DSD to Vinyl Versus Analog Tape to Vinyl

Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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#1
Paul McGowan of PS Audio embarked some time ago upon the incredibly impressive project of making new recordings of singers and musicians employing audiophile recording techniques and what Paul believes is the highest sound quality DSD digital recording process. I think any effort to record new music using audiophile techniques is an extremely laudable effort which should be applauded and supported!

In Paul's blog post today he wrote that the SACD of Paul's Octave Records' release, Temporary Circumstances, is already more than half sold. Congratulations to Paul and to Octave Records!

In Paul's post today he discussed that he is also releasing a limited edition LP:

We do plan on releasing a limited run of virgin vinyl 45rpm pressings—probably 500 pieces—sometime next month if we’re able. Gus and our engineering team have struggled to get a clean cut from the DSD masters. Seems the extended bandwidth and the nature of DSD are upsetting the cutting lathes.​

Last week Paul wrote on his blog an essay titled "Audio Pedigree" in which he discussed his dismay at the confusion sometimes surrounding vinyl releases of digital masterings.

In response to Paul's post today announcing the vinyl release effort I wrote:

Dear Paul,​
Congratulations on your release! That is very exciting! I am impressed and delighted that you are making new recordings using audiophile recording techniques!​
But in your recent “Audio Pedigree” post you wrote:​
“If you’re hoping to purchase an analog recording, it’s not genuine if it was first recorded digitally. Which is why there’s often so much confusion around modern LPs or even remasters. I shake my head when I learn a particular vinyl released remaster was first digitally transferred from analog tape. That’s a mutt.”​
Doesn’t cutting an LP from your digital recording create another type of “mutt”? What is your sonic playback objective of a vinyl release of your digital recording?​
Does this suggest you are going to resuscitate your vinyl front-end at PS Audio?​
Thank you.​
Best wishes,​
Ron​

Paul kindly and comprehensively replied:

It’s a great question and one I love. The perfect vinyl purebred is a direct to disc on the cutting lathe. The way Sheffield used to do it with live musicians playing while a cutting engineer made the vinyl master. That’s an art beyond what we can do, especially since we do not even own a cutting lathe.​
The next best purebred which, is typical, would be to have recorded the tracks on an analog tape machine and then transferred over to vinyl. That’s pure analog. But, here’s the thing. It’s not as good as DSD to vinyl. DSD isn’t “digital” as PCM is. It’s as close to analog as you can get and sounds better than tape.​
So yes, it’s a “mutt” but a mutt that’s better sounding than the purebred in my second example.​
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Do you think Paul is correct?

Do you agree with him that a DSD recording of a performance which is released on vinyl ultimately sounds better and more realistic (i.e., provides a greater suspension of disbelief) than an analog tape recording of that same performance which is released on vinyl?

Why does Paul believe that "DSD isn't 'digital' as PCM is"?
 
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May 2, 2014
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Poland
#2
It’s funny because I listened today to one of my Stockfish recordings made with Direct Cut technology with DSD as a master source instead of tape.

I have not enough experience to judge if that is better or worse than a tape or PCM master source. The sonics of this specific Stockfish recording are very good, "I love Paris" on side B is really impressive.

I have a slight preference for native DSD files as far as digital playback is concerned but I also buy Studio Master PCM classical recordings as they are easier to find ( eclassical, Hyperion, Qobuz ) .
 

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Mike Lavigne

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#3
no. don't agree at all in any way, shape or form......that performances that are dsd sourced make better vinyl pressings than analog sourced vinyl pressings.

also don't agree with his ranking of (1) direct to disc (2) dsd sourced vinyl, and (3) analog sourced vinyl.

i do think that digital recordings can make very fine vinyl pressings. that is true. i also believe that the actual performance and overall recording process has the majority of responsibility to do with the performance of vinyl pressings. so a minimalist approach to the music and recording results in the best sounding pressings.....analog, digital or direct to disc.

i have a number of dsd sourced vinyl albums. they are fine. but generally i prefer the dsd source files. although not always. same with PCM. it's a mixed result. probably comes down to the process variables. not any ultimate truth.

and i think it's silly to somehow favor dsd over PCM as the better digital format for a vinyl pressing.

so Paul's dsd sourced vinyl 45 rpm pressings might sound excellent.......but that proves absolutely nothing. he is just posting stuff to get attention from his fans. like previous shots he has taken. and this thread is proof it's working.:rolleyes: we are talking about it.
 
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Sep 10, 2013
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Greater Boston
#5
Paul kindly and comprehensively replied:

It’s a great question and one I love. The perfect vinyl purebred is a direct to disc on the cutting lathe. The way Sheffield used to do it with live musicians playing while a cutting engineer made the vinyl master. That’s an art beyond what we can do, especially since we do not even own a cutting lathe.​
The next best purebred which, is typical, would be to have recorded the tracks on an analog tape machine and then transferred over to vinyl. That’s pure analog. But, here’s the thing. It’s not as good as DSD to vinyl. DSD isn’t “digital” as PCM is. It’s as close to analog as you can get and sounds better than tape.​
So yes, it’s a “mutt” but a mutt that’s better sounding than the purebred in my second example.​
---------------------------------------------------------------------

Do you think Paul is correct?

Do you agree with him that a DSD recording of a performance which is released on vinyl ultimately sounds better and more realistic (i.e., provides a greater suspension of disbelief) than an analog tape recording of that same performance which is released on vinyl?

Why does Paul believe that "DSD isn't 'digital' as PCM is"?
Interesting, Ron, great thread.

Of course, when Paul says,

"But, here’s the thing. It’s not as good as DSD to vinyl. DSD isn’t “digital” as PCM is. It’s as close to analog as you can get and sounds better than tape.",

he completely contradicts himself.

In an earlier comment, on which you had started a thread,

https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/the-sound-of-analog-the-sound-of-digital.31038/

he claimed,

"There’s no such thing as the sound of analog and digital. They are antiquated terms . . .".

This is not in accord with the claim "PCM is more digital".
 
Sep 10, 2013
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Greater Boston
#6
DSD is very close to analog tape as far as being 1 bit recording.
How so? What does 1 bit recording have to do with analog?
 
Sep 10, 2013
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Greater Boston
#8

Mike Lavigne

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#9
another way to look at this is to compare a 30ips, 1/2" analog tape work part to a 4xdsd work part from the same mic feed.

i can and have done that in my system.

while the 4xdsd work part is wonderful on it's own; game, set, match to the 30ips, 1/2". not really very close. which is the source for the pressings. lot's of variables in the mastering/pressing process so all sorts of anecdotal results are possible. but the format ceiling differences are easy to hear.

and you can also go to 1 inch 2-track 30ips tape too.
 
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Atmasphere

[Industry Expert]
May 4, 2010
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#10
Seems the extended bandwidth and the nature of DSD are upsetting the cutting lathes.
This is highly unlikely! My cutter (Westerex 3D) goes up to 40KHz easily enough (and is bandwidth limited above that frequency). Microphones don't even have bandwidth that high so what could possibly be up there that is causing a problem?? Digital noise? If so, yikes! We've mastered mostly from digital files and not run into anything like that; that suggests something wrong with the DSD stuff. So I really don't believe the above statement to be true.
 

Carlos269

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Mar 21, 2012
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#11
the format ceiling differences are easy to hear.
Interesting choice of words there; The frequency response of magnetic tape is between 30 Hz and 15 kHz and the dynamic range of magnetic tape is 55dB, while DSD can deliver a dynamic range of 120 dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz and an extended frequency response up to 100 kHz.......... In other words, magnetic tape has a resolution of approximately 9 bits, even at 30ips it can only deliver 12-13 bits of real performance in terms of resolution.

Having said that, because of it’s non-linearities: saturation, compression of the high frequencies, harmonics (low frequency distortions) and irregular phase response characteristic, coupled with replay-head’s bass bump, tape does sound wonderfully warm and ironically dynamic.

Magnetic tape is compromised at both ends: at low levels, the magnetic field in tape has to reach the minimum threshold to be effective (the hysteresis effect) and at high levels magnetic tape will experience saturation compression.

The take away is, no matter how pleasant and enjoyable magnetic tape sounds, it is no match for digital DSD signal capture. I think that you said it best, when it comes to the intrinsic potential of the two formats.......it is “not really very close”!
 
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Mike Lavigne

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#12
Interesting choice of words there; The frequency response of magnetic tape is between 30 Hz and 15 kHz and the dynamic range of magnetic tape is 55dB, while DSD can deliver a dynamic range of 120 dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz and an extended frequency response up to 100 kHz.......... In other words, magnetic tape has a resolution of approximately 9 bits, even at 30ips it can only deliver 12-13 bits of real performance in terms of resolution.

Having said that, because of it’s non-linearities: saturation, compression of the high frequencies, harmonics (low frequency distortions) and irregular phase response characteristic, coupled with replay-head’s bass bump, tape does sound wonderfully warm and ironically dynamic.

Magnetic tape is compromised at both ends: at low levels, the magnetic field in tape has to reach the minimum threshold to be effective (the hysteresis effect) and at high levels magnetic tape will experience saturation compression.

The take away is, no matter how pleasant and enjoyable magnetic tape sounds, it is no match for digital DSD signal capture. I think that you said it best, when it comes to the intrinsic potential of the two formats.......it is “not really very close”!
tell us about your recent 1/2", 30ips tape comparisons with 4xdsd using the same source mic feed, please. maybe you are hearing something different than i'm hearing?
 

Carlos269

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Mar 21, 2012
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#13
tell us about your recent 1/2", 30ips tape comparisons with 4xdsd using the same source mic feed, please. maybe you are hearing something different than i'm hearing?
Please remind me where I said that I have done recent comparisons. As I said in my post, no doubt that tape playback has an alluring sound but if you are going to record/capture and transfer an event, why wouldn’t you choose the more accurate and capable format? It is high-fidelity after all isn’t it?

For the record, I have not had my 30ips modified reel-to-reel deck for many, many years now, since it was replaced by three custom designed in-house 20-bit DASH machines from Sony Classical Music studios in New York City, where they were used to archive their most treasured recordings; so what do I know????
 
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Mike Lavigne

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#14
Please remind me where I said that I have done recent comparisons. As I said in my post, no doubt that tape playback has an alluring sound but if you are going to record/capture and transfer an event, why wouldn’t you choose the most accurate format? It is high-fidelity after all isn’t it?
my ears prefer the completeness of analog tape to the accuracy at points in time of digital. high fidelity is a subjective concern.......it's art......not numbers. just my opinion.

For the record, I have not had my 30ips modified reel-to-reel deck for many, many years now, since it was replaced by three custom designed in-house 20-bit DASH machines from Sony Classical Music studios in New York City, where they were used to archive their most treasured recordings; so what do I know????
fair enough.

but.......if you have not used magnetic tape for years how can you claim any sort of credibility regarding how it compares to dsd?
 

Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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#15
. . . no doubt that tape playback has an alluring sound but if you are going to record/capture and transfer an event, why wouldn’t you choose the most accurate format?

. . .
I think the answer to that question depends upon your objective.

If you are trying to "recreate the sound of an original musical event" you might prefer analog tape.

If you are trying to implement a theory about the technical superiority of digital recording -- a very different objective than maximizing the suspension of disbelief in the reproduced sound -- you might prefer digital recording.

PS: I am not sure I would rely on a giant consumer electronics company to provide an authoritative answer to the subjective question "what sounds best?"
 

Carlos269

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Mar 21, 2012
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#17
I think the answer to that question depends upon your objective.

If you are trying to "recreate the sound of an original musical event" you might prefer analog tape.

If you are trying to implement a theory about the technical superiority of digital recording -- a very different objective than maximizing the suspension of disbelief in the reproduced sound -- you might prefer digital recording.

PS: I am not sure I would rely on a giant consumer electronics company to provide an authoritative answer to the subjective question "what sounds best?"
Ron, no disrespect intended but I can tell from your posts and responses that you do not have a technical background and having an objective exchange with you may not be worthy of my time, sorry. I will pass on attempting to convey technical subject matter to someone who obviously approaches everything subjectively. Yes I know that music is art, but sound recording and reproduction is science.
 

Mike Lavigne

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#18

Carlos269

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Mar 21, 2012
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#19
Mike, I guess that you did not snap to it. Oh well, good luck with defending your next assertive statement.

I came to the forum today to have an intellectual exchange of ideas and information but I think that I’m just going to go back to listening to some music.

Enjoy the rest of your day.
 

Mike Lavigne

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Apr 25, 2010
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#20
same old Carlos.
 
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