Discussion on Vinyl and digital

venkatcr

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Moved from https://www.hifivision.com/threads/...aimed-at-audiophiles.87354/page-8#post-982257

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN WRITTEN IN PURE JEST AND IS NOT INTENDED TO HURT ANYONE OR ANYONE'S FEELING. READ IT AND HAVE A GOOD LAUGH. IF YOU WANT, YOU CAN PAT MY BACK FOR BEING A GOOD COMEDIAN.

Any remote chance that a fast or real time activity can spoil fidelity can be compensated by placing a local buffer in the receiver side. Netflix servers 1000s of kms apart do exactly this to deliver prestine 4k content. Audio transmission size and distance between 2 components is comparitively negligible at best..............

You still don't get it, do you? Why do you keep comparing my audio with GSP, satellites, etc. They don’t have any effect on my ears and my soul as much as good music does.

There is no comparing digital systems to a purely analogue one. All your science and measurement capabilities cannot measure the tiniest noise that permeates into my pristine audio signal. Your storage device takes one look at the data, and says, hey this is an audio signal! Let me have some fun and add or remove some of the 0's and 1's. Similarly, your digital transport systems add noise that only I can hear. Your mathematical numbers make no difference. You say your system is accurate up to the 16th or 32nd decimal point. An audio signal is infinite and you don’t have enough digits to handle that. Your precious digital systems handle audio signals completely differently from other data. It adds jitter that brings a shake to Rafi's voice when it should actually do that only for Talat Mehmood.

That is why I need an audiophile SSD/HDD that understand that digital data is actually a precious audio signal and handles it properly. It wakes up, listens to and understands the music, talks to the original artist to understand how he wanted the sound to be, and actually improves the badly converted digital data. Hey DAC, you have been a bad boy. You did not do your job properly. You missed a few 0’s and 1’s.

It stores the new data with extra care and adds a few 0s and1’s to compensate for any further loss. BTW, it also sounds the bugle to all subsequent digital systems to be aware that audio data is coming. It then delivers it to you with a sound stage and 3D feeling that you would never get with an ordinary SSD. Did the original artists want this, you may ask. Who cares? In any case, what does they know about music?

What your digital transport systems do to a GPS signal that guides a satellite or an aircraft to the last meter is unimportant. I need USB and optical transport systems that move my audio data flawlessly without any noise and jitter. Not one 0 or 1 should be out of place. Again, what it does to data that moves trillions of dollars or rupees without any error does not matter to me. Do I care if a flight lands in the wrong airport? You deserve it for not depending upon the age old manual system where trained pilots guided the aircraft properly to the correct destination, and had fun with the airhostesses on the way. Your new system is so lifeless. And you have such a funny coding system. You have MAA for Chennai. That is a cow, for heaven’s sake. Go read you Wren & Martin again.

And you dare to talk about the Internet? It is such a noisy place. Who knows what kinds of noise are added to my audio signal. And to add to my woes, you also dare to compress my music? You went about creating the damn MP3 just to make my life miserable. You have so much bandwidth, power, and energy. Why can’t you move the audio data without compression?

And, by God, have you heard music from a Bluetooth device? I just don’t know which idiot invented that. If and when I meet him, I would certainly give him a sound thrashing. You want me to remove cables just when I was just training my cats to lick them and improve the sound? How can you be so inhuman? Maybe I just send a warning signal to SPCA? Is there a SPCH also? Hmmmm, that is a good idea, but please don’t corrupt that on the way.

God knows what new technological shenanigans you will come up with. My golden ears are starting to hurt separating the noise from the music. Just to add a point, last time I was in Dubai, I visited the Airshow and they had this new Bombadier Jet. I peeked inside the cockpit. All it had a was a screen and a joystick. Whatever were they thinking? Flying on an expensive jet is some sort of game? Next they will have 12 year old's as pilots. After all they are better at playing these games, are'nt they?

And, at the end of the day, even if you do all this, the music from your digital system still does not have the soul and air of an analog system, does it? The ADC/DAC process does something to the music that makes it lose it's original sheen. It sounds digital, for heavens sake.

You know some time ago I was reading about this guy who wanted to spend the rest of his life in space to protect himself from all the impurities on Earth. I wonder if he has an extra seat on the spaceship. Maybe only then can I listen to music without any of your earthly digital noise.

Keep smiling.

Cheers
 
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venkatcr

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Quite some time ago, a HP scientist had proven to himself and the world that the digital copy after storage and transportation is identical to the original. No beyond human hearing and all. Just simply identical across all visible and measurable frequencies. He also used instruments to prove that the final copy of the recreated analog curve is indistinguishable from the original in every point of its infinite curve.

This was done some 10 years ago or more before all our modern equipment were invented. I will post a link when I re-find that discussion.

Frankly I have come to the conclusion that all the noise and jitter are, today, in people's wild imagination. This is of course happily exploited by conmen with golden connectors, emerald transistors, and sun kissed solders.

If you find the digital domain so troublesome, why do you even bother with it? No one is stopping you from enjoying the results of a turntable connected to a Class A amplifier with the best in class cables. Afterall your points and objections have been powerful enough to force the re-emergence of LPs, have'nt they? It is different matter that all studios today cut the LPs from digital copies which is the only way they store the music.

Time to end this thread and enjoy the music?
 

prem

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I don’t think there is any problem with the digital medium. I was one of the early adopters of digital. I moved to digital in 1987.

Since 90s almost all recordings are digital and storage is also digital. Even today the SONY ES CD players of the early 90s will sound better than 95% of the stuff available today. On the positive side, dac prices have come down and become more affordable.

The problem as I mentioned is not with the medium. It is the mastering of the album for CD replication and streaming that’s the problem. These mastering engineers add compression and a few other digital artefacts to make them sound nice on cheap players. When mastering vinyl from the digital master, the mastering engineers do not tinker with it. Hence the vinyl copy ends up sounding better. Listen to a CD of any new Hindi album and listen to the vinyl of that album. The vinyl in most cases will sound superior. Ditto for mainstream English like Adele. This is only because the vinyl has been mastered with no compression. If a CD of any digital recording of 90s and later is also mastered with no compression, it will sound better than the vinyl copy, For albums of the 60s and 70s, the original vinyl usually sounds better. That’s primarily because the master tapes over the years have got spoilt and hence digital correction had to be done to restore them. If they had been stored digitally since the 60s, and mastered for vinyl today, it will sound fabulous :)

I primarily listen to a lot of music from the 60s and 70s and that’s the only reason I moved to vinyl.
 

superczar

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I don’t think there is any problem with the digital medium. I was one of the early adopters of digital. I moved to digital in 1987.

Since 90s almost all recordings are digital and storage is also digital. Even today the SONY ES CD players of the early 90s will sound better than 95% of the stuff available today. On the positive side, dac prices have come down and become more affordable.

The problem as I mentioned is not with the medium. It is the mastering of the album for CD replication and streaming that’s the problem. These mastering engineers add compression and a few other digital artefacts to make them sound nice on cheap players. When mastering vinyl from the digital master, the mastering engineers do not tinker with it. Hence the vinyl copy ends up sounding better. Listen to a CD of any new Hindi album and listen to the vinyl of that album. The vinyl in most cases will sound superior. Ditto for mainstream English like Adele. This is only because the vinyl has been mastered with no compression. If a CD of any digital recording of 90s and later is also mastered with no compression, it will sound better than the vinyl copy, For albums of the 60s and 70s, the original vinyl usually sounds better. That’s primarily because the master tapes over the years have got spoilt and hence digital correction had to be done to restore them. If they had been stored digitally since the 60s, and mastered for vinyl today, it will sound fabulous :)

I primarily listen to a lot of music from the 60s and 70s and that’s the only reason I moved to vinyl.
That’s an interesting observation Prem.
One Genre where it is apparent to most people with even average equipment and ears is Many (Most rather) hindi movie recordings .
The amount of artificial sibilance added to most recordings makes (especially) female vocals sound jarring.

Question - Have you noticed the same on services that stream digital masters directly (Apple DM/ Tidal)?
At least in theory, they should sound the same as the original.
 

prem

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I have never had streaming at my place. But whatever I have heard at other places, I have not been impressed with streaming for Indian music. Ditto for popular Western music too. I think jazz, western classical and some of the niche genres sound ok on streaming. Generally I have preferred CDs to streaming.

Six years back when I was in Australia, I was in the hunt for a DAC. I could compare several dacs in the sub USD 5000 category on the same system. I had carried several of the popular English tracks on a hard disk. I compared the playback of the same songs through Tidal and through the hard disk. In every case, I found the hard disk clearly superior.
 
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mbhangui

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Quite some time ago, a HP scientist had proven to himself and the world that the digital copy after storage and transportation is identical to the original. No beyond human hearing and all. Just simply identical across all visible and measurable frequencies. He also used instruments to prove that the final copy of the recreated analog curve is indistinguishable from the original in every point of its infinite curve.
That the digital copy is identical to the original is not being doubted. Music is not like copying a file. Jitter causes timing issues. Even buffering the data may solve jitter of just the input. But lot happens during the digital to analog conversion. Just 500 pico seconds of jitter is enough to step on the lowest bit of a 16 bit sound sample and flip the bit. A picosecond is 1 trillionth of a second. So just half a billionth of a second is enough to disturb a 16 bit signal. For 24 bit signal, this number becomes ridiculously small, just 10 to 20 picoseconds. Also DACs require a very stable reference voltage. Variations in the voltage also create a problem.


The above also has a demonstration at 10:55 of a $2500 dac which has a toslink and usb input. The measurement are being done using toslink (which is immune to electrical noise). But just connecting a usb cable (even though you are not using it) to the dac usb input has a dramatic increase in the noise floor degrading the analog output. Jitter also affects square wave much more than a sine wave. All microprocessor, chips, etc that go into building dacs use square waves. Any interference from those chips worsen the problem.

The question is how audible are the problems caused by jitter. The fact is not much studies have been done even as of today. Only one test has been done with 9 listeners by scientists from dolby labs. What they found is that is audibility of jitter is frequency dependendent. For 4 Khz signal the threshold is very high (only when jitter reaches 100 nano seconds, they were able to hear it). For 8 Khz, one listener was about to hear artifacts with jitter as low as 10 nano seconds. But when actual music was played, the situation is much better. Real music tends to masks the artifacts caused by jitter (they are there but cannot be heard easily). In the end Amir says, though this is a solved problem as far as audibility is concerned, there are few dacs which are still affected today and it is also revealing how noise can creep in and add harmonic distortions as side bands to the original music (above and below the original frequency).
 
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prem

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On a separate note, check the quality of software you have. If majority of it is compressed, which in most cases it will be, it’s best to buy a sympathetic dac which is probably R2R based. If the software you have is exemplary, go and get yourself a studio dac like Benchmark or if you have the money a Esoteric or something similar. No studio dac AFAIK use a R2R. They are all delta sigma. It’s important to match the strengths of the dac with the quality of software you have.

Also when buying a dac, buy the one with the best power supply that you can afford. The good ones have 8-10 separate power supplies. Good power supply can go a long way.
 

mbhangui

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Also when buying a dac, buy the one with the best power supply that you can afford. The good ones have 8-10 separate power supplies. Good power supply can go a long way.
A good power supply is an absolute must for any DAC in ensuring that the DAC chip gets a very stable reference voltage.
 

venkatcr

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OT but it’s also true that these digitally reissued LPs sound nowhere as good(and often dull ) compared to the analog pressings.
Unless you have LPs gifted by your parents or grand parents, the chances are that the LP you are hearing is pressed from a digital copy.

The problem as I mentioned is not with the medium. It is the mastering of the album for CD replication and streaming that’s the problem. These mastering engineers add compression and a few other digital artefacts to make them sound nice on cheap players. When mastering vinyl from the digital master, the mastering engineers ............
I think we are overstating or oversimplifying the the issue here. CD and streaming may use compression, but a digital copy of a music has the least possible compression, in most cases no compression at all. How it is presented to you is a different matter.

Compression (or, as you say, tinkering) is inevitable in vinyl because of the physical limitation imposed by the size of the record. If you want to have the full frequency of the original recording, you can get a maximum of 8 minutes of music per side. But that is not the only reason.

Vinyl cannot play the full dynamic range (the difference between loudest and softest notes) of a recording without skipping or distorting. Similarly, the range of pitches is also limited. If the notes get too low, lesser audio can fit into a vinyl. If the notes are too high, the stylus has difficulty tracking them. This causes distortion. Thus engineers are forced to cut back on both the lower and higher frequencies to be able to deliver the 22 odd minutes of music without skipping and distortion. All of this, remember, alters the music. It is never the original recording.

One common issue is sibilance. Engineers are forced to make the pronunciation of 'S and 'H' less sibilant by 'de-essing' the recordings by making the pronunciation less sibilant through editing. You may find the sibilance in vinyl to be pleasant, but that is because the sound has been de-essed unlike the digital copy where there is no editing.

Several vinyl fans refer to the warmth of LPs, particularly at the lower end. But, as Pitchfork's Mark Richardson puts it, "the 'warmth' that many people associate with LPs can generally be described as a bass sound that is less accurate." To ensure that the grooves are not very big, engineers have to edit the lower end. The output of this editing seems to be pleasant to the listeners. But remember, the tone of the bass has been altered irreversibly.

But to claim that vinyl is closer or a more accurate copy of the original recording is incorrect. Audio distortion may be beautiful to your ears, but that is not what the original artists play or hear in the studios.

There have been arguments that digital recordings also cut back on the original recording. That is also true, but this is more an issue of sampling rate rather than the physical size. There is no physical limitation in digital recording unless you consider CDs that were limited to 44.1kHz and a frequency range of 20-20k Hz. But with a higher sampling rate of DVD-Audio at 92kHz, this limitation was done away with. If you go to a digital audio file recorded at 192kHz there is just no limitation on the dynamic range that can be stored.

The fact of the matter is that only digital recording can create a copy that is closest to the original sound. Vinyl cannot. You may find the digital copy to be unpleasant to your ears or less pleasant than the vinyl. For example, I always find some of Latha's songs to be unpleasant because of her excessive sibilance. But that is the ways he sang and that is the way is is recorded.

Cheers
 

raghupb

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On a separate note, check the quality of software you have. If majority of it is compressed, which in most cases it will be, it’s best to buy a sympathetic dac which is probably R2R based. If the software you have is exemplary, go and get yourself a studio dac like Benchmark or if you have the money a Esoteric or something similar. No studio dac AFAIK use a R2R. They are all delta sigma. It’s important to match the strengths of the dac with the quality of software you have.

Also when buying a dac, buy the one with the best power supply that you can afford. The good ones have 8-10 separate power supplies. Good power supply can go a long way.
I like your characterization "sympathetic DAC" :D
Cheers,
Raghu
 

prem

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All I can say Venkat is you have not heard a properly set up vinyl system. The bass is exemplary of vinyl. It’s better than any digital player I have heard. I have heard/owned the best of digital for over 25 years. I have heard enough stuff at studios. I have had sound engineers from the industry visiting my house. Nobody had a problem with bass in my vinyl set up.

And for your information Lata’s voice is not sibilant at all. I have heard some of her masters. Her voice is very sweet. It’s just that digital is unable to handle her high pitched voice.
 

prem

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Venkat, I also don’t think you have been at a mastering session for CD duplication. The kind of compression that is added is not funny. I have been privy to this. They don’t make a copy of a digital master and send it for CD duplication. The copy that is made from the digital master is heavily tweaked. I have a digital master and a CD copy of the music of a film I produced. No comparison. The CD sounds bad. All compressed. The digital master sounds glorious. I also had Taal. Again no contest. The digital master is absolutely brilliant. The CD nowhere near it. Infact there’s an interesting story here. The first small lot of Taal CDs were duplicated without tweaking the original digital master. All of them were returned by customers saying the vol is too low and nothing can be heard. So it has to be mastered again with compression :)

And yes, copies of digital masters sound the same. It’s only when they tweak these copies for mass production, do we have issues.
 
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mbhangui

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And for your information Lata’s voice is not sibilant at all. I have heard some of her masters. Her voice is very sweet. It’s just that digital is unable to handle her high pitched voice.
+1. Just listen to her voice from the 50s - Barsaat, Shri 420, Lara Lappa Lara Lappa, her voice was divine. Similarly Asha's voice was also too good from the 50s. Her voice in the Marathi Natya Sangit (songs like Ravi Mi) are to die for. I know we are digressing. But those are the songs to listen from LP and not from any digital copy
 

superczar

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+1. Just listen to her voice from the 50s - Barsaat, Shri 420, Lara Lappa Lara Lappa, her voice was divine. Similarly Asha's voice was also too good from the 50s. Her voice in the Marathi Natya Sangit (songs like Ravi Mi) are to die for. I know we are digressing. But those are the songs to listen from LP and not from any digital copy
Streaming or otherwise, addition of distortion, reduction of dynamic range and applying an aggressive V curve to Hindi recordings started in the 90s and has only got worse ever since.

There are a few good Indie artists - and a few mainstream artists like Amit Trivedi who have avoided it (or at least done it conservatively)

Everything else though - from my layman POV is laced with a big bada boom and jhankaar beats (excessive treble/sibilance) over the original.
Even my wife - who is not into this hobby at all - cannot stand modern recordings of Lata and /or Shrey Ghoshal on a well-resolving system.
She finds the voices artificial at best and ear-piercing at worst
 

venkatcr

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I have listened to and experienced expensive vinyl and digital systems. The soundstage I have heard in digital systems are way beyond what any vinyl can deliver. In fact at one place, I did switch between vinyl and digital of the same song and to my ears, digital beat vinyl hollow. But that is beside the point. As I mentioned in some review, I could hear sounds and parts of the music from behind my head in a stereo system that vinyl can never dream of creating.

Though I also started with vinyl, what I have done at home is to recreate the digital system as much as possible within a limited budget. I am happy with what I get. The separation and size of the sound stage is good enough for me. Most of my recordings are 96khz or higher.

Let us agree to disagree and leave it at that.
 

square_wave

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If you find the digital domain so troublesome, why do you even bother with it?

If I have ever heard a highly resolving and musical digital system front end, it always comprise of gear that are very different from the kind recommended by " digital technology warriors " who are usually not from a audio gear manufacturing background. Invariably I see a lot of setup effort too.

Some music is only available in digital and some sound better on digital because of mastering and production issues.
 

square_wave

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I have listened to and experienced expensive vinyl and digital systems. The soundstage I have heard in digital systems are way beyond what any vinyl can deliver. In fact at one place, I did switch between vinyl and digital of the same song and to my ears, digital beat vinyl hollow. But that is beside the point. As I mentioned in some review, I could hear sounds and parts of the music from behind my head in a stereo system that vinyl can never dream of creating.

Though I also started with vinyl, what I have done at home is to recreate the digital system as much as possible within a limited budget. I am happy with what I get. The separation and size of the sound stage is good enough for me. Most of my recordings are 96khz or higher.

Let us agree to disagree and leave it at that.
I have done the same experiment 2 times in extremely resolving systems. Both were at dealer's listening rooms so these were not systems that I could afford. The digital and analogue front ends were top of the line and optimised. More or less equally priced to keep it fair and honest.

The results completely depends on the mastering / production quality of the LP or Digital. Both are equally good. The best digital sound amazing and beyond what analogue can do due to the limitations of the medium itself. Technically!

In practical terms, the LP's that were produced better sounded far better and musical than digital. To the point that ... if most of your music exists and is produced better on vinyl, there is absolutely no point in living in the digital world. This rule applies vise versa too.
 
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