How do you perceive/articulate the differences between analog/vinyl and digital sources?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Cosmo-D, Mar 5, 2018.

  1. Whoopycat

    Whoopycat Forum Resident

    Des Moines
    Depends on your definition of brickwalled. There are lots of CDs with a DR of 7 that IMO sound fantastic.

    Either way, I have a handful of recent albums where I ended up with both the CD and the LP (they were mastered concurrently). In all of those cases, the CD does not sound fatiguing compared to the LP.
    Dennis0675 likes this.
  2. Hermetech Mastering

    Hermetech Mastering Well-Known Member

    Paris, France
    Hard to English it, my digital and analogue chains really rival each other in terms of sound quality, but they DO also sound different. I'd say, all else being equal, vinyl seems to be a more "engaging" listen.
  3. anorak2

    anorak2 Well-Known Member

    Berlin, Germany
    There are a lot of things they add.

    I'm not saying that. There's nothing wrong with liking distorted sound, I do too.
    Dennis0675 likes this.
  4. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    I dunno. I think a lot of early CD playback had a kind of bright, thin, bodiless quality, and that reputation has clung to the format, even as it improved considerably. In my system, my vinyl playback chain is brighter and more detailed sounding than my CD playback.

    I think you're right, a lot of people think of "detail" as just HF transient detail, but there's so much detail -- microdynamic elements in a instrumentalists or singer's lines, all the kind of little extramusical detail we audiophiles love like a cello creaking, a reed player taking a breath, etc. -- that isn't so much, to my mind, associated with "brightness" but with lower noise. I do also think there are popular turntable/tonearm combos that have a kind of excessive richness in the upper bass/lower midrange, so people get accustomed to that "warmth" and almost a kind of glue and the absence of that in digital playback affects their perception of the digital playback. Plus a little acoustic breakthrough in vinyl playback can sometimes be perceived as a liveness and a liveliness, and the elimination of that can be perceived as "dull" or "sterile" or "too dead" (personally, that artificial liveliness with some tables bugs me).

    There's also the question of the masterings. So many of the vinyl masterings we grew up with -- if we're old enough to have grown up in the LP era -- had the bass cut, the treble cut, that we have this presumption of this roll off, prominent midrange sound as being right or accurate or whatever, but it more reflects the needs and choices in EQ and mastering of the era. And when you get something that isn't rolling off the frequency extremes on the master, it can be startlingly different. I also wonder, but I don't really know about, the effect on our perception of listening through the mechanical noise and hearing the music in contrast to that. It's like we're listening simultaneously to this baseline noise and then the music in relation to that and that has to have an impact psychoacoustically on our perception of dynamics and other elements of the music.

    I think there's a lot to our perception of these differences beyond inherent differences in the platforms.

    I certainly agree that some of the mechanical noise of record playing can be tempered, tracking distortion can be relatively minimized, acoustic breakthrough can be limited, etc. That's why there's a wider degree of difference in very gross and fundamental was between record playing set ups some times than between digital set up. But you can't eliminate the impact of all that, it's always still there to some degree. And the records themselves are usually pretty substantially eccentric, etc. It's additive stuff that is noise from the playback mechanism itself injected into the signal, because vinyl playback is as much mechanical as it is electronic. That's not the case with digital, even if with CD maybe mechanical issues sometimes have some kind of impact on the required error correction or something, all this other mechanical noise isn't being added at playback like it is with vinyl.

    In my experience, the better either playback chain is, the more they sound alike, the more they get out of the way of the music, the better the microdynamics, the more startling the macrodynamics, the wider and deeper the soundstage, the greater the ease of HF extension and lack of congestion on dynamic peaks and more articulate the bass, and the more you're just hearing differences in the recordings, performances and masterings, not the additive and subtractive parts of the playback chain.
    Pancat, lance b, basie-fan and 2 others like this.
  5. timind

    timind Forum Resident

    Brownsburg, IN USA
    15,750 in the US. No CRTs around here, but I stopped being able to hear that before they were phased out.
  6. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    There's often additive even order harmonic distortion in tube circuits, especially as you push them, that isn't on the original recording, and often typically it's distortion that not only is different in harmonic make up, but also present at higher levels than in common solid state gear. Harmonic distortion is adding stuff that wasn't on the recording to the signal. And there's plenty of distortion from mistracking added to vinyl playback that's not present on the original recording and that's related to the stylus and how it tracks the groove -- anything from totally gaaking out on peak to more subtle but more persistent HF hash to pinch distortion. In both cases you have intermodulation distortion, which also is additive, creating new additional overtones out of two different signals present. This is all additive distortion.

    Though distortion doesn't have to be only additive, distortion in the broadest sense means any kind of undesired alternation of the signal from inpute to output, so with a lot of tube gear, especially vintage tube gear, you have frequency response distortion, with HF's rolled off. Also depending on the gear, because of a tube amp's limits in the ability to deliver current, depending on the speaker load, you can have other kinds of frequency response modifications.

    Of course nothing's perfectly linear, there's always distortion. But there are also significant differences in the nature and degrees of distortion among components.
    Dennis0675 likes this.
  7. Catcher10

    Catcher10 Forum Resident

    Of course its the mastering.......The 24bit file is mastered to 16bit redbook to press a CD, so in other words it is truncated to 16bits from 24bits, there is an audible difference. I easily hear the difference on vinyl cut from 24bit files vs the same redbook CD, many new vinyl issues include a CD copy in the gatefold.
    On my system I hear it. Grant it my analog end is much better than my digital end as you see in my info page. But I don't doubt for some it may be inaudible.......
  8. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    There are albums where the songs are almost entirely at the same level so that might affect the DR rating. I'd be curious to see a waveform of CD with a DR rating of 7 that you describe the sound as being "fantastic".
  9. Catcher10

    Catcher10 Forum Resident

    This is true regarding records from the 70's, today they sound better on my analog end. Advancements in electronics has greatly helped what I now hear from my 70's records. Cartridges are much better, phono stages and amplification is better, much more detail, resolution is coming thru today than when I was a teenager and clearly my ears were much better then. There are some records that I have no need to purchase a remastered/remixed version.
  10. All I know is, once I moved on to CD, I never looked back to LPs. Now it's the same with iTunes. Bye buy CD's.:edthumbs:

    I seriously do not miss the ticks, pops, dust & scratches, feels like old technology to me!
    dalem5467 and eric777 like this.
  11. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    That's because it *is* old technology! :D
    dalem5467, andrewskyDE, roole and 2 others like this.
  12. apesfan

    apesfan Well-Known Member

    My creedo is simply
    Mark Waldrep for the software and truth about all formats and truth that analog is not hi rez esp. from its inception till 2000s its just a preference for many people who enjoy certain distortions.
    Floyd Toole for hardware and impotance of room, sub, speaker and the basic truth of what audio is and is not.
    Hope not off subject. Far too much talk about how and what is the best sound. For audio from the Golden age well mastered CD has 99% of the requirement to get great sound but few studio guys know what they are doing.
    Putting a 10 ounce bag of garbage in a 100 ounce bucket does not make it a hi rez audio event. Pono and others are really pulling the wool over everyone's eyes... Take care John M.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2018
    timind likes this.
  13. timind

    timind Forum Resident

    Brownsburg, IN USA
    Loved listening to records for the first twenty years of my music listening life (68-88) until I hopped on the cd bandwagon. At that point the media shared equal time for the next five years or so. Around 2007 I sold most of my albums because we were moving and they were taking up too much space. Although cds had taken over as the main source of music, I didn't sell the records because I felt they sounded inferior.

    Now I listen almost exclusively to music in digital format. About a year ago I jumped back into record playing; bought a turntable, record cleaning system and gave it a try. I had no problem at all with the sound of my old records. In fact, I was surprised at how noise free most of them were. To my ear though, the cds ripped as AIFFs sounded better with only a few exceptions. Paul McCartney's Ram is one album that really sounded better on vinyl.

    like all of my records, was purchased very near the time of release. The first time I listened to the record for this experiment was the first time I'd listened to it in probably 30 years. I bought the special edition cd to compare, and found the vinyl copy better to my ear. I'd forgotten what a great album it is. Another album where the vinyl was good was James Taylor's Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon. I found the album vs cd to be a tie; love the sound of both.

    Overall though, I prefer the sound of the digital copies. They have better frequency extension, better dynamics, more image specificity, and just an overall cleaner sound. I keep reading people who don't like digital because of the digital "glare." To those people I'd say there's something wrong in your digital chain. I don't hear that at all. Sure, there are cds that sound crappy. But as there are cds that sound wonderful, you've got to blame the production, not the media for a bad sounding cd.

    Sound quality aside, it only took me a few albums to realize I'm not into the ritual listening to albums requires. Too much work. I mean, there was more than one occasion when I put an album on and sat down only to think, "this album ain't really what I want to hear now." I had to get up, remove the album, find another album, put it on the turntable, sit back down and hope I wanted to hear the whole side. Kind of odd as for most of my life I was one of those who listened to albums start to finish, and still do at times.

    All that said, I could easily live with the sound of either format. And if I had to, I could live with the hassle of listening to vinyl. That's my take. YMMV
    lance b and Socalguy like this.
  14. Whoopycat

    Whoopycat Forum Resident

    Des Moines
    Sure, Radiohead Kid A. But don't take my word for it:
    RadioHead on Vinyl?? Is it the best way to listen to this band???

    Most good sounding DR7's are going to be electronic-based. I would not be embarrassed to demo my system with Thievery Corporation's latest CD, also a 7.

    A guitar-based rock album with DR7 is a totally different animal. The Stones' Blue & Lonesome is also a 7, but no system is going to salvage it. That is a case of the mastering being so bad I don't really want to listen to it anymore.
    timind and Strat-Mangler like this.
  15. Cosmo-D

    Cosmo-D Member Thread Starter

    I've taken effort to eliminate as many sources of distortion and noise as possible from vinyl playback. Maybe that it why it sounds so similar to a digital file a lot of the time. I'm running a Sony PS-X800. It has a very good linear tracker that electronically dampened to reduce resonance. So that eliminates some noise as well distortion due to tracking error and skating force. The turntable is direct drive so that eliminates a lot of mechanical noise too. I tried to A/B my Record Store Day copy of Gwar's "Scumdogs of the Universe" with CD copy. I believe they probably use the same master. They ultimately sounded pretty similar. Although my comparison was not scientific (it is impossible to level match the CD player to record player because of the differences in output on the devices and the sensitivity of the inputs). If I had the technology, I'd generate some samples because I am reasonably certain they use the same master. I don't have an A/D converter, but I should consider purchasing one for the sake of science.
  16. sbayle

    sbayle Active Member

    Lexington, MA USA
    It’s what’s called single blind. The tester knows A from B but the reviewing panel does not. The gold standard is double blind when neither tester nor testees know A from B. Isn’t there some sort of rule here against dis using ABX testing? Is so end of discussion.
  17. 4011021

    4011021 Forum Resident

    You should fill your profile with information about your gear. It's mandatory around here (forum's rules).
    Catcher10 likes this.
  18. James Glennon

    James Glennon Forum Resident

    Dublin, Ireland
    I perceive analog sounds great!
    I perceive digital sounds awful!

    I articulate that analog is great!
    I articulate that digital is awful!

    4011021 likes this.
  19. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Forum Resident

    Surface noise is no more a part of record playback than skipping is to a cd or a digital glitch on a download. I buy clean records and take care of them, I have no problems with noise.

    My cd collection goes back to a time when they were in rotation in my car and were treated poorly in a house with roommates. I have far more CDs that skip than records. Granted, vinyl is a more fragile format but it kind of forces me to be less careless. Data is also fragile and requires responsible care taking or you can lose an entire collection, instantly.
    Pancat, Tlay, SirMarc and 2 others like this.
  20. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

  21. AcidPunk15

    AcidPunk15 Well-Known Member

    Austin TX

    Michael Fremer Explains it pretty well.
  22. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    Well, one can't eliminate them, we just minimize them to the best of our ability or to the best of the ability of the turntable designers. And live with the things we can do anything about, like vinyl eccentricity or groove echo.
  23. anorak2

    anorak2 Well-Known Member

    Berlin, Germany
    It should be dithered instead of truncated, but in any case the difference will be an increase of the noise floor from -144 to -96 dB. You can't hear that except under very unusual circumstances, such as in an anechoic chamber with the music playing at earsplitting volume. You know that's not what I meant by mastering anyway.

    Of course you can. Vinyl sounds different from CD all the time. The high bit master has nothing to do with it.
  24. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Forum Resident

    Uppsala Sweden
    Yeah no, the discrete vs continous argument just doesnt really hold up.

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