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Feb. 2018
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An honest appraisal of vinyl v.digital... reality v. romance?

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  • An honest appraisal of vinyl v.digital... reality v. romance?

    THIS IS A FORK OF THE ORIGINAL THREAD ON TURNTABLE CHOICES HERE.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    This is all great fun, and it's wonderful to dig into our technical heritage. But can we please be realistic about old turntables.

    Nobody has mentioned one horrendous problem - rumble. Info here. Taming rumble involves mechanical isolation and damping; read here. It's not possible to reduce rumble significantly in idler wheel driven turntables because the motor is in too intimate a contact with the rotating platter. The essence of damping is that the moving parts can be physically separated and independently treated. The idler wheel driven 301/401 have astonishingly high levels of mechanical transmission from the motor through the platter, mat, disc, cartridge, arm and onward to the amplifier. Seemingly, some folk like that added 'warmth', but it is nothing more or less than a particular sort of distortion.

    It never ceases to amaze me how the human ear is capable of hearing what it wants to hear and ignoring intrusive background noises! Here is a gadget for electronically removing rumble when converting vinyl to digital. As they say "In fact, if you could spin the record in midair using antigravity, and read the record grooves using a laser, you'd still hear rumble. Why? Because the record was produced on a turntable with rumble, and that rumble was copied right into the record itself!"

    Let's be very cautious about creating the impression that a return to vinyl is a step-up in fidelity. Rumble, to mention just one aspect of vinyl record reproduction, is a serious issue.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  • #2
    Let's get real ....

    Not to mention pops, clicks, dust, distortion, stylus wear, having to flip the record every 20 minutes... No illusions of better fidelity here, but photographs of FLAC files on my 3TB NAS just don't turn out well.

    Comment


    • #3
      An experience

      Originally posted by chicks
      Not to mention pops, clicks, dust, distortion, stylus wear, having to flip the record every 20 minutes... No illusions of better fidelity here, but photographs of FLAC files on my 3TB NAS just don't turn out well.
      This is all true, which I why I am not aware of a single professional recording or broadcast anywhere in the mainstream who would revert from digital. And they should know: they are in a position to make a direct comparison between the source sound (which has no pops, clicks, dust, distortion or stylus wear) and the reproduced sound.

      Those are the facts, but as we here have long observed, when it comes to audio, it is the experience which is addictive, even if the technical facts spell out an objective, wholly contradictory story.

      Good luck to the vinyl fans who are enjoying an audio experience which is both romantic and tactile. As a true love affair is.
      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK

      Comment


      • #4
        In love all over again

        Originally posted by A.S.

        Good luck to the vinyl fans who are enjoying an audio experience which is both romantic and tactile. As a true love affair is.
        You are doubtless correct. It is like the early days of a love affair.
        Slipping a record from its sleeve, placing it on the turntable and carefully lowering the arm onto the record. It takes me right back to when my girlfriend ( now my Wife ) first came around to listen to music at my house. The record, and the process of playing it, has history and a feeling of pleasure when we listen to a particular record again.
        I cannot imagine switching on a digital streaming device will bring the same feelings years later. But you never know, love is a strange thing...

        Comment


        • #5
          The romanticism of vinyl




          An old Direct Drive Dual 721
          My research brought me to the point that from a ceratin point the specifications of a turntable need no more improvement and that these were already met at the point where these old Duals stand.

          It is fitted with an old Shure V15 where I only changed to a new needle (Jico from Japan who seem to be quite reputable).

          To make it look better I bought a new plinth which I actually love quite a lot. Looks far better than on the picture.

          I also have an old Thorens 125 which makes far more problems (noises near the end of an LP and such).

          Having said that I must say that, I by far more listen to CDs. This is because (even if you have good pressings) I just do not like those cracking-noises and all the little problems. I do like the handling and the "romantics" around the medium vinyl. Like big gatefolds sleeves and such.

          But if I want to listen to music I chose the CD, simple as that.
          Attached Files

          Comment


          • #6
            The warmth, the romance...

            Alan, I admire your attitude in the audio world, there is al lot of nonsense in this business and you don't participate. No mysteries just the technical and fysical facts and your own experience. That's probably the reason I own Harbeth speakers and I even like the looks of it, also no nonsense.. or -form follows function-, I like it.

            About turntables, 15 years ago vinyl was over for me; clicks, dust, static, rumble, difficult, distortion. I was wondering why I kept my records ? Last year I bought a new modern turntable so I was able to reach the other half of my music collection and I was surprised about the quality,.. ok the sound was thinner and bass shy but still very enjoyable and the speed instability, you notice immediately by listening to the piano ( continue tone) I already had accepted.

            My new experiment with the old lenco's ( with a new arm and cartridge) was amazing for me because the sound is much better compared to the new respectable 1600 euro modern table, there was bass and no speed instability to my ears and the sound is truly hifi ! This must have something to do with the idler wheel/belt and when you take a closer look at the platter/bearing and motor, it is beautifully made and very simple in concept. I still have some reservations about the digital technic ( harshness) and I am obviously a romantic type but if you could listen at my place you also would say: this sounds very good, the differences with the computer are small. It's my own project and it makes this experience less objective but I like it. Other people wash the car twice a week.

            Comment


            • #7
              "Digital harshness" = room acoustic problems?

              I have to say I do not understand at all when people write about the harshness of digital sound. Where on earth shall that come from?

              I cannot really deny other peoples experiences, but when using a Harbeth I just do not understand how anyone can write about harshness of sound, other than the possibly resulting from bad recording-quality.

              I experience NO harshness whatsoever. High frequencies sound like the instrument they portray at my room.

              My guess (also resulting from dozens of pictures I see of the peoples listening-rooms) is, that by far most of the rooms are simply acoustically dramatically flawed with a huge amount of reflections which spoil bass quality as well as they may result in harsher high frequencies cause they arrive at the listeners ears multiplied several times.

              Comment


              • #8
                Preparing or training the public

                Originally posted by thurston
                I have to say I do not understand at all when people write about the harshness of digital sound. Where on earth shall that come from?
                Going back to the time when I first worked in studios (early seventies) it was evident, even in that pre-digital era, that the public at large were not used to the amount of HF that existed on studio recordings* – this HF seldom made it through the chain and by the time the average punter heard the material (on cassette or vinyl) the clean, bright HF of the original master had typically become somewhat homogenized.

                The question of whether or not records were engineered with over-emphasized HF in the knowledge that this would happen, is somewhat moot. The day that CD came, the world changed. There is no denying that some early CDs exhibited too much HF although that HF was, typically, quite clean. There are probably too many unknowns to supply a concise reason for this but you might consider any combination of:
                • the above point about studios "pre-compensating" for the flaws of the vinyl medium, combined with the rush to issue best-selling titles on CD
                • confusion over the use of pre-emphasis
                • issues with some early A to D converters
                • public perception of ‘good sound’

                Now the point has been proven, many times in the intervening years, that even quite a modest analogue-digital-analogue recording chain is capable of reproducing a recorded sound that is largely indistinguishable from the original. So where does this get us today? It appears to me that the majority of vocal opinion about “the harshness of digital sound” originates from that band of enthusiasts whose main frame of reference is based on the inherent sound of vinyl, complete with all the same flaws from which the medium suffered 50 years ago. Were you to play an analogue master tape to such people as part of a blind listening test, I suspect that the master would be, incorrectly, identified as 'digital' on account of its more abundant HF.

                Of course, the argument persists that the listener may well believe the vinyl rendition, with its softer HF, to be more 'musical' than its higher quality progenitor, but that's a discussion for another time.

                * I recall many occasions when those unused to listening to studio recordings would remark that our wonderful master tape seemed, to them, harsh. The stock answer was that this 'harshness' wouldn't make it though the production process which, to a large extent, it didn't!

                Comment


                • #9
                  The real sound is NOT digital ... (it would seem)

                  It's child's play to demonstrate the sound of "digital hardness".

                  Equipment you will need:

                  1. Motor car (optional)
                  2. FM/AM radio, mono or stereo
                  3. 30 minutes listening/driving time

                  IMPORTANT!


                  Before switching on the radio MAKE SURE that it is set to AM before powering up. Do not power-up when set to FM mode. Set the volume to off before preparing yourself.

                  What to do:

                  1. Turn-on radio (in AM mode) and listen continuously for at least 30 minutes.
                  2. Enjoy the warm, relaxing sound.
                  3. Distract yourself by driving or reading, painting or similar with the radio on in the background.
                  4. After at least 30 mins. change over to FM.
                  5. Hate the hard, 'digital' sound.
                  6. Hurl the radio out of the window in disgust at the unnaturalness of FM (aka 'digital sound')
                  7. Put on your jacket, pick-up your wallet and head down to the shops to buy the best, most exotic AM radio money can buy. The more expensive the better. The heavier the better. The nicer the combination of wood and metal the better.
                  8. Relax and now enjoy the real sound (thinking: I should have made this investment years ago)

                  Cost to conduct experiment: zero. Guarantee of success: 100%
                  Alan A. Shaw
                  Designer, owner
                  Harbeth Audio UK

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Proof positive ....

                    just a link

                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5dCMz4gKLI

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Farewell to nostalgia

                      I love fine mechanical engineering so I treasure my LP 12, with SME 3009 and Shure V15v. The very first generation CD players did sound a bit rough compared to LP (I use the special matching phono board in the Quad 33), even though in some other respects it was already clearly superior.

                      Current CD/Bluray players are excellent, and the vinyl nostalgia is just what it is: nostalgia. I don't play my lp's much any more, and to avoid forgetting them I am about to rip them all to a hard drive. Once that is done, I will sell my LP 12. We had a great time, however.
                      Willem

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Digital is mysterious hence ....

                        Originally posted by thurston
                        I have to say I do not understand at all when people write about the harshness of digital sound. Where on earth shall that come from?
                        I am led to think that this one, like many other audiophile myths, has very little to do with actual hearing experience and a lot with mental preconceptions: high technology* is considered to be something "cold" and "soul-less" and so has to sound "harsh" as opposed to craftmanship which is considered "warm" and "soul-full" and has to sound pleasing.

                        * all the technology and engineering involved in digital recording and reproduction is not exactly rocket science for decades, still for the average Joe it is easier to see and understand a needle following a groove.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Art needn't be accurate

                          Originally posted by A.S.
                          It's child's play to demonstrate the sound of "digital hardness".

                          Equipment you will need:

                          1. Motor car (optional)
                          2. FM/AM radio, mono or stereo
                          3. 30 minutes listening/driving time

                          IMPORTANT!


                          Before switching on the radio MAKE SURE that it is set to AM before powering up. Do not power-up when set to FM mode. Set the volume to off before preparing yourself.

                          What to do:

                          1. Turn-on radio (in AM mode) and listen continuously for at least 30 minutes.
                          2. Enjoy the warm, relaxing sound.
                          3. Distract yourself by driving or reading, painting or similar with the radio on in the background.
                          4. After at least 30 mins. change over to FM.
                          5. Hate the hard, 'digital' sound.
                          6. Hurl the radio out of the window in disgust at the unnaturalness of FM (aka 'digital sound')
                          7. Put on your jacket, pick-up your wallet and head down to the shops to buy the best, most exotic AM radio money can buy. The more expensive the better. The heavier the better. The nicer the combination of wood and metal the better.
                          8. Relax and now enjoy the real sound (thinking: I should have made this investment years ago)

                          Cost to conduct experiment: zero. Guarantee of success: 100%
                          Lest you think this is an attack on "the vinyl experience", surely as valid as any other love affair, the point is that the spectral balance is different between analogue and CD.

                          In simple language what that means is, and I have to say it's not negotiable or arguable, it is a fact:

                          If we make a recording using impeccable equipment, whether digital or analogue (although all first division recording engineers would obviously choose digital for its demonstrable lack of hiss, harmonic distortion, intermodulation distortion and 1000 times wider dynamic range) and we cut a vinyl record and also a CD from that same, unaltered master; and we played them side by side on the world's finest replay equipment - cost no object - we would notice a couple of things just by listening with average ears ...

                          1. Vinyl sounded 'warmer' at the bottom and less 'toppy'
                          2. Digital sounded 'brighter'

                          But see the problem? One of those two mediums has, without our consent, modified the replay experience. It has reinterpreted what was on the digital master tape. Now, it's entirely legitimate, in the interests of art, to paint a picture or take a photograph of the same scene. One is an interpretation, the other is an objective fact. Both can co-exist, happily. But in a court of law, under objective scrutiny, only one is a universal truth.

                          Please can we always keep in mind when comparing (any) analogue with digital, that like it or not, one is a painting and one a photograph.
                          Alan A. Shaw
                          Designer, owner
                          Harbeth Audio UK

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Monet v. Gainsborough?

                            Originally posted by A.S.
                            Please can we always keep in mind when comparing (any) analogue with digital, that like it or not, one is a painting and one a photograph.

                            The analogy I prefer is one that implies that digital is like Gainsborough



                            while analogue is more like Monet


                            Attached Files

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I'm done with vinyl ...

                              My favorite analog/turntable feature of the past year was this one:

                              http://www.analogplanet.com/content/...voting-results

                              100 votes (23%): #7 Audio-Technica 150ANV ($999)
                              78 votes (18%): #9 Ortofon 2m Black ($719)
                              59 votes (13%): #2 Ortofon 2m Bronze ($419)
                              51 votes (11%): #5 Ortofon Anna and Continuum ($8499)
                              33 votes (8%): #4 Sumiko Blue Point Special EVO III ($499)
                              32 votes (7%): #10 Audio-Technica AT7V ($159.99)
                              25 votes (6%): #1 Nagoaka MP-300 ($499)
                              22 votes (5%): #3 Audio Technica AT95E ($40)
                              20 votes (5%): #8 Audio-Technica AT95SA ($149.95)
                              19 votes (4%): #6 Grado Prestige Gold 1 ($220)

                              These were voted on using digital files that readers could download. Despite all the issues that crept up around the test, it was very entertaining to find that more people preferred the digital file made using a $419 cartridge on a $1300 turntable with a sub-$1000 phono preamp than the file made using the $8499 cartridge on the $150,000 turntable with $32,000 worth of phono preamplification. Aside from the speed issues, the ADC was blamed for the results.

                              I use a Rega RP6. It's probably my last turntable, unless I end up selling it down the road and getting an old semi-automatic Dual. I had one of those before I started down the audiophile path, and I can see returning to it. I like not having to keep an eye on the end of the record.

                              Having gone from turntables that cost a couple of hundred dollars to those in the thousands range, I just don't see enough improvement to bother going any further. I can't help but think of the medium as terribly flawed. These days I'm more inclined to sell my record collection than spend any additional money on improving my vinyl experience.

                              I prefer just about everything about digital. As with everything, to each his own.

                              Comment

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