Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

name that tune
derspankster
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Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by derspankster » 26 Sep 2018 00:31

Many differing opinions expressed over the years. This is another one from a writer at Scientific American.

http://www.lairdslair.com//better.shtml

der

AsOriginallyRecorded
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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by AsOriginallyRecorded » 26 Sep 2018 02:41

A well written article on the subject. In the popular vernacular, those of us that know....know. As my user name indicates, the difference breaks down to one (vinyl) being the original interpretation and presentation by the artist, while the digital reproduction, by definition of the sampling process, becomes a reasonable facsimile of the original. Enough of the nuances of the original analogue process is lost in digital processing to effectively result in a similar yet inferior copy of the music piece (AsOriginallyRecorded). Purists will care and pursue vinyl recordings, more casual listeners will often opt for the convenience of digital recordings. Each of us will have to make their own decision, and really, variety (options) is the spice of life. Dance to the music! 8)

bhuston
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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by bhuston » 26 Sep 2018 03:16

](*,) :roll: (where is the popcorn smilie?)

Spinner45
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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by Spinner45 » 26 Sep 2018 03:57

It's really simple.
As humans, we speak and we hear in analog sound.
This is not debatable, it's a fact of human hearing, it's what travels through the air...
So naturally, analog sound production would, how should I say.... sound more "natural".

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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by cefshah » 26 Sep 2018 04:45

Spinner45 wrote:It's really simple.
As humans, we speak and we hear in analog sound.
This is not debatable, it's a fact of human hearing, it's what travels through the air...
So naturally, analog sound production would, how should I say.... sound more "natural".
I agree.

And as a musician... I'm familiar with using a range of analog and digital technology to create 'art'. So, it's also 'natural' for human beings to inject their humanity into whatever medium their art is rendered in... for the purpose of communication.

So, I'd say a proper balance of the new/old is quite nice and natural overall.

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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by Spinner45 » 26 Sep 2018 05:03

cefshah wrote:
Spinner45 wrote:It's really simple.
As humans, we speak and we hear in analog sound.
This is not debatable, it's a fact of human hearing, it's what travels through the air...
So naturally, analog sound production would, how should I say.... sound more "natural".
I agree.

And as a musician... I'm familiar with using a range of analog and digital technology to create 'art'. So, it's also 'natural' for human beings to inject their humanity into whatever medium their art is rendered in... for the purpose of communication.

So, I'd say a proper balance of the new/old is quite nice and natural overall.
I'm all for "art" of course.
However, what finally comes out of a loudspeaker is always an analog sound wave.

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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by dysmike » 26 Sep 2018 05:11

Spinner45 wrote: I'm all for "art" of course.
However, what finally comes out of a loudspeaker is always an analog sound wave.
True, but it still will depend.

I have CD's (U2 - War is a good example) that sound better than the LP, and vise versa. It boils down to the mastering, and in the case of LPs the pressing. That's assuming equal playback sources (and that's not always the case). That's one of the reasons I think these questions are simply philosophical in nature anyway.

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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by cefshah » 26 Sep 2018 05:23

Spinner45 wrote:
cefshah wrote:
Spinner45 wrote:It's really simple.
As humans, we speak and we hear in analog sound.
This is not debatable, it's a fact of human hearing, it's what travels through the air...
So naturally, analog sound production would, how should I say.... sound more "natural".
I agree.

And as a musician... I'm familiar with using a range of analog and digital technology to create 'art'. So, it's also 'natural' for human beings to inject their humanity into whatever medium their art is rendered in... for the purpose of communication.

So, I'd say a proper balance of the new/old is quite nice and natural overall.
I'm all for "art" of course.
However, what finally comes out of a loudspeaker is always an analog sound wave.
Indeed. :)

I'm just trying to find a way to say that 'digital' and 'analog' can and do work together (often seamlessly) in this very analog world. So, not real debate... just trying to increase overall awareness that one thing isn't necessarily better/worse. It all depends upon how the tools (analog/digital) are utilized... to affect what is 'communicated'.

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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by plyscds » 26 Sep 2018 08:48

Perhaps the ideal question should be whether or not the experience of hearing a recording reproduced, regardless of source or other factors in the reproduction chain, has been pleasing. I mean, can a novel be more or less enjoyable if it came from a hard cover copy rather than a paperback copy? Or from an autographed first printing copy as opposed to an often-lended library copy? There will be some who have a preferences, while others will appreciate the reading experience regardless of source. Personally, I have DARK SIDE OF THE MOON on both LP and CD. I can enjoy listening to either copy, but the LP has the disadvantage of the break in the middle when the record needs turned over. :wink:

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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by rewfew » 26 Sep 2018 15:54

That's a good explanation for a argument that won't be settled ever. All the variables can lead to yes, maybe, and no depending on the source and the process to make the analog recreation heard. I prefer vinyl, but digital is another process that can have fine analog conversion too. That's what they say. My system doesn't have that capability.

cefshah
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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by cefshah » 26 Sep 2018 16:31

plyscds wrote:Perhaps the ideal question should be whether or not the experience of hearing a recording reproduced, regardless of source or other factors in the reproduction chain, has been pleasing. I mean, can a novel be more or less enjoyable if it came from a hard cover copy rather than a paperback copy? Or from an autographed first printing copy as opposed to an often-lended library copy? There will be some who have a preferences, while others will appreciate the reading experience regardless of source. Personally, I have DARK SIDE OF THE MOON on both LP and CD. I can enjoy listening to either copy, but the LP has the disadvantage of the break in the middle when the record needs turned over. :wink:
Well put!!

I remember "Dark Side of The Moon" as a kid!! Between my JBL "Sessions" LP and that, I discovered what a 'studio' could do (positively) to performed/recorded music. It's all very interesting in the recording world these days:

You have the capability of recording things with incredible 'detail'... but because we're all 'human', we know that what sounds "accurate", isn't necessarily (naturally) enjoyable. There are fairly expensive literally programs which seek to 'model' the errors/noises and distortions of recording eras past. And these days, those models are stellar; but I have an old tape recorder or amplifier hanging around, just in case. (Ha-Ha!!)

I'm SO HAPPY that I took my turntable out again after 30 years, to remind me of how far things have come, and that everything that's newer, isn't necessarily 'better'. :)

P.S. BTW... they know a lot more about how we actually 'hear' things today, than we knew 40+ years ago. There are programs like the following, that do amazing (nice) things to sound:

https://oeksound.com/plugins/soothe/

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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by RJDG14 » 27 Sep 2018 16:39

dysmike wrote:
Spinner45 wrote: I'm all for "art" of course.
However, what finally comes out of a loudspeaker is always an analog sound wave.
True, but it still will depend.

I have CD's (U2 - War is a good example) that sound better than the LP, and vise versa. It boils down to the mastering, and in the case of LPs the pressing. That's assuming equal playback sources (and that's not always the case). That's one of the reasons I think these questions are simply philosophical in nature anyway.
In relation to U2, Island's masterings in the 1980s weren't particularly good. I read elsewhere that they were in financial trouble so were having to cut corners.

Interestingly I've got a worn sounding copy of Explosions In The Glass Palace by The Rain Parade from 1984/85 and the opening track You Are My Friend reverberates in quite an interesting way despite a small amount of distortion/wear, while on the digital remaster that I've played through my speakers it sounds sort of two-dimensional, sterile and static and lacking in reverb, despite sounding cleaner.

I wouldn't say it's as simple as saying either vinyl or CD sounds better because there are a lot of factors that affect the sound quality of vinyl. Some labels such as Virgin were known in the 80s and early 90s for cramming their records with as much content as was easily possible (typically around 30 minutes on each side) and as a result many of their records sound quiet and tinny with a limited soundstage. A record with optimal sound quality typically needs to be 20 minutes or less on each side. 7" singles also rarely sound as good as their CD counterparts and sometimes suffer from the vinyl equivalent of the CD loudness war. I believe styrene 7" singles sounded even worse but I haven't got any since I live in Britain where styrene was never used aside from a few promotional releases in the 1970s.

Generally:

[*] Vinyl (analog) - not generally the cleanest sounding, and prone to a small amount of distortion, surface noise and wow/flutter, but more interesting sounding. I suspect reel to reel tape sounds like a slightly more realistic sounding AAD tape transferred CD from the 80s, or alternatively a mint condition vinyl record cut from an analog source being played under controlled conditions in a lab.
[*] CD/Digital - free of surface noise aside from that of the original recording, wow/flutter and distortion but often kind of sterile sounding as if the audio is constrained within certain boundaries
[*] Cassette (analog) - closest to a grainy sounding version of digital with less dynamic range

While I haven't got Dark Side Of The Moon on vinyl, I have got the original mid-70s pressing of Animals, which sounds extremely good for a 1970s record and sounds at least as good as a CD despite being quite worn and scratched. It appears to be an original-era 180g record.

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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by dysmike » 27 Sep 2018 20:22

Yep, that's why it's a good example. The 1985 CD is just so much better than the original '83 pressing.

IMO open reel sounds better than a record.

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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by lbls1 » 28 Sep 2018 03:19

My honest opinion is that its hard to really pinpoint. Some analog (vinyl, tapes) have an incredible ability to focus on a particular type of musical instrument, to an extent that the music really stands out.

However, I find that digital has the greatest potential to capture the widest ranges in music. I've heard some digital recordings that are literally breathtaking; You'd almost swear off a typical record or tape....until you hear an analog again.

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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by RJDG14 » 28 Sep 2018 03:56

This copy of Animals has a lot of light scratches although there doesn't seem to be much groove wear, helped by the fact that it was pressed on high quality vinyl. It was problematic and kept skipping on my Pro-Ject Primary because it used a light tracking force and the anti-skate was ineffective but I tested it on my Technics one today which has effective anti-skating and it didn't skip once, however surface noise was definitely audible in places (which is to be expected from a scratched record). There was a tiny bit of distortion present in the last minute or so prior to the run-out on the A-side but I know this section of a record rarely sounds as good as the outer grooves and since I know it's been played on some pretty terrible turntables a few times it still sounds pretty good. I'm guessing an original British copy of Dark Side Of The Moon is characteristically very similar to an original British copy of Animals. My Technics cartridge is very good for casual listening however I'd need to upgrade to a more expensive audiophile cartridge to hear its (my Animals record) full potential.

As the user above says, I find certain cartridges reproduce drum crashes, chimes and rattling noises more realistically than a typical CD, although a CD typically reproduces vocals and bass more accurately, certainly after many plays (unless you have an extremely good turntable setup).

How come my 1975 edition of Animals appears to be pressed on 180g vinyl when this format practically disappeared from the consumer market after the 1973 oil crisis, not returning to the mass market until about a decade ago? Were there some exceptions to the rule?

My hierarchy of format qualities (from best to worst) would be:

Analog reel to reel tape
\/
Digital reel to reel tape/SACD or 24-bit lossless/vinyl under controlled conditions
\/
CD or 16-bit lossless/decent vinyl on a good-average setup. Both sound good in different ways
\/
MP3/streamed audio/cassette with Dolby S
\/
Cassette (without Dolby S)/vinyl on a very cheap turntable


In general, CDs mastered between 1979 (early test pressings) and 1984 sound like slightly weak reel to reel transfers, and most CDs mastered since 1994 have been victims to the loudness war. CDs mastered between 1985 and 1993 tend to sound best. Since I don't have any, are most SACDs from the 2000s also victims of the loudness war or do most of them have the full dynamic range like the majority of vinyl and older CDs?


Most of the CD players I've heard from the late 80s/early 90s sound better than the majority of players being made today for some reason. Old CDs tend to sound weak on modern systems (New Day Rising by Husker Du is a very good example of a tinny CD) that were designed to play post-loudness war CDs while they sound full and rich on older systems like they were intended to sound at the time. Newer CDs sound even fuller although the compression is brought out more easily on older systems too.

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