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Thread: Good analog and good digital converge?

  1. #1
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

    Posts: 2,105
    I'm Alex.

    Default Good analog and good digital converge?

    Last year I switched from listening to digitally sourced music to listening to analog sources (vinyl). I made a switch out of curiosity, after reading how many people claim that vinyl beats digital. To be honest, I was expecting that vinyl playback will end up being quaint, a little bit nostalgic, but nowhere near as good as proper digital setup.

    Much to my surprise, my vinyl rig delivered sound that was in no way lagging behind the digital reproduction. Then, after I got accustomed to vinyl, I started doing side-by-side comparisons. Again, much to my surprise, I found that often times vinyl sounded better (or, preferable) to my ears. I became a vinyl aficionado after experiencing that difference.

    So I started slowly working on improving my turntable etc. Fast forward to the present time, and I now think I have a turntable setup that is better than what I had last year. I've invested in a better phono, better tonearm, better cabling, replaced spherical stylus with nude elliptical, tweaked my turntable, the whole nine yards.

    So I decided to do side-by-side comparison with the digital again. I was now expecting that my new analog front end will absolutely blow the digital out of the water.

    Much to my shock, that didn't happen! As a matter of fact, now my analog and my digital playback sound very, very similar. It's as if the gap, that I experienced last year, has all but closed.

    So my conclusion is that as you keep improving your analog front end, you are approximating the sound of a good digital front end. This, to me, means that a good hi fi system (regardless of whether it's analog or digital) is actually approaching the sound one can find on the master tape.

    Has anyone else experienced this interesting convergence?
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

    Posts: 21,130
    I'm Martin.

    Default

    Yes, so I gave up on vinyl and bought all my vinyl favourites on CD instead. It's cheaper ( a replacement stylus for my cart is 240!) and less hassle.

    But...

    Since being all digital for about a year now I've a hankering to get the TT up and running again. The CD versions of the vinyl are not the same. Now don't get me wrong, every musician I have ever met who has recorded in the studio, reckons digital sounds more like what they heard in the studio when listening to playback. To a man. And my limited experience in studios leads me to the same conclusion.

    Now it may be I am just used to listening to these recordings on vinyl. Some of them I have had for 30 years and played hundreds of times (Zep, Hendrix, Clapton, Steely Dan, The Cult, Zappa, etc). And I know that no matter what I do with the digital source those albums will never sound like they do on vinyl. (Yes, I know you can get software that will emulate vinyl and I've not tried it but I have my doubts that it will cut it).

    The crazy thing about vinyl is that the limitations of the 1950s technology,quite by accident, have a psycho-acoustic effect. It's like they tailored vinyl to sound good (except they didn't). Mono bass, benign distortion, arm and cart resonances actually enhance the sound from the listener's point of view, adding a euphoric quality and a presence to the sound that is not on the original recording, but makes it all sound so much more real and present. There's not really any getting away from it.

    Now I know some people will say that it isn't those things at all that make vinyl sound better, it's a simple matter of 'analogue purity.' But that argument falls down in so many places I can't take it seriously anymore. It's really all about psycho-acoustics, folks.
    Martin



    Current Lash Up:

    Technics SL1200P CD Player * NVA P90SA passive pre / Krell KSA50S Power amp * JM Lab Electra 926 loudspeakers *


    'This is the sort of music I'd be listening to if I was going shopping for a training bra.'

  3. #3
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

    Posts: 2,105
    I'm Alex.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Macca View Post
    Yes, so I gave up on vinyl and bought all my vinyl favourites on CD instead. It's cheaper ( a replacement stylus for my cart is 240!) and less hassle.

    But...

    Since being all digital for about a year now I've a hankering to get the TT up and running again. The CD versions of the vinyl are not the same. Now don't get me wrong, every musician I have ever met who has recorded in the studio, reckons digital sounds more like what they heard in the studio when listening to playback. To a man. And my limited experience in studios leads me to the same conclusion.

    Now it may be I am just used to listening to these recordings on vinyl. Some of them I have had for 30 years and played hundreds of times (Zep, Hendrix, Clapton, Steely Dan, The Cult, Zappa, etc). And I know that no matter what I do with the digital source those albums will never sound like they do on vinyl. (Yes, I know you can get software that will emulate vinyl and I've not tried it but I have my doubts that it will cut it).

    The crazy thing about vinyl is that the limitations of the 1950s technology,quite by accident, have a psycho-acoustic effect. It's like they tailored vinyl to sound good (except they didn't). Mono bass, benign distortion, arm and cart resonances actually enhance the sound from the listener's point of view, adding a euphoric quality and a presence to the sound that is not on the original recording, but makes it all sound so much more real and present. There's not really any getting away from it.

    Now I know some people will say that it isn't those things at all that make vinyl sound better, it's a simple matter of 'analogue purity.' But that argument falls down in so many places I can't take it seriously anymore. It's really all about psycho-acoustics, folks.
    You may be on to something there, Mr. Drunken Moderator. But here is what's curious to me:

    During my first iteration with vinyl, I was smitten by these 'psycho-acoustics' artifacts, as you call them. Yes, I can now see how there was some interesting euphonic happening during vinyl playback.

    But now, that I have improved my tonearm, stylus, cabling, plinth, that euphonic has all but disappeared. Obviously a better tonearm minimizes resonances, which results in a more 'digital' sound. So the irony may be that the better a turntable setup is, the less 'vinyl' the sound gets.

    Or am I completely off my rocker here?
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  4. #4
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

    Posts: 21,130
    I'm Martin.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by magiccarpetride View Post
    You may be on to something there, Mr. Drunken Moderator. But here is what's curious to me:

    During my first iteration with vinyl, I was smitten by these 'psycho-acoustics' artifacts, as you call them. Yes, I can now see how there was some interesting euphonic happening during vinyl playback.

    But now, that I have improved my tonearm, stylus, cabling, plinth, that euphonic has all but disappeared. Obviously a better tonearm minimizes resonances, which results in a more 'digital' sound. So the irony may be that the better a turntable setup is, the less 'vinyl' the sound gets.

    Or am I completely off my rocker here?
    No, that's exactly what I found going from a Nagaoka MP11 to an MP50 (which is arguably the best MM cart you can buy). Less euphoric, more like digital. To an extent, the baby went out with the bathwater.

    I had a listen to Marco's SL1200 when he had some fancy Ortofon MC on it and that was the same. So close to his CD player in character it was uncanny. I didn't see the point. When he changed it to a fancy Denon, then you could hear why vinyl is worth the bother.
    Martin



    Current Lash Up:

    Technics SL1200P CD Player * NVA P90SA passive pre / Krell KSA50S Power amp * JM Lab Electra 926 loudspeakers *


    'This is the sort of music I'd be listening to if I was going shopping for a training bra.'

  5. #5
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

    Posts: 2,105
    I'm Alex.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Macca View Post
    No, that's exactly what I found going from a Nagaoka MP11 to an MP50 (which is arguably the best MM cart you can buy). Less euphoric, more like digital. To an extent, the baby went out with the bathwater.

    I had a listen to Marco's SL1200 when he had some fancy Ortofon MC on it and that was the same. So close to his CD player in character it was uncanny. I didn't see the point. When he changed it to a fancy Denon, then you could hear why vinyl is worth the bother.
    Yeah, I now have a hunch if I go back to Denon that, on my new Jelco tonearm, it's going to restore that 'vinyl euphoria' which introduces some resonances etc. that make vinyl playback so different from digital. But right now, with Ortofon OM20, it's near indistinguishable in character from digital.
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  6. #6
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

    Posts: 3,831
    I'm James.

    Default

    Basically it all boils down to how your ear works as a transducer and its ability to hear and translate anlogue waveforms to the brain. Hearing is non linear and we have the ability to hear precisely the location and tonal information / pitch even in a distorted sound environment.

    Our ear and brain are very Sensitive to analogue waveforms but find it very difficult to interpret digital induced waveforms in the same way. All the rubbish that happens in the digital process up to and after the DAC has converted still does not trick the brain into believing it is hearing something real, accurate or indeed to my experience pleasant.

    Now as DACs have improved and we understand the influence of RF in the audio chain and its corruption of the digital signal and how to get around it, not to mention the removal of jitter, we are slowly reconstructing the original digital recording in a manner which is beginning to sound half decent.

    It is no way to my ears as good as the best analogue equipment and indeed I think you have to spend a large amount to beat even quite humble analogue set ups. This goes against what a lot of people believe with digital equipment but honestly most CD players and most digital systems sound thin, tonally bereft and harsh compared to analogue.

    There are some DACs out there like Chords DAVE which have moved the whole experience on hugely and are a benchmark for what can now be achieved with digital music and it does indeed have an analogue sound.

    If you really believe digital sounds as good as analogue that is up to you and your hearing ability.

    For me it still falls short of analogue with all its short comings and distortions.

  7. #7
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

    Posts: 2,105
    I'm Alex.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    Basically it all boils down to how your ear works as a transducer and its ability to hear and translate anlogue waveforms to the brain. Hearing is non linear and we have the ability to hear precisely the location and tonal information / pitch even in a distorted sound environment.

    Our ear and brain are very Sensitive to analogue waveforms but find it very difficult to interpret digital induced waveforms in the same way. All the rubbish that happens in the digital process up to and after the DAC has converted still does not trick the brain into believing it is hearing something real, accurate or indeed to my experience pleasant.

    Now as DACs have improved and we understand the influence of RF in the audio chain and its corruption of the digital signal and how to get around it, not to mention the removal of jitter, we are slowly reconstructing the original digital recording in a manner which is beginning to sound half decent.

    It is no way to my ears as good as the best analogue equipment and indeed I think you have to spend a large amount to beat even quite humble analogue set ups. This goes against what a lot of people believe with digital equipment but honestly most CD players and most digital systems sound thin, tonally bereft and harsh compared to analogue.

    There are some DACs out there like Chords DAVE which have moved the whole experience on hugely and are a benchmark for what can now be achieved with digital music and it does indeed have an analogue sound.

    If you really believe digital sounds as good as analogue that is up to you and your hearing ability.

    For me it still falls short of analogue with all its short comings and distortions.
    I am using Logitech Squeezebox Touch for digital. Compared to Systemdek with Jelco 750E 10" tonearm/Ortofon OM20/iFi Micro iPhono combo, Squeezebox Touch sounds nearly identical.

    Go figure...
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  8. #8
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

    Posts: 3,831
    I'm James.

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    Quote Originally Posted by magiccarpetride View Post
    I am using Logitech Squeezebox Touch for digital. Compared to Systemdek with Jelco 750E 10" tonearm/Ortofon OM20/iFi Micro iPhono combo, Squeezebox Touch sounds nearly identical.

    Go figure...
    Go figure that's how you hear it. Maybe I am just more sensitive to digital sound. I even had to turn off my DAB in the car and return to FM because the DAC sounded crap and resulted in a thin toned, top end etched sound.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Mar 2016

    Location: Barnet, london UK

    Posts: 869
    I'm Adam.

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    Quote Originally Posted by magiccarpetride View Post
    I am using Logitech Squeezebox Touch for digital. Compared to Systemdek with Jelco 750E 10" tonearm/Ortofon OM20/iFi Micro iPhono combo, Squeezebox Touch sounds nearly identical.

    Go figure...
    The word 'nearly' is key for me!
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  10. #10
    Join Date: Oct 2017

    Location: Ontario, Canada

    Posts: 517
    I'm Svend.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Macca View Post
    The crazy thing about vinyl is that the limitations of the 1950s technology,quite by accident, have a psycho-acoustic effect. It's like they tailored vinyl to sound good (except they didn't). Mono bass, benign distortion, arm and cart resonances actually enhance the sound from the listener's point of view, adding a euphoric quality and a presence to the sound that is not on the original recording, but makes it all sound so much more real and present. There's not really any getting away from it.

    Now I know some people will say that it isn't those things at all that make vinyl sound better, it's a simple matter of 'analogue purity.' But that argument falls down in so many places I can't take it seriously anymore. It's really all about psycho-acoustics, folks.
    Interesting comment Martin, and those re. some TTs sounding like digital. I've been contemplating the next steps in tweaking my Heybrook TT2, and want to attack some possible sources of resonance (bottom plate, plinth, sub-chassis, etc.), but my fear is that I will go too far and make this wonderful deck sound too much like my CD player (which sounds outstanding, BTW, but not what I want my Heybrook to sound like). Oh well, at least the mods will be reversible, so if I don't like what I hear I can always revert to the way it was.

    I think you guys are all bang-on re. the distortions in vinyl are actually what give it its unique character. Gotta love it, warts and all.

    Good thread, this.

    Best,
    Svend

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