The Sound of Analog, the Sound of Digital

PeterA

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Totally worthless (the absolute 92 degree thing, not Fremer!), but a reasonable starting point. It really depends on your tolerance and what you are after. Once again, perfect can be the enemy of good.

BTW, I have a virtually new USB scope if anyone is interested. All that is required is that you pay the postage. Happy to donate it to anyone who would find it useful.

I agree Marty. 92° is at best a good starting point from there one must go by ear. The USB scope is good for taking photographs of your styli.
 
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Lagonda

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I agree Marty. 92° is at best a good starting point from there one must go by ear. The USB scope is good for taking photographs of your styli.
And if you can not hear the difference of 2-3 playing cards when setting VTA, your analog system is useless or you ears faulty, and you should just listen to digital ;)
 

MadFloyd

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And if you can not hear the difference of 2-3 playing cards when setting VTA, your analog system is useless or you ears faulty, and you should just listen to digital ;)

I can hear the difference and it is not that subtle. I don’t think you have any clue what you’re talking about.
 

Lagonda

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I consider the cards a great way of setting VTA.
 
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tima

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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.

Hey - your style is your style - don't apologize.

There may not be winners or losers, but some equipment is better than others.
 

tima

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Yes, when there is perfect harmony in the universe and the stars line up just the right way and you say just the right incantation, you can achieve some magic with LP playback that may otherwise be elusive. But Jeez, what pain in the ass. Really.

Living La Vida Vinyl
 

Ron Resnick

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For what it's worth, here is a 1995 quote from famous jazz recording engineer Rudy van Gelder *) about digital vs. LP:

"The biggest distorter is the LP itself. I've made thousands of LP masters. I used to make 17 a day, with two lathes going simultaneously, and I'm glad to see the LP go. As far as I'm concerned, good riddance. It was a constant battle to try to make that music sound the way it should. It was never any good. And if people don't like what they hear in digital, they should blame the engineer who did it. Blame the mastering house. Blame the mixing engineer. That's why some digital recordings sound terrible, and I'm not denying that they do, but don't blame the medium."

Source:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudy_Van_Gelder

_______________________

*) From Wikipedia:
Over more than half a century, he recorded several thousand sessions, with musicians including John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Lee Morgan, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver and Grant Green. He worked with many different record companies, and recorded almost every session on Blue Note Records from 1953 to 1967.

I'll see your Rudy van Gelder and raise you a Doug Sax.

(Is this proper poker talk?)
 

Ron Resnick

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To begin, Rudy van Gelder is not the first to have said this. The last sentence is basically a direct quote from Ken Kreisel (of M&K fame) who I remember said this in the late 80's.

Rudy indeed has a good point about LPs but doesn't expand (at least not in the quote) as to a major reasons why LP's are a flawed medium which are namely, that the equipment to reproduce what's in those grooves is a nightmare waiting to happen, plain and simple. To begin, the pivoted tonearm is a distortion producing device, period. This has been discussed ad nauseum and no need to repeat it here. It is simply a fact. Tracking angle error produces distortion. It's not voodoo. It's science. For that reason alone, a straight arm design is advantageous, but how many of us are using one of those? (which also have potential problems since execution is just as important as theoretical considerations). But it's much worse than that. For example, if you think that the VTA is perfect for all record weights (i.e. thickness) then we are just going to agree to disagree. To me, it's actually one of the best reasons to use 2 tonearms on a TT. Set each one for different record thicknesses (i.e. reg vs 180 gm vs 200 gm etc). (Why have only one distortion producing device when you can have two!)

What’s worse, even for records of identical thickness, depending on the cutting head that was used, the optimum VTA can vary from record label to record label and from record to record. Strike two. Want more? Let’s talk azimuth, which has to take into account VTA, tracking weight, and believing that every damn stylus was mounted to perfection as to have the stylus aligned exactly 90 degrees to the top of the cartridge. If you think this happens with 100% certainty, I wonder how you feel about the earth being flat or climate change? The list goes on. VTA is sensitive to such incremental increments that adjusting it with 200 micron thick playing cards is sheer lunacy. 10 microns makes a very real difference! Not a believer? Well, then tell me what system you are using for adjustment to refute this. Some tonearms allow this sort of precision adjustment. Once heard, it's hard to refute. (And also, unfortunately, it makes your audio life much more miserable.) Even more pathetic, once you hear the difference that 20 microns might make, you might have to choose among two options of which neither might not be "perfect" ( a meaningless word in this case). For example, one setting may make bass a bit more robust, but you might lose a bit of air on the strings. So what then is the "right" setting for musical truth? I'll tell you this. Whatever it is, it is probably going to change for the next record you play. Want more?

Let’s talk about anti-skate. I almost don’t know how I ‘m going to live without finally breaking down and getting a scope and looking at distortion using test signals although for now I’m doing it by ear using some well-trodden test records (Hi- Fi News, Cardas, etc) and music. But a part of me knows the sound is probably not perfect and even worse, probably changes across the single side of an LP. Another small imperfection in a very flawed system.

Keep in mind we’re not even going to talk about wow and flutter, bearing noise, warped records, out of round records and host of other trivial and not so trivial matters (i.e. racks, footers, etc) that can wreck havoc on this beloved relic of a reproduction medium.

Here’s the bottom line. The first take-away is that if you think your LP set-up is perfectly optimized, you’re probably 1) generally wrong and/or 2) possibly correct for at least 1 LP. But for all your LPs? Almost certainly not. Next take away. I understand why many folks, particularly those that have a superb server/DAC, often defer to that medium more and more for their daily music dose. Simply put, it's just flat out easier, and if it's done well, can be both highly enjoyable and the far less anxiety generating medium especially if you have the obsessional/ compulsive gene as some of us do :eek:. Final take away. Yes, when there is perfect harmony in the universe and the stars line up just the right way and you say just the right incantation, you can achieve some magic with LP playback that may otherwise be elusive. But Jeez, what pain in the ass. Really.


Vinyl recording and playback is a total mess, what with dragging a sharp stick through a lacquer and positive/negative stamping impressions and the near rocket-science requirements of null geometry and then dragging another stick through plastic so it crashes and careens around grooves only atoms wide enough for coils to generate a voltage which must be amplified by 60dB or more, and the stick is attached to a wobbly tonearm fastened to a box with a motor which has to spin at exactly the right speed, and the whole set-up is soaking in an invisible sea of acoustic vibration . . .

The entire affair is an absurdly primitive, organic, low-tech, non-linear, difficult-to-replicate mess of Rube Goldberg proportions.

But then why to this day is it still the most realistic sounding and emotionally satisfying music reproduction system ever devised? :p
 
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marty

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But then why to this day is it still the most realistic sounding music reproduction system ever devised? :p

Because when it works to perfection, it can bring joy and ecstasy to music listening! Nobody ever denies this!
To add a wrinkle, however, I think we can agree that some folks consider tape the "most realistic sounding reproduction system"!
 
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andromedaaudio

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Vinyl recording and playback is a total mess, what with dragging a sharp stick through a lacquer and positive/negative stamping impressions and the near rocket-science requirements of null geometry and then dragging another stick through plastic so it crashes and careens around grooves only atoms wide enough for coils to generate a voltage which must be amplified by 60dB or more, and the stick is attached to a wobbly tonearm fastened to a box with a motor which has to spin at exactly the right speed, and the whole set-up is soaking in an invisible sea of acoustic vibration . . .

The entire affair is an absurdly primitive, organic, low-tech, non-linear, difficult-to-replicate mess of Rube Goldberg proportions.

But then why to this day is it still the most realistic sounding music reproduction system ever devised? :p

Indeed its a wonder it sounds as good as it does , if implemented correctly .
I do think tape if done right has the edge though (at least has the potential ).
Plus the sonic outcome is very predictable , put a tape on and press a button :p
Only demagnetize the heads once in while , and clean a bit

Although i must say with my new levinson dac , digital does have its own charmes , its just different
 
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microstrip

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(...) But then why to this day is it still the most realistic sounding music reproduction system ever devised? :p


I can imagine many reasons:

1) Because most audiophiles who love to write in provocative style have no proper experience with top multichannel. Although I prefer stereo I consider it more realistic than stereo.

2) Because no system approaches reality and we simply pick our preferred as the most realistic sounding system.

3) Because we trained to consider so along many years.

4) Because we just want to go on listening to the same music of the past recorded in vinyl forever.

5) Because in sound reprodcution we look mostly for enjoyment, not for reality.
 
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microstrip

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(...) To add a wrinkle, however, I think we can agree that some folks consider tape the "most realistic sounding reproduction system!

A dangerous statement ;) - if we admit that tape is more realistic than vinyl we are very close to find that top digital can be closer to tape than vinyl. Surely if we add a tailored tape preamplifier the gap increases.
 

Tango

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5) Because in sound reprodcution we look mostly for enjoyment, not for reality.
Not mostly Professor. Totally. Nobody except a wacko looks for reality in sound reproduction. The moment you turn on the switch you know exactly what you are hearing. But some add a little extra desire to look for a small "reminiscent" of reality too, me included. ;)
 
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Mike Lavigne

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Not mostly Professor. Totally. Nobody except a wacko looks for reality in sound reproduction. The moment you turn on the switch you know exactly what you are hearing. But some add a little extra desire to look for a small "reminiscent" of reality too, me included. ;)

i think we consciously pursue whatever that feeling, that is commonly referred to as 'suspension of disbelief', where the hair stands up on the back of our neck and the music crosses over some threshold experientially. it comes 'alive'. not to be confused with actual 'live'.

so for me; enjoyment = sounding 'alive'.

and this feeling is accessed much more commonly and deeply with vinyl or the right tape.

i seriously pursued multi-channel music for a number of years. my room was purpose built with multi-channel SACD in mind. it never provided 'suspension of disbelief' in the realm of my vinyl. never. so i moved on. too left brain and too many moving pieces, and the format just falls short on information (that matters).

the objective issues are not relevant to me. in that way i agree it's purely about enjoyment.
 
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MadFloyd

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dminches

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I don’t understand the value of the digital vs. analog argument. Either you prefer one or the other and that’s what you listen to more. Does it really matter why? I like both but prefer analog.
 
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dminches

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Why do you prefer analog?

I prefer how it sounds. I could try to come up with words to describe it but they may mean something different to me than it does to others. I will say that I get more emotionally engaged with analog music than digital.
 

stehno

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"For what it is worth" is an interesting way to put it, Al. I have no idea what this opinion is worth.

Van Gelder is telling us that some digital recordings sound terrible and that we should blame the engineer, the mastering house, and the mixing engineer, but not the medium. For a while now, at least on this forum, members who prefer digital have been trying to argue that the medium is not to blame for the sound being less than perfect, it is the flawed implementation. The implementation seems to be improving, so audiophiles seem to be increasingly appreciate the sound of digital, though no one has yet suggested that is lives up to the promise of being "perfect".

That is wonderful, but why are we being told to blame the professionals behind the digital recordings? Have they lost their skills from those of the past generation? Were the recording engineers, the mastering houses, and the mixing engineers, van Gelder among them, better during the analog era? We refer to that time as the "golden era" of recordings. Is that why some of us still prefer analog sources, despite all of its very obvious flaws, to digital with its now near-perfected implementation? Is it really just the professionals behind the recordings that make the difference? I do not understand the point of this quote nor its worth in this thread.

I happen to think some of those recordings for which van Gelder was responsible and that he now so easily dismisses with good riddance, sound awfully good to me. My ears must be faulty or I must be missing something.

Nice post, Peter. No format is perfect since a format / recording medium contains the counterfeit of an original. That in mind, without hesitation I've no problem stating that the early marketers of Redbook PCM CD's and their claims "perfect sound forever" weren't very far off the mark after all. Even though they may not have fully realized it at the time I'm pretty confident their "perfect sound forever" slogan may be one of the most truthful and accurate marketing slogans ever to pass thru this industry overloaded with hype.

As for blaming others, I suspect many high-end audio enthusiasts have no problem blaming others for potential shortcomings because if they didn't, they'd have only themselves left to blame. Seriously. And for some-to-many, that's just not an option. Frankly, I'm rather surprised at the overall consistent good-or-better recordings over the decades.

Sure there are many recordings less stellar than others regardless of genre or age but I also attest for those who give much thought / consideration toward assembling a superior playback system, the vast majority of recordings over the decades have volumes of musicality just dying to be heard.


I'll leave you with this far less-than-stellar but still musical Redbook recording from the 60's. I may have overloaded the recording mic a bit here and there, but I think my point is made.
 
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microstrip

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Not mostly Professor. Totally. Nobody except a wacko looks for reality in sound reproduction. The moment you turn on the switch you know exactly what you are hearing. But some add a little extra desire to look for a small "reminiscent" of reality too, me included. ;)

Well, it seems to me some people want more than just a small "reminiscent" of reality ... ;)
 

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