Is analog soft?

November 14, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

When we think of the analog sound we're inevitably referencing a reproduction. This is because we experience analog sound through our stereo systems which, of course, are reproduction playback systems.

And every analog reproduction is either captured on vinyl or magnetic tape. This of course means everything we associate with analog has passed through analog electronics and analog storage mediums—all of which have an analog "sound" to them.

True analog sound is what comes directly out of the recording microphone. But, unless you're at the recording studio at the time a record is being made your only means of hearing that analog microphone feed is after it's been processed through the storage medium of vinyl or tape.

And if we dare to suggest capturing that feed with digital means, either PCM or DSD, we have then violated the analog label's definition. By default it can no longer be "analog" (even if it sounds identical).

When I listen to music captured on pure analog means I hear a softness to it. Hard to describe, actually, but a softening of the original signal is about as good as I can come up with. And maybe the opposite is helpful. On many digital captures, there is a sharpness that colors the sound.

The perfect capture is when we can tell no difference between the source and the output.

Nice if we had a name for that.

Subscribe to Paul's Posts

69 comments on “Is analog soft?”

  1. I prefer analog softness over digital coloration's. I don't buy that analog softness is a coloration. Music and real life is analog and has a continuity that digital will never have.

    Analog has that it factor even with it's flaws or short comings. Digital does an OK job of capturing and playing back the original analog recording and a better job of storing it versus storing analog on analog media. Digital continues to try and capture that analog softness and sense of reality. There seems to be substance missing on digital recordings and you can hear it on drum beats. You can really hear the skin of the drum on analog.

    Some say we are close while others say it's far apart and digital never be truly analog in character.

    Maybe the storage of analog on analog media needs to improve so there is less deterioration over time and so we can increase the inventory of those priceless purely analog recordings and have them forever.

    The original first cut analog media stored on analog sources such as LP's that are in mint condition are getting pricey to attain. Digital is getting better, very convenient and good enough but those who love the magic of pure analog will continue paying outrageous prices for the first prints and attain it for those intimate listening sessions, nostalgic and collectible factors.

    Those analog recordings stored on analog media are becoming priceless and continue to rise in price, especially the mint and sealed in original packaging.

    1. The irony is that "mint and sealed" means it has never been listened to. It is just being collected for rarity value. It's like a Picasso in a vault.

      In case you've forgotten, DSD was originally intended for transfer and preservation of analogue recordings. 1-bit was chosen over PCM because in those days 20+ years ago the theory was that 1-bit data transfer was as close to analog when converted back, rather than the decimation that takes places when analog is converted to PCM. The problem then is that the DSD can't be mixed and converting DSD to PCM for mixing results in high frequency noise. The Pyramix system that PS Audio uses was designed to get around these problems, the original workflow being to use DXD (24/384 PCM) for capture and editing, and a single conversion to DSD for the playback file.

      If there was a problem with digital, it was for the first 25 years from about 1975 to 2000, when capture used PCM between 13 to 16 bit and around 40k sampling. This has dramatically improved, 24/96 being fairly standard and 24/352 or 24/384 increasing in prevalence, dramatically reducing the issue with PCM.

      1. DSD was originally intended to be an archival format that could be converted to any future sample rate with minimal loss. It got added to SACD along with surround to create a format that wouldn't be very practical to copy and distribute illegally on the internet.

        1. Indeed, DSD was for archiving (transfer and preservation). SACD was originally intended for multi-channel PCM. DSD was developed by Sony and Phillips, Sony decided to use it for music playback but the DRM and need for new equipment killed it. At the speeds available at the time I don't think people would have been swapping DSD files. The biggest problem was the launch of the apple iTunes Store and everyone, me included, started to buy cheap low resolution downloads.

        2. That generally was a good idea. A better quality archiving format to enable inferior PCM replicas of it, but caring for a good source for future use. Then audiophile producers used it to provide better replicas than PCM even if some compromises in terms of analog or DXD interim conversion had to be made. Still better than the PCM replica it seems.

          The interesting point is, that the initial recording or transfer format (DSD) plays such a big role even if it’s later converted to PCM.

          Some for a long time told, that analog transfers or vinyl drops to PCM are indistinguishable from the source and saw it as a prove for digital‘s capability although PCM recordings didn’t have the same quality. Then DSD came with its superiority over PCM and the whole previous story turned out to be a flop once more.

          I love digital for what it is, but if I had believed in every of those steps, I had felt seriously screwed.

      2. Agreed sealed or mint make it more collectible. But it also means no wear which is important with analog media. I prefer the opened and mint over the sealed and never used. Save a ton of money and you can actually listen to it. If you pay a premium for vintage sealed media you won't want to open and listen to it without taking a huge hit on the price you paid.

        1. I buy plenty of used records, for a local store, usually $10 to $20 at most. It's very difficult to wear out a record. They can get very dirty, but a good wet clean (I use a Loricraft, but the Degritter seems popular) and they usually sound like new. Collectors often seem as much interested in the cover as the record itself. People collect stamps, butterflies, shoes, so records are fair game. I just like listening to them.

          1. Used albums can have scuffs and scratches that cause unacceptable noise or skips. A record groove can be damaged by a stylus if the stylus used is worn or defective, if the turntable arm is damaged or if the LP is played on a cheap turntable with a cheap cartridge, or if the weight of the tonearm wasn't accurately calibrated and there's too much pressure on the grooves.

    2. Maybe I didn't make my point well enough, Joe.

      When you say analog is right what do you base that on? I suspect you, like everyone else, base that on the impression that it sounds more natural. But that misses the point.

      Is it more accurate to the source? Since you were not at the source you cannot say.

      That's the point I don't think I got to well enough.

      1. Wow!

        So what I take away is you have have to be at the recording venue 1st, otherwise you can’t accurately judge.

        Things are then mixed / mastered for a final sound. Is the whole end result exactly what you remember? We’re supposed to believe any artifacts (ambience for one) that were added are still true to the original.

        So since I for one don’t have the luxury of that happening I’m stuck with what you or your recording peers deem correct.

        I’m going to stick with music and recordings that move and capture me and not spend my time conversing with everyone who was at a session to find out what’s correct and most true.

        So continue on your journey and enjoy. I’ll read with interest but with an eyebrow raised in skepticism. 😀

        I get technical aspects of ‘superiority’. For years playback gear that was judged too analytical and not musical was poo pooed. (And still is) Doesn’t that also apply to recordings?

        1. Quite Mike, I’d go along with that. While interesting it’s all getting a bit deep now discussing all these aspects over which we have no control. I suppose it could be useful in helping us to decide which path to take.

      2. What is digital Paul besides trying to preserve an analog recording and play it back with convenience? Digital is great and I'm glad it's here and it's here to stay. We all love the convenience of digital but some also don't mind the inconvenience of analog for serious listening.

        At the end of the day everything is analog when it goes into an analog microphone, out of a analog speaker and into your analog eardrum.

        Digital is merely trying to preserve analog in a storage system without effing it up. You cannot make an analog recording sound any better than itself.

        Playing analog on the best analog playback system is best in my opinion, it's not broken up in bits and pieces and reconstructed back to analog. It's just not the best way to store and preserve it long term and not the most convenient way to playback.

        Capturing the best dynamic range found in analog recordings and playing it back isn't the end all that makes digital playback superior to analog playback. Moreover the original master analog recording rarely has more than 70 db of dynamic range anyhow so digital dynamic range capability is overkill and overrated when comparing sound quality of digital versus pure analog playback.

        Saying digital is superior to analog is ludicrous when music is analog and the microphone will always be analog. A digital microphone will always have a vibrating membrane just like a phono cartridge, just like a vibrating speaker diaphragm.

        Like I said, analog is where it all starts and ends and it's continuous while digital is a copy broken down into bits and pieces and reconstructed back to analog. Tricks you the best it can that you're listening to analog and real music which analog is. Pure analog playback has no middleman and some people prefer it even if it's not as convenient.

        Digital in terms of best sound quality is all hype in my opinion. Non musical extreme specification overkill doesn't make it sound better.

      3. "The perfect capture is when we can tell no difference between the source and the output."

        The right word for that is accuracy. Nothing can be perfect, but when it subjectively "sounds the same!" then the job is done. "Soft" and "sharp" are terms to describe various types of distortion, or artifacts, which are contributed by replay chains not working as well as they should; it's difficult, in fact very difficult to eliminate all audible anomalies - but it is achievable, to a satisfactory degree.

        How do you know when you've got this level? Lots of words are thrown around to describe such a standard: natural, organic, effortless, immersive, intense, overwhelming - you have a subjectively transparent window thrown up, which allows you to view the space or world of the music making, as if there is no glass whatsoever between you and the sound universe that was captured or created.

        If one is offended by the "bite" of a real instrument heard up close then probably accuracy is not what you should look for - some "softening" in the chain may be necessary for greatest enjoyment. However, if the energy, vitality and drive of 'raw' music making turns you on, and feeling completely emotionally connected to the sound world that the musicians are creating is your thing, then such a standard of experience most certainly can be achieved via playback of recordings.

        1. The word that encompasses everything is 'pleasing'.
          A realist will realise that 'recorded' & 'live' will never be/sound the
          same & so 'pleasing to one's ear' is going to be as good as it gets.
          'Accuracy' is still subjective from listener to listener.

          1. Wouldn't say "pleasing" applies - it could be a style of music, or sound making that does nothing for me as a listening experience; but I still find it to be realistic, as in I pick up all the cues that it's a product of, say, human activity.

            Where accuracy comes in is that the reproduction is true to what's on the recording - forget about anything else. The most impressive, convincing and detailed rendition of the musical event captured on a track, that you've ever heard, is the reference - how can anything be less than that and still be called "accurate"?

            1. How do you know what's on the recording?
              Where you actually in the studio when it was being recorded so that you know definitively how 'accurate' your loudspeakers, or indeed you whole rig, are/is in reproducing the music?

              I'll stick with 'pleasing' thank you very much, since I have no interest in listening to music that does nothing for me or isn't my style...what a frustrating & possibly excruciating waste of time that would be.

              1. What's on the recording may have little to do with what you might have experienced at the studio - lots of manipulation of the raw sound going into the mics, the monitors used by the mastering engineer may be highly coloured, etc, etc. The only thing one can be certain about is what's actually embedded in the source medium; this can be digested, analysed, listened to an infinite number of times - it's a fixed quantity. And you learn what's on that over a period of time - like moving into a new house, after many years you know it "like the back of your hand".

                The aim of a rig, at least for me, is for it to impart zero personality to what you hear - if I listen to half a dozen setups playing the same recording, then for them to have any credibility as regards accuracy then in each case I should "visit the same house". I'm not interested in seasoning what I hear; the recording has to stand on its own feet.

                IME, competent playback allows you to enter the world of the music making effortlessly, on all recordings - so, automatically pleasing if the album is something you acquired, because you wanted to hear it more than once ...

                1. Well good luck with that fas42, because every home-audio rig will add its own sound to the musical output whether you like it or not.
                  It's nice to dream, but the reality is that there is no such thing a perfect accuracy from 2ch home-audio gear...yes, we can get very close but total accuracy is an illusion & therefore it is a far more reasonable proposition to go for what sounds good/great to the individual listener, ie. what 'pleases' said individual listener.

                  1. Something will always be added, or taken away - but if you get close enough in accuracy, then subjectively it doesn't matter any more. What happens then is the full 3D, holographic, "invisible even if you're standing right next to one of them" speakers thing - the illusion that the recording event throws up sends so many strong signals to the brain, that the mirage can't be broken, no matter how you try. And this is what I always work towards, with every system I get involved with.

                    If I want a quick check of where a rig is at, I use an original CD mastering of Led Zep I - a shortfall in accuracy is indicated if the massive soundscapes on this are not fully realised, or any audible flaws are evident.

                    1. And I told you last time we had a discussion about this topic that I am well aware of experiencing the wonderful illusion of 3D holographic soundstaging & imaging from a well set-up & synergistic 2 channel home-audio rig.
                      However, 3D holographic soundstaging & imaging has nothing to do with 'accuracy', they are completely different things.
                      Accuracy is still fairly subjective within the realms of home-audio since everybody hears sound slightly differently.

                  2. ... "However, 3D holographic soundstaging & imaging has nothing to do with ‘accuracy’, they are completely different things."

                    Luckily for everyone who wants to enjoy the world of music that recordings deliver, you're completely wrong - the most significant marker of an accurate playback chain *is* getting that illusion; if the rig can't do that, then at that moment it's a dud, pure and simple. Every half decent setup can be cajoled and prodded into delivering more and more accurate sound, and the closer you get, the better the illusion; I've done this over and over again, through many decades, with very different bits of gear.

                    Accuracy means you can't hear any artifacts contributed by the rig; as soon as you can pinpoint some aspect to the sound which is not solely part of the recording then it, obviously, can no longer be called accurate.

                    1. fas42,
                      You are confusing two different aspects of home-audio music reproduction & this shows me that you really don't know what you're talking about.
                      I am not going to continue this meaningless discussion with you as it makes no sense to do so.
                      My decades of experience in home-audio is obviously counter to what you believe.
                      Enjoy the music whichever way you like to ✌

                  3. ... "You are confusing two different aspects of home-audio music reproduction & this shows me that you really don’t know what you’re talking about"

                    IME, nearly all of the audio enthusiast's world is topsy turvy - there is the belief that recordings are generally pretty mediocre things, and the best you can do is buy only the very, very best recordings, or assemble some magic, "synergistic" rig that miraculously makes recordings sound better, by some voodoo. Another fairy dust solution is to acquire an incredibly expensive rig, which also performs a miraculous transformation, turning ordinary tap water into fine wine.

                    This is all nonsense. The truth is that recordings are just fine, but usually are poorly reproduced in at least some ways, just enough to convince people that they are not particularly worthy. What you have to do is get rid of the defects in the playback system, to the degree that they get out of the way when listening. And then the recordings come to life.

                    Which do you think is more likely, that miraculous rigs somehow create magic listening because of the money that has gone into them; or that recordings are usually less than optimally heard, because of audible issues in the reproduction chain?

          2. I am reminded of something a late friend told me once, on the niceties of using the word "please." He said, "Following a request with the word please isn't politeness, it's simply saying PLEASE ME."

            One's "pleasure" is indeed subjective.

        2. Two no‘s:

          Accuracy vs. perfect? Doesn’t make sense. Either it’s accurate or not. If it’s just more accurate in part of the criterias, then it’s less accurate in others…and that’s the point. If the focus of accuracy is realism aside of technical characteristics, then that’s the weak point of digital.

          Realistic bite vs. pleasing? That was long ago. Digital isn’t unpleasant anymore and analog doesn’t lack bite. In fact my DAC (which is a great one) sounds more pleasing and has less bite and dynamics than my phono rig.

          Many still seem to live and think in past’s cliches.

    3. p.s. If you listen to Steve Reich's "Drumming" played by Kuniko Kato, recorded digitally by Linn, there isn't anything missing.

      I've been to a demo of an uncompressed drumming recording played from vinyl. It was used to demonstrate what is possible, but it was explained that it would normally be compressed because it can damage speakers and it gives you a headache after 10 minutes.

      Drums need some compression and the room plays a huge role, I'm not sure analog vs. digital has anything to do with it.

      1. Delighted to find someone who also listens to Steve Reich. What a treasure.
        On Frank Zappas You can't do that on stage anymore series there are a few drum solos that are in your room

        1. Steve Reich is used quite a lot in dance. His latest "Runner"was composed for a Royal Ballet piece called Multiverse, for his 80th birthday. The Royal Ballet also did a piece using "Electric Counterpoint", as have some other dance companies. Anna Teresa de Keersmaker (a Belgian choreographer) has done pieces to both "Music for 18 Musicians" and "Drumming". I've seen the Music for 18 Musicians piece, "Rain", three times hearing and watching Music for 18 Musicians live is quite a thing. It requires a lot of pianos, marimbas and xylophones! It's also one her best dances.

  2. When does this softening effect become extremely clear and apparent, Paul? Do you also hear a softening of a human voice? Maybe there is a specific frequency range which is responsible? In the beginning of the digital era many expert said that digital amps are only to be used for car audio subwoofers! In the end analog always means a basic level of random noise, a noise level which can be set to zero in the digital domain. Thus this natural/analog (?) noise is always missing then. And both techniques create specific and different types of inherent distortions. Do you hear a difference between a voice recorded in the analog world versus the digital recording running in parallel?

    1. I wish I was able to make that comparison, Paul. All I can really do is compare the live feed to the recorded feed and make sure the two sound identical. To compare analog capture to what I just described would require me to also have an analog tape deck. I have one but it is buried under a heap of boxes and cables out in the warehouse.

  3. Linn is a brand founded on analog, there can't be many better known turntables, but their high-end systems all do a digital conversion to enable DSP. My system does the same. I've used high quality valve equipment with no printed circuits and top class transformers, and digital conversion does not bother me at all. pure analog systems, on the other hand, has lots of limitations.

    I don't believe the stuff about recording studios because the engineers are listening to a feed, often of musicians in different rooms or areas. Tracks of a mix may be recorded at different times or at different places. The closest you will get is a live performance or a recording in a performance venue. Even this is misleading, for example Jared Sachs records Rachel Podger and the Brecon Baroque in a church near here 9in fact many churches dotted around SE England), where the sound is quite hard and aggressive, but the recordings are not. On top of which a lot of sound is quite sharp to the ears, especially baroque stringed instruments.

    It does not surprise me that the recording of classical and a lot of jazz played on acoustic instruments where tonality is paramount and critical listening often prevails, have not played much if any part on the analog revival. For them digital recording and playback was a blessing. I can only recommend listening to Boulder's own Takacs Quartet's recording of Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" (on Hyperion, recorded in a church in Bristol, UK in 2006, probably captured in 24/96 and available on CD or 16/44 download). It has hard and soft and everything inbetween.

  4. Hard / Soft - Black / White - Purebred /Mutt as it pertains to recordings and format…..

    Which is right and which is an illusion? (To quote Graeme Edge)

    When y’all figure it out, let me / us know. We’ll agree or not.

  5. Sometimes listeners' (and critics') greatest praise for digital equipment is that it "sounds analog." They may be entirely sincere in praising in that manner, but at best it's a reflection of a serious misdirection of the technology's intent. "Analog" sound should be no one's goal in sound reproduction.

    It's worth remembering what the word meant back before the advent of digital gear and the subsequent Great A/D Divide. Long before anyone thought of sample rates and bit depth, "analog" itself meant a reproduction or duplication of something from one realm to another (or a different thing that performs a similar function). The word's roots trace back to the Greek analogos, meaning "proportionate, according to due proportion," from "ana" (according to) and logos (ratio or proportion). Merriam-Webster demonstrates the word's use with the sentence "the fish's gills are the analog of the cat's lungs." In the case of audio equipment, the system is an attempt at recreating the real sound of a real event. It just happens that in creating that "analog" of a sound event, the system was flawed from the beginning, and it remains so today.

    It should be unnecessary to say our equipment should be designed with the goal of duplicating the original sound itself, whether it does so by capturing vibrations and transferring them to a lacquer platter, or by converting them to bits and transferring them via electrons. If anyone were to design a digital system with the intent to reflect analog performance, they would be giving up the game before they even start. They would be admitting that their design goal is to reproduce a reproduction.

    1. That’s well put Craig! Thanks!

      Regarding your last statement … since all humans exist because of ‘reproduction’ in a literal sense, doesn’t the question becomes one of mixing? Otherwise it’s cloning…

      1. Ha! An excellent point. I think we may need to carve out a semantic exception to the term "reproduction" just for the biologically-minded. Maybe the difference (and the saving grace) is the "mixing" of gene pools. 😉

  6. Over the years there have been some interesting ‘live’ musician sound and live feed sound next door demos. San Fransisco Stereophile show had NHT doing such a demo. Albert Von Scheikertdid likewise. The gentleman who had VPMS speakers likewise did these demos. ( I think he paired up with the Ampzilla designer). I also heard Olsher’s wife sing live and then hear the live feed and a recoding. Audio quest did similar demos- Joe Harley was always patient and informative.
    These demos were entertaining, enlightening & educational. But there always was a difference. Listening to the engineers discuss it was Illuminating( lotsa fiery opinions). Bottom line once the live music gets squeezed Thru your microphone’s Diaphragm and onto whatever medium, it never sounds quite the same; either the live feed or hot off the tape head /hard dive. We’ve come a long way and we still have a ways to go for perfect transparency. ; )

    “Perfect”is the enemy of the good.

  7. Analogue can be listened to for long periods but the sharpness of digital gets tiring after a while. Digital is fine for background listening but for serious long term listening the urge to shut the system off becomes strong after a while because of the overriding sharpness. Regards.

  8. From my point of view there is no analogue or digital sound, not even in a concert or in a recording studio. Everything sounds different depending on where I'm sitting in the concert hall. The microphones are positioned in specific places (usually where I wasn't sitting). So how am I supposed to judge what sounds right or wrong. There are just two technical options available, analogue and digital. I also prefer analog because I like it better and I can listen to those beguiling tube sounds for hours, but does it sound the same as the microphone capsule? I don't know and honestly I don't care if it sounds good, right?

  9. I think we have to be careful here. First, lets talk about the purest sound that we can hear. Some of you may call it acoustic sound or live sound. It is what we have when someone in the same room as you are in talks, sings, or plays a trumpet, piano, or violin and the only thing between the sound that they produce and your ears is the pressure waves in the air that couple the sound to your ears. The important thing here is that the sound is not captured by a microphone, amplified, recorded or played back in any way.

    Analog simply means any signal that has not been digitized.

    Any sound that is captured by a microphone has the signature of that microphone as well as the signature of cables, amps, recording gear and playback gear as well as possible processing that we refer to as mixing and mastering.

    I view that captured analog sound is one step removed from the original live sound. How far removed from the original live sound that capture sound is depends on the impact of all of the things listed above.

    If that captured sound is also digitized then that is a second step away from the original live sound. How that digitizing impacts that captured sound depends on what kind of digitizing is used.

    All kinds of things can make the captured sound soft or hard. If you chose to use amps that have noticeable even order harmonic distortion then the captured sound will seem soft. If you chose to use amps that have noticeable odd order harmonic distortion then the captured sound will seem hard.

    The moral here is you do not need to digitize to screw up captured sound.

  10. Yes, certainly a different term than "analog" (or digital) is needed to determine a perfect capure.

    Every technology so far seems to be flawed, analog probably more obvious than others. And probably the most obvious characteristic of analog flaw (among others) is to sound a little "softer". Must be (in a live feed comparison) somehow, given some distortion involved at a few stages. And I think digital (no matter if PCM or DSD) doesn't have this characteristic in this kind of test scenario, or at least less. It must sound more accurate (especially regarding ... or maybe reduced to impulses) in transients, dynamics, bass and top end. Regarding the contrary disadvantages of digital, I'd say the times of "sharpness" are over, that's no digital characteristic anymore.

    What makes those, used to good vinyl rigs or tape machines, scratch their head, is, that it doesn't seem to turn out like that practically when we listen to a final media at home. Not only because then other characteristics get to the foreground and gain importance (e.g. a more realistic, palpable, less flat and technical imaging, more ambiance information and detail, more organic tonal colors from analog), but also the "softness" characteristic seems to turn out the other way around. Analog sounds more open, extended, compared to the best DAC's and quite independent of the format less recessed if you will. I have no idea why this is different than I'd expect from my paragraph above. That analog usually also often sounds more dynamic, with sharper transients and better bass definition may be a matter of HW choices and level mainly.

    So if I had to characterize the disadvantages of digital, I'd say it's definitely not "sharpness/brightness" anymore, but a certain flatness in colors, soundstaging/imaging/ambiance and top end remaining. I only heard up to DSD64 so far in my own environment, no native DSD256, as I don't have the option yet. But at least I had the option to listen to DSD256 on vinyl.

    I compared around 2 dozens of DSD (64 and 256) sourced (from tape) Mofi records with different AAA alternatives of the same recordings. In a few cases the DSD sourced Mofi versions sounded better/more transparent, like having had a better source, in most cases it was the other way around. Apples to oranges generally, but what they had in common is that all DSD sourced Mofi's (also the overall better sounding ones) had a slightly more recessed, less open top end than the analog counterparts. The same is true for all SACD/DSD transfers of AAA Acoustic Sounds remasters I compared to their vinyl versions. So I don't know why, but no matter if I compare analog/digital on the DAC and vinyl rig or both from vinyl...where digital/DSD is involved, it sounds less open on top and "softer" if you will. The other way around than I'd expect, following today's topic.

    Interestingly, many high end digital listeners find the HDTT recordings (tapes transferred to DSD64-256) to be the best available digital versions generally. So basically they prefer analog. I personally could just listen to them by DSD64 so far and indeed the good ones have analog magic in terms of a palpable, 3D airy soundstage and very organic sound characteristic, in a way not available from pure digital recordings in my experience. To me so far (in DSD64) they just mostly sound too soft compared to available vinyl alternatives (probably because the vinyl cuts were done from 1 or 2 generations better tapes), which always sounded (mostly much) better. I can only recommend all those who experienced analog magic by DSD transfers, to buy a record player and buy the right remasters. You will get the same plus even more magic.

    So finally in my perception it's not the soft vs. sharp (analog/digital) comparison anymore, it's a matter of how realistic or flat something sounds, and there all analog has its strengths, but I think DSD256 reaches it close enough (and certainly surpasses it in some characteristics). If there only were more DSD256 albums available than from a few boutique labels or some assortments of a few bigger ones.

    Isn't it strange, that digital was assumed perfect with 16/44, then the 20kHz barrier was freed with hires PCM, then DSD64 showed how flawed PCM generally was/is ... and now everyone who heard DSD256 states how compromised DSD64 is compared to it....and DSD256 still competes with all analog...

      1. It’s just the most realistically sounding with the biggest catalog of great sounding media.

        Tape can be better and DSD256 should be on similar level…they just have no noticeable music/media spread, so it doesn’t help much.

  11. As I fell in love with pop music at the age of 10 while Listening to it thru a $5.00 transistor radio with a 1" speaker, I will always appreciate that it is the music first and always. Having said that, as someone who has recorded and produced million selling albums as well as possessing what would he considered a reference hifi system, I have come to very clearly understand how many layers still remain between my ears as a consumer and my ears in the studio as a creator. The gap, both in analog and digital has gotten closer as every year goes by.
    I have some stunning analog recordings as well as stunning CD's (streaming, to my ears at this point, is still not quite there)
    There is, however, no ‘neutral’ audio position yet. Both digital and analog have a sound but both do coexist do me. I’m excited to see the technologies continue to inch ever closer to what is heard at the mixing console because one will never get any closer to an event than that!

    1. Jay Jay thank you for a great comment, but I do have a question for you. As background, I lived with a really very good pianist in the late 70s and 80s. And made many recordings using two very good microphones and a 15 ips half track recorder. No compression, although I sometimes did some very subtle gain riding. To me those tapes still sound more life-like than the vast majority of my CD and vinyl collection. And they also pass the listening from the next room test much better. You obviously have the in-studio experience. So here is my question: How close are commercial releases today to what you hear as live feeds in the studio? If there is a difference, what are the major impediments today?

      1. While I can’t speak for every producer and artist recording today, I can say that most modern digital pop recordings these days are terribly (to my ears) compressed.
        I have great recordings recorded 40-50 years ago that sound about as real as you can get. The problem is that, no matter how great your playback home gear is you can only get closer to the mixing board and all the compromised electronics that were used in that chain is what you are actually listening to. If your recording sounds great, imagine how great it really sounded in the room prior to the chain that takes that audio into the studio and then through the entire reproduction chain and finally into your home. And btw, if reproducing analog is just to much tinkering, then just get a CD player or streamer and be done with it. This hobby of ours can be a deep black hole but it’s a lot of fun!

  12. And if you spend $22K on a turntable, $12K on a tone arm, $24K on a cartridge, $16K on a phono stage, you can almost make (tic) analog (pfffT) sound (pop) GREAT! Or you can buy a nice transport/streamer and a brand new sports car. 😉

    Analog lovers unite, we love ya, but I spent half a lifetime trying to polish and tweak that dull analog. It's like every album was playing thru a compressed EQ with a sad, sad face. After my first boxy square cornered big button'd Sony CD player I knew there was no going back. Finally that crisp, distinct, clear noise free sound I'd spent way too much money trying to achieve.

    Every once in a while, I give analog an attempted rekindle and dig out the table, clean the stylus, balance the arm, pick an album, remove the sleeve, remove the satin sleeve, remove the album, give it a good bathing, flip it thrice (like a &%$# USB stick) to find the correct side, locate the desired track from the rear cover, index finger count the darker black grooves to access the desired track, back-track one track because I miscounted, cue it up, drop the pointy thing, close the lid, tiptoe away and play one song (because that's all the time I have left after all the prep). But before the fffffffirst chorus bridge - NOPE! Stop the spinner, return the album to the satin sleeve, insert the satin sleeve into the cardboard jacket - where it CLEARLY does NOT want to go, return the album to its dusty home and command google to play the DSD version.

    I tried. I really did. But it was kinda like dating gals with little kids: "These are my darling three delightful children - Skip, Poppy and Ffffffffffffay.
    I'd (once again) try it for a while, but I knew it just wasn't gonna work out. Perhaps I just inadvertently learned to equate analog with bratty snot nosed horrible micro-humans.

    I still do reel to reel from time to time.... there is just something soothing and pleasantly nostalgic about the mesmerizing rotational movement of the analog vinyl or reels slowly spinning.

    I know, I know... analog, digital, why can't we just have Coke and Pepsi in the SAME room....

  13. I think "facsimile" is the answer to your implied question ( The perfect capture is when we can tell no difference between the source and the output. Nice if we had a name for that.)

  14. I have a two fold experience with analog sound. Back in the day I owned a Decca cartridge. Its claim to fame was a direct connection to the record groove because it had no rubber surround for the cantilever like all other phono cartridges I used had. It gave a clarify that could be stunning. The typical phono cartridge itself would soften the sound.

    My other experience: I am a musician. I recorded myself and my band a few times years ago. The sound that came from tape was not what I was hearing with the live music. It "softened" the sound.... More like it "sweetened" the sound. The problem with some digital is that it does not soften the sound. It lets you hear more like what an actual live performance is like. Other digital distorts the sound in an unpleasant way.....

    But if you want real live sound? Digital gives it .. warts and all.

    1. Digital is copied from analog microphones and recordings that are broken up into bits and pieces which are ones and zeros and then put back together into analog. So what it's attempting to do is preserve the original analog recording and allowing convenient playback. It does that very good but the best digital can do is playback the music as close to the original analog as possible. The problem is you cannot breakup a continued infinite analog signal and capture it in it's entirety with finite bits and pieces without losing some of the sound. It's not all there and that creates grain in the sound.

      1. I have fiber internet.... Switched off the wi-fi on the modem... and turned off voip option. Ran one audiophile ethernet cable to PC. A certain noise that 'jumps around' typically on the mother board was gone. Using a ladder DAC.

        I believe that the digital grain is caused by noise (apparently) on the mother board that is caused by an interaction between the modem and the PC. When I used to connect with copper with DSL the noise was from that as well. Fiber cuts out a lot of grain on my system.

        1. The big question is can digital preserve analog which begins from an analog microphone diaphragm better than analog can preserve analog and sound as good as analog. Not whether digital sounds better than analog. It’s definitely harder for analog to preserve itself due to wear of a tape or LP, but it sounds better than digital when played back on good analog components if it's properly and successfully preserved on an analog format. More needs to be done to preserve analog to analog format, and cutting digital to a LP just gives you a digital LP, so that's not a solution to preserving analog. You must record analog to analog in order to preserve the original analog signal. Both medias have their pros and cons of preservation of analog but analog has no digital middleman and that middleman is breaking down the analog signal to bits and pieces and reconstructing it back to analog. In my opinion something will always be lost doing that because analog is continuous and infinite while digital is finite.

        2. Just making a case as to why some still prefer analog and will pay big money for first pressing analog LP's. I'm in the camp of going with whatever sounds best to your ears.

  15. When I grew up everything was analog: radios, television, record players, stereos. I heard all kinds of recorded and broadcast music, beautiful to my ears. The only live music I heard before college was choirs, soloists, pianos, hammond organs, acoustic guitars and occasionally my not-very-accomplished high school band. I will never forget the first live full orchestra performance I attended in college. Quite frankly, I was disappointed. Everything sounded thin, raspy and screechy compared to analog recorded and over-the-air broadcast music. Over the years I have attended many philharmonic performances in different cities and concert halls in the U.S. and UK and noted that these live events often left me a bit underwhelmed. Some digital recordings remind me of the let down I heard when I attended some of these live events. Sometimes I wonder if digital is too accurate, capturing reality more realistically, when we would rather hear smoother, fuller, richer, less edgy renditions. As for digital being fatiguing, most any instrument will become tiring to most ears after listening to it live for very long. The fatigue blamed on digital is perhaps more a reflection of its capture of reality than a flaw in the medium. I sadly no longer own analog recordings, but in my memory banks I remember how beautifully vinyl recordings rendered all types of music. But more realistically? I think not.

  16. Paul, we do have a name for it and you actually know it, just forgotten it.
    Here goes:. Is it live? Or is it Memorex. Oh, now you remember.
    Just reminiscing. Enjoy your day.

  17. A name already exists. “Clone” - an exact copy -
    once you actually have done it you should call them the Octave Records Clone Editions - “Indistinguishable replications of the studio sessions”

Leave a Reply

© 2022 PS Audio, Inc.

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram