have to be somewhat selective. Not all CDs are created equal, just as not all vinyl is created equal.
2) they have a mid-fi or lower CD player. Once you get into the higher leagues, redbook gets much better. If you have a $2500 set of speakers and a $800 CD player, then you really have $800 speakers. It costs more to buy a top notch CD player than a vinyl rig of equivalent quality.

It's not just ones and zeroes folks, it's what is done with them.
Ever hear a snap, crackle or pop from a live performance? Yeah, love that "soul" of the sound of static electricity, dust, etc. at high amplification...

Once they can take the garbage out of the vinyl reproduction, then I'll take a look at it. Say, didn't they make a laser turntable? Only HOW MANY thousands of dollars? Forget it. My cd experience is pleasing to me.
I hope no one gets offended by what I say(after all, I have been diagnosed by a professional). Who would think that I'm not interested in an almost complete catalog of Neil Young's music on one disc(that I could play in my car)? I'm more interested in the discussion. You have to understand, digital has cried "wolf" for so many years, that I am somewhat jaded(and dated). I know there has been music after 1981, and I am interested in enjoying that music. Maybe I'm actually asking for advice? I will be listing a few things that have been suggested to me about what I need in digital. To dispell the notion that I have no access to money, let me just say that I spent $3700 on a front end, $2000 on amps, and $1000 on wires in the last year.
"Let yourself go, Mmakshak," says Shadorne. "Your ears can deceive you. Don't trust them." "Let go your conscious self and act on instinct." "Stretch out with your feelings."

"The Soul is what gives an Audiogoner his power. It's an energy field created by all music. It surrounds us and penetrates us."

The "Soul" of music is inside us all. It cannot be found in any vinyl album or CD. I can enjoy the Soul in music on any of my available sources...even mp3, which to me has an audible degradation from CD but not nearly enough to spoil the enjoyment from a portable player. Music it seems, can instantly transform your mood and take you somewhere else...it is something we all seem to share and feel.

Given the current high quality audio equipment widely available (analog or digital, tube or SS amp), after the Artist's abilities, which are of foremost importance, then it is the actual recording quality that has the next biggest impact on enjoyment. I do not mean "digital versus analog". What I mean is the quality of the job done in the recording studio or at the live performance, irrespective of the final source for playback (CD or Vinyl or whatever).

High quality studio recordings take lots of time and effort and significant $$$. Live performances are often a mixed bag with the venue often causing great challenges for the sound engineer to produce something passable.

The MTV "unplugged" series is of pretty good live recording standard...for example they went to a lot of trouble to make the Eagles "Hell freezes over" live recording sound great. For Jazz, Dave Grusin's "Hommage to Duke" is, as far as I have found, one of the best Ellington recordings ever. If we move to classical then I have generally found Telarc recordings to be of generally the very highest standard.

"May the Soul be with you"
Maybe digital is equivalent to Linn's philosophy, in a way. Until they suggested the foot-tapping way to evaluate equipment, people didn't look at things that way(and I'm not saying that is the only way to look at things). Is there a way of looking at digital that is equivalent(Does that sound dogmatic enough for the therapist?). For instance, at Stereophile's High-End show, circa 1984, at the Dumphy in San Mateo, I was one of the few that appreciated the Linn Kan's(no bass, etc.) virtues. I'm not talking about clicks and pops here, as I'm sure analog provides many of(especially if that's what you are looking for). The good analog setups separate the clicks and pops from the music.
This may sound stupid. I have listened to my daughter's(does that date me somewhat?) car stereo. She played Elton John's Greatest Hits. Listening to songs that I am familiar with, it hit all the right notes, had great separation, and maybe added some details that I hadn't noticed before. My friend did the same, in his car, with Neil Young's Greatest Hits(or equivalent). You see, in analogue, that would indicate that those cd's were superior. The problem is playing those records at home(in analog)would kill those cd's. What gives? (And they wonder why I don't understand cd?)
Baddabob states;
Once you get into the higher leagues, redbook gets much better. If you have a $2500 set of speakers and a $800 CD player, then you really have $800 speakers. It costs more to buy a top notch CD player than a vinyl rig of equivalent quality.

My experience does not match yours Baddbob. Conversely, I have found that one advantage of Digital is that it is relatively inexpensive to get high league sound. I, for one, can confirm that I am unable to hear audible benefits of a higher quality CD player or DAC converter. (Although, no doubt there have been some very badly performing CD players in the past, particularly in the 80's...perhaps I am lucky enough not to have owned a bad CD player with poor quality DAC conversion, filtering and jitter etc. that is audible)

I have made the following blind tests:

1) My ordinary and inexpensive Sony CDP CX 235 CD changer analog ouput through my AVM 20 pre-amp analog circuits.
2) My Digital Coax output from the same ordinary and cheap Sony CD CDP CX 235 changer through my Anthem AVM 20 192 kHz/24-bit DACs.
3) My somewhat older Grundig Fine Arts CD player with a DAC7 direct to my active speakers. (Grundig CD player has a built in volume control)

The inexpensive Sony's use cheap single bit DAC converters running at a very high frequencies and then filtered to create the anaolg signal and remove high frequency noise...a no no for audiphiles and admittedly a design where CD players have had real audible problems in the past (mid 80's).

The results:
All three options, playing a variety of music, through my ATC 100 Active Studio monitors are indistinguishable to my ears provided volume levels are well matched.

Since I have many CD's and I hate the fuss of changing the CD's in the tray, as you might guess, given the absence of audible differences, I use the quite ordinary Sony CD changers as my source and my Grundig Fine Arts CD player sits in the closet even though it is probably one of the more expensive CD players I have bought ( at the time I bought the Grundig player, a DAC7 chip was hailed as a significant improvement in CD sound).
Try listening to a few Mapleshade CDs. I'm personally not crazy about most of the music - I have around 10 disks - but the quality of the recordings is amazing. I'm not good at describing sound with words, but 'getting to the soul of the music' sounds about right. Recordings like these show what digital is capable of.
The good analog setups separate the clicks and pops from the music.

I don't understand this statement. If one hears clicks and pops, then one hears clicks and pops as part of the musical reproduction. Are you suggesting that some analog set-ups magically make the clicks and pops sound separate from the music?

In a concert hall, the sounds of coughing and gum popping are separate from the music, too, but they are still annoying.

I have listened to my daughter's(does that date me somewhat?) car stereo. She played Elton John's Greatest Hits. Listening to songs that I am familiar with, it hit all the right notes, had great separation, and maybe added some details that I hadn't noticed before. My friend did the same, in his car, with Neil Young's Greatest Hits(or equivalent). You see, in analogue, that would indicate that those cd's were superior. The problem is playing those records at home(in analog)would kill those cd's. What gives?

This clearly indicates to me you prefer the lower resolution and limited extension of vinyl, since the CD playback in a car stereo is lower resolution than in a high end CD front end. In addition, the music is probably compressed via the car stereo system, with the highs rolled off and the mid-bass boosted.

You have not heard a good digital front end. This is obvious. There is not one person who will satisfactorily answer your question. You will have to hear it for yourself through trial and error, along with some guidance available in dozens of Audiogon threads. Do a search for "Best CD player under $xxxx", and go from there.

Futhermore, and I say this with utmost sincerity, you appear to be a perfect candidate for Dakiom Feedback Stabilizers. These are available for sale in the Audiogon listings. In my experience, they make things sound "more analog" by limiting the HF extension of digital playback. At least that's how they sounded in my system, but I can see how they might make digital sound more like vinyl to some listeners. Personal preference is everything where Dakioms are concerned.

Good luck.
Analog has limited HF extension? Come over to my house buddy and you shall change your mind. Not all records have limited bandwith.
Shadorne: Amen.
take care of your records, and your records will take care of you.
I have found that one advantage of Digital is that it is relatively inexpensive to get high league sound. I, for one, can confirm that I am unable to hear audible benefits of a higher quality CD player or DAC converter.

Surprised you feel that way Shadorne. I guess the only thing I can suggest is that you try a Wadia, Ayre, Cary or the like and see if our feelings change. I know mine did.
Finally......thank you Shadorne
I just want to mention(again) that in a properly setup analog system, clicks and pops are separated from the music(i.e., when listening to the music, you won't hear{or it won't intrude) the pops and clicks. Maybe we need some turntable designers to say something here(but don't worry, it's true in my system, and I'm sure, many others.).
Shadorne I've taken the time to research the components you list, and as you say, they are pretty ordinary. The processors described in the reviews on the Anthem site are nothing to write home about. You appear to have drawn your conclusions without actually ever trying a high end two channel CD playback system. You really should make the effort.
Baddabob,

You make a good point and are quite correct about my pretty ordinary source components...I stand corrected. I have not made direct comparisons with anything approaching the $2000+ range (a high quality source). So in all fairness, my remarks reflect an opinion about high end digital sound based on my observations of a variety of products from low to mid tier that sound alike.

Since I do not find audibly distinguishable differences between these ordinary to mid tier DAC's (despite using three very different types of DAC), I am naturally a bit skeptical to pay big prices for even better quality components. ( I understand that the higher priced components will definitely be better quality/specification...but my concern is that, given the already good quality of even low to mid tier digital sources, I simply won't be able to hear the improvement of a high end digital source because the low and mid tier digital is already good enough for me...)

Thanks Baddabob for pointing this out.
Well you'll never know until you try. There must be some reason why so many people (including myself) are raving about their Naims, Wadias, Carys and Ayres. I've heard a number of lower priced CD players and you're right. They do all sound the same. The higher end ones are another league altogether.
Mmakshak,

Digital is too good for two channel playback, it reveals the short comings of not having a proper speaker setup. Two channel isn't very good now that we have pushed the envelope of source performance this far which is why some of the best LP playback equipment begins to sound thin and less "musical" when improved.

I will not argue if you only have a two channel system that LP's maybe the best source for music. Their technical weaknesses actually benefitting the two channel arrangement.

Its been known for a very long time that surround provides a more musically involving experience (60-70 years). The audiophile consensus is that two good speakers is better than 5 mediocre ones and a subwoofer, my experience is too the contrary, just fyi.

Analog specific companies have mastered the art of THD, compression and EQ, and "better" is not a word that can be used to measure the technical performance but simply the subjective sound.

Your car stereo experience is only hinting at the huge gap between 2 channel and multichannel playback for digital sources, don't ignore it. It leads a long way to where you want to go

As Onhwy61 and others directly and indirectly have indicated, without added distortion two channel is a step down in sound, requiring compression and harmonic distortion to make it sound meaningful and full. I have clients who have their noses pressed up against this very problem...more distortion or more channels? Because that is exactly the choice you have if you want to play digital recordings and "feel" it.

To address the typical responses to a post like this let me address two irratatingly thoughtless comments used as a rebuttle to such comments.

1. for the two ears, two channels comments---my answer is stop being a simpleton

2. for the mixed to be two channel crowd, name one commonly used microphone with a 180 degree pickup pattern? Its all I ask. Answer this one and then I'll consider your rebuttle as validated.

If the choice were simpleton vs windbag. . . I shall choose the former.
D edwards: I've been using 5.1 surround for the last two months (for the first time) and I totally agree that surround kicks two-channel butt (at least with lower priced equipment in a small room).
It's similar to adding a good subwoofer to an already good system -really puts meat on the musical bones.
I don't know if I can articulate this properly. I was playing "Crosby-Nash(a platinum-plus lp), and I asked my brother where the click and pops were. Then I heard some. When I focused on them, it was very disturbing. After thinking about that, one idea came to mind. What if all the non-musical artifacts(maybe rumble,too-anything that didn't have anything to do with the musical message)were separated out in a sense. In other words, when listening to ticks and pops, one also was listening to all(or a lot of)the non-music stuff. That could explain why the ticks and pops drive people crazy.
My ticks and pops submission brings me to a previous point and inquiry. I would suggest that when listening to analog, one listens to the music(and not the ticks and pops). That is how one listens to analog. I, therefore, want to repeat the question,"is there a way to listen to digital?". My Linn Kan's comments were made for the same reason. When one listens to the Kan's, in terms of conveying the beat, they make sense.
Actually, I just noticed that D edwards answered my question about how to listen to digital. He said that you need surround-sound, I believe.
I have found that good digital (particularly Hi-Rez, but also some CDs) has gotten to the point where, in my system, the soul of the music gets to me from the performance and the composer rather than the medium it's played on. It took a long time for digital to get to that point--analog has been there for a while.
My pops and clicks even sound good on my setup.

This is a tough question and one that probably is too vague "soul of music" I mean beauty is in the eye of the beholder. No digital has sounded as transparent as vinyl to me, but others mayb prefer digital.
Folks, the soul of music is in the totality of the musical instantiation--composition, performance, recording, reproduction--not merely in the medium, regardless of format.Listen to the Gloria in J. S. Bach's Magnificat in D Major BWV 243
conducted by John Eliot Gardiner and released on CD in distant 1983. Perhaps technologically not the most up to date recording. . . but does it ever have soul? Overwhelmingly so! To claim that the very presence or abscence of pops/clicks, grooves/pits, valves/transistors, mono/stereo/multichannel reproduction, grand or modest sound, in any shape or form, solely determine whether music is capable of affecting our lives or not, is to trivialize the entire musical experience, which instead, because of its very rich and complex nature, transcends technology.