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Old 08-12-2013, 05:37 PM   #1
Solitaire1
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Vinyl vs. CD

I've recently noticed that there has been a resurgence in the interest in the vinyl records (LPs and 45s). I've seen many videos on YouTube where vinyl listeners claim that the analog sound of vinyl is superior to the digital sound of CD.

I think a factor is the way modern CDs are mixed. One of the complaints is about the Loudness War, where CDs are mixed in a way where all parts of the music are equally loud rather than having variations. See the following video featuring one of my favorite ABBA songs for an illustration of the Loudness War:


It seems to me that a factor in the Loudness War is the ability to push a digital signal to the limit without distortion. With vinyl, its physical characteristics limited how loud the signal could be before the needle would jump out of the groove.

This has led me to wonder if the analog sound of vinyl is inherently better than the digital sound of CD, or is a major factor the way the original recording is mixed and mastered? If the analog sound is better, could a new analog format be successful as a niche format for audiophiles? As an example, see the following video from around 1960, give or take a few years (this would have been my dream format in the days before CD and would have been a vast improvement over the compact cassette):


Thanks for reading my observations and opinions. I look forward to reading your comments.
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Old 08-12-2013, 09:01 PM   #2
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One of my hobbies, for about 10 years now, is digitizing LPs, "cleaning" the audio file, and saving to CD-Rs and my external music hard drive.

Just about any way you look at it well recorded digital music is more faithful to the original source than an LP. Even the best, most optimally balanced tone arm will cause physical erosion of both the LP and the stylus each time an LP is played. And that doesn't take into account noise produced by dust in the groove, surface scratches and abrasion, imperfections in the vinyl, etc.

A lot of the "warmth" that people associate with analog LPs can actually be attributed to the vacuum tube equipment used for playback in the "old days" -- and that "warmth" can be simulated digitally.


But the "noise wars" are very real. I have two copies of Love's Forever Changes album. One, the first one released, was taken from the original master tapes, and it sounds very good. The second one was "digitally remastered for CD" and it doesn't sound nearly as good -- there is no subtlety: the voices are as loud as the guitars, which are as loud as the drums, all the time. Remastering can definitely improve a noisy master, but only if it's done well.
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Old 08-13-2013, 07:49 AM   #3
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The issue with poor remasters is why I've returned to the first CD version of my albums whenever possible if the original sounds better than the remastered version. In some cases the remastered version might be better, such as with early CDs mastered from digital recordings back when the Music Industry was learning the proper techniques involved with digital recording. Also, a few times the original CD release might have been edited and the remaster restores the part that was edited out.

When it comes to vinyl, it's my opinion that it can sound better than digital as long as: (1) it has only been played a very small number of times, and (2) it is played via well-adjusted high-end equipment. To me, another important difference between analog and digital is that: analog has the potential to be continually tweaked for improved sound quality, while digital is perfect within its standard but it is limited to that standard.

I think another factor in the sound quality of old recordings is the way they were originally recorded and then mixed. An example of this are the early Beatles recordings. One of the controversies about the original Beatles CDs was that the first four albums were released in mono rather than stereo. If I remember correctly, although the original recordings were done with two tracks, the vocals were recorded on one track and the instruments on the other and then they were put together for the mono mix to give it a better sound. I've had a few recordings where this appears to be the case (but the tracks weren't put together for mono) because I hear the vocals on one side and the instruments on the other.
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Old 08-13-2013, 10:21 AM   #4
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There is one example (IMHO) where cleaning up the 'noise' from an original recording tape to generate a CD really destroyed the soul of the performance. Glenn Gould always talked/sang/spoke/hummed while he played the piano - he verbally interacted with the music while performing. Remastered CD's, particularly of the Goldberg Variations and his live concerts, have removed this element as 'noise' - leaving only the piano, and sadly, not the performer.
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Old 08-13-2013, 01:30 PM   #5
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I am very curious if the Pono/PureTone technique will one day become available to the public.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/ne...rvice-20120927
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Old 08-13-2013, 03:15 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Billi View Post
I am very curious if the Pono/PureTone technique will one day become available to the public.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/ne...rvice-20120927
I've been reading about this player for a while and it looks interesting, although the player I've seen reminds me of the SlotMusic player. As far as the format goes, it seems like it will be similar to the maximum sound quality (192khz/24bit) that FLAC is capable of.

At one point I remember hearing that the format would allow a separate audio track for each instrument and each vocal and the mix would be created in the player itself. Based on what I read in the article, it seems that this won't actually be the case.

As far as whether this player/format will succeed, at this point I don't think that we can tell. The elcasette (shown in the second video in my original post) appears to be a great format but it didn't get much traction in the marketplace. It could be the same with the Pono player and audio format. It could also end up being a niche player for audiophiles.

One thing that could work against the player is the "good enough" factor. For many people what they have right now (CD, LP, lossy format audio file) is good enough, or they don't want to re-buy their music once again. Another thing that would work against it is if the music industry makes a strong effort to improve the sound quality of CD (such as ending the Loudness War) and of downloaded music (such as moving to lossless encoding).
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