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Topic: "There's no such thing as digital" (Read 11206 times) previous topic - next topic

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  • wnmnkh
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"There's no such thing as digital"
http://www.audiostream.com/content/draft  (part 1)
http://www.audiostream.com/content/theres-...eve-silberman-p  (part 2)


After I read all of thew pages, I actually found the explanation rather plausible. But somehow my heart says something is terribly wrong with the description, but I have no idea what it is.

Nuke this if old.

  • MichaelW
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #1
I only read three sentences, but what seems to be wrong is that they have no idea/are in denial about the meaning of "digital".

  • hlloyge
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #2
Well, all transmissions are by their nature analog, but the encoding of that signal and data that is transmitted, along with error correction codes are what matters. You can transmit digital information by river stream with bits or chunks of wood (yeah, it would be slow); and it's not the river (or electrical current) that matters, what matters is the signal itself.

  • ktf
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #3
Yeah, I stopped reading after a short time too.

First of all, they seem to think that digital and analog are opposites. They're not. Digital simply means representing something as a number and analog simply means representing something with a similar phenomenon. So, digital in audio means representing something as a stream of numbers while analog usually means representing a sound pressure with an electrical signal or the depth of a groove (vinyl), or the strength of a magnetic field (tape).

Anyway, they are referring to a few things like slew rate (it takes time for the signal to change levels), absolute voltage (there is a "grey" zone between the "black" of the "0" and the "white" of the "1") and timing (If the bit changes to the correct state but at the wrong time, this is equivalent to changing to the wrong level at the correct time) but the thing is, those engineers that designed it aren't dumb. Most digital signals need some kind of clocking signal. When only one signal stream is available, like with CD and S/PDIF, there are tricks to embed the clocking signal and the data into one stream.

Quote
AS: Since there's no such thing as 1s and 0s in digital transmission, what is being sent over our USB/Firewire/Ethernet cables when we play back music files?

CH: An ANALOG signal!

In fact they probably mean an electric signal, because the transmission is in no way 'analog' to any of the data. They confuse the term analog signal for 'physical' signals, like representation as a voltage, mechanical pressure, light intensity etc. The only way you can strictly represent a digital signal with an analog is by counting something, like logs as hlloyge proposed, or maybe by integration (measuring the amount of electrons and dividing that by some number) as digital is purely representing by numbers.

They accuse 'engineers' of not knowing what they're doing, but they themselves are talking nonsense.
Music: sounds arranged such that they construct feelings.

  • bandpass
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #4
"By Michael Lavorgna" is all I needed to read—he's as misguided as Fremer.

  • dhromed
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #5
Quote
How much energy is wasted delivering the data seems to have an effect on sound. As with increased energy usage the amount of EMI/RFI radiation also increases. This might be a reason why applications sound different. If we look at the "top" command in the Terminal application on OS X we see a programs usage and percent time and all the processes associated with that program. In practice the applications with the least required processing time also sounds the best. This may have an indication of why file types sound different. If you unpack a lossless file on the fly the processing time increases measurably and that tends to decrease the sound quality.


It's just random words and phrases. I think this article was generated by a top-notch Markov algorithm.

No wonder people get confused with these kind of statements that appear superficually true but are in fact bunk:
Quote
I think this is where things get misconstrued. The signals we think of abstractly as “digital” are in fact high-speed analog square waves, susceptible to all of the same damage and distortions as any other analog signal.


They're high-speed but that's irrelevant. They're not the analog of sound (they're the analog of their own digital abstraction!). They're not susceptible to all the same damage and distortions an ("other") analog signal.
  • Last Edit: 26 November, 2013, 04:35:15 AM by dhromed

  • Hotsoup
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #6
I used to frequent that site when it seemed to be mostly computer audio gear reviews without so much boutique audiophile sauce. Or maybe it was always like that... Anyway that's a common type of article there. They are always tweaking or "upgrading" and telling you it's for the quest for the best sound, like, EVER. The "experts" are product designers of hi-end gear. Weird right?!!

"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #7
Well, all transmissions are by their nature analog, but the encoding of that signal and data that is transmitted, along with error correction codes are what matters. You can transmit digital information by river stream with bits or chunks of wood (yeah, it would be slow); and it's not the river (or electrical current) that matters, what matters is the signal itself.



Agreed. They've missed the point that analog signals are subject to the same kinds of media errors (that's what they are obsessing over - errors due to the transmission media and its environment) except that with analog there is no way to accurately remove the errors once they are added.

Incredibly messy analog signals carrying digital codes can be cleaned up easily and with stunning accuracy. A good example is the signal that comes out of the phototransistor array in a optical disc player.  It looks like $#!! on a scope. Yet quantize it into zeros and ones with some simple comparators and reclock it with a buffer and and a PLL and it is good as new, with parts per million, billion or trillion or better accuracy, only delayed in an moot way.

The basic logic error in their discussion is stigmatizing a data format that they don't like while ignoring the same problems or worse in a data format that they do like.

What do you expect if you have a know-nothing golden eared journalist interviewing a couple of magic cable guys and a magic DAC guy? ;-)


  • ExUser
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  • Read-only
"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #8
There's no such thing as analog. Every "analog" signal represents a discrete number of electrons being transferred. Therefore, all signals are digital.

This is a better argument than the article's.

  • DVDdoug
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #9
Quote
"There's no such thing as digital"



Eggs are digital (you buy them by the dozen).  Milk is analog (you buy it by the gallon or liter).

  • pdq
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #10
Eggs are digital (you buy them by the dozen).  Milk is analog (you buy it by the gallon or liter).

Then would eggnog be a hybrid? 

  • Porcus
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #11
You can transmit digital information by river stream with bits or chunks of wood (yeah, it would be slow)


Much cooler example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_over_Avian_Carriers 

  • Martel
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #12
Quote
Planck discovered that physical action could not take on any indiscriminate value. Instead, the action must be some multiple of a very small quantity (later to be named the "quantum of action" and now called Planck's constant). This inherent granularity is counterintuitive in the everyday world, where it is possible to "make things a little bit hotter" or "move things a little bit faster". This is because the quanta of action are very, very small in comparison to everyday macroscopic human experience. Hence, the granularity of nature appears smooth to us.
IE4 Rockbox Clip+ AAC@192; HD 668B/HD 518 Xonar DX FB2k FLAC;

  • knutinh
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #13
These people will never give up. Surrender to the age where science means nothing except a source of impressive terms, where conclusions are drawn based on your pre-conceived faith, and where commerce rules. It will hurt a lot less than trying to "educate the unwilling/disinterested masses" about the ideals of testing methology, peer-review, curiosity-driven fact-finding etc.

Now, where is my homeopathy potion against electromagnetic hypersensitivity?

-k
  • Last Edit: 03 December, 2013, 08:10:20 AM by knutinh

  • Willakan
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #14
The problem with this article is that nothing they say is *technically* 100% wrong. It is entirely possible to derive potential, if monstrously tenuous and completely unproven and  profoundly absurdly unlikely chains of cause and effect, the systems involved being complicated, that justify almost anything.

I mean, we know that *some* amount of jitter is audible, and we know that regulation cannot *completely* clean up the power supply to the relevant clocking circuitry, and we know that there's *some* change in the demands made on the computer's power supply depending on computer activity...if an infinitesimal, nigh nonexistent effect can be maintained at each stage, you can do this over and over for every branch of physics/EE/whatever under the sun until you conclude, as these articles invariably do, that "DIGITAL AUDIO IS SO COMPLEX (Implied: To all intents and purposes, basically magic. Anything goes. There's no truths in audio. Oh what close-minded dogmatists that may concede that there's such a thing as a pile of crap...)

It's sorta a version of the "Gish Gallop" much derided over at RationalWiki. You see a similar technique with speaker cables: technically, skin effect does have measurable effects at audio frequencies (small increase in resistance at 20kHz), so one can declare that it 'makes a difference' without flat-out making things up, despite the fact that such a claim is manifestly obviously bollocks. Digital audio, and jitter especially, is a rather more complex issue than speaker cables, so the potential to go on and on, hurling potential effect after effect at the audience with no attention to magnitude or the final result, is entirely possible.

And indeed, the engineers involved appear to be in deep enough and sufficiently ignorant of psychoacoustics that if they can lose themselves in these webs of dubious effects, that's good enough for their beliefs.

  • pdq
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #15
It amuses me to see all of this hand wringing over picoseconds of jitter in digital audio while at the same time dismissing milliseconds of jitter in analog media like vinyl and tape.

"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #16
It amuses me to see all of this hand wringing over picoseconds of jitter in digital audio while at the same time dismissing milliseconds of jitter in analog media like vinyl and tape.


+1


  • item
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #17
There are some fundamentally sound and useful observations in the articles quoted.

Most pertinently, only those living in that transitional late 20th century period would mistake 'digital' as an antonym of 'analog.' That conceptual relationship does need untangling. Digital v Analog makes as much sense as Apples v Food.

Exclusively, precisely: 'digital' refers to the processing of discrete values. Nothing more or less. 'Analog' is a slippery and ubiquitous term: at best, we might contrast digital with an 'analog signal', ie one containing non-quantised information.

Canar's point that 'everything is digital' actually makes sense - unless the distinctly 'analog' string theory is right.

It would have been less controversial if they had maintained focus on the impact of the instrumental basis of the equipment generating and decoding digital data - and used 'digital v analog' rather more carefully. Only programmers with their head in the ether fail to acknowledge that computers are fundamentally mechanical, or that time-domain-sensitive audio playback is not the same as sending a file to a printer.

The straw men arguments above re: information transmission fail to account entirely for time-domain effects: sure you can encode a Miley Cyrus MP3 with wooden blocks, but in real-time decoding the medium and the millieu matter.

Obviously the authors leave open the question of your/my/everyman's 'audibility' of noise and jitter generated by/in digital sources - which isn't a crowd pleaser in certain quarters. But in general you couldn't fairly say they've fumbled the ball.
  • Last Edit: 08 January, 2014, 05:30:41 PM by item

  • saratoga
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #18
It would have been less controversial if they had maintained focus on the impact of the instrumental basis of the equipment generating and decoding digital data - and used 'digital v analog' rather more carefully. Only programmers with their head in the ether fail to acknowledge that computers are fundamentally mechanical, or that time-domain-sensitive audio playback is not the same as sending a file to a printer.


I'm not sure what this is intended to mean? 

"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #19
Quote
'analog signal', ie one containing non-quantised information.



I don't think it's called analogue because it's continuous. I thought it was called analogue because the current in a wire is analogous to the atmospheric pressure at a particular place and time. Digital could just as easily have been called double analogue because the numbers (ratios) are analogous to the current in a wire.

So there is no such thing as digital. Only double analogue.

  • saratoga
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #20
Quote
'analog signal', ie one containing non-quantised information.



I don't think it's called analogue because it's continuous. I thought it was called analogue because the current in a wire is analogous to the atmospheric pressure at a particular place and time. Digital could just as easily have been called double analogue because the numbers (ratios) are analogous to the current in a wire.

So there is no such thing as digital. Only double analogue.


You should probably read these:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_signal
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analog_signal

  • item
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #21
It would have been less controversial if they had maintained focus on the impact of the instrumental basis of the equipment generating and decoding digital data - and used 'digital v analog' rather more carefully. Only programmers with their head in the ether fail to acknowledge that computers are fundamentally mechanical, or that time-domain-sensitive audio playback is not the same as sending a file to a printer.


I'm not sure what this is intended to mean?

There is a danger of considering 'digital' in purely numerical terms. Focusing like a programmer solely on logical pathways and interpreted values, it's easy to overlook the awkward fact that output is generated by physical machinery, not pumped from some Platonic flowchart. Algorithms are hardware independent, digital audio processors aren't.

It's axiomatic that measurement (and audio) systems respond differently when different mechanical apparatus is integrated into them.

But to be fair to the article, it was Steve Silberman who grabbed the 'no such thing as digital' headline. Charles Hansen put it better, I think, when he said: “All the problems with digital are analog problems'.

  • dhromed
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #22
There is a danger of considering 'digital' in purely numerical terms. Focusing like a programmer solely on logical pathways and interpreted values, it's easy to overlook the awkward fact that output is generated by physical machinery, not pumped from some Platonic flowchart. Algorithms are hardware independent, digital audio processors aren't.


Fortunately, every single person here knows this to the point where it need not be mentioned.
  • Last Edit: 09 January, 2014, 04:57:49 AM by dhromed

  • Porcus
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #23
to be fair to the article, it was Steve Silberman who grabbed the 'no such thing as digital' headline. Charles Hansen put it better, I think, when he said: “All the problems with digital are analog problems'.


That is a very good point indeed. You get rid of many problems, and - once you have chosen a good enough digital format and adequate conversion (whenever applicable), the remaining problems are not related to the "digitalness". Of course, if you have a ground loop issue when you conect by metal one device to another, you will also get that when you connect a (copper) cable supposed to carry a digital signal.

There's no such thing as digital problems becoming "There's no such thing as digital". Nifty.
  • Last Edit: 09 January, 2014, 05:11:07 AM by Porcus

  • polemon
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"There's no such thing as digital"
Reply #24
I have only scanned quickly over the article, and I'm trying to point my finger at the very essence of where they're wrong.

Quote
AS: Since there's no such thing as 1s and 0s in digital transmission, what is being sent over our USB/Firewire/Ethernet cables when we play back music files?

CH: An ANALOG signal!

Steve Silberman: I think this is where things get misconstrued. The signals we think of abstractly as “digital” are in fact high-speed analog square waves, susceptible to all of the same damage and distortions as any other analog signal.

This made me cringe. It seems someone doesn't know the difference between "data" and "signal"...

When saying there is a "gray" area between a digital "0" and a digital "1", and the errors that might creep into data corruption, it makes me believe they never heard of differential data transmission (USB and Ethernet is a prime example).

They haven't addressed any technicalities of things like S/PDIF, just stated it's "flawed".
The kind of noise (that is apparently audible to them) would interfere with the general operation of any digital device, but they still seem to have no idea about "data" and things like differential transmission over longer distances.

I don't see a single reference to a research paper or even Wikipedia article, they have a list of books at the end, but what they should've read is an introductory book for a signal processing course at University...

To me, most of the stuff is what I call Audiophoolery, it's kinda blending into esoteric beliefs.
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