The best digital and analog have never been closer...and never further apart?

spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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#1
To nail my colours to the mast...I'm a vinyl man first and foremost, for all the time-honoured, over-documented reasons.
But unlike 90% of vinylistas, I went thru many years where my CDs sounded better than my LPs, indeed I de-programmed from the blind belief that digital was always worse, and indeed came to, and to this day still do, contend that the best digital runs vinyl close, beats it in some areas, and indeed cd can be hugely engaging, with no "but if..." caveats.
So far indeed, that my cdp performance spurred me on to maxx out my analog, and now I have great sound from both formats. For my part, the difference in preference is now more down to mastering choices (my Miles "Nefertiti" on lp slays cd, his "On The Corner" romps it on cd) than any more esoteric reasons of vinyl not being a chopped-up waveform, or cd not being limited to only 70-90dB dynamic range.
A great example of my format agnosticism was Blue58 playing a 96kHz version of Nina Simone thru his SGM server, and to this day it gets my vote as most alive piece of music I've heard on a stereo...my vote for digital as a vinyl man.
So, for my part, digital and vinyl now converge in many ways. My cdp is so archetype-free, so tone dense, so timbral faithful, that other than the very worst cds, I never miss my tt when playing cd.
Of course this extends to other great digital.
And my analog setup, in conjunction with the greatest tts out there, really outperforms on micro resolution, bass extension etc, ie where cd traditionally excels.
I feel there is a true convergence of the best of analog and digital that never existed in the 80s or 90s, or even early 00s.
However, as this convergence is establishing, there is a parallel divergence, and its centred around how the best cutting edge digital, and analog, deal with masterings of varying quality/provenance.
This was brought into sharp focus by my time at Blue58 with his newly-acquired Extreme streamer.
So much music on it had all the hallmarks of not just great digital, but the best analog. It's eerie near zero noise floor surely only rivalled by the uber echelon of tts with air bearings, air LT arms. I've "heard" (or is that "not heard") the Vyger tt with multiple levels of air isolation, and the Extreme felt like the nearest digital equivalent. From this silence arose massive resolution including the kind again reserved for the best analog, ie micro cues, studio acoustic, filigree shimmer. Again, the Extreme seemed like the first digital to proudly walk amongst the big beasts of analog. I'd be hard pressed to differentiate low level resolution of the Extreme from the great demos I've been at of SME 20 and 30, Vyger, GP Monaco 1.5, Bergmann Sindre.
And of course, the whole listening experience has to spring from resolution. On this checklist, Extreme seems a radical breakthrough product.
But where I believe there is a divergence, and ironically it's fuelled by Extreme's uber resolution talents, is that where vinyl, incl high resolution examples like Vyger etc, sound stellar on stellar mastered vinyl, vinyl sounds across the board so much warmer and more immersive on mid-fi masterings. I've yet to hear a top tt not allow stuff like 70s Miles Davis, prog and fusion, 80s and 90s metal, to sound immersive and textured/palpable, even if not uber impressive.
When I visited The General to hear Vyger/Red Sparrow/Mayers/Azzolina Sferas tt/tubes/horns system, and we played my compromised Rush and moderately flatly recorded Weather Report, the sound bloomed in the air. Better recorded stuff sounded stratospheric, as you'd expect from a great tt.
Play these mid fi masters thru the Extreme, and the game is up Lol.
Now, my initial conclusion is to agree with owner Barry and designer Emile, and another owner who posted a long review of the unit...Extreme just says it as it is, if the message is unpalatable, don't blame the messenger.
But how can this stuff sound so much more enjoyable, and with just as much detail resolved, on a top tt?
And thus, my question is posed...top analog and digital closer than ever on the things they said in 80s could never be achieved on digital...but this very breakthrough on digital possibly creates a divergence on which medium is palatable across the range of masters out there.
(One caveat...I'm not picking on Extreme, a few months back I heard a custom server with bespoke OS, and the same attributes audible).
Top digital and analog...closer than ever, but greater contrasts developing.
 
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Mike Lavigne

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#2
analog sourced recordings will always be a crap shoot on digital, and later analog recordings with solid state multi-channel signatures even more variable. there are just too many things going on to use 'stressed analog recordings' as any sort of 'truth' for digital rightness.

what exactly are you passing judgment on? what is the 'truth' for those recordings?

judging digital 'rightness' requires digital sourced recordings. yet; we all have our touch stones. for me it's certainly not late 70's and 80's prog!

i do agree that today's top level digital has more in common with vinyl than ever before. but vinyl has jumped ahead again in certain ways too.
 
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spiritofmusic

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#3
The truth is in the listening, Mike.
So, I can listen to Rush and Weather Report on a top class vinyl/tubes/horn system, be aware of shortcomings and yet still be totally engrossed. Listen to Rush and Genesis on the Extreme, and feel the sonics have been picked apart.

I fully take on board the "Golden Age analog recordings on modern digital" argument. If Extreme is highlighting this to the maxx, then that's what I heard at Barry.
 

Mike Lavigne

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#4
The truth is in the listening, Mike.
So, I can listen to Rush and Weather Report on a top class vinyl/tubes/horn system, be aware of shortcomings and yet still be totally engrossed. Listen to Rush and Genesis on the Extreme, and feel the sonics have been picked apart.

I fully take on board the "Golden Age analog recordings on modern digital" argument. If Extreme is highlighting this to the maxx, then that's what I heard at Barry.
the point is exactly that the Extreme in and of itself is not highlighting. not that ancillary gear might not lean it this way or that way. like my "bit perfect"....."no analog output stage" MSB Select 2". you can tune it with various choices, but it does not favor any group of recordings over another. it is a truth sayer. so if you are judging the gear, then find neutral truthful recordings. if you want your 'prog' digital to resemble your vinyl then season to taste. don't blame the messenger.

i get that maybe not everyone would agree that the Extreme or MSB Select II are truth sayers. but it's how i view it. my 'opinion'.
 
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Kingrex

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Feb 4, 2019
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#5
I get immersed in both if the recording is right. I also loose interest in both if it's wrong. At this point, for me, they are both so good I don't really care which I am listening too if I have the right recording on the right source.
 
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Kingrex

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Feb 4, 2019
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#6
I guess another way to put it is, if your going to sit and evaluate then you may end up not happy. You may not relax and enjoy the music as your looking for something. If your sitting to enjoy pleasant music and not thinking about what is or is not there, or how it compares to something else, then either format is so good with the best of the media available you can easily be taken away.
 

Blue58

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Jan 20, 2013
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#7
If Marc wasn’t obsessed with his Rush, Genesis and god knows what other ‘taxing’ music then he may just enjoy and relax listening to the Extreme. :rolleyes:
Lets face it, you cant polish s..t. o_O
 

spiritofmusic

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#8
Barry, it's a good thing I know when your jiving, Lol. Who's the first one to always play Genesis "Los Endos"...your call, every time. And you're not averse to putting Tool on...again, not always my suggestion.

Let me ask you. You love Genesis "Trick/Tail", Yes "Tales/Topographic". I guess you could follow previous advice and just rip them off the cd to hard storage. Life has options, none of them difficult in the grand scheme.

I guess I naively thought that the top class server world was meant to do away with the humble cd?

The bigger point I guess I'm making is that likely more than vinyl, the provenance of Tidal/Qobuz masters really matters with Extreme, maybe more than any other server out there.

How can certain bands be sounding ever poorer on digital as engineers have grown to understand what's required for good sound off "1s and 0s"? Genesis and Rush had fidelity and warmth back in the 70s and 80s. On the basis of what I just heard, way less in 2020.
 

Vienna

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Oct 14, 2018
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#9
I got Gryphon Ethos two weeks ago. It’s an impressive DAC and CD transport with exceptional sound.
However playing the same album on vinyl it’s a totally different emotional world full of engagement and goosebumps.
This was the reasons that I sold my EMM DA2 and my Aurender N10.
Obviously digital has made huge steps to the right direction however it’s still miles behind.
 

spiritofmusic

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#10
Vienna, I'm making a different point. I get what you're saying. My conundrum is that I heard aspects of reproduction on the Extreme that I've only ever heard off the best vinyl. It absolutely mixes it with those big beasts. But it seemed to strip away any artifice from a few tracks we played to the point we had to skip to the next song. Those same songs may not be stellar off lp on a top tt, but they have warmth and verve and texture and immersiveness.

I've just never heard such a contrast in attributes on any component, digital imitating the very best that analog does, while so fussy it makes some music unplayable.

This is the point of the title of my thread...a server playing on analog hallowed ground, but very choosy while at it.

Whenever I've played said challenging vinyl on top tts, I don't detect the same variability.

Mike put it very well, this analog provenance on top digital maybe can't play out/resolve satisfactorily.

Maybe as Extreme proves, stellar digital and stellar analog must co exist, one format can't do it all.

My conclusion is that it's the master provenance that decides whether Extreme is gonna press all your buttons.
 
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dcc

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#11
A friend recently asked me to make him a list of recommended CDs of classical music. I focused on recordings and interpretations that are simply not available on vinyl.

I have spent the whole week listening to CDs through my TAD D600 and I really enjoyed it.

Why would I oppose digital vs. analog as I actually need both to enjoy the music I like? Interpretation of classical music has evolved over time and more particularly baroque music. I cannot miss these wonderful pieces of music because they are solely available on CD/Digital.
 
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Joe Whip

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Feb 8, 2014
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#12
I would propose an experiment. Do needledrops of the vinyl that you think sounds way better than their commercial digital counterparts. I would suggest 24/96. Then compare the needledrop to the vinyl. You just may find the results to be interesting.
 

spiritofmusic

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#13
More critically Joe, hearing a component in your own system. Extreme does appeal to me. So do Bill's horns. Couldn't draw any firm conclusions before a more familiar demo.

But Extreme is now the third server in a row I've heard, ironically all in horns-based systems, where the forensicness of the sound on a lot of my material appears challenging.

That maybe tells me as much about digital audio and digital audio thru horns. Otoh, the half dozen demos I've had of vinyl thru horns have been uniformly impressive and exemplary.

The only digital/horns based sound I love across the board has been Barry's SGM/Duos system. If he can tame or tailor his system to just address the full-on explicitness of the Extreme, I'm hoping my 200% positive verdict on his stellar material can translate over.
 
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Joe Whip

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#14
Take a CD that you thinks doesn’t sound nearly as good as the LP of that given title. Play the LP on the TT and make a needle drop. Then play the needledrop on the same system. I think you just might find that the needledrop captures the magic you hear from the LP. try it. Or don’t. Up to you.
 

spiritofmusic

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#15
No CD-R here. But I get your point.
 

asiufy

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#16
If Marc wasn’t obsessed with his Rush, Genesis and god knows what other ‘taxing’ music then he may just enjoy and relax listening to the Extreme. :rolleyes:
Lets face it, you cant polish s..t. o_O
There are good sounding digital versions of these albums. Marc just hasn't gotten around to finding them. Tidal doesn't cut it, and not only for Rush/Genesis.
 

spiritofmusic

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#17
Alex, I always turn up to Barry, and we play a mix. I pretty much let him pick most of the playlist for a session. Indeed, I even said play Ryan Adams if he wanted to.

So, some stellar analog jazz from 1962, some contemporary digitally mastered soul/fusion, Andres Segovia and Michael Hedges, this I hope passes muster with those criticising my playlist.

I was surprised how good Pink Floyd/Meddle album sounded. On the flip side, Barry informed me Yes and King Crimson massacred.

I'm very happy to play more Eduardo Gismonti, Adrian Legg and John Schofield next time. But since I recall Yes sounding great on stereos in the past, my verdict on cutting edge of streaming has to encompass Michael Hedges AND Yes.

Or are we really all so fussy here now that I'm not to expect Cream, The Who, Frank Zappa, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Santana etc to excel, or at the very least, be immersive.

This is the music I grew up with. I didn't get in to this hobby to be overly selective on my library. My Zu journey is getting me buying ten classical LPs for every rock album, that's good. But for me, the experience at Barry has so got me thinking about the finer details of master quality and whether this negates all the huge positives I heard at the weekend.
 

asiufy

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#19
Marc,
You're not getting it. All these classic albums have many, many CD pressings, of varying quality. Genesis unfortunately has some of the most offensive work done to them on CD (digital), out of all the prog bands. Some of the Yes CDs are bad indeed, but the recent Steven Wilson remixes are amazing, same for King Crimson and Jethro Tull.
Floyd, OTOH, have been generally OK, though there are exceptional versions on CD, like the early 80s Japanese versions.
Same as folks dig for the best pressing on LP, people do the same for CDs. And it's not because the same music is available in a pinch on Tidal/Qobuz, that it should be the version you use to evaluate gear at a friend's place :)
Again, I'm not saying this music can't be "immersive", to use the word you described. But you'd need to go beyond what's available on Tidal/Qobuz for that, most likely. Nothing to do with which speaker you're using, which server, DAC, etc., but something much simpler: the program material.
Other kinds of music don't suffer from poor digital versions as much, so you can safely audition an ECM Gismonti off Qobuz, for instance, without leaving much on the table, performance-wise, vs a proper CD.

cheers,
alex
 

spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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#20
Alex, finally we're getting to it. Because unless I've missed something on the 4000+ posts thread on the Extreme, very little if anything has commented how you just have. All I see is unanimity in praise, which I fully get. Nothing on that thread, or other threads supporting streaming, has described what you have just done.

I guess the next time I hear the Extreme at Barry, we can stick to current contemporary predominantly digitally mastered material that Barry contends sounds great.

And yes, Genesis can be immersive. "Fountain Of Salmacis" on vinyl.
 

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