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Article: Does Vinyl Really Sound Better?

Frank Dernie

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#21
Agreed that all things being equal, digital will sound more accurate.

But different EQ used for an LP and/or certain deviations from accuracy can make the vinyl sound as detailed, or more detailed than the digital.
Lots of people, newbies to vinyl veterans, report hearing more detail from vinyl likely because of these factors.

(Just a few nights ago I compared my vinyl version of Niel Young at Massey Hall to the digital version, and the vinyl version actually struck me as a bit more "detailed" in certain ways. The digital in other ways).

And of course there are numerous instances where the vinyl can simply be from a better master than the CD, making the vinyl sound better.
You are very likely to hear the low level detail clearly on an LP because as a matter of course the music is compressed to make the LP to raise the lower level sound further from the noise, so the low level detail is actually louder than the rest of the music on the LP than on the original recording.
Or it used to be back when I was involved.
 

Wombat

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#23
I am not a vinyl booster at all. I was listening to a CD of Seargeant Pepper's in the car on a very nice audio system. The CD is sort of revisionist mastering and not as good as the vinyl. But its the mastering not the medium.
Assessed in the car? :cool:
 

anmpr1

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#24
Whilst better than LPs, since it is less compromised for manufacture, still not as good as CD.
Yes, if you set levels wrong it is quite forgiving of overload, nice even. But producing a recording indistinguishable from the microphone feed? None that I have used. Plus the audible hiss on the quiet bits of classical recordings is distracting.
I remember when CD first came out. I was listening to a track (original analog tape) that, at one point in the recording, the right channel dropped out for a few seconds. With headphones I heard distinct tape hiss on the 'silent' channel. You couldn't hear that on the LP. It was then and there that I realized how digital was objectively better than analog tape.

On the other hand, I remember a discussion I had with the late Peter Aczel, editor of The Audio Critic. We were discussing the DGG studio recording of Levine's Ring, and subjective impressions of digital sound. I copy a section of our correspondence:

(Me) I’d like to share an experience. Once, while listening to the Levine/Met Ring, I immediately became aware of something unusual, something I’d not really thought about before. The sound coming from my speakers had absolutely no background artifacts. With records, there is always something extraneous going on in the quiet passages. At a live performance there is always something in the background, even if it is just audience noise. On the various Bayreuth live recordings one hears stage artifacts, most notably within quiet passages. However, the sound of my “studio” Ring, while pristine, seemed almost artificial ...

(PA) Your Levine/Met recordings of the Ring sound a bit sterile because they were made in Manhattan Center (New York), which is an acoustically rather dead venue. In 1989, Max Wilcox produced a wonderful-sounding recording of the Mahler 5th (Mehta/NY on Teldec, released 1990) in that same Manhattan Center. He added some very subtle artificial reverb, which is not at all perceptible as such but makes the sound come alive. Now, compression is a highly complicated issue. The dynamic range of the human ear is more than 120 dB. The dynamic range of 16-bit digital recording is theoretically 98 dB. The difference between the absolute softest audible music in a concert hall and the loudest climaxes is of the order of 60 to 70 dB because of the ambient noise floor. Let us say you need 1 milliwatt of amplifier power, in a given installation, to play the softest passages (I am just guessing), then 70 dB above that would come to 10,000 watts. Any domestic loudspeaker would go up in smoke with that kind of input. With extremely high-efficiency horn-type theater speakers the numbers change; it is actually possible to produce levels of 110 or 115 dB or even more in a single installation, and here’s the remarkable thing—you can tolerate it because the distortion is low. We tend to judge loudness by the amount of distortion we hear, not by SPL! You wouldn’t adjust the volume control if you heard no distortion. So, you could have your “too good” 98-dB balls-to-the-wall digital recording without compression, if the efficiency and power-handling capability of your system were adequate—which they generally are not.

What Peter said about lack of distortion in digital is correct. With my current system, I can play very loud since my amplification chain and speakers are low distortion. I can listen louder, even to LPs, but then other LP related noise interferes.
 

anmpr1

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#25
I worked for Garrard when the Zero 100 was in production.
It is clear that Garrard was building to a price point. My first in the series model Zero 100 was finished nicely. Later iterations where cheapened--aluminum substituted for brass, etc. But they moved to a belt drive, which likely made the actual turntable better, and later created a model with a magnesium pantograph arm. I never heard that model. By then Japanese DD had taken over the mass market. It would have been nice if Garrard could have concentrated more on the arm, and completely abandoned the changer mechanism thing, which was always a compromise.
 

anmpr1

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#26
Assessed in the car? :cool:
I recall an interview with a then more coherent Brian Wilson. He'd create incredibly dense detailed overdubbed 4 track recordings (tracks were limited by tape technology, then) using the best of the LA studio musicians. Then mix them all down to mono. He said he wanted his mix to sound good over a single speaker car radio. I recall listening to his CD reissued master tapes, pre-mixdown. I couldn't believe what he was doing back then! Completely floored me.
 
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#27
While I am firmly in the digital camp I do use both mediums to playback music and have many of my favorite albums on both vinyl and cd and have done plenty of comparison, the silver disc always wins. I only wish there was a better way to ensure the engineering and production qualities of the music as I have bought both cd's and album's that sound terrible.

Not sure why I still follow the debate of this subject, as soon as I see words like "warm" and "bight" or "brittle" it seems like a lost cause...or maybe the Russians.
 

watchnerd

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#28
Whilst better than LPs, since it is less compromised for manufacture, still not as good as CD.
Yes, if you set levels wrong it is quite forgiving of overload, nice even. But producing a recording indistinguishable from the microphone feed? None that I have used. Plus the audible hiss on the quiet bits of classical recordings is distracting.
The only RTRs I listen to are things that don't exist digitally (i.e. things originally recorded to RTR, never transferred to digital), so I can't compare, unless I wanted to transfer my own stuff....but the limitations are already known, as you said.
 

M00ndancer

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#29
While I am firmly in the digital camp I do use both mediums to playback music and have many of my favorite albums on both vinyl and cd and have done plenty of comparison, the silver disc always wins. I only wish there was a better way to ensure the engineering and production qualities of the music as I have bought both cd's and album's that sound terrible.
That's still my biggest gripe, regardless of media, crappy masters makes it sound really bad. Someone here pointed out a good example, Adele. Best recording is the live recordings on YT. But the vinyl will never win, digital is here to stay with superior sound. But it is a similar problem that we had with the Hobbit in 48fps, arguably better quality but many perceived is as worse.
 

Ron Texas

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#30
Some people like the ritual of handling LP's and setting a stylus upon them. I actually ran across an audiophile who completely refused to rip music to the extent that he burnt all his downloaded music to optical media, including high res content. Other than the ritual, what vinyl has to offer is a high noise floor, and the ability to change the character of the system with a different cartridge or tinkering with the turntable.
 

M00ndancer

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#31
Some people like the ritual of handling LP's and setting a stylus upon them.
Other than the ritual, what vinyl has to offer is a high noise floor, and the ability to change the character of the system with a different cartridge or tinkering with the turntable.
That's totally fine, doesn't change the fact that CD are better than vinyl from a technical standpoint. I didn't however realize that the vinyl can mask? part of a bad master recording. Good to know, might explain why I like Chicago's 17 album better on analogue media (tape/vinyl) than on digital download or streamed.
 

Ron Texas

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#32
That's totally fine, doesn't change the fact that CD are better than vinyl from a technical standpoint. I didn't however realize that the vinyl can mask? part of a bad master recording. Good to know, might explain why I like Chicago's 17 album better on analogue media (tape/vinyl) than on digital download or streamed.
Just remember, I didn't say which was better. Your comment about masking may explain why some like the Schiit Yaggi as it has a high noise floor. Then again, if one wants a high noise floor, they don't have to pay over $2k to get it.
 
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#33
Although a lot of my music is on vinyl,and I tolerate it, I don't love it. I prefer a linear tracking tone arm and if a record develops a scratch I have to use a different turntable arm combo.
If you look at my speakers they are four way multi amped because it is hard to find a transducer that goes from 20 Hz to 20 kHz without lots of compromises.
One of the reasons I prefer CDs is bandwidth and distortion and presumably hi rez will be even better.
I don't use single driver speakers (Lowther, Voxativ etc) and I think expecting a mechanical stylus to reproduce the entire spectrum is asking a lot.
It was what we had, but what is there now, is superior in every dimension that I can see. Except possibly availability of certain programming.
If CDs were available for all of my LPs I would ditch them in a heartbeat. The larger size and print, and ritual may be likable but not a substitute for a better medium.
 
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#34
Assessed in the car? :cool:
Modern cars have dsp sound systems. Although the "room noise floor" definitely leaves something to be desired if the music allows for turning it up,
I find listening in the car to be not as bad as it used to be. The sound systems are not only dsp ed but also multi amped and surround.

I have to concede it IS difficult to play an LP in a moving car.:)
 

anmpr1

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#35
Some people like the ritual of handling LP's and setting a stylus upon them. I actually ran across an audiophile who completely refused to rip music to the extent that he burnt all his downloaded music to optical media, including high res content. Other than the ritual, what vinyl has to offer is a high noise floor, and the ability to change the character of the system with a different cartridge or tinkering with the turntable.
I've also thought that. Much of it is a ritual thing. However, you really can't discount ritual inasmuch as the essence of ritual exists in order to evoke something transcendent. And the Muses are, after all, goddesses. Whether it's common Polyhymnia, or her higher sister, Urania. From a ritualistic standpoint, digits are a black box. An all or nothing proposition. Analog is (or can be) involving. Whether that is important to anyone is a personal thing.

But there are more to records than what you mention--ritual and noise. For some of us, it's both a monetary and sentimental situation. I have a rather large collection of records. I started collecting them in the late '60s. I've kept them in good condition. So it is what I have. They still offer enjoyment, so I'm not happy to replace them with CDs, or downloads. Many folks threw their records out when digits arrived. I never understood that. But there's a lot of things I don't understand very well. For me, maybe it could be an autistic thing, too. I like watching things spin around. :facepalm:
 

Ron Texas

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#36
Modern cars have dsp sound systems. Although the "room noise floor" definitely leaves something to be desired if the music allows for turning it up,
I find listening in the car to be not as bad as it used to be. The sound systems are not only dsp ed but also multi amped and surround.

I have to concede it IS difficult to play an LP in a moving car.:)
The first car CD players were a waste, skipping like crazy. The new ones all play content stored on mobile phones. I rather listen to the 6.2L Chevy V8 in my Camaro SS.
 

Ron Texas

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#37
For some of us, it's both a monetary and sentimental situation. I have a rather large collection of records. I started collecting them in the late '60s. I've kept them in good condition. So it is what I have. They still offer enjoyment, so I'm not happy to replace them with CDs, or downloads. Many folks threw their records out when digits arrived. I never understood that. But there's a lot of things I don't understand very well. For me, maybe it could be an autistic thing, too. I like watching things spin around. :facepalm:
There is absolutely no reason to ditch an extensive collection of LP's. Of course you now have the option of making digital backups for convenience and security. I had a collection of only 150 LP's as I stopped buying them when CD's became available. In 2017 a flood destroyed them along with my turntable and preamp. Only the computer, hard drive library and Crown 1502 survived. The house was so badly damaged by over 2.5' of water that it was torn down after we sold it for land value. Some of those LP's dated back to the 60's.
 

Frank Dernie

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#38
The only RTRs I listen to are things that don't exist digitally (i.e. things originally recorded to RTR, never transferred to digital), so I can't compare, unless I wanted to transfer my own stuff....but the limitations are already known, as you said.
I genuinely believe that you can't judge a medium just by listening to a recording. In the absence of knowledge of how the recording was made there is no way to judge if it is accurate or not.
I have made recordings for well over 50 years now. The best tape recorder I have is a Revox B77 and I never managed to set the levels such that the microphone feed was indistinguishable from the microphone feed. High levels make noise less noticeable but then the overload is audible on the loud bits.
The first time I used a digital recorder (StellaDAT) and knowing overload was a no-no I could not tell the difference between the microphone feed and the recorder.
Having said that the sound of overload on a tape recorder is so pleasant that a plugin emulating it is very popular...
 

levimax

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#39
For a lot of music made from the 50's through the 70's the best quality recordings that remain are vinyl as many of the original tapes are lost or damaged. If you add in all the originally well recorded music that has been damaged by "remastering" and now the current music releases (and current reissues) where the vinyl is mastered with more DR than the CD versions, there is a large and growing amount of music that "really does sound better on vinyl". It is completely crazy but true. If you want to enjoy the largest selection of the best quality recordings available you need both both digital and vinyl playback capabilities.
 

watchnerd

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#40
But the vinyl will never win, digital is here to stay with superior sound.
What would winning even mean?

That one wins and the other dies off completely?

I don't think any sane person who is into collecting vinyl thinks that will happen, or even advocates for it if they're at all aware of how many LPs are mixed/mastered after digital conversion.

Also, I don't know any "vinyl absolutists" who don't also listen to digital at work, in the car, when traveling, at the gym, etc. Maybe there are some nutters who have revived Walkmans, but I haven't seen them.

But to make an analogy:

The invention of quartz watch movements obliterated mechanical watches from an accuracy POV and relegated mechanical watches to a hobbyist / prestige market, where it continues to survive.
 
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