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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Lagonda

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Good one!
Aren't silicon troughs just a pleasure! Really enhances the hobby, don't you think? :(
I have only lost one record to silicon spillage, regretfully the remastered version of ”Communiqué“ is not as good as the original.:rolleyes:
 

Lagonda

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Only if you bring your phone into your listening room.

I do understand your situation is unique, where your phone is your listening room. ;->
LOL Tim ! :p:p:p
 
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Atmasphere

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Since you address psycho-acoustics, can you refer to a serious study that reports that digital distortions are subjectively different from distortions induced by electronics?
No, but I can point to the simple fact that while digital does not have conventional distortions, it does do aliasing which is a pretty audible form of distortion. That's the brightness so many people hear (the ear converts all forms of distortion into tonality).

I do think tape if done right has the edge though (at least has the potential ).
LP is lower distortion, wider bandwidth and lower noise. Rudy was right on one thing- if the recording sucks you can blame the engineer. Many LPs don't sound as good as the tape for some very good reasons (not the least of them being that a tape was used to make the LP so you're another generation away), but if you were to compare master tape to the master of the LP, you'd find the LP master to be better in every way.

The way I look at all this is the simple fact that the LP is still here. You don't have to know anything about the tech, just the simple fact that the LP is still around (the period of least production was 1992-1993) and increasing in sales is evidence that for what ever reason the digital is supposed tp be better, its failed to supplant/eclipse the prior art. When that sort of thing happens in any market, its a sign that the prior art was not inferior. An example of this might be side valve engines. All engines these days and for quite some time have been overhead valves. That's because they are better in every way so far as reliability and performance are concerned. Digital is obviously not there yet.
 
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No, but I can point to the simple fact that while digital does not have conventional distortions, it does do aliasing which is a pretty audible form of distortion. That's the brightness so many people hear (the ear converts all forms of distortion into tonality). (...)
Surely. But since long aliasing is not an issue of proper digital. I understand people can debate the technical aspects of analog sound reproduction of the 80's , but I am interested in learning about the digital sound reproduction of the 2000's, not the early digital.

It seems to me that the stereo sound reproduction science fossilized since long. Almost no one has carried controlled listening tests in stereo since long - but the old myths, coming from good science developed at an age where distortions and noise were orders of magnitude higher than what is possible today, still want to rule.

(...) The way I look at all this is the simple fact that the LP is still here. You don't have to know anything about the tech, just the simple fact that the LP is still around (the period of least production was 1992-1993) and increasing in sales is evidence that for what ever reason the digital is supposed tp be better, its failed to supplant/eclipse the prior art.
Should we remember that the increase of LP sales is mostly due to LPs issued from digital carriers? Only a few facilities have true analog pressing, including a look ahead head for driving the cutter spacing. Most of them have a digital delay and a DSP system to control track width.

IMHO the vinyl revival is a interesting social phenomena, not an audiophile miracle. My non audiophile friends are buying ten times more common LPs than the audiophile friends. :( See https://www.theguardian.com/music/g...inyl-choice-record-store-day-2020-in-pictures . People buy an LP with the same satisfaction as if they were buying a very good bottle of wine - we love rituals!
 

Lagonda

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Surely. But since long aliasing is not an issue of proper digital. I understand people can debate the technical aspects of analog sound reproduction of the 80's , but I am interested in learning about the digital sound reproduction of the 2000's, not the early digital.

It seems to me that the stereo sound reproduction science fossilized since long. Almost no one has carried controlled listening tests in stereo since long - but the old myths, coming from good science developed at an age where distortions and noise were orders of magnitude higher than what is possible today, still want to rule.



Should we remember that the increase of LP sales is mostly due to LPs issued from digital carriers? Only a few facilities have true analog pressing, including a look ahead head for driving the cutter spacing. Most of them have a digital delay and a DSP system to control track width.

IMHO the vinyl revival is a interesting social phenomena, not an audiophile miracle. My non audiophile friends are buying ten times more common LPs than the audiophile friends. :( See https://www.theguardian.com/music/g...inyl-choice-record-store-day-2020-in-pictures . People buy an LP with the same satisfaction as if they were buying a very good bottle of wine - we love rituals!
And just maybe some actually prefer the sound of the vinyl master/medium, granted they probably don’t all have DCS Vivaldi setups ;)
 
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And just maybe some actually prefer the sound of the vinyl master/medium, granted they probably don’t all have DCS Vivaldi setups ;)
My points had nothing to do with the DCS Vivaldi - for some music I still prefer the vinyl, probably also because of the emotional link and rituals I carry with these recordings. Another example - I feel much happier offering an LP than a CD as a birthday gift (although I open an exception for the great book/CDs/SACD sets of the Jordi Saval editions).

But in some way you have a point - the DCS Vivaldi helped changing my views along time. But probably any other top sounding player would have done the same.
 
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Atmasphere

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Surely. But since long aliasing is not an issue of proper digital. I understand people can debate the technical aspects of analog sound reproduction of the 80's , but I am interested in learning about the digital sound reproduction of the 2000's, not the early digital.
I agree, its not the issue of 'proper digital' but apparently its nevertheless still with us. You'd think these problems would have been sorted but they still crop up 40 years on...

Only a few facilities have true analog pressing, including a look ahead head for driving the cutter spacing. Most of them have a digital delay and a DSP system to control track width.
This statement is really problematic. Most facilities do have analog; they'd be crazy not to as they cannot predict how the next project will turn up. Regarding the preview head/look ahead for groove spacing, that has nothing at all to do with the signal path. We have an older 'manual' lathe but automated it using an Arduino and a simple program that records the musical peaks. We have to play the project for it first so that it can get all the peaks and then we simply start it and let it roll except for the band gaps that we do by hand. But otherwise the Arduino controls the cutter thread speed. This took all fo $150.00 to implement. It does not matter then whether the project is analog or digital at that point; at any rate any kind of preview system is entirely out of the audio path that the signal takes going to the cut.
 

Alrainbow

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Ralph ,

Can you provide a list of pressings from your facility , I’m not familiar ...
 

Alrainbow

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No, but I can point to the simple fact that while digital does not have conventional distortions, it does do aliasing which is a pretty audible form of distortion. That's the brightness so many people hear (the ear converts all forms of distortion into tonality).


LP is lower distortion, wider bandwidth and lower noise. Rudy was right on one thing- if the recording sucks you can blame the engineer. Many LPs don't sound as good as the tape for some very good reasons (not the least of them being that a tape was used to make the LP so you're another generation away), but if you were to compare master tape to the master of the LP, you'd find the LP master to be better in every way.

The way I look at all this is the simple fact that the LP is still here. You don't have to know anything about the tech, just the simple fact that the LP is still around (the period of least production was 1992-1993) and increasing in sales is evidence that for what ever reason the digital is supposed tp be better, its failed to supplant/eclipse the prior art. When that sort of thing happens in any market, its a sign that the prior art was not inferior. An example of this might be side valve engines. All engines these days and for quite some time have been overhead valves. That's because they are better in every way so far as reliability and performance are concerned. Digital is obviously not there yet.

I do find my R2R tapes when compared to LP does add tone body and weight differently from the LP ..
 
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This statement is really problematic. Most facilities do have analog; they'd be crazy not to as they cannot predict how the next project will turn up. Regarding the preview head/look ahead for groove spacing, that has nothing at all to do with the signal path. We have an older 'manual' lathe but automated it using an Arduino and a simple program that records the musical peaks. We have to play the project for it first so that it can get all the peaks and then we simply start it and let it roll except for the band gaps that we do by hand. But otherwise the Arduino controls the cutter thread speed. This took all fo $150.00 to implement. It does not matter then whether the project is analog or digital at that point; at any rate any kind of preview system is entirely out of the audio path that the signal takes going to the cut.
Yes, but the question is just the absence of head/look ahead for groove spacing in most vinyl cutting facilities. They just have a old top professional tape machine, that can just play the tapes. And then use a digital delay line - ADC- memory -DAC to delay the signal to perform the reverse look ahead function - I can't consider this an AAA LP! It is why some people in forums say they only buy originals.
 

Alrainbow

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Micro,

What TT setup are you currently using ..?
 

Atmasphere

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And then use a digital delay line - ADC- memory -DAC to delay the signal to perform the reverse look ahead function - I can't consider this an AAA LP! It is why some people in forums say they only buy originals
In an AAA LP project they don't delay the signal- its how the cutter drive screw is driven, which is to say when something complex is coming up the preview head speeds up the cutter screws to make room for it. These are two very different things! We solved the problem by mapping the peaks and then simply synchronizing the cut.
 
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In an AAA LP project they don't delay the signal- its how the cutter drive screw is driven, which is to say when something complex is coming up the preview head speeds up the cutter screws to make room for it. These are two very different things! We solved the problem by mapping the peaks and then simply synchronizing the cut.
I have no doubt that you and some others solved the problem adequately - I was addressing the general case of the cheap vinyl reissues being sold in large quantity in shops now.
 
Dear Ron and friends: I know I'm to late to this thread. Anyway here I come ( btw, I have to separate the post in more than one because is to long, sorry. ):

Is Paul correct in your view?

Are (the sound of) "analog" and (the sound of) "digital" antiquated terms?

NO, he is wrong as he is wrong when said both are " natural ". Only MUSIC is really NATURAL, digital an analog are only a " bad " facsimile of live MUSIC. It can't be " natural ".

As a facsimile analog and digital has; each one, its own signature that is way different due that both comes from different media, different hardware/software. Some one else in the thread refered way before to that statement.

Only to confirm about in other forum a gentleman posted:


""" For whatever reason digital it has not been able to establish itself as a perfected version of analogue. Certainly not with audiophiles """ and my answer was and still is:

" That's not the purpose/target of digital media. Why should be that way when both mediums are way different?

Are those audiophiles true expert audiophiles or only LP lovers accustomed to? "

The audiophiles that as me own thousands of LPs ( 8K+ ) have at least 40+ years listening to analog LP alternative, our brain/ears is totally accustom to the analog signature even that's as a media source is worst than the digital alternative but our brain almost always refuse to accept the digital alternative because in non-concient way we always will think ( the brain function that way ) that something is missed through digital experiences. It can't be in other way our brain response if we have 40+ years listening exclusively to analog ! !

In other forum another gentleman posted:


""" Music (sound) is analog and by changing that signal to digital something is lost. Something is lost once again when you change it back to analog so your ears can understand it. """

I gave this answer there:


""" In the other side of your statement the human been ears listen not in " analog " but digital. Yes in the inner ear part we have an ADC mechanism for we can listen the sound as we know it. No we can't hear anlog information, we have to convert it in digital. Here we can read about:

................................................................................................................


""
By now, the audio signal has reached the inner ear, and that means the cochlea. This snail‑shaped organ is filled with liquid. Logically enough, it must be waterproof, in order to prevent any fluid leaking. This explains the purpose of the round window, a small, elastic membrane on the surface of the cochlea. Its purpose is to allow movement of the fluid inside the cochlea. Liquids are incompressible, and without this membrane, the fluid enclosed inside the cochlea would completely block the ossicle movements. Indeed, stiffening of the oval window can lead to hearing losses of about 60dB.
Inside the cochlean we find the tectorial membrane, which moves along with the pressure variations of the cochlear fluid. As shown in Figure 3, above, this membrane is in contact with the cilia on the top of the hair cells. There are two kinds of hair cells. The outer hair cells are the actual receptors. When the tectorial membrane moves, so does the hair on the the outer cells. This movement is then encoded into electrical digital signals and goes to the brain through the cochlear nerve. The inner cells have a different role: when the audio signal gets louder, they stick themselves to the tectorial membrane in order to limit its movements, playing the role of another dynamic compressor.Figure 3: Inside the cochlea.
This tectorial membrane exhibits a clever design. Its stiffness is variable, and decreases gradually towards the center of the 'snail'. This is a way of tuning the membrane to different frequencies. In order to understand the phenomenon, consider guitar tuning. When you want pitch of a string to be higher, you stretch it so it gets more tense, and stiffer. Generally speaking, stiffer materials are able to vibrate at higher frequencies. This makes the tectorial membrane a bank of filters, with an important result: outer cells are frequency‑specific, each group of cells being dedicated to particular frequencies. Also consider the inner cells, and their ability to attenuate the tectorial membrane's movement. They function as a frequency‑specific compressor — in other words, a multi‑band compressor!
The tectorial membrane's decreasing stiffness towards its end serves another important purpose, which is frequency tracking. A particular audio frequency will set the membrane in motion at a particular position, and that vibration will be sensed by a specific set of outer cells. A comparatively lower frequency will set the membrane in motion closer to the centre of the 'snail', and that vibration will be sensed by another set of outer cells. The brain, by analysing which set of outer cells was put in motion, will then be able to tell that the second frequency was the lower one. Notice how, during this process, the tectorial membrane really acts in the manner of a filter bank, performing an actual spectral analysis of the input signal. Figure 4, below, illustrates the rough position of a few key frequencies on the cochlea.Figure 4: Filter bank frequencies on the cochlea.
Harmonic sounds come as a set of regularly spaced pure tones: if the fundamental frequency is 100Hz, the harmonic frequencies will be 200Hz, 300Hz, 400Hz and so on. As shown in Figure 5, each one of those frequencies will correspond to a particular area of the tectorial membrane. Suppose a given harmonic sound comes with its fundamental frequency plus nine harmonics. In this case, no fewer than 10 distinct areas of the tectorial membrane will be set in vibration: this provides an abundance of coherent information to the brain, which will have no difficulty in quickly and easily finding the right pitch. This is what makes the human ear so powerful for pitch identification.Figure 5: Pitch tracking inside the cochlea.
With the hair cells, we come to the end of the audio path inside the ear. Hair cells are neurons, and the purpose of the outer hair cells is to convert the mechanical vibrations that come from their cilia into nerve signals. Such signals are binary (all or nothing), and seem to be completely decorrelated from the analogue signals to which they correspond. In other words, they're digital signals, and the inner hair cells are analogue‑to‑digital converters. """"
 
Continue:

The audiophiles that supports LPs ( as me. ) almost always speak of digital aliasing that today really does not exist through the aliasing filrters and always speak of the famous jitter an discontinuity of the digital signal/sampling but things are that LP playback has its own discontuity in the signal that the cartridge/tonearm pick-up:


The lost of information during LP playback exist at the cartridge stylus tip when ridding the groove modulations because that tiny stylus tip can't pick-up all the information recorded in those LP grooves and not only that but at that micro level the stylus tip jumps between grooves modulations, very tiny and microscopic level jumps: this is that the stylus tip momentaneous lost direct contact with the vinyl surface.

This link about digital is interesting for we audiophiles:


I like both formats and I know for sure that digital is a superior one. LP experience pass though a nigthmare of multiple steps before the sound comes from the speakers. These comes from a very interesting thread where at least two members of WBF participated:


The MUSIC sound is developed by an extremely movement sensitive sensor named cartridge that pick up tiny/micro movements/resonances/vibrations/feedback and the like coming by inside the TT/tonearm/tonearm board/LP/cartridge body ( at least. ).

So it does not matters if air bearing or DD or idlerdrive all of them are " resonating " somewhere in different way ( using the same cartridge/tonearm. ) and the cartridge is taking that overall non damped resonances/vibrations/feedback or whatever you want and for me it's here from where comes all differences in between, at least the detectable ones.


and analize a little what can modulates the sound you are listening other that the recorded groove modulations because I think that those other very tiny modulations puts its own " color " that can or not makes subttle differences :

all the 3 TTs are building with different blend of materials at each different places inside the whole TT and the blend of those materials and depending were are used tends to resonate/vibrate under dynamic stage/when are spinning during play. Those kind of very tiny or micro resonances/vibrations are different ( example: at different frequency. ) in each one of 3 TTs.

Now, what happens when the cartridge start to track/ride the LP groove modulations inside that whole mechanical circuit ( of course that it’s too the electrical side but it’s not the issue here. ) formed by: TT/tonearm/cartridge/LP?

As I said that circuit is a mechanical one and we can’t avoid the Newton Laws down there that lives down there one way or the other.

When the stylus start to ride the groove modulations that act develops many other tiny modulations as: feedback from the LP surface due to the friction of the stylus tip forces, the surface of the LP and due to that very high friction forces makes that exist too a feedback from the LP surface that is in touch with the platter or platter mat .
These are the first tiny developed modulations that goes mixed through the stylus/cantilever along the groove modulations ( the cartridge can’t make any difference between the groove modulations and the fedback modulations, just took it as it was the same. Is a very sensitive movements sensor. ).
That kind of feedback is followed by the cartridge body self feedback developed by the cantilever/stylus tracking and comes a new feedback movement that’s very fast transmitted to the cantilever and that same cartridge body feedback and through the top plate of the cartridge is transmitted to the tonearm headshel and starts to resonates in between ( this is totally independent of the resonance frequency in between the tonearm/cartridge and its compliance. ) and transmitted through the tonearm and then to the arm board but does not disappears because part of those kind of resonances/vibrations return through that arm board to the cantilever/stylus and mixed again with the true groove modulations.

Things do not finish here but I think you have the idea of what I try to explain about.

At the very high level of resolution that you are listening all those it matters ( at least for me ) because even that all 3 TTs are extremely well designed and excecuted and with the necessary overall damping ( that’s why the designers choosed materiasl and where to use it in the design. ) that each TT color exist and you are hearing it because no one can’t avoid it can’t makes that disappears from that mechanical circuit.

Normally those developed " modulations " affects the more to the bass range that at the same time it modulates ( color ) the other two frequency ranges.

Those nigthmare analog steps as the signal been recorded in a R2R tape where information is losted. Tape is neither infinite bandwidth nor infinite signal to noise, and even speed and level is not consistent, hence something is always "lost" but in digital alternative that just does not happens because what goes in the tape are only Zeros and Ones.
More steps as both RIAA eq. on analog during recording and playback with something additional to that: both RIAA eqs. never coincide in between: different frequency deviations.

The digital bass range specially the low bass can't be matched by the analog alternative and bass range modulates, through the developed harmonics, the other two frequency ranges. I think is more than enough. Sorry to take your precious time.

A true audiophile, at least, try to understand the whole digital medium and how it works and at the same time try to undersant the analog/LP/R2R medium and how it works and only then we audiophiles can understand the why's of its differences, advantages and disadvantages but at the end what it matters is the MUSIC and we true audiophiles must be aimed to listen digital medium along the analog one: not this or the other.



Exist a superiority of one of those mediums over the other? certainly yes but who cares about when we can enjoy MUSIC in both mediums: we have two alternatives about ! !


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS.
 

Atmasphere

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The lost of information during LP playback exist at the cartridge stylus tip when ridding the groove modulations because that tiny stylus tip can't pick-up all the information recorded in those LP grooves and not only that but at that micro level the stylus tip jumps between grooves modulations, very tiny and microscopic level jumps: this is that the stylus tip momentaneous lost direct contact with the vinyl surface.
This is a common myth.

To support such a myth, one has to explain how it is possible that the bandwidth of the typical LP exceeds 40KHz in both record and playback. On the record side, this bandwidth has existed since the introduction of the Westerex 3D cutter head (1958) and on the playback side, since about 1968 or so with the first Shure high end cartridges.
 
" This is a common myth. "


First than all it's not a myth as was proved in Agon where you fail to prove it's a myth. I don't argue with you again with because there is nothing really new with facts you have that can prove your statement.

In the other side the losted information in the playback LP does not talked about bandwindth because the losted information can comes from all the bandwindth. So which the target of your post?. Anyway, Never mind not important issue.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
R.
 
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i can listen to digital for hours without ever missing anything. i'm never feeling short

but the vinyl has much more magic now. it can soar to previously unattainable heights.

That tell me that your " heart " still belongs to LP because the LP alternative had not important advancements into the alternative fundamentals/foundations when in the other side the digital alternative ( every where not only in audio. ) is growing up " day by day " and seems to me that the best is forth coming.

Mike, exist a question that every one of us could make to our self: which my main target through my room/system set up?

I understand should be the MUSIC enjoyment but there are several MUSIC enjoy ment levels. Whinch yours and yours?

Mine is the MUSIC enjoyment by be nearest to the recording that puts me nearer to the LIVE MUSIC experiences.

We can't mimic live MUSIC what we can achieve could be to reproduce the nearest we can what the recording microphones pick-up and for this could happens I have to put at minimum any kind of distortions/noises/resonances/vibrations developed by the room/system it self.

In that way what puts me nearer to the live MUSIC experiences at near field position is the medium that performs:

not sweet or or heavy colored, gentle, and the like but tha's has natural agresiveness, brigthness, powerful, with natural colorations, fully dynamic, great rythm, up-front, full emotive, etc, etc. and this is the digital alternative, LP alternative can't do it it does not has the powerful and impact that live MUSIC has.

Maybe you think that the LP experiences puts you nearer/truer to the recording.


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS.
 

Ron Resnick

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. . .

. . . a question that every one of us could make to our self: which my main target through my room/system set up?

I understand should be the MUSIC enjoyment but there are several MUSIC enjoy ment levels. Whinch yours and yours?

Mine is the MUSIC enjoyment by be nearest to the recording that puts me nearer to the LIVE MUSIC experiences.

We can't mimic live MUSIC what we can achieve could be to reproduce the nearest we can what the recording microphones pick-up . . .
.
I am glad you asked! We have an answer for that -- or at least a structure for entertaining the question and arriving at an intelligible answer. A group of us here developed in 2016 four alternative, but not mutually exclusive, objectives of high-end audio. While this structure still attracts debate and dissent, it is at least a good place to start:

1) recreate the sound of an original musical event,​
2) reproduce exactly what is on the tape, vinyl or digital source being played,​
3) create a sound subjectively pleasing to the audiophile, and​
4) create a sound that seems live.​
Your description of "that puts me nearer to the LIVE MUSIC experiences" suggests to me that you seek "4) create a sound that seems live."

But your description of "reproduce the nearest we can what the recording microphones pick-up" suggests that you also seek "2) reproduce exactly what is on the tape, vinyl or digital source being played,"
 

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