Why would anyone use HD Tracks for Downloads?


I really enjoy hi-res computer audio music files I've downloaded from Liaison in Europe. These files were recorded direct to digital and I download them as 24/96 FLAC or WAV files. There is an obvious improvement in dynamics, soundstaging, noise floor and detail over CD that make it worth the small increase in $$.
My understanding is that all, or at least the vast majority, of downloads offered by HD Tracks are nothing more than existing older standard resolution analog masters transferred to PCM or DSD format digital files. Standard resolution recordings transferred to a hi-resolution format cannot produce hi-res music files. An analogy is transferring a steak served on a small plate to a larger plate; the steak will still taste the same and there is no improvement in taste. Music originally recorded on a multi-track analog reel-to-reel recorder will have limited dynamic range, a higher noise floor, a limited frequency response and less detail than the same music recorded directly to digital.

I know there currently is a lack of major artists taking advantage of hi-res, direct to digital recording of their music. Most of the truly hi-res music seems to be coming from lesser known artists. I've found that i Trax in California and the Liaison Music Shop in Europe are 2 good sources of true hi-res recordings.

So, my question is to those that have downloaded supposed hi-res music files from HDTracks: Are you disappointed by the sound quality of your purchases from HDTracks? I would think you would be, since I believe you're listening to standard resolution files that should sound no better than CDs or records you may already own of the same material.

I'm very leery of buying HDTracks downloads not only because of the above, but also because they fail to list the source of their downloads; there's no mention of whether they're simply transfers of standard resolution masters or are recorded direct to digital and actually are hi-res.

I'm interested in readers' thoughts on avoiding standard resolution files advertised as hi-res.

Thanks,
Tim
noble100
I asked essentially the exact same question on another audio forum. I kinda don't think the analog master tapes are being made available to every Tom Dick and Harry. DVD Audio is 192/24 and there's nothing wrong with the sound of DVD Audio. Pity it went belly up in 2007.
Your point on hd down load has merit, however, you obviously have little experience with analog. My suggestion is that you do some deep research before panning analog and the benefits of using his rez encoding for mixing and mastering.

This is topic that is as old as tubes vs solid state and there is tons of reading and listening out there for you to do.

Your focus on the vender is better served than rehashing whether analog is a hi rez medium.
"My understanding is that all, or at least the vast majority, of downloads offered by HD Tracks are nothing more than existing older standard resolution analog masters transferred to PCM or DSD format digital files. Standard resolution recordings transferred to a hi-resolution format cannot produce hi-res music files. An analogy is transferring a steak served on a small plate to a larger plate; the steak will still taste the same and there is no improvement in taste. Music originally recorded on a multi-track analog reel-to-reel recorder will have limited dynamic range, a higher noise floor, a limited frequency response and less detail than the same music recorded directly to digital."

That's really not true. Standard resolution seems to be a marketing term more than anything. If you don't believe me, try to find a definition. My best guess is that you are referring to Redbook, when you say standard resolution. Most recordings are not done at 16/44. They are recorded at a better quality and then down sampled to CD quality. As long as you are getting the resolution that the recording was made at, you should be getting better than CD quality. For analog recordings, there's no limit on resolution. Quality will vary depending on how well the recording was made. It can range from very high, better than CD quality, to very low quality.
"DVD Audio is 192/24 and there's nothing wrong with the sound of DVD Audio. Pity it went belly up in 2007.

You're right. Too bad the marketing wasn't as good as the sound quality.
I do not know the technical details but all of the hdtraks I downloaded were disappointments to me, and I only downloaded the hi res format ones. I tried several different genres, a few ones I had on cd, etc. For me a waste of money.
Skoczylas,

I don't know how your system is set up, but you need to put time and effort into setting a computer up as a source. Its no different than setting up a TT or picking the right CD player. The same thing happened to a lot of people with SACD. They went out and bought an entry level unit from a place like Best Buy and didn't get good results. They were asking too much of the format itself. I made that mistake. I went out and bought a cheap Sony 9000ES and put it next to my Wadia. It didn't go too well for the Sony. The CD sounded way better than the SACD. But when I put a SACD in the Sony, and compared it to the same recording on CD using the Sony, the DSD did sound better.
Dvd audio had the ability to go as high as 24/192 but rare were the recordings that met that watermark. Most were 24/48 or 96.

Also, have you ever looked at the actual wav. on those discs? I have and it ain't pretty. Most have hard compression and extreme listing on them....that would include Dire Straits, Paul Simon, Steely Dan and Talking Heads to name a few. What it is on or how it is encoded means nothing if the engineering or mastering butchered it.

But as a recording engineer I agree that when done properly digital can be great. Without digital I would not be doing what I do.
that is suppose to be limiting not listing.
Raymonda,

I actually do have decent experience with analog, having utilized vinyl playback for a decade or more using very good quality turntables and cartridges but never ultra hi-end equipment. I enjoyed a lot of good music on those systems and thought the fidelity, at the time, was very good. I also listened for many years to a friend's reel-to-reel system playing copies of master tapes of Steely Dan, the Moody Blues and the Marshall Tucker Band albums. Those sounded better than I had ever heard a system sound up to that point. I have no doubt that good analog recordings on both vinyl and reel-to-reel, played back on high quality systems, can sound exceptionally good.

20 plus years later, however, I decided to set up a computer audio system (laptop running JRiver and connected to an Oppo 105 as a DAC via a NAS and wi-fi network) and discovered that, if the recordings were made direct to digital by a competent engineer, the result is highly accurate and the most 'in the room' realistic that I've ever heard thus far. In my opinion and to my ears, recordings merely transferred from the original analog masters are not nearly as satisfying since they have a higher noise level, lower dynamic range and less detail. That 'in the room' illusionary impact is lessened in my experience.

I do not wish to carry on the analog vs. digital debate; to me, the the debate has been settled.

Zd542,
Yes,I consider'standard resolution' to be anything at or below Redbook CD quality. I would classify vinyl, reel-to-reel and cassette tape as standard resolution.

You stated: " For analog recordings, there's no limit on resolution. Quality will vary depending on how well the recording was made. It can range from very high, better than CD quality, to very low quality."
I definitely agree that quality will vary depending on how well a recording was made. However, claiming there's no limit on the resolution of analog reel-to-reel recordings ignores the fact that it has a high noise floor and its dynamic range is limited to 60-70 db while digital has a dead-quiet noise floor and has a dynamic range limit of 90-95 db.

However, my reason for posting this thread was not to dismiss analog as a music source. Analog users know how good it can be.

Looking back, I think it was HD Tracks email ads that spurred my posting. Their site is filled with good artists and music that I want to buy but know I shouldn't because the recordings are not up to the standards of true hi-res. I think, at best, their recordings are transfers of the original analog masters to digital PCM and DSD formats. But I cannot be certain because they give absolutely no information of how their so called 'Hi-Res' titles were created. I'm assuming they're just transfers from the original analog masters since I know of none of these artists re-recording their music directly to digital and qualifying as hi-resolution audio.

I think my frustration at HD Tracks not identifying their process, and not making a distinction between analog transfers and direct to digital recordings, spurred me to post this thread questioning their claimed hi-res offerings.

I am certain that music recorded directly to digital by a competent recording engineer, and played back through a high quality system, results in a musical experience that the vast majority of Audiogon members would classify as excellent. I think this because I've achieved these results using several different direct to digital recordings.

I think my main point is that companies like HD Tracks selling analog to digital recordings as hi-res will only lead to disappointment from buyers since they will be unable to hear any differences between their existing music and those falsely claimed to be hi-res. The sad truth is that they'll be right, there is no difference, since the music was not recorded direct to digital.

Hopefully, more artists will become aware of this important distinction and begin recording digitally but companies selling analog transfers as hi-res titles certainly won't help.

I hope I adequately clarified my thoughts,
Tim

Dolby SR is in the 90-95db ratio of signal to noise. I think you are looking at Dolby B systems of the 80's Analog noise reduction has come a long, long way since then. Try listening to Circus Monkey from Walter Becker. This was recorded totally in analog using Dolby SR. I doubt you will be troubled by any noise floor. Too bad that you can only get Becker's album on CD. It would be great to have an AAA copy.

I'm not bashing digital at all. As I said, if it weren't for digital I would not have the business I have today. Last night I had a job, which was a multi-track live record of Hot Tuna. I just couldn't afford the cost if I ran analog, nor would I be able to easily set up and tear down equipment or mix it within the time frame that my customers need. With digital it is wham, bam thank you! And, yes, the results can be fantastic......but I dream and drool over the thoughts of a SOTA multi-track analog rig. But that turns into a lot of money and a lot more work and time.

So, beyond the digital vs analog issue....to my ears transfering well recorded analog to high rez digital is worth it. But I wouldn't let go of the analog master cause digital can not capture everything that analog can.

BTW, where in the world did your friend get those analog masters? Was he a big time studio engineer that had access to these masters? Those are some big name artists that he worked with. Very impressive. I'm envious!!!!!
BTW, it is pretty easy to see whether HD is using CD and upsampling. Just look at frequency graph. Filters and brick wall filters tell all.

And if they are...well it is consumer fraud and a class action needs to happen.
Raymonda,

You stated: "Dolby SR is in the 90-95db ratio of signal to noise. I think you are looking at Dolby B systems of the 80's Analog noise reduction has come a long, long way since then. Try listening to Circus Monkey from Walter Becker. This was recorded totally in analog using Dolby SR. I doubt you will be troubled by any noise floor. Too bad that you can only get Becker's album on CD. It would be great to have an AAA copy."

I'll take your word that Dolby has lowered the noise floor on analog recordings and thereby improved the Signal to Noise measurements. Very expensive reel-to-reel master recorders utilizing Dolby A or SR noise reduction are capable of S/N ratios of 60-80 db. 24 bit/96khz PCM digital recorders are capable of S/N ratios of 144 db.

Since you are a recording engineer, I'm sure you're aware that SNR and Dynamic ranges are closely related. In my last post, I specifically stated the Dynamic Range of analog reel-to-reel recordings is in the 60-70 db range but should have stated it was possible to achieve a dynamic range of 80 db if very expensive reel-to-reel analog recorders with Dolby A or SR are employed. However, even relatively inexpensive digital PCM recorders are capable of capturing dynamic range measurements in the 90-95 db range.

But I think our discussion has devolved into a debate of analog vs. digital, which I think we both wanted to avoid.

I'm very glad to learn that analog master recorders are improving by lowering their noise floors and increasing their dynamic range utilizing the newer Dolby SR technology even though it's expensive, probably not universally employed for mastering and will need future innovations to match direct to digital SNR and dynamic range capabilities.


You stated:"BTW, it is pretty easy to see whether HD is using CD and upsampling. Just look at frequency graph. Filters and brick wall filters tell all."

I know about brick wall filtering showing up on a frequency graph that is a telltale sign of a digital recording but I don't think HD Tracks even makes the frequency graphs of their music available. Are you aware of any frequency graphs available from HD Tracks for their available titles?

It is difficult, for a layman such as myself, to determine which hi-res sites offer the highest quality hi-res music files. I have been utilizing the inefficient method of trial and error thus far and only discovered that music recorded directly to digital sounds the best to me. I find the superiority in SNR, dynamic range and detail of these files to be easily identifiable and obviously superior to CD recordings.

The best downloaded file I've purchased thus far is from Liaison Music Shop of a Jennifer Gomes album called A Thousand Shades of Blue. It was recorded in front of a live audience and my 24 bit/96 khz FLAC download sounds better than any CD on my NAS. It is dead quiet with outstanding dynamics and incredible detail that creates a solid and stable soundstage giving the realistic illusion of the musicians being in the room.
Now that my computer audio system is up and running well, I'm on the lookout for more high quality music downloads like this but I'm finding the process difficult and frustrating.

I think I'm just looking for information, tips and some direction on finding good hi-res downloads of good music. Maybe you're right that good analog recordings transferred to digital will give good results. It would definitely expand the available music available for me to buy. I may start by taking a chance on that Walter Becker Circus Monkey album you mentioned.

BTW- My friend got the reel-to-reel master copies from his older brother. His brother wasn't involved in the music business and I never learned where he obtained them. He was actually a drug dealer and I wouldn't be surprised if a crime was involved.

Thanks,
Tim

Tim,

You ran with a tough crowd back in the day.

Hifi News and Review's music section has does a frequency and spectrum graph of digital down loads, which can be useful. I don't do too many down loads, although that may change. When I do it is straight from the artist and they are true transfers.

Again, try Circus Monkey. Not only is it a good recording....although a bit overly compressed with some limiting but the music is great. It will be something you will listen to repeatedly.

Also, Jerry Garcia from the Capitol Theater in 1981. It is an 88/24 transfer of a multi-tracked live show. The only limitations are the mics that were used. You don't have to be a Dead Head to appreciate this recording or music. After listening to that, you will agree that you are glad it was transfered to hi-rez digital. Also, there is little to no limiting and most likely little compression on individual tracks during the mix. The wav looks fantastic and the way every mastered 2 track should appear.

You can get it at Jerry Garcia's web site.

I think we agree on hirez digital being very good. It's not a dog vs cat or chocolate vs vanilla thing......you can like both!
"Now that my computer audio system is up and running well, I'm on the lookout for more high quality music downloads like this but I'm finding the process difficult and frustrating."

You can always download the hi res files first using torrents. If the music turns out to be as advertised, then buy it.
The provenance is essential and not too reliable with HD Tracks. PONO seems to do a better job of it...
I've had great luck with Acoustic Sounds high rez also.
Anthony Cordesman wrote a review of the Burmester 151 Music Server, and in the article addressed the issue of "false marketing" downloads. The implementation of the recording is more important, even what mic used. Too many people are mislead that higher rez is better is the answer.
"09-28-15: Paul79
I've had great luck with Acoustic Sounds high rez also."

Those guys have a very good reputation overall. I would be more likely to trust them over any of the other hi res sources I know of.
It is clear to me that some of the posters on this thread understand the importance of provenance (a recording's specific history) in determining whether or not a recording will exhibit the qualities of true high resolution when played back on their high quality systems.

It's really very simple. Any recording that was recorded at the time the musicians were present using equipment that doesn't exceed "CD quality" or 16-bits of dynamic range can't be called "hi-res music". This includes any and all recordings that were made using analog tape machines. They simply don't have the specifications to meet the definition for high-res music. Of course, analog recordings can, and do, sound very good. Despite the various claims to the contrary, analog recordings just lack the capacity that digital recordings possess of lower noise, higher dynamic range and finer detail.

The major labels have no hi-res content but this hasn't stop them from transferring over 5,000 standard-res masters to hi-res formats and selling them as hi-res to make some easy money by duping uninformed buyers.

Instead of listing the true provenance (history) and date of the original analog master recordings, they list the date of transfer into a hi-res bucket or format. IMHO, this was an intentionally misleading business marketing decision motivated by economic gain. It was certainly influenced by the fact that all their musical content was recorded on, and stored on, the older analog equipment and they completely lacked any musical content recorded on, or stored on, the newer and technically superior digital equipment.

My concern is that this will slow or prevent musicians from recording their music directly to digital format using digital equipment, since consumers will correctly decide that the major labels offerings don't sound any better than their CDs or Analog recordings. Music lovers will not be experiencing,enjoying or demanding the improved Signal to Noise Ratios, much greater Dynamic Range and finer detail that direct to digital recording and digital hi-res playback allows on high quality playback systems.

Unfortunately, consumer knowledge and awareness may be our only forms of defense against these deliberately misleading marketing tactics.

My rant is now summarized and completed.

Thanks,
Tim

"It's really very simple. Any recording that was recorded at the time the musicians were present using equipment that doesn't exceed "CD quality" or 16-bits of dynamic range can't be called "hi-res music". This includes any and all recordings that were made using analog tape machines. They simply don't have the specifications to meet the definition for high-res music. Of course, analog recordings can, and do, sound very good. Despite the various claims to the contrary, analog recordings just lack the capacity that digital recordings possess of lower noise, higher dynamic range and finer detail."

What are you basing that statement on? When you talk resolution with digital, 16/44 24/96 etc.., its fairly easy to assign a number to it. I'm getting the impression that because its more difficult to assign a specific resolution "factor" to an analog recording, that you just assume its not as good. Also, how do you explain analog recordings that sound better on vinyl, than the same recording transferred to Redbook? If all analog recordings are no better than Redbook, then this can't happen. Not only that, there are analog recordings that are transferred to higher resolution formats than CD, and they do sound better than CD's.

So, I guess I just don't see how the rules you are referring to in your post always apply. Just to be clear, there are lesser recordings that do go by what you are talking about in that they are not good enough to realize better sound with high res. I'm not disputing that. I just want to know about the recordings that do sound better than CD despite them being all analog.
That's pretty much the whole debate with respect to analog especially tape and digital sound. Digtial has been playing catch up for more than 30 years in terms of musicality and in terms of perceived dynamic range, especially when one considers what recording engineers have been doing to the dynamic range of the original recordings, which is to suffocate it. Obviously on paper digital looks great. No one is denying that. It's just that in practice digital sounds compressed, bass shy, congealed, wiry, information challenged, think threadbare, like paper mâché.
Zd542,



I am definitely not stating, or implying, that analog recordings and playback systems can't sound very, very good. Especially some vinyl and reel-to-reel recordings and systems. I am certain of this, as I believe you are, because I've heard several very good recordings on both mediums on very good systems that sounded spectacular. I think we are in agreement on this.

However, I've also heard several very good direct to hi-res digital recordings on very good hi-res digital playback systems that, and this is only in my personal opinion, sound even better. By better, I mean certain qualities that are obviously improved with the direct to digital hi-res recordings and playback; specifically the virtual absence of background noise that increases detail, the greater dynamic range tat increases impact and the greater illusion that the musicians are in the room (likely due to the improved detail hi-res direct to digital recordings seem to capture, giving added spatial cues, combined with a greater signal to noise ratio and lowered noise floor that allow these spatial cues to be more easily perceived.)

I'm convinced that direct to hi-res digital recordings offer higher fidelity than analog to digital transfers. I have no doubt that the analog to digital transfers can sound very good but also never better than the original analog master. I'm concerned that the major labels, along with some distributors like HD Tracks, are deliberately not recognizing and drawing attention to the distinction between the two solely for financial gain.

I believe they, and consumers, would be better off by being honest as we are being; they could state that their analog to hi-res digital transfers will sound as good as the original analog master but, at the same time, announce that all future recordings will be made direct to hi-res digital because it offers even better fidelity. They could still produce standard resolution analog vinyl and tape recordings from the direct to hi-res digital master as well as charge more for the true hi-res downloads and physical copies in Bluray and USB form. This would also free them to list the provenance of all their offerings without fear of lost revenue.

Fat chance, right?

Tim

"I am definitely not stating, or implying, that analog recordings and playback systems can't sound very, very good. Especially some vinyl and reel-to-reel recordings and systems. I am certain of this, as I believe you are, because I've heard several very good recordings on both mediums on very good systems that sounded spectacular. I think we are in agreement on this."

We are, and you definitely never said analog can't sound very good. As for the rest of it, we can't be too far off. My argument is simply, if an analog recording is well made, I see no reason why the SQ can't be at a higher level as Redbook. At least in some areas. There's no question that digital has some inherent strengths over analog.

"However, I've also heard several very good direct to hi-res digital recordings on very good hi-res digital playback systems that, and this is only in my personal opinion, sound even better."

I really appreciate your honesty. I think most people would try and make up some type of absolute technical explanation as to why they have to be right. Just to win an argument.

"Fat chance, right?"

Unfortunate, but true. Its like the music industry is trying to put themselves out of business on purpose. I've never seen so many bad choices.
Hi Rez is a marketing term and has no real meaning. IMHO, it only implies a recreation of music that approaches the sound of real instruments in real space. Which is a moving target dependent on a number of variables, e.g., software and hardware related to SOTA and time. What maybe hi rez today may be far from it tomorrow as technology marches on.

It is not tied to only the digital domain. In the future, digital maybe a relic of the past, surpassed by some new storage medium, which approaches "real" to a much more accurate degree. Yes dynamic range is, too a large degree, very important, however, there is more going on in there than that.

That being said, analog still has qualities that allows it to be perceived in a way that, in some case, approaches "real" in a more honest fashion than digital does. Something that is not measured by ones and zeros.

I know this is slightly off topic but important none the less.
Noble100 you are way off base. Analog has infinite resolution, it is as good as the playback system can make it. Anything recorded in analog and never converted is the good standard. Hi Rez can only hope to approximate the original analog experience, it cannot surpass it.
Zd542,

You stated: "My argument is simply, if an analog recording is well made, I see no reason why the SQ can't be at a higher level as Redbook. At least in some areas. There's no question that digital has some inherent strengths over analog."

I agree with that completely and, in total, I don't think we disagree on much. Both formats offer plenty of musical enjoyment when well recorded.

Raymonda,

I think you may be right that Hi-Rez has been turned into a marketing term; as I stated earlier, I believe the major music labels' deliberate but poor marketing decisions are responsible.

Technology does march on and the future version of hi-rez may not be tied to the digital domain even though your description of hi-resolution audio's implication, a recreation of music that approaches the sound of real instruments in real space, is exactly my experience thus far on well recorded direct to hi-res digital 24 bit/96khz FLAC downloads. I remain open to any new technology that makes reproduced music sound even more realistic, digital or otherwise.

I realize there's more required than just the ability of hi-res digital to recreate the realistic dynamic range of real instruments; digital hi-res's exstremely low noise floor,extremely accurate frequency response along with its ability to recreate fine detail and spacial cues, are also responsible for its exceptional realism.

You stated:"That being said, analog still has qualities that allows it to be perceived in a way that, in some case, approaches "real" in a more honest fashion than digital does. Something that is not measured by ones and zeros."

I don't completely understand this. Analog was the first music recreation technology and I understand many people became accustomed to its smooth sound with its limited dynamic range and less than accurate frequency response due to variances in tape speed. I don't know why you would describe this system as recreating music in a more 'honest' fashion than a system based on math. Is there a better, more honest and verifiably true basis for any system than math? I can't think of one and don't know why you'd think a system based on small metal particles being aligned by a magnetic field, placed on synthetic tape that is spooled through a machine that has difficulty maintaining a constant tape speed as it passes this tape over metal pickup and playback heads that deteriorate over time, would be a better basis for a system.

I have no issue with people preferring analog music systems over digital systems. But please don't defend it with subjective and unverifiable statements that exhibit more bias than truth.

Geoffkait,

My intention of my thread was not to rehash the usual analog vs. digital debate. My intent was to present my frustration at the major labels' deliberate actions to reduce the impact of hi-res digital technology by transferring their existing older analog libraries of masters to hi-res digital files/downloads and market them as true hi-res music. I've learned that music recorded directly to PCM digital, miked and recorded by engineers that know how to do it well, gives me exceptional results on my newly established computer audio system. I also was, and still am, looking for tips and guidance on where to purchase these direct to digital recordings.

I eliminated HD Tracks as a source since they apparently offer only original analog recorded masters transferred to digital buckets/files. I'd classify HD Tracks offerings as intentionally fake hi-res music and was curious why anyone into hi-res digital music on computer audio systems would buy any of them.

Thanks to several posters on this thread, I now realize/remember that well recorded analog sounds very good. A well recorded analog master transferred to a larger bucket 24 bit/96khz PCM digital file, in theory, should be capable of an absolutely faithful copy of the original analog master. Perhaps HD Tracks' downloads won't be as big a compromise in sound as I originally thought. Their library does contain the better known artists and music while the smaller labels offering direct to digital recordings only offer lesser known artists and music. I'm a bit concerned that HD Tracks' downloads will be indistinquishable from CD sound quality but I'll give it a try.

However, I still don't understand why the major labels don't record new recordings direct to hi-res digital. They have zero direct to hi-rez digital recordings and there's probably a devious short-sighted reason motivated by money.

Tim
Yer absolutely right, it is the gold standard. And that is why we have the audiophile expression, "it's sounds like the master tape." Of course even the master tape can sound generic or perhaps even horrible on a bog standard system. It so hard to generalize in this hobby, no?
Analogluvr,

I think you may be living in an alternate world or universe. With your username, I should probably expect a biased viewpoint and some questionable claims.

Wow, analog has INFINITE RESOLUTION? That would make it the perfect format for recording and playback of audio. Perfect sound forever, right? Well, it would if it was TRUE!

Have you enlightened all the engineers and experts currently working on developing new recording and storage technology that would improve on the analog technology that was first utilized in the 1800's? I don't think they're aware that no improvements to existing analog technology are possible. Boy, they're sure going to be excited when they hear about your good news!

I'm thinking they'll be very grateful you finally set them straight. They'll be so happy that analog's maximum dynamic range of 90 db, well below the limit of live instruments and music, is now suddenly acceptable since no improvements are possible. They'll be overjoyed that tape hiss, high noise floors,low signal to noise ratios and frequency response errors caused by tape speed variations are no longer something to be concerned with.

I would love to be there when you break the news and let them know they've been wasting their time during all those years of schooling and all those years of researching, experimenting and testing based on the false premise that 150 year old analog technology could be improved upon. Silly bastards, I can't wait to see the expressions on their faces when you lay your infinite wisdom on them.

On the other hand, they may be upset when you let them know the truth according to you. They may respond in unison with s single digit hand gestures followed by a loud group yell of "Infinite Resolution My ASS!

It's also a distinct possibility that each engineer may insist on beating you. The severity of each beating will likely be proportionate to the number of years of schooling and research that each has invested on their futile quest for a recording and playback technology that outperforms analog.

Tim

Noble 100,

The thing that gets me is that most of the posts have concurred that digital done right can sound very good. However, once some says analog can sound very good and has qualities that in someways surpass digital you get all upset and begin rehashing a 30 year old debate, with what seems to be a passionate agenda to bash analog.

Your last post was extremely hostile and adds nothing to the conversation. I would suspect that if you could, upon review, you would hit the delete button.

Now back to your original question, people will pay for the highest resolution in the digital domain to analog tape because it sounds better than the bandwidth limited 44/16. Why it sounds better has been discuss over and over and over again with lots of reasons given. Do a google search and you can read for weeks.

However, one reason, which I think you might conclude is valid, is that brick wall filters create issues and once you move them further up in the audio spectrum they are less of an issue, thus allowing for further enjoyment.

Peace to all who listen!
Geoffkait,

I agree, it is hard to accurately generalize in this hobby. I think it's best to be as specific as possible when communicating our thoughts and opinions.

I'll try to practice what we preach below:

I have absolutely no bias against analog, whether it is vinyl or tape. I believe everyone should use and listen to whatever they like best. My opinions should not, and I believe do not, have any influence on what equipment or music formats people choose to utilize and enjoy.

However, I also believe Audiogon forums offer an excellent venue for sharing our thoughts, experiences and opinions on audio subjects with fellow enthusiasts. I think it's best if we are all honest, lack agendas, support subjective statements with at least some objective facts or explanations that are verifiable and attempt to keep an open mind by avoiding any developed biases.

I agree with Geoffkait that multi-track reel to reel analog masters have been the gold standard for many years.

Until recently, I'd never known of anyone claiming analog reel to reel masters were capable of infinite resolution. I don't believe this is possible with analog tape due to several absolute limitations of this format that have not, and likely cannot, be overcome. These limitations are dynamic range, noise floor level, frequency response accuracy, signal to noise ratio and detail level. Unfortunately, these are all limitations in areas that are important in conveying realism in reproduced music.

Music recorded directly to PCM 24bit/96 khz (not 16bit/44.1khz) digital files main advantages over analog are in these critical areas that convey a sense of realism in reproduced music: dynamic range of up to 135 db, noise floor level of -120 db (Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise), frequency response accuracy of 20 hz-96khz +/- 1.5 db, signal to noise ratio of better than 135 db and these combined capabilities result in very high detail resolution levels that far exceed analog capabilities.

When the above impressive performance specifications of 24 bit/96khz PCM digital are compared to the less impressive performance specs of analog reel to reel tape, it becomes obvious why PCM is considered hi-res and tape is considered standard-resolution (I consider standard-res to be any format with specs equal to or below Redbook CD levels).

However, I realize that there are music lovers that prefer listening to their music in analog format even though it is less dynamic, has less frequency response accuracy, has a higher noise floor, less detail, a lower signal to noise ratio and, in general, a more colored sound than digital. Analog sounds more rounded, natural and 'honest' to them.

I have no intention of convincing them otherwise and would only wish them well in their musical enjoyment. My main issues are with claims that analog qualifies as hi-res and that it has infinite resolution.

Raymonda,

You stated: "The thing that gets me is that most of the posts have concurred that digital done right can sound very good. However, once some says analog can sound very good and has qualities that in someways surpass digital you get all upset and begin rehashing a 30 year old debate, with what seems to be a passionate agenda to bash analog.

Your last post was extremely hostile and adds nothing to the conversation. I would suspect that if you could, upon review, you would hit the delete button."

After reviewing this thread, I think you have a valid point; I now understand that claims that analog is hi-res and has infinite resolution does seem to get my panties in a bunch.
I honestly believe that analog can sound very good and I should not be so concerned that some consider it hi-res and allows infinite resolution. I also really do believe that all of us should listen to music on whatever format we like.

In my defense, I am somewhat passionate about music, its high quality recording and its realistic reproduction. I'm very interested in new emerging music reproduction technologies and think I do get frustrated when I encounter comments I think are wrong and just confuse the subject of hi-res music reproduction. I apologize to all for my small rants and will try to refrain in the future.

However, I think you're wrong that my reply to Geoffkait was hostile. I'll admit it added little to the conversation but know I didn't write it with hostile intentions. My intention was to be sarcastically funny while still conveying my point. I thought I was successful but now I'm not so sure.

A toast to enjoying our music however we choose to do it,
Tim
I did not detect any hostility in Noble100's response, and I do nothing debates or even extended debates or heated debates. I agree that on paper digtial appears to be the cat's pajamas, always has, you know, what with dynamic range and SNR numbers up around 90 dB or more. Compare those number to say vinyl that comes in around 65-70 dB on a good day. Let's take the highest number 70 dB and compare that to 90 dB. What's that 100 times higher? Yet, seldom does dynamic range actually sound 100 times higher than (very good) vinyl. Taking this logic further if one takes a look at the on line dynamic range database what he'll find is that there is a very wide variation in dynamic range for CDs over the past 30 years, with the trend being lower dynamic range, in many cases very low dynamic range. What I recommend is developing a matrix of sonic characteristics such as dynamic range, apparent SNR, tonality, naturalness, realism, perceived resolution, frequency response, bass performance, soundstage depth and width, for example, and thn weight those parameters to prioritize them, say 1-10. Then anyone can compare say Vinyl vs CD or Vinyl vs hi res downloads or CD vs cassette and rate each medium according for each sonic parameter. Each person can weight the parameters however he wishes, so the results will be specific to each individual. This takes all the bias and guesswork out of the debate which is now what almost 35 years old?
After reviewing this thread, I think you have a valid point; I now understand that claims that analog is hi-res and has infinite resolution does seem to get my panties in a bunch.
I honestly believe that analog can sound very good and I should not be so concerned that some consider it hi-res and allows infinite resolution. I also really do believe that all of us should listen to music on whatever format we like.

In my defense, I am somewhat passionate about music, its high quality recording and its realistic reproduction. I'm very interested in new emerging music reproduction technologies and think I do get frustrated when I encounter comments I think are wrong and just confuse the subject of hi-res music reproduction. I apologize to all for my small rants and will try to refrain in the future.

However, I think you're wrong that my reply to Geoffkait was hostile. I'll admit it added little to the conversation but know I didn't write it with hostile intentions. My intention was to be sarcastically funny while still conveying my point. I thought I was successful but now I'm not so sure.

A toast to enjoying our music however we choose to do it,
Tim

Tim,

Nicely put and thanks for your reconsideration, correction and input. I'm impressed!

Ray
Tim when we speak and sing it is in analog. Therefore if a recording has been recorded an analog it has not been sliced and diced up yet. It's resolution is whatever you want it to be you when you slice and dice it. When it's an analog it is as good as the equipment that was used to record it. It has infinite resolution, you can always cut something one more time. You can take and break it down however you like it has not been broken down yet!!
You have mentioned numerous times that yes you agree well done analog can sound good but you have heard digital high rez sound better so therefore you somehow conclude that it is better. I would surmise that it was either a better recording or better equipment used with the digital. I'm not going to argue that digital has better specifications, however I have yet to hear it surpass well done analog.
Tim for someone who doesn't want to debate the differences between analog and digital you certainly waded in there with both feet! That has got to be the classiest response I've ever seen. See I can do sarcasm too :) Anyhow I'm not debating your SNR figures or any other specifications aside from resolution. Maybe you don't know the meaning of the word??? And yes you can create high rezfrom analog masters. You may not like the result but that's another story entirely.
Anyone else annoyed with the response delay, resulting from the excessive moderation? Although perhaps that allows one to cool off and reconsider a previous post.....
Be wary of recordings originally done in the mid 80s when studios were transitioning from analog to digital... some not so great studio masters from that time. Anything digitak taken from analog master will benefit from the change from 16 bit to 24 bit depth if done right. From there its a question of how well optimized is your digital playback solution.
Geoffkait,

I'm glad you took no offense at any of my postings, none was intended.

I'm also glad you recognize that digital, at least theoretically, has some capabilities that surpass analog vinyl and tape. I recognize the dynamic range superiority is not always evident when comparing digital Redbook CDs to analog recordings. First, when I refer to digital I am referring to hi-res direct to digital recordings at 24 bit/96 khz or higher and not Redbook CD. Secondly, I think the dynamic range advantage of digital is not usually obvious when listening is due mainly to the 'Loudness Wars' on CDs that significantly reduces the dynamic range on many recordings. I have several hi-res 24/96 FLAC files of music recorded direct to digital that have the best dynamics I've yet heard on recorded music. Fortunately, the Loudness Wars' squashed dynamics have not affected hi-res digital downloads as it has on CDs thus far. The uncompressed dynamics, along with lower noise and increased detail, are the 3 areas that are obvious improvements to me when compared to analog and redbook cd recordings.

I like your matrix idea of evaluating vinyl, analog, CD and hi-res recordings in several important audio qualities and listing the results. It sounds like a good basis for an internet start-up site. I know I'd be on such a site often.

Ray,

You posted: "Tim,
Nicely put and thanks for your reconsideration, correction and input. I'm impressed!
Ray

I should be thanking you for your honest and constructive feedback. Thank you.

Analogluvr,

You stated: "Tim when we speak and sing it is in analog. Therefore if a recording has been recorded an analog it has not been sliced and diced up yet. It's resolution is whatever you want it to be you when you slice and dice it. When it's an analog it is as good as the equipment that was used to record it. It has infinite resolution, you can always cut something one more time. You can take and break it down however you like it has not been broken down yet!!"

'Its resolution is whatever you want it to be when you alice and dice it.'?

Are you sure you're not talking about making a stir fry?; slicing and dicing your favorite vegetables to suit your tastes? I know that splicing analog tape may be part of the analog mixing/mastering process but that's the limit of my knowledge. I certainly wasn't aware that this process is capable of turning the standard-res content on the tape and magically increasing its resolution to hi-res standards or whatever you want it to be. Please let me know more about how this is done.

I've been learning more about digital mixing/mastering and post recording digital processing tools. Apparently, there are now digital tools that actually can modify direct to digital recordings and change the sound to taste. The digital file can be modified electronically to make it sound like analog tape, more tube-like and other flavoring. There is no physical splicing or razor blades required. Sounds like another advantage of digital recording. Thus far, I've not learned of any digital mastering programs that transforms existing hi-res digital musical content into even higher resolution levels.

You also stated:"Tim for someone who doesn't want to debate the differences between analog and digital you certainly waded in there with both feet! That has got to be the classiest response I've ever seen. See I can do sarcasm too :) Anyhow I'm not debating your SNR figures or any other specifications aside from resolution. Maybe you don't know the meaning of the word??? And yes you can create high rezfrom analog masters. You may not like the result but that's another story entirely.
Anyone else annoyed with the response delay, resulting from the excessive moderation? Although perhaps that allows one to cool off and reconsider a previous post....."

If you review this thread, I think you'll see I was just responding to other posters' comments about digital vs analog.My original intent of starting this thread was discovering why anyone uses HD Tracks downloads and to alert buyers that their offerings are all just transfers of analog masters to larger hi-res digital buckets/formats that are not actually true hi-res files since they were not recorded directly to digital.

As to not knowing the meaning of the word 'resolution', to me it means clarity and, more specifically on how it's related to audio, it varies in its level depending on the amount of detail presented. For recordings, hi-res direct to digital recordings are capable of capturing the highest amount of musical detail and are, therefore in my opinion, the best choice if high resolution and a high faithfulness to the live performance are desired.

I was not, and continue not to be, interested in rehashing the old debate between analog and digital audio. I have absolutely no doubt that direct to digital music on 24 bit/96khz FLAC downloads provide not only the best sound I've ever heard on my combination home audio/home theater system, but also the most convenient to use.

I have no stake in this debate and, frankly, would like to stop debating the issue. I suggest we all go back to enjoying our favorite music on our format of choice.
Yes, I've been annoyed by delayed postings due to moderation in the past but have found less delays recently.

Davide256,

You seem to have a good understanding of how digital recording works in general. I agree that, theoretically, the transfer of analog masters to 24 bit, vs Redbook CD 16 bit, word length digital would seem to allow for better resolution and dynamic range performance. Since both 16 and 24 bit digital formats exceed the limits inherent in the original standard-res analog masters, however, both recordings would sound remarkably similar since both would be very faithful copies of the analog master and no improvement in resolution or dynamic range would result.

Both the 16 and 24 bit digital copies would sound like the original standard-res analog master, no worse but also no better. If the musicians had recorded their music directly to 24 bit/96khz digital at the same time as the analog recording, the benefits of recording direct to 24 bit digital would be obvious. People have had difficulty distinguishing between analog and digital in blind testings because they've been asked to compare analog to a digital copy of analog and there are no differences.

The blind testing, ideally. should be between the same music recorded simultaneously; one recorded in standard-resolution analog tape and one recorded directly in hi-res 24 bit/96khz PCM digital. The differences and superior format would be clearly evident to anyone with normal hearing capacity.

I don't believe hi-res audio will be successful unless major artists begin recording their music directly to hi-res 24 bit/96khz or higher digital. Otherwise, hi-res digital will fail to be experienced by most people.

I created this thread wanting to make my main point:

Transferring older original analog reel to reel master tapes to hi-resolution digital formats, like HD Tracks has been doing with original analog tape masters supplied by the major record labels, does not qualify as hi-resolution audio. The best attainable result of this transfer process is an exact copy of the original standard-resolution analog master reel to reel tape that will not impart any hi-resolution qualities to the sound of the music recorded years earlier. No method exists to transform this music into hi-res.

The only possible way to create a hi-res recording of the music is to have the musicians reassemble, play the music again and record it directly to hi-res digital using digital recording equipment.

Please, no more debating required,
Tim
Tim I'm not sure if you are being deliberately obtuse or if you truly don't understand. Think of it in terms of digital photography. You can take a film picture of an apple and pixelate it with as many pixels as you want. You can always take one pixel and split into two pixels therefore creating more resolution. That's what's meant by infinite resolution. The original analog recording has not been pixelated at all yet so it has "infinite resolution".
I'm not sure why you keep referring to the original analog recording as standard resolution, that's not accurate. It really doesn't have a resolution specification yet as per the terminology to describe digital media. That's why it is perfectly acceptable to take the original analog master tapes and create a high resolution file from them. The result hopefully will be a closer approximation of the original analog even, then it would be with a lower resolution format. Now you may not be happy with the noise floor or other aspects of the final product but again that's a totally different story.
To me it seems rather moot to debate the pros and cons of one medium's supposed superior resolution over another since it's well established we're not getting the full picture of what's on the actual recording for a myriad of reasons. In the case of Redbook, for example, information that was once inaudible spring suddenly to life in a flood of new details and nuances when vibration isolation is applied to the system, or colored pens are applied to the disc, or the out of round disc edge is beveled, or the CD is treated with some lotion or another. So, we know, the medium is not necessarily the culprit in the first place. There is a lot more to the art of sound as it were than spinning a disc or even downloading a file.
Tim,

I'm a recording engineer and have been working in the digital domain since 1989. direct to digital....as you put it. Even back then digital was very good, if implemented properly. I have averaged around 35 projects a year over that time, so I feel I have a bit of experience from which to speak. There are a lot of great tools to use which can provide some really great results....and there are some software plugins, etc...that help with taking some hardness off digital, however, I have yet to hear and digital tool that can recreate the 3 dimensional space of a live performance the way analog can. Once digital can do that, it may, in my book, surpass analog. However, today there is just more rightness with analog....more tactile, organic flow that digital has yet to achieve and that, to me, allows the best analog to trump the best digital.

I think it is great that you are enjoying the best of what digital can do....I know I do, but the best analog goes a bit further. The problem us that there are a lot of bad analog recordings out there, just as there are a lot of bad digital ones. Neither one's SOTA should be judge by those lemons.

I think you would be surprised at what dolbs SR can do in a shoot out. Even you might reevaluate your stance.

Btw, have you heard a direct to disk recording....no tape.....just direct to disc? IMO, that done at 45rpm might actually be the best resolution going.
Analogluvr,

You stated:"Tim I'm not sure if you are being deliberately obtuse or if you truly don't understand. Think of it in terms of digital photography. You can take a film picture of an apple and pixelate it with as many pixels as you want. You can always take one pixel and split into two pixels therefore creating more resolution. That's what's meant by infinite resolution. The original analog recording has not been pixelated at all yet so it has "infinite resolution".

I'm not being deliberately obtuse, I'm stating that your statements are not making sense, are inaccurate and may be the cause of our disagreement. I've read numerous times that it's a mistake to compare how digital audio functions to how digital video functions. It seems like you are compounding this mistake by attempting to compare how digital video functions to how analog audio tape functions and behaves in your false claim that analog tape possesses infinite resolution. Stating that "The original analog recording has not been pixelated at all yet so it has "infinite resolution" is misleading and confusing, to say the least. Since there is no 'pixelation' involved at all with analog tape recordings that instead utilize a linear audio method, you seem to have falsely assumed that this means analog is capable of infinite resolution. It is a generally accepted fact that this is not true since many of the ingredients of audio resolution can be measured objectively and every measure of analog tape and vinyl are inferior to PCM digital; specifically dynamic range, signal to noise ratio, frequency response and distortion level that all affect the more subjective quality of detail and its ability to simulate the sound of live music in a realistic manner.
When compared to digital audio, analog audio has significant limits that cannot be dismissed, ignored or rationalized as unimportant in affecting the resolution and the perceived realism of the illusion produced of live music being played in a specific space.
I understand your description much better when you talked of a digital photograph of an apple. Yes, the incredible resolution of a digital photo is possible because the image is captured and represented by millions of individual pixels. But you lose me when you describe increasing resolution by turning 1 of these pixels into 2. This is where I become obtuse again since I believe this would actually reduce a photo's resolution unless the intention was to alter the original image like Photoshop software is capable of doing.

I was truly confused when you implied that digital video resolution is achieved by turning 1 pixel into 2 and that digital audio resolution is achieved by a similar process. I was completely dumbfounded, however, when you suggested that analog audio recordings' resolution can be increased infinitely by a similar post-recording process of 'slicing and dicing'. Slicing out, relocating and reattaching sections of recorded upon analog tape will not improve the music's resolution by any objective or subjective measure. I'm having a difficult time understanding your explanations and rationalizations because they are based on false premises that are simply not valid.

I'm going to excuse myself from this discussion by making a few comments that I don't believe can be disputed:

Analog tape masters and direct-to-disk vinyl can sound amazing...but they both have their limits just like every format. High-resolution PCM digital also has its limits but, since its limits are such an improvement over analog, it has the potential to eclipse every format currently available. That's a fact that is hard for many analog advocates to accept. Lots of engineers, musicians and enthusiasts like the "sound" of analog tape but that doesn't mean that it is the most accurate format available...it's absolutely not.

I think it's important to emphasize that a recording's resolution is determined by the method,the room acoustics, the recording technology, the skill of the recording engineer and the equipment utilized at the initial recording session. Nothing done after the music is recorded to improve the resolution is possible with current analog and digital technology. I know that multi-track analog master tape can be edited (sliced and diced)after recording to alter the musical content but this has zero affect on resolution. I'm also aware that there are post-recording digital tools that can alter the sound of a digitally recorded file and this also has zero affect on resolution.

I think a good master recording is important for good playback results no matter which recording method one prefers.

I've actually been a big fan of good analog for a long time. I made the switch from vinyl to redbook cds around 30yrs ago mainly due to convenience and a lack of new music releases available on vinyl, not for the sound performance. Just as many have stated, analog just sounded more smooth, soulful and like the real thing than redbook cd did at that time.
A few yrs later, I added a VTL tube preamp, replacing the stock tubes with 4 NOS Mullards, in an effort to make my system sound more like my old analog vinyl. I knew the tubes were adding a coloration but didn't care since it was successful in making my system sound smoother, more dimensional and basically more like analog with less digital brightness perceived.

The first time I heard 24 bit/96khz hi-res audio was in 2013 at my local hi-end audio/video retailer here in Indy. I initially was outside the demo room but was drawn to it because it sounded like a jazz trio was playing live inside. Once inside, I was amazed at how 'in the room' the music sounded. The music emerged from a dead quiet background with crystal clear detail and the stunning soft to loud volume increases I had only previously experienced from real instruments played live at about 10-12 ft away.

As a result of this, I decided to upgrade my combo home audio/home theater system by converting my music source to computer audio. I bought the versatile Oppo-105 Bluray player to utilize as a Bluray and hi-res audio disc player, a DAC for 24 bit/96-192khz for converting hi-res music files to analog, an audio surround sound processor for decoding movie soundtracks and as a machine capable of wirelessly communicating with my other computer audio system components. These other computer audio components include a laptop running JRiver software, a 1TB Synology NAS, a 1TB backup hard drive with all components wirelessly attached to, and communicating with each other via, my wi-fi network. I highly recommend this type of setup for those interested in hi-res audio.
Happy listening, Tim
Pardon me for pointing out a rather blatant irony. The irony is that 24/96 is actually the same thing as DVD-Audio, which, as fate would have it, was considered obsolete by 2007. Ironic, ain't it?
I've been recording in high rez digital since 2004 or so. Started 24/96 multi-track in 2005. It is nice, real nice. It is extremely flexible and inexpensive compared to analog. It makes an engineer's job much easier. Am I blown away by it? No, I'm not. Am I in love with it? Yes, I am. Dolby SR, now that maybe something I'm blown away by. But it is not practical for me.

I just mixed and finished three projects over the past ewo weeks, Hot Tuna and two jazz project by John Stetch, a very nice jazz pianist. I also have a new DVD Blue Ray release by Charlie Bertini of his last festival concert, as well as a duet with Charlie and Terry Meyers. My point is, these are nice recordings, you can listen to them and they provide a lot of what hi-rez digital can provide and give you a base line of from which I come.....however, as nice as these are I still prefer analog. And these are on;y my recent projects I have thousand of hours of hi rez digital projects with 10 of thousand of hours of mixing and mastering time.

That is not to say that you are not right for your ears....my ears just tell me differently. So, on that note we can agree to disagree.
Why doesn't this forum allow you to edit. Here are all my typos forever out there for all to scorn and laugh at.

Enjoy!
Tim what I am trying to say is that digital is created by turning the analog recording g into ones and zeros. How many ones and zeros per inch of analog tape master(for sake of example) is the resolution. Similar to pixels per inch in video no? And increasing the pixels per inch is in reading the resolution of the recording, same as using more ones and zeros for one inch of analog tape. Now you can always cut something one more time so they can always sell you the next "hi Rez"
Resolution has nothing to do with the parameters you keep mentioning. I agree that digital surpasses analog in those parameters but that is not resolution.
And by turning one pixel into 2 you are increasing the resolution of a picture
And when I spoke of slicing and dicing I was using an analogy to illustrate what is being done to the analog waveform when it is converted into digital. (That's where I thought you were being deliberately obtuse, you really thought I meant cutting up the tape?) It is turned into steps of which the amount are the resolution. You can always create more steps to the original unmolested sound wave.
Yes I agree that digital as measured eclipses analog in potential, however I have yet to hear this potential realized, maybe they are measuring the wrong thing??!
(Digital is created by turning the analog recording into ones and zeros.)

I think you mean analog signal not recording.

(Maybe they are measuring the wrong thing??!)

Or we may not know what it is that needs to be measured.
Raymonda,

You have highly developed listening skills and experience with the highest quality playback of both digital and analog recordings, but most of us out here have never heard anything close to the highest quality playback and are stumbling around in the dark trying to put a decent sounding system together.

What is your opinion on the differences between average digital vs average analog, the world most of us live in. I would guess that at this level of playback quality, whether digital or analog sounds better is entirely dependent on the particular system and listener taste. One could put together an analog based system that sounds better than most digital systems and vice versa. What do you think? I promise not to argue with you no matter what your opinion is.
"You have highly developed listening skills and experience with the highest quality playback of both digital and analog recordings, but most of us out here have never heard anything close to the highest quality playback and are stumbling around in the dark trying to put a decent sounding system together."

I don't see why that has to be true. The typical audio playback system in a recording studio is usually nothing special. Its not that difficult to surpass a system like that with a fairly modest home system. The application is different. Also, if you look at Raymonda's system, I don't see anything in there that the average person couldn't buy.

"most of us out here have never heard anything close to the highest quality playback and are stumbling around in the dark trying to put a decent sounding system together."

You would probably enjoy a trip to CES. Its loaded with expensive systems. That said, I doubt listening to super high end systems will do you any good. If you can't afford it, then its off the table anyway.
My system is nothing special but carefully crafted and modified to my taste and within my budget. I'm not even sure if what is listed is current....but most anyone could assemble this system or a better one. However, the quality of one's system does not give one ears, nor does money spent.

The storage medium is often less of a concern than the engineering of the recording, mixing and mastering. It doesn't matter what it is stored on if the first is bad. When you get this right and couple it with great music then both mediums are great. You can put together a great budget analog as well as digital system and enjoy them both.

Average is very good....you get to choose based on your mechanical and musical values. You can have both. It really isn't an either or situation. Drink from both wells and enjoy!
Raymonda,

I hope you didn't take my post the wrong way. When I read Tomcy6's post, he made it sound like you need to have exposure to very expensive, high end equipment, as a prerequisite to getting good sound. And if not, you are at a complete disadvantage. My comment about studio equipment being average, or nothing special, was general. I have no idea what you use in your studio. I referenced the system you list (I was assuming it was your home system), just to show that it wasn't necessary to go out and buy all this expensive gear in order to get it right. Knowing what you are doing is more important than how much money you spend on your system. That was the point I was trying to make.