Some myths just never die. Your earlier article prompted me to re-enter this debate as well. That "howstuffworks" article reminds me of an identical "debate" to debunk these myths that the late Bill Travis and I conducted in Components in Electronics, and that was way back in 1991!
I have written several blog posts on the subject. You can find the most recent artcile, which contains several related links, at http://the-world-is-analog.blogspot.com/2009/02/laser-turntables-for-your-vinyl-lps.html
One item not mentioned is the music content used to compare audio. Even for low sample rates, MP3's are probably fine for some of today's hard rock bands that run their amps into full clipping and the singer is screaming into the mic. It?s quite a bit different than a recording of a live orchestra or acoustic guitar solo with mic?s spaced appropriately. What is used for these comparisons?
Also consider the recording studios today are using several tracks, some for each instrument. Only portions of the song may be recorded in one session. Track-overs are added later. The studio then reconstitutes the tracks onto an album. There's a bit of art here too. Sound effects, echo, mixing, pitch changes, and so on. Is the instrument to be on the left or right channel? Not at all like a live recording. (Many of today?s' studios are digitally recording the audio anyway, so where?s the analog?).
However I do believe that vinyl had a certain distortion that folks liked and were used to hearing. Even the clicks and pops add to the ambience. There are similar arguments for tube amps vs. solid state. What is ?warmness??
Yet today we accept using tiny wall speakers and big subwoofer, tricking our minds into thinking we are hearing everything as recorded. The playback system and speakers (headphones) are a big part of the equation. Even in a car the road noise can be several dB above the music. Pressure changes are considerable stronger than the bass (unless you have a 1KW sub using a 10,000 Farad capacitor in your bouncing SUV).
In most cases, the sound today is good or even excellent. Then someone comes along and puts a bug in your ear about the unperceivable differences (where's the scientific data?).
So, I found that if I put a magnet around my gold-plated oxygen-free optical fiber, I get much less distortion in the digital stream. The photons stay aligned and centered. They don't wear out the fiber walls causing stragglers slowed down by the worn wall friction. In addition they travel further due to MPG improvements magnets provide.
Well, now really, how accurate a representation of say a simple sinewave at 20 khz are we getting with redbook sampling frequency? How about at 10 khz? Connect the dots!
I am not convinced that redbood cd standards are any where near accurate and let alone considering the actions of the filters used and the output filters used as well to filter out all the added garbage etc.
In listening tests I felt sacd did perform better than vinyl when it came to sound and of course specwise there is no argument.
When we get the sampling rate high enough we will have analog again!
Too bad music is so compressed nowadays that it sounds horrible right out of the gate.
Let's not forget that audio engineers used to proclaim that one could not hear an electrolytic capacitor either and we all know they distort. And what about carbon resistors, they are modulated by high voltages and produce harmonics, etc.
Just want to keep some balance here.
Why do digital detractors always quote 10kHz or 20kHz. Middle C is about 260Hz, the top note of a soprano is G6 or about 1560Hz and the top note on a piano is ~4kHz. High frequencies are normally very low energy by comparison with fundamentals.
30+ years ago I read a recording engineer declare that vinyl was dreadful, only 15ips half-track tape was worth listening to!
Well, now really, how accurate a representation of say a simple sinewave at 20 khz are we getting with redbook sampling frequency?
A virtually exact representation. Better than vinyl.
How about at 10 khz?
Ditto. In fact this is one of the egregious errors being promoted on that silly "How Stuff Works" page mentioned in the original post.
I am not convinced that redbood [sic] cd standards are any where near accurate ...
You can choose to remain unconvinced of demonstrable facts, but that doesn't change them from being true.
When we get the sampling rate high enough we will have analog again!
Again, a popular misconception. You only need 2x sampling frequency to perfectly capture and reproduce the original (band-limited) signal.
Too bad music is so compressed nowadays that it sounds horrible right out of the gate.
Some of it does, that's for sure. At least we can agree on that.
OK, there is no need to debate the digital format if you thinks its accurate. Sinewaves are easy for a filter to reconstruct from a square wave. In fact, redbook cd playback essentially tries to turn everything back into sinewaves.
The fact is that many prefer the sound of high quality analog reproduction playback. For example, I know many audiophiles who have both "analog" , ie vinyl and digital cd as source material.
Here is what some of us notice in cd playback in general:
1) fatigue after maybe an hour or so of playback for cd verses many hours for vinyl
2) lack of low level information retrieval, the cd sound seems to drop very fast into the noise floor, the decay is too fast compared to vinyl
3) dynamic range of cd should be better than vinyl, but vinyl tends to have better "impact" and transient attack
4) many of us agree that cd no doubt reproduces bass signals better and some prefer the low mids but the highs are irratating
Items 1, 2, and 3 above are not a step forward but backward in how we hear things. And please be assured, we are listening to vinyl playback systems that are near reasonable top tier (cartridges near $1k). If you have not truly heard systems at this level of resolution using vinyl playback then you will not understand items 1, 2 and 3.
If you have heard high end audio systems and preferred digital, then thats great and lucky you! I live in both worlds due to convenience and music choice etc, and I do not know why I often prefer vinyl.
I remember in the late eighties when I proudly brought home my McIntosh CD player and my wife and I listened to several cds and promptly took the thing back to the audio saloon. The highs were harsh. Many have said that that was due to the fact that somehow audio engineers at the time were just copying audio tape masters that had hot high ends and low amplitide low ends because they were set up for vinyl cutters etc. That still does not explain why to this day the highs do not satisfy and the other issues many of us notice.
It's simple really, it is a matter of preference. In a comparison to sacd, I preferred the sacd sound to redbook cd, and there is a higher sampling frequency and I suppose quantization etc. So, there is some difference there that sounded more accurate to me and did not fatigue, so something is better...at least for me with sacd.
The more I looked into cd hardware and processing the less I liked what I saw.
I might put it like this, I prefer the glow of a candle to the far superior light output of a modern light bulb. The light bulb is obviously more advanced at putting out light, but it does not emotionally satisfy.
To make matters worse, howstuffworks.com removed the comment section for all their articles. I understand why. Little of the stuff on their web site is not garbage. If you click on the author's name for any particular item, you will see a list of contributors. It is a list of journalism, english, communications, psychology grads and "freelance writers." These are very interesting credentials for people who presume to instruct us on how things work.
It also surprises me that since nearly all recordings since the 80s have been digital and all these "warm" vinyl recordings are actually cut from those digital recordings, that someone hasn't figured out they could put a "vinyl" setting in the equalization of music devices that would introduce various types of distortion, channel interference and even the slight time shifting that results when a vinyl disk is played on single point pivot tonearm system.
I started buying vinyl when I was a kid in the 70s because the only other choice was 8-track. It was good enough for rock because the loudness wars were already well under way (to which Audacity waveforms from my mid-70s lps will attest), but when I bought my first classical record, the romance was over. Thankfully, I only had a couple of years to wait for my first CD. This vinyl thing people have is... well, another poster said it, and it bears repeating: "There's a sucker born every minute."
Sinewaves are easy for a filter to reconstruct from a square wave. In fact, redbook cd playback essentially tries to turn everything back into sinewaves.
?? Any band-limited system - including vinyl and your ears - will tend to turn square waves "back into sine waves." Do you think you can hear the difference between a 10-kHz square wave and a 10-kHz sine wave (properly matched for loudness)?
The fact is that many prefer the sound of high quality analog reproduction playback. Here is what some of us notice in cd playback in general ...
Why then - if CD is so bad - does a vinyl LP digitized onto CD still sound like vinyl? Such subjective reports of problems with CD playback could have any number of explanations having nothing to do with any technical limitations in the format itself, not least of which could be audiophiles hearing what they expect to hear. This phenomenon (unconscious bias) happens all the time in science, but few audiophiles seem willing to even consider it as a possibility in their own listening experiences.
If you have heard high end audio systems and preferred digital, then thats great and lucky you! I live in both worlds due to convenience and music choice etc, and I do not know why I often prefer vinyl.
Again, the original point was not which format I or anyone preferred, but which format is technically more accurate at audio reproduction. (As it happens I do prefer digital, having listened to vinyl on high-end systems and headphones for many years.)
In a comparison to sacd, I preferred the sacd sound to redbook cd, and there is a higher sampling frequency and I suppose quantization etc.
Again it sounds like you might be hearing what you expect to hear, but it could also be a simple matter of a different mastering of the recording or even differences in the way a particular player processes the respective signals. I'm not aware of any scientific tests showing audible differences between SACD (or hi-res digital) vs. CD once such issues are accounted for.
The more I looked into cd hardware and processing the less I liked what I saw.
CD certainly isn't the be-all and end-all of digital, but to date - almost 30 years after its introduction - I'm not aware of any convincing, scientific studies showing audible differences between Redbook CD and higher-resolution digital recordings.
OK, now, I know you are a strong advocate that cd is more accurate than vinyl. All the "published" measurements show it. Yes, vinyl is band limited via the RIAA filters at the recording and playback ends and of course redbook cd is bandlimited as well.
You must have some excellent speakers to be able to reproduce a ten kilohertz squarewave but i take it that you mean that our ears tend to more detect changes at those frequencies verses the actual frequeuncy itself.
But if redbook is technically superior to vinyl, why is it that listening to cd at realistic levels irratates me within maybe fifteen minutes yet if i listen to vinyl at realistic levels there is no irratation in hours. I am convinced that there is something going on there and when I listen to a non amplified orchestra or ensemble or whatever I am not irratated at the sound in ten minutes or so.
I have always hoped that it had more to do with the recording style than the medium, but there is no way for me to square this anomaly or difference between the two formats.
Therefore, if vinyl does not irratate but cd does, what else for me to do but come down against redbook? For the purpose of sort of closing down this discussion let's just say that something about redbook digital just does not "jive" with me. Some have argued that the high frequeny hash that is produced by the cd players reproduction circuits is not adequtely filtered by the cd digital filters and thus causes intermodulation issues within the voltage and finally current amplification stages needed to move the speakers.
For starters, "there is no accounting for taste", and a persons preference may be for a sound that is certainly not a faithful reproduction of anything. It is usually impossible to do a comparison between vinyl and CD, since the CDs are a different mix. So of course they will sound different. The fact that I may enjoy the obviously "colored" spectrum from old cassettes does not mean that they are better, just more familiar.
It would be a valid debunking effort to attempt to evaluate the mechanism by which the quantum device produces the claimed benefits. The last time that I asked a client to explain a process and he was unable to explain how his invention worked, it was realized to be a fraud, several months later.
I always find these debates amusing, because in the end, listener preferences are somewhat decoupled from measurable technical facts. That doesn't mean one person is wrong when he says A sounds better than B -- it's just his opinion -- and another person will be just as convinced that B sounds better than A. There are so many electronic and psychoacoustic factors, it's difficult to sort out why each holds the opinion that he does. Familiarity is certainly a part of it.
I'm not surprised that some people find SACD to be audibly superior to redbook CD -- with its higher dynamic range and wider sample width, technically, SACD should sound better. But I think it is a rare individual who can actually hear the difference.
And despite the fact that audio equipment designers try hard to achieve the flattest amplitude response, the most linear phase response, the best transient response (whatever that means), etc., I personally do no think that most listeners would say that such a near-perfect processing system produces the best sound -- whether the originating source was analog or digital.
Piling on an old thread... I'm a EE and tend to be an "objectivist" on audio matters, but that said: Skip the theoretical discussions on this subject and listen to good gear. CDs don't sound very good. You can't put your finger on it but there is something there that isn't natural. Vinyl can sound great if you can forgive the clicks and pops and lousy signal to noise. But there's something offensive in all of the CD playback I've heard, no matter how good it sounds, that vinyl doesn't have. Neither vinyl nor CD is even close to perfect. I know the theory, but Nyquist be damned, the actual implementation of the CD format just isn't very good.
This isn't an "Analog vs. Digital" thing. Digital sound can be great. A well engineered DAC system fed high resolution input (96khz/24bit, or even better 192khz/24bit) sounds incredible, and the defect(s) of the 44.1khz sampling rate no longer exist, or at least I can't hear it.
Now that reasonably priced high resolution D/A gear is available, I've become a fairly recent convert to digital. I do wish there was more content available in hi-res formats.
Your article starts with the subjective belief that the most transparent/accurate sound is the best one to listen to. Musicians and audio engineers spend thousands of dollars on equipment that distorts/colors sound in specific ways to a desired and preferred effect. The same could be said of vinyl. It can sound subjectively better because of objective distortions that CD may not be able, or does not attempt, to replicate.
"Your article starts with the subjective belief that the most transparent/accurate sound is the best one to listen to."
No, it starts with the objective assertion that the CD/digital medium is technically more accurate at reproducing the original source material than vinyl.
"[Vinyl] can sound subjectively better because of objective distortions that CD may not be able, or does not attempt, to replicate."
Absolutely. But the point is that many (most?) vinylphiles ignore that possibility and in fact believe that vinyl is the objectively superior medium.
The most obvious difference between vinyl and CD is the ability to reproduce frequencies above 20khz. Just because we can't hear those frequencies on their own doesn't mean they don't effect the frequencies we can hear. Those overtones may be the difference between the ear fatigue that CD listening causes and the smooth high end that a high quality analog playback system provides.
One of my greatest stupidities ever was to sell
my Sheffield Lab direct to disk LPs.
Now THEY sure did sound good.
You have to pay attention to proper cartridge alignment and all the fiddles associated.
But carefully designed oversampling A to Ds and good analog front ends are now making truly superb digital recordings.
So maybe I am not so fussed. I still enjoy my vinyls too.
Good column on Vinyl vs. CD. Since it is ultimately unanswerable and has issues of "faith" on both sides, I should probably add it to the list in my recent piece "I'd like to have an (engineering) argument, please." at:
Agreed, those Sheffield Labs direct-to-disc LPs sounded great. But they were expensive, specialized in musical content, and limited (even more than regular vinyl) in the amount of content that could be fit on each record. Later, well-recorded CDs reminded me of the sound of those direct-to-disc records - and now digital recordings provide that level of audio quality (or better) routinely.
I think the differences of opinion are actually quite simple to explain. CD gives a more accurate representation of the original recorded sound than vinyl. Very few people have the training and naturally good hearing to be able to notice any digitally-induced noise - SACD or 96kHz/24-bit digital takes that noise below anything that humans could theoretically differentiate.
The reason some people prefer vinyl (or tube amplifiers) is because they /like/ the noise. Humans are not comfortable with too stark contrasts - we write on paper that is off-white, we put patterned wallpaper on our walls rather than pure colours, etc. If there is not enough background noise, things seem artificial and cartoonish.
There is no point in having a technical argument about the quality of the reproduction of the sound - there are no doubts that CD is more accurate than vinyl.
But equally there is no doubt that some people /prefer/ the sound of vinyl. It has nothing to do with CD's sounding "harsh" or "failing to preserve the continuity". It is just that some people /like/ the pops, crackles and hisses from vinyl - it feels familiar and comfortable to them. As another poster says, it's the same reason people sometimes prefer candlelight to a light bulb.
The simple answer is that many peoples' ears are very sensitive to certain types of low level distortion, inaccuracies which becomes irritating and fatiguing over a period of listening time, and unfortunately the digital replay mechanism is far more susceptible to producing this type of distortion. Yes, it is very low level, and very hard to measure but it is there, and causes many people to have major issues with CD sound.
Vinyl by virtue of the fact that at its heart is a very simple mechanical transducer is far less prone to this problem. In CD, with its intrinsic electronic complexity, these ugly problems can rear their head very easily and it needs a fastidious design to minimise the audibility of this distortion. That is one reason there has been a strong movement relatively recently to create digital playback designs with the absolute minimum of electronic circuitry -- the non oversampled DAC technique. They measure badly, but reduce this particularly unpleasant style of distortion very significantly.
You have a few correct points here, but are missing the main point. Yes, peoples' ears are sensitive to certain types of distortion and noise - but you don't get them with good digital playback. You get them with vinyl. When you listen to a CD, the problem is not some extra noise or distortion - it is that the familiar (to you) noise and distortion is missing.
It's like tube amplifiers - fans will tell you they give a "warmer" sound than transistor amplifiers. In fact they give a less precise rendition than most mid or even low-end transistor amplifiers - there is more noise, and more distortion. In particular, they have significant second harmonic distortion that you don't get elsewhere - the "warmth" is that second harmonic.
If you like your music to have this added noise and distortion, that's fine. I can appreciate that, and understand it. Just don't make nonsense claims about CDs and digital reproduction adding noise or being less accurate in some way.
Oh, and the "minimal electronics" movement is purely about pandering to people who will pay for such "features". In the recording studio, the sound from the musician passes through perhaps 30 or 40 opamps before being digitised. A few more on the playback device would not make the slightest difference (assuming, of course, that the electronics is of good quality and design).
The key phrase you used was "good digital playback": unfortunately, the digital playback has to be very, very good for the type of distortion I'm talking about to be inaudible. It's not noise, it's the unpleasant, slightly artificial quality that overlays the sound when you wind the volume up to realistic levels; the quality that immediately gives the game away that you're listening to hifi, not the real thing; the quality that encourages people to fairly rapidly say, "That's very impressive, but can you turn the volume down now, please". This is caused by a distortion, a very insidious distortion, which makes most hifi incapable of reaching the heights of realistic reproduction. And digital unfortunately emphasises, highlights these inaccuracies more so than vinyl, typically.
This particular problem is much, much more brought to the fore in the playback, as compared to the recording side of the process: those myriads of opamps are not such a problem because they typically don't have to cope with the interference effects of power audio amplifiers on the mains waveform. This is also the reason why many people find headphones more "accurate" and pleasant, the much lower power levels involved mean that the electronics are having a far easier ride.
"...many peoples' ears are very sensitive to certain types of low level distortion...it is very low level, and very hard to measure but it is there, and causes many people to have major issues with CD sound."
What specific "low-level" distortions are you referring to? Can you provide some real evidence (i.e., from blind listening tests) that shows that these distortions are indeed audible?
Otherwise your argument appears to be conveniently based on an unfalsifiable hypothesis - i.e., CD sound suffers from mysterious "very hard-to-measure" distortions that apparently only some people can hear.
Sorry, not buying it.
The distortions occur because the electronics are not "perfect", they are susceptible to high frequency power supply noise and RF interference; all sorts of subtle second order effects come into play which are dynamic and temporal in nature. The typical ways of testing equipment with steady state, high level sine waves, in isolation from a normal working audio system, just does not reveal their presence.
The tests for audibility are that CD players are different in sound; there have been tests to demonstrate that at least some players vary in sound from others. If there is any difference then at least one of those players must be distorting ...
It's fairly clear that you are not an electronics expert - you are simply regurgitating terms like "high frequency power supply noise" without an understanding of what that might mean, or what effect it might have on the music. (To give you a hint, from someone who /does/ know, the answer is zero effect, unless you have a very badly designed system.)
HiFi equipment is tested with dynamic testing, not just static. And even if there /were/ these mythical "subtle second-order effects" that can only be heard by a human ear - don't you think that HiFi manufacturers include listening tests during development? You can be sure that high-end HiFi manufacturers use panels of /real/ expert listeners, rather than "Which HiFi" addicts, to help tune systems and identify any issues.
Manufacturers use test CDs as part of their development and quality control. If there were combinations of sounds that emphasised particular problems, then you can be sure these would be used in testing.
It is correct that there are differences in the sound between different CD players (though very little between high-end players). And it is correct that no CD player is absolutely perfect - there /are/ distortions, and there are effects dependent on the type of electronics used, the way it is designed, and some variation due to tolerances in the electronics. No one will argue any differently. But it is total and complete nonsense to say that vinyl has fewer distortions because it is "all analogue" and CD is digital.
Years ago I was giving some colleagues a lift to a station, and I popped a CD into the car player. after a minute or so, one said "hey, that sounds great, who is it?". I told them, then said "I ripped it from an old LP to my PC and burnt a CD of it". "Oh, that explains why it sounds so great!", he said, "because vinyl sounds so much better than CD."
This debate shares features with many other faith-driven disputes. Entrenched positions, solid bodies of unarguable facts and 'facts', a depressing lack of whole-picture knowledge on both sides, an elevated (but usually false) impression of an understanding of the issues involved. Discussions often end up in low-grade sarcasm which is a great shame because this is one of the most interesting aspects of the world of audio. I've been listening to recorded music for over forty years and I'm still learning about people's interactions with sound and music, and what different signal paths do to that.
"This debate shares features with many other faith-driven disputes."
Which "debate" are you referring to? The issue here is not whether "vinyl sounds better than CD" (or vice versa) - that's simply a matter of opinion (or "faith" if you will) and is not of course objectively testable.
The discussion here is over which technology - vinyl or CD - is more accurate at reproducing the original audio signal. This is hardly a "faith-driven" debate, unless of course one chooses to redefine "accuracy" in this context to something other than its traditional objective, engineering-based meaning.
"The discussion here is over which technology - vinyl or CD - is more accurate at reproducing the original audio signal." Actually, the original discussion was on which physical format *sounds* better. Which is purely subjective and isn't measurable by any accurate means. As far as which is more *accurate*, digital is, yes. but accuracy does NOT = better.
@David Brown It's also not entirely fair to make the comparison to tube amps. The difference between a tube amp and a transistor is more one of efficiency than "quality." Tube amps amplify sound less efficiently, but that also isn't necessarily "noise."
Just a thought.
Tube amps and solid state amps differ from each other in more ways than just tubes vs transistors; quality, for example. Although it's still a subjective area, a high quality tube amp will always sound "better" or least more pleasing to most ears than a crappy solid state and vice-versa. The contrast will never be as stark between a CD and a record unless you douse one of them in paint thinner or something. I've played my main guitar (Maton MS-500) through two Marshall solid states, one Fender solid state and a 70s Fender tube amp that I now use almost exclusively. I've played all my guitars through this amp and with the two Marshalls for comparison and regardless of any harmonic distortion, the Fender gives the guitars a sound that I am certain would be more pleasing and "natural" sounding to most ears. Gearhead friends of mine have described the difference in the same terms as me without prompting (eg. "less muddy") and gone into more technical analyses that exceed my knowledge, while my parents prefer the sound without being able to adequately put it into words.
I think that a big part of the debate is driven by an unfair comparison between something that is still in its relative infancy (Digital audio), and something that had been developed nearly to its material science limits (analog vinyl LP recording).
The technical limitations of the CD standard are well understood and many audiophiles will agree that, while it has improved over time, standard CD is only viewed (or rather, heard) as marginally audiophile quality.
However, Digital audio should not be painted with the same CD standard brush. With greater bit depths and wider bandwidth, there is no physical reason, other than for THE LACK of familiar and perhaps comforting analog distortion and S/N characteristics, that digital audio cannot readily outperform vinyl, both in measurement and to the trained ear. Of course, without also upgrading the rest of the audio chain to deal with shorter rise/fall times, wider dynamic range, lower noise floor, flatter frequency and phase responses, etc., the more demanding digital source material could elicit some less than flattering behaviour out of an existing system.
Finally, I have to chuckle a bit when I read "...I record my vinyl to digital format and it sounds better than retail CDs...". Kinda reminds me of those old color TV commercials when the maker shows a shot of their set playing some colorful scene and some guy exclaims to the viewer "Just look at that picture!"
"Finally, I have to chuckle a bit when I read "...I record my vinyl to digital format and it sounds better than retail CDs..."
Sound is subjective. So your chuckling really just goes to show how narrow minded you are.
Someone tells you something SHOULD sound better... and like a sheep you believe it.
Steve jobs is dead because he ate herbs instead of having surgery. He was never an engineer or a scientist. He never let facts get in the way of his feelings.
Analog 'warmth' is nice, but once you get used to high quality digital there's no going back. Its sad, but vinyl just sounds muffled now :(
The best audio recording I have ever listened to is a CD, "The Nightfly" by Donald Fagan of Steely Dan fame. This CD was in DDD format, which I assume meant that it was recorded digitally rather than converted from an analog recording. The sound is wonderful, at any volume, and far surpasses any vinyl recording I have ever heard. Gives me goosebumps!
I have a home studio with nice monitors connected directly to a computer using a studio oriented sound card (with very wide dynamic range). This setup is notable for price performance and because it creates an opportunity for digital room correction, which nowadays you can do with miniature computers.
The RME fireface is as close as anything to an industry standard. Echo Audiofires are notable for amazing value. These are products that are virtually indistinguishable from stuff that costs a lot more. Anything equal to or better than them will be fine.
I’m 60. In my childhood I listened to 78s, 33-1/3s and 45s. I do not miss vinyl. I do not miss the snap-crackle-pop in soft passages, scratches that cause skips, the loss of high end, shorter sides sounding louder than longer sides which are softer, space consumption, wasted cardboard, the large display of mostly crappy graphics, dust collecting, moving a weighty vinyl collection up to a friend’s third floor apartment, warping and washing off beverage stains from last night’s party.
With the advancement in higher sampling rates and greater bit depths the sonic quality is greatly improved. Since I couldn’t find the old vinyl in my collection, I recently purchased a CD of “The Kingston Trio Live at the Hungry I” (circa 1959). I wasn’t sure what to expect. The re-mastering blew me away. The room tone was there. The frequencies, especially a sweet sweet bottom end. No loss of high end. No plastic nails scratching glass; a well-rounded sound. Except for clinking cocktail glasses, there was no noise; a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.
This romance with retro stuff is nonsense. We are supposed to be moving forward with technology, not going backward. Vinyl was a stepping stone. Let it go. Anyway this fad with vinyl seems to have the marks of someone heavily invested in recycled vinyl (which is not as flexible as virgin vinyl) and related tools, and has created a need so they can unload and get rich.
I have to disagree here.
The sound being picked up by the mic, amplified and then sampled is, in your example, two waveforms of equal frequency but differing phase. As you mentioned, that phase difference is what provides spatial cue information.
But an ideal sampler (sample & hold) does not average anything -- it simply takes a snapshot of the voltage at its input at a precise instant in time, at each active edge of the sampling clock. That sampling clock can be as fast as you want it to be, within the limits of technology or your budget.
At this point, we haven't digitized anything yet -- we've simply captured the analog signal (voltage) at discrete points in time, and held it at a constant value until the next sampling time. If that -- holding the value constant -- is troublesome to you, then lets increase the sampling rate so those sampling times are closer together. The faster we sample, the more closely the voltage held on that capacitor in the S/H resembles an unsampled continuous analog waveform. If I still haven't convinced you this is true, then let's increase the sampling rate some more. Nevermind 192 kHz or whatever, let's go for 100 MHz, or maybe 10 GHz. Now do you believe the voltage on that capacitor is for all practical purposes indistinguishable from a continuous analog waveform? Remember, this is audio, so the high end of its frequency spectrum is far lower than 10 GHz -- much closer to 20-something kHz in fact.
We could talk about what comes after the S/H -- the A/D converter that turns that voltage into some number of bits, but that's just a question of how much signal to noise ratio you require. If 144 dB is enough for you, let's go with 24 perfect bits. If you think you can hear more, we can add more bits.
But that's a separate issue from the sampling. Now that we've sampled our audio at the insanely high rate of 10 GHz, so that for all practical purposes it's a continuous analog signal, we have to ask ourselves if such a high sampling rate is really necessary.
Mr. Nyquist proved that no, it's not. In fact, we only need to sample at twice the highest frequency of our input signal in order to EXACTLY reproduce it. Exactly means both amplitude and phase.
To determine how fast we must sample, we only need to know the highest frequency of our input signal, and we must intentionally attenuate (by a very large amount) anything above that frequency, to avoid aliasing.
I will grant you that there may be frequencies well above 20 kHz that matter to us, even if we can't explicitly hear them. We can define the audio band any way you like -- 20 kHz, 40 kHz, 60 kHz or whatever. But once we do that, and our sampler meets the Nyquist criteria, we then know with certainty that we can precisely reproduce the original analog signal -- both in amplitude AND in phase.
Part of the debate here should focus on content. All of the recordings that sound better to me on vinyl as compared to CD are from the era when the recordings were mixed to sound good on vinyl. This doesn't mean they couldn't sound better on CD, but to achieve that they would have to be remixed. The most obvious difference is the overall sound-stage.
With vinyl playback the channel separation is 30db maximum and that's only with a very small part of the audible spectrum. With digital it is of course much higher than that (90db+). So if you were mixing a master tape back in the vinyl days, to achieve a wide enough sound-stage you would have to do much more extreme panning. Now if you take that same master and transfer it to a CD, there will be big empty spaces in the mix that make it sound less like a live performance. For an example of how remixing a recording from that era can improve the overall sound-stage, pick up the CD of The Beatles Yellow Submarine Songtrack (not soundtrack).
The debate about ear fatigue is something different though. It would be difficult to get unbiased results, since people would know even with the best pressing and equipment that they were listening to vinyl. If the test was done with CD's that were burned from the vinyl they were being compared to then you might be able to get some conclusive results.
These responses show that the myths are entrenched and continue. The Redbook CD format was chosen because it is sufficient for playback encompassing the limits of human hearing. Higher bit and/or sampling rates\ formats are either marketing tools (that have failed) or provide some headroom for mixdowns that stay near the max specs of the CD format. Nobody has been able to show they can hear differences between the formats under scientifically controlled conditions (which is not true for compressed formats like MP3). The fact that some people claim to hear improvements on discs with both Redbook CD and higher rate formats can be due to the record company tweaking one to sound "better". On the topic of sounding better, LPs add noise (warmth and spatial effects) to a recording that are not present in the original recording due to limitations of the medium, which is preferred by some listeners. A CD is capable of providing such warm sound (which can be tested by recording an LP to CD and comparing). So, listeners can choose either medium based on what they like, but only one has higher fidelity. It is a valid point that the recording and mastering process affects the quality of the sound and can sound different (and bad) on either playback medium. But, LPs measures worse than CD in every way and also sort of self-erases itself (and acting like a microphone, picks up the played back sound resulting in increased distortion (which is already higher than CD). LPs have a very kludged way of implementing 2-ch stereo that is subject to lots of spacial distortion (that I think some people like). Bottom line is people have preferences, but it is a different matter to claim your preference is superior, especially in terms of fidelity.
I grew up with CDs and listened to them extensively in my youth; yet I tend to find more richness in the sound delivered by records. To this day, I have not heard recorded percussion notes that sound anywhere near as sharp as they do on a 45 long play.
There's a reason for this; Turntables do something that DAC's can't. They reproduce exactly what's pressed into the medium.
CDs may have a greater resolution, but the sampled audio generally creates a notchy waveform. Therefore, most DAC's within a given CD player will apply a smoothing curve between sampled points. This curve is an ESTIMATION that's performed on the fly by hardware. This fact alone isn't something that's not particularly suited to discerning tastes. Yes, 44.1 kHz of 16 bit sample may seem like a very large number, but the smoothing + errors are clearly discernible in the overall recording. I have to say that I'm very happy that CD players come with a DAC that's capable of smoothing. Back in the early 80's, only the very top models offered this function. Smoothing certainly beats a notchy waveform.
If low SNR and maximum dynamic range are all that's important, stick with the CD. If you prefer richness and honesty, give records another try. Using a Pro-Ject Debut carbon with an Ortofon OM10 stylus, I find that the sound of records (of good quality and of a decent, cleanly condition) is crisper than anything digital. The audio is also more elastic and natural. It emulates guitars and other stringed instruments perfectly - especially the bass guitar. If I close my eyes, I almost feel like I'm at the concert.
Listening to digital music afterwards is like listening to muffled music. Sounds a lot smoother, but not nearly as sharp.
Can I ask the writer?
Is there any audible difference between 16-bit and 24-bit? 44k and 96k-- to me there most woppingly certainly is! CD is limited to the latter; let us also remember CD is a rather old format. As for the viewer speaking of "The Nightfly": A terrific album, I suggest you listen to it in 24/96, it will blow you away. Oh, and pick up "Morph the Cat" while you're at it.
The "facts" are irrelevant: you cannot prove something that is subjective.
Digital sounds slightly clearer, has the benefit you can listen to a whole album without getting up and is easier to rip to your computer; [to me] Vinyl sounds warmer and resonates more (feels more like listening to live music).
Either way, you get what you pay for. If you spend £500+ on a digital or analog system you're going to be in for some great experiences.
Not inclined more either way (they are both fantastic formats), just think we're lucky to have the choice.
Hi. Googling on the subject, I came to this site. Found it is an interesting site in the process ;-)
Forgive me, if my English seems a 'bit off'. I'm from Denmark.
On subject: 'Fact' are _not_ irrelevant. Fact is, that what the artists produced at the recording is most precisely recorded on vinyl as opposed to CD. No debating that. It's logic and physics.
I read an article, that most young people today have never even _heard_ analog music, not to mention on anything else than, say, an IPod.
Not a real stereo with 'real' load speakers.
It's the generation of low quality MP3, which is why, I suspect, the vinyl has had a renaissance of sorts. We old dudes (44 ;-) have grown tired of low quality.
An anecdote from a real experience:
In 1982 I bought a Luxman LV-103U hybrid tube amplifier and it's CD player match, also with tubes. IT WAS expensive and the CD player was top of the line(s) at that time.
I love classical music (not only ;-) and I thought this would out match my Thorens 318 turn table any day.
It did NOT.
The CD player had a very specific problem with violins.
The problem is a bit difficult to explain, but it was extremely clear and impossible to not notice:
Whenever violin-players 'started setting the bow to the string' (make any sense ?), the result coming from the speakers was the sound of an ice skater braking. Remember having seen/heard on TV, a figure-skater stopping from 'high-speed' and stopping 'side-ways'?
And I could repeat the effect with virtually any CD I had on the shelve.
As a result, and very dissapointed, I went back to the store (KT Radio in Odense, Denmark) with all my equipment. We tried at least four different high end CD players in different configureations, and they all showed the exact same problems with different CD's and recordings.
Props though to KT Radio: They actually gave me a new OM 30 Ortofon needle for my Thorens, for my trouble ;-)
Customer satisfaction pure!! :-)
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