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Help me understand - vinyl vs CD


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I have a question which I haven't able to answer for a long time, and I thought I would share it here, in case others might be interested or able to give their opinion.

 

I was purchasing a pair of Spendor A6's from a chap in Bristol about 4 years ago. I went to his house to collect them and he was kind enough to demo them for me before we packed them up. He had a really nice setup - a dedicated room for listening, and was using nice gear e.g. Naim pre-amp, Naim power amp, Naim CD player, Linn LP12 turntable etc. 

 

I commented on his turntable as, being more a "digital" myself person at the time, I hadn't seen one of the Linn turntables. He asked for my views on the benefits of vinyl and CD and I said, whilst I hadn't compared it directly, I was sceptical, for all the usual reasons.

 

He then did a "watch this" moment...he asked me to sit in the listening chair whilst he played a CD by Peter Gabriel with the song "Don't give up" which featured Kate Bush.

 

The song sounded "nice". There was a lot of detail, and the music had good presence - overall, it sounded very good. 

 

Then he played the same song but on vinyl.... the difference was incredible.

 

This time there was much more life to the sound. The sound stage was dramatically bigger, with the perception of much more space between the instruments - in comparison, the CD version sounded like they were playing a room, whereas the vinyl version like they were playing on a stage. But the strangest thing was the position of the Kate Bush vocal - it honestly sounded like it was coming from above the speakers, which gave a vertical dimension to the soundstage.

 

I had honestly never heard anything like it. And bearing in mind it was the same speakers I was buying, and the comparison was using the same power amp etc. The difference was just the source.

 

I tried when I got the speakers home to see if I could recreate the effect - I was using a decent Meridian power amp, and I found the same song in high res format which my DAC could play. But regardless, I haven't been able to get close to that experience. 

 

And if the truth be told, it has made me a little disillusioned with the whole digital audiophile journey. I have been wondering since, maybe it was the CD wasn't mastered particularly well (but I seem to remember it was a "remastered CD" so presumably was a good attempt to capture the detail of the original recording).  So maybe the DAC in the Naim CD player wasn't that great. And maybe my DAC wasn't good enough (it was an ASUS Essence STX II).

 

I was thinking, I would really like to try again and see if I can achieve the same excellent soundstage with lots of space between the instruments and ideally that "vertical" height element I mentioned previously. Maybe I need to upgrade my DAC to something more expensive - I've started reading DAC reviews again, I've been thinking about buying a ladder DAC like the Denafrips Venus. But I really don't want to be disappointed if I am trying to achieve something which is only possible via vinyl.

 

Sorry for the long first post, but would be very interested if anyone else has a similar experience and who perhaps can explain why that vinyl record sounded so good. And if anyone was achieved the same results via the "digital" medium. 

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Hi Listen, welcome to Audiophile Style. 
 

Your experience isn’t unique but also the opposite isn’t unique. It all depends on the source material. For example, I heard a demo on an awesome system of Shelby Lynne’s Tears Lies and Alibis. We played the digital followed by the vinyl. The digital was so much better, I felt bad for the turntable manufacturer as it made him look bad, even though their was nothing he could do. It’s all about the source. 
 

Also note, remastered albums, for the most part have nothing to do with sound quality. Check sites like Acoustic Sounds, for albums they were involved in during the remaster. Those are fantastic. Most other mainstream remasters are more compressed / louder and that kills the sound but may sell more units. 

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If you have that LP, see if someone can do a needledrop for you at 24/96 and then compare the two. You may be very surprised. When I see remastered, I normally run for the hills. Far too often it means the music is squashed to hell. 

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17 minutes ago, JoeWhip said:

If you have that LP, see if someone can do a needledrop for you at 24/96 and then compare the two. You may be very surprised. When I see remastered, I normally run for the hills. Far too often it means the music is squashed to hell. 

When trying to get a good copy of a given recording, it really seems to be almost by random chance.   Some remasters or high res aren't just 'squashed' but are simply upsampled, effectively with HF noise added. 

 

On the other hand, I have some LP images (no longer the LPs themselves) that are from insanely bad LPs, not just ticks and pops.

 

Where did all of the good copies of recordings go?  Are they in 'recordings heaven' somewhere? :-).

 

At this point, the only material that I really trust are my old, dusty Direct to Disk Sheffield Labs LPS that are likely melted into the landfill somewhere.

Otherwise, it is an exhaustive search to find a jewel.

 

Proper mastering/signal prep, with NO extra 'love' added produces the best results.

 

 

 

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The Linn setup you auditioned would have easily started around $3k for a front end... the NAIM CD player with integrated DAC was closer to a Rega vinyl front end,

not in the same league as the Linn

 

DIgital transport quality + DAC quality = how successful digital playback is. Go as good as you can afford on the transport, don't under spend there. Your friend did that with

his Linn for analog which meant he could be successful even if he was working with just a Linn Basik cartridge. Don't make the error of thinking a good DAC makes up

for a lesser digital transport

 

 

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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12 hours ago, listen said:

This time there was much more life to the sound. The sound stage was dramatically bigger, with the perception of much more space between the instruments - in comparison, the CD version sounded like they were playing a room, whereas the vinyl version like they were playing on a stage. But the strangest thing was the position of the Kate Bush vocal - it honestly sounded like it was coming from above the speakers, which gave a vertical dimension to the soundstage.

 

 

Full of life, and sound coming from "above the speakers" is just part of how capable sound reproduction come across, whether vinyl or CD - I have very low cost active speakers which have no trouble doing this, after a bit of highly focused tweaking.

 

In general, it's just easier to get rid of the distortion artifacts that disturb the listening brain, with analogue sources; digital has always been harder to tame, and the audio world still haven't got this properly under control. Things are getting better, but it's still incredibly easy to do some tiny change which 'wrecks' the SQ, for digital playback.

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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Unfortunately if an analogue recording has been poorly converted to digital, as is the case here, there is nothing you can do about it. This is why serious music lovers have both analogue and digital sources. 

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1 hour ago, yamamoto2002 said:

In short, sound difference comes from the different mastering. If the vinyl sound is carefully recorded using ADC, recorded digital data has the same dynamics and reality of the vinyl

 

That pretty much sums it up for me. 

 

Having an analog source in addition to a digital source is interesting when:

 

- a particular album has a much better vinyl version (Steve Hoffman forum has a lot of discussions on vinyl release quality) 

 

- a particular album is only available on vinyl (there are still quite a few). 

 

The question then becomes whether to rip those albums and listen to a digital copy. To get a good vinyl rip, you need a pretty good setup (cleaning + playback + recording). There are companies that offer the service, but it is  expensive.

 

To simply enjoy listening to vinyl, you obviously don't need the recording part, and I don't believe you need a really high end rig to benefit from the higher quality of the vinyl mastering on your speakers, but as always, YMMV. 

 

Concerning the quality of the digital source, this is the object of 90% of discussions on this forum, so it would be foolish to give a single recommendation. There are many different approaches/technologies... But having a good vinyl setup will also help you benchmark the quality of your digital source... 

my blog

 

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You mention the demo room as "dedicated"...was it optimized?  Sound panels etc?  how does that compare to your room?

 

Personally...I like vinyl more than digital.  But it depends on the table.  I have never heard a high-end table.  I used a Music Hall MMF-5 for a while...loved it.  Then I dropped it...literally.  I replaced it with a Rega P3-24 and Dynavector 10x5 cartridge.  By all accounts a better setup.  And it sounded a bit cleaner and leaner.  Digital gods forgive me but give the 2nd order distortion (or whatever it is) because I like it.  Vinyl "flows" much better than digital for me.

 

The argument for digital is nebulous for me.  I listen to rock music in grungy bars and in outside venues (ACL MusicFest).  I seldom do pristine music halls (Eddy Vedder Ukulele tour being the most recent exception) so distortion is the name of the game.  But does the emotion of the music come through?  Then I am in and I can forget the interferences.  Just like the occasional snap and pop of vinyl does not bother me.

 

the Linn was probably tuned to perfection and it tickled you.  I wish I had been with you.

QNAP TS453Pro w/QLMS->Netgear Switch->Netgear R7800 Router->Ethernet (50 ft)->Netgear switch->SBT->iFi xDSD->Linn Majik-IL (preamp)->Linn 2250->Linn Keilidh; Control Points: Squeeze Commander (DroidX) & iPeng (iPad Air); Also: Rega P3-24 w/ DV 10x5; OPPO 103; PC Playback: Foobar2000 & JRiver; Portable: Sony NWZ_ZX1 & ZX2 w/ PHA-3; SMSL IQ, Fiio Q5, iFi Nano iDSD BL; Garage: Edifier S1000DB Active Speakers  Wish List: New DAC,  SBT replacement; Dream system: Linn EXACT or ATC Active or Big Tubes (KR or Nagra or Shindo or ...)

 

My goal is to use appliances and take home PC out of the chain...

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