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ABX test Vinyl vs CD can you hear a difference?

audio2design

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I think an interesting and informative test would be to record Vinyl to digital and see if anyone can tell the difference. The claim is that digital can’t sound as good a vinyl. If you can get vinyl-equivalent sound in digital, there is no need for vinyl. Plus, this removes any issue of finding matching mastering.

I’ve done this many times, and to me there’s no difference at all.

I have done loop-back testing (ADC-DAC) with people live. No one can tell the difference any more. You will hear reports that people can hear the difference, then you find out they are using some esoteric "audiophile" DAC, not one designed for playback accuracy.
 

LeftCoastTim

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Only thing this comparison shows is that people need about 70dB dynamic range (12 bits), and 17kHz frequency range (35kHz sampling) to enjoy recorded music.

Even with the surface noise, Vinyl was perfectly enjoyable. I can certainly ABX all of them, which means I could certainly ABX the mastering tape vs Vinyl. I have no such confidence ABXing master tape vs CD.

In rating perceptual evaluation, the scale is 5: imperceptable, 4: perceptable but not annoying, 3: slightly annoying, 2: annoying, 1: very annoying.

Vinyl vs master tape can be high as 4, but usually lower. This tests is an example. Still, I can't imagine CD being anything but 5. Maybe someone with exceptional hearing would rank CD vs Master Tape as 4, if they are sensitive to very high frequencies. Would missing high frequency be "annoying"? I doubt it. Is surface noise annoying? To me, somewhat.
 
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levimax

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I have no such confidence ABXing master tape vs CD.
I have no doubt that a flat transfer of the master tape to CD would be difficult/ impossible to ABX, in the real world unfortunately:

1. Many master tapes were decades old and damaged before they were first transferred to digital.

2. Few if any CD's are actually "flat transfers" of the master tapes. CD's are "mastered" by mastering engineers for better or worse and similar to today's "loudness wars" some engineers made EQ choices to make sure the CD "stood out" compared to the LP by boosting the highs and lows or other EQ tricks that may sound nice at first but after awhile not so much.

3. Not all master tapes sound great and adding some mastering tricks when mastering to CD can help but it is changed.

In my opinion "fidelity to the master tape" for any format is a hit or miss proposition and in many cases isn't even desirable. There are too many variables and too many people futzing around with the sound before it gets to the end user. Again in my opinion mastering is a "preference" and it can't be scientifically proven that one is better than the other regardless of format. For me personally I find I have very strong preferences for the "original" mastering if I grew up listening to it that way and heard it that way thousands of times. This has nothing to do with "fidelity to the master tape" obviously. For others that never heard the original I would imagine there preferences are going to be different.
 

DVDdoug

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I didn't do the listening tests....

I grew-up with vinyl and it could be very good and we didn't have anything better. But over time it somehow "develops" clicks & pops and if the record got more-badly damaged and had a bad click it was VERY ANNOYING to me, especially if it was my record and I knew exactly when that click was coming... I'd be waiting for the click instead of enjoying the sound.

When I got my 1st CD player I was amazed by the dead-silent background, especially during fade-ins, fade-outs, quiet passages, and between tracks.

The other issue with most records in those days was rolled-off highs. A few records had "sparkle" but most rock/popular records weren't that great. I was always upgrading, or wanting to upgrade, my phono cartridge but the real problem was the records. The rumor was that classical records were better and I assume today's records are better and more consistent but I haven't bought a record since I got that 1st CD player.

The frequency response/frequency balance on CDs was good since the beginning. The exception would be some older recordings from maybe the early 60s or before, but during the 60's it seems that the studio equipment was quite good and much better than anything for consumer playback.
Very occasionally, I'd hear distortion from a record.
 

bravomail

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There are many threads past and present regarding some aspect of listening to vinyl. These threads always seem to devolve into claims of how terrible vinyl measures and sounds verses those that say while vinyl may measure poorly it can sound good and due to other factors (nostalgia, artwork, mastering style, fun, etc.) is worthy of a place in a modern Hi-Fi system.

I (and millions consumers) could hear difference instantly in the 80-90s, when CD players got introduced. Scratchy dusty albums vs shiny CD disks - there is not even a contest! :)
 

LeftCoastTim

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I have no doubt that a flat transfer of the master tape to CD would be difficult/ impossible to ABX, in the real world unfortunately:

1. Many master tapes were decades old and damaged before they were first transferred to digital.

2. Few if any CD's are actually "flat transfers" of the master tapes. CD's are "mastered" by mastering engineers for better or worse and similar to today's "loudness wars" some engineers made EQ choices to make sure the CD "stood out" compared to the LP by boosting the highs and lows or other EQ tricks that may sound nice at first but after awhile not so much.

3. Not all master tapes sound great and adding some mastering tricks when mastering to CD can help but it is changed.

In my opinion "fidelity to the master tape" for any format is a hit or miss proposition and in many cases isn't even desirable. There are too many variables and too many people futzing around with the sound before it gets to the end user. Again in my opinion mastering is a "preference" and it can't be scientifically proven that one is better than the other regardless of format. For me personally I find I have very strong preferences for the "original" mastering if I grew up listening to it that way and heard it that way thousands of times. This has nothing to do with "fidelity to the master tape" obviously. For others that never heard the original I would imagine there preferences are going to be different.
When I said master tape, I mean the modern usage of it, which is the digital file that has all the "tweaks" applied just before it got transferred to CD or vinyl. Of course, vinyl might have a differently tweaked master these days, who knows.

And Yes, mastering is part of the art of record creation, which means there isn't a "right way" to master.

For the old master tapes, I've read somewhere that digital transfers from the 80s are much higher quality because the original tapes have degraded further since then, and modern transfers of those tapes are of much lower quality.

Also, only digital files would last "forever". All this analog stuff will eventually turn to dust.
 

Frgirard

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Only thing this comparison shows is that people need about 70dB dynamic range (12 bits), and 17kHz frequency range (35kHz sampling) to enjoy recorded music.

Even with the surface noise, Vinyl was perfectly enjoyable. I can certainly ABX all of them, which means I could certainly ABX the mastering tape vs Vinyl. I have no such confidence ABXing master tape vs CD.

In rating perceptual evaluation, the scale is 5: imperceptable, 4: perceptable but not annoying, 3: slightly annoying, 2: annoying, 1: very annoying.

Vinyl vs master tape can be high as 4, but usually lower. This tests is an example. Still, I can't imagine CD being anything but 5. Maybe someone with exceptional hearing would rank CD vs Master Tape as 4, if they are sensitive to very high frequencies. Would missing high frequency be "annoying"? I doubt it. Is surface noise annoying? To me, somewhat.
Vinyl with his variable pitch enjoyable on the piano, no.
 

LeftCoastTim

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Vinyl with his variable pitch enjoyable on the piano, no.
I'm also a piano music fan (the Chopin competition just ended!), and as soon as CDs came out, that's all I bought. No more warbling pianos for me!

PS. All this debate about superiority of vinyl makes me laugh and cry, because vinyl is so much of a poorer medium for piano music. But, you know, audiophiles...
 
Last edited:

JRS

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Thanks. I enjoyed the opportunity to listen w/o having to work for it. Obviously for a test like this to have real meaning, need virgin vinyl and something like MFSL remasters. It reminds me how bloody tragic that those moments in time with Lead Zeppelin and the Stones were so poorly recorded--essentially unlistenable w/o some kink of substance IMO. The two tracks that came closest were

J Taylor--there I liked the B version just a bit better than A, tho I thought A sounded more accurate.

On What's new, I preferred A, and for maybe the same reason--a difference in tonality that caused B to be seemingly less accurate.

Nice effort, if you dig out a few really quiet well recorded stuff, be happy to play again.
 
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levimax

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Thanks. I enjoyed the opportunity to listen w/o having to work for it. Obviously for a test like this to have real meaning, need virgin vinyl and something like MFSL remasters. It reminds me how bloody tragic that those moments in time with Lead Zeppelin and the Stones were so poorly recorded--essentially unlistenable w/o some kink of substance IMO. The two tracks that came closest were

J Taylor--there I liked the B version just a bit better than A, tho I thought A sounded more accurate.

On What's new, I preferred A, and for maybe the same reason--a difference in tonality that caused B to be seemingly less accurate.

Nice effort, if you dig out a few really quiet well recorded stuff, be happy to play again.
Thanks. All the records are original pressings and some are in better shape than others. I will reveal which is which in a few days but I will tell you that one of your preferences was the CD and one was the LP.
 

audio2design

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I'm also a piano music fan (the Chopin competition just ended!), and as soon as CDs came out, that's all I bought. No more warbling pianos for me!

PS. All this debate about superiority of vinyl makes me laugh and cry, because vinyl is so much of a poorer medium for piano music. But, you know, audiophiles...

Ya but audiophiles "know" how live music sounds ....
 

JP

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Joined
Jul 4, 2018
Messages
448
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561
Location
Brookfield, CT
Code:
foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.6.7
2021-10-23 10:30:43

File A: Black Cow_A.flac
SHA1: 3d19e58f084e27e48f099c03e0494466e8482d57
File B: Black_Cow_B.flac
SHA1: cb6a2265d353cd24aaeb63040bf257f5750f5df8

Output:
Default : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

10:30:43 : Test started.
10:32:15 : 01/01
10:32:31 : 02/02
10:32:51 : 03/03
10:33:10 : 04/04
10:33:39 : 05/05
10:34:02 : 06/06
10:34:18 : 07/07
10:34:39 : 08/08
10:34:54 : 09/09
10:35:06 : 10/10
10:35:06 : Test finished.

 ---------- 
Total: 10/10
p-value: 0.001 (0.1%)

 -- signature -- 
0b0851c4611de798e9a5336328af73e641a7fa45


foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.6.7
2021-10-23 10:37:13

File A: Brown Sugar_A.flac
SHA1: 9dfb14b5d5f4d79dcdb087d71f1084866f30eddd
File B: Brown Sugar_B.flac
SHA1: 888c0b4161c2f8cb260783f92608fe9994126e51

Output:
Default : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

10:37:13 : Test started.
10:38:43 : 01/01
10:38:50 : 02/02
10:39:04 : 03/03
10:39:16 : 04/04
10:39:24 : 05/05
10:39:34 : 06/06
10:39:41 : 07/07
10:39:49 : 08/08
10:39:58 : 09/09
10:40:05 : 10/10
10:40:05 : Test finished.

 ---------- 
Total: 10/10
p-value: 0.001 (0.1%)

 -- signature -- 
0a066100bb80ffce56d938f229213aae445c9678


foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.6.7
2021-10-23 10:40:54

File A: Cry me a river_A.flac
SHA1: 5844bf6ab5d1cca8a71d12eccc5465a3efc41d18
File B: Cry Me a River_B.flac
SHA1: 8cfc6980a513ba5457cf4a741703de6c4bae5466

Output:
Default : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

10:40:54 : Test started.
10:41:18 : 01/01
10:41:25 : 02/02
10:41:34 : 03/03
10:41:39 : 04/04
10:41:46 : 05/05
10:41:52 : 06/06
10:41:57 : 07/07
10:42:05 : 08/08
10:42:11 : 09/09
10:42:16 : 10/10
10:42:16 : Test finished.

 ---------- 
Total: 10/10
p-value: 0.001 (0.1%)

 -- signature -- 
edceadf660275b788824d56ef2cea8b4cfa72cdd


foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.6.7
2021-10-23 10:42:50

File A: Something in the way she moves_A.flac
SHA1: 6091296fbd2838a0cb582c179b4abcf8a90b8753
File B: Something in the way she moves_B.flac
SHA1: 90fecf0f00f4c3d66e40c40eb90707b8d899950e

Output:
Default : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

10:42:50 : Test started.
10:43:17 : 01/01
10:43:29 : 02/02
10:43:37 : 03/03
10:43:45 : 04/04
10:43:55 : 05/05
10:44:02 : 06/06
10:44:12 : 07/07
10:44:17 : 08/08
10:44:24 : 09/09
10:44:31 : 10/10
10:44:31 : Test finished.

 ---------- 
Total: 10/10
p-value: 0.001 (0.1%)

 -- signature -- 
81f1a7bff0c3f20a6e0a1bec36d16b55d312511c


foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.6.7
2021-10-23 10:45:05

File A: Sweet Home Alabama_A.flac
SHA1: aec79dfd6e7a0d90b9a88d77c1989673a1317fb1
File B: Sweet Home Alabama_B.flac
SHA1: a6c45d4920c4a7b7d6c01c2fd77b33db2ff24803

Output:
Default : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

10:45:05 : Test started.
10:45:18 : 01/01
10:45:23 : 02/02
10:45:28 : 03/03
10:45:32 : 04/04
10:45:37 : 05/05
10:45:42 : 06/06
10:45:48 : 07/07
10:45:52 : 08/08
10:45:57 : 09/09
10:46:03 : 10/10
10:46:03 : Test finished.

 ---------- 
Total: 10/10
p-value: 0.001 (0.1%)

 -- signature -- 
83c27757d1d11f33a822507a517b13f042252733


foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.6.7
2021-10-23 10:46:45

File A: Whats new_B.flac
SHA1: c0c60fd2b8c7e7ebe3a805d4d0a358c1782594b4
File B: What's New-A.flac
SHA1: 69a4b00ad45a61622aec5f73242fd2dc0b9bc0c6

Output:
Default : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

10:46:45 : Test started.
10:49:03 : 01/01
10:49:20 : 02/02
10:49:33 : 03/03
10:49:44 : 04/04
10:50:02 : 05/05
10:50:14 : 06/06
10:50:29 : 07/07
10:50:40 : 08/08
10:51:10 : 09/09
10:51:20 : 10/10
10:51:20 : Test finished.

 ---------- 
Total: 10/10
p-value: 0.001 (0.1%)

 -- signature -- 
04abc283f38a91c1b3fbeca6ed94cb5559fdd561


foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.6.7
2021-10-23 10:59:56

File A: Whole lotta love_A.flac
SHA1: 5edb21f5aa51b0cb8d7da1f3f909455989417bed
File B: Whole Lotta Love_B.flac
SHA1: e1a7dd045ddaa562cd922251a26726fd00c0341f

Output:
Default : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

10:59:56 : Test started.
11:00:20 : 01/01
11:00:30 : 02/02
11:00:37 : 03/03
11:00:53 : 04/04
11:00:59 : 05/05
11:01:05 : 06/06
11:01:11 : 07/07
11:01:18 : 08/08
11:01:24 : 09/09
11:01:31 : 10/10
11:01:31 : Test finished.

 ---------- 
Total: 10/10
p-value: 0.001 (0.1%)

 -- signature -- 
86e997ccbf7dfef5ab6fbd6e6dba2c050bd4f110
 
OP
L

levimax

Major Contributor
Joined
Dec 28, 2018
Messages
1,092
Likes
1,539
Location
San Diego
Code:
foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.6.7
2021-10-23 10:30:43

File A: Black Cow_A.flac
SHA1: 3d19e58f084e27e48f099c03e0494466e8482d57
File B: Black_Cow_B.flac
SHA1: cb6a2265d353cd24aaeb63040bf257f5750f5df8

Output:
Default : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

10:30:43 : Test started.
10:32:15 : 01/01
10:32:31 : 02/02
10:32:51 : 03/03
10:33:10 : 04/04
10:33:39 : 05/05
10:34:02 : 06/06
10:34:18 : 07/07
10:34:39 : 08/08
10:34:54 : 09/09
10:35:06 : 10/10
10:35:06 : Test finished.

 ----------
Total: 10/10
p-value: 0.001 (0.1%)

 -- signature --
0b0851c4611de798e9a5336328af73e641a7fa45


foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.6.7
2021-10-23 10:37:13

File A: Brown Sugar_A.flac
SHA1: 9dfb14b5d5f4d79dcdb087d71f1084866f30eddd
File B: Brown Sugar_B.flac
SHA1: 888c0b4161c2f8cb260783f92608fe9994126e51

Output:
Default : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

10:37:13 : Test started.
10:38:43 : 01/01
10:38:50 : 02/02
10:39:04 : 03/03
10:39:16 : 04/04
10:39:24 : 05/05
10:39:34 : 06/06
10:39:41 : 07/07
10:39:49 : 08/08
10:39:58 : 09/09
10:40:05 : 10/10
10:40:05 : Test finished.

 ----------
Total: 10/10
p-value: 0.001 (0.1%)

 -- signature --
0a066100bb80ffce56d938f229213aae445c9678


foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.6.7
2021-10-23 10:40:54

File A: Cry me a river_A.flac
SHA1: 5844bf6ab5d1cca8a71d12eccc5465a3efc41d18
File B: Cry Me a River_B.flac
SHA1: 8cfc6980a513ba5457cf4a741703de6c4bae5466

Output:
Default : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

10:40:54 : Test started.
10:41:18 : 01/01
10:41:25 : 02/02
10:41:34 : 03/03
10:41:39 : 04/04
10:41:46 : 05/05
10:41:52 : 06/06
10:41:57 : 07/07
10:42:05 : 08/08
10:42:11 : 09/09
10:42:16 : 10/10
10:42:16 : Test finished.

 ----------
Total: 10/10
p-value: 0.001 (0.1%)

 -- signature --
edceadf660275b788824d56ef2cea8b4cfa72cdd


foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.6.7
2021-10-23 10:42:50

File A: Something in the way she moves_A.flac
SHA1: 6091296fbd2838a0cb582c179b4abcf8a90b8753
File B: Something in the way she moves_B.flac
SHA1: 90fecf0f00f4c3d66e40c40eb90707b8d899950e

Output:
Default : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

10:42:50 : Test started.
10:43:17 : 01/01
10:43:29 : 02/02
10:43:37 : 03/03
10:43:45 : 04/04
10:43:55 : 05/05
10:44:02 : 06/06
10:44:12 : 07/07
10:44:17 : 08/08
10:44:24 : 09/09
10:44:31 : 10/10
10:44:31 : Test finished.

 ----------
Total: 10/10
p-value: 0.001 (0.1%)

 -- signature --
81f1a7bff0c3f20a6e0a1bec36d16b55d312511c


foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.6.7
2021-10-23 10:45:05

File A: Sweet Home Alabama_A.flac
SHA1: aec79dfd6e7a0d90b9a88d77c1989673a1317fb1
File B: Sweet Home Alabama_B.flac
SHA1: a6c45d4920c4a7b7d6c01c2fd77b33db2ff24803

Output:
Default : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

10:45:05 : Test started.
10:45:18 : 01/01
10:45:23 : 02/02
10:45:28 : 03/03
10:45:32 : 04/04
10:45:37 : 05/05
10:45:42 : 06/06
10:45:48 : 07/07
10:45:52 : 08/08
10:45:57 : 09/09
10:46:03 : 10/10
10:46:03 : Test finished.

 ----------
Total: 10/10
p-value: 0.001 (0.1%)

 -- signature --
83c27757d1d11f33a822507a517b13f042252733


foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.6.7
2021-10-23 10:46:45

File A: Whats new_B.flac
SHA1: c0c60fd2b8c7e7ebe3a805d4d0a358c1782594b4
File B: What's New-A.flac
SHA1: 69a4b00ad45a61622aec5f73242fd2dc0b9bc0c6

Output:
Default : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

10:46:45 : Test started.
10:49:03 : 01/01
10:49:20 : 02/02
10:49:33 : 03/03
10:49:44 : 04/04
10:50:02 : 05/05
10:50:14 : 06/06
10:50:29 : 07/07
10:50:40 : 08/08
10:51:10 : 09/09
10:51:20 : 10/10
10:51:20 : Test finished.

 ----------
Total: 10/10
p-value: 0.001 (0.1%)

 -- signature --
04abc283f38a91c1b3fbeca6ed94cb5559fdd561


foo_abx 2.0.6d report
foobar2000 v1.6.7
2021-10-23 10:59:56

File A: Whole lotta love_A.flac
SHA1: 5edb21f5aa51b0cb8d7da1f3f909455989417bed
File B: Whole Lotta Love_B.flac
SHA1: e1a7dd045ddaa562cd922251a26726fd00c0341f

Output:
Default : Primary Sound Driver
Crossfading: NO

10:59:56 : Test started.
11:00:20 : 01/01
11:00:30 : 02/02
11:00:37 : 03/03
11:00:53 : 04/04
11:00:59 : 05/05
11:01:05 : 06/06
11:01:11 : 07/07
11:01:18 : 08/08
11:01:24 : 09/09
11:01:31 : 10/10
11:01:31 : Test finished.

 ----------
Total: 10/10
p-value: 0.001 (0.1%)

 -- signature --
86e997ccbf7dfef5ab6fbd6e6dba2c050bd4f110
Any obvious preferences?
 

JP

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Location
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levimax

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Not a general one. The mastering on most of them is clearly different.
Thank you everyone who has gone to the trouble to ABX these samples. I was able to do so as well so I think it is safe to say that LP's will generally "sound different" that CD's due to both mastering and the inherent changes in LP manufacturing and play back.

While I could detect a difference in all of the samples (some much less than others) none of the samples sounded "bad" to me (Cry me a River has to be taken in context as an original LP from 1955 and an obviously compromised digital version which is all there is) so to me preference comes down to preferred mastering rather than the format. I will share my preferences when I reveal the source but since everyone can clearly tell a difference then a preference would scientifically valid and I think interesting.
 

JP

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Location
Brookfield, CT
I will share my preferences when I reveal the source but since everyone can clearly tell a difference then a preference would scientifically valid and I think interesting.

The problem is that it’s clear which are vinyl in all the samples.
 
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levimax

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Location
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The problem is that it’s clear which are vinyl in all the samples.
Whether vinyl or CD should not affect a preference. People that are sensitive to noise are probably not going to prefer any vinyl version but other people that don't care so much about noise may prefer the EQ or clarity or something else about one version or the other and have a preference independent of format.
 

JP

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Whether vinyl or CD should not affect a preference. People that are sensitive to noise are probably not going to prefer any vinyl version but other people that don't care so much about noise may prefer the EQ or clarity or something else about one version or the other and have a preference independent of format.

There's no way to determine that the preference was not influenced by the knowledge of the source medium.
 
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levimax

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There's no way to determine that the preference was not influenced by the knowledge of the source medium.
I thought as long as you can reliably tell the samples apart, then you can have a valid preference. Why would format be different that noiser or brighter or duller or more or less bass or more or less silibance or anything else that lets you tell the 2 samples apart? Not challenging you just trying to learn.
 

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I thought as long as you can reliably tell the samples apart, then you can have a valid preference. Why would format be different that noiser or brighter or duller or more or less bass or more or less silibance or anything else that lets you tell the 2 samples apart? Not challenging you just trying to learn.

Telling the samples apart is one thing, and sure, if you can do that you can certainly have a preference, and that preference may mean something if you know nothing else. Here we already know one is LP and one is CD, and further it's very easy to tell which is LP and which is CD. Those additional two pieces of information, particularly the latter, are uncontrolled factors that can/will influence the choice of presence preference outside of sound alone.
 
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