What does it mean when people describe Digital as Sounding like "Analog"? Best term?

Ron Resnick

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Kingrex

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I started a thread in another forum noting the reviewer Paul in TAS issue 306 uses dsd files to assess true to source, then gauges a turn table performance against it.

I noted the same as I was building and learning. Digital was necessary for my understanding proper balance of the tone in my vinyl to keep bloat, bumps and dips out. I did indeed use my digital to get my analog to sound like my digital. Once there I had a baseline and could now start to separate them again to optimize what each does best.

I am actually in the middle of a very similar experience with amps now. I have been using Kt push pull type amps for a long time. I recently bought an 845 SET amp. When I put my kt amp back into play I noticed how SS it sounded compared to the SET.

I have PAP Trio 15 open baffle speaker with exposed crossover. As such i have tuned my speaker crossover component and wires to my kt amp. In order to use a SET amp, i need to adjust these items for optimum playback. I say that as others have alluded to vinyl and digital being so different the rest of rhe playback system is tuned to one or the other. I don't find that an issue in my system. The speaker amp relationship is far more impactful than the source relationship. IMO, if your sources are tuned correct, they should sound dam close to each other. I have a record ((National Wake - Walk In Africa) light in the attic records). On my system and Ultrafast system the record is indistinguishable from the digital. I say that as any digital vinyl comparison is flawed unless one has an absolute master that is exactly the same. Buy the National Wake record and play it against Qobuz. I bet you will be shocked how hard they are to tell apart.
 

Al M.

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I am actually in the middle of a very similar experience with amps now. I have been using Kt push pull type amps for a long time. I recently bought an 845 SET amp. When I put my kt amp back into play I noticed how SS it sounded compared to the SET.

In which manner does the Kt amp sound SS to your ears compared to the SET?
 

spiritofmusic

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I started a thread in another forum noting the reviewer Paul in TAS issue 306 uses dsd files to assess true to source, then gauges a turn table performance against it.

I noted the same as I was building and learning. Digital was necessary for my understanding proper balance of the tone in my vinyl to keep bloat, bumps and dips out. I did indeed use my digital to get my analog to sound like my digital. Once there I had a baseline and could now start to separate them again to optimize what each does best.

I am actually in the middle of a very similar experience with amps now. I have been using Kt push pull type amps for a long time. I recently bought an 845 SET amp. When I put my kt amp back into play I noticed how SS it sounded compared to the SET.

I have PAP Trio 15 open baffle speaker with exposed crossover. As such i have tuned my speaker crossover component and wires to my kt amp. In order to use a SET amp, i need to adjust these items for optimum playback. I say that as others have alluded to vinyl and digital being so different the rest of rhe playback system is tuned to one or the other. I don't find that an issue in my system. The speaker amp relationship is far more impactful than the source relationship. IMO, if your sources are tuned correct, they should sound dam close to each other. I have a record ((National Wake - Walk In Africa) light in the attic records). On my system and Ultrafast system the record is indistinguishable from the digital. I say that as any digital vinyl comparison is flawed unless one has an absolute master that is exactly the same. Buy the National Wake record and play it against Qobuz. I bet you will be shocked how hard they are to tell apart.
I'm very pleased I'm not the only one who's used good digital as a benchmark to improve analog install against. I know that's heresy to the vast majority of lp fanatics. But it's worked out way better than I could have imagined.
 

Joe Cohen

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There appears to be no objective way to compare the digital verses the analog versions of a recording as the source file and source vinyl are processed differently. So from the very beginning they are different. The closest one might come would be to listen to the vinyl and then send the vinyl analog signal through an A to D converter and then to a DAC. The downside would be the introduction of the A to D converter. You would have to know something about its behavior and factor that into your listening. (From my perspective, any competent A to D unit should be fairly transparent.) At least that way you would have an understanding of the effect that that particular digital chain has on the music. You would not be able to draw any reliable conclusions about the nature of each approach by simply listening to commercially supplied digital and analog versions of the same music. My guess is the greater flaw is in the supplied file and not in the format.
 
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kernelbob

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No reproduction system is perfect when compared to the live event. The parameters of the deviation from the live experience in digital reproduction are, to at least some degree, different from the parameters of an analog reproduction.

For example, wow & flutter, mechanical resonances, equalization curve deviations, etc. are absent from a digital reproduction (i.e. DAC, transport, data file).

On the other hand, jitter was slow to be recognized as a destroyer of realism in the digital world. That was probably because the issue of clock jitter just didn't exist in the land of analog recording an reproduction. We're still learning new parameters that must be carefully managed in the digital reproduction chain, to more closely approach realism.

I suspect that the phrase "digital sounding like analog" really means digital not having those qualities of signal corruption that are to be found in the digital domain. I assume the phrase isn't intended to mean that the result takes on the errors associated with analog reproduction.

Best,
Robert
 

scot

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Hi everyone

I bought a well known and highly respected dac and let it break in for about 300 hours because I wanted to make sure it was completely broken in before I came to any premature conclusions. It sounded pretty good, it had tremendous clarity and it was very clean sounding and was very transparent with very tight, solid bass. However, there was always this flat, “paper thin” quality to the sound that bothered me. It sounded very digital. I eventually sold it and bought a dac from a relatively newer company from England that has only been in business for around 4 years. After reading several reviews and owners forums about these dacs and realizing that everyone was saying the exact same thing, they were all saying that they were the most analog sounding dacs they had ever heard and the musicality was off the charts, I decided to buy one.

I’m very glad I did. I found that everything I read was true. That “paper thin” quality was completely gone! The sound was very analog sounding with depth and warmth and the music now had a three dimensional quality to it that the other dac I sold didn’t even come close to. The sound quality reminded me of a good turntable. I don’t want to speak badly about anyone’s products so I won’t mention the name of the “paper thin” dac I wound up selling. The dac that I bought and love is from a company called SW1X Audio. The one I bought was the Dac III Standard with every optional upgrade I could get at the time. It’s the best digital I’ve ever heard.

Scot
 

PeterA

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I have always thought that the resolving of harmonics and the ability to present a natural and convincing sound is what sets a good DAC apart, plus was e, flow, and continuousness. These are the qualities that good analog sources have, in my opinion.

If a DAC can get all of that right without the typical artifacts, then it should sound “analog” like. Then it will be more about the music than about the device or format.
 
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Kingrex

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In which manner does the Kt amp sound SS to your ears compared to the SET?
The KT88 is cleaner and darker background. A little more linear. Pretty decent jump and snap. Decent PRAT. More solid and controlled feel to bass. Richer fatter bass. It blends seemless with my speakers and does not offend in any way.

The SET tube amp has a magic that jumps out. Horns, strings have an alive, natural and so real tone. Instruments are much more natural. But, your aware you have tubes. There is background noise. The tubes are making so much gain, tapping one is an explosion of noise out the speaker. You have to have premium tubes to avoid microphonics. The speed of bass is very fast. You hear the strings on a stand up. Not so much feel them as a punch or thump. The balance is a little forward. I hear the horn as a separate driver from my woofers. I will have to adjust cabling and caps to blend them again.

My expression of the amps is a more dramatic expression of what I hear in my digital to analog. Its just no where near as pronounced. The digital is a touch darker and more solid. The vinyl a little more air and natural. Both are tonally balanced and pretty linear. The vinyl is more unforgiving of a bad record. The digital will make a less than optimum recording ok, but it wont draw you in. The digital with a great file will draw you in and surprise you with guts, energy, scale and weight. The vinyl on a great record stops you in your tracks. Holy Shit is all you can think. That is just beautiful.
 
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Kingrex

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I'm very pleased I'm not the only one who's used good digital as a benchmark to improve analog install against. I know that's heresy to the vast majority of lp fanatics. But it's worked out way better than I could have imagined.
I have been through 4 dac and even more iterations of 3 servers I have had factory updated as well as personally optimizing software. With all digital, the basic tonal structure is the same. Digital is pretty much always close to what the source is. It rarely has any deviations such as dramatic bloat or incorrect tonal structure. Its always pretty correct. The improvement come from less noise and a more organic and natural sound.

I messed with a Rega RP6 through all sorts of Groove Tracer mods and Michael Lim mods. As well as some cartridges and 3 preamps. The vinyl can make way more dramatic movements in tone and balance. It can go way further one way or another than digital. That is why I had to pay attention to my digital to know adjustments I was making to my vinyl was not just liking a whole bunch of unnatural bass or treble I artifically added.

Then Eric set me up with a new STST Motus II. As soon as the needle dropped my socks were knocked off. It was so right in all ways and on a level way beyond my Rega experience. A great record on my Motus tops a great file on my digital. Mostly because of that SET type magic. The horns, strings, voices are all just a little more natural and real. It's more alive than the digital. The digital is just as correct, but that last little bit of WOW isn't as pronounced.
 

Al M.

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The KT88 is cleaner and darker background. A little more linear. Pretty decent jump and snap. Decent PRAT. More solid and controlled feel to bass. Richer fatter bass. It blends seemless with my speakers and does not offend in any way.

The SET tube amp has a magic that jumps out. Horns, strings have an alive, natural and so real tone. Instruments are much more natural. But, your aware you have tubes. There is background noise. The tubes are making so much gain, tapping one is an explosion of noise out the speaker. You have to have premium tubes to avoid microphonics. The speed of bass is very fast. You hear the strings on a stand up. Not so much feel them as a punch or thump. The balance is a little forward. I hear the horn as a separate driver from my woofers. I will have to adjust cabling and caps to blend them again.

My expression of the amps is a more dramatic expression of what I hear in my digital to analog. Its just no where near as pronounced. The digital is a touch darker and more solid. The vinyl a little more air and natural. Both are tonally balanced and pretty linear. The vinyl is more unforgiving of a bad record. The digital will make a less than optimum recording ok, but it wont draw you in. The digital with a great file will draw you in and surprise you with guts, energy, scale and weight. The vinyl on a great record stops you in your tracks. Holy Shit is all you can think. That is just beautiful.

Thanks for describing your impressions!
 

Ron Resnick

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. .

My expression of the amps is a more dramatic expression of what I hear in my digital to analog. Its just no where near as pronounced. The digital is a touch darker and more solid. The vinyl a little more air and natural. Both are tonally balanced and pretty linear. The vinyl is more unforgiving of a bad record. The digital will make a less than optimum recording ok, but it wont draw you in. The digital with a great file will draw you in and surprise you with guts, energy, scale and weight. The vinyl on a great record stops you in your tracks. Holy Shit is all you can think. That is just beautiful.

This is beautifully written!

But I have to ask: then why bother with digital at all (other than convenience)?
 

the sound of Tao

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This is beautifully written!

But I have to ask: then why bother with digital at all (other than convenience)?
I thought so to K.Rex.

Though Ron I’d suggest there’s way more at stake with the different mediums than just a matter of convenience.

There is broader and deeper music accessibility... a possible ultimate goal for many a music lover.

Convenience is more of a driver for people who are a bit too senescent to get up and swap an album over between their martini’s... and I get that :) . Also I’d imagine then wisely living with the anxiety of accidentally knocking off your diamond cantilevers on your Ortofon Annas in above said inebriations.

There are many good reasons for both these mediums otherwise we probably wouldn’t have such strengths of concentrations in each.
 

Kingrex

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Many reasons to very much like my digital. Mike L summed it up well at the start of this thread.
You called it "Convenience". That is an ok catch all term. In my mind convenience is what Tao alluded to.
I spend a lot of time with music not a primary function of what I'm doing.
There are vast amounts of music I like that are not on vinyl. And there is a lot of music I really like that is not available on "premium" vinyl.

For example, I like Spotify. It has really good predictive learnimg. It has created playlist I really like. One of those playlist served up some Oscar Peterson. I did a deep dive through his albums on Qobuz. I saved a couple I really liked. I moved a couple songs to playlist i created for morning coffeee, parties, cooking dinner. I also went onto Discogs and bought 2 of my favorite album. When they arrived they were horrible. They looked pristine. Verve pressings. I washed them twice. Just awful. The digital was significantly better. I returned them. Without digital I can not enjoy those albums.

When I do get in front of the stereo and I'm really listening, I want my SET amp in play and I spin vinyl. At those times I am "focused" on the purity and beauty of the instruments.

The really short answer is the one we all know. Music is for many occasions and required different modes of playback. Also, my music is in my living room. See the pile of records up front. I primarily listen to those. Thats not many. FWIW, I have 3 classical stations programmed in my car.
 

microstrip

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I thought so to K.Rex.

Though Ron I’d suggest there’s way more at stake with the different mediums than just a matter of convenience.

There is broader and deeper music accessibility... a possible ultimate goal for many a music lover.

Convenience is more of a driver for people who are a bit too senescent to get up and swap an album over between their martini’s... and I get that :) . Also I’d imagine then wisely living with the anxiety of accidentally knocking off your diamond cantilevers on your Ortofon Annas in above said inebriations.

There are many good reasons for both these mediums otherwise we probably wouldn’t have such strengths of concentrations in each.

Yes, the sound of Tao, there is a lot more than just convenience for many people in top digital - ultimate sound quality according to their preference is one of them.

I agree that digital is very inconvenient in system and room set up, but once people master it digital can have sound quality at the same level as analog. But do not expect it in systems tuned for analog or using recordings made to overcome the limitations of analog stereo. The way digital and analog handle information is quite different, it is not easy to conciliate them.
 

Al M.

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The way digital and analog handle information is quite different, it is not easy to conciliate them.

Could you please specify? Thanks.
 

microstrip

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Could you please specify? Thanks.

It relates with the amount of information the formats can handle. Instruments do not lie - digital can handle a lot more information than analog, but unfortunately this capacity is often misused to create an unrealistic view of the event. Stereo 3D localization is created essentially from cues and the way these cues are handled and manipulated differ in both media.

There are several interviews with recording engineers addressing these subjects - I have posted links in past, I will look for them and post again. But some comprehension of the fundamentals (and limitations) of stereo is needed to understand it - most people easily admit that we can have something like 3D in stereo but are not aware how we get it from two channels and two sound sources.
 
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Al M.

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It relates with the amount of information the formats can handle. Instruments do not lie - digital can handle a lot more information than analog, but unfortunately this capacity is often misused to create an unrealistic view of the event. Stereo 3D localization is created essentially from cues and the way these cues are handled and manipulated differ in both media.

There are several interviews with recording engineers addressing these subjects - I have posted links in past, I will look for them and post again. But some comprehension of the fundamentals (and limitations) of stereo is needed to understand it - most people easily admit that we can have something like 3D in stereo but are not aware how we get it from two channels and two sound sources.

Thank you. I think one of the interviews that you had posted a link to is this very interesting one:

https://www.spiritofturtle.com/inte...f-in-copper-magazine-issue-65/?v=796834e7a283

He talks about how the extreme resolution of digital, exceeding at its best that of analog, requires reconsidering how recordings should be made.
 
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the sound of Tao

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It relates with the amount of information the formats can handle. Instruments do not lie - digital can handle a lot more information than analog, but unfortunately this capacity is often misused to create an unrealistic view of the event. Stereo 3D localization is created essentially from cues and the way these cues are handled and manipulated differ in both media.

There are several interviews with recording engineers addressing these subjects - I have posted links in past, I will look for them and post again. But some comprehension of the fundamentals (and limitations) of stereo is needed to understand it - most people easily admit that we can have something like 3D in stereo but are not aware how we get it from two channels and two sound sources.
Micro, I think this segues very nicely over to an issue of hot topic over in the Extreme thread.

Are sota servers and associated players now hitting upon the boundaries in revealing the amounts of information available in a recording and therefore our goals to recreate music is now even more set up for a fail by the way music recording is approached to overcompensate for the limits of lesser resolving systems.

Are we on the edge of being provided with just more and more information (perhaps though not all then correctly organised) than is at all reflective of the typical context of what we would experience say when listening to live music.

Does it now come back to not always chasing more information but gearing things more towards reflecting live music as one of the few potentially reliable benchmarks for truth. Is this also true of the analogue medium as well.

In the digital realm clearly various iterations of servers and players all express differently in their organisation of music and more information itself may not be the challenge so much as the way each server, player, renderer and dac then organises it.

So that challenges us even more as audiophiles to question how we are then assessing what is best. Is it just better in partial assessment all the time or do we need to reference more often against the whole as well. Do we have sufficient language let alone guidelines for what is right or what is best.

Is it time we get a better system of assessment of our systems and the criteria we use to make decisions rather than just focusing on buying better (?) gear all the time and chasing more (resolution) more often. Do we need to understand the difference between being particular and being holistic in our assessment.

Do we need to become better tools to not just see where we can have more but also to see when we already have enough. Is it about a greater total balance of things. Do concepts like rightness become more critical when we hit upon the boundaries and perhaps into a great age of information overshoot.
 
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PeterA

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So that challenges us even more as audiophiles to question how we are then assessing what is best. Is it just better in partial assessment all the time or do we need to reference more often against the whole as well. Do we have sufficient language let alone guidelines for what is right or what is best.

Is it time we get a better system of assessment of our systems and the criteria we use to make decisions rather than just focusing on buying better (?) gear all the time and chasing more (resolution) more often. Do we need to understand the difference between being particular and being holistic in our assessment.

Do we need to become better tools to not just see where we can have more but also to see when we already have enough. Is it about a greater total balance of things. Do concepts like rightness become more critical when we hit upon the boundaries and perhaps into a great age of information overshoot.

Tao, that is a thought-provoking post with some important questions, none of which I know how to answer. However, I will note that I have been reading from one member how he assesses a system and it is really quite elegant in its simplicity. DDK judges components and systems by how "natural" they sound. That is all. He has also written that music is not about bits and pieces but rather the whole. I take this to mean that it is about the gestalt, it is not about individual attributes.

Perhaps we don't need a new way of describing sound as systems become more resolving. Perhaps we just need to stop describing things in the way we were taught by certain magazine editors who changed the language and convinced us to dissect sound into parts.
 
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