Digital VS Analog Audiod: Has Anyone Proven ANY Difference?

USA Today had a big article about the resurgence of 12" LP records-the analog audio people are convinced that analog is better. My question: why not do a scientific direct comparison? Just play the same music with both systems, and record bot with tyh e same microphone. then do a FFT comparison of the results. Why not settle the question for once and all?

Listening tests are done all the time and prove pretty much what you’d expect: almost no one can tell the difference between Radio Shack or Monster Cables, between a well-mastered MP3 and vintage vinyl, between a “very good” audio stack and one that costs more than a Ferrari, etc. You can tell crap (128k MP3s ripped with a freeware tool, or actually faulty cables, or cheap audio gear) from quality, but like so many things the supposed “high end” differences are a combination of elitism and fantasy.

But try telling that to someone who has more invested in their audio cables than most people do in their car. We just don’t understand, you see.

Because, no matter how carefully you perform the test, the analog people will not believe it. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve actually cut a record. And the limitations necessary to fit music into the grooves of an LP are devastating and undeniable. You have to compress the dynamic range. You have to sum the bass channels to mono to avoid destroying the cutting head. There is an inherent level of noise in even the cleanest vinyl.

That is science. And to believers, science will never trump religion.

The supposed superiority of vinyl, tubes, etc. are much like the supposed superiority of 24fps film. Other technologies are actually superior at capturing and reproducing the sound or image, but the flaws of the older method are taken as hallmarks of “real” quality. The sonic blur of vinyl and soft-curved tube amps, and the visual blur of 24fps film, are seen as the real thing, while the more precise reproductions are somehow judged as second-rate.


Thhasssshhh whhhuuuttt ayyyye ssseddddd.

Of course, precision isn’t always a virtue. In the panoply of possible production values, not every project has the same ones.

Though I suppose it makes sense to want precision in the final media, if not in every stage of production.

Understood and agreed, but the stance of most audiophiles is that their absurdly expensive systems represent perfection in reproduction, not some ideal model of blurring and imprecision.

I listen to analog and digital, over gear better than Yorx but less than a Ferrari, and I think digital is better with a few caveats.

Digital is capable of tremendous dynamic range, but recording engineers seem to take great pride in seeing how how much compression they can apply so the music is uniformly LOUD (Google "Loudness Wars). A really good CD, or high resolution download, or a SACD, sounds incredible. If…

You have a decent (doesn’t have to be expensive) DAC. The built in DAC in your Yorx all-in-one isn’t going to be able to compete with a modern DAC. Some old CD players didn’t even have a digital out, you have to listen with the onboard DAC.

And having said all that, a decent turntable, with a decent cartridge and decent phono stage can still sound damn good. If…

The album is well recorded and well maintained. I have albums still from my party days past that I’d handle and lay on the carpet and things like that. Not many of them sound very good, but cleaned up they are OK. Not great. But even like CDs, some albums just aren’t engineered very well. Nothing you can do about that, they just can’t sound good.

So without disparaging anybody’s taste in gear, I think that if you like it and I didn’t have to pay for it, knock yourself out. I’ve been whittling away at it for years and have tried to make my system sound decent enough, and most all of my efforts have been in the digital area. My analog system is as good as I’ll ever want, and I pick up albums fairly regularly to add to the pile, but I buy a lot more CDs and even stream MOG and the like.

And I have no expensive cables, I buy speaker wire in bulk from Parts Express and make my own interconnects from inexpensive wire.

I love the feeling of taking an LP out of it’s sleeve and being forced to listen to the whole record. Yes digital is cleaner and 90% of music is CD or MP3 but grabbing an old Metallica album out and popping it on my 25 YO Linn Sondex turntable is just so nostalgic. Yep I love my LP’s

Is it possible to do an objective comparison between and LP and a CD (or other digital source)? The LP is always going to have some kind of a pop or hiss or click. In a side-by-side comparison, that’s going to tell the listener which source is which. If the listener is prejudiced towards the LP, they will then select the LP. If the listener is prejudiced toward the CD, they will then select the CD.

The only way to make it fair, would be to add pops, ticks and surface noise to the CD sample. Oh, and compress it and sum the bass to mono. Then it will sound as shitty as vinyl.

Thanks for the replies…I’d just like to see a totally dispassionate, scientific test performed…that would settle the whole question for once and all.
BTW-are direct disc vinyl records still being made?

I can only get behind one reason to prefer vinyl. And that is if you’re listening to material which was recorded/mixed/mastered for vinyl. Otherwise, it’s a pile of shit. Horrible dynamic range, high noise floor, terrible stereo separation, and simply playing it wears out the medium. The people who latch onto vinyl as some sort of “superior analog medium” are either idiot hipsters or the kind of hydrocephalics who think $3,000 speaker wire is money well spent.

You might check out the Hydrogenaudio forums, comparison testing is a major subject of discussion there.

You prefer vinyl for reasons other than sound quality. Nothing wrong with that.

Make a digital recording of the audio output of a turntable.

I think there’s something to be said for the post about stuff that was created to be on vinyl. I bought Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours CD and loved it. Years later I bought the LP and played it on my parents’ record player of about the same vintage. It was like a whole different album. I recorded it on a cassette from the record and still preferred the sound to the CD. This was well before I found out that many people feel that way, so anecdotal, yes, but unbiased.

But the digital recording would capture the hiss and pops being output by the turntable.

Compressed music does sometimes sound better because it is a subjective thing.