digital vs. vinyl comparison

compact disc, dacs, mp3 players and streaming audio
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jdjohn
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Re: digital vs. vinyl comparison

Post by jdjohn » 29 Aug 2018 18:21

Oh boy, this could open Pandora's Box...no wait, you said Spotify :wink: Actually, this is not a new question.

As already mentioned, there are SO many variables involved, that it's really impossible to make a generalization on comparing. A very high-end vinyl playback system with expensive components will sound closer to digital than say, a Crosley. But saying 'closer to digital'...which digital? A FLAC or other lossless format file will sound better than an MP3 file. So there are lots of options in both mediums to think about. And anything 'remastered' will sound different than an original mix, so you'd need to have the same mix in both cases for a true comparison.

But in the end, with all other aspects considered equal (which again, is really impossible), there is still the RIAA equalization curve to consider. To create a vinyl record, the source recording (usually an analog tape) gets processed through the RIAA equalization curve before getting cut into grooves on a master disc. Skipping forward to when actual vinyl playback occurs, a phonostage (or phono preamp) reverses the effect of the RIAA EQ, and also adds gain. The application of the RIAA curve, and subsequent reversal for playback, affects the sound, particularly the bass...since that's the primary purpose of applying the curve in the first place. The amount and 'quality' of the gain applied in the phonostage is also a consideration.

Digital has processing as well, first analog-to-digital conversion from a master tape (talking older recordings here), and of course during playback, digital-to-analog conversion (via a DAC). Since there's no RIAA EQ involved with digital, I think it can be argued that digital is more accurate to the original source :shock:

Both mediums have processing of some sort, which means both have opportunity for coloration. Which sounds better? It depends on a lot of things, but most importantly, the listener's taste.

Shadowman82
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Re: digital vs. vinyl comparison

Post by Shadowman82 » 30 Aug 2018 00:06

In most cases when comparing Vinyl and CD I will prefer the Vinyl . I think it just sounds better than CD . I believe while Vinyl has some technical limitations that CD does not it also has it's advantages . For example Vinyl is not limited to the CDs 16-bit/44.1khz . Most masters are either analog master tapes if they are older recordings or a digital master which are usually in at least the 24-bit/96khz range . Because Vinyl is analog it's not limited in that way . Also allot of CDs just have bad mastering that negates most advantages CDs may have .

Now if we were talking about higher resolution digital such as SA-CD , digital files that match the master resolution than I wouldn't say Vinyl sounds better , but to be frank allot of stuff isn't available like that .

dysmike
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Re: digital vs. vinyl comparison

Post by dysmike » 30 Aug 2018 00:07

Shadowman82 wrote: Also allot of CDs just have bad mastering that negates most advantages CDs may hav.
This. The increasing loudness over the years in mastering has made some CDs just sound horrible (Iggy and The Stooges Raw Power is a prime example of this).

IndigoRock2001
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Re: digital vs. vinyl comparison

Post by IndigoRock2001 » 30 Aug 2018 04:06

I don't see how you can do a comparison when Spotify is you're digital source. If you're not comparing a CD as your digital source, who knows what you're getting from Spotify. I've compared same version of same album on CD and SACD and vinyl. I can't simply say one is better than the other. Each have their good qualities. I always prefer vinyl for the sense of presence. But depending on the music, highly digital music, synth, sequencing etc sounds better on CD. Early Funk sounds better (to me) on vinyl. Totally has to do with the music. l have a bad Mastering album which couldn't sound worse on vinyl, even though the music is predominately acoustic. Varies literally album by album. I've pretty much given up on side by side testing.
indi

Shadowman82
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Re: digital vs. vinyl comparison

Post by Shadowman82 » 30 Aug 2018 21:53

I have allot of electronic music on CD and Vinyl and to me even that usually sounds better on Vinyl . Some of the best sounding CDs I have tend to be soundtrack score albums . Maybe those CDs sound good because they are not butchered in mastering . But then those sound awesome on Vinyl too .

I have a few hybrid SA-CD/CD albums and had at one point a player that could play SA-CD . Yes the SA-CD layer sounded terrific and if that format had caught on and most music was available in it I probably never would have bothered with Vinyl . But we all know that never happened and likely won't .

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Re: digital vs. vinyl comparison

Post by ginniegatrit » 31 Aug 2018 01:30

Also I find Spotify notoriously inconsistent with its quality of output. Some music sounds pretty good, some sounds terrible. I've yet to hear something approaching vinyl or CD quality.

Shadowman82
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Re: digital vs. vinyl comparison

Post by Shadowman82 » 01 Sep 2018 00:45

I do not think a streaming service like spotify was meant for audiophiles to begin with .

jdjohn
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Re: digital vs. vinyl comparison

Post by jdjohn » 01 Sep 2018 15:10

The Spotify Premium quality is pretty good IMO. Maybe I've set the bar too low, but it sounds quite good to me, and of course convenience is part of the price. I actually don't even own a CD player, but will probably get an older model at some point. For a handful of my favorite CDs, I ripped them to FLAC and play them from an SD card.

We (my wife and I) switch back-and-forth between digital and vinyl. Sometimes we take turns choosing records to play, and other times we choose digital for convenience. Sometimes we drink beer, sometimes tequila :D

Shadowman82
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Re: digital vs. vinyl comparison

Post by Shadowman82 » 03 Sep 2018 20:42

I don't know in what resolution and format spotify premium is but as you pointed out generally those kinds of sources are not intended for actually sitting down and enjoying the music , it's more to have something in the background while you are doing something else .

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Re: digital vs. vinyl comparison

Post by Sterling1 » 05 Sep 2018 00:11

Why not compare LPs to CD's, after all, aren't we sort of in a quest for improving music recording by what ever means which delivers the impression of better, however better may be discerned. I compare LP's to CD's mostly to appraise the alignment of cartridges. If the LP presents the detail heard on the CD without distortion, I'm pretty much satisfied that I'm getting all there is to get from the groove.

Shadowman82
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Re: digital vs. vinyl comparison

Post by Shadowman82 » 05 Sep 2018 22:59

I started collecting Vinyl because to me it sounds better than CD . I should point out that growing up we only ever had Vinyl and Cassette tapes , we didn't get CD until later . Maybe that's why I prefer the analog sound of Vinyl because that's what I grew up with .

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Re: digital vs. vinyl comparison

Post by balky » 06 Sep 2018 10:28

silvershadelynx wrote:Sorry if this topic has been discussed before, but tonight I did a comparison between two vinyl records and the digital version on Spotify. A year ago I compared the Pet Shop Boys "Yes" cd against the vinyl record and the vinyl record sounded better.

But this time both digital versions - Enya - Shepherd Moons (I have a 1991 pressing ) and Kraftwerk - Computer Love (recent pressing) - sounded better then the vinyl versions.

I compared the 1991 vinyl version of Enya - Sheperd Moons to a Spotify 2009 rematered version and tha latter sounded warmer (more LF) and "more spacious". The Kraftwerk sounded warmer as well on Spotify.

I was a bit disappointed by the results. I think I heard a subtle change in pitch / frequency when changing source. I think I have to check the rotation speed of my vinyl record player. But I'm wondering if it could be the cart / stylus causing the quality difference, and / or the pressing (theres a newer pressing of the Enya album), or is Spotify just better quality in this case? (I didn't expect this outcome). I use a AT100E cart / stylus and I use DIY electrostatic loudspeakers.
First and foremost, regardless of the source medium (CD or Vinyl) the audio quality can only be as good as the original master.
The playback medium type won't influence poor mastering.

Audio that is analog mastered with Vinyl as playback medium in mind has the tendency, and I use the word, tendency, to sound better on Vinyl, provided there is good synergy between the analog playback components. (tonearm, cart, cart alignment, phono stage, amp, speakers)

Audio that is digitally mastered with CD as playback medium in mind will sound (if we remove the loudness war part) better, hands down on CD than on Vinyl.

We also have digitally mastered audio with Vinyl as playback medium in mind, and lots of analog masters (sometimes remastered) available on CD, and this is where we enter the grey zone.
it's typically hard to predict which will sound better, it's mostly playback system dependent, with a touch of preference bias...

I personally enjoy whichever sounds better... and I completely steer clear of spotify and the likes of it... :D

silvershadelynx
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Re: digital vs. vinyl comparison

Post by silvershadelynx » 06 Sep 2018 10:53

Thanks for your replies, it's interesting to read other peoples ideas about sound quality and different media and digital versus analog!

Shadowman82
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Re: digital vs. vinyl comparison

Post by Shadowman82 » 07 Sep 2018 22:35

I think SA-CD sounds at least as good as Vinyl but we all know that format never took off , like we get way more new releases on Vinyl than on SA-CD . And hi-res downloads are usually "hi-res" in name only . Most of them are somewhere around CD quality . It seems to me the only stuff available at true hi-res is something that was at one point already released on SA-CD or DVD Audio .

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Re: digital vs. vinyl comparison

Post by IndigoRock2001 » 15 Sep 2018 08:16

Shadowman82 wrote:I think SA-CD sounds at least as good as Vinyl but we all know that format never took off , like we get way more new releases on Vinyl than on SA-CD . And hi-res downloads are usually "hi-res" in name only . Most of them are somewhere around CD quality . It seems to me the only stuff available at true hi-res is something that was at one point already released on SA-CD or DVD Audio .
I think it's a bit odd that one can get virtually all of the earlier Stones on SACD when excepting Their Magisties Satanic Request they are all very thin dynamically and almost might as well be in Mono. What if the same profusion of SACD releases were true of the Beatles catalogue? I've just gotten a few releases on DVD audio and expect them to be quite good though I've not listened to one of them yet. Hopefully this will be a practical alternative to SACD since most people have a DVD player, which is often hooked up to a surround system. I'm hoping this will spawn a new profusion of multichannel offerings. What HAS to happen though is the record companies need to stop being so greedy and jacking up the prices of DVD audio to outrageous levels. Only if they are priced roughly comprable to CD's will this format take off. They need to be seen not as an "audiophile" option but simply an every day option.
indi

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