Vinyl>CD: anyone else hear depth diff?

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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 :D
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. ;)
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.
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...
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...???
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*.
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.

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.

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.
SY said:
I think most of you are missing the point: have you compared playback of each medium to the master tapes?

SY, did you read my post?

:confused: :confused: :confused:

On a decent audio system, the master tape copy is so much ahaed even when comparing to a breathtaking phonochain, one might get desperate.

The depth and 'bodynessness' are considerably *much* more present on the tape, as is (particulary) bass response, but the most striking feature is a freshness and richness in sound, to which the CD sounds thin and the LP sounds muddy, dark and fluffy.

It is not really necessary to compare the exact recording with identical mastering in each format to reach the conclusion that analog playback has more body and depth. If you listen to hundreds of high quality records such as those released by companies like Speakers Corner, Analogue Productions, Classic, Music Matters, etc. and hundreds of cds and sacds that are of the highest quality available in that format, you will easily be convinced it's true that vinyl sounds better. I'll go as far to say that anyone who thinks otherwise simply hasn't experienced a first rate vinyl playback system. A really good and well worked out system playing the aforementioned records can even approach master tape quality in playback performance.

The only advantage of cd is convenience and cost. The improvement in playback quality of a cd system has such a low rate of return relative to money spent that a mid-priced cd player offers almost all of the performance of one costing many times more. Even in the last five years phono playback technology has improved rather dramatically. Anyone who thinks that cd is better based on the idea that the technology is superior is living in a fantasy world.

Oh, I didn't know we were comparing back to the master. Of course that would win. I mean everything else goes throught some kind of device for the medium, and therefore is subject to signal loss and other problems.

I tend to agree that vinyl sounds better than digital, all things being equal otherwise. My point was that digital has gotten so good these days that a comperable vinyl rig will probably cost more when it is all added up.

Then again, a medium priced vinyl rig (figure $2000-3000 or so for all including phono preamp) will probably beat even the most expensive digital.


Thanks for that record label recomendation. Someday, I would love to compare a master tape to other formats. I think only Germans would be so thorough as to offer master tapes...

I am lucky enough to have worked in recording studios some, and have the means to make decent on location records. Alas, they are digital.

SY- your point is well taken - who knows if 'vinyl depth sound' is an artifact. BUT, when I listened to vinyl, the sense of body, staging, dynamics, etc, was much more like listening to a real performance. So even if these are artifacts, the vinyl sounds more like real life than digital. I think we start splitting hairs between 'accurate' and 'real'.

So why does vinyl get described as sounding more 'alive'? I've heard it said a number of times, and that is what I've heard too. Trying to technically explain 'alive' seems like mighty thin ice...
though I love my vinyl very much, my point was, that listening to a master tape puts things in perspective. Vinyl playback *is* fundamentally flawed, you then hear. CD is just more flawed ;)

The room and depth of vinyl normally isn't an artifact. You might get a pseudo room when feedback from Pickup <-> Loudspeakers occur, though.

Anyone wanting to get a better idea of Studio Master quality could do worse than look at , and listen to the various formats on the Linn Record site. They could always try a single Studio Master track from one of their artists to find out. Even a complete album like the one shown is US$29 for a download. Files are HUGE though, so may be slow (>1GB for the album)
Click on the thumbnail.

An externally hosted image should be here but it was not working when we last tested it.
We've been speculating that digital (CD) is a more inherently flawed medium to store music on, compared to vinyl, and possibly magnetic tape (onvinyl having said he finds tape to exceed both other mediums). This is all postulation, but it would imply a digital master would not be as good as a master made to magnetic tape... :dead: Or perhaps the differences lie the recording/mastering process?

Who knows? Considering how technology moves quickly on, and things like tape get left behind, maybe we will never know.

I will try that Linn site sometime soon though, thanks.
Anyone who finds the Linn Records Studio Master downloads of interest, and has a DVD player capable of DVD-A playback, as well
as a decent DAC that does 192KHZ, may also be interested in the DVD Solo program, which is available for download as a trial
(5 DVD-As) This program creates high quality DVD-As from various sources, and can also upsample. SPDIF output is enabled, unlike the majority of commercial DVD-As !
The program seems an ideal companion to the hi res Linn downloads, and should be great for vinyl conversion to DVD-A ?

Actually, I saw reference to Linn Records downloads, in another thread in DiyAudio a couple of days ago, purchased the album in the previous screen grab, as a result of that thread, then put it on DVD-A with the DVD Solo program.
cuibono said:

Thanks for that record label recomendation. Someday, I would love to compare a master tape to other formats. I think only Germans would be so thorough as to offer master tapes...

I am lucky enough to have worked in recording studios some, and have the means to make decent on location records. Alas, they are digital.

Your prayers are answered :D

Try this URL:

BTW: Doc Bottlehead will be doing a demo for the Pacific Northwest Audio Society soon (maybe tomorrow night?). I'll have to check that out and I'll post any info in a bit.

Best Regards,
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