Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

name that tune
feldman
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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by feldman » 29 Nov 2018 23:48

When I listen to vinyl, I often think "man, this sounds so much better than the same album I have in FLAC format!" Somehow I fancy I hear mode details, more textures, can see deeper into the sound, etc.

If I then immediately go and play the same track from the FLAC file, I often found that my initial impressions were not that accurate. Expecting the FLAC to sound pale compared to the vinyl, I'm often surprised how robust the digital source sounds.

However, going back to vinyl reconfirms that there is somehow more music there than I was able to hear during FLAC playback. Obviously, that extra information that I'm hearing during vinyl playback is not stored in some intricate details, because FLAC is pretty good at supplying those details.

So what is it then?

I came to the realization that it boils down to TIMING. Timing is quite elusive, and it's not easy to quantify. Somehow (and I can't explain why), timing works better during good vinyl playback than during digital playback. And that makes a vital difference in the final listening satisfaction.

Nigel Gomez
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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by Nigel Gomez » 01 Dec 2018 02:21

Many of my fellow vinyl fans justify the continued use of the format with subjective nonsense and non scientific jargon.


The vinyl medium is highly visual and interactive and the ritual is pleasant and familiar.


Don't tell me vinyl sounds better. How the recording was made and the engineering of the source as well as the playback equipment is what matters.


Pops and ticks and surface noise is always there and it is distracting. The denial of the vinyl fans always get me.

reynolds617
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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by reynolds617 » 08 Dec 2018 04:10

I've had my vinyl-based stereo system for just over a year now. I grew up in the cassette and CD age, and in consequence, I have hundreds of cassettes and nearly 2000 CDs. I've been collecting vinyl for ten years, but only able to play it for one.

I would say that as a newbie to vinyl, results are mixed. I agree with Nigel above that a big part of the vinyl experience is visual and ritual-based. I love that aspect of vinyl in spite of its many drawbacks (fragility, takes up space, pressing quality is difficult to assess when purchasing, on and on and on). Some albums I have (e.g. MoFi remaster of "Songs From The Big Chair" or the analog remaster of My Bloody Valentine's "Loveless") are much MUCH better than the CDs I have. Stunning in fact. Other albums...mmmmm...not the greatest. I grant you, my rig is modest and I have no ability to adjust the sound (bass, treble, etc) so what I get is what I get, and I believe the components are pretty truth-telling.

My ask for Christmas this year was a good CD player (settled on the NAD C 538) to make use of those 2000 CDs. I'm going to be interested to do some A/B comparisons as most of what I have on vinyl I already had on CD. I'm sure some CDs will be better than the vinyl and vice versa. I'm by no means fanatically committed to analog, but I view my commitment to it at all as a commitment to the experience of sitting down and giving an album my full and undivided attention.

I'd be a fraud if I claimed, "oh, I've always been all about vinyl". I pretty much knew only CD, cassette and streaming until recently. I have no reason to expect that my enjoyment of all those CDs will be any less, generally, than my enjoyment of my records. Just different. It's about playing music I love on the best stereo I can afford. As long as the media sounds good, I don't really care which it is between CD and vinyl.

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

Post by cefshah » 08 Dec 2018 07:16

Anyone into restoring/tweaking their recordings, might like this bit of software.

I have it, and it works (amazingly). :)

https://youtu.be/7thIB9VX35k

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

Post by cefshah » 08 Dec 2018 07:19

Another incredible program from Zynaptiq:

https://youtu.be/MEdJ9c7KYKY

cafe latte
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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by cafe latte » 08 Dec 2018 07:57

Both can sound amazing there are horrible and stunning recordings in both. That said I almost never listen to digital, just have thousands of records so more choice than my digital maybe?
Chris

Nigel Gomez
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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by Nigel Gomez » 08 Dec 2018 11:41

For me CD's are dirt cheap but I love my vinyl that I've been listening to since the eighties.

Which sound better? It's strictly a case by case basis to answer that question.

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

Post by plyscds » 11 Dec 2018 19:10

Within the entire realm of what is possible in our universe, no process is 100% efficient. Both analog and digital sound recording and playback start and end as analog phenomenon. And even digital information is subject to inherent inefficiencies involved in moving through physical conductors. And most people who know anything about digital playback are aware of possible error reconstruction to fill in any possible missed digital reading by retrieval systems. Squabbling about which playback system is better makes as much sense as arguing about which race horse is better. When it comes to race horses, no one horse wins every race. And when it comes to recording playback no one system will always be the best.

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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by hobie1dog » 12 Dec 2018 01:47

One of my favorite t-shirts is a BASE which has on the front "LONG LIVE ANALOG". I just love hi-fi in any form.

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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by Spinner45 » 12 Dec 2018 02:31

plyscds wrote:
11 Dec 2018 19:10
Within the entire realm of what is possible in our universe, no process is 100% efficient. Both analog and digital sound recording and playback start and end as analog phenomenon. And even digital information is subject to inherent inefficiencies involved in moving through physical conductors. And most people who know anything about digital playback are aware of possible error reconstruction to fill in any possible missed digital reading by retrieval systems. Squabbling about which playback system is better makes as much sense as arguing about which race horse is better. When it comes to race horses, no one horse wins every race. And when it comes to recording playback no one system will always be the best.
+1

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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by Gelid » 12 Dec 2018 07:43

feldman wrote:
29 Nov 2018 23:48
When I listen to vinyl, I often think "man, this sounds so much better than the same album I have in FLAC format!" Somehow I fancy I hear mode details, more textures, can see deeper into the sound, etc.

If I then immediately go and play the same track from the FLAC file, I often found that my initial impressions were not that accurate. Expecting the FLAC to sound pale compared to the vinyl, I'm often surprised how robust the digital source sounds.

However, going back to vinyl reconfirms that there is somehow more music there than I was able to hear during FLAC playback. Obviously, that extra information that I'm hearing during vinyl playback is not stored in some intricate details, because FLAC is pretty good at supplying those details.

So what is it then?

I came to the realization that it boils down to TIMING. Timing is quite elusive, and it's not easy to quantify. Somehow (and I can't explain why), timing works better during good vinyl playback than during digital playback. And that makes a vital difference in the final listening satisfaction.
Nice theory, Feldman.

I may be diving in waaay over my head here, but allow me to take a stab at this:

I believe the reason is that both formats simply sound different. Lets just forget about tape for a minute, as I don't know a reason why digital tape (or files) would sound better (or worse) than analog tape.

Better or worse would be like comparing a $50.00 pair of speakers vs a $500.00 pair of speakers.... you can accurately say one sounds better than the other. They are both doing the same thing in the same way, with basically the same parts... one just does it better. You may prefer one over the other, but there is still one that does it better than the other.

Digital files and vinyl can both sound great, but vinyl will always sound different due to the many physical interactions involved with transfering the groove info to the phono cartridge, then to the pre-amp.

You cannot determine which one is better than the other, because the two formats simply sound different... and that makes it more of a preference thing. You hear the difference and instantly form an opinion, but it's the same sound being reproduced two completely different ways, one of which does a lot to affect the end result.

How do you like your steak, broiled or grilled? Both methods can produce a delicious meal, but they will taste different from each other.

Not better, just different.

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

Post by feldman » 16 Feb 2019 17:32

Gelid wrote:
12 Dec 2018 07:43
Nice theory, Feldman.

I may be diving in waaay over my head here, but allow me to take a stab at this:

I believe the reason is that both formats simply sound different. Lets just forget about tape for a minute, as I don't know a reason why digital tape (or files) would sound better (or worse) than analog tape.

Better or worse would be like comparing a $50.00 pair of speakers vs a $500.00 pair of speakers.... you can accurately say one sounds better than the other. They are both doing the same thing in the same way, with basically the same parts... one just does it better. You may prefer one over the other, but there is still one that does it better than the other.

Digital files and vinyl can both sound great, but vinyl will always sound different due to the many physical interactions involved with transfering the groove info to the phono cartridge, then to the pre-amp.

You cannot determine which one is better than the other, because the two formats simply sound different... and that makes it more of a preference thing. You hear the difference and instantly form an opinion, but it's the same sound being reproduced two completely different ways, one of which does a lot to affect the end result.

How do you like your steak, broiled or grilled? Both methods can produce a delicious meal, but they will taste different from each other.

Not better, just different.
I agree with you, they do sound different (if they didn't sound different, we wouldn't be having this discussion, right?)

To me, vinyl playback feels like a performance, while digital playback feels like reproduction. When the vinyl record is spinning and the stylus is tracking the groove, that is a mechanical event that transforms kinetic energy (motion) into electrical current that gets amplified and then drives the speaker membrane to vibrate. That is similar to how some musical instruments work, for example electric guitar.

If I play electric guitar in front of you, you would be listening to performance.

Nothing like that exists when we're playing back digital source. There is no performance involved, and it feels like holographic projection.

If you play a vinyl record on a turntable, switch off the amplifier, and place your ear close to the spinning record, you will actually be able to hear SOUND. It is tiny, but it is sound. So you are witnessing an actual musical performance, right there, in your listening room.

These things explain why are vinyl and digital different.

Now, the topic of which sounds better is absolutely subjective. There is no accounting for subjective taste and personal preferences. Some people prefer clinically clean, bleached and sterilized sound that digital produces, some people are more enamoured by the less sterile, juicier sound that vinyl produces.

Never the twain shall meet.

Nigel Gomez
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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by Nigel Gomez » 16 Feb 2019 21:10

I always laugh in threads like these when I read the totally weird mumbo jumbo that people write to justify their side of the debate.

What's most important is how the recording was engineered and mastered.

The quality of playback equipment is also important. A good DAC with high resolution files will always sound better than formats with analog hiss, ticks and pops which are inherent in analog(Tape and records).

Also some people lie to themselves and others a lot when talking about how dead quiet their vinyl experience is....the format will always have the odd tick no matter how good you clean the record.There is no way in hell a Symphony or progressive rock music with soft and quiet passages could sound better on vinyl.Not to mention flipping the record in the middle of the concert or an album like 'Thick as a Brick'.

I am into BOTH and instead of fussing about formats I just enjoy the music. Vinyl and analog tape are about the ritual and nostalgic warm fuzzy feelings and the handling of the records and tape.There is also the smug superiority complex of some people who indulge in something only a small minority of people today enjoy.I listen to more analog than digital by the way.

Anyway I'm off to play live Wishbone Ash on double LP.

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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by cafe latte » 16 Feb 2019 23:01

Nigel Gomez wrote:
01 Dec 2018 02:21
Many of my fellow vinyl fans justify the continued use of the format with subjective nonsense and non scientific jargon.


The vinyl medium is highly visual and interactive and the ritual is pleasant and familiar.


Don't tell me vinyl sounds better. How the recording was made and the engineering of the source as well as the playback equipment is what matters.


Pops and ticks and surface noise is always there and it is distracting. The denial of the vinyl fans always get me.
It is not that simple Nigel,
I have a lot of cd's and a very good couple of cd players and many titles repeated on vinyl and cd and the vinyl almost always sounds better. Problem IMO is too often the recording quality on cd is terrible sounding washed out and thin, vinyl in these cases is much much better. There are good cd recordings though All Portishead cd's have been great, Edie Reader and Tracy Chapman have all been very good. Tom Waites on cd is poor IMO but great on vinyl. Seems very little is poor on vinyl so stopped buying cd's long ago, actually never really bought many as always had a lot of records.
CHris

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Re: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

Post by Jim Leach » 17 Feb 2019 01:28

There is no “right” answer here but I’ll throw this wrench into the works for thoughts:

Since the dawn of audio recording, we’ve been cutting a groove in something to create an “analogue” of the original source vibrations.

Suffice to say, engineers working toward the vinyl medium had a LOT of engineers before them to lay the ground work on what makes a good and bad recording.

In the early 80’s this totally new digital format comes along, and engineers exposed to it have exactly zero prior experience to draw upon. No one before them ever made big mistakes with it. It was like going to the moon.

Moving along, late 80’s into the 90’s we have some engineers with a solid ten years experience working toward the digital medium. So really just getting their “sea legs” with it, and the loudness wars start.

Ok so throw that hard earned ten years out the window, compress the program till the juice is out if it, and crank it up.

That’s a wrap.