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

Al M.

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#21
Antiquated or not , the sound of analog and the sound of digital will always exist. They are different media, with fundamental differences in measurable (objective) parameters that result in different types of recordings.
I think there is something to this argument, too.
 

morricab

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Apr 25, 2014
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#23
Kinna interesting. I am probably one of the only people to wear out an SME turntable. The 30/2 has been sent to the shop, likely the main bearing is worn out. It started stalling and the platter holder scrapes onto the top plate. It’s likely 20 years old at this point.

When we got the Santa Cruz place, I got a Sony PS X70 DD from eBay for $250 (42 years old, all original). Never played it much over there due to neighbor proximity. eventually just brought it back to add to my audio warehouse pile. I thought about just giving it away. It was the second from the top down from the legendary Sony PS X9 (several on ebay now, still sell for thousands up depending on renovation and condition), and uses a curved micro seiki arm.

However, I decided to put PS X70 on the SME altar. I went into my ‘vinyl drawer’ a couple of weeks ago, there was a small oil spill, and while cleaning it out, I found my ancient Ortofon Kontrapunkt a, a cartridge that I used for a few months when I first got back into vinyl on an SME 10 turntable (almost 20 years ago??). I had completely forgotten about it. I paid $180 for it wholesale from a Hong Kong wholesaler and used it before ‘moving up’ in MC cartridge quality. They still make them, and they now cost $600 or so.

Anyway, I put the Sony PS X70 on the SME altar to have a placeholder, installed the Kontrapunkt a, plugged it into the Allnic head amp. Lo and behold, vivid, dynamic sound that is very high end. I was shocked.

The turntable arm is medium to high effective mass, the cartridge is low compliance, so the sound is ‘tape like’, dense tonalities. i am playing records that I haven’t for a while and shake my head at how good it sounds.

That’s what I think of as ‘analog’. It is unlike any digital type experience (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with today’s great digital), but it is rich, vibrant, detailed, dense, rocking midrange and lower midrange, huge imaging etc.

It’s also nice to have this kind and quality of vinyl presentation albeit with bargain vintage stuff while I await the fate of the SME 30/2 at the hands of the repair apparatus.
I am not shocked. I have been using the VERY high end Yamaha GT-2000 for more than a decade and I will put it up against any 20K+ TT made today. A friend of mine was TT shopping and heard mine and went right out and bought his own...never looking back or thinking what if.

IMO, analog done right is still superior and delivers a fundamentally different feeling when listening to it. Is it the mastering of the recordings?? Not too sure about it. I think the fundamental difference in the distortion produced is a major factor.
 
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morricab

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#24
and an orange is just an orange.

i taste a good orange and it's great. then i have a good organic orange and it's on a whole different level. forget the chemistry, just from a sensual perspective they are really different.

would anyone disagree?

from one perspective they are the same, from another......completely different. the non-organic orange is likely to be more uniform, and maybe bigger too. the organic orange will have natural variances and differences in color and texture. some will have more seeds than others. that's nature for you. and if you never really had a good organic orange how would you understand what the significance might be?

Paul McGowan is running a business and he knows his customers, and what products they want from him. in that perspective it makes sense. it's not controversial, it's business. and that's about it about that.

if i were selling non-organic oranges i might be tempted to minimize the differences between what my customers buy from me, and alternative higher quality better tasting, healthier, products.
I suspect that Paul actually believes what he says...preconceived notions can shape reality just as surely as anything else.
 

morricab

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#25
Mike - that is a very compelling and clever analogy. I can imagine the retort: "if you take a chemical analysis of the two oranges, they are indistinguishable." Which wholly misses the point.

McGowan wants to suggest that the number of people who can tell the difference is dwindling and we no longer need words to tell them apart. But I wonder why this is important. Who is it that is compelled to make this case and why? You hit the nail on answering that. What is he selling.

The sort of technological overthrow that indicates a real change such as the downfall of the CRT in the television industry has not occurred in the audio realm, at least in the high-end region. But few tried to claim the CRT vs digital TV were visually indistinguishable. Which is what McGowan seems to try under the charade of talking about the antiquation of vocabulary.

When McG writes: "I would never suggest that while listening to a live performance that it sounds either analog or digital. I might say it sounds natural, perhaps full and rich, but analog or digital? Never." This the equivalent of the magician's attempt at misdirection while he swaps reality and reproduction behind his back.
Except that if you look deeply enough into the analysis you will find differences that in aggregate are making the difference in the sensual perception...the problem is about how deep to look.
 

morricab

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#26
It's actually simpler than that Tim, use one of his amps and run everything off the regenerators he makes and I guarantee that you wont hear a major difference between analog, digital, tube or anything else either. Those IRS's have their own massive coloration for a final topping :)! He's on the money in the context of his system.

david
The coloration of the speakers is probably the least problematic thing...you can still hear quite a lot of changes to a system through those old IRS speakers...
 
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tima

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Mar 4, 2014
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#28
You and Mike commit a genetic fallacy of argumentation, discrediting a claim based on its source (and presumed intent, following from that).
Don't expect you to agree Al, and that's okay, but I don't follow what you're saying. What is 'the source' of McG's claim? And what does is a 'genetic fallacy'?
 
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#29
and an orange is just an orange.

i taste a good orange and it's great. then i have a good organic orange and it's on a whole different level. forget the chemistry, just from a sensual perspective they are really different.

would anyone disagree?

from one perspective they are the same, from another......completely different. the non-organic orange is likely to be more uniform, and maybe bigger too. the organic orange will have natural variances and differences in color and texture. some will have more seeds than others. that's nature for you. and if you never really had a good organic orange how would you understand what the significance might be?

Paul McGowan is running a business and he knows his customers, and what products they want from him. in that perspective it makes sense. it's not controversial, it's business. and that's about it about that.

if i were selling non-organic oranges i might be tempted to minimize the differences between what my customers buy from me, and alternative higher quality better tasting, healthier, products.
Mike,

These orange analogies are extremely misleading, only introduce romance is debates, and could be easily reversed. The analog sound can be easily painted as the non organic orange - with all kind of measurable distortions, mechanical induced noise and modulation noise of tape. The pure organic orange is the DXD recording, with minimal measurable distortion, able to create a much more complex orange with all the flavors. But many people got used to non organic oranges and their limited palette with strategic enhancements and are not interested in the top quality orange.

IMHO in this hobby and debates it is not fair to depreciate arguments suggesting they are motivated by the business options of the opponent. I think it was not you intention, but I find such comments highly disturbing. Sorry.
 

Al M.

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#31
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morricab

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#32
Mike,

These orange analogies are extremely misleading, only introduce romance is debates, and could be easily reversed. The analog sound can be easily painted as the non organic orange - with all kind of measurable distortions, mechanical induced noise and modulation noise of tape. The pure organic orange is the DXD recording, with minimal measurable distortion, able to create a much more complex orange with all the flavors. But many people got used to non organic oranges and their limited palette with strategic enhancements and are not interested in the top quality orange.

IMHO in this hobby and debates it is not fair to depreciate arguments suggesting they are motivated by the business options of the opponent. I think it was not you intention, but I find such comments highly disturbing. Sorry.
I don't think Mike indicated which was which...he was simply pointing out what we should all know that differences can on the surface look small or inconsequencial but can be profound in the experiential space.
 

Mike Lavigne

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#33
Mike,

These orange analogies are extremely misleading, only introduce romance is debates, and could be easily reversed. The analog sound can be easily painted as the non organic orange - with all kind of measurable distortions, mechanical induced noise and modulation noise of tape. The pure organic orange is the DXD recording, with minimal measurable distortion, able to create a much more complex orange with all the flavors. But many people got used to non organic oranges and their limited palette with strategic enhancements and are not interested in the top quality orange.
i have lots of those DXD recordings, and my dac plays them back natively and very finely. but to my senses my analogy holds when faced with the best analog. this is just my subjective opinion, of course. but one listeners in my room, always, every time, share with me.
IMHO in this hobby and debates it is not fair to depreciate arguments suggesting they are motivated by the business options of the opponent. I think it was not you intention, but I find such comments highly disturbing. Sorry.
either Paul has not recently been exposed to the very highest levels of analog, he is emotionally caught up with his products (without any ill intent), or yes; he is choosing to 'minimize' an obvious difference. we then apply occam's razor.......and go with the simplest, most obvious reason. sellers do not get much benefit of the doubt. but also we don't think less of them for their biases......just recognize those biases and reduce the value of the data point accordingly.

i don't much get caught up in his views, i've never listened with him and discovered his perspectives compared to mine listening to the same sound/music. OTOH i have listened with my friend Ted Smith many (dozens of) times in my room, who designs Paul's dacs. i do know what he use to think about this question. not listened with him for 2-3 years now.

I don't think Mike indicated which was which...he was simply pointing out what we should all know that differences can on the surface look small or inconsequential but can be profound in the experiential space.
yes, this is my viewpoint. and i'm not claiming the health or chemical superiority of the organic orange, just the easily tasted superiority and obvious increased desire to eat more. and we don't have to explain or justify it, we just relate that we like it more experientially.
 
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Mike Lavigne

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#34
Organic orange cannot taste as good as inorganic orange that uses my nutritional program sir. :D As far as orange concern, I have never tasted a good orange in US. They are too sour for my preference. From the way and style you described sound, you are a romantic Mike. You should like Mandarin orange. There is sweetness to it.
if you say i'm a romantic, ok.

i would enjoy tasting an orange that get's the benefit of your products.:cool: and we do eat the Mandarin oranges when in season, as well as the blood oranges, when in season. i might eat 3-4 Mandarin's at a sitting. like listening to 3-4 hours of vinyl. good for what ails you.

State of Washington grown organic Honey Crisp apples are maybe my favorite fruit. like candy.

my wife insists we eat 100% organic, without exception. and at home i do that. even down to our meat and fish. we are lucky to have those products easily found at a particular market locally on my way home from work.
 

bonzo75

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#35
if you say i'm a romantic, ok.

i would enjoy tasting an orange that get's the benefit of your products.:cool: and we do eat the Mandarin oranges when in season, as well as the blood oranges, when in season. i might eat 3-4 Mandarin's at a sitting. like listening to 3-4 hours of vinyl. good for what ails you.

my wife insists we eat 100% organic, without exception. and at home i do that. even down to our meat and fish.
Hypothetically, if you like it, would analog be Mandarin orange, and then would digital be US organic orange or US inorganic?
 

Mike Lavigne

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#36
Hypothetically, if you like it, would analog be Mandarin orange, and then would digital be US organic orange or US inorganic?
i choose an orange (as my analogy) because the difference between non organic and organic is so profound in my experience. i emphasize in my experience. i grew up eating and loving oranges in a lower middle class home oldest of 6 children......so no organic for us or even the idea of organic. that was the 50's and 60's. then i ate an organic orange and it was a significant difference and so consistently better.

i still like a non organic orange. when i'm traveling or eating out i still enjoy an orange. but it's obvious when it's not organic. but there are organic Mandarin's, and non organic Mandarin's. yes; the non organic Mandarin's are sweeter than a normal naval orange, but still not as good tasting as an organic naval orange. sweetness is not the only taste factor, there is intensity, and then indescribable subtleties of the taste of an organic orange.

this is my personal experience with these foods. i'm not any food expert beyond this.

the lines can get blurred as there are 'near' organic foods that are grown organically but have not yet been qualified to be labeled 'organic'. i would differ to an agricultural professional like Tang to sort out the subtleties of that. i'm just a consumer making my wife happy.
 
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spiritofmusic

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#37
At least we've gone from comparing "apples to oranges" to "oranges to oranges".
Gotta be progress after 37-38 years since the first cd appeared at Tower Records.
 

the sound of Tao

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#38
Perhaps there is just a bit too much navel gazing going on :eek:... but since mandarins are way more oblong than round they’d more likely be closer to digital files rather than CDs... and if analogue is indeed truly organic it may still not be as biodynamic as digital.

Either way this analogy could well end up like all analogue digital debates as just another bit of pulp fiction... or is that pulp factions?? Juice sayin.
 

bonzo75

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#39
Problem is most audiophiles can't afford oranges at the prices they charge these days, and so end up with peanuts
 

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