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  • Gustmah
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Vynil or digital?
Hello at all,
I'm a new user and a novice too in this topics, I'm a composer but I'd want to know more about Hi-Fi. Maybe this question could be a little bit common: can you explain me the difference between the vynil sound and the digital sound? I know the first is analog and the second is digital but what can be considered the most high quality sound in your opinion?

Thank you in advance,

Gustmah

  • pdq
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Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #1
There is no "digital sound" because digital can easily recreate sound which is accurate well beyond the limits of human hearing.

OTOH vinyl can be shown to distort sound in a way that is easily perceivable.

  • saratoga
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Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #2
Digital recording is more or less exact.  You record something and then play it back and you get what you recorded.

Vinyl is not.  You play it back and you get something that is fairly different from what you recorded. 

Beyond that you have to be more specific about what you want. 

  • DVDdoug
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Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #3
I guess you are too young and you never listened to "scratchy" records?  :D 

Vinyl is technically inferior but there are some "audiophiles" who prefer vinyl.   To some extent it's a matter of taste...  There's nothing wrong with preferring vinyl...   Does a Stratocaster sound better than a Stradivarius?  ;)   ...So we can't say that digital "sounds better" or that vinyl "sounds better".  

I grew-up with vinyl, and I always hated the "snap", "crackle", and "pop".  I hated the fact that may records somehow degraded over time and developed defects.    The first time I heard a CD I was amazed by the dead-silent background and the overall clarity of the sound.     The frequency response on records in those days was pretty inconsistent, and on most recordings, generally mediocre too (at least on rock/pop records...  Some classical recordings had a reputation for better "quality", but I wasn't into classical).

But, we can  say that digital can sound identical to the original digital recording (or analog tape) and vinyl cannot.    We can also make a digital recording (and CD if we wish) from a vinyl record and it will sound identical to the "original" vinyl, whereas the vinyl cannot sound identical to the CD. 

But some vinyl lovers will never believe that, and when they fail a blind ABX test they will argue that "something's wrong" with the test or they'll make excuses about how blind listening tests are always invalid, etc.    So...  Watch out for the "audiophile" nonsense!

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I'm a composer
As far as it concerns your profession,  vinyl is a very-very small market.   And, if you are successful enough to sell enough to make vinyl worthwhile, someone else will be making the decision.    If you are not selling tons of music, the costs of vinyl production are not economical.

If you want better sound, the place to START is with BETTER SPEAKERS!   Speakers are usually the week link.   Virtually all CD players, receivers, amplifiers, and other electronics sound alike (ignoring equalization or other enhancements/adjustments).    And, sometimes if your amplifier is too small, you can't get "realistic" sound levels, but most modern receivers have enough power to "rattle the walls" in your living room, if your speakers are up to the task.

Or start by playing around with the bass & treble/EQ controls, which costs nothing!

     
  • Last Edit: 19 June, 2017, 06:25:30 PM by DVDdoug

  • 2tec
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Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #4
There is no "digital sound" because digital can easily recreate sound which is accurate well beyond the limits of human hearing.
OTOH vinyl can be shown to distort sound in a way that is easily perceivable.

Digital recording is more or less exact.  You record something and then play it back and you get what you recorded.
Vinyl is not.  You play it back and you get something that is fairly different from what you recorded. 

With all due respect, how about digital compression and added loudness? Aren't these perceptible? As well, I've heard some amazingly realistic recordings from vinyl, so I'm just wondering if these sweeping types of statements meet the normal requirements for making claims about audio quality here?
  • Last Edit: 19 June, 2017, 08:08:36 PM by 2tec
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  ;~)

  • greynol
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  • Global Moderator
Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #5
With all due respect, why do you believe vinyl mastering ensures freedom from compression (digital or otherwise)?

Concerning the other point, I'll just reiterate something that any long-term member should already know regarding this tired old discussion: it's quite easy to faithfully (read: transparently) recreate the sound of vinyl playback digitally, including the lowly CD; lots of luck going the other way.

Don't believe me, Tom?  Feel free to put up some samples and ABX results of "hi-res" needle drops vs competently converted 16-bit versions.

I'd require evidence from the other side, but I don't think the audibility of surface noise, clicks and pops is controversial.  Perhaps a demonstration of inner-groove distortion, or other coloration?
  • Last Edit: 20 June, 2017, 04:58:55 PM by greynol
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

  • 2tec
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Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #6
I don't see an answer to my questions nor am I trying to make any claims despite your attempt to draw me into doing so, sorry. ;~)
  • Last Edit: 19 June, 2017, 09:01:05 PM by 2tec
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  ;~)

  • DVDdoug
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Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #7
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I don't see an answer to my questions
It was answered.   Digital recording doesn't require  excessive compression or "loudness" and vinyl records are often made from the exact same masters with the same exact optional  compression & loudness.     And, there was a vinyl loudness war before the digital era.

If you happen to find a vinyl record that sounds better (to you) than the CD version, fine.    That doesn't mean the format is better.

  • Palladium
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Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #8
I don't understand why a completely superior technology can be regarded worse than it's predecessor just because it's being misused in its application.

  • greynol
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  • Global Moderator
Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #9
I don't see an answer to my questions nor am I trying to make any claims despite your attempt to draw me into doing so, sorry. ;~)
Sigh. I can't help it if you're new (or pretending to be new) to the party, Tom. This is old material. You're welcome to search for your answers.
  • Last Edit: 20 June, 2017, 12:05:31 AM by greynol
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

  • greynol
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  • Global Moderator
Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #10
If you happen to find a vinyl record that sounds better (to you) than the CD version, fine.    That doesn't mean the format is better.
He can then digitize it for listening from his digital player of choice (CD will do just fine from an audible fidelity standpoint) and keep a backup that will never degrade from repeated handling. :P
  • Last Edit: 20 June, 2017, 12:32:19 AM by greynol
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #11
Hello all, I'm a new member and this was the first item I noticed. People get a bit touchy about this subject.
Of course also being an engineer the only correct answer is that vinyl is indeed a quality medium, but has issues, they are: limited dynamic range (noise), and partly associated with that , limited playback time of around 20 minutes per side, distortion and repeated use will degrade playback and so on . Vinyl though when carefully used can offer surprisingly fine results, but these tend to be costly and finicky. Nobody ever bothered to introduce any fancy noise reduction techniques, apart from that in the RIAA curve, and if they had vinyl could have been closer to master tape quality. The truth also is that most vinyl was chucked out with very little care. As an artist, you can't record to vinyl easily, unless you want to pay someone lots of money, tape is a different matter and can be amazingly good.
Digital quality too is variable depending on choice of quantisation levels and sampling etc, but you can be assured that what you end with is  permanent, rugged and inviolable wherever / whatever you do with it. Playback is a different matter with lossy compression regularly used.
As always how you approach things in the studio, or wherever you make your recording is the make and break of audio. Whether from there it is treated to a million 741 op amps and crappy mikes and 500 noisy pots etc. is where you get/lose quality, be it analogue or digital.
The zenith of analogue audio happened fairly soon after the microgroove LP was released, and simple studio techniques along with equipment that was of a quality, still arguably, unsurpassed gave us Frank Sinatra and Buddy Holly like you were there with them in the room. German engineers had perfected tape replay during WW2 and thanks to Bing Crosby wanting to relax instead of going to the radio station to make his broadcast he bankrolled Ampex to further develop tape. We never looked back...until digital. And this is part of the problem, just like with film, digital is wonderful for cameras, yet still the best of film on a large format negative would require a 800 megapixel CCD to even start getting near it. Just because a new technology has many benefits does not automatically make everything perfect. It isn't. For the average consumer of music - I say overall quality has suffered over the last 20 years, more people are putting up with less...That is not the audio utopia that digital promised. This is why rosy tinted specs are lingering on vinyl.
And if the original poster is confused, take care when recording, use the best mikes you can afford, keep it simple, and to make it easy on yourself and allow you flexibility and use all that power of your modern laptop - use digital. The crux is that digital seems to be the ideal storage medium for audio. But nothing is perfect. Yet. And sorry if I posted this twice.

  • julf
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Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #12
But nothing is perfect. Yet.

I guess that depends on your definition of "perfect". I would say that for recording and reproducing sound, "audibly transparent" is the same as "perfect". And audibly transparent has been pretty to achieve for quite a while..

Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #13
By 'not perfect' I was trying to show that the path from production to replay has many pitfalls, maybe more now with current trends than we had with analogue. After all in the 1950s we were capable of recording with absolute fidelity.

Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #14
There is no "digital sound" because digital can easily recreate sound which is accurate well beyond the limits of human hearing.
OTOH vinyl can be shown to distort sound in a way that is easily perceivable.

Digital recording is more or less exact.  You record something and then play it back and you get what you recorded.
Vinyl is not.  You play it back and you get something that is fairly different from what you recorded. 

With all due respect, how about digital compression and added loudness? Aren't these perceptible?

I guess you are too young and/or inexperienced to know that digital audio does not inherently involve digital compression or added loudness.

Here's an apparently much needed news flash: Digital audio does not necessarily include lossy compression or added loudness.

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As well, I've heard some amazingly realistic recordings from vinyl,

No you have not. Vinyl inherently adds so much noise and distortion that anything approaching realism is technically impossible.

The perception that vinyl can possibly even vaguely approach sonic realism has to be a consequence of a sighted evaluation.

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so I'm just wondering if these sweeping types of statements meet the normal requirements for making claims about audio quality here?

Yes, they can.  The sonic transparency of digital easily stands the test of ABX and other kinds of blind testing. If you ever heard a blind test of a round trip through digital as compared to a comparable round trip through vinyl, you would never ask the questions you ask, or make the statements that you have made.

The absolute reference for transmission of audio signals is a short, straight wire.

A reasonably good (far less than the best that can be technically done for a reasonable cost) digital record/playback cycle  is sonically indistinguishable from a straight wire. Better digital performance measures better, but sounds no more accurate.  These are testable hypotheses that have  been tested, if by me if not anybody else. In fact, many people have tested these hypothesis by several independent means with ABX and other blind tests.

Cutting and playing vinyl audibly corrupts the signal, and there are no known improvements to Vinyl that can help that. The corruption makes sonic realism impossible for critical listener. Vinyl is incapable of sonic transparency. Producing vinyl has and remains a battle to minimize the sonic impact of destructive influences such as noise and distortion. Vinyl was scrapped by  our mainstream culture  for these reasons. For decades, vinyl has been  a tiny  niche perpetuated by the sentimental and ignorant.

The highest quality analog tape technology that was ever in commercial  use also audibly corrupts the signal, but to a far lesser degree than vinyl, which is why analog tape was a major enhancement to the practical application of vinyl for distribution in large quantities.

Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #15
Hello all, I'm a new member and this was the first item I noticed. People get a bit touchy about this subject.
Of course also being an engineer the only correct answer is that vinyl is indeed a quality medium, but has issues, they are: limited dynamic range (noise), and partly associated with that , limited playback time of around 20 minutes per side, distortion and repeated use will degrade playback and so on . Vinyl though when carefully used can offer surprisingly fine results, but these tend to be costly and finicky. Nobody ever bothered to introduce any fancy noise reduction techniques, apart from that in the RIAA curve, and if they had vinyl could have been closer to master tape quality.

Pretty good up to the last statement. There were several attempts to add modern noise reduction techniques to vinyl. At least one,l DBX reached limited commercial distribution.  It had several problems. One is that it was not a complete solution to vinyl's inherent audible sound quality problems. Another was that digital was already known to be a far better solution and at the worst, just around the corner. A third problem is that modern noise reduction techniques are still bound by information theory, and can't add performance in one area without compromising it someplace else. Most dynamic range expansion methods actually compromise dynamics, but in ways that are thought to be less audible. Analog tape was good enough that the compromises could be hidden with fair success, but vinyl is so bad that the problems are harder to hide.

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The truth also is that most vinyl was chucked out with very little care.

Most digital is probably chucked out even more carelessly, and can still be sonically perfect. Vinyl sounds bad no matter how carefully you attend to it.


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As an artist, you can't record to vinyl easily, unless you want to pay someone lots of money, tape is a different matter and can be amazingly good.

Analog tape is still very expensive and troublesome to work with as compared to modern digital recording. Vinyl is as you say even more troublesome and even more expensive.  Our culture handles them logically- they are classed as boutique items, things that are for the curious and bored enough to perceive any difference as an advantage, no matter how expensive or troublesome. The expense and trouble is part of their charm to a tiny minority.

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Digital quality too is variable depending on choice of quantisation levels and sampling etc,

Horsefeathers. All you need to know is the format of ages-old Red Book coding - 44/16.  It is very difficult to show any sonic advantage for more bits or more samples. Again, let ABX or other blind tests be your guide!  BTW Red Book is overkill - sonic transparency starts getting possible at 14 bits and 32 KHz sampling.

As your post continues from here it becomes way too seriously afflicted with cheap marketing phrases as opposed to good science to be worth much comment. :-(

  • 2tec
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Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #16
Say what you will,  personally I, and many others, continue to enjoy music from both analog and digital sources. Good analog recordings can sound ok as far as I'm concerned, and I've seen many discussions here about problems with some digital recordings.

With all due respect, personally I don't think the subject is actually discussable here at HA due to a apparent bias against older tech and some people here. I'll rely on your obvious attempt to insult me in order to illustrate this point. Good day.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  ;~)

  • julf
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Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #17
Say what you will,  personally I, and many others, continue to enjoy music from both analog and digital sources.

I guess most of us do, but we recognize and acknowledge the shortcomings of analog methods.

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With all due respect, personally I don't think the subject is actually discussable here at HA due to a apparent bias against older tech and some people here.

The bias is not about technology, but fact- and evidence-based debate as opposed to subjective opinions.

Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #18
Say what you will,  personally I, and many others, continue to enjoy music from both analog and digital sources

Is this a sly attempt to insultingly suggest that someone around here wants to prevent people from enjoying themselves?

I think a pity party may be forming somewhere... ;-)

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Good analog recordings can sound ok as far as I'm concerned,

I agree, but OK is a vague standard.

Realism is a harsh mistress, and is very demanding.

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and I've seen many discussions here about problems with some digital recordings.

In a way digital's goodness and strengths has been turned into a practical weakness.  The LP format is limited enough in terms of power bandwidth, noise and distortion  that it limits how much compression and equalization that can be used with it.  In fact, a lot of natural sounds can't be effectively recorded and played on LPs without limiting their power bandwidth and dynamics.

 OTOH digital's power bandwidth limits are actually a little better than that of most power amps (lots!) , and so it enforces no such limits. It will handle as gracefully as can be done, what used to be considered extreme amounts of equalization and dynamics compression.

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With all due respect, personally I don't think the subject is actually discussable here at HA due to a apparent bias against older tech and some people here. I'll rely on your obvious attempt to insult me in order to illustrate this point. Good day.

Bias suggests false or slanted statements. If you can find any, it would seem like it is incumbent on you to confront them, head  on if possible. I found some, and did just that.

What is wrong with confronting biased statements?

OTOH, if passive aggression is as good as it gets...  ;-)

Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #19
After all in the 1950s we were capable of recording with absolute fidelity.

Please provide an example of that.

  • ajinfla
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Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #20
It's always a great day for fishing here.
Florida too!
Loudspeaker manufacturer

  • DVDdoug
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Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #21
Wow this discussion has gone way off track and we've lost the OP.

A couple more thoughts for anyone considering "getting into vinyl"...

Most records out in the world are old, worn-out, and damaged to some extent.   And like I said most of it was mediocre when new or as Trumpetrousers put it, "The truth also is that most vinyl was chucked out with very little care."   Although the same-old mechanical limitations remain, I assume modern records are manufactured better than the "average" older record was, but I haven't purchased a record since I got my first CD player.

Maybe there are a few great sounding records, maybe some are better-mastered than the digital version, and maybe you will own a couple of those good-sounding records.    Is it worth it (to you) to spend a few-hundred to several-hundred dollars or more to occasionally play these few "good sounding" records?"    

(New) records cost more than digital music and you probably won't have a chance to audition the vinyl before buying it.   If you buy a record the odds are it's going to sound worse than the digital version.    And, most music is not available on vinyl.

I have a turntable left-over from the analog days and I occasionally digitize vinyl if I can't find a digital copy.    But, I never listen to records and if I was buying an new audio system I would not include a turntable.   And in fact, my stereo system isn't "configured" to play records...  When I need to digitize a record I connect the turntable & preamp to my computer.

Again, those are just my thoughts for someone unfamiliar with vinyl.   If you've got a turntable and you enjoy vinyl, fine.   If you've got the budget and you want to try it out, fine.    I'm NOT OPPOSED to anyone enjoying vinyl, but I am strongly opposed to listening to it myself!   :D   


  • StephenPG
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Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #22
After all in the 1950s we were capable of recording with absolute fidelity.

Please provide an example of that.

Aww bless, he thinks 10bit mono* was 'absolute fidelity'

*Yes, I know there were experimental stereo recordings made in Berlin during WWII by Karajan and the folk that invented magnetic tape.

  • greynol
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  • Global Moderator
Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #23
I've seen many discussions here about problems with some digital recordings.
So have I, but none of them have had anything to do with them being digital; at least not ones that can be objectively demonstrated as having audible deficiencies.

With all due respect
With all due respect, you say "with all due respect" too often for it to come off like anything but an insincere platitude.
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

  • jensend
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Re: Vynil or digital?
Reply #24
These kinds of tiresome pile-ons have dominated discussion at HA too long. They inevitably generate more heat than light.

I have to think that at least some of the time an OP knows better and is just trolling the HA regulars because we're easy pickings- just post one deliberately misinformed statement, then sit back and chuckle while dozens of people spend hours nitpicking each other's hasty corrections.

We can find some way to quit having these kinds of discussions.

I'm going to reiterate my suggestion:

1. Away from the heat of any pointless discussion, come up with answers to the most basic and frequently asked questions, in which we helpfully, politely, clearly, and accurately answer the most basic questions, teach the most basic ideas involved in audio, and point people to resources for learning more.

2. When people ask questions that have already received such an answer, point them to it and stop the discussion until they've absorbed it.

This moderator response I suggested last year in a different context would need to be tweaked for "what about vinyl?" questions, but the basic gist applies:
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"Hello and welcome to HydrogenAudio! It appears that your post is heavily based on some common misunderstandings about digital audio, human auditory perception, blind testing and scientific method, etc. Here are some well-designed resources that teach our best scientific understanding of these concepts: (insert links to xiph videos, wiki pages, other things that people have spent real effort turning into good educational tools). Even if you think the science here is incomplete, it's vital that you understand it before critiquing it, and without that shared foundation, conversations often consist of people talking past each other. To help keep the quality of discussion here at HA high we have locked this thread until you pass this linked multiple-choice quiz about digital audio. PM me with the passcode you get when you pass the quiz and I'll unlock the topic. If you have questions about what you're learning from the above links, or if you are interested in discussing something else, feel free to start a new topic!"
  • Last Edit: 20 June, 2017, 05:39:37 PM by jensend