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"DDD" for modern vinyl pressings?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by jbthazard, Mar 16, 2013.
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  1. JBThazard
    I have an issue I hope someone can clear up with me fairly simply.

    Is there any point in buying modern day, 21st century pressings of any modern records?

    Here is my current stance on this topic:

    Music CDs used to have a set of acronyms that would display how the album was recorded, mixed and mastered (I am sure many of you know this already). There would be 3 letters either being "A" or "D". So for example, an old CD by Dexter Gordon I took out of my library a few weeks ago had the letters "ADD" on the back. This means:

    Source Recording: Analogue
    Mixing: Digital
    Mastering: Digital

    Nowadays, I don't think any albums have this label anymore, probably because just about everything nowadays is simply DDD, in which the mastering, mixing, and most importantly the recording, were all done digitally.

    This poses a problem for the people who collect modern vinyls, no?

    This is my ultimate question: I know there still is SOME music recorded using Analog means, but is there a way to find out how without having to directly contact the sound engineers? I simply think that most music nowadays is digitally recorded, and despite this we have this massive vinyl resurgence. But this "analog" renaissance makes no sense if very very little music is actually made with analog resources....Are most modern day vinyl pressings just digital recordings placed on vinyl??

    Now some specifics: I don't buy or collect vinyl at all but I have a lot of digital vinyl rips of albums, including modern day records. I have noticed that a lot of albums will simply have better dynamic range, probably due to a different mastering, on vinyl compared to their original CD pressing. I can clearly hear the difference, even my non-audiophile friends (many of whom collect vinyls currently....), but here is an example of evidence for you all: http://www.dr.loudness-war.info/index.php?search_artist=opeth&search_album=still+life
    The difference in quality is noticeable, but never huge. Often times the soundstage for drums or vocals will improve, or the diminished compression will allow really low and high frequencies to finally be noticeable. So at best, this is what seems to be the only benefit to getting modern vinyls over their CD counterparts: slightly better DR scores. Not exactly a massive SQ bump-up after all, no?

    So, most records are recorded digitally? But at what quality? Redbook standard? 96khz? I just really want to know if this whole vinyl renaissance is a crock or not if hipsters everywhere think 21st century vinyls are amazing sounding despite the fact that so many bands now don't record in analog...

    (I admit some of this is speculative but I am very curious nonetheless about the truth...)
  2. jaddie
    The SPARS code was designed to indicate to the buyer that the were analog steps in the recording.  The original intent was to let the buyer know that they could expect reduced quality because of it, specifically higher noise and distortion and time-base issues.  It would be as valid today as it was when it was introduced.  Digitally recorded music mastered and released on vinyl isn't a problem.  There's nothing about analog recording that improves sound recording and reproduction...but stay with me on this for the next bit.  
    There are a couple of clues that the original was recorded on analog tape, but they're hard to hear all the time.  One is the noise floor, but given a high average signal that may not be easy to hear.  Another is subtle time-base errors, like flutter and wow, but if they're low enough they shouldn't be an issue either. Finally, tape has a rather mushy way of distorting high levels.  It basically is audible as intermodulation. But if they recorded on a multi-track analog machine, but mixed to digital, you may not hear much intermodulation distortion.  Basically, unless you've got some very quiet material, or very loud material, or some clean pure tones like piano, you may not always be able to tell it's analog unless it says so somewhere.
    All the effects you outlined as being audibly different on vinyl releases have little to do with the fact that it's vinyl, but have everything to do with the fact that an entirely different mastering process has been used.  The less compressed, better sound-stage, higher DR scores kind of thing you hear would be just as good on a CD if it ever got there.  Sometimes the differences are larger than others, depending on how different the mastering process was.  No rules there.
    Yes, most records are recorded digitally. At what quality? In the end it doesn't matter.  There are production advantages to higher sampling rates and higher bit depths, but 44.1/16 is quite adequate for the release to the consumer, and there's plenty of test evidence to support that.  
    The vinyl renaissance is only "huge" when compared to vinyl pressing counts in the past 20 years.  Compared to the total music industry, it's tiny still, just bigger than what it was.  A 50% increase of a small quantity may sound significant, but it only is relative to itself.  
    But the truth is, vinyl is often mastered with less processing, and more dynamics.  There are two reasons I can think of. First, the vinyl medium itself can't handle full bandwidth at high levels.  It's a physical limitation to cutting grooves in lacquer, and what that means is the maximum level that can be cut varies with frequency.  There are other limitations as well, like you can't cut high level bass in only one channel, it has to be both or you compromise groove depth and toss the stylus out of the groove.  And, highly modulated grooves wear out faster, so it's sort of a no-win.  The best compromise is to take it easy and don't over-cut.  Second reason is, people who want to release on vinyl want it to sound different purposely, hopefully better, but not always.  So the lacquers from which the metal parts, stampers and final vinyl is pressed contain a different signal than what is placed on CD.  That's the difference people hear, but make no mistake, it ain't the vinyl or the fact than anything along the way is analog.  But that's often why people like the sound of vinyl.  The medium doesn't improve anything, but the production path may often be handled differently and sound better as a result.
    Hipsters love it because it's not main-stream.  Oldsters love it because it's nostalgic.  Vinylphiles of all kinds love it because its a very physical experience to handle and play it, and the jackets are 12" square works of art.  And that's why theres sort of a love affair on with vinyl.  
    But I can tell you from first hand experience, it's very easy to make vinyl and CDs sound nearly identical, barring extremely high levels, and ignoring surface noise, vertical groove distortion, wear, tangency errors, mistracking, poor channel separation, and so on.  But, as good as it is, vinyl is not of itself more musical, smoother, or more transparent.  It's still a garbage-in garbage-out medium, like all others.
    If you were to compare a well done master with a CD, vs vinyl, the CD is a clone of the master, the vinyl is only very close.
    OJNeg likes this.
  3. JBThazard

    I see what you mean. However, my question is that, would a vinyl with a source recording of 192khz sound better than one of 44.1khz? I've read stuff around the web saying that Blu Ray Audio can sound very nearly as good as "pure" vinyl.

    Why do labels do this? As in, have good masterings on the vinyl only despite the fact that the CD is also capable of such quality? Is it just to sell vinyls as something better than they really are? Is the answer as simple as the existence of the loudness war? Are people just too lazy to do nicely dynamic masters on CDs? What is it about vinyl that makes it easier to master for, or at least harder to brickwall?

    Thank you so much for your answer, it was extremely detailed and informative!
  4. jaddie
    Yeah, you read a lot of weird stuff on the web.  There's some evidence that 44.1 may be a tad low, but there's nothing scientific to support the need for 192KHz.  Looks like 48KHz may be enough.  ABX testing of high-rate vs standard rate digital files doesn't support any advantage to high rate (other than the warm fuzzy of the though of recording all that inaudible supersonic stuff).  Higher bit depth (like 24bit) offers some advantages in production, not much in release copies.  Those saying that BD Audio can sound nearly as good as "pure" vinyl have no ability to audition "pure" vinyl.  There have been very few opportunities to compare identical masters transferred to vinyl without any other changes.  
    Good question, pretty sure it's marketing of some sort.  Why would you make the vinyl and CD identical? They HAVE to be different.  
    Probably, and the loudness war is very persistent.  Remember, Dynamic Range Day is March 22...it's the anti-loudness-war-movement, 'case you're wondering.
    Actually, it's not lazy to make a dynamic master, it takes more effort to make a loud one.  Vinyl is harder to master for because its maximum limits are variable with several conditions, one is frequency, one is vertical groove modulation, related is maximum cutter stylus velocity, the RIAA EQ curve, and the possibility of cutting a groove that few cartridges can track.  It makes for a rather detailed and complex maximum ceiling to work under.  That's why its harder to master for, and harder to brick wall.  Digits have a flat and consistent maximum level that is easily defined digitally, and predictable. 

  5. cristian
    yes, all re-issue vinyl are DDD , but vinyl STILL has a trump card over CD / digital files because of the reproduction sound technology it uses .

    electromagnetic born sound > digital born sound. the amplitude of the sound is better and richer , SOMEHOW

    what im trying to say is if you have on the right hand the vinyl and on the left hand the digital master of that vinyl, and you compare these two, the vinyl will sound better

    bear in mind that i have a very large digital discography, some HD 96bit/192Khz vinyl RIPS and none physical vinyl .

    but i bow to the evidence
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2020
  6. bigshot
    Just roll off the high end slowly starting at 8-10kHz and add distortion and surface noise and you can make a CD into an LP. If you like that kind of coloration, you can do it with DSPs and not have to go to the trouble of LPs. The advantage of LPs has nothing to do with sound. They're clearly inferior there. But there's a lot of music on LPs that doesn't exist on CD and the album covers are nice and big with readable type.
  7. castleofargh Contributor
    If by better you mean as your personal totally subjective opinion, and by richer you mean extra noises and distortions added to the music, then sure. If you mean something else, then you probably picked the wrong direction when bowing to the evidence. :wink:
  8. 71 dB
    Vinyl has the colourization it has due to it's limitations of transparency. Your ears may like it, but it's nevertheless lower fidelity. If you copy a vinyl on to a CD you have the same colourizations (noise, distortion) on CD. So, vinyl has a trump card if you have teached your ears to prefer vinyl colourization. As for faithfully playing the sound that is put on the medium CD is superior.

    Vinyl is mechanic and electromagnetic and both processes, especially the mechanic part is prone to distortion and noise, hence the "vinyl sound". The sound is indeed "richer", because it contains more distortion. Due to how stereo sound works with vinyl, spatial information modulates distortion and this creates the "vinyl soundstage". All of this could be done digitally if wanted, but making the fidelity worse and worse with every step in the reproduction chain just to please some ears that have been trained to like distortion and noise isn't smart.

    What do you mean by "better amplitude"?

    Digital sound is extremely precisely what is put there. Harsh sounds will sound harsh. Warm sounds will sound warm and so on.

    Maybe it sounds better to your ear, but that not because it's higher fidelity. It's lower fidelity because of the distortion and noise added. The point is, techically you can have those SAME coulourization in digital formats IF YOU PUT THEM THERE! This is not generally done, because that's lowering fidelity.

    Sure you have, but it means NOTHING because you seem to have zero understanding of sound reproduction and especially digital audio.
  9. 71 dB
    Don't forget reduction of channel separation at low frequencies to keep the needle in the groove. I believe the distortion should be different for L+R and L-R signals since the former means lateral movement of the needle and the latter up-down movement. At high frequencies the needle doesn't follow the groove very accurately, but instead starts to "sample" it bouncing between the walls ironically creating the kind of distortion analog lovers think digital sound causes. I believe this is the reason why treble sounds so different on vinyl compared to digital media.
  10. 71 dB
    For those who hate loudness war and want dynamic sound: Get into classical music and avoid genres where loudness war is used the most such as metal and pop.
  11. old tech
    I'm sure that @cristian is intentionally winding you up. Surely he wouldn't be such a masochist to post such ignorant nonsense in a sound science forum just to make himself look like a fool? Nothing would surprise me though.
  12. gregorio
    1. All recorded sound is electromagnetic. Regardless of whether it's analogue or digital, sound is recorded with microphones (and mic pre-amps) which are electro or electromagnetic devices. Recording that signal on analogue media, the amplitude is not better, it's worse. It might be "richer" though because analogue recording will add distortion. You might like/prefer such distortion but it's not better as far as accuracy/fidelity is concerned.

    2. It will sound "better" if you personally like less accuracy/more distortion. It won't necessarily sound better to others though, others who prefer less distortion/higher fidelity.

  13. Whitigir
    When it comes to Vinyl, then the vinyl itself is Analog. However, the Digital being converted into the Analog to press onto the vinyl itself is the problem. AAA is the beat there is as no algorithms took place onto the music itself. Some people argue that the techniques to print the vinyls are considered algorithms, which is true. However the algorithms to interpret 0-1 binary Codes into an analog waves are different than the algorithms used as a printing techniques. The level of influences are also different.

    Regardless of how those side of debates are. It is as simple as this, the less processing = the better.

    Yes, analog has many flaws including distortions and noises. But this is the best statement I have seen “The real World is Analog!”
  14. bigshot
    What makes you think there is no processing involved in mastering an LP? You start out with the RIAA curve, which is a big hunk of processing designed to help correct for the limitations of vinyl. When you play it back, you decode the RIAA curve, applying another level of processing. Then you have gain riding and dynamic compression to keep the grooves from becoming too big to track and be able to be able to fit the whole album side's running time. Compromises are made all over the place.

    With a CD, you get 74 minutes of audibly transparent sound with no compromises, analogue surface noise, pops and clicks or inner groove distortion. It is as direct as you can possibly get and it sounds as good on the first track as it does on the last. If there is any processing involved, it is because the recording artists and engineers chose to apply it. CD is the perfect format, not LPs. And I say this as someone who has recorded for LP release, and I own over 15,000 records myself.

    The real world is audibly transparent.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2020
  15. Whitigir
    All of those processing only change the amplitudes of the original sin waves and not quantizing nor interpolations, noises, noises shaping and randomization, correct ? I am here eagerly to learn.

    Distortions can come in many forms, but with digital, there are ways to filter it out. The real reason why digital recording is normally done in PCM is the ability to add and subtract or editing purposes.

    Unless a well coordinated and rehearsed orchestral to minimize flaws before a live concert, then this moment a live DSD recording can be made. Just like any analog systems, a DSD is direct information and can not be altered within any further.

    my question is that theoretically LP is able to have a max dynamic range of 95db, where as Digital processing claims to have up to 120db dynamic range since 90th. However, I have always hear the LP having just as much dynamic as these so called high-end digitals. There are cases that the subharmonic and ultrasonic sounds are played back from the LP and ruin the tweeters or the weird excursions of subwoofers too.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2020
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