Analog (Vinyl) vs Digital Audio (CD, FLAC) Listening Event Comparison

Discussion in 'Musical Goodness' started by admin, Oct 2, 2013.

  1. admin Audioholics Robot Staff Member

    admin
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    By every measure, digital audio is superior to analog. However, if I've learned anything over the years of running this website is there is often quite a difference between theory and reality. we assembled a listening panel to compare analog Vinyl records to their digital CD and FLAC counterparts. It's truly sad how much abuse has been done in the digital era of music. Here we are with virtually limitless dynamic range for digital media, but recordings are being squashed down to oblivion often making their technically inferior analog counterparts sonically superior. I think you will find the results are quite surprising and if you're an audiophile searching for the best sound quality, then this is a must read!
    [​IMG]

    Discuss "Analog (Vinyl) vs Digital Audio (CD, FLAC) Listening Event Comparison" here. Read the article.
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  2. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

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    gene,
  3. Irvrobinson Audioholic Ninja

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    What differences did you notice in the bass octaves, if any, with the Spyro Gyra album?
  4. ratso Full Audioholic

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    i like vinyl. i'm not sure if it's a superior format for listening. i just find it fun and having grown up with it, nostalgic. i like tubes for mostly the same reasons too. no harm in enjoying things. OTOH i don't try to beat people to death proving that it's somehow "better" either.
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  5. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

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    I think there is more bass on the Vinyl version, likely do to the EQing process inherent in phono. Great album, perhaps arguably their finest work to date.
    gene,
  6. dingus48 Enthusiast

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  7. bl0rq Audiophyte

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    Blind or not

    You do not mention it, so I was wondering if the test was blind or not. (By blind I mean the people only knew "a" vs "b" not vinyl vs digital)
  8. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

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    Re-read the article. It is discussed and completely ridiculous to suggest a blind test when listening to vinyl records.
    gene,
  9. Irvrobinson Audioholic Ninja

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    One thing this test tells me is that SACD and hi-res digital are more likely to truly be the waste of time my own listening tests led me to believe. If reasonably bright people think vinyl is pretty good compared to CD on a very high-end system, then hi-res digital's minor advantage over CD must be inconsequential.
  10. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

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    I wouldn't jump to that conclusion. I have many incredibly recorded SACD's that rival the sound of anything I have on CD. I suspect it has more to do with the care of the recording than the media itself. I found most SACD's are recorded by "audiophile" recording engineers that don't abuse compression.

    I think our next listening session will compare SACD to CD of the same recordings, though its a bit tricky if its a dual layer disc b/c of switching times. I will see if I can get separate CD's and SACD's for the next time. In this instance, I will do the test blind and call it Sample A and Sample B to not prebias the listeners into expecting to hear a difference from the higher res format.
    gene,
  11. Irvrobinson Audioholic Ninja

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    I'd turn your statement around to emphasize my point, you've only found that SACDs rival CDs, and we agree that probably all significant different differences are probably more due to production differences than media differences. When recording live I like 24bit audio, because it better tolerates my sloppiness as a recording engineer, but for playback the best CDs I've heard on my own system equal the best high-res and SACDs I've heard. The fact that you and your panel found vinyl, which even has degrading specs from the start of the groove to the end of the groove, to be comparable to CDs is, IMO, very telling. My point is simply that's an indicator of the inconsequential improvement of, say, SACD over CD.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2013
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  12. j_garcia Audioholic Jedi

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    I've done that many times, with DVD-A as well. I would use a separate CD because often the SACD contains a remastered stereo track as well but not always. That's why I recommend specific albums on DVD-A/SACD becuse owning them I can definitely tell which ones were just done to get someone to buy another "version" or to add a cheezy 5.1 mix, and which ones were truly done in an effort to produce better sound. On the best ones, the improvement is often more subtle. Jazz at the Pawnshop is a good example for me - it is already incredible on CD. The SACD only seems to add a bit more "presence" to the overall experience.

    In the days of analog cassettes, I used to buy the vinyl and record it myself. I would monitor the album for a while to see what kind of levels it had and then choose a good overall level and no DNR before recording and I ended up with tapes that sounded much better than commercially available ones at the time, even from just decent quality consumer gear.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2013
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  13. krabapple Banned

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    Given the conditions under which it was conducted, this was a 'comparison' simply stunning in its meaninglessness. But it will probably increase website traffic for awhile. Bravo.
  14. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

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    Your recordings were real time, and the commercial ones high speed duplicated. This leads to high frequency tape saturation, distortion and higher background. High speed tape duplication was always problematic.
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  15. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

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    Good advice Gene: - "Don't limit your media formats!"

    [​IMG]

    Seriously though, you are correct, vinyl does not allow for a highly compressed dynamic range, or you have very short playing times! I have always said this is the principle cause of the vinyl resurgence. In the classical arena full use is made of the dynamic range of digital media.
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  16. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

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    Meaningless for the reading illiterate. Meaningful for the participants and those that like to learn about limitations in the recording process not the format itself.

    Our web traffic is slamming thanks to the site redesign and SEO optimization we did, which had nothing to do with this article. But all of this is "meaningless" to someone not well versed in web traffic analytics or SEO optimization.
    gene,
  17. 3db Audioholic Overlord

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    Thanks for posting the results. I was going to ask you how your vinyl/CD comparison shindig turnd out. Your results don't surprise me in the least. Technically the CD format is superior to vinyl. Perhaps because of the CD's extended capabilities, its possible that the recording engineers tend to be a little more care free in their work compared to that of vinyl. Because of vinyl's limitations, it may be that more care needs to be taken to get it to sound right, hence the better sound. Just my guess. Its interesting that you picked Phil Collins,,, not a fan of that album. It may be a good choice as the loudness war wasn't yet taking grip on the digital recordings.

    I have many recording in both formats and neither format holds a distinct advantage over the other. I'm happy to live with both formats although vinyl does let one get more involved in the playing of music over CD. The bigger cover art and liner notes also makes it easier for me to read as I begin to creep up in age. Thanks for posting the results Gene. It looks likes a good time was had by all and that's most important. :)
    3db,
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  18. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

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    There are some great songs on the 2nd Phil Collins solo album but I would have preferred to use his first album. I don't have it on vinyl though :(

    I also have Billy Joel Innocent Man on Vinyl and CD but it sounds like crap on both formats :(
    gene,
  19. 3db Audioholic Overlord

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    I have a gently used copy of Dire Straits Love Over Gold album. I'm seriously considering getting the 180gm version of that album if the mastering hasn't been played with. The original was a phenomenally well recorded album.
    3db,
  20. haraldo Audioholic Spartan

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    Thanks a lot for this test and posting the results, you also gave me a great wish to visit You and experience the food and music.... Maybe we will make greek coffe for you then :p

    I'm not shocked or even surprised about the results, about music... It's one thing that measures above everything: How does it make you feel, and that can't be measured empirically :D
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