Can digital get to vinyl sound and at what price?

Ron Resnick

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Are you holding that up as the standard and basis on which you are making your claim generalizing about streaming sounding like vinyl?

No, a $1500 turntable set-up is not the standard. I am also folding in many hours of top-of-the-line DAC auditions on Wilson Alexx V + Boulder, as well as many hours on Keith's MSB Reference, and as well as brief listens to Steve's Horizon.

Please note that I specifically was not talking about streaming ("high resolution files").
 
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Ron Resnick

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Does your latest generation Lampizator DAC reach the same level of suspension of disbelief that you heard from David’s turntable in Utah?

This kind of comparison would violate almost every one of the (already loose) methodological standards we apply to legitimate comparisons.
 

Ron Resnick

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Does Al M’s Yggy DAC qualify in your mind as latest generation DAC? If so, it sounds different from my vinyl. I think that is the most modern DAC I’ve heard.

I asked about high resolution local files, not RBCD. I think the Yggy may be a great value for its price, but I had in mind an MSB Reference or Select II or a current generation Lampizator or an Aries Cerat or a Nagra HD or a Wadax -- something at that level.

I don't think comparing your turntable and phono stage set-up -- which is something like 50 to 65 times more expensive than a Yggy -- is a very fair comparison.
 

Ian B

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You are focusing on transparency applied to something that has been manipulated by tape or vinyl recording . It is not what is being addressed. It has been explained why such test is misleading and inconclusive in an hobby where changing a signal cable or even a power cable can ruin the sound of a great system.
All things being equal, a digital transfer of a technically inferior analog source should be transparent. The fact this is not, and is not in repeatable and predictable ways demonstrate artifacts inherent in digital capture and playback, that do not exist in analog ones.

This is just as true if you are recording the audio directly without any tape or vinyl intermediary. If the engineer is sitting at an analog mixing console, the piano microphones are coming in, he inserts the ADC/DAC of a digital recording interface, and the sound changes in a specific way, that tells you something. When that change is qualitatively the same as with an analog to digital transfer, it also tells you something. And when even the best DACs can't completely remedy this change, it says something inherent to the ADC and the capture format.

Some of us have been at this a long time dealing with the same qualitative signature across most digital systems. I'm personally happy with improvements in digital hifi, but the gap has not been entirely closed.
 
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PeterA

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Please note that I specifically was not talking about streaming ("high resolution files").

How many high-resolution local computer files using a respected, current generation DAC have you listened to recently?

I have not listened to any high resolution local computer files using a respected current generation DAC recently. I listened to MadFloyd’s system about a year ago and I think he has local high-resolution computer files played through his DAC. They did not sound anything like his vinyl.
 
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Ron Resnick

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Young Skywalker

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Surely, the fidelity losses/distortions associated with phono cartridge manufacture and setup (poor attempts to optimise), never mind the very flawed vinyl manufacturing process, are far greater than any losses in a modern state of the art digital recording, mastering and playback chain.

That's not to say that one person's all out assault on vinyl playback could not sound more subjectively pleasing (to a majority of listeners) than another's all out assault on digital playback. And vice versa.

Are we arguing the hypothetical ultimate performance potential of each format (from microphone to output of the phono preamp or DAC) or some moving target that is each person's subjective idealised interpretation of each? If it is the former, then should we instead be discussing at what level of investment (knowledge, time, expertise, currency) the compromises inherent in each format (vinyl and digital) are overcome to the extent that one can enjoy their favourite music via either to equal degrees?

My goal when assembling a digital playback chain was for it to provide the same level of emotional and intellectual musical interest and fulfilment as my vinyl playback chain. In that regard, it is mission accomplished for me. But I can't tell you how angry and disappointed I am when I spend good money on vinyl (new reissue pressings or vintage original pressings) only to discover that it is eccentric, warped, or damaged from a previous user.
 

Mike Lavigne

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All things being equal, a digital transfer of a technically inferior analog source should be transparent. The fact this is not, and is not in repeatable and predictable ways demonstrate artifacts inherent in digital capture and playback, that do not exist in analog ones.

This is just as true if you are recording the audio directly without any tape or vinyl intermediary. If the engineer is sitting at an analog mixing console, the piano microphones are coming in, he inserts the ADC/DAC of a digital recording interface, and the sound changes in a specific way, that tells you something. When that change is qualitatively the same as with an analog to digital transfer, it also tells you something. And when even the best DACs can't completely remedy this change, it says something inherent to the ADC and the capture format.

Some of us have been at this a long time dealing with the same qualitative signature across most digital systems. I'm personally happy with improvements in digital hifi, but the gap has not been entirely closed.
and in my system, every time my digital gets better.....my analog also gets better....maybe by a very slightly greater margin. i keep pushing both. the evidence points toward the analog media being less optimized by the analog hardware compared to the digital media. maybe the nature of an analog mostly mechanical process.

this is just what my ears are telling me......at this point in my system. maybe just my unique experience and not a widely held viewpoint.
 

adrianywu

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All things being equal, a digital transfer of a technically inferior analog source should be transparent. The fact this is not, and is not in repeatable and predictable ways demonstrate artifacts inherent in digital capture and playback, that do not exist in analog ones.

This is just as true if you are recording the audio directly without any tape or vinyl intermediary. If the engineer is sitting at an analog mixing console, the piano microphones are coming in, he inserts the ADC/DAC of a digital recording interface, and the sound changes in a specific way, that tells you something. When that change is qualitatively the same as with an analog to digital transfer, it also tells you something. And when even the best DACs can't completely remedy this change, it says something inherent to the ADC and the capture format.

Some of us have been at this a long time dealing with the same qualitative signature across most digital systems. I'm personally happy with improvements in digital hifi, but the gap has not been entirely closed.
Indeed, much of the difference we hear between vinyl and digital comes from how these recordings were created. The vinyl audiophiles buy nowadays is mostly produced for that specific market, whereas digital is produced for a different sector, and so the priorities for the mastering engineers are different. Since the early 2000s, we have been doing recordings with both tape and digital running in parallel. The mike feeds go through a Studer mixer and the signal is split between two Nagra IV-S and a stereo digital recorder. The mike feeds also go directly to a multichannel ADC and recorded by a computer. We can switch between the live feed and through the recorder's ADC and DAC. At least through our monitoring system, I can hear a difference between the live feed and high rez PCM (24/192), but I cannot discern any difference between live and DSD128. This might just be due to the equipment we use. Bearing in mind that storing the signal and then retrieving it will also affect the sound. Even using different brands of hard disk in the digital recorder made an audible difference. Cutting vinyl will introduce an entirely different set of distortion (from the high powered cutting amplifiers to the characteristics of the cutting head, the inconsistencies in the lacquer, the whole process of plating and stamping) to those introduced by the act of recording the digital data (magnetic medium, SSD etc.). The difference between the recently released Original Source vinyl and the original DGG LPs is huge. Therefore, I think both media (analogue, DSD) are capable of superb results. The problem with DSD is of course the need to convert to PCM for most post-production work. The best result is obtained using the old fashioned approach of live mixing and balancing before digital conversion, and only doing editing post-production.
 
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Rexp

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Digital recordings are all flawed to some extent. What great DACs do, is hide those flaws. What is needed is better ADC's. Some hifi companies, like Grimm Audio, recognise this are pushing for better performance.
 

sbo6

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Surely, the fidelity losses/distortions associated with phono cartridge manufacture and setup (poor attempts to optimise), never mind the very flawed vinyl manufacturing process, are far greater than any losses in a modern state of the art digital recording, mastering and playback chain.

That's not to say that one person's all out assault on vinyl playback could not sound more subjectively pleasing (to a majority of listeners) than another's all out assault on digital playback. And vice versa.

Are we arguing the hypothetical ultimate performance potential of each format (from microphone to output of the phono preamp or DAC) or some moving target that is each person's subjective idealised interpretation of each? If it is the former, then should we instead be discussing at what level of investment (knowledge, time, expertise, currency) the compromises inherent in each format (vinyl and digital) are overcome to the extent that one can enjoy their favourite music via either to equal degrees?

My goal when assembling a digital playback chain was for it to provide the same level of emotional and intellectual musical interest and fulfilment as my vinyl playback chain. In that regard, it is mission accomplished for me. But I can't tell you how angry and disappointed I am when I spend good money on vinyl (new reissue pressings or vintage original pressings) only to discover that it is eccentric, warped, or damaged from a previous user.
When I listened to my new analog setup versus my digital, the first thing I noticed was an effortlessly naturalness in the music and in general, quite accurate tonality of instruments / vocals.

Why? To me, I think what's often ignored or under-stated is that when recording and staying in the analog domain (albeit transferred from magnetic to physical grooves) should not be understated in terms of inherent benefits of simplicity vs. A to D then D to A.
 

adrianywu

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Long ago I designed, built, and sold a very nice DAC (Chime), but it was limited to Redbook CD (44.1k) inputs. It sounded glorious, however. Two things I believe set it apart were re-timing of the DAC outputs with a re-created less jitter clock, and a tube gain and output stage (I-V conversion done by resistor, no opamps).

So I decided to finally bring some of that within reach of all the new hi-res DACs and streamers. Not re-clocking, but a tube output stage. Yes, it adds a tiny bit of distortion, but that's exactly what tube magic is! You can live with sterile, boring sound, or you can juice it up.


It only does one thing, permanently sit on the output of your DAC. You can't really use it for anything else...
5kOhm output impedance ? o_O
 

adrianywu

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When I listened to my new analog setup versus my digital, the first thing I noticed was an effortlessly naturalness in the music and in general, quite accurate tonality of instruments / vocals.

Why? To me, I think what's often ignored or under-stated is that when recording and staying in the analog domain (albeit transferred from magnetic to physical grooves) should not be understated in terms of inherent benefits of simplicity vs. A to D then D to A.
I think the distortions introduced by the vinyl production process, and perhaps the signal retrieval (record player, phono stage) might be perceived as beneficial by certain audiophiles or even professionals. That's why some people claim they prefer the sound of the vinyl to that of the master tape. I have compared extensively master tapes and commercial vinyl LPs of the same recordings, and I prefer the master tape pretty much always. And by transferring from master tape to DSD128, I do not hear much loss, but interestingly the end result usually sounds different from commercially released DSD material (SACD and downloads) of the same recordings. The master tapes I have are mostly from the 1950s to late 1970s, in other words, original production or safety masters. Some commercial digital reissues have been remixed, so might sound different.
 

SoundMann

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Jun 29, 2022
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Surely, the fidelity losses/distortions associated with phono cartridge manufacture and setup (poor attempts to optimise), never mind the very flawed vinyl manufacturing process, are far greater than any losses in a modern state of the art digital recording, mastering and playback chain.

Unfortunately, digital is an inherently lossy format, which also produces an inordinately large amount of high frequency distortion.

It also sounds distinctly artificial.
 
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Young Skywalker

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Unfortunately, digital is an inherently lossy format, which also produces an inordinately large amount of high frequency distortion.

It also sounds distinctly artificial.
Unfortunately, the vinyl production process is inherently lossy, that was also my point. Similarly, the sonic difference between an optimised tonearm/cartridge setup versus anything less is very substantial indeed, putting the vinyl format on the back foot in many real world situations. I say this as a turntable diehard, btw.

Compare a quality A/D conversion of an analogue master tape to a vinyl record produced from the same master tape and then assess which is closer to the source. Play both the vinyl record LP and the digital file back on respective transparent and optimised front ends and those differences ought to be apparent.

Also consider a vinyl record derived from a lacquer cut from the same A/D converted analogue master tape (or digital source). There is no logical way that the vinyl playback can sound higher in fidelity to the source. Some may prefer it but that could only be down to additive effects, i.e., subjectively pleasing distortions from sub-optimal turntable/tonearm/cartridge/phono preamp design and/or setup.

Digital photography is somewhat analogous to the A/D conversion of an analogue music signal, yet very few people demand 4x5 film instead of a 150 MP Phase One digital back on their high end photo shoots because they miss all of its character/flaws (limited dynamic range and film grain being but two).

For what it's worth, I don't hear an "inordinately large amount of high frequency distortion" in my current digital playback system and it certainly does not sound "distinctly artificial". I am sorry if this is how you perceive it or that you do not have a similarly fulfilling experience as I do.
 

SoundMann

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Compare a quality A/D conversion of an analogue master tape to a vinyl record produced from the same master tape and then assess which is closer to the source. Play both the vinyl record LP and the digital file back on respective transparent and optimised front ends and those differences ought to be apparent.

As I have stated elsewhere on this site, I have been involved in live real time tests between live performers vs the best playback of all available hifi formats.

Direct to disc pressings were the most accurate while digital recordings were the least, sounding distinctly different and artificial.
 
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Young Skywalker

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As I have stated elsewhere on this site, I have been involved in live real time tests between live performers vs the best playback of all available hifi sources.

Direct to disc pressings were the most accurate while digital recordings were the least, sounding distinctly different and artificial.
Great. A sample size of one and proclamations that you know of the “best” of anything. Such subjective absolutes are worthless beyond your own frame of reference.

I bet you couldn’t pick the difference in a blind test between any vinyl front end and the same vinyl front end through a quality ADC/DAC combination.

If you are happy with your worldview and hifi system and I am similarly satiated then I certainly won’t waste any more precious seconds of my limited existence arguing over such a trivial point.
 
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