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Confused: Vinyl(Analog) vs Digital

post #1 of 54
Thread Starter 

I'm kind of confused. Don't know much about recording/mastering.

 

I understand that 'theoretically' vinyl/analog is supposed to be 'better' than digital. From what I understand, digital audio files are something like 'snapshots' of the 'real thing' - that has something to with what 'bitrates' mean i think. I understand, theoretically, vinyl doesn't work like that / it isn't 'snapshots' it is 'real' or something like that.

 

Here is what confuses me.

 

Aren't most things today recorded onto computers and then mastered on computers or something like that? So if its recorded on a computer/digital format wouldn't it 'sound better' as a digital recording instead of analog? Or do people still record things in analog / on analog tapes or something like that. Not sure how this works.

 

Another thing, I did some searches on this topic and I read that sometimes the vinyl version of an album sounds better, sometimes the CD/flac version is better. Is this because of how it was recorded or something? And is there way to tell if something was recorded analog or digital. So confused.

post #2 of 54

If it 'sounds' better it's because some nostalgic old fogey has been stuffing magic mushrooms up their @rse.

Vinyl can get nowhere near the clarity, dynamics or frequency response of bog-standard cd systems.

Vinyl is restricted by the ability of a needle to disturb a magnetic field. CD is limited by the ability of a DAC to reconstruct an analog signal.

post #3 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by cruizin caleb View Post

... And is there way to tell if something was recorded analog or digital. So confused.



On older CDs, you have the SPARS code, like AAD or DDD.  Just flip over the CD jewel case, it's on the back.  No more.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SPARS_code

 

post #4 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by cruizin caleb View Post

 

Aren't most things today recorded onto computers and then mastered on computers or something like that? So if its recorded on a computer/digital format wouldn't it 'sound better' as a digital recording instead of analog? Or do people still record things in analog / on analog tapes or something like that. Not sure how this works.

 


There are a few artists who insist on as much analog gear as possible. I have a few records that state VERY conspicuously that they have never passed through a Digital stage. Other albums I have from the same artists (I think its a YES album) also sound great despite going through a digital stage or 3. In reality its not what gear is used to master, but *how* its used. you can make a bad all analog mix if you go to the great lengths that people go to to screw up good music with digital gear. If you have 2/3 of a clue you can mix an awesome album on digital gear, digital from end to end no less. Its sad to say, but its really the recording/mixing engineers and the record executives pushing their buttons that screwed up CD.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cruizin caleb View Post

Another thing, I did some searches on this topic and I read that sometimes the vinyl version of an album sounds better, sometimes the CD/flac version is better. Is this because of how it was recorded or something? And is there way to tell if something was recorded analog or digital. So confused.


This is often a mater of mastering. If the engineer masters the album differently for vinyl, it will at the very least sound different. Considering the target demographic of vinyl records (kids who want to collect but not play but just DL the digital copy, and audiophiles) it can be assumed that everyone who will listen to the disc will scrutinize it. This is actually for the best, as it encourages people to do better.

 

It is also to the consumers advantage that very few radio stations play vinyl anymore. This means that there is no reason to have the loudness war and the associated compression like there is on CD.

 

Now that all the benefits are out there, some vinyl pressings are nothing but the same worthless mix of otherwise good music they put on the CD played into the cutting heads. its a shame they didnt take the opportunity to let their artist truly shine on at least one album. 20 years from now bands like Nirvana and RHCP will be known as "the band who compressed and went so loud everything goes to digital clipping" rather than bands who sang a quality song. sucks for them.

post #5 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slackboy72 View Post

If it 'sounds' better it's because some nostalgic old fogey has been stuffing magic mushrooms up their @rse.

Vinyl can get nowhere near the clarity, dynamics or frequency response of bog-standard cd systems.

Vinyl is restricted by the ability of a needle to disturb a magnetic field. CD is limited by the ability of a DAC to reconstruct an analog signal.


I disagree. If that were the case, then "bog-standard cd systems" would have surpassed vinyl years ago and there would be no reason for expensive cd playback devices. Yet to this day, top notch cd playback devices are still compared to and expected to come short of vinyl by many professional reviewers. Please don't assume I'm a major fan of vinyl as that is not the case. Sure, the specs for digital look nice, but the proof is in the listening. I have yet to hear a digital playback device with an msrp below $5,000 that can compare to a cheap Fisher turn table. That's just the bottom of the barrel for vinyl. IMO the top notch turn tables are practically untouchable.

post #6 of 54
Thread Starter 

very informative posts, guys ^^

 

in my original post, i probably should have been specific about what my 'digital' and 'analog.'

 

in my case

 

Digital = FLAC/Macbook/uDac → Little Dot I+ → Grado headphones

vs

Analog = cheap turntable/integrated preamp → Little Dot I+ → Grado headphones

 

won't sink money into an expensive turntable + preamp until after college :/

 

what my question mainly is: If something is 'recorded digitally' would I be correct in assuming that it would not have any soundquality advantage on vinyl? 

 

some of the music i listen to (last.fm) : Vampire Weekend, jj, Fang Island, Wilco, Radiohead, Animal Collective, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, The National, Beach House, MGMT

post #7 of 54

As usual, your milage will vary.

 

There are nicely mastered CDs which sound pretty good.  When the recording is made in high def digital (24/96+) then it compares well to vinyl.  Poorly done vinyl does not sound good at all.  Recordings done at low rez, then put on vinyl don't sound good either.

 

Currently there is a resurgence of vinyl interest.  Folks buying vinyl are paying more than commodity based CD music.  But they are paying for well done vinyl.  Well done vinyl outdoes well done CD Redbook, in my opinion.  That assumes your vinyl rig is as good or better than the better CD players.  In my opinion, HiRez recordings are as good as the analog, at least to my 51 year old ears, and there are better ears out there that will contest that.  I like the vinyl experience, but, in the end, IF HiRez digital is done well and becomes ubiquitous, then it will win.

 

Easy pickings for Vinyl to beat commodity CD music at present.

post #8 of 54

This is a really good post, I also have kind of a cloudy understand of this.

 

So if an album mixed and mastered in a largely digital domain was then pressed (the same version) to vinyl and cd.   It should be theoretically possible to replicate the EXACT same sound as the turntable with a good DAC?

 

Isn't vinyl always better sounding because digital systems have to convert and process digital information in order to produce  a "copy" of the analogue signal?  that seems to be my understand and if that's true it seems like people are spending a LOT of money on really high end DAC's that in the end don't match up to turntables?

post #9 of 54

that logic doesnt quite work

 

remember that if the music is recorded and processed in the digital domain, then in order to press the vinyl in the first place, the sound in the vinyl master must also have gone through a DAC.  thus, the only difference (in theory) between playing such a vinyl or such a CD would be where in the chain the DAC came into play:  in the studio or at home. 
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bastogne View Post

Isn't vinyl always better sounding because digital systems have to convert and process digital information in order to produce  a "copy" of the analogue signal?  that seems to be my understand and if that's true it seems like people are spending a LOT of money on really high end DAC's that in the end don't match up to turntables?

post #10 of 54

I own over 5,000 vinyl records and maybe 50 CDs.

 

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that technically digital is the better medium. No one with even the slightest scientific education could argue otherwise.

 

Even the loudness wars over compression of popular CD quality music arguement doesn't hold water because if CD hadn't been invented and you could compress vinyl as hard as CD ten they would. In fact they do. Vinyl meant to be played out often is often cut to run at 45 and has deep, wide grooves.

 

It's like cars. Most people would like a new Mercedes but some people are prepared to pay even more for a vintage Jaguar because it just feels better.

 

   

post #11 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slackboy72 View Post

If it 'sounds' better it's because some nostalgic old fogey has been stuffing magic mushrooms up their @rse.

Vinyl can get nowhere near the clarity, dynamics or frequency response of bog-standard cd systems.

Vinyl is restricted by the ability of a needle to disturb a magnetic field. CD is limited by the ability of a DAC to reconstruct an analog signal.


No DAC can reconstruct the original analog signal in all cases.  The DAC, like upsamping algorithms, can only guess it.  You can never use upsampling or increase the sampling rate to change a discrete set of numbers (PCM format) to a continuous graph (the analogue signal).  This is basic Maths.  

 

Practically, when the sampling rate is large enough, the difference between the original analogue signal and the reconstructed signal will sound identical to the ears.  Hence going 24/96 recording should be better than the 16/44 recording.  But I won't say the same thing for the 24/352 because the law of diminishing return always come in.  Probably 24/192 is the sweet point - a wild guess of me.

 

I'm not a vinyl guy and I can't afford it.  However, I must admit that the best SQ that I've heard was a vinyl system.  I still remember that one day I was hearing two system playing the same music: the CD sounds good and I knew that I was in a party, but when the vinyl playing I was in the party.

 

post #12 of 54

I own both digital and vinyl sources and both are capable of sounding good with the edge going to vinyl. The big problem with digital is that we are still living in the DAC dark ages comparable to the 78 RPM vinyl era. I suppose digital will finally catch vinyl within the next 50 years. Until then, vinyl will still rule. Good DACs cannot be purchased at this time regardless of price and a superior digital format has yet to surface.

post #13 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssportclay View Post

I own both digital and vinyl sources and both are capable of sounding good with the edge going to vinyl. The big problem with digital is that we are still living in the DAC dark ages comparable to the 78 RPM vinyl era. I suppose digital will finally catch vinyl within the next 50 years. Until then, vinyl will still rule. Good DACs cannot be purchased at this time regardless of price and a superior digital format has yet to surface.


IMO some dacs already surpass vinyl. Yet I must admit I am confused on this topic. We are debating digital vs analog mediums. Perhaps the debate should be over the recording/mastering methods of vinyl as opposed to cd. I was very curious on this subject myself so I consulted a friend of mine that swears by vinyl rips he makes. I let him make rips of some of my vinyls on cd. (The finished products are of redbook medium quality at 16/44.1 khz, so that rules out the possibility of upsampling contributing to the sound quality.) Then I compared those to the original cd. It's no contest, the original cd pales in comparison.

 

However, I will admit that the original cd has a greater capability as far as overall dynamics are concerned. But the vinyl rip wins overall with it's smoothness and lifelike presentation. All I have at the moment to do these comparisons is a Marantz DV-9500. A capable machine in its own right but it cannot compete with the higher end stuff I previously owned. I have only came across a couple of digital playback devices that can duplicate the vinyl sound from an original cd. The Lector CD-7T was one of those devices. I also owned an MBL 1511D which IMO surpassed vinyl, it took the best of vinyl and put it together with the dynamic range of digital. Pretty much what digital should have been in the first place. The result was very much like a live band in the room.

post #14 of 54

I have yet to hear a digital source that sounds analog which is the way we all hear. I like the way the compact disc is more quiet and dynamic than vinyl which makes digital a fun listen in many respects. The problem lies in the reconstructed digital signal itself. There is always just something phony and synthetic about it that never escapes me. Its like being served fake butter or instant coffee. Technology may prove to iron the bugs out in the future but currently digital is incapable of providing real music as a source. Digital no doubt has much better specifications than vinyl. No matter how you measure them, digital will always come out on top by a wide margin. I have tried very hard to prefer digital over vinyl over the years because of this superiority but it just sounds fake and synthetic. I also buy real butter and brew my coffee with the help of a grinder.

post #15 of 54



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ssportclay View Post

I have yet to hear a digital source that sounds analog which is the way we all hear. I like the way the compact disc is more quiet and dynamic than vinyl which makes digital a fun listen in many respects. The problem lies in the reconstructed digital signal itself. There is always just something phony and synthetic about it that never escapes me. Its like being served fake butter or instant coffee. Technology may prove to iron the bugs out in the future but currently digital is incapable of providing real music as a source. Digital no doubt has much better specifications than vinyl. No matter how you measure them, digital will always come out on top by a wide margin. I have tried very hard to prefer digital over vinyl over the years because of this superiority but it just sounds fake and synthetic. I also buy real butter and brew my coffee with the help of a grinder.



I wonder if there is software that can put all the clicks and pops back into the digital signal to make you analogue fellow's happy.

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