That old analog sound

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In response to my post on the sound of analogreader John Van Polen from the Netherlands wrote me the following: "It's a shame people tend to use the word "digital" as an equivalentof "bad" and "analog" as an equivalentof "good". Well, what is so goodabout the wow, flutter, noise and so on of aless-than-top class turntable? Playing a worn-out warped LP with the hole not in the middle?! And whatis so bad about the sound of my high end Linn Unidisk 1.1 CD-player?! Which would you prefer?! There are only four types of sound: bad, mediocre, good, superlative. Eachcan be achieved with analog and digital sources.So please stop talking about "a digital sound". Itdoesn't exist and only contributes to confusion, misunderstanding and wrong decisions." I have to say that one of the reasons I have always been attracted to high end audio is the passion and heart of its followers. Like John I too agree that all performance level of audio can be achieved by either recording medium, analog or digital. But I want to focus on the sound of analog for a bit. I understand how some might cringe hearing the term analog sound and digital sound but like it or not they are with us and part of our vocabulary: representing gross generalities of common wisdom. Analog sound is not what we hear in real life, nor is digital sound. What we hear in real life is certainly a continuous stream of air pressure changes generated from the source of that sound but it is significantly different than that of what we think of as analog. In fact, I would go so far to say that unless you have a live music source sitting directly in the middle of where your speakers are located in the very same room you listen to music, you don't have a reference of what live music REALLY sounds like. Most of us grew up with analog sound: music that was recorded and reproduced on analog electronics. I think we've been conditioned over the years of accepting this sound as that of the real deal and when something different comes along, we naturally reference what our baseline is and when the two don't match we're forced to make a decision on better or worse. Fact is, you probably don't know what a violin sounds like in your living room - yet we routinely judge equipment and recordings based on a memory of what violins in general sound like in live venues we might have attended. I am unconvinced that analog sound is any more real or correct than digital sound and, as reader John points out, there's only four types of sound reproduced in your home - the medium reproducing that sound can produce any of the four levels.
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Paul McGowan

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