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Old 11th March 2008, 02:22 AM   #1
cuibono is offline cuibono  United States
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Default Vinyl>CD: anyone else hear depth diff?

I was listening to a nice system (which I can't describe, I forgot the components), with vinyl as the source. It was very enjoyable. Then we listened to the same (jazz) song via CD.

The biggest difference I heard was a big flattening of the image - with vinyl, there was so much 'body' to each of the players; they were better separated, but more than that, the performers in front stood way in front, with a much more tangible form, while the others in back, were standing there, in the back. The CD sounded like CD - very clean and smooth, but a bit lifeless.

If I were describing a live performance, the first set of performers were much more emotional, more expressively outgoing . The second set of performers were more withheld, less alive (and ultimately less realistic).

Now I know compression in mastering can cause this, along with all sort of electronic woes, BUT:

I was reading the March '08 The Absolute Sound mag, and they were reviewing the Korg MR-1000 DSD recorder, a turntable for digitizing LP's. They said that the digital copy sounded exactly like the analog, except that it had less depth to the soundstage.

I know there are lots of variables here, but I was wondering if any vinyl aficionado's had found something similar, ie, vinyl having inherently more 'body' to the imaging. Anyone want to share what they think the biggest difference in sound is?

Just wondering
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Old 11th March 2008, 10:21 AM   #2
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There is nothing unusual about something being lost in the conversion of analogue to digital. Especially as both sources you cite are flawed. CD is not good enough to be a truly transparent representation of the information on it. Not enough bit depth, not a high enough sampling rate. DSD requires substantial filtering to keep noise down at certain frequencies. Complex filtering has an impact on the sound. It is very subtle but nuances like depth might be affected. All this of course assumes the very best playback sources which will themselves have an effect. The very best recording I have is a PCM bootleg of a master tape. I downloaded to compare to the DSD version available and was very surprised by the difference. It was 24 bit 48Khz and is truly excellent, its best virtue being its smooth analogue sound. My personal opinion is the distributors don't want perfect copies of their master tapes available to the public.
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Old 11th March 2008, 11:29 AM   #3
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The only problem I have heard when comparing CD re-releases of vinyl that I own is the dreadful quality of the re-mastering. If you have a high quality vinyl album, and record this to CD yourself using a high quality turntable and sound card you usually get a far better result than the commercial offering. The CD format isn't the issue, it's the heavy-handed and uncaring re-mastering that's the problem.
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Old 11th March 2008, 11:39 AM   #4
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My post assumes mastering is done with care but you do have a point.
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Old 11th March 2008, 09:30 PM   #5
cuibono is offline cuibono  United States
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Yes, different mastering is a huge factor in the difference between vinyl and cd. But the point I was trying to make in my original post was that, when using the Korg digitizer, the digital copy of the vinyl original had 'less depth', according to the review, and I was wondering if anyone thought this might be an unavoidable difference between vinyl and digital, or if perhaps the loss in depth was just a fluke of the electronics used. Loss in depth has been the largest difference I've heard when switching between vinyl and digital...
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Old 11th March 2008, 09:41 PM   #6
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Idle speculation, but perhaps because records have a clearly audible noise floor compared to CD, there is something to give a sense of depth. Because the floor ain't there on CDs, even though they're technically superior, this leads to a perception of something missing...???
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Old 12th March 2008, 08:42 AM   #7
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Cuibono,
what you describe is my consistent experience since years. While I would agree that the quality of the mastering plays a big role, I think that the production path of an average Audio-CD is the most contributing bottleneck. There is a nice story of a producer of the band pink floyd floating around. The digital recording itself is less an issue, but (probably) still there.

The german quinton label sells copies on LP, CD and mastertape-copy so one can easily compare, what sounds best *on a given audio chain*.
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Old 12th March 2008, 11:34 AM   #8
BobM is offline BobM  United States
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I think you also have to look at the relative cost of the equipment. Cheap digital has come a long way, but almost always (in my impression) has this flattening of the soundstage effect. Cheap vinly is better soundstage wise, but often sounds grainy.

As you get into better equipment, the faults of each medium get better and frequency extension tends to expand, bringing each medium closer together. Of course, you need to compare using a recording with the same mastering for each, which is not easy to find. Just because it's the same song/album title doesn't mean it was mastered the same. This is almost always the key difference between the 2 mediums when comparing.

If you get everything perfect, a high quality CD player/DAC, a high quality vinyl setup (including a premiere phono stage), the same mastered recording you may notice 2 things.

(1) the cost of the vinly rig is almost always higher
(2) vinyls just sounds more analogue; smoother and more natural overall.

The soundstage width and depth will probably be very similar. The tone will be similar. The extension will be similar. But analogue just seems to have something else that digital can't fully capture (other than surface noise .

The vinyl sound is also very highly dependent on each piece of equipment, arm, cartridge, phono stage, table, isolation, setup, the cleanliness of the record, etc. Where the digital has fewer variables.

Enjoy,
Bob
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Old 12th March 2008, 12:04 PM   #9
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Hi Bob,
I beg to differ, at leat in the comparison master tape <-> CD or LP. The better your amp/Speaker assembly gets, the more striking is the difference between a mass copied volume and something more close to the master. (I would give any of my LP's or CD's for a good master copy taken with an reasonably good CompactCassette (MC), if that'd only be an option...)

It is very similar to the situation when comparing a budget price Phonopreamp with something decent: the difference may be vanishing small on a cheap audio chain, and will rise substantially when using decent audio gear.

Rüdiger
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Old 12th March 2008, 12:08 PM   #10
SY is offline SY  United States
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I think most of you are missing the point: have you compared playback of each medium to the master tapes? Is is at least conceivable that the extra "depth" one gets from LP is not present on the original but is an artifact of the playback process?

Before spinning theories on why CDs lose depth, it might be worthwhile to see if that's actually true.
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