Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

compact disc, dacs, mp3 players and streaming audio
Post Reply
Gravitar8
senior member
senior member
Canada
Posts: 460
Joined: 18 Nov 2017 17:07
Contact:

Re: Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

Post by Gravitar8 » 16 Jun 2019 03:11

Let's throw this truism into the thread- consider the most popular drum machine ever made and used on countless hit records for the past 30 plus years and still being used: The Roland 808/909- any idea what bit rate ? Or the Akai SP sampler series? 10 bit- 12 bit and sounding (still) fantastic. It's not about the bit rate or the sampling frequency it's about the discrete circuitry that produce "a/the sound". Fascinating stuff.

Sterling1
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 829
Joined: 01 Feb 2017 16:28
Contact:

Re: Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

Post by Sterling1 » 16 Jun 2019 19:15

Gravitar8 wrote:
15 Jun 2019 13:36
WOW- please share a few pics of your 7010F- such a wonderful machine. Great post too btw- I was trying to find an example of a 14bit recording in my record collection but you found a perfect example. That recording is superb. I think at least in big part, indeed the 'old' discrete circuitry and components in the Sony conversion system had a massive part in the final quality of the LP. It is staggering to think that had the 14bit system become "red book" then how might today's digital music recordings have evolved? Instead of a 'bit war and sampling freq rate war" ie 16, then 18, then 24, then 32 bit etc, what if all that progression had been spent on discrete circuitry both in the recording and in the HOME PLAYBACK equipment. I bet we'd be much less impressed with what is considered today's "best digital sound".
My impression is early digital recorders did sound as good or better than analog. One of my favorite LP's is a recording of The Firebird from the Atlanta Symphony, produced from the 14 bit Soundstream Digital Recorder in the late 1970's. Its high dynamic range is a delight. It was my favorite recording of The Firebird until I purchased a 5.1 downstream of The Firebird from the Seattle Symphony. At any rate, today I still prefer recording to DAT from analog rather than to computer from analog, using my 27 year old Sony PCM-7010F Time-Code Digital Recorders, just because the finished product sounds better, which I attribute to the Sony analog to digital converter.

Here's a pic of one of the pair. I have both connected to a Sony RM-D7200 Remote Control, which does 3 frame accurate time-code edits.
24641850610_4da97510b2_z.jpg
(51.59 KiB) Downloaded 143 times

Gravitar8
senior member
senior member
Canada
Posts: 460
Joined: 18 Nov 2017 17:07
Contact:

Re: Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

Post by Gravitar8 » 16 Jun 2019 22:00

[-o<
wonderful! thank you.... and that build quality! W O W

NOYB
member
member
United States of America
Posts: 233
Joined: 01 Jul 2019 01:12

Re: Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

Post by NOYB » 07 Jul 2019 23:31

I then put the needle to the LP and sat back.
Wow ... I was stunned. The warmth, wide sound stage imaging and "presence" was simply amazing."
What you heard was not a difference of digital vs. analog. But rather the difference between the media and the method used of extracting the signal from the media, and the content the media contains actually being different.

There are a lot of factors that make playing digital and vinyl records sound different. Few of them are in the favor of vinyl records in regards to accurate reproduction of the content.

Some people like...
Noise
WOW and fluter
Rumble
Crosstalk
Signal ringing
Distortion
Less channel separation

Stylus extracted signal from traditional vinyl records suffers from all of those and certainly many more than that short list.

Given a decent bit depth and sample rate digital will more accurately reproduce the audio content that it contains than your turntable playing a vinyl record.

Try this. Digitize ("rip") a vinyl record at 24/96 using an ADC with high quality analog inputs. Play it back and see how it compares to the vinyl.

If you like do the same for standard CD quality (16/44.1).

Can you consistently (not just chance of guessing) tell the difference between them in a truly blind A/B/C test?

It's interesting how many people have superman hearing until they have to prove it in a truly blind test. Then they come up with all manner of excuses to blame the test.

Shadowman82
senior member
senior member
Posts: 849
Joined: 17 Feb 2012 22:47

Re: Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

Post by Shadowman82 » 09 Jul 2019 00:53

You can't do blind listening tests between digital and analog sources because the analog sources have background noise which means you can always tell which one is the analog one .

Sunwire
long player
long player
United States of America
Posts: 2090
Joined: 07 Oct 2004 21:54
Location: New York

Re: Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

Post by Sunwire » 09 Jul 2019 01:23

A high quality digital recording of an analog source will include all the analog background noise, so the two will both have background noise when compared to each other.

Sterling1
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 829
Joined: 01 Feb 2017 16:28
Contact:

Re: Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

Post by Sterling1 » 09 Jul 2019 01:33

Sunwire wrote:
09 Jul 2019 01:23
A high quality digital recording of an analog source will include all the analog background noise, so the two will both have background noise when compared to each other.
Yes

eliash
member
member
Germany
Posts: 81
Joined: 14 Aug 2016 14:45
Location: Bavaria, near lake Ammersee

Re: Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

Post by eliash » 09 Jul 2019 05:05

Sterling1 wrote:
09 Jul 2019 01:33
Sunwire wrote:
09 Jul 2019 01:23
A high quality digital recording of an analog source will include all the analog background noise, so the two will both have background noise when compared to each other.
Yes
The whole issue is not a technical any more from my perspective.
Even so called High-Res issues are often (even my favoured contemporary jazz) heavily compressed. New vinyl releases tend to be mastered less aggressive and sound more natural to my ears on average. Comparing them with a standardised loudness meter proves that, often 2-3dB more dynamic range measured on vinyl (snap and crackle do not determine this difference). Of course one could digitise them, but when you own it anyway...

Sterling1
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 829
Joined: 01 Feb 2017 16:28
Contact:

Re: Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

Post by Sterling1 » 09 Jul 2019 13:14

Shadowman82 wrote:
09 Jul 2019 00:53
You can't do blind listening tests between digital and analog sources because the analog sources have background noise which means you can always tell which one is the analog one .
Quite frequently, I sync LPs to the same recordings on CD or SACD. It's all about gaining confidence that my cartridge is properly aligned, which is satisfied when LPs are free of distortions and are indistinguishable from CD tone. In my experiments so far, it's easy to get confused about what source I'm listening to. In fact, if it was not for snap, crackle, and pop, I might not know what source I'm listening to. At any rate, I also sync LPs to digital copies I've made of those LPs, which have been cleaned up, to get a sense of the copy's quality. In these comparisons the digital copies ALWAYS sound better than original LPs, since I've filtered pops and other noises; and, I can equalize as well to taste. From all of these experiments, I've concluded it's real nice to have a high quality record player to properly digitize my old LPs for convenient enjoyment from my iTunes Library. But that's it. I'm not at all interested in buying new LPs since I don't believe LPs sound better over all than downloads today from Apple Music; yet, when I can digitize instead of download I save 10 bucks. :D

TubularBell
member
member
Posts: 70
Joined: 25 May 2013 16:51

Re: Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

Post by TubularBell » 10 Jul 2019 17:16

I once read about the listening test where guineapigs auditioned LP and digital files. Or that's what they thought. In reality, the tonearm triggered the same digital file with some added surface noise at the beginning to make it sound right. Surprisingly the "LP" was described was warmer and more natural than its digital twin... Wish I could find the test report again.

eliash
member
member
Germany
Posts: 81
Joined: 14 Aug 2016 14:45
Location: Bavaria, near lake Ammersee

Re: Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

Post by eliash » 11 Jul 2019 05:31

TubularBell wrote:
10 Jul 2019 17:16
I once read about the listening test where guineapigs auditioned LP and digital files. Or that's what they thought. In reality, the tonearm triggered the same digital file with some added surface noise at the beginning to make it sound right. Surprisingly the "LP" was described was warmer and more natural than its digital twin... Wish I could find the test report again.
There is indeed a very limited difference between the sound from LP and digital, when mastered equally. With foobar on the digital side you can set the volume almost exactly (1dB) to the vinyl one and compare. Frequency and distortion-wise there is negligible difference with a properly electrically and mechanically set-up high quality cart. In such cases my loudness meter also reads almost identical values (less than some 0.3dB) for each side of the LP and the according digital tracks...but in many cases digital shows some 2-3db higher peak-to-loudness values (= less dynamic range)...which is clearly audible. Here it comes to individual taste, how you like compressed music at home...

NOYB
member
member
United States of America
Posts: 233
Joined: 01 Jul 2019 01:12

Re: Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

Post by NOYB » 11 Jul 2019 11:19

eliash wrote:
11 Jul 2019 05:31
TubularBell wrote:
10 Jul 2019 17:16
I once read about the listening test where guineapigs auditioned LP and digital files. Or that's what they thought. In reality, the tonearm triggered the same digital file with some added surface noise at the beginning to make it sound right. Surprisingly the "LP" was described was warmer and more natural than its digital twin... Wish I could find the test report again.
There is indeed a very limited difference between the sound from LP and digital, when mastered equally. With foobar on the digital side you can set the volume almost exactly (1dB) to the vinyl one and compare. Frequency and distortion-wise there is negligible difference with a properly electrically and mechanically set-up high quality cart. In such cases my loudness meter also reads almost identical values (less than some 0.3dB) for each side of the LP and the according digital tracks...but in many cases digital shows some 2-3db higher peak-to-loudness values (= less dynamic range)...which is clearly audible. Here it comes to individual taste, how you like compressed music at home...
That is not a digital to analog comparison though. It is a comparison of to different media with very different retrieval methods that even contain different/altered content.

To make a digital to analog comparison digitize a vinyl album noise, distortions and all. At say 24/96 res/sr (or greater). Then compare the two.

eliash
member
member
Germany
Posts: 81
Joined: 14 Aug 2016 14:45
Location: Bavaria, near lake Ammersee

Re: Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

Post by eliash » 11 Jul 2019 13:32

NOYB wrote:
11 Jul 2019 11:19

That is not a digital to analog comparison though. It is a comparison of to different media with very different retrieval methods that even contain different/altered content.

To make a digital to analog comparison digitize a vinyl album noise, distortions and all. At say 24/96 res/sr (or greater). Then compare the two.
Got the point from below.
This is just a different viewing angle to the discussion, focusing on the actual attainable listening quality of musical content...utilising different methods, where digital is able to perform better, but from my listening perspective, in many cases, it (intentionally) doesn´t...

Shadowman82
senior member
senior member
Posts: 849
Joined: 17 Feb 2012 22:47

Re: Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

Post by Shadowman82 » 11 Jul 2019 22:14

Yeah the biggest issue making digital sound worse is probably mastering , I would agree with that . Why so much music on any digital format wether that's CD or hi-res stuff is so compressed I don't know . I think the only reason they don't do this with Vinyl is because they can't or not to the extent they can with digital anyway .

It does make sense to me to do it with low-res stuff like MP3s because allot of times those would be listened to with portable devices that have less than stellar speakers/headphones or in car where you have high levels of background noise . But anything CD or better is more than likely going to be listened to on a good system in the home so that should be mastered to get the best sound quality possible .

eliash
member
member
Germany
Posts: 81
Joined: 14 Aug 2016 14:45
Location: Bavaria, near lake Ammersee

Re: Why can't digital sound as 'warm' as analog?

Post by eliash » 12 Jul 2019 16:19

Shadowman82 wrote:
11 Jul 2019 22:14
Yeah the biggest issue making digital sound worse is probably mastering , I would agree with that . Why so much music on any digital format wether that's CD or hi-res stuff is so compressed I don't know . I think the only reason they don't do this with Vinyl is because they can't or not to the extent they can with digital anyway .

It does make sense to me to do it with low-res stuff like MP3s because allot of times those would be listened to with portable devices that have less than stellar speakers/headphones or in car where you have high levels of background noise . But anything CD or better is more than likely going to be listened to on a good system in the home so that should be mastered to get the best sound quality possible .
There is this argument that vinyl does not support out of phase bass signals, but recorded from live instruments it is probably not critical or it can be "mono'ed" anyway. Regarding whether it is possible to compress vinyl sound as much as digital, I see no reason why it shouldn´t be possible at decent cutting velocities (limited vinyl S/N plays no role in this case anyway...).

Judging fom the perceived sound quality of heavily compressed music (probably achieved with very little mastering effort), I see no reason why this couldn´t be done by inbuild circuitry in a player.
In the case of tagged music it could even be possible to indicate the desired compression (by the mastering engineer or producer) with it and leave the processing to the playback device with some personal control of the effect intensity.

On the other hand, I remember some 30y back I experimented with a wideband compressor for car audio reproduction to overcome mechanical noise at decent listening levels. This was a one time installation though, since the effect was not really convincing (even though the analog compressor worked well). It simply felt better to crank up the volume and listen to the original...in these times compression was not yet common, maybe with the exception of AC/DC...they mostly achieving it out of their bodies...

Post Reply