The Sound of Analog, the Sound of Digital

On his PS Audio blog today Paul McGowan posted a piece titled: "The meaning of analog." Paul writes: "There’s no such thing as the sound of analog and digital. They are antiquated terms . . ."

Paul of course is not disputing the existence of the different technologies of analog recording and digital recording, or of the existence of mechanical and electronic differences between analog playback systems and digital playback systems. I believe he is suggesting that whatever the mechanical or electronic differences between how analog music and digital music are created and played back, it is antiquated to think about or to describe a sound as being inherently analog or inherently digital.

What do you think about this?

Is Paul correct in your view?

Are (the sound of) "analog" and (the sound of) "digital" antiquated terms? studio.jpg
 
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Comments

spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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Paul’s next firmware update will fix the organic orange taste so all oranges will taste equally bad so no one cares
Does chocolate mousse with orange count in this discussion? Because our pubs have just opened, and i had THE most amazing example.
 

Alrainbow

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Dec 12, 2013
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... about Paul's firmware update?
I owned Paul’s dacs started with his perfect wave two. It was best of what I had then. but got killed quickly when I found lampizator. Then came the direct stream. In my view his first dac that then killed my Lampi back then. His first unreleased firmware to be was among the best for two years or so. the firmware I had was full of bugs and did not have all Features when his first approved release. what I had was just for in house Not to be given as I did not.then I got my Lampi made over and it then killed the ds and it sat in a box. Paul makes good solid products at a good price point. But it’s not what feel more then entry level Hifi. If someone says analog is not on par with digital or owns what I and many feel is midfi you can’t argue or even help. We all myself included must rise when ready
 

the sound of Tao

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Paul makes a fine product for its price point
But to be honest a cheap used TT would show how far off his stuff is. his point is make one feel better in that his digital is close enough. so it’s an Orange rhat matters less as I see it.
There’s plenty of cheap analogue and also cheap digital that is actually quite crap... very rare that in either medium that cheap is deeply involving and much of it is simply not particularly that bearable. If OK floats your boat then there are lots of choices out there.

There only a relatively small number of options that are available on either side of the great analogue digital divide that approach both truly natural, musical and have moments of approaching realness. Truth is most sources are quite flawed and only a small percentage of sources really take you deeply into both the music and the truth. Average analogue is just as ordinary... just less immediately painful. Let’s not romanticise. Great sources are genuinely rare. That’s why we go through all of this.
 
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May 30, 2010
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(...) There only a relatively small number of options that are available on either side of the great analogue digital divide that approach both truly natural, musical and have moments of approaching realness. Truth is most sources are quite flawed and only a small percentage of sources really take you deeply into both the music and the truth. Average analogue is just as ordinary... just less immediately painful. Let’s not romanticise. Great sources are genuinely rare. That’s why we go through all of this.
Interesting. What is meant by "great sources"? Sources that please our current preference? Picked by a WBF poll? IMHO we can't separate the "greatness" of sources from the system being used and particularly, the musical preferences of the listener. I think that this type of general comment ("most sources are quite flawed and only a small percentage of sources really take you deeply into both the music and the truth.") becomes quantitatively inaccurate as soon as we start nominating brands and models. Besides again IMHO there is no truth in stereo.

It seems I am more optimist than you on the individual equipment, but I recognize that system matching in stereo is also an art. Besides again IMHO there is no subjective truth in stereo.:)
 

wil

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Jul 22, 2015
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I definitely hear a difference between analog and digital. Night and day. I prefer the analog sound. That’s not to say digital sounds bad. It doesn’t. Analog just seems to provide a warmer, crisper sound in my opinion. That being said I listen to and enjoy both analog and digital.
"Night and Day?" It's hard for me to take descriptions like that very seriously. It get's down to how deeply one had optimized their playback chain for both digital and analog. I think MikeL is a good example of someone who has pushed hard on both fronts, and while he still regards his analog as his ultimate experience, he rates his digital as very high quality when comparing good source material.

From all reliable reports, digital has come far in closing the previous yawning gap to the best analog. I wouldn't be surprised , given the nature of technology, if digital playback were to accelerate at a faster rate than analog in coming years. Just speculating....
 

the sound of Tao

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Interesting. What is meant by "great sources"? Sources that please our current preference? Picked by a WBF poll? IMHO we can't separate the "greatness" of sources from the system being used and particularly, the musical preferences of the listener. I think that this type of general comment ("most sources are quite flawed and only a small percentage of sources really take you deeply into both the music and the truth.") becomes quantitatively inaccurate as soon as we start nominating brands and models. Besides again IMHO there is no truth in stereo.

It seems I am more optimist than you on the individual equipment, but I recognize that system matching in stereo is also an art. Besides again IMHO there is no subjective truth in stereo.:)
In the start of things and at the end of things the truth sits. Interesting... as an opportunity for what? In so many ways if humble was the true nature of an opinion there would perhaps not be the closing punctuation of a smile but simply the position of a paragraph framed by a question mark.

In subjectivity there is no quantity... but there is quality and there can be truth but just that it is particular rather than universal... and in truth I also simply expressed an opinion within the limits of any and always this is simply bound by preference.

But I suggest that crap can then also just be crap.

I am not the first nor the last to express an opinion and it is genuinely no more or less humble than most and I definitely wouldn’t pretend to proclaim this position as anything else.

My posts don’t aim to be competitive nor do I seek to undermine to raise my position. I come at this as honestly as any and perhaps more truthfully than even some.

So what is the truth of humble motivation. Perhaps it isn’t just about the self nor is it ever too serious. This is a simple and joyful hobby dominated by opinion. My motivation is always to seek understanding and for me it’s never more about winning the debate. What joy is there in that?

So perhaps how we begin and punctuate a paragraph creates an understanding of the motivation contained within. There is little greatness in anything that starts and ends in a way that is not also in truth humble.... and putting an o in something doesn’t then make it soooooo.
 
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Lagonda

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In the start of things and at the end of things the truth sits. Interesting... as an opportunity for what? In so many ways if humble was the true nature of an opinion there would perhaps not be the closing punctuation of a smile but simply the position of a paragraph framed by a question mark.

In subjectivity there is no quantity... but there is quality and there can be truth but just that it is particular rather than universal... and in truth I also simply expressed an opinion within the limits of any and always this is simply bound by preference.

But I suggest that crap can then also just be crap.

I am not the first nor the last to express an opinion and it is genuinely no more or less humble than most and I definitely wouldn’t pretend to proclaim this position as anything else.

My posts don’t aim to be competitive nor do I seek to undermine to raise my position. I come at this as honestly as any and perhaps more truthfully than even some.

So what is the truth of humble motivation. Perhaps it isn’t just about the self nor is it ever too serious. This is a simple and joyful hobby dominated by opinion. My motivation is always to seek understanding and for me it’s never more about winning the debate. What joy is there in that?

So perhaps how we begin and punctuate a paragraph creates an understanding of the motivation contained within. There is little greatness in anything that starts and ends in a way that is not also in truth humble.... and putting an o in something doesn’t then make it soooooo.
And still using his debating superpowers for good !:)
 
May 30, 2010
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In the start of things and at the end of things the truth sits. Interesting... as an opportunity for what? In so many ways if humble was the true nature of an opinion there would perhaps not be the closing punctuation of a smile but simply the position of a paragraph framed by a question mark.

In subjectivity there is no quantity... but there is quality and there can be truth but just that it is particular rather than universal... and in truth I also simply expressed an opinion within the limits of any and always this is simply bound by preference.

But I suggest that crap can then also just be crap.

I am not the first nor the last to express an opinion and it is genuinely no more or less humble than most and I definitely wouldn’t pretend to proclaim this position as anything else.

My posts don’t aim to be competitive nor do I seek to undermine to raise my position. I come at this as honestly as any and perhaps more truthfully than even some.

So what is the truth of humble motivation. Perhaps it isn’t just about the self nor is it ever too serious. This is a simple and joyful hobby dominated by opinion. My motivation is always to seek understanding and for me it’s never more about winning the debate. What joy is there in that?

So perhaps how we begin and punctuate a paragraph creates an understanding of the motivation contained within. There is little greatness in anything that starts and ends in a way that is not also in truth humble.... and putting an o in something doesn’t then make it soooooo.
My apology for my style, please focus on the message and ignore the smile - I will avoid it next time.

I fully agree with you this is a simple and joyful hobby dominated by opinion. It is also why I am an optimist on equipment. I do not think that there are winners or loosers in our debates.

I agree with some of your points but we disagree on the approach that "most sources are flawed". I think most products are very good or very good quality. And dislike putting on the throne a few favorites as being the "great". Surely it is me , many people will disagree with me and I respect it.
 

Atmasphere

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As I said, I am not going to relitigate technical misunderstandings about how digital works. I am not an expert either, but with the help of experts I understand digital theory now sufficiently to know that claims of "distortion above 8 kHz" or the like are nonsense (and my ears tell.me the same). Read the thread that I suggested.
Aliasing would be considered distortion in any analog system.

fun anecdote: When I worked at the Allied Radio Shack service department, often I would come in at 9:AM since I could (8:30 was too early). And quite often I would feel like my head was in a really powerful vise until I made it to the alarm system and shut it down because others arriving earlier forgot to. It was an early ultrasonic system, and the horn/emitter operated at 24KHz. Yeah- I couldn't hear it but I could feel it with ease. The shop was nearly 1/2 block long and even if I got at the other end of it I could still hear the damn thing. When I was tested, I tested good up to 22KHz until well into my 30s. These days that top octave is long gone, but IME your idea of human hearing just stopping at 20KHz is so much nonsense. If you want to believe that, fine, but its not real. Humans like so many other things are really variable.
 

morricab

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My apology for my style, please focus on the message and ignore the smile - I will avoid it next time.

I fully agree with you this is a simple and joyful hobby dominated by opinion. It is also why I am an optimist on equipment. I do not think that there are winners or loosers in our debates.

I agree with some of your points but we disagree on the approach that "most sources are flawed". I think most products are very good or very good quality. And dislike putting on the throne a few favorites as being the "great". Surely it is me , many people will disagree with me and I respect it.
We are on opposite ends then because I think that most gear is poor sounding...even the really expensive stuff. By poor, I don't mean that it is unlistenable necessarily (although there is plenty of that, IMO) but that it does a poor job of approximating real, live music even if it ticks all the right "hifi" boxes. So, I would agree with Tao that most sources are flawed but I would go further that most gear is flawed...period.
 

Al M.

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Aliasing would be considered distortion in any analog system.
Sure, but that's a practical problem, not one baked into how digital is supposed to work. Also, the poster who made the claim seemed to have other supposed flaws in mind that were allegedly intrinsic to digital, but instead are based on misunderstandings of digital theory.
 

the sound of Tao

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And still using his debating superpowers for good !:)
Lol ... or perhaps because of the simple attraction of wearing cape and underpants on the outside. Just as in my avatar there are equal parts of darkness and light in there I am also figuring.
 
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We are on opposite ends then because I think that most gear is poor sounding...even the really expensive stuff. By poor, I don't mean that it is unlistenable necessarily (although there is plenty of that, IMO) but that it does a poor job of approximating real, live music even if it ticks all the right "hifi" boxes. So, I would agree with Tao that most sources are flawed but I would go further that most gear is flawed...period.
Yes, I know about your opinion about sources and gear, in general.

Can I suggest that stereo, the system , does a poor job of approximating real, live music? In fact, the system is illusionary and relies on the listener experience and good will to enjoy the sound reproduction. I found that both binaural and multichannel are a better approximation of reality, but currently for me, less enjoyable.

Do you also think that most stereo recordings are poor sounding?
 

the sound of Tao

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Jul 18, 2014
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My apology for my style, please focus on the message and ignore the smile - I will avoid it next time.

I fully agree with you this is a simple and joyful hobby dominated by opinion. It is also why I am an optimist on equipment. I do not think that there are winners or loosers in our debates.

I agree with some of your points but we disagree on the approach that "most sources are flawed". I think most products are very good or very good quality. And dislike putting on the throne a few favorites as being the "great". Surely it is me , many people will disagree with me and I respect it.
All of our styles build diversity and the character of our association so that’s always a valuable part of culture.

It is completely an individual thing this notion of what is truly great. There is much greatness in parts across many things but the truly great kind of strikes me as a holistic assessment of those rare things that most everyone then see as having more of a complete and possibly lasting greatness.

I do see that most everything is flawed but also never see this as an issue. There is for me just the tipping point into rightness of components and more importantly of system which isn’t really anything about things being at all flawless. My gear is great for me but nothing sits in it that is flawless. For me it’s like recognising great distinction, it’s not really common but what many can still have can be just great to be with.

What drives some of us I figure can be about chasing those things without flaw and for others it can more be about just those things that are essentially true and of great value and that this has nothing to do with also then being flawless. I’m always in that latter mode.

None of this is black and white for me at any rate and we’re always somewhere in that middle of truth.
 
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morricab

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Sure, but that's a practical problem, not one baked into how digital is supposed to work. Also, the poster who made the claim seemed to have other supposed flaws in mind that were allegedly intrinsic to digital, but instead are based on misunderstandings of digital theory.
The biggest flaw in digital is likely jitter. It is inherent in the concept it seems and it’s audibility was never anticipated by the original architects of the technology.. Aliasing is inherent as well, which is why they quickly went to oversampling to push artifacts further outside the audio band. This also allowed something other than brick wall filters, which also messed up the sound.
 
May 30, 2010
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Aliasing would be considered distortion in any analog system.

fun anecdote: When I worked at the Allied Radio Shack service department, often I would come in at 9:AM since I could (8:30 was too early). And quite often I would feel like my head was in a really powerful vise until I made it to the alarm system and shut it down because others arriving earlier forgot to. It was an early ultrasonic system, and the horn/emitter operated at 24KHz. Yeah- I couldn't hear it but I could feel it with ease. The shop was nearly 1/2 block long and even if I got at the other end of it I could still hear the damn thing. When I was tested, I tested good up to 22KHz until well into my 30s. These days that top octave is long gone, but IME your idea of human hearing just stopping at 20KHz is so much nonsense. If you want to believe that, fine, but its not real. Humans like so many other things are really variable.
Usually physiological data is generic, not individual, and the 20 kHz, independently of level, is assumed for most of the population - and only to young people with undamaged ears. But there are reports of a very few exceptional people being able to listen up to 22 and even 24.5 kHz.

The 20 KHz limit is admitted at an high level - at 60 dB SPL this boundary level reduces to around 17.6 kHz.
 

Solypsa

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In line with @Atmasphere, in my opinion the better way to discuss hf above 20khz is 'can it affect humans' not 'can we reliably test for the ability to hear it'. Of course any science dedicated to this topic is probably very far removed from quality audio...
 

Atmasphere

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Sure, but that's a practical problem, not one baked into how digital is supposed to work. Also, the poster who made the claim seemed to have other supposed flaws in mind that were allegedly intrinsic to digital, but instead are based on misunderstandings of digital theory.
Yes. IME I've found that stuff usually works sort of like its supposed to. That 'sort of' bit is where the trouble lies; seriously its why the analog/digital thing is still raging on the internet.

Usually physiological data is generic, not individual, and the 20 kHz, independently of level, is assumed for most of the population - and only to young people with undamaged ears. But there are reports of a very few exceptional people being able to listen up to 22 and even 24.5 kHz.

The 20 KHz limit is admitted at an high level - at 60 dB SPL this boundary level reduces to around 17.6 kHz.
Well it was a real headache for me. Literally - I was not being metaphorical when I said that digital audio frequently gave me headaches. I remember coming home from work and I could tell that my wife had the TV on- because I could hear the horizontal oscillator on the front porch, even though the house had good insulation in the walls. I'm grateful to not experience that any more :)
 

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