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Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

So, first of all, sorry for another vs question, but this is an honest and mindful one.
Disclaimer: I looked in the forum before asking but didn't find an exact answer and I haven't hear vinyl in more than 35 years! so I can really remember it.

Question is, Is the sound of vinyl and cd distinguishable from each other in a blind test, provided that the audio programs in both formats come from the same master and there are not pop noises etc in the vinyl?

I can't demo vinyl with my current setup ATM so can't really compare by myself but probably would invest in a second hand "low-fi" entry turntable / phono amp, provided it sounds different than CD.

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #1
So, first of all, sorry for another vs question, but this is an honest and mindful one.
Disclaimer: I looked in the forum before asking but didn't find an exact answer and I haven't hear vinyl in more than 35 years! so I can really remember it.


Question is, Is the sound of vinyl and cd distinguishable from each other in a blind test, provided that the audio programs in both formats come from the same master and there are not pop noises etc in the vinyl?

I can't demo vinyl with my current setup ATM so can't really compare by myself but probably would invest in a second hand "low-fi" entry turntable / phono amp, provided it sounds different than CD.

I promise you on a stack of bibles that I (and nearly everyone else) can 100% tell the 2 apart. There are SO MANY
things quirky to LPs that you only need to find one to seal it. Ticks, pops and surface noise are the main ones but
there are others. Now if you made a CD from the LP including the quirks on the CD, then I would be hard pressed
to tell them apart because in essence, you're now comparing the number of plays of the LP. That I can not do.

I do not miss the quirks of LPs.


 

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #2
Now if you made a CD from the LP including the quirks on the CD, then I would be hard pressed
to tell them apart because in essence, you're now comparing the number of plays of the LP. That I can not do.

I though on asking my question based on this specific scenario but at the end didn't, so I appreciate you added it to your answer. Good information.

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #3
Regardless of how long you haven't listened to vinyl,  I honestly find it hard to believe you don't recall any of the cacophony Glenn mentioned (pops, ticks and everything after).

I mean, it was the other way around for me, as I believe it was for many others, but I will never forget when, almost the same thirty-odd years ago, I first heard the intro to Pet Shop Boys' West End Girls being played on someone's CD player at a computer fair and was there and then gobsmacked by all the incredible clarity and lack of aforementioned analogue artifacts that were entering my then very young ears!
That was enough for me to start from then on, giving ears to what I actually heard instead of hypes, placebophilia and whatever hocus-pocus vinyl cultists might concoct to justify their immorally pointless money spending, idiosyncrasies and Luddite-like attitude.
Listen to the music, not the media it's on.
Wavpack -hb400x5cvm

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #4


Now if you made a CD from the LP including the quirks on the CD, then I would be hard pressed to tell them apart.... 

I though on asking my question based on this specific scenario but at the end didn't, so I appreciate you added it to your answer. Good information.

Here is a post about playing a record through an analog-to-digital-to-analog connection and nobody could tell the difference between that and the direct-analog sound.  (He didn't make a CD and he doesn't mention what resolution was used.)

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #5
> Question is, Is the sound of vinyl and cd distinguishable from each other in a blind test ...

Technically there's no such thing as "sound of CD" (if you mean CD-DA, that is, 44100 Hz sampling rate with 16 bits per sample), because it doesn't impose any particular defects to the audio and is capable of reproducing anything at all, transparently. So it's just a question of whether vinyl can do the same. No, it can't.

> ... and there are not pop noises etc in the vinyl?

This is impossible, at least with traditional methods of playback (needle running over vinyl).

> probably would invest in a second hand "low-fi" entry turntable / phono amp, provided it sounds different than CD.

It will of course sound different, unless you compare it to a CD that's also made from exactly the same vinyl in exactly the same condition, etc.
However it's hard to consider this a good thing.
some ANC'd headphones + AutoEq-based impulse + Meier Crossfeed (30%)

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #6
Here is a post about playing a record through an analog-to-digital-to-analog connection and nobody could tell the difference between that and the direct-analog sound.  (He didn't make a CD and he doesn't mention what resolution was used.)
 
 
From the level of ajinfla's hardware expertise, I wouldn't doubt it as being a valid test. Though he only proved that vinyl, at most, may sometimes, under special circumstances*, sound like digital audio, and that alone can only carry all those well-known digital audio detractors' wacky claims so far - nothing in the sense of "better than digital"!


*circumstances which are far from ordinary and cheap - both regarding the time and money spent with such "quests for perfection" from something which obviously is not perfect, as one can infer from reports such as this one, detailing an analogue-to-digital transfer (can we can them rips?) from a Nirvana MTV Acoustic LP - an album which on CD has very good to great audio quality, IMHO.  And let us not even get started on the supposedly wider DR they usually claim to get from such rips!

So why bother? Hasn't it ever gone for a split second through these people's minds the "if ain't broken, don't fix it" saying while they're at it!?

Quote
Technical Informations[sic]

Hannl"limited" Record Cleaning Machine with Rotating Brush
Music Hall MMF 5.1 Turntable with ProJect Speedbox
Goldring 1042GX reference Cartridge
Belari VP-129 Tube Phono PreAmp with Sylvania 12AX7WA
Tascam US-144 external USB 2.0 Audiointerface
Interconnections by "Goldkabel"
Wavelab 5 recording software

Vacuum Cleaning > TT > Belari > Laptop > Wavelab 5.01 (24/96) > manual click removal
analyze (no clipping, no DC Bias offset)
Listen to the music, not the media it's on.
Wavpack -hb400x5cvm

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #7
I may have shared this experience here before, so I'll make it short.  I had the opportunity, in the mid 1980s, to produce two jazz recordings released on both vinyl and CD.  They were recorded 16/44, edited on the Sony DAE1100, and mastered to 16/44 on 3/4 U-matic Sony PCM1630.  One master was sent to Japan for CD replication, the other was hand-carried to Bernie Grundman for the lacquers.  I sat with him during the mastering of the lacquers and so was able to verify that everything was under control.  My instructions were to make no changes, and apply no EQ other than what was necessary to replicate the master and provide the most transparent version on vinyl.  The EQ he applied was very slight, and consistent.  Reference lacquers were cut while I was there, and I took them home for review.  I approved all 4 sides, and another set of lacquers were cut and sent to Sheffield Labs for plating and metal parts, then records were test-pressed at RTI, with test pressings sent back to me for review.  It was monumentally difficult to get good test pressings!  Mostly the issues were with the quality of vinyl, the "exotics" simply didn't work.  That was back in the day of "Quiex II", which was my original choice, and fail.  The records were ultimately pressed on a standard Kaiser vinyl, which was both quieter and more consistent.  The Cds were made with no issue.

For the comparison I first calibrated the vinyl playback system using a CBS STR100 test record (20-20kHz slow sweeps recorded without RIAA EQ), and a mechanical pen plotter.  I was able to carefully match both channel level and EQ to conform exactly, within a fraction of a dB, to the predicted curve when played through an RIAA EQ preamp, resulting in a precision match to the RIAA curve.  I then gain-matched the CD and vinyl systems, then with extreme difficulty, played a fresh pressing in synch with the CD via one of David Clark's ABX comparators. 

The material was not recorded at extremely high average levels, and was recorded without any compression or limiting.  These were both traditional jazz and avant-garde jazz projects, but both projects were recorded "live in the studio", in a room that simulated a fairly live acoustic space, and both were mixed directly to stereo, no multi-track.  

I did not collect huge amount of data, but have several observations.  The differences were shockingly few, but all confined to the failings of vinyl in general.  So, inner grove distortion on high levels could be heard in ABX, as could surface noise in quiet passages.  But there wasn't a huge and obvious difference spectrally or in terms of dynamics or channel separation.  The differences became more obvious as repeated plays wore the record, of course. 

Though surprisingly similar, and at moments the two were indistinguishable,  at no time could one side of the vinyl be mistaken for the CD.  There was always something that gave it away.  And we did try to ignore the obvious ticks and pops, which were very few on new pressings.  But ignoring those, there were still plenty of vinyl tells.

The more important question was, which sounded more like the master?  CD, of course, was identical to the master.

If these projects were more like today's loudness-war mastered, processed to death projects, I'm confident the differences would have been much larger.  If you stay within the capabilities of vinyl with the original recording and mastering, vinyl ain't so bad.  It's problems are all at the extremes...noise floor, high frequency-high levels, separation and vertical groove distortion.  These are not small problems, but when the limits are known and worked within, vinyl can in many ways sound almost as good as 16/44 PCM.  But not quite.

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #8
The more important question was, which sounded more like the master?  CD, of course, was identical to the master.
 
 

Hear! Hear!

Even more so under such detailed, high-profile context.
Listen to the music, not the media it's on.
Wavpack -hb400x5cvm

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #9
The other comparison we did back then which started accidentally was to compare the stereo bus output of the console (analog) to the output of the digital recorder running A/D D/A.  The monitor strip on the console had a tape return monitor selection.  One day I walked into a live session and noticed they were monitoring the live mix via tape return, so run through one cycle of a/d > d/a.  Our resident golden ears never noticed.  When we switched back to live the reaction was, “Huh.”  From that point on lots of uncontrolled sighted “test” comparisons were made.  And the monitor selector error was made often.  Unlike analog tape, there was no overwhelming digital ‘tell’ that jumped out.  My conclusion was that digits represent the original analog signal well enough to fool the experts.  I other words, well enough. 

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #10
The CD vs Vinyl debate is polluted with sighted comparisons of examples with no control over the analog vs digital signal path.  Yes, they often sound differently, because the two paths to release are completely different by intention.  There are very, very few examples where the two paths were fully under control and intentionally identical.  My projects are the only ones I have first hand knowledge of, but there could be others.  The radically different vinyl sound is intentional, deliberate, purposeful, and often, necessary because of the material.  But the audible difference in the chain itself, sans deliberate modification, are relatively tiny if the material fits within vinyls screwy limits.  The preference for one over the other is mostly expectation bias, partly deliberate modification of either or both chains, and a whole lot less about the real differences.  The one over-riding difference that cannot be overlooked is the physical wear of vinyl and the inclusion of increasing numbers of surface anomalies that are difficult to correct or ignore.  The CD wins there for sure. 

Remember that “replication of the original analog mix” is hardly ever the goal of the final release, regardless of the signal chain. 

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #11
dc2bluelight,

Thanks for sharing that!   I don't remember reading it before.  I'm saving the link...

The results aren't too surprising to me except I don't remember inner-groove distortion, or at least it didn't bother me on most records.   It was the noise that drove me crazy!   Especially the bad clicks that somehow "developed" over time.    And, the frequency response/frequency range wasn't very good on most rock & popular records.  

Some records did sound "cleaner" or "clearer" than others.   Some of that was frequency response but I think some of it was some kind of distortion because EQ or tone controls didn't make the average record sound like the good ones.

...It was the dead-silent background that impressed me most when I heard my 1st CD.  

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #12
dc2bluelight,

Thanks for sharing that!   I don't remember reading it before.  I'm saving the link...

The results aren't too surprising to me except I don't remember inner-groove distortion, or at least it didn't bother me on most records. 
The distortion on the inner grooves came primarily from two physical problems.  First, it's a point of high tangency error.  You can optimize tangency in a couple of ways, but it's only ever "correct" at either one larger area or two smaller ones, none of which includes the inner grooves.  Second, linear velocity is the lowest for the inner grooves, so maximum modulation is (or should be) reduced there.  But the result of both was a higher degree of distortion on the inner grooves with higher mod levels.
 
It was the noise that drove me crazy!   Especially the bad clicks that somehow "developed" over time.  
Yup, that was/is a big problem.  I found that serious cleaning on a Keith Monks machine didn't really help much at all either.  During testing of test pressings I found some pops baked in from flaws on the stampers.  If a pop occurs on the same exact point in two pressings, it's baked in, and new metal parts are required to fix.  Other pops were vinyl flaws, and then there's the whole big bunch you pick up just using the record over and over.
And, the frequency response/frequency range wasn't very good on most rock & popular records.  
That one's tougher.  Remember, it was analog tape with non-flat response dubbed at least 3 times, if not more, adding up and aggravating the non-flat response curve, then whatever the mastering guy wanted, then if the producer wanted a hot cut, the top end had to...um...how to put this...go away a little?  Combination of a velocity based HF limiter, and just plain EQ.  And the bottom end burns real-estate, so if you want a longer side, you couldn't have deep or hot bass. 
Some records did sound "cleaner" or "clearer" than others.   Some of that was frequency response but I think some of it was some kind of distortion because EQ or tone controls didn't make the average record sound like the good ones.
Yes, the tools used to mess up response were not inverse-duplicatable at home.  Not even close.  But vinyl can sound really good too, just listen to any of the Sheffield direct-to-disc recordings, if you can find one, or afford to buy one.  I have some originals, they are spectacular, no limiting or mastering EQ, just a really good lathe operator. All cut perfectly within physical limits.
...It was the dead-silent background that impressed me most when I heard my 1st CD.  
Yes, that was what we all loved.  The high end was actually a problem in an odd way.  The vinyl high end was pre-limited, but the PCM high end is flat at full output.  This caused an issue for FM radio!  75us pre-emphasis means +17.5dB at 15kHz, which was a bit of a problem for vinyl, but a nightmare for Cds and the audio processors of the day.  I actually built a passive RC roll-off filter for early CD players that took off about 5dB at 15kHz, tamed it down, and made it sound more vinyl-like on the air.  Today's broadcast audio processors seem to handle the high end just fine.

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #13
Though he only proved that vinyl, at most, may sometimes, under special circumstances*, sound like digital audio, and that alone can only carry all those well-known digital audio detractors' wacky claims so far - nothing in the sense of "better than digital"!
What I showed, was vinyl has a "sound"...and non-pathological "digital", does not. Even at pedestrian 16/44 aka "CD" rates. Not to old human guys ears. They heard the vinyl just fine, pure and "impure". The "impurity" being below their hearing thresholds.
I most certainly didn't/wouldn't attempt to show vinyl and CDs of purported same master, sounding indistinguishable. That is a fool's errand.
I'm neither audiophile nor studiophile.

cheers,

AJ
Loudspeaker manufacturer

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #14
Indistinguishable, of course not.  What I found though was, if the vinyl was cut within physical limits from the identical master as the CD, a good fresh pressing played on a properly calibrated playback system, did not have a significant "signature", the typical claim for the warm vinyl sound, apart from the usual surface issues.  If modulation covered the surface imperfections, and levels were precisely matched, the vinyl and CD were very, very similar to the point of being substantially identical during certain passages.  That was not a sustainable condition, it was momentary, and that's why the two became easily distinguishable over time.  But few if any vinyl masters are cut that way, so there is often a clear "signature" when you compare a CD.

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #15
Indistinguishable, of course not.  What I found though was, if the vinyl was cut within physical limits from the identical master as the CD, a good fresh pressing played on a properly calibrated playback system, did not have a significant "signature", the typical claim for the warm vinyl sound, apart from the usual surface issues.  If modulation covered the surface imperfections, and levels were precisely matched, the vinyl and CD were very, very similar to the point of being substantially identical during certain passages.  That was not a sustainable condition, it was momentary, and that's why the two became easily distinguishable over time.  But few if any vinyl masters are cut that way, so there is often a clear "signature" when you compare a CD.

So to summarise "vinyl and CD were very, very similar.. .identical during certain passages" and to rephrase that identical sounding in a limited number of passages otherwise similar.

As a subjective opinion I think that's fair enough as far as it goes, but it is an objective fact that the mechanical process of vinyl production alters the signal.   Waveforms captured from CDs and vinyl mastered identically are different.  The extent to which that is possible to detect by ear is another matter altogether, and depends on numerous factors.

However, it is worth noting that the effect of soft clipping from analogue tape dubbing you refer to that introduces distortion, is a process that people now mastering in the box digitally spend large amounts of money trying to replicate with VST effects to try to get the same feel and warmth.  There is a perhaps natural tendency to assume distortion or even deviation from a pure copy of the original is bad, but that is quite simply far from universally true. (obviously I'm not talking about vinyl surface noise)




Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #16
So to summarise "vinyl and CD were very, very similar.. .identical during certain passages" and to rephrase that identical sounding in a limited number of passages otherwise similar.

As a subjective opinion I think that's fair enough as far as it goes, but it is an objective fact that the mechanical process of vinyl production alters the signal. 
No argument there, but my data wasn't simply subjective, I used an ABX comparator, so it was statistically analyzed subjective data. 
Waveforms captured from CDs and vinyl mastered identically are different.  The extent to which that is possible to detect by ear is another matter altogether, and depends on numerous factors.
Kind of what I was getting at.  Given how differently PCM and vinyl measure, the expectation would be a far more audible difference.  This gets to thresholds of audibility of various distortions, which is not a simple subject, and is comprised of huge blocks of 3D data arrays.
However, it is worth noting that the effect of soft clipping from analogue tape dubbing you refer to that introduces distortion, is a process that people now mastering in the box digitally spend large amounts of money trying to replicate with VST effects to try to get the same feel and warmth. 
If you read carefully, I did not refer to soft clipping specifically, but rather the non-flat FR of the analog recorder, which is additive with each generation unless specific corrective measures are taken.  And they typically weren't.  The nonlinear distortion is additive too, but varies with level, so not a constant quantity.
There is a perhaps natural tendency to assume distortion or even deviation from a pure copy of the original is bad, but that is quite simply far from universally true. (obviously I'm not talking about vinyl surface noise)
Some people view the analog tape "mask" as a positive thing.  If the goal is replication of the original signal, it simply cannot be, but that's where art intercedes on science.


Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #17
Some people view the analog tape "mask" as a positive thing.  If the goal is replication of the original signal, it simply cannot be, but that's where art intercedes on science.
Bingo!

However, human perception does not necessarily adhere to rational extrapolation!  For example, it is a fact that the mere act of making something louder is widely perceived as better.

And although I'm not aware of any surveys or research on this having been conducted, it seems to me that a large proportion of mastering engineers at some point use some sort of effects that strictly speaking introduce distortion for what you refer to as artistic effect (/analogue warmth, etc), to the extent 'vintage' effects are now included at several stages in standard mastering plugins like Ozone.

As such some of the digital purists would IMO do well to reflect on the fact that the people who are professionals and actually get paid for critical listening deliberately introduce what they would consider to be harmful distortion, and regard purely in a pejorative negative way; it ain't necessarily so!


Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #18
As such some of the digital purists would IMO do well to reflect on the fact that the people who are professionals and actually get paid for critical listening deliberately introduce what they would consider to be harmful distortion, and regard purely in a pejorative negative way; it ain't necessarily so!
It's not nearly that simple.  The final result with whatever distortions have been introduced is determined by whoever is paying the bill, and what they think is marketable.  Marketability is surrounded in fads, and what's good today may not hold up tomorrow.  The decisions are made based on things far beyond what the trained critical ear thinks is good, and is driven by what is requested.  The "producer" rarely has the best ears in the room. It's the mastering engineer's task to understand the producers requests and translate them into the final result.  That's a real skill, combined with a firm understanding of the sound of a particular genre today. 

It's been my personal speculation that today's listener, if given the choice of the distorted, crunched, kick-drum-modulated, compressed sound of today, or a far less processed, clean sound with a real peak to average ratio, where the kick drum actually kicks you, would choose the latter.  But that choice is never offered, and they're not going to not buy the latest release because it's over-baked.  So the vicious circle continues.  It sells, so do more of that. 

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #19
the distorted, crunched, kick-drum-modulated, compressed sound of today
Think we are basically in agreement but talking slightly at cross purposes.  You are presumably referring to extreme effects applied to individual tracks, whereas I am primarily thinking of more subtle effects applied to the master bus (EQ, saturation, compressor, limiter, etc)

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #20
the distorted, crunched, kick-drum-modulated, compressed sound of today
Think we are basically in agreement but talking slightly at cross purposes.  You are presumably referring to extreme effects applied to individual tracks, whereas I am primarily thinking of more subtle effects applied to the master bus (EQ, saturation, compressor, limiter, etc)
Not at all.  I well know effects are applied to both tracks and the final mix, followed by mastering.  Each has a point and purpose, they are not at all interchangeable.

My point here was that mix engineers and mastering engineers routinely get the blame for the application (or over-application) of the various "effects".  I've worked as one, and worked with the other.  I can tell you, we all know the difference and at the same time, know very well how to take direction from clients.  If a mastering engineer refuses a client's request to distort his product to its detriment, he looses the client.

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #21
Guess OP gone fishing
Loudspeaker manufacturer

Re: Vinyl vs CD.. here we go again

Reply #22
Guess OP gone fishing

Great comments, very informative.

I think there is a consensus here that both formats will be distinguishable due to (a) all those quirky things in LPs  getting in the way, or (b) when vinyl is purposely mastered differently to appeal to a market. With vinyl's to CD copies, or experiments like the one you put together some time ago, it can be difficult to pick up differences.

 
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