Vinyl vs digital sound

November 2, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

6 comments on “Vinyl vs digital sound”

  1. When it comes to “perception” everything is emotional & most subjective. And no wonder that a vinyl record made from a DSD master without any further vinyl related mastering than RIAA-EQ sounds “different” seeing the multiple additional signal transformation steps from the cartridge to the power amp. Just measure the step response of both reproduction chains and see the differences. The interesting question however is why do many audiophiles claim that it sounds far better while most measurements and parameters describing the aspects of sound quality (channel separation, dynamic range, distortions etc) are worse. This leads to the “mysterious” field of psychoacoustics. Concerning our visual perception based on the few sensors of the retina in our eyes scientists have found some 50 (!) dimensions to describe the signal processing via a neural network. What about the number of dimensions necessary for a simulation of our hearing system? However concerning the negative effects of complex digital IIR reconstruction filters for PCM a DSD reproduction shouldn’t degrade the sound in a similar way.

  2. I love Vinyl, it will sound different and at your house, with the same LP, it will sound different and on and on. Why? well, the gear you would say, or Room (HUGE). But every time I changed my cartridge the sound changed from more musical to bright, the platter material, belt drive, direct drive system, the mat, change a mat you change the sound, now throw in the arm, change the arm the sound changes. Now let’s talk about who set your turntable up, that affects what you hear on vinyl, in the old days’ stores had scopes they used to check channel separation, alinement, and VTA every time they sold a cartridge to you. I have never seen a store in this day that has all the equipment to set it up as well as humanly possible and dead-on correct. So my Vinyl can sound a hundred ways, but they are never close to what you heard on the master tape, nowhere close but it sounds good. This is why I enjoy CD-based systems, they are more consistent and even sounding, which is why some don’t like that sound it’s not colored enough, its pitch is perfect, both formates can be superb, both can sound horrible if improper setup and poor overproduced and compressed masters are used, the quality of the vinyl also. With Vinyl nowadays costing $20.00 and up per LP, I stay with CD format and add to my 1,500 CD collection, and everyone one of them sound good to outstanding, why would I go through the experience to rebuy those titles over and over again. Enjoy both formats because, in the end, I hope you know you building a system that you like, you never hear it as the artist intended, (biggest BS line-in audio) the producer takes care of that and the pressing plant is it CD or Vinyl and lastly streaming service and its quality. And 99.5% of consumers could care less, with cell phones, digital radio service is good enough for them. And those sales both kill CD and Viny combined by the billions. This is not lost on the major manufactures and the needed quality of their releases. MP3 is more than good enough, we are a small select group who love audio. I use MP3 for my car music and it kills digital radio, XM/Sirus I have 1,500 songs and I add to them on and off, I drive with my own radio station..smile!

    1. There are indeed thousands ways to modify or tune the “sound” of a perfectly cleaned vinyl record – starting with adding a platter weight and/or an outer platter ring. What about minimizing the eccentricity having a not perfectly centered middle hole? Adjusting VTA, azimuth and tracking force? Experimenting with thousands of platter mats and phono-preamps and cartridges. Playing with the setting of parameter set of the phono preamp. What about changing the tonearm and the power supply for the platter motor? Not to mention the magic stuff isolating the cartridge body from the head.shell. Do you prefer plastic screws for fixing the cartridge or other non-magnetic materials! And the isolation platforms for the turntable itself? Different materials and designs for the belts used to transmit the motor-power to the platter and do not forget to vary the tension of the belt. You also might liked to add a fly-wheel? Playing with different tone-arm cables. In contrast you might be lucky having a DAC which allows 3 or 5 filter settings – that’s all for getting some sound-effects. Oh, and don’t forget the cleaning solutions for stylus and vinyl-record as well as anti-static treatments. 🙂

  3. I have listened to “Gabe’s” album by streaming and thoroughly enjoyed it and had he not made a comment about how pleased he was with the vinyl production, I probably would have ordered the SACD/DSD version because, given the choice, I generally prefer SACD (done well) over any other format. In this case, as I have not planned on having more than one version of this album, I selected the vinyl.

    At times, I have collected some artists in CD, SACD, and vinyl format, but that is because over the years a particular recording has been reissued in increasing “better” formats. Case in point, Patricia Barber whose “Cafe Blue” I have on CD, SACD, and most recently on limited edition vinyl (45 rpm, 180 gm, cut # 4302/5000). Similarly, I have a 45-rpm vinyl issue from Melody Gardot’s “Sunset in Blue.” And while I have too many copies of Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” from the original release, on CD, on SACD, and a new vinyl release, I generally try to stick to the version that the artist liked the best.

    Technically DSD with the best DAC that can handle DSD is the best. DoP is not as good as DSD, but often it’s the best available and is certainly better than a CD. Is digital sound better than vinyl? Vinyl can often sound better than a CD of the same program. An extremely well-produced CD may begin to sound as good as an extremely well-produced LP given that the same care is taken in the playback equipment for both formats, but my experience has been that both formats don’t get the same production care as mixing for a CD is different than mixing for an LP.

    Artistically, whichever format the artist liked the best.

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