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Explain: Why do Vinyl with a Digital/PC source?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by Audman71, Aug 22, 2019.
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  1. Audman71
    I’ve been thinking about this for a while; it seems to me most people use PCs, tablets, phones, or some kind of computing device (which is digital by nature) to record their music. Yet there are many, many albums from new artists coming out on vinyl, an analog medium.

    I’ve heard people try to say that vinyl sounds better than digital and PC because it is an analog format. However It seems implausible to me that most of these new artists started and finished making their records with tape or some kind of analog method of recording. Assuming I’m right, the process of recording would theoretically be digital and the distribution medium would be vinyl, which defeats the purpose if one expects the fidelity of vinyl records to be superior because the creation process “is fully analog” when it is not.

    My question is this: why bother getting a new album on an analog medium like vinyl for the sound when in reality the signal path is shorter and therefore less lossy than a high quality .wav file playing directly through PC speakers?

    Just curious. Thoughts?
  2. bigshot
    It isn't about sound fidelity, it's about sound coloration. It's the same as tube amps. You don't like it because it's accurate, you like it because it *isn't* accurate.
    TronII, Speedskater and CoryGillmore like this.
  3. old tech
    Case in point is the Dire Straits Brothers in Arms album. Many vinyphiles consider this album as audiophile sound quality but wouldn't touch the CD, they instead pay top dollar for the various MFSL and half speed LP releases. This album is a 16/44 digital recording so the CD has identical fidelity to the original master. The reason why these people choose the LP instead is that they prefer the colourisation of the lower fidelity LP record.
    TronII likes this.
  4. Redcarmoose
    It’s a fairly complicated question. For starters there are two different styles of masters. One master is for CD and one is for vinyl. Due to necessity much of the older 1960s and 1970s music was mastered for vinyl. CDs didn’t exist. In fact there was a time when focus was on making the best mono vinyl master. Many record collectors find the mono mixs to sound better as more thought was put into them. Record producers at the time couldn’t believe the public would switch to stereo.

    So in the 1980s new masters were made to provide the public with CD versions of their records. By the mid 1990s you still had a fairly large group of Jazz enthusiasts which refused to switch to CD. Maybe it was the old Jazz master tapes transferring wrong onto digital, maybe they just liked original Jazz records.

    Basically each format has it’s own sound. Hi-res sounds different than 16/44.1 and vinyl sound different too. Arguing about which is best is pointless as really it’s more affected by the master and the quality of the recording and mastering process. Amazingly you can find 320kbps that sound best, 44.1/16 that sound best and vinyl despite it’s artifacts sounding best. It’s a one by one comparison as to which is best starting with how the music was recorded and how much dynamic range was impregnated into the medium. I have vinyl but mainly use digital due to getting it to sound great along with ease of use.

    In the vinyl world there are tons of differences. Some vinyl is made from digital masters and some vinyl is made still from a pure analogue process. Regardless of the tapes, getting the vinyl discs pressed correctly adds another variation of threats to good sound. Then there is the precarious home playback situation where setting up a turntable and keeping the vinyl copies clean and warp free adds even more monkey wrenches into play. So even if a person had a remarkable pressing............ turntable adjustment or preamp adjustments could start to derail any benefits possibly at hand. Typically vinyl offers a low fi filter which warms up payback and offers a possibility of distorted thicker sound.

    Though if someone was to spend multi-thousands or dollars and months and years of time leaning to nurture sonics from vinyl the vinyl end-result can be amazingly perfect and profound. IMO Basically zero distortion......but it’s more pricy than 99% of folks want to spend. Also that set-up takes a large amount of effort to use.

    It’s just that very few people have the resources or skill and patience to make that level a reality. What you do find is folks enjoying a collection of both original vintage pressings and nice new expensive limited run 180 gram vinyl boutique edition pressings.

    I have instead focused on finding the best masters of the music I’m into. I also focus on playback as increases in fidelity are going to be much easer by getting good headphones and DAC/amps to make those digital masters work their magic. There has been numerous remasters since 2013 where they seem to be able to improve on early CD pressings. As it turns out it’s still a one by one search with no generalized ideas ever proving consistent, as each piece of music is slightly different.

    Does a German first pressing of Led Zeppelin One sound better if it was pressed onto vinyl, purchased at a store in the 1970s then recorded in 24/96 off a computer? Is it better than Jimmy Page going and pulling the master tapes out and offering a hi-res remaster?

    Much of the time it’s also the fact that people just like the sound of the original vinyl. Did Jimmy Page make the guitars louder than Robbert Plants voice on the 2014 remasters? We do know that remasters can actually be remixes!

    It’s the suspect of things being tweaked the wrong way, along with things drifting away from the original process........which is one reason why people buy vinyl. Psychologically they feel they are closer to the way things were when the album came out. Really they want to time travel.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2019
    nick n, MrPanda, Lucky87 and 2 others like this.
  5. taffy2207
    It's also the warm fuzzy feeling of Vinyl. Reading the sleeve etc. It's not all about how it sounds. It's also about collecting. That being said, I don't do Vinyl anymore.

    There's a lot of snobbery in Vinyl about owning 'The Original' whether it sounds great or not.
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2019
    TronII likes this.
  6. VNandor
    I've watched a youtube interview once (so you can tell that I'm an expert on the topic) from an artist I like after he released an album. He said the reason he released the album on vinyl as well was because that would make the listeners to appreciate his music in the context he wanted to, not nestled between loud and aggresively mixed and mastered tracks which would make his tracks sound bad because the lack of volume matching in comparison. Of course he would master the digital release that fits in to the platform/context because of that external pressure. Nowadays I've heard that some of the streaming services are normalizing all the tracks because of that.

    As far as I know there is also a limit to how loud (in terms of RMS) and bright a vinyl master can be, maybe due to the speed limitations of the stylus. That means there's a good chance you're getting a quieter and less bright master especially if the digital version is loud and bright to begin with and that can also a be a good thing. You can rip the vinyl and listen to that later to prevent wear and tear as well.
  7. bigshot
    LPs have two big advantages... they are dirt cheap used. You can usually find more than you'd ever want for free just by telling family and friends that you are collecting records. The biggest advantage though is that there is a lot of great music that never made the transition from LP to CD.

    LPs can sound good. Not as good as a CD, but enjoyable. Not all records sound great though. The shorter the playing time, the better the sound.
  8. turbomustang84
    I buy Vinyl because I'm old and it gives me warm fuzzy feelings .

    I do prefer the experience of getting and opening and holding an actual record .

    I quit years ago trying to justify it to non believers
    JazzVinyl and Steve999 like this.
  9. bigshot
    You may get a warm and fuzzy feeling from holding an LP, but I can tell you that my friends didn't appreciate the format last time they helped me move. In fact, they told me that I have to die where I live now because they'll never help schlep boxes in a move for me again.
    flibottf likes this.
  10. taffy2207
    You don't need to justify it to anyone, if it's your thing, it's your thing :thumbsup:
  11. Redcarmoose
    Vinyl can offer other psychological gifts which make music listening an experience. Let’s face it many would like this hobby to be more interactive. Vinyl along with a trendy fashionable flair, offers some kind of geeky challenge. It’s like getting that girl to finally put out after half the school and months of dating found failure. It’s some kind of impossible mountain which may or may not offer sonic rewards. Oh....I need a digital speed controller as the expensive turntable motor will offer inconsistencies in rotating due to voltage input. Oh....I need to have the home voltage stabilized due to power variations affecting rotation speed. I need not only a record clamp but an outer ring to hold the record edges down. Now that I have placed all this pressure and weight I still need to know if it’s rotation is 33.1/3 or some other variable which will make Julie London sound like Jack Webb. :)

    The record cleaning machine is dirty, could that make my clean records bad? Oh I just ran out of record cleaning solutions.....Do they still make denatured alchemist level alcohol? Do they make photo-flow..... I only need a couple drops. The record brush..the one with the nuclear danger triangle sticker....the anti static ones which are impregnated with nuclear material....is mine warn out yet? How can I know if my brush is old?

    I’m starting to hear an increase of grounding noise from the phono preamp. There was always grounding noise, but is it me or has it increased? I have no way to know of sure? My records......is the record shelf sagging putting unnecessary pressure on critical places which could warp my babies? Oh there all in alphabetical order, except for the the live albums which have DVD counterparts which are kept next to the AV center. And those compilations and label greatest hits, they go in a separate wing. But still finding the original or repressing looks difficult as the jacket edge looks the same under my listening lighting.

    Is this LP warped, or was it warped when purchased? Did it get more warped or is it just me? I no way of knowing? Hope the record clamp can fix this? Sadly I’m in the middle of a room with 10 guests who want to hear my single original pressing of “Bad Company-Bad Company” and after spending 5 minutes looking for it, 5 minutes cleaning the record and 5 minutes cleaning the needle and dusting everything with the anti static brush, I now look like a baboon with one unplayable warped record. I knew I should have purchase that $50 180 gram repressing I saw in LA five years ago. If I would have had that repressing none of this would have happened.

    Plastic? No they are not plastic but records are vinyl? But those sleeves yes, those plastic sleeves? I put those sleeves around the original plastic sleeves as to protect everything. Unless the record was from the 1970s which came with plastic sleeves which subsequently warped my records. It’s a conspiracy you know....the records play fine when new, but the original sleeve warps them in a year. That’s what happened to Bad Company...that original sleeve started to bend the record making me look like a record idiot in front of my friends when I was trying to be cool.

    Oh that record...I have it. Wait....it’s in the garage as I ran out of room. Let me go downstairs and find it. OK I’m back. Couldn’t find it....it’s gone? Let’s listen to something else. Those pops......those crackles? Those go away in a week after you’ve psychologically trained your brain to ignore them. Yes, you listen close to the music but ignore the surface noise, ground hum and pops. It’s all part of the romance!
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2019
  12. old tech
    It's been some 30 odd years now that hi res releases have been around. In that time I have yet to see one convincing controlled test that demonstrates hi res sounds different from 16/44. They may sound different if a different master or process was used but that is not a difference due to the format. 16/44 or hi res done properly does not have a signature sound - it is transparent to the source.

    It is simply impossible for vinyl to be perfect, basic physics alone play a significant role creating distortions to the sound. I suppose it depends on how one defines perfection but it certainly is not perfect in regards to fidelity to source.
    TronII and Redcarmoose like this.
  13. kelvinwsy
    Really heart warming reading all of the personal reflections from Vinyl lovers above. (Hope No Troll shows up on this thread!)
    I too run a T/T system - went PC audio HiRes in a Big way.
    Guess what Recommissioned my Vinyl system in a Big way too.

    Short version of story
    PC Audio - Man is it a chore to boot up, synch the Network end point to the server, scroll through 20000 tracks AND cannot decide what to play.
    They are just line entries on a damn File Registry.

    Walk over the opposite side of my Music Room where I have the dedicated Clearaudio T/T system - all Tube by the way. Switch on 3 switches, Phono Preamp, Preamp, Tube Power Amp - Listen for the Click on sound of the Speaker protection circuits of the Power Amp - Watch for the Warm Glow of the 45 Tubes and the KT88's.
    While system is warming up from a Cold Start, Walk to my LP shelving unit. A have 20 LP's pre-selected which I had wanted to re-listen to from my last LP session.
    Flip through the selection.
    Admire the Wonderful ALbum Artwork - Read the Liner Notes
    Select one
    Take it out from the Anti-static Sleeve, (Have i disc washed this one recently?)
    Put it on the T/T, Roll the sticky rubber dirt roller, Carbon Anti-static brush, put on the anti-static dust bug,
    Cue the Tone Arm, Make sure Pre-amp Volume is low or zero.
    Lower the Stylus
    It hits the groove,
    Music Plays... AH! AH!

    WAIT A MINUTE - This ritual took 5 times longer than the PC audio did

    Lucky87 likes this.
  14. bigshot
    There are advantages to media servers. I can go to my phone and type in "Nessun dorma" and I instantly have the aria sung by a dozen different tenors to compare. It's an incredibly valuable tool to be able to quickly access and group like that. You learn about performance style to a degree that you could never do with LPs. I have tens of thousands of records, but if I could snap my fingers and have them all digitized and catalogued in iTunes, I would do it in a heartbeat. The music is what matters, not the format. Whatever gets me closer to the music is the format I prefer.
    TronII, castleofargh and gopack87 like this.
  15. Audman71
    That raises another question, though: how can one be an audiophile and prefer vinyl at the same time? Based on what you just said, the values behind being an audiophile and preferring vinyl contradict each other.

    Of course. I agree that both nostalgia and the experience of buying, owning and handling a physical medium are enjoyable aspects of music. The issue I’m bringing up has more to do with the idea that someone buying vinyl because it sounds “better” than the digital version, assuming “better” means more authentic and more accurate because the medium is analog, may be mislead because the source material of a lot of modern music most of the time is likely digital anyway.

    That’s the logic behind my question: when specifically addressing audio quality and not other aspects per se, why bother getting vinyl versions of digitally recorded albums?
    TronII likes this.
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