Jump to content
IGNORED

Digital or Vinyl?


StephenJK
 Share

Recommended Posts

Digital or Vinyl?

 

I see a lot of discussion recently on the topic of whether digital or vinyl is preferable for high quality playback of music.

 

I would like to offer my opinion, because that’s all that I can do. I think it safe to say that no matter how well reasoned the argument, I’m not about to change anyone’s mind.

 

It would seem that we’ve had just about every type of opinion possible.

 

· Vinyl sucks, it always did and always will.

· Vinyl rules, anything else is a digital construct and a pale imitation.

· Only digital can provide true high quality, noise free playback.

· Digital is the future, how could it not be?

 

And then there’s the compromise solution, the one that I follow. And that’s with a mix of analog and digital.

 

Like a lot of people, I moved over to CD’s in the mid to late 80’s. In the mid 90’s when it looked like LP’s were going to have a quick and sudden death I started buying LP’s that I didn’t have at a bargain price, but ones recorded before the early 80’s that could only have been done with an analog process.

 

I never planned on recording LP’s, that happened quite by accident. By 2010, I had ripped all of my CD’s and, thanks to CA had started thinking about setting up a music server. That caused a transition from owning a CD player to then a transport and now to not having either. When I buy a new CD it gets ripped right away and then placed in storage, it never actually gets played.

 

With approximately 1,500 LP titles, there’s always been a turntable in my stereo system. I continue to upgrade it and make improvements when the budget allows it.

 

But you know something? I don’t blame anyone for getting rid of their turntable or their records. If there was ever a fussier, arcane and more ridiculous way of playing music I don’t know what it could be. I doubt that most of the turntables ever sold were properly setup and capable of decent playback.

 

I don’t remember anyone ever talking about vertical tracking angle, tracking force, azimuth, alignment or anything of that nature. Meaning the turntable you had then and maybe still have now will never sound very good.

 

The invention of the CD was the answer to everything. Perfect sound forever that you could play in the car and take to the beach with you. How could that not be an improvement?

 

The argument that some people make, and that I agree with, is that a turntable properly setup with a better than decent cartridge and with an LP in very good or excellent condition can provide a very realistic playback of the original recording. There’s a lot of “ifs” and “buts” in that equation, enough for people to not take LP’s very seriously. And that’s understandable.

 

If you have the right hardware properly setup you can have that playback experience. I then take that and record it to a digital recorder. I can take that recording and turn it into a 24/96 file that will sound the same as the LP on my system and that now will let me finally be able to play my LP in the car or take it to the beach.

 

Why bother? Some have suggested that I can stream the same music from a service or go out and just buy the CD.

 

I’m not in a position to do either of those things. I live in the country, I have what’s called a “turbo hub” that ties into the digital phone network and gives me limited Internet connectivity to a maximum of 4GB per month. Any shops in town that sell used CD’s seem to want $10 for any decent title, I may as well just buy it on Amazon.

 

But, with my turntable setup I can record any LP that is in good to better condition and have essentially the same thing, and with all the resolution that the original analog signal can pass along to a 24 bit medium.

 

I’m not saying the LP is a better way of capturing the musical performance, but simply stating that it can certainly be the equal of any CD, in some cases better. And it seems that a 24/96 recording is able to capture the same sonic attributes of that original LP without any loss of resolution, soundstage depth or placement of instruments.

 

I couldn’t be happier. I have a music collection of close to 750 ripped CD’s and with over 900 LP’s (and counting). I can fit it all onto a 2TB USB drive and take it with me anywhere. Music has always been an important part of my life. With digital portability that provides options that didn’t exist only a short while ago.

 

Digital or Vinyl? I don't think it really matters. Go with whatever provides you the experience you're looking for.

 

Oh, yes. Equipment list, for anyone interested in that sort of thing.

 

Turntable: Clearaudio Ovation with Clearaudio Universal tonearm - Dynavector Te Kaitora MC cartridge.

Phono Preamp: Audio Research PH5

Preamp: Audio Research LS25

Amplifier: Audio Research VS-115

Tuner: Yamaha TX-350

Recorder: Korg MR-2000S (modified to have 320GB hard drive)

DAC: Arcam FMJ D33 SuperDAC

Music Server: Dell Precision M4500 laptop, JRiver Media Center

Speakers: Fostex GZ-2000 four-way magnetic planars (maybe 12 pairs made worldwide)

Power Conditioner: APC H15BLK

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I quote the recent SF Weekly interview with Tiny Telephone president John Vanderslice: “analog isn’t better. It just sounds different.” Telephone just invested $800,000 in refurbishing the legendary tape machine from Record Plant. You’d think if anyone were to have an incentive to spew marketing drivel about analog, it would be him. Enough said.

 

For further reading on vinyl:

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

Electronics: W4S DAC-2 DSD SE, W4S STP-SE, W4S mAMP; Cables: Wireworld Silver Eclipse; SW: Roon/Tidal, JRiver; Speakers: NHT 3.3

Link to comment
Share on other sites

+1

 

Music is, after all else, an experience. Your story makes it a richer experience not just for you but for us as readers of your experience. It is good to get a reminder that we frequently need to back away from our technical nitpicking to ask "what makes me really enjoy my music?" The answer lies not in some endless pursuit of unachievable perfection, but in building a system that transports us into the venue, the recording or the moment. When we achieve that, it doesn't matter which technology got us there.

Synology NAS>i7-6700/32GB/NVIDIA QUADRO P4000 Win10>Qobuz+Tidal>Roon>HQPlayer>DSD512> Fiber Switch>Ultrarendu (NAA)>SMSL M500 DAC> Bryston SP3 pre>Levinson No. 432 amps>Magnepan (MG20.1x2, CCR and MMC2x6)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Digital or Vinyl?

 

I see a lot of discussion recently on the topic of whether digital or vinyl is preferable for high quality playback of music.

 

I would like to offer my opinion, because that’s all that I can do. I think it safe to say that no matter how well reasoned the argument, I’m not about to change anyone’s mind.

 

It would seem that we’ve had just about every type of opinion possible.

 

· Vinyl sucks, it always did and always will.

· Vinyl rules, anything else is a digital construct and a pale imitation.

· Only digital can provide true high quality, noise free playback.

· Digital is the future, how could it not be?

 

And then there’s the compromise solution, the one that I follow. And that’s with a mix of analog and digital.

 

Like a lot of people, I moved over to CD’s in the mid to late 80’s. In the mid 90’s when it looked like LP’s were going to have a quick and sudden death I started buying LP’s that I didn’t have at a bargain price, but ones recorded before the early 80’s that could only have been done with an analog process.

 

I never planned on recording LP’s, that happened quite by accident. By 2010, I had ripped all of my CD’s and, thanks to CA had started thinking about setting up a music server. That caused a transition from owning a CD player to then a transport and now to not having either. When I buy a new CD it gets ripped right away and then placed in storage, it never actually gets played.

 

With approximately 1,500 LP titles, there’s always been a turntable in my stereo system. I continue to upgrade it and make improvements when the budget allows it.

 

But you know something? I don’t blame anyone for getting rid of their turntable or their records. If there was ever a fussier, arcane and more ridiculous way of playing music I don’t know what it could be. I doubt that most of the turntables ever sold were properly setup and capable of decent playback.

 

I don’t remember anyone ever talking about vertical tracking angle, tracking force, azimuth, alignment or anything of that nature. Meaning the turntable you had then and maybe still have now will never sound very good.

 

The invention of the CD was the answer to everything. Perfect sound forever that you could play in the car and take to the beach with you. How could that not be an improvement?

 

The argument that some people make, and that I agree with, is that a turntable properly setup with a better than decent cartridge and with an LP in very good or excellent condition can provide a very realistic playback of the original recording. There’s a lot of “ifs” and “buts” in that equation, enough for people to not take LP’s very seriously. And that’s understandable.

 

If you have the right hardware properly setup you can have that playback experience. I then take that and record it to a digital recorder. I can take that recording and turn it into a 24/96 file that will sound the same as the LP on my system and that now will let me finally be able to play my LP in the car or take it to the beach.

 

Why bother? Some have suggested that I can stream the same music from a service or go out and just buy the CD.

 

I’m not in a position to do either of those things. I live in the country, I have what’s called a “turbo hub” that ties into the digital phone network and gives me limited Internet connectivity to a maximum of 4GB per month. Any shops in town that sell used CD’s seem to want $10 for any decent title, I may as well just buy it on Amazon.

 

But, with my turntable setup I can record any LP that is in good to better condition and have essentially the same thing, and with all the resolution that the original analog signal can pass along to a 24 bit medium.

 

I’m not saying the LP is a better way of capturing the musical performance, but simply stating that it can certainly be the equal of any CD, in some cases better. And it seems that a 24/96 recording is able to capture the same sonic attributes of that original LP without any loss of resolution, soundstage depth or placement of instruments.

 

I couldn’t be happier. I have a music collection of close to 750 ripped CD’s and with over 900 LP’s (and counting). I can fit it all onto a 2TB USB drive and take it with me anywhere. Music has always been an important part of my life. With digital portability that provides options that didn’t exist only a short while ago.

 

Digital or Vinyl? I don't think it really matters. Go with whatever provides you the experience you're looking for.

 

Oh, yes. Equipment list, for anyone interested in that sort of thing.

 

Turntable: Clearaudio Ovation with Clearaudio Universal tonearm - Dynavector Te Kaitora MC cartridge.

Phono Preamp: Audio Research PH5

Preamp: Audio Research LS25

Amplifier: Audio Research VS-115

Tuner: Yamaha TX-350

Recorder: Korg MR-2000S (modified to have 320GB hard drive)

DAC: Arcam FMJ D33 SuperDAC

Music Server: Dell Precision M4500 laptop, JRiver Media Center

Speakers: Fostex GZ-2000 four-way magnetic planars (maybe 12 pairs made worldwide)

Power Conditioner: APC H15BLK

 

Wrong attitude! Digital and vinyl, not digital or vinyl. Music is where you find it. That includes vinyl records (mono and stereo) 78 RPM records. reel-to-reel-tapes, FM broadcast air checks, everything.

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wrong attitude! Digital and vinyl, not digital or vinyl. Music is where you find it. That includes vinyl records (mono and stereo) 78 RPM records. reel-to-reel-tapes, FM broadcast air checks, everything.

 

When I misread what he wrote, and realized it, I edited out my inane comments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am pragmatic. There have been no significant vinyl new releases of classical music in 2 decades.

 

 

Yeah, Kal, that's certainly true. But, reissues of some of the great recordings by specialist producers such as Classic Records has given classical music on vinyl a new lease on life. Finding pristine copies of original RCA Victor Red Seals, Mercury Living Presence, London/Decca FFSS, and other 1950's and 1960's vintage pressings is becoming more and more difficult, and while the quality of these reissues can be variable, some are actually better than the original pressings (for instance, the Classic Records single-sided 45 RPM release of of Stravinsky's Firebird with Antal Dorati and the London Symphony which is the best-sounding commercial recording I have ever heard, regardless of format!).

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Analog media have own sound characteristics. For example, metal alloy metal tapes have own unique sound characteristics as vinyl disks have. On the other hand, digital is media neutral. If you digitize vinyl records, you will hear sound with vinyl characteristics. The same for metal alloy tapes. So comparing digital with vinyl doesn't make sense.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, Kal, that's certainly true. But, reissues of some of the great recordings by specialist producers such as Classic Records has given classical music on vinyl a new lease on life. Finding pristine copies of original RCA Victor Red Seals, Mercury Living Presence, London/Decca FFSS, and other 1950's and 1960's vintage pressings is becoming more and more difficult, and while the quality of these reissues can be variable, some are actually better than the original pressings (for instance, the Classic Records single-sided 45 RPM release of of Stravinsky's Firebird with Antal Dorati and the London Symphony which is the best-sounding commercial recording I have ever heard, regardless of format!).
I have to say that I know about that and it doesn't move me at all. I generally don't even buy digital reissues.

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have to say that I know about that and it doesn't move me at all. I generally don't even buy digital reissues.

 

Interesting. Then do you mind me asking you just what do you buy (listen to?)? I only ask because I find that while there are decent modern conductors, surely, there don't seem to be any Ormandys, Von Karajans, Walters. Szells, Reiners, and the like coming up at this moment (that I can see any way) and modern record methods generally don't yield as good a stereo sound as did the works of Lewis Leyton for RCA and C.R. Fine for Mercury in the 1950's. I'd be more than a little interested to hear your take on this subject as I'm always open to learning something new.

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting. Then do you mind me asking you just what do you buy (listen to?)? I only ask because I find that while there are decent modern conductors, surely, there don't seem to be any Ormandys, Von Karajans, Walters. Szells, Reiners, and the like coming up at this moment (that I can see any way) and modern record methods generally don't yield as good a stereo sound as did the works of Lewis Leyton for RCA and C.R. Fine for Mercury in the 1950's. I'd be more than a little interested to hear your take on this subject as I'm always open to learning something new.
I will not dispute you about the performers or performances but I had all those on vinyl and found that I rarely played the "audiophile" ones. I ended up transferring to digital or buying digital reissues of those musical performances I still dote on but, as should be apparent, the sound experience of discrete mch high-resolution is what I prefer. IMHO, of course.

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I will not dispute you about the performers or performances but I had all those on vinyl and found that I rarely played the "audiophile" ones. I ended up transferring to digital or buying digital reissues of those musical performances I still dote on but, as should be apparent, the sound experience of discrete mch high-resolution is what I prefer. IMHO, of course.

 

The problem was that in the early days digitally recorded classical LP's had so much promise but failed to deliver. I gave away every Telarc that I had. They were impossible to listen to.

 

On the other hand, I still have a DBX 21 so that I can play the M&K Realtime recordings. Now that they're digitized, of course, I can just play them from the server.

 

Some day I'll start recording all the mono classical records that everyone was giving away in the mid to late 90's.

 

"Sorry, Steve, it's a mono recording." "Oh, that's OK."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I will not dispute you about the performers or performances but I had all those on vinyl and found that I rarely played the "audiophile" ones. I ended up transferring to digital or buying digital reissues of those musical performances I still dote on but, as should be apparent, the sound experience of discrete mch high-resolution is what I prefer. IMHO, of course.

 

 

OK, I understand. You are saying that your interest in surround sound takes precedence over the performance itself, and so you prefer modern performances recorded using modern surround techniques to the classic two-channel performances of the great conductors and orchestras of yesteryear. I understand, believe me. While I don't share your enthusiasm for surround sound, I am somewhat of a stereo purist, and often pass-up some classic performances by great conductors and orchestras simply because my "audiophile" brain rejects the blatant multi-mike, multi-track recording practices of the record company. IOW, I'd like to believe that it's music over sound, but if the sound ain't to my liking, then often it makes it difficult to enjoy the music. :)

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The problem was that in the early days digitally recorded classical LP's had so much promise but failed to deliver. I gave away every Telarc that I had. They were impossible to listen to.

 

On the other hand, I still have a DBX 21 so that I can play the M&K Realtime recordings. Now that they're digitized, of course, I can just play them from the server.

 

Some day I'll start recording all the mono classical records that everyone was giving away in the mid to late 90's.

 

"Sorry, Steve, it's a mono recording." "Oh, that's OK."

 

 

Those Miller & Kreisler "Real Time" recordings were really something! Do you say that they have been digitized? Are they available as downloads from anywhere? Thanks.

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Those Miller & Kreisler "Real Time" recordings were really something! Do you say that they have been digitized? Are they available as downloads from anywhere? Thanks.

 

Digitized, yes. But by me with my system. If you like, I could send you a thumb drive of them in 24/96. That is, of course, as long as Audio Elf doesn't give me grief over copyright issues. But then, I suppose with classical music that really isn't a problem.

 

I have all six of the Hungarian Philharmonic with Zoltan Rozsnyai. I think they were recorded when I had a VPI Classic I with a Dynavector DV-20X2H. I bought them when they first came out.

 

Send me a PM with your address and I'll have it out to you on Tuesday. It's a holiday tomorrow in Ontario, Family Day.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

OK, I understand. You are saying that your interest in surround sound takes precedence over the performance itself, and so you prefer modern performances recorded using modern surround techniques to the classic two-channel performances of the great conductors and orchestras of yesteryear. I understand, believe me. While I don't share your enthusiasm for surround sound, I am somewhat of a stereo purist, and often pass-up some classic performances by great conductors and orchestras simply because my "audiophile" brain rejects the blatant multi-mike, multi-track recording practices of the record company. IOW, I'd like to believe that it's music over sound, but if the sound ain't to my liking, then often it makes it difficult to enjoy the music. :)
Not quite so. I see them as alternative pleasures. The classic recordings that I love for the performance/music have been ripped or repurchased. I love them for what they are but not, particularly, for their sound quality. OTOH, I also have an expanding collection of newer performances of which a smaller, but growing, number are musically competitive with the best of the past.

 

The real issues for me are:

1. As I said, there are no new recordings on LP.

2. I have no patience for LP but have preserved those I love to files because, imho, their sound quality is not the reason that I cannot live without them.

 

The result is that I do listen to my old favorites more often now than when I had the LPs.

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are new recordings going to vinyl these days, perhaps not in the genre you are seeking. Two of my kids (20 somethings) have a turntable and get vinyl from bands that did not exist back then. Granted, there are a LOT more releases to CD and straight to digital, but you can't say there is no new music on vinyl.

 

I suspect most masters are digital now though, not analog.

 

My system has a DIY tubed DAC, and PhonoAmp, roughly the same kit price. I much prefer the vinyl in my system. That being said, I'm in the process of updating my digital system with a new DAC, and new DIY PC along the CAPS line with enough power to run Roon/HQP.

 

Digital is of course an order of magnitude easier to organize and listen to, and you don't have to get up from your chair.

[Home Digital] Bricasti M12 > DIY M2x Monoblocks > Daedalus Audio Muse Studio Speakers

[Home Analog] Technics SL-1200G > Boulder 508 (Zu DL-103/Hana ML/Denon DL-301 II)

[Office] Laptop > Kitsune R2R lvl3 > Violectric V281 > Focal Utopia Headphones (balanced)

[beach/Travel] Laptop > DragonFly Red > Ether Headphones

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are new recordings going to vinyl these days, perhaps not in the genre you are seeking. Two of my kids (20 somethings) have a turntable and get vinyl from bands that did not exist back then. Granted, there are a LOT more releases to CD and straight to digital, but you can't say there is no new music on vinyl.

 

I suspect most masters are digital now though, not analog.

 

My system has a DIY tubed DAC, and PhonoAmp, roughly the same kit price. I much prefer the vinyl in my system. That being said, I'm in the process of updating my digital system with a new DAC, and new DIY PC along the CAPS line with enough power to run Roon/HQP.

 

Digital is of course an order of magnitude easier to organize and listen to, and you don't have to get up from your chair.

 

I think he meant that there are no new CLASSICAL performances available on LP. Everything seems to be reissues.

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Both.

 

end\

 

+1

[Home Digital] Bricasti M12 > DIY M2x Monoblocks > Daedalus Audio Muse Studio Speakers

[Home Analog] Technics SL-1200G > Boulder 508 (Zu DL-103/Hana ML/Denon DL-301 II)

[Office] Laptop > Kitsune R2R lvl3 > Violectric V281 > Focal Utopia Headphones (balanced)

[beach/Travel] Laptop > DragonFly Red > Ether Headphones

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don’t remember anyone ever talking about vertical tracking angle, tracking force, azimuth, alignment or anything of that nature. Meaning the turntable you had then and maybe still have now will never sound very good.

You were hangin' with the wrong crowd! Setup was everything and there was at least one article about some aspect of it in an issue of one of the many equipment-focused publications every month from the introduction of the elliptical stylus (first patented in about 1966 by Joe Grado, as I recall). VTA was much more critical with elliptical than with conical styli, so setup was a hot topic through the '70s and '80s as stylus shape was modified and new approaches patented. The first "super stylus" (the Shibata) came out for quad vinyl, and it led to a series of modifications to the original elliptical tip.

 

Then came a wave of alternatives to the traditional tone arm pivot - linear, unipivot, ultra low mass, etc. I tried a few, most notably a very low mass unipivot Formula 4 that was difficult to set up right and almost as hard to keep that way.

 

jh_audiolab.jpg

 

Each tone arm design "required" a different set of cartridge characteristics to perform at its best (according to the manufacturers and the gurus). So I tried several high end cartridges of varying designs and with increasingly low mass, playing endlessly with VTA, tracking force etc. But if there was a sweet spot I never found it - I couldn't get any of them to sound significantly better than my SME on average. So I kept returning to my set-it-and-forget-it SME, with which I've had a steady relationship now for almost 50 years.

 

Along the way, I accumulated stylus force gauges, angle setup tools, stylus cleaning devices etc. We talked about tone arm & cartridge setup endlessly at each others' homes & apartments, parties, club meetings, audio shows, and in the journals. I wrote a fair amount for "The Speaker" (the Boston Audio Society monthly journal) back then, and a lot of member contributions talked about arm / cartridge / stylus factors. And today, you can buy a USB microscope for about $40 that will help you set your VTA even more accurately.

 

And unlike some of the more esoteric factors discussed here today, arm & stylus setup really did make a huge and clearly audible difference to almost everybody with a system good enough to show it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share



×
×
  • Create New...