• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Vinyl will always sound *different* than digital, right?

Leporello

Active Member
Joined
Oct 27, 2019
Messages
286
Likes
611
Here is Bernie talking about some of the issues, choices, and drawbacks of those choices are in mastering (digital or analog). What the real debate is isn't the media, it's the processing, analog vs. digital processing.

"Now the problem is you can't make a perfect digital copy" at about 29:20 may cause some to have their head's explode because this is contrary to a fundamental concept they have accepted as being true about digital. I think because it just makes logical sense and when you learn the theory the front end of recording, mixing and especially mastering isn't part of the discussion. Ones and zeros, bit for bit, copy, etc., is all great in theory, but in reality it has to go through conversion or processing, and even mechanical.
[/MEDIA]
Now the interesting question is whether what "Bernie" says is actually true. Audiophile YouTube channels are full of bernies claiming this and that. But is it true what they are saying?
 

Ported

Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2022
Messages
38
Likes
25
What I wondered was does Bernie sends his "Mastered" tracks to the cutting room on tape.? Or maybe saves as a digital copy per chance? (Because anyone who has tested both options would know that is the best we have available so far in capturing and transfering with minimal losses).
He points out the masses of processes including mechanical in getting to vinyl and then to extract the signal again.
So easy enough to infer from all that what might prive the best and shortest way of delivering it to your ears perhaps?
 

charleski

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Dec 15, 2019
Messages
836
Likes
1,660
Location
Manchester UK
"Now the problem is you can't make a perfect digital copy" at about 29:20 may cause some to have their head's explode because this is contrary to a fundamental concept they have accepted as being true about digital.
This video is hilarious. A little later on Grundman claims he made a copy of a track in ProTools and could tell the difference A/Bing between them. I never rated him very highly, but fairy tales like this make me more convinced he's talking out his ***.

For those who don't know, Bernie Grundman is one of a handful of 'analog gurus' who make their living charging big fees to master LPs for audiophile labels. I wouldn't place faith in anything he says about digital audio, though I'm sure he knows how to master vinyl pretty well.
 

HarmonicTHD

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 18, 2022
Messages
1,206
Likes
1,463
This video is hilarious. A little later on Grundman claims he made a copy of a track in ProTools and could tell the difference A/Bing between them. I never rated him very highly, but fairy tales like this make me more convinced he's talking out his ***.

For those who don't know, Bernie Grundman is one of a handful of 'analog gurus' who make their living charging big fees to master LPs for audiophile labels. I wouldn't place faith in anything he says about digital audio, though I'm sure he knows how to master vinyl pretty well.
He probably forgot in his old days to disable an effect still active on the other track :facepalm:

Never ever. ProTools works at 32bit internally. I use Ableton Live which does the same. I would bet him my entire Hifi system that he can’t pass a blind test.
 

killdozzer

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 2, 2020
Messages
1,174
Likes
1,156
Now, vinyl, SOME vinyl in SOME playback units...
Oh, come on now. You know you already bought all three of them, so it's pretty much the same for the rest of us. ;)

:)
 

Ricardus

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2022
Messages
365
Likes
457
Location
Northern GA
Arguing personal taste seems questionable to me. In fact, some vinyl distortions can falsely exaggerate the dynamic range as far as the ear is concerned, but yes, it's exaggeration, and it's due to distortion.

There is no real argument as to accuracy, but one prefers what one prefers.
My argument is technical, just lacking specificity. I :)
 

MattHooper

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
4,064
Likes
6,415
I say each to their own but here is a few points to add to the thoughts...

*Having produced a few LPs NONE of them have sounded like mix time on vinyl.. on digital they are much closer.

I appreciate your input and the references to your experience.

This to me gets in to the interesting problems of expressing qualitative differences.

If we stuck strictly to the realm of measurements, we can just easily say "look how this measures more closely to the original, vs this one that measures quantitatively THIS MUCH differently." But ultimately we care about how we percieve the sound, and that gets in to qualitative assessment.

There are plenty of records and digital releases that came from the same original recording masters. (Including LPs produced from the digital re-masters of even old analog recordings). Hi-res digital versions are often available, but it seems that regular "red book" CD standard seems so close as to be hard to distinguish form hi-res digital versions, for most people. So in effect with a good CD copy (that hasn't been mangled by loudness wars compression) you have as close to the original master as you'll get. And you can compare that to an LP version at home.

Having done so with several such LPs, I have certainly heard a difference, but it is to my ears the difference between well pressed records and the digital version was pretty subtle. And so the idea that the digital version is MUCH closer to the original seems exaggerated.

But...that's the thing: ultimately when describing perceptual attributes we are making judgment calls, and so there is likely to be disagreement. I can certainly see that if someone is mastering all the time and is continually confronted by the limitations of vinyl, that can put those limitations in the forefront of their mind.

Again, I do care about the difference I hear between the LPs I'm thinking of and the digital version. It can to me make a Big Difference simply because what I'm focusing on. But I would certainly not present it to someone else as if they ought to expect a Big Difference - in the larger picture, it seems pretty subtle IMO.
 

tmtomh

Major Contributor
Joined
Aug 14, 2018
Messages
1,589
Likes
4,873
I enjoy your posts, and this was another good one.

However, this one part scratched my pedantic itch, as I see this conflation happening pretty often....



There's a slippage there which assumes an inference from "maximum fidelity" to "better/higher sound quality." But there is no such necessary link.

You can play back a terrible sounding source (that is, that most people would assess as "poor sound quality") with Perfect Fidelity. But what you will hear is "terrible sound quality." So you can't derive "Better Sound Quality" directly from "Higher Fidelity." (Unless you re-define "sound quality" to BE some technical "high fidelity," utterly based on measured criteria of how much the signal has changed or not, irrespective of "what it sounds like" Except that is such a departure from the normal use of Sound Quality it doesn't actually clarify, it gets closer to muddying the waters because there will be such confusing slippage between uses).

I think your statement would avoid this problem by saying: Furthermore, if maximum fidelity is your reference or standard for good sound from an audio playback system, and assuming the digital signal is of maximal fidelity, then if vinyl sounds different than digital it must be lower fidelity.

This is why I don't just immediately go along with assumptions like "well, obviously we all agree vinyl is worse sound quality." Not always, to me.

Is vinyl worse "fidelity?" Absolutely, on balance, no question. But...again..fidelity and "sound quality" are separable. (Like I've said many times, working in post production sound, I'm acutely aware of this separation because we are working to INCREASE the subjective sound quality of tracks all the time through manipulation, because if we played the original tracks with Perfect Fidelity people would say they sound WORSE).

As an example of how fidelity and sound quality can break apart from my perspective for music playback: I was just listening earlier to both my record and digital copy of Kind Of Blue. The experience was pretty typical of what I often hear between my vinyl and digital source. The digital version sounded a bit cleaner, slightly "higher res" but after listening to the record I found the digital version disappointed me somewhat in it's "sound quality," because the vinyl had other "sound qualities" - it sounded fuller, beefier, more solid. The overall impression was that much more like the palpable presence of solid instruments, where the digital felt a little more "wispy" and see-through in comparison. So someone else may key in on what the digital does and say "better sound quality" and for me and some others I key in on what the vinyl seems to be doing sound-quality wise and say "I favor that sound quality, all things considered." (And this is also why buying vinyl isn't strictly a physical fetish thing for me: I'm an audiophile, I'm nuts about sound quality. I play lots of vinyl because I often like how it sounds!).

Matt, I enjoy your posts too, and your generosity of spirit.

Within that positive and mutually respectful context, I'd also gently suggest that sometimes your "I generally agree but let me point out one area where I think you're mistaken or oversimplifying things" impulse tends to manufacture problems where there aren't any.

On a mundane level, I would note that I did NOT in fact claim that maximum fidelity is inextricably linked to better sound: The statement you have seized upon starts, "IF maximum fidelity is your reference or standard for good sound from an audio playback system..." I have capitalized "if" here, but otherwise this is exactly what I wrote. So of course, maximum fidelity does not have to be one's reference for good sound. But IF it is one's reference, then vinyl is BY DEFINITION lower fidelity.

So we are in total agreement. In fact, your entire discourse on your own personal listening experiences and preferences is a precise illustration of my point that many vinyl lovers "don't care if the distinctive vinyl sound comes from the original recording, the vinyl-cutting-master step, the playback chain, or a combination of all three." Your explanation does not show why my point was wrong or incomplete, but to the contrary conforms exactly with what I was saying. In that respect you are not being pedantic, because pedantic means correcting a small error. But there was no error - you are manufacturing an error that was not originally made, and then pedantically correcting that.

So I would - again respectfully - say that it's slightly annoying to see you chop off a crucial part of what I said, only to see that your "correction" consists of simply restoring the bit of my original point that you originally chopped off in your summary of what I said.

I stress that the emphasis here is not that you did this to MY comment in particular - I don't mind in any personal way, all good! It's the rhetorical move itself I'm objecting to, regardless of who you're responding to. And it's not like this is the first (or second, or third) time you've made that move in discussions here at ASR.

Now, with that perhaps not super-interesting part out of the way, there's the deeper issue that I would take with your analysis:

High fidelity and good sound are indeed not necessarily the same thing, because "good sound" is subjective to a significant degree. But the argument that high fidelity cannot equal good sound because bad recordings are not themselves "high fidelity" is a giant red herring, and a perfect example of the Circle of Confusion fallacy. This argument of yours does not support your point, and it's a needless muddying of the waters because you don't even need to make that point in order to support your larger argument. If you find that vinyl playback - for whatever reason - alters the original master source in some way that results in a sound you prefer to a CD or digital file made from that same master source, that's great - enjoy, be well, and I am more than happy to agree with you that the vinyl-specific mastering and/or playback chain is producing sound that you feel is better, and that it's totally legitimate to prefer that sound.

The flaw in your argument is that you try to insert a suspect concept of a scale of fidelity for the original recording - you claim that digital can be said to have higher fidelity than vinyl only if the original source has maximum fidelity to begin with. No - digital has higher fidelity to the recording, period. And by trying to insert this second, different kind of fidelity into the discussion, you are actually making an equation between fidelity and good sound, and it's not a valid one.

If we propose a scale of fidelity for a recording, we have to ask, fidelity to what? No recording ever captures 100% of the live performance, and you yourself in that very same comment acknowledge that we are talking about the crafting of illusory experiences, not the actual authentic reproduction of the exact conditions of an original performance. And we have collectively discussed, ad nauseum, in multiple threads here at ASR, how and why the standard of "live performance" does not apply to most recordings (since they are in no way single recordings of entirely live, unprocessed performances), and even with minimally miked recordings of single live performances, there are major barriers to the reproduction of the live feel (including but not limited to the radically different size and acoustics of the performance venue vs our listening spaces).

The entire concept of fidelity when it comes to audio playback is about fidelity TO the recording. The fidelity OF the recording to something that occurred beforehand is a QUALITATIVELY different question, and is either a nonsense question or an unanswerable question when it comes to the subject of the quality of reproduction in music playback.

To me, all of this is an overcomplicated way of you saying that sometimes vinyl euphonics can lend pleasant or realistic-sounding qualities to a recording. Once agian, that's cool, and if you find that your vinyl setup reliably does that with a lot of the music you like to listen to, then definitely it would make sense for you to buy and play a lot of LPs.

But the quality of the recordings themselves has no reliable connection with that. Vinyl can be good at reducing sibilance and treble harshness because of the de-essing EQ that often has to be applied during prep for vinyl cutting. But vinyl is not good at reducing mid-bass boominess, because the euphonics of vinyl do not cut down on or otherwise address that. Vinyl will not make a distorted recording sound cleaner (quite the contrary), nor will it do any favors with regard pitch/speed variations created by the original recording tape deck, or by the playback deck when the tape was transferred to digital. Vinyl might make an early stereo recording with excessive L-R separation sound less annoying, owing to vinyl's increased L-R crosstalk. It's all highly variable, and the reason is precisely because vinyl is changing the original signal in ways that are irregular and have no consistent correlation with how "good" or "bad" the original recording is.

So fidelity is not always correlated with good sound - that depends on one's preferences. But by the same token, whether or not vinyl produces good sound has nothing to do with the "fidelity level" of the original recording.
 
Last edited:

Ported

Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2022
Messages
38
Likes
25
I appreciate your input and the references to your experience.

This to me gets in to the interesting problems of expressing qualitative differences.

If we stuck strictly to the realm of measurements, we can just easily say "look how this measures more closely to the original, vs this one that measures quantitatively THIS MUCH differently." But ultimately we care about how we percieve the sound, and that gets in to qualitative assessment.

There are plenty of records and digital releases that came from the same original recording masters. (Including LPs produced from the digital re-masters of even old analog recordings). Hi-res digital versions are often available, but it seems that regular "red book" CD standard seems so close as to be hard to distinguish form hi-res digital versions, for most people. So in effect with a good CD copy (that hasn't been mangled by loudness wars compression) you have as close to the original master as you'll get. And you can compare that to an LP version at home.

Having done so with several such LPs, I have certainly heard a difference, but it is to my ears the difference between well pressed records and the digital version was pretty subtle. And so the idea that the digital version is MUCH closer to the original seems exaggerated.

But...that's the thing: ultimately when describing perceptual attributes we are making judgment calls, and so there is likely to be disagreement. I can certainly see that if someone is mastering all the time and is continually confronted by the limitations of vinyl, that can put those limitations in the forefront of their mind.

Again, I do care about the difference I hear between the LPs I'm thinking of and the digital version. It can to me make a Big Difference simply because what I'm focusing on. But I would certainly not present it to someone else as if they ought to expect a Big Difference - in the larger picture, it seems pretty subtle IMO.
When you have even just have real time quality casette copies of a masters that outstrip any vinyl version in both perceived dynamics, image and frequency range (possibly not noise) then your opinion might change.. I wish I had digitised versions of these for obvious reasons (to me at least).
The half inch tape copies were taken away by record companies but I have no idea by whom or how they were so messed up on the way to becoming vinyl. I have compared too many times and the difference is very noticeable!
Some of the recordings i hear on 4k youtube are outstanding and I would suggest most of them took very little time to adjust (master) for "publication". Some digital remasters are equally great too ..too many are poor unfortunately.

Even so as an ex engineer I struggle to understand why all the effort is put into trying to compensate for a sub standard delivery (printing) method (at 33LP). 12 inch 45 is much closer mind as groves are big enough to take the detail and clout.

Kodachrome when you could have digital clarity?
 

MattHooper

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
4,064
Likes
6,415
Matt, I enjoy your posts too, and your generosity of spirit.

Within that positive and mutually respectful context, I'd also gently suggest that sometimes your "I generally agree but let me point out one area where I think you're mistaken or oversimplifying things" impulse tends to manufacture problems where there aren't any.

Fair enough; I did say it was a pedantic itch I was scratching. :)

But I still view it as an important distinction.


On a mundane level, I would note that I did NOT in fact that claim that maximum fidelity is inextricably linked to better sound: The statement you have seized upon starts, "IF maximum fidelity is your reference or standard for good sound from an audio playback system..." I have capitalized "if" here, but otherwise this is exactly what I wrote. So of course, maximum fidelity does not have to be one's reference for good sound. But IF it is one's reference, then vinyl is BY DEFINITION lower fidelity.

Ok, thanks for pointing that out. Though I think the problem remains with the "IF," because "IF" someone is equating "Maximum Fidelity" with "Good Sound Quality," then we are talking about the very problem I argued about. So even if we take your for-sake-of-argument example, it doesn't really get us around the issue I was raising; it exemplifies it. And as I say, some people do seem to make this equation (that's why you used the example), which I believe to be problematic.


The flaw in your argument is that you try to insert a nonsense concept of a scale of fidelity for the original recording - you claim that digital can be said to have higher fidelity than vinyl only if the original source has maximum fidelity to begin with. No - digital has higher fidelity to the recording, period. And by trying to insert this second, additional kid of fidelity into the discussion, you are actually making an equation between fidelity and good sound, and it's not a valid one.

It looks like there was some confusion there (could be in the way I wrote it).

That's what I meant by writing "assuming the digital signal is of maximal fidelity"

It was meant to ASSUME the digital signal is maximal fidelity. Not question it.

I assumed we were talking about fidelity to the original master, where because we know digital is capable of more fidelity, we can ASSUME-for-sake-of-argument the digital version of a record DOES represent maximal fidelity. I was simply making that explicit in the line of reasoning, because in making the logical case for vinyl being lower fidelity, without STATING the digital to be higher fidelity, you get a non-sequitur.

So, no I wasn't inserting a "second kind of fidelity" in the statement at all. Just building a logical statement careful that one thing entails another. :)

I hope that clarified things.

(Of course one CAN legitimately talk about whether a specific digital signal we are listening to IS higher fidelity to the master - after all it could have been changed significantly from the original sound by the mastering engineer...but to be cleaner it's best to leave that caveat aside).

So fidelity is not always correlated with good sound - that depends on one's preferences. But by the same token, whether or not vinyl produces good sound has nothing to do with the "fidelity level" of the original recording.

Yes we agree. Except...again...I would amend what you wrote this way: So fidelity is not always correlated with good sound - that depends on subjective evaluation.

Why the change?

Because while obviously "good" is a subjective evaluation, and individual preferences will play a roll in that evaluation, it can be a bit misleading to cast "Good Sound" as if it ONLY related to an individual's preference - as variable and relative as the choice of ice cream or whatever. You may think this is another useless pedantic point...but it isn't because of how these conversations actually tend to play out.

I think there ARE general features that most people would equate to "High Sound Quality."
First among them would be: Sonic Realism. If you took playback system A and B, and played a recording of a human vocal, and "A" had the fidelity level of an flip-phone speaker and "B" replicated the human voice with something like perfect realism - A would impress virtually everyone as being Higher Sound Quality.
(Or take any number of instruments or real world sounds, reproduced with startling realism).

So "fidelity to the sound of the real thing" is one benchmark.

Of course music recordings aren't always about such direct fidelity. But, does this mean we therefore have no possible consensus on what people perceive as "higher" vs "lower" sound quality? Surely not. I'd suggest there are any number of characteristics that will lead to many or most people tending to rate as higher sound quality in music playback: intelligibility, clarity, vividness, richness/fullness, tonal/harmonic complexity, fuller frequency range, higher dynamics, etc. This is separable from mere "preference" because we all know instances where we may "prefer" a certain recording (say a not so great sounding live recording) even while admitting the "sound quality" is inferior to another one.

And of course this can be and has been studied: Much of the work cited and produced by Toole et al was studying people's perception of Sound Quality. That's what, for instance, the blind speaker tests were rating - not "fidelity" since nobody had any idea what technical fidelity the source or speaker had to some original signal, but rather simply "rate the perceived quality of the sound." And it wasn't just a crap-shoot. There was impressive consensus!

So this is why I don't like to automatically equate "Sound Quality assessment" to "That's JUST a statement of YOUR preference." Which is often used to subtly (or not so subtly) dismiss someone speaking about vinyl sound quality "That's JUST your preference...good for you." No, there are some pretty well-ascribed benchmarks of sound quality we can talk about!

When I play, for instance, Talk Talk's Color Of Spring vinyl record, it's bloody amazing sound quality in most of the parameters people would rate "Good Sound Quality." It's huge and spacious sounding, super clear, sonically rich, dynamic etc. There isn't a single person I've played the record for who hasn't' been gobsmacked by the sound (and often since the turntable is in another room, and have the sound down for the needle drop, they don't always know if it's a record or CD or whatever). So it has qualities that allow me to predict that most people will assess the sound as being High Quality...it's not JUST about my personal preference.*

(*Which doesn't mean some people won't *prefer* the digital version if they hear both. I would completely understand *preference* going either way, but I've yet to see anyone rate the vinyl as "poor sound quality.").
 

MattHooper

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
4,064
Likes
6,415
When you have even just have real time quality casette copies of a masters that outstrip any vinyl version in both perceived dynamics, image and frequency range (possibly not noise) then your opinion might change.. I wish I had digitised versions of these for obvious reasons (to me at least).
The half inch tape copies were taken away by record companies but I have no idea by whom or how they were so messed up on the way to becoming vinyl. I have compared too many times and the difference is very noticeable!
Some of the recordings i hear on 4k youtube are outstanding and I would suggest most of them took very little time to adjust (master) for "publication". Some digital remasters are equally great too ..too many are poor unfortunately.

Even so as an ex engineer I struggle to understand why all the effort is put into trying to compensate for a sub standard delivery (printing) method (at 33LP). 12 inch 45 is much closer mind as groves are big enough to take the detail and clout.

Kodachrome when you could have digital clarity?

Again, fair enough.

However, I've also been able to hear a number of recording masters on my own system, brought over by working musicians. My brother for instance just released an album, and we evaluated a number of different masterings at my place. It's extremely complex music - like the Beach Boys/Prog with orchestral/jazz mixed in. He ultimately chose one that was released digitally, as well as released on vinyl. My brother and I both agree the vinyl sounds spectacular, and quite close to the digital (though I prefer the vinyl).
 

Travis

Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2018
Messages
57
Likes
96
This video is hilarious. A little later on Grundman claims he made a copy of a track in ProTools and could tell the difference A/Bing between them. I never rated him very highly, but fairy tales like this make me more convinced he's talking out his ***.

For those who don't know, Bernie Grundman is one of a handful of 'analog gurus' who make their living charging big fees to master LPs for audiophile labels. I wouldn't place faith in anything he says about digital audio, though I'm sure he knows how to master vinyl pretty well.
This is a perfect example of when cognitive bias sets in as opposed to objectivity. He masters for digital, everything he does since the '90s. Grammys and TEC awards for digital projects in DSD. Yes, he does a lot of reissues in vinyl, and on the West Coast that's probably who you want to do the cutting.

In that video, someone with an open mind would come away with:

Vinyl is more limited than digital, it is much more challenging to make it good

Half-speed mastering was almost worthless hype

Test equipment for distortion/noise (sound familiar to anyone here); but listen to it. The hardware, with constant research and testing are fundamental - that's one of the keystones of this site isn't it?

I think what he said on the A/B was one of his tech guys said they had a new "cable" to try, they played A and B, and said one was worse to his ears, it was the cable that was supposed to be the latest greatest. Be careful in selecting anything that goes in the chain.

However, if Bernie isn't your cup of tea, you can pick any top-tier mastering engineer, and there will be interviews, maybe even videos, from AES, SoS, Mix, you know, the industry publications, and they all same the same thing.

I do agree, he says things in such a way that he sounds like knows what he is doing, and a guy you would want to hire if you were doing a project, digital or vinyl.
 
Last edited:

Travis

Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2018
Messages
57
Likes
96
High fidelity and good sound are indeed not necessarily the same thing, because "good sound" is subjective to a significant degree. But the argument that high fidelity cannot equal good sound because bad recordings are not themselves "high fidelity" is a giant red herring, and a perfect example of the Circle of Confusion fallacy. This argument of yours does not support your point, and it's a needless muddying of the waters because you don't even need to make that point in order to support your larger argument. If you find that vinyl playback - for whatever reason - alters the original master source in some way that results in a sound you prefer to a CD or digital file made from that same master source, that's great - enjoy, be well, and I am more than happy to agree with you that the vinyl-specific mastering and/or playback chain is producing sound that you feel is better, and that it's totally legitimate to prefer that sound.

"There is no such thing as high fidelity. Either you've got fidelity or you've got infidelity."
-Paul Klipsch

If you're speaking about a reproduction (as in a musical recording), I suppose you could describe something in degrees of faithfulness, hi-fi / lo-fi, but where is the breaking point? It's all subjective, which is to say, a useless description.

A husband receives no extra credit for describing himself as possessing high-fidelity.

I tend to agree with Paul.
 

Travis

Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2018
Messages
57
Likes
96
Now the interesting question is whether what "Bernie" says is actually true. Audiophile YouTube channels are full of bernies claiming this and that. But is it true what they are saying?
Youtube is indeed full of people claiming this and that. They are not full of Bernie Grundman's. There are also other videos of other top-tier mastering engineers, and interviews in print, they all same the same thing.
 

Travis

Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2018
Messages
57
Likes
96
Here is another, as part of a Master Class on Mastering, where the audience isn't record buyers, it's for those who want to do better, and he gets more into the specifics of equipment, techniques, etc. Mabe this one will allow some to see that there are still choices to be made (and resulting pitfalls) even in the digital domain. AND, at least to me. Again, there are several other mastering engineers with similar videos.

 

Leporello

Active Member
Joined
Oct 27, 2019
Messages
286
Likes
611
Youtube is indeed full of people claiming this and that. They are not full of Bernie Grundman's. There are also other videos of other top-tier mastering engineers, and interviews in print, they all same the same thing.
And what thing is that?
 

tmtomh

Major Contributor
Joined
Aug 14, 2018
Messages
1,589
Likes
4,873
Fair enough; I did say it was a pedantic itch I was scratching. :)

But I still view it as an important distinction.




Ok, thanks for pointing that out. Though I think the problem remains with the "IF," because "IF" someone is equating "Maximum Fidelity" with "Good Sound Quality," then we are talking about the very problem I argued about. So even if we take your for-sake-of-argument example, it doesn't really get us around the issue I was raising; it exemplifies it. And as I say, some people do seem to make this equation (that's why you used the example), which I believe to be problematic.




It looks like there was some confusion there (could be in the way I wrote it).

That's what I meant by writing "assuming the digital signal is of maximal fidelity"

It was meant to ASSUME the digital signal is maximal fidelity. Not question it.

I assumed we were talking about fidelity to the original master, where because we know digital is capable of more fidelity, we can ASSUME-for-sake-of-argument the digital version of a record DOES represent maximal fidelity. I was simply making that explicit in the line of reasoning, because in making the logical case for vinyl being lower fidelity, without STATING the digital to be higher fidelity, you get a non-sequitur.

So, no I wasn't inserting a "second kind of fidelity" in the statement at all. Just building a logical statement careful that one thing entails another. :)

I hope that clarified things.

(Of course one CAN legitimately talk about whether a specific digital signal we are listening to IS higher fidelity to the master - after all it could have been changed significantly from the original sound by the mastering engineer...but to be cleaner it's best to leave that caveat aside).



Yes we agree. Except...again...I would amend what you wrote this way: So fidelity is not always correlated with good sound - that depends on subjective evaluation.

Why the change?

Because while obviously "good" is a subjective evaluation, and individual preferences will play a roll in that evaluation, it can be a bit misleading to cast "Good Sound" as if it ONLY related to an individual's preference - as variable and relative as the choice of ice cream or whatever. You may think this is another useless pedantic point...but it isn't because of how these conversations actually tend to play out.

I think there ARE general features that most people would equate to "High Sound Quality."
First among them would be: Sonic Realism. If you took playback system A and B, and played a recording of a human vocal, and "A" had the fidelity level of an flip-phone speaker and "B" replicated the human voice with something like perfect realism - A would impress virtually everyone as being Higher Sound Quality.
(Or take any number of instruments or real world sounds, reproduced with startling realism).

So "fidelity to the sound of the real thing" is one benchmark.

Of course music recordings aren't always about such direct fidelity. But, does this mean we therefore have no possible consensus on what people perceive as "higher" vs "lower" sound quality? Surely not. I'd suggest there are any number of characteristics that will lead to many or most people tending to rate as higher sound quality in music playback: intelligibility, clarity, vividness, richness/fullness, tonal/harmonic complexity, fuller frequency range, higher dynamics, etc. This is separable from mere "preference" because we all know instances where we may "prefer" a certain recording (say a not so great sounding live recording) even while admitting the "sound quality" is inferior to another one.

And of course this can be and has been studied: Much of the work cited and produced by Toole et al was studying people's perception of Sound Quality. That's what, for instance, the blind speaker tests were rating - not "fidelity" since nobody had any idea what technical fidelity the source or speaker had to some original signal, but rather simply "rate the perceived quality of the sound." And it wasn't just a crap-shoot. There was impressive consensus!

So this is why I don't like to automatically equate "Sound Quality assessment" to "That's JUST a statement of YOUR preference." Which is often used to subtly (or not so subtly) dismiss someone speaking about vinyl sound quality "That's JUST your preference...good for you." No, there are some pretty well-ascribed benchmarks of sound quality we can talk about!

When I play, for instance, Talk Talk's Color Of Spring vinyl record, it's bloody amazing sound quality in most of the parameters people would rate "Good Sound Quality." It's huge and spacious sounding, super clear, sonically rich, dynamic etc. There isn't a single person I've played the record for who hasn't' been gobsmacked by the sound (and often since the turntable is in another room, and have the sound down for the needle drop, they don't always know if it's a record or CD or whatever). So it has qualities that allow me to predict that most people will assess the sound as being High Quality...it's not JUST about my personal preference.*

(*Which doesn't mean some people won't *prefer* the digital version if they hear both. I would completely understand *preference* going either way, but I've yet to see anyone rate the vinyl as "poor sound quality.").

Matt, you need to stop going in circles like this.

If we are going to continue this discussion, then it has to have a baseline degree of rationality and sanity so that it does not become a waste of time. To wit:

1. You first responded to me by saying, "There's a slippage there which assumes an inference from "maximum fidelity" to "better/higher sound quality." But there is no such necessary link."

Your "pedantic correction" was that fidelity and good sound cannot simply be equated. Putting aside the rather important detail that I did NOT actually make such an assumption or inference, I nevertheless agreed with you, and explained what I thought was the best rationale for agreeing with you.


2. But now you change tack and lodge another "pedantic correction" from the opposite end by saying, "it can be a bit misleading to cast "Good Sound" as if it ONLY related to an individual's preference - as variable and relative as the choice of ice cream or whatever."

Once again, I did not cast good sound as purely subjective. And an important bit of evidence to prove that I did not do so comes from... you: your first "pedantic correction" chided me precisely because in your view I did not cast good sound as subjective ENOUGH ("this one part scratched my pedantic itch, as I see this conflation [between fidelity and good sound] happening pretty often"). Rather, you claimed I associated good sound too tightly with maximum fidelity.

The fact that I did no such thing is irrelevant to the point I am making here. The point I am making here is that no matter what formulation anyone gives, you will manifest an irresistible compulsion to "correct" it, even if that requires misrepresenting it so you can correct the misrepresented version. This is the first time you and I have tangled on this particular issue, but if you want to know why several other ASR members have gotten frustrated with you or a little spiky towards you in past exchanges in several threads here, I can guarantee you that this kind of rhetorical move is the reason.


3. The bulk of your last comment to me, quoted in full above, is that people's perceptions of good sound have a significant degree of scientifically-backed consensus behind them, and that vinyl is capable of sounding good in those ways.

To that I say, absolutely, makes sense, agree - and I never claimed or implied otherwise.

Your Colour of Spring example (and indeed, my goodness, what an album and what a sonic masterpiece!) shows that vinyl can sound good. No one disputes that. And those qualities that make up "good sound" have some objective basis. No one disputes that either.

Now, do those objective qualities of good sound have a connection - not a 100% connection or an exclusive connection, but an important and obvious connection nonetheless - to fidelity of sound reproduction? Of course they do: clarity, soundstage precision, dynamics, intelligibility - high fidelity reproduction is essential to all of them. In fact, for some of them (clarity and full frequency response in particular) high fidelity is synonymous - they are part of the definition of high fidelity.

To be clear, that does NOT mean that the highest-fidelity system can make a recording sound truly realistic (whatever that even means) if the recording does not contain the musical information to make that possible. And it is indeed possible that vinyl euphonics might add some quality to the playback that strikes the human brain as lending some of the "realism" that did not make it into the recording from the performance. That is absolutely possible, and all indications are that it happens at least sometimes.

But again, I have disputed none of that, and I have not dismissed the experiences of vinyl lovers, and I have pointedly not said that people like vinyl despite its bad sound. I never said or implied that vinyl sounded bad. The only critical or "negative" thing I have said about vinyl is that it has lower fidelity than digital, which is objectively true and which you have acknowledged. Therefore, when vinyl sounds audibly different than digital (assuming the same source and mastering), it must sound different because of that lower fidelity - that's not an opinion; it's simply the logical conclusion of facts upon which we agree. That lower fidelity does NOT have to sound worse of course - it can sound better to folks, or it can sound different and not necessarily better or worse. Nothing you have written disproves or effectively argues against those basic points, and conversely I have affirmed those basic points, most of them repeatedly.

Beyond that, I'm not sure what else there is to say. If you have a disagreement with a point I've actually made or a point of view I actually hold, I'm all ears. But if, instead, you have a disagreement with a viewpoint that you want to saddle me with based on an inaccurate and implausible interpretation of what I wrote, kindly take a seat.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: JP

MattHooper

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
4,064
Likes
6,415
"There is no such thing as high fidelity. Either you've got fidelity or you've got infidelity."
-Paul Klipsch

If you're speaking about a reproduction (as in a musical recording), I suppose you could describe something in degrees of faithfulness, hi-fi / lo-fi, but where is the breaking point? It's all subjective, which is to say, a useless description.

I disagree.

That's akin to saying "you've either got a straight line, or you don't."

Well, some lines that are not perfectly straight can be more straight than others. If I had a straight line, a line with the tiniest deviation from straight, and a squiggly line, it's not purely subjective that the middle line is "more straight" relative to the reference of "perfectly straight."

Similarly, it makes sense to acknowledge degrees of accuracy, not just a binary.

Sometimes simplifying something is helpful; other times, it ignores reality enough to be impractical and not really account for reality.

I mean...should we just throw away the concept of even mentioning speaker accuracy on this site because no speaker is "perfectly accurate?" Surely it's more helpful to acknowledge degrees of accuracy.
 
Top Bottom