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HQP vs. Vinyl Reassessment


Forehaven
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I've been really pleased with HQP/Roon esp now that it works well. More so of well recorded albums..pcm to dsd and dsd to 256dsd conversions. I was listening to Mingus, Mingus, Mingus dsd64 to 256 yesterday and found it wanting. I haven't listened to vinyl for awhile so though it'd be an interesting "where am I now evaluation".

 

My vinyl setup is ok: Nottingham Spacedeck with Rega arm and a Lyra Dorian cartridge to my weak link, a Music Hall PH-1 preamp to Emotiva XMC-1 out. Listened to the Mingus album, and to my disappointment, the vinyl rig is so much more musical...instruments sounding like real instruments and a really good transparent sound. The 256dsd file sounded flat and dull, though prob. with a wider dynamic range, in comparison.

 

I just wasn't expecting this given the money and time I've spent trying to learn CA, and implementing a sound digital system. Perhaps it's the iFi Micro that's the weak link. No idea. But overall, I'm disappointed...

Ryzen 7 2700 PC Server, NUC7CJYH w. 4G Apacer RAM as Renderer/LPS 1.2 - IsoRegen/LPS-1/.2 - Singxer SU-1/LPS1.2 - Holo Spring Level 3 DAC - LTA MicroZOTL MZ2 - Modwright KWA 150 Signature Amp - Tidal Audio Piano's.  

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You are comparing apples to oranges on several levels. At the bare minimum you by necessity have two different masterings.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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You are comparing apples to oranges on several levels. At the bare minimum you by necessity have two different masterings.

 

I know, so many variables. I was just expecting dsd to sound better than a generic album. Perhaps I'm being unrealistic in expecting dsd to sound the same/better with my present equipment. I've just never listened to a dsd dac that costs >$500.

Ryzen 7 2700 PC Server, NUC7CJYH w. 4G Apacer RAM as Renderer/LPS 1.2 - IsoRegen/LPS-1/.2 - Singxer SU-1/LPS1.2 - Holo Spring Level 3 DAC - LTA MicroZOTL MZ2 - Modwright KWA 150 Signature Amp - Tidal Audio Piano's.  

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"I was just expecting dsd to sound better than a generic album."

 

That's the problem. You expect dsd to sound better than a generic album, but you're treating dsd as a generic too. In order to get good sound, you need to treat dsd as you would any other format. What do you know about the analog section of your ifi dac?

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I know, so many variables. I was just expecting dsd to sound better than a generic album. Perhaps I'm being unrealistic in expecting dsd to sound the same/better with my present equipment. I've just never listened to a dsd dac that costs >$500.

 

I think you are missing the point. The problem isn't that vinyl is so much better sounding that you need a better DAC to equal it. The problem is you have two different things. Having done it, I can tell you ripping a vinyl album to digital then playing it back over relatively modest DACs matches or comes ever so close to matching the sound they are difficult to hear as different. So there is no inadequacy on the digital side that prevents your digital Mingus from sounding like your vinyl Mingus. Better digital equipment won't make it so.

 

The problem is vinyl has a sound signature which is lacking in digital. It may be your preference which is fine, but throwing money at more better DACs won't get you there. The vinyl probably has channel separation of 25 db, has some channel crosstalk, has had the bass mono'd below 100 hz, has been EQ'd for the cutter head and RIAA curve, likely been compressed a little. Your cartridge while fine likely doesn't have response as flat as digital. The digital track may have had some of these, none of these or some completely different things done to it. Two different masters. Two different sounds.

 

You could fully replicate the vinyl sound on your DAC. You could get someone to rip your vinyl on a better vinyl rig and might get better sound. The digital mastering of the track could perhaps be done better and surpass them all or not.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Listened to the Mingus album, and to my disappointment, the vinyl rig is so much more musical...instruments sounding like real instruments and a really good transparent sound. The 256dsd file sounded flat and dull, though prob. with a wider dynamic range, in comparison.

 

I just wasn't expecting this given the money and time I've spent trying to learn CA, and implementing a sound digital system. Perhaps it's the iFi Micro that's the weak link. No idea. But overall, I'm disappointed...

 

Don't worry. If you can just hold on there, I'm sure someone will be along soon to explain that you can't be right because: i. they've done listening tests that prove their iPhone is a better source component than their uncle's/brother in law's/dentist's expensive vinyl system; or ii. everyone knows you have to spend at least $100k to get decent sound from vinyl, or iii. they heard their roommate's deck for 5 minutes in 1972 and didn't think much of it.

 

I agree though that it's not a fair comparison. You should be using a much more expensive phone stage...

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You are comparing apples to oranges on several levels. At the bare minimum you by necessity have two different masterings.

 

Why are they different masterings? And what would make the digital version the lesser in this case? Instead of simplifying music playback there seems to be more and more confusion for folks that have loved and listen to music for years. Instead of the simplification promised when the cd first emerged as "the" format to listen to reproduced music with. If people that are deeply into sound reproduction in their homes can't make any sense out of things today then what hope is there for "Joe Blow" man in the street to sort through even the basics of getting through the maze of formats, ways of playback, mastering origins, etc, etc, etc.

David

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Why are they different masterings? snip

 

They are of necessity different masters because when you master for going the vinyl route you have to take extra steps. If you had the final mix tapes you could simply copy those digitally. You can't do that with the final master for the LP as it needs RIAA, and other changes. Or if you did it would sound very messed up indeed. Now you can take a master that includes all except those peculiar to vinyl needs and copy it digitally. Even that is unlikely to sound the same or be the same once it goes through the vinyl route. What almost always happens is a different mastering is done to go onto the digital side.

 

Now what does that mean? It can be better, it could be worse, it could be simply different. Sometimes they do less processing as digital needs less. Sometimes they do more because they can. If it were a recent remastering for digital there is a fair chance it is much more highly compressed (though it need not be). You see this even in CD that gets remastered for high rez quite often. The newer version is highly compressed compared to the old CD mastering. That isn't an improvement so why do they do it? I don't know. You will have to ask the people doing it.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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They are of necessity different masters because when you master for going the vinyl route you have to take extra steps. If you had the final mix tapes you could simply copy those digitally. You can't do that with the final master for the LP as it needs RIAA, and other changes. Or if you did it would sound very messed up indeed. Now you can take a master that includes all except those peculiar to vinyl needs and copy it digitally. Even that is unlikely to sound the same or be the same once it goes through the vinyl route. What almost always happens is a different mastering is done to go onto the digital side.

 

Now what does that mean? It can be better, it could be worse, it could be simply different. Sometimes they do less processing as digital needs less. Sometimes they do more because they can. If it were a recent remastering for digital there is a fair chance it is much more highly compressed (though it need not be). You see this even in CD that gets remastered for high rez quite often. The newer version is highly compressed compared to the old CD mastering. That isn't an improvement so why do they do it? I don't know. You will have to ask the people doing it.

 

I would assume it should simply sound like the tape (or whatever it was captured on) no matter what format you are looking to release it on? That did use to be the "acid test" where you were looking to get as close as possible to what had been captured on the original tape.

David

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I periodically do this reassessment using "Waltz for Debby", "Sunday at the Village Vanguard", "Maiden Voyage". and "Ella and Louis". I have each on SACD and vinyl from the same Analogue Production reissue series.

 

The vinyl simply demolishes the DSD in every case. I don't think tells me anything about DSD vs vinyl. It's just a progress report on how much further my digital front end has to go to catch up to my analog from end.

 

I don't think the same master necessarily needs to be used to evaluate progress. I also have "Waltz for Debby" and "Sunday at the Village Vanguard" on $10 OJC pressings that used to easily beat the DSD version. I have no doubt that if I were to do that comparison again, the DSD would be closer and maybe even better this time.

Digital:  Sonore opticalModule > Uptone EtherRegen > Shunyata Sigma Ethernet > Antipodes K30 > Shunyata Omega USB > Gustard X26pro DAC 

Amp & Speakers:  Spectral DMA-150mk2 > Aerial 10T

Foundation: Stillpoints Ultra, Shunyata Denali power conditioner, Shunyata Alpha and Delta power cords, Shunyata Alpha interconnect, Shunyata Sigma Ethernet, MIT Matrix HD60 speaker cables, ASC isothermal tube traps, Stillpoints Aperture panels

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The problem is vinyl has a sound signature which is lacking in digital. It may be your preference which is fine, but throwing money at more better DACs won't get you there.

 

In my system both digital and vinyl have their flaws. No signature sound that I can hear with vinyl though. I have many LPs that sound terrible and many that sound fantastic with most falling somewhere in between.

 

Vinyl used to always beat digital but that's far from the case now, thanks to a better DAC and other upgrades.

Digital:  Sonore opticalModule > Uptone EtherRegen > Shunyata Sigma Ethernet > Antipodes K30 > Shunyata Omega USB > Gustard X26pro DAC 

Amp & Speakers:  Spectral DMA-150mk2 > Aerial 10T

Foundation: Stillpoints Ultra, Shunyata Denali power conditioner, Shunyata Alpha and Delta power cords, Shunyata Alpha interconnect, Shunyata Sigma Ethernet, MIT Matrix HD60 speaker cables, ASC isothermal tube traps, Stillpoints Aperture panels

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I think you are missing the point. The problem isn't that vinyl is so much better sounding that you need a better DAC to equal it. The problem is you have two different things. Having done it, I can tell you ripping a vinyl album to digital then playing it back over relatively modest DACs matches or comes ever so close to matching the sound they are difficult to hear as different. So there is no inadequacy on the digital side that prevents your digital Mingus from sounding like your vinyl Mingus. Better digital equipment won't make it so.

 

The problem is vinyl has a sound signature which is lacking in digital. It may be your preference which is fine, but throwing money at more better DACs won't get you there. The vinyl probably has channel separation of 25 db, has some channel crosstalk, has had the bass mono'd below 100 hz, has been EQ'd for the cutter head and RIAA curve, likely been compressed a little. Your cartridge while fine likely doesn't have response as flat as digital. The digital track may have had some of these, none of these or some completely different things done to it. Two different masters. Two different sounds.

 

You could fully replicate the vinyl sound on your DAC. You could get someone to rip your vinyl on a better vinyl rig and might get better sound. The digital mastering of the track could perhaps be done better and surpass them all or not.

 

+5. I totally agree with esdulde.

I have pro DSD recorder in home for recording and I can tell, recording vinyl to DSD preserves all qualitative nyances of vinyl (or even R2R) - so format called "DSD" itself is not a brake in this case, reason to sound differently is different master and maybe not very good analog stage in iFi.

Sorry, english is not my native language.

Fools and fanatics are always certain of themselves, but wiser people are full of doubts.

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I would assume it should simply sound like the tape (or whatever it was captured on) no matter what format you are looking to release it on? That did use to be the "acid test" where you were looking to get as close as possible to what had been captured on the original tape.

 

It is a good idea, and would be nice. It very nearly never is done that way. You could do the final mix tape, adjust it the absolute minimum amount needed to press a disc. You could simply record it in digital. What actually happens is nearly never that. Not to mention if the recordings are from long ago different people are working on the digital version vs the original version. Again, you will end up with different mastering.

 

I haver written here before about getting CD, LP and reel tapes of quite a number of albums and doing a group listen to them all. Pretty sure they were different masters as well. What was readily apparent was vinyl was the most different in every case. Reel and too our surprise at the time CD were generally pretty close, a generally similar character. LP was always the odd man out. Sometimes it sounded nicer, sometimes just different, but it was different.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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I don't think the same master necessarily needs to be used to evaluate progress.

 

Wow. So two versions that sound different because they were made different and you can use that to judge progress. Maybe better than nothing, but it sure sounds like a crooked yardstick.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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I've written to this several times in the Music forums. We (I had friends assist with their judgement) compared SACD/DSD to High Res PCM to Redbook PCM to vinyl. What we learned is that sometimes vinyl sounded better, other times we couldn't tell them apart, and other times the digital sounded better. This seemed to be chalked up to the mastering, and that's just the way it is.

Analog: Koetsu Rosewood > VPI Aries 3 w/SDS > EAR 834P > EAR 834L: Audiodesk cleaner

Digital Fun: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (JRMC) SOtM USB > Lynx Hilo > EAR 834L

Digital Serious: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (HQPlayer) Ethernet > SMS-100 NAA > Lampi DSD L4 G5 > EAR 834L

Digital Disc: Oppo BDP 95 > EAR 834L

Output: EAR 834L > Xilica XP4080 DSP > Odessey Stratos Mono Extreme > Legacy Aeris

Phones: EAR 834L > Little Dot Mk ii > Senheiser HD 800

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I've written to this several times in the Music forums. We (I had friends assist with their judgement) compared SACD/DSD to High Res PCM to Redbook PCM to vinyl. What we learned is that sometimes vinyl sounded better, other times we couldn't tell them apart, and other times the digital sounded better. This seemed to be chalked up to the mastering, and that's just the way it is.

 

Well, I think you're right on here Jabs, Kenny... now that I think about it more. I've got a few SACDs that sound really good and are thoroughly musical, but it's a hit and miss. Same with lp's, but I seem to have a higher hit rate with vinyl. I only have a few SACD and lps of the same artist (not even considering too diff mastering) so I couldn't test many. I was just still a bit surprised. Thanks for a reality check everyone.

 

Oh, and I do need a better phono stage but I listen mostly to digital so I'm having a hard time prioritizing a better one ;) Regarding recording vinyl, I do have the MH LIO that I could do 24/192 but the software is primitive and hard to use. Still, I'm very pleased to read that recording vinyl can retain much of the sound quality.

 

Oh, and

Ryzen 7 2700 PC Server, NUC7CJYH w. 4G Apacer RAM as Renderer/LPS 1.2 - IsoRegen/LPS-1/.2 - Singxer SU-1/LPS1.2 - Holo Spring Level 3 DAC - LTA MicroZOTL MZ2 - Modwright KWA 150 Signature Amp - Tidal Audio Piano's.  

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Wow. So two versions that sound different because they were made different and you can use that to judge progress. Maybe better than nothing, but it sure sounds like a crooked yardstick.

 

It often comes down to "is the digital enjoyable enough now so that I don't feel the need to have to reach for the vinyl"? More and more the answer has been yes.

 

You mentioned vinyl having a signature, but for me it has been digital with the apparent signature: a thinness/hardness/unnaturalness that can make it tough to sit through. That's less often the case with vinyl.

Digital:  Sonore opticalModule > Uptone EtherRegen > Shunyata Sigma Ethernet > Antipodes K30 > Shunyata Omega USB > Gustard X26pro DAC 

Amp & Speakers:  Spectral DMA-150mk2 > Aerial 10T

Foundation: Stillpoints Ultra, Shunyata Denali power conditioner, Shunyata Alpha and Delta power cords, Shunyata Alpha interconnect, Shunyata Sigma Ethernet, MIT Matrix HD60 speaker cables, ASC isothermal tube traps, Stillpoints Aperture panels

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It often comes down to "is the digital enjoyable enough now so that I don't feel the need to have to reach for the vinyl"? More and more the answer has been yes.

 

You mentioned vinyl having a signature, but for me it has been digital with the apparent signature: a thinness/hardness/unnaturalness that can make it tough to sit through. That's less often the case with vinyl.

 

Digital can record and playback vinyl with little to no change in sound. It therefore must be close to transparent, and can't have much of a signature of thinness, hardness, and unnaturalness. Much digital music may sound that way for other reasons, but it isn't a signature of the process. I haven't been in a position to make my own LP. I have recorded to reel and cassette tape. Each tape has a sound of its own. Digital recordings of tape sound like tape.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Digital can record and playback vinyl with little to no change in sound. It therefore must be close to transparent, and can't have much of a signature of thinness, hardness, and unnaturalness. Much digital music may sound that way for other reasons, but it isn't a signature of the process.

 

In theory, I'm sure you're correct. But in practice, "thinness, hardness, and unnaturalness", are probably the biggest complaints of digital, but not so much with analog. If its not a digital issue, then what? Its the same type of complaints over and over, from different people and different systems. For the most part, it seems like digital, for whatever reason, is prone to these sonic flaws. Just to be clear, I've heard digital that doesn't have these qualities, but its usually with expensive gear.

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It often comes down to "is the digital enjoyable enough now so that I don't feel the need to have to reach for the vinyl"? More and more the answer has been yes.

 

You mentioned vinyl having a signature, but for me it has been digital with the apparent signature: a thinness/hardness/unnaturalness that can make it tough to sit through. That's less often the case with vinyl.

 

I checked out your system and you have some seriously good gear, in fact our vinyl rigs have some similarity. I've only heard the Mytec at audio shows but I understand that it's rated as a top notch DAC. However I must admit that the Lampizator really turned me around, plus I can roll a tube here and there for different "sound signatures".

Analog: Koetsu Rosewood > VPI Aries 3 w/SDS > EAR 834P > EAR 834L: Audiodesk cleaner

Digital Fun: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (JRMC) SOtM USB > Lynx Hilo > EAR 834L

Digital Serious: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (HQPlayer) Ethernet > SMS-100 NAA > Lampi DSD L4 G5 > EAR 834L

Digital Disc: Oppo BDP 95 > EAR 834L

Output: EAR 834L > Xilica XP4080 DSP > Odessey Stratos Mono Extreme > Legacy Aeris

Phones: EAR 834L > Little Dot Mk ii > Senheiser HD 800

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In theory, I'm sure you're correct. But in practice, "thinness, hardness, and unnaturalness", are probably the biggest complaints of digital, but not so much with analog. If its not a digital issue, then what? Its the same type of complaints over and over, from different people and different systems. For the most part, it seems like digital, for whatever reason, is prone to these sonic flaws. Just to be clear, I've heard digital that doesn't have these qualities, but its usually with expensive gear.

 

Analog tends to smooth over things that are harsh, or spiky, or nasty sounding. Digital does not. So if you have recordings of things that can sound hard, or nasty, the analog versions are going to sound less hard (which usually gets considered more natural) and warmer (or less thin). In addition digital opens up the chance for more processing which can also sound thin or hard. Seems for one reason or another much digital gets processed unnaturally just because its possible, and then has no forgiving quality to soften the damage.

 

Go download some of Mario's free recordings. Other than the drum and rock samples, you will hear digital that isn't hard, or unnatural. All because he did simple digital recording and didn't mess with it. That should be enough to show that digital is not inherently hard or unnatural.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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It often comes down to "is the digital enjoyable enough now so that I don't feel the need to have to reach for the vinyl"? More and more the answer has been yes.

 

You mentioned vinyl having a signature, but for me it has been digital with the apparent signature: a thinness/hardness/unnaturalness that can make it tough to sit through. That's less often the case with vinyl.

 

It can't be something inherent in digital b/c I have vinyl rips that sound just like the vinyl - they have all those characteristics vinyl lovers associate with vinyl. In addition, most LPs today are made from digital masters, and vinyl lovers still say they sound better than a digital playback of the original source. So there is just something about the sound of the vinyl medium itself that some people prefer.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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It can't be something inherent in digital b/c I have vinyl rips that sound just like the vinyl - they have all those characteristics vinyl lovers associate with vinyl. In addition, most LPs today are made from digital masters, and vinyl lovers still say they sound better than a digital playback of the original source. So there is just something about the sound of the vinyl medium itself that some people prefer.

 

+1

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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I've been really pleased with HQP/Roon esp now that it works well. More so of well recorded albums..pcm to dsd and dsd to 256dsd conversions. I was listening to Mingus, Mingus, Mingus dsd64 to 256 yesterday and found it wanting. I haven't listened to vinyl for awhile so though it'd be an interesting "where am I now evaluation".

 

My vinyl setup is ok: Nottingham Spacedeck with Rega arm and a Lyra Dorian cartridge to my weak link, a Music Hall PH-1 preamp to Emotiva XMC-1 out. Listened to the Mingus album, and to my disappointment, the vinyl rig is so much more musical...instruments sounding like real instruments and a really good transparent sound. The 256dsd file sounded flat and dull, though prob. with a wider dynamic range, in comparison.

 

I just wasn't expecting this given the money and time I've spent trying to learn CA, and implementing a sound digital system. Perhaps it's the iFi Micro that's the weak link. No idea. But overall, I'm disappointed...

 

I hear you. At the risk of stepping on toes, I'll say that I've found it awfully hard to get USB audio to sound good. My LP setup is even more modest than yours, and sometimes it trounces the daylights out of my digital setup. OTOH, I have some digital recordings that are extremely beautiful, and since there's no basis for comparison, I enjoy them on their owen terms. And I have digitized analogue albums that far surpass their old vinyl versions. And the fact is that most of the new music I listen to will *never* be on vinyl, so I've got to make the best of it I can.

 

I'm reminded of the old joke:

 

Patient (waving his arm over his head): Doctor, it hurts when I do this.

 

Doctor: Don't do that.

 

So maybe don't torment yourself by comparing music engineered for vinyl with its digitized counterpart.

 

Since my system is similar to yours, I'll be so bold as to make a few suggestions:

 

1) If you are using the CAD OSX Optimzation script on your Mac Mini, don't. Run the reverse script and see if the sound isn't warmer and more analogue-like. If so, use the more basic script from Sonic Studio, which only shuts down the most intrusive items. The CAD script makes my system sound waaaayyyy too lean and bright.

 

2) If you are sourcing your files from the Synology, try moving an album to your main SSD and play it back from there.

 

3) Try removing the Regen.

 

4) If you are not using an NAA, try a Cubox (or better, if you like) with HQ Player. It's so much quieter and sweeter. I can't go back to running my DAC directly off the Mini after this. Too much noise and grit.

 

Hope this helps. :-)

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It can't be something inherent in digital b/c I have vinyl rips that sound just like the vinyl - they have all those characteristics vinyl lovers associate with vinyl. In addition, most LPs today are made from digital masters, and vinyl lovers still say they sound better than a digital playback of the original source. So there is just something about the sound of the vinyl medium itself that some people prefer.

'Vinyl Lovers' what are you going on about. Are you saying because the guy prefers the vinyl version of Mingus his hearing is somewhat skewed to prefer viny? What utter rubbish! He prefers it because it SOUNDS BETTER, the reason is, as others have said, the analog to digital mastering probably wasn't great on this album.

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