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Casual vinyl vs digital blind test
Pio2001
post Mar 30 2003, 22:56
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Today a friend visited me, so I seized the occasion to perform a hardware blind test. Computer blind test, like original vs MP3, I can do them alone with a program, but for real vinyl vs CD blind tests, I need someone to switch the source selector "in my back".

It was a "vinyl versus digital" test. A vinyl was playing back. The line out of the ampli was directed into the DAT deck, 48 kHz 16 bits. The ampli vinyl input (pure analog) was compared to the DAT input (digitized to 48 kHz 16 bits).

Preliminaries listening sessions : the digital sound seems more bright, shiny and detailed to me, the vinyl more smooth, silky and "noisy". The digital sound seems also "tiresome". No difference in frequencies or definition, just feelings.
The voice seemed to be more separated to the instruments on the digital version to her, though there is quite no difference between the two versions.

Then, in turn, the operator writes down on a paper a serial of sources, digital or analog, that are going to be played. The subject must then write on his own paper the source that he thinks he is listening to, for each session. Then the results are compared. After the test the roles are inverted, the operator becomes subject, and the subject operator.

Results :
Me :
6/10, but I guessed 3 of them recognizing the level difference, the real result is then 3/7.
Her :
5/8. After 5 trials she said she couldn't concentrate. We stopped for 2 minutes, then I played the references again, and she said the feeling was opposite now : the voice seemed more detached in the analog version, and that she had probably inverted all previous answers. Anyway, noting 0 for false and 1 for true, she got
0 0 0 1 1 -pause- 1 1 1 , so it's a failure whatever way we interpret the results.

Here's a sample of what we listened to, to illustrate the ability of digital to reproduce the "warm, fuzzy, fat, analog sound of vinyl".
sandra.mpc 516 kB, 22 seconds

Setup :
Technics SL-3100 turntable. Stanton Trackmaster EL cartridge, 5 grams tracking force, 3 grams of antiskate (it's the maximum on this turntable).
Arcam Diva A85 ampli, Sony DTC 55ES DAT, Dynaudio Gemini Speakers (not equalized, this time).
Between each trial, the operator switches the source selector (electronic commands) to a silent input, adjusts the volume to match the levels (digital volume display), then switch back the selector to the new source.

Records : Cocteau Twins - treasure (Virgin), track 1 & 3. Not convincing. So we used Sandra - 10/10 - Maria Magdalena for the blind tests.
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lucpes
post Apr 17 2003, 11:56
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[IMHO]
Comparing vinyl to digital sound is a very subjective process: it seems that we love the distorted sound from the vinyl (sounds more life-like to some people), also the mastering & the ADC process (CD) has a ton to say here. Most CD's are poorly done, opposed to most LP's (vinyl) which seem to have been more carefully taken care of.

Not to mention the dynamic compression process which seems to be 'a must' for any new release, even remastered ones: had a chance to listen to the 'Pink Floyd - 30th Anniversary Dark Side of the Moon' CD release - it purely has too much bass in it and it is a bit dynamically compressed - I prefer the old CD release in most cases, not the 'enhanced' or remastered ones (*poor piss studio monitors, and the enginneers have to think about the mainstream listener... blah)

Anyway, if you have a good stereo system (preferably flat (+-2dB) from 30 to 20kHz) you might enjoy more the vynil (more airy and life-like sounding), but I don't think it has anything to do with the capabilities of the formats.

Oh, for people thinking vynil sound beats digital: try Spyro Gyra - Got The Magic in the CD release. You'll be purely blown away.

*poor piss= no bass response under 60hZ.
[/IMHO]
___________________________________________

quote from an Alesis monitor manual:

In the early days of recording*, most recording studios used **big monitor speakers almost exclusively. Unfortunately, they also required high powered amplifiers and expensive acoustictreatment (often poorly done) of the entire control room. Still, awell-constructed big monitoring system really was impressive to listen to, a fact not overlooked by the studio owners who wanted to impress the record company executives who paid for the big studio's time. These big systems had big level control knobs, and clients enjoyed "cranking-up" the volume.

***Fortunately, recording engineers and producers eventually learned that this was not the best way to accurately mix music because it wasn't the way people listened to their radios, cassettes and CD players (metal heads excepted). Also, big monitor systemsand the costs for the required control room acoustic treatments were going through the roof (no pun intended), particularly beyond the budget limits of smaller project and home studios which were growing in numbers. A new way of accurate monitoring was needed: near-field monitoring.

* golden age I might add... snif...
**cool rolleyes.gif
***grrr mad.gif

This post has been edited by lucpes: Apr 17 2003, 11:58
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budgie
post Apr 17 2003, 12:16
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I made very long and sometimes more than thorny way from vinyl (I have more than 5000 LPs) to digital; nowadays I swear by digital format. When really good made and MIXED, even a bit punchy, it still beats vinyl very easily. The more expensive equipment, the difference is bigger and more audible.

One thing I regret, but there was surely more factors involved (none of them in terms of quality, of course), is the CD standard wasn't set to 20 bit/48 kHz. It would be more than enough, although 16/44,1 against vinyl is more than powerful. But it had something to do with DAT, I suppose...
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jkauff
post Apr 18 2003, 00:42
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I don't think that's a fair comparison. That turntable/cartridge combination is fine for DJ-ing, but it's very unsatisfactory for quality audio reproduction. I'm surprised digital didn't sound better than analog EVERY time.

Jim K.
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fewtch
post Apr 18 2003, 08:01
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Not suggesting it means anything, but it's interesting that people who consistently feel vinyl sounds better have high-end setups, and those who prefer digital generally compare using an inexpensive (or even cheap plastic) turntable.

Good analog equipment can be very expensive, bad analog playback equipment abounds...


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Continuum
post Apr 18 2003, 08:42
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QUOTE (lucpes @ Posted on Apr 17 2003 - 12:56 PM)
Most CD's are poorly done, opposed to most LP's (vinyl) which seem to have been more carefully taken care of.

QUOTE (jkauff @ Posted on Apr 18 2003 - 01:42 AM)
I don't think that's a fair comparison. That turntable/cartridge combination is fine for DJ-ing, but it's very unsatisfactory for quality audio reproduction. I'm surprised digital didn't sound better than analog EVERY time.

But that is not what the test was about! ohmy.gif

The purpose was to find out whether a digital format (close to CD quality) has the ability to simulate vinyl-sound or not:
QUOTE (Pio2001 @ Posted on Mar 30 2003 - 11:56 PM)
It was a "vinyl versus digital" test. A vinyl was playing back. The line out of the ampli was directed into the DAT deck, 48 kHz 16 bits. The ampli vinyl input (pure analog) was compared to the DAT input (digitized to 48 kHz 16 bits).


This post has been edited by Continuum: Apr 18 2003, 08:44
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Garf
post Apr 18 2003, 11:42
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QUOTE (fewtch @ Apr 18 2003 - 09:01 AM)
Not suggesting it means anything, but it's interesting that people who consistently feel vinyl sounds better have high-end setups, and those who prefer digital generally compare using an inexpensive (or even cheap plastic) turntable. 

Good analog equipment can be very expensive, bad analog playback equipment abounds...

Cause and effect might very well be the other way around. Audiophile: has vinyl and needs expensive equipment to get it to sound good (and since they 'know' vinyl is better, of course CD sounds worse). Sane person: has CD and gets excellent quality from medium equipment.
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Pio2001
post Apr 18 2003, 11:58
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Right, the digital was virtually a copy of the vinyl. The copy must not sound better than the original.

About the turntable, I'm not sure if it is good or bad. It belongs to the SL-3xxx series of Technics, that is the "direct drive without crystal clock" series, that is below the SL-1xxx, that are the "direct drive with crystal clock". They are usually cheap, however, this one was sold more expensive than an SL-1200, both second hand, and I can't find any mention of this SL-3100 in any Technics official, non official, or vintage webpage.

The cartridge, on the other hand is a good one. The Trackmaster EL is not meant for DJs, the Trackmaster AL is. According to Stanton docs, the EL one is for studio. But in fact the only difference is the tip, that is Stereohedron (special elliptic cut) for the EL, and spherical for the AL. The conception is DJ based, which just means that the stylus is hard, so as to get a heavy tracking force (2 to 5 grams).

We compared it to an audiophile-beloved Audio Technica (not the top one, but a little one in the 150 $ range), and the Audio Technica overbright treble was blown away by the Stanton linearity on classical records. But the Stanton also suffers from too much bass.
Before, I had a Denon DL-110 on a Rega Planar 3 turntable.

In conclusion, it's not worse than audiophile cartridges in the same price range.

Edit : I remember that the comparison was done with a Trackmaster AL. It was in a shop and it's possible also that the speakers had too much treble to begin with, and also that the record had too little treble... after all, don't draw too much conclusions from this...

Edit : replaced "conclusions from the above" with "conclusions from this", less confusing.
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shazzan
post Feb 26 2007, 12:39
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I have heard this argument alot. Its true that vinyl has distortions however it has a wider frequency range. CD's however are able to play higher frequencys that vinyl can't however vinyl reaches lower frequencys that CD's can't. when people compare the clarity they are listining to the distortions in the vinyl during the gaps they arent noticing the wider frequency range. if your music preferance is mostly high's then cd's are obviusly better but if you want a wider frequency range with thump vinyl is still #1 IMHO I think that this argument is basically the resault of skilless wanbee DJ's who want to be cool using beat matching programs.
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eofor
post Feb 26 2007, 13:26
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QUOTE (shazzan @ Feb 26 2007, 12:39) *
I have heard this argument alot. Its true that vinyl has distortions however it has a wider frequency range. CD's however are able to play higher frequencys that vinyl can't however vinyl reaches lower frequencys that CD's can't. when people compare the clarity they are listining to the distortions in the vinyl during the gaps they arent noticing the wider frequency range. if your music preferance is mostly high's then cd's are obviusly better but if you want a wider frequency range with thump vinyl is still #1 IMHO I think that this argument is basically the resault of skilless wanbee DJ's who want to be cool using beat matching programs.


I don't know whether to laugh or cry, but let me first point to #8 of this forum's Terms of Service.
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2Bdecided
post Feb 26 2007, 13:29
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QUOTE (shazzan @ Feb 26 2007, 11:39) *
vinyl reaches lower frequencys that CD's can't.


Hello shazzan, welcome to hydrogenaudio.

You might be interested in the FAQ, and the Terms of Service, which include some useful information about fair listening tests. The FAQ has a large section on the limitations of CDs.

The statement of yours which I quoted above is factually incorrect. Low frequencies (when reproduced) are slow repetitive changes in air pressure. Our ears respond to repetitive changes in air pressure and we hear them, as sound. Changes in pressure slower than about 20 cycles per second are inaudible (though sometimes it’s possible to feel them).

CDs can store all low frequencies, right the way down to and including DC itself (i.e. 0Hz). This is inaudible, and impossible to reproduce with audio equipment (unless you have a mechanism for raising atmospheric pressure and maintaining this change through the duration of the recording!), but it can be stored on CD without any problem. Vinyl cannot store DC (0Hz), though it can get very low (~5Hz, albeit with a comparatively large amount of noise), depending on the turntable.

Cheers,
David.
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AndyH-ha
post Feb 26 2007, 15:03
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Also the other way around: phonograph records can contain higher frequencies than CDs. Using a high enough sample rate, I can record the sweep tones that go to 30kHz on the Cardas Frequency Sweep LP with no trouble what-so-ever. I made that recording using a sample rate of 88.2kHz. Harmonics of the sweep tone are clearly visible in various measurements right up to the 44.2kHz Nyquist limit. What any particular system can retrieve from the LP is dependent primarily upon the phono cartridge and, to a lesser extent, upon the phono preamp.
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JeanLuc
post Feb 26 2007, 17:02
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QUOTE (AndyH-ha @ Feb 26 2007, 15:03) *
What any particular system can retrieve from the LP is dependent primarily upon the phono cartridge and, to a lesser extent, upon the phono preamp.


And not too mention that an improperly adjusted turntable setup (which is a true science) can turn all possible advantages into disadvantages without most users even recognizing.


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fistandantilus
post Feb 26 2007, 17:41
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Speaking from a personal view i think nostalgia has a lot to do with it. Some of the remastered to cd songs just don't feel the same as you remember feeling them all them years ago. Music isn't just about clarity and frequencies.

Back in the 80's I used to listen to records and tapes on my mums music system. Revox turntable, Harman Kardon 1000watt solid state amp, marantz tape deck and speakers, not your average off the shelf midi. The system was able to give music a feeling that cheap consumer digital systems of today don't come close to, a music that filled all your senses and made your skin tingle (see how nostalgia creeps into memories hehe) ,but that doesn't mean the music was technically better, it was noisy and crackly, but that was half its charm

music these days is over processed and too clinical, hopefully one day they will combine the best elements of both :O)

This post has been edited by fistandantilus: Feb 26 2007, 18:18
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eofor
post Feb 26 2007, 18:22
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QUOTE (fistandantilus @ Feb 26 2007, 17:41) *
music these days is over processed and too clinical, hopefully one day they will combine the best elements of both ohmy.gif)


iZotope Vinyl
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dvautier
post Mar 4 2007, 20:41
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I have looked at lots of technical comparisons between both CD and LP media and I feel that the real issue is the way the music is edited and mixed. I have many examples of “original” or so called “re-mastered” recordings on CD that don’t sound original at all and perhaps far from it to be sure. The low end of these so-called CD “remasters” can sound fuzzy and exaggerated, the brass is often be too harsh and muddled, the violins appear too sweet. My overwhelming preference is to do my own digitizing of vinyl and burn it to CD. In that way I get the best of both worlds. I get a very true and original rendition of the vinyl with no loss of quality and sometimes even an improvement. And believe it, the cost of good digitizing is not that much.

The undisputed convenience of CD and IPOD is undeniable, where I can take it anywhere and play it anywhere. Imagine walking around with a bunch of records, let alone allowing those magnificent beauties to be played of somebody’s half assed TT. No chance my friend.

The “original” original recorded music is probably kept on several very high quality 30 IPS real-to-real tapes in a guarded and hermetically controlled vault somewhere. The recordings were made on several individual tracks from mikes placed in different locations. Editors go in and re-mix the tracks nowadays and produce new and so-called “improved” copies, which don’t often resemble the familiar stuff we have known and loved in years past. biggrin.gif

In the world we live in today digitized music on CDs and IPODs are the media of choice. However there seems to be a great tendency among people who control original copyrights to rearrange and remix and thus give us something new but maybe not improved. So I prefer a digitized copy of the vinyl anytime.
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pepoluan
post Mar 5 2007, 09:03
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dvautier: I agree. You seem to hit it right on the spot.


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boojum
post Mar 11 2007, 06:50
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I have a pretty high-end audio system and do not think that vinyl sounds better than CD's do. Some folks get swept up in the high prices and audio mystique and are susceptible to all sorts of BS pushed on them by the audio sales people. I am not going to bore you with the thechnological reasons that well mastered and mixed CD's sound better that well mastered and mixed LP's but I will give you just a few: no surface noise; no wow; no flutter; no rumble. I was delighted when CD's came out, as was the high-end audio world. Then about five or ten years later the high-end audio world was singing the LP's are better song. That way they get to sell you some damned expensive hardware. Although CD players were expensive when they came out. I paid a ton for my ReVox a long time ago. Swiss tank that it is it will probably outlast me. Sounds good, too.

Cheers. YMMV. cool.gif

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krabapple
post Mar 11 2007, 07:30
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QUOTE (dvautier @ Mar 4 2007, 14:41) *
I have looked at lots of technical comparisons between both CD and LP media and I feel that the real issue is the way the music is edited and mixed. I have many examples of “original” or so called “re-mastered” recordings on CD that don’t sound original at all and perhaps far from it to be sure. The low end of these so-called CD “remasters” can sound fuzzy and exaggerated, the brass is often be too harsh and muddled, the violins appear too sweet. My overwhelming preference is to do my own digitizing of vinyl and burn it to CD. In that way I get the best of both worlds. I get a very true and original rendition of the vinyl with no loss of quality and sometimes even an improvement. And believe it, the cost of good digitizing is not that much.

The undisputed convenience of CD and IPOD is undeniable, where I can take it anywhere and play it anywhere. Imagine walking around with a bunch of records, let alone allowing those magnificent beauties to be played of somebody’s half assed TT. No chance my friend.

The “original” original recorded music is probably kept on several very high quality 30 IPS real-to-real tapes in a guarded and hermetically controlled vault somewhere. The recordings were made on several individual tracks from mikes placed in different locations. Editors go in and re-mix the tracks nowadays and produce new and so-called “improved” copies, which don’t often resemble the familiar stuff we have known and loved in years past. biggrin.gif



Remixing is actually quite rare for rock/pop/jazz CD releases.

As for LP, extremely few LPs are 'straight' transcriptions of the master tapes to vinyl; there are almost always 'adjustments' made to the sound, to accomodate the consumer delivery medium -- that's what 'mastering' was originally FOR. The promise of CD was that for the first time it would allow consumers to hear what the music was 'supposed' to sound like, more or less as the recording engineers printed mixed it to two-track. without the necessary compromises made for LP cutting. But it's not that simple. There are confounding factors -- for one thing, some master tapes were recorded such that they were *intended* to be re-EQ'd etc for the delivery medium (usually LP). But the mastering moves that sound good on LP don't necessarily sound good on CD. So mastering engineers had to learn how to master for CD.

The other confounding factor is the urge to 'improve' the sound of the masters, either to correct honest mistakes (like, the album was recorded in a studio where the monitors were bass heavy, so the master tape has too little bass) or to make them sound 'more modern'. We know what that has led to.

Ultimately mastering can't just be a slavish devotion to straight digital transfer of master tapes, nor can it be always trying to 'improve' the masters. The art is in knowing when to tinker, and when to leave stuff alone.
Not all mastering engineers are good at it, and the ones who are, aren't always allowed to do what they think is best.

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ShowsOn
post Mar 11 2007, 08:51
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I think the difference is the mastering as well. Same with SACD, all the SACD I own sound very good to superb, and I'm sure the mastering has at least as much to do with it as the DSD format.

To me CD and vinyl is the same, they can both sound good if properly mastered. Sadly these days contemporary rock and pop albums usually aren't mastered well to CD.


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krabapple
post Mar 11 2007, 22:15
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QUOTE (ShowsOn @ Mar 11 2007, 03:51) *
I think the difference is the mastering as well. Same with SACD, all the SACD I own sound very good to superb, and I'm sure the mastering has at least as much to do with it as the DSD format.

To me CD and vinyl is the same, they can both sound good if properly mastered. Sadly these days contemporary rock and pop albums usually aren't mastered well to CD.


The ten-ton irony -- almost tragedy -- is that, because you CAN'T cut LPs with the sort of faddish extreme compression that digital allows, nowadays you stand a decent chance of getting a more natural-sounding version of a modern recording , on LP than CD.

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