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The Truth About Vinyl - Vinyl vs. Digital

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In my opinion, digital is the better technology for classical music and this genre is generally very well recorded and mastered.

I find artifacts which result from speed stability issues, warped and off-centered records quite taxing. And with orchestral music digital provides longer decays, better instrument separation in complex passages, wider dynamics and a much more convincing low end.

The different is less obvious with high performance vinyl players but I would still choose CD/Redbook over vinyl.

I don't find the signal-correlated distortion "pleasant" or "enhancing"; for me it detracts from the realism, makes things sound less natural, more reproduced.

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With my Technics SL1200G the sound is more holographic into the room and top end sounds sweeter and more open. Whether that is more correct I don't know. One of the issues with digital is the filters. It seems there is a trade off between transient vs frequency response. The DACs are not perfect. Rob Watts of Chord believes you need a million taps, etc, etc, to get the truest sound from a DAC. I think that is only achievable by using Chord's upscaler. Most DACs/CD players are not spec'd to give the ultimate reproduction of digital music (if you go with Rob Watts) , but they don't have the groove distortions/noise. Perhaps what we vinyly persons love is what the average DAC is not currently up to giving. Perhaps if I had a Chord upscaler or a Linn Climax DS I may then prefer those sources...

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49 minutes ago, tuga said:

In my opinion, digital is the better technology for classical music and this genre is generally very well recorded and mastered.

I find artifacts which result from speed stability issues, warped and off-centered records quite taxing. And with orchestral music digital provides longer decays, better instrument separation in complex passages, wider dynamics and a much more convincing low end.

The different is less obvious with high performance vinyl players but I would still choose CD/Redbook over vinyl.

I don't find the signal-correlated distortion "pleasant" or "enhancing"; for me it detracts from the realism, makes things sound less natural, more reproduced.

Off-centre record spindle holes is an unfortunate & clumsy manufacturing issue which doesn't do classical music  - & piano music in particular any favours.
Nor any other type of music.
Given a properly manufactured record, a decent record player can  play classical music superbly - sublimely, with wholly convincing timbral resolution,
instrument seperation & dynamics.
Classical music is generally very well recorded - superbly so in many cases.
CD does it well too but the superiority of one over the other is not clear cut.

Edited by Von Krolock

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I'm genuinely curious how many people can reliably tell the difference between a Rasberry Pi Zero W with an IQAudio DAC c/w wallwart switch mode power supply (£35 all in) playing 16/44.1 lossless vs 24/192 played on the most high end streamer, if unsighted and all other things being equal.

I can certainly tell the difference between any redbook equivalent digital source and any record deck as soon as the first pop or crackle appears from the vinyl.

Edited by bobovox

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Out of interest how many wammers have changed there original standpoint as a result of this discussion. Just asking. 

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4 minutes ago, wHIZZY said:

Out of interest how many wammers have changed there original standpoint as a result of this discussion. Just asking. 

The V versus D  debate surfaces regularly -  like a recurring boil  - & should be lanced.:$

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9 hours ago, wHIZZY said:

Out of interest how many wammers have changed there original standpoint as a result of this discussion. Just asking. 

Last night, as a result of this debate. I did a bit of an experiment.  I set Dave Brubeck’s Time Out playing on both  Audirvana (24/96 AIFF download) and my turntable (new 180g pressing) at the same time.  I level matched the signals using the RME, then switched back and forth.  

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they sounded quite different.  The record’s treble was noticeably rolled off and cymbals were much more recessed in the mix.  The RME’s graphic display also told me the record’s low bass was rolled off, though this was less audible - possibly masked by a slightly bloated midbass that the pre-Cirkus LP12 is known for.  The record also had less urgency and impact, and yet it was still satisfying.  There was a more real sense of being in the room with the players, the cymbals and saxophone were less edgy and more naturally fluid.

I tried, and failed, to EQ Audirvana to sound like the record - rolling off the treble removed the glare from the cymbals, but made the sax sound woody and unnatural and muffled the piano.  

So what to conclude?  I came into this debate leaning towards records, but my fairly unscientific experiment has highlighted their flaws when compared to digital.  I would now say that, in my system and to my ears, both have their advantages and disadvantages.  

Right now, upgrades that will remove many of my LP12’s flaws are much less expensive than the upgrade path for digital, so I’m still slightly favouring records, though less avidly than when I first engaged in this thread. 

For me the debate hasn’t been entirely in vain.  Though it has got me thinking about upgrades again, which I’m starting to realise is one of the Wam’s greatest and most dangerous powers.  

Edited by jas0_0
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Edited by jas0_0

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The only measurement that's of importance is the level of enjoyment. I find music on vinyl more enjoyable and involving than on cd (I haven't yet got into streaming). I usually have a book on my lap. If there's something on the turntable I tend to find myself listening to it rather than reading. If it's a cd, it becomes background and I get on with the book.

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1 hour ago, jas0_0 said:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they sounded quite different.  The record’s treble was noticeably rolled off and cymbals were much more recessed in the mix.  The RME’s graphic display also told me the record’s low bass was rolled off, though this was less audible - possibly masked by a slightly bloated midbass that the pre-Cirkus LP12 is known for.  The record also had less urgency and impact, and yet it was still satisfying.  There was a more real sense of being in the room with the players, the cymbals and saxophone were less edgy and more naturally fluid.

Thanks for reporting that. Your speakers hardly produce any sub bass at all, or the difference would have even more marked. I hope you don't mind if I dissect your comments.

It's a bit difficult to comment on the "edgy" but both instruments sound like that in real life. I know the D2010s well and they're quite smooth-sounding.

As for the "less urgency and impact", the dynamic range vinyl master is probably more compressed but this will also sound better to some people, making the recording sound more intimate and with a "better" defined soundstage effect.

Looking at your choice in amplification I would say that you are a "euphonic additives" kind of person, which probably explain why you find that the added signal-correlated bloom/reverb increases the sense of "a more real sense of being in the room with the players".

I wonder how much better it was to follow the double-bass and left-hand piano lines on the DAC?

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5 minutes ago, Guzziboy said:

The only measurement that's of importance is the level of enjoyment. I find music on vinyl more enjoyable and involving than on cd (I haven't yet got into streaming). I usually have a book on my lap. If there's something on the turntable I tend to find myself listening to it rather than reading. If it's a cd, it becomes background and I get on with the book.

I disagree with your first sentence, but the rest is fair enough.

What is the genre that you listen to the most?

Edited by tuga

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1 hour ago, jas0_0 said:

Last night, as a result of this debate. I did a bit of an experiment.  I set Dave Brubeck’s Time Out playing on both  Audirvana (24/96 AIFF download) and my turntable (new 180g pressing) at the same time.  I level matched the signals using the RME, then switched back and forth.  

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they sounded quite different.  The record’s treble was noticeably rolled off and cymbals were much more recessed in the mix.  The RME’s graphic display also told me the record’s low bass was rolled off, though this was less audible - possibly masked by a slightly bloated midbass that the pre-Cirkus LP12 is known for.  The record also had less urgency and impact, and yet it was still satisfying.  There was a more real sense of being in the room with the players, the cymbals and saxophone were less edgy and more naturally fluid.

I tried, and failed, to EQ Audirvana to sound like the record - rolling off the treble removed the glare from the cymbals, but made the sax sound woody and unnatural and muffled the piano.  

So what to conclude?  I came into this debate leaning towards records, but my fairly unscientific experiment has highlighted their flaws when compared to digital.  I would now say that, in my system and to my ears, both have their advantages and disadvantages.  

Right now, upgrades that will remove many of my LP12’s flaws are much less expensive than the upgrade path for digital, so I’m still slightly favouring records, though less avidly than when I first engaged in this thread. 

For me the debate hasn’t been entirely in vain.  Though it has got me thinking about upgrades again, which I’m starting to realise is one of the Wam’s greatest and most dangerous powers.  

Such comparisons are great fun to do but very difficult to get meaningful results. In this instance there are so many versions of the album available that it would be very difficult to be sure that you are even comparing like with like. The original 2 track recording was not stereo, the two tracks were simply used to separate the piano from the other instruments. The stereo releases were 'constructed' from this master and a fair number of different versions exist.

That said, the wonderful sound of the Columbia studio (Kind of Blue was recorded the same year in the same room) is still present and the quality of the better 'versions' are quite stunning.

I have have been present at a similar but more controlled comparison. Serious hi-end equipment in an optimised room using brand new DG recordings in both CD and vinyl format. With the levels matched, comparisons were made using the CD and vinyl, musical samples were taken at a point where the music was more or less continuous, so the very low surface noise that was present was masked. 

It was very, very difficult to tell which was which, even with instantaneous switching though the quality of the playback was outstanding in both formats. It was of course a digital recording so perhaps favouring the digital format, but very instructive never the less.

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9 minutes ago, MGTOW said:

Such comparisons are great fun to do but very difficult to get meaningful results. In this instance there are so many versions of the album available that it would be very difficult to be sure that you are even comparing like with like. The original 2 track recording was not stereo, the two tracks were simply used to separate the piano from the other instruments. The stereo releases were 'constructed' from this master and a fair number of different versions exist.

That said, the wonderful sound of the Columbia studio (Kind of Blue was recorded the same year in the same room) is still present and the quality of the better 'versions' are quite stunning.

I have have been present at a similar but more controlled comparison. Serious hi-end equipment in an optimised room using brand new DG recordings in both CD and vinyl format. With the levels matched, comparisons were made using the CD and vinyl, musical samples were taken at a point where the music was more or less continuous, so the very low surface noise that was present was masked. 

It was very, very difficult to tell which was which, even with instantaneous switching though the quality of the playback was outstanding in both formats. It was of course a digital recording so perhaps favouring the digital format, but very instructive never the less.

The "problem" I have with those vintage recordings is that they were made with equipment that is less competent/transparent than what we have now, monitored in less transparent gear and mastered for the hi-fi systems of the day.

Things like noise floor, dynamic range, frequency balance and extension have improved immensely since then, and using a more recent recording will make vinyl's limitations more obvious.

You wouldn't use a 1960s film to compare an old CRT with a freshly squeezed flat TV screen.

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21 minutes ago, Guzziboy said:

The only measurement that's of importance is the level of enjoyment. I find music on vinyl more enjoyable and involving than on cd (I haven't yet got into streaming). I usually have a book on my lap. If there's something on the turntable I tend to find myself listening to it rather than reading. If it's a cd, it becomes background and I get on with the book.

Think you have it in a nutshell, sometimes things just seem right and you find yourself lost in the music. Although for me that can also happen with digital. My problem is I find myself so involved I drift off on the music and end up falling asleep, even with rock music. This makes life difficult as my wife always questions my hifi purchases with -  'i don't know why you spend all that money it only sends you to sleep'. 

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