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Scientific American article: "Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

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  • Scientific American article: "Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music?

    Article from today's Scientific American: Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music? The answer is subjective, but the underlying math is not. by Katrina Morgan

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com...blog_text_free

  • #2
    Well I heard the same album played back to back in an a-b comparison between my friend's Vitus Masterpiece Series transport/Dac combo and his Kronos Pro with SCPS-1 psu on his $400k system, and as much as it pains me to say, his analogue setup sounded fuller, more live sounding and more palpable. Mind you, the Vitus transport/dac sounded damn good, it's just than his analogue setup sounded better.
    Front End: Vitus SCD-025 Mk2, Oppo BPD-103 Amp: Vitus SIA-025 Speakers: Magico S5 Mk2 Isolation: Taoc ASR series racks, Taoc SCB-RS-HC50G, Stillpoints Ultra 6's + Bases/Mini's/LPI's AC Power: Furutech GTX-D(G), Gigawatt PC-3 SE Evo, Jorma Prime pc's (re-terminated with cryo'd Oyaide M1/F1’s), Jorma Unity pc (re-terminated with Oyaide P-004/C-004’s) Cables: Jorma Prime xlr's + Statement sc's, Siltech Classic Anniversary rca's + HDMI Tweaks: Acoustic Revive (various), Akiko E-tuning Gold MkII

    Comment


    • #3
      The article is, to my reading, largely empty of explanations for the differences other than the physical aspect of analog reproduction vs the mathematical modelling of digital which suggests that's where the difference lies. Isn't there more advanced science on many different aspects of this- harmonics, filtering, oversampling and psychoacoustics? To me, digital was long too precise or analytical, but I've come to change my view as a vinyl guy; I am now just opening the door to digital as something more than a background music system for general household use and am struck by all the different theories among digital formats, processing and the 'why' of the sonics. Some say discrete ladder DACs are better for Redbook, others are very enthusiastic about hi-rez. I have not yet spent the time to do the necessary comparisons, and will not express any view, apart from the fact that I am more open to digital now for a number of reasons, all having to do with access to more music.
      I will relate an old proverb- I'm sure its been told by different ethnic groups- I first read it as a Yiddish story. A poor man sees a rich man eating blintzes (blinis or crepes often stuffed with cheeses) with great gusto and tells his wife: "I must try these." She scrounges and saves, substitutes, and makes do, having little money to buy the proper ingredients. But, she manages to serve her husband something that resembles a blintze. He digs in, chews thoughtfully, and turns to her: "For the life of me, I don't understand what the rich see in blintzes."
      I think there is a moral here.

      Comment


      • #4
        To my mind digital audio runs afoul of the KISS principal. Digitizing an analog waveform, storing the resulting data, retrieving the data, reassembling the data once again to an analog waveform seems like overkill. All of that effort should go into better ways to record and playback the analog. Forget the digitizing step. It is full of assumptions of how much sampling is enough to avoid loss of precision and how much precision is audible. All of that is assuming and we all know what assuming is. You can argue as much mathematics as you like, it is based on assumptions of how much is enough.

        The best digital playback systems are slaves to the data in a digital file. Is the data enough to accurately reproduce the original performance? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. If you compare the original analog, preserved with as much care as possible, to a digital version, created with as much care as possible, the advantage almost always goes with the pure analog route. Its just the KISS principal raising its head again. Too much processing is too much processing.
        Life is analog...digital is just samples thereof.
        https://www.edsstuff.org
        TT: VPI Prime, HRX Pulley, 3 Belt Drive, VPI Dual Pivot, VPI ADS, Ortofon Quintet Black S, Tru-Lift, AQ Leopard, Liberty Audio B2B-1.1
        Line Stage: *Audible Illusions L1
        Pwr Amp: Parasound Halo A21
        Speakers: Magnepan MMC2
        Digital: TASCAM UH-7000, Pioneer Elite DV-47Ai, NAD 446, Schiit Modi Multibit, Schiit Wyrd
        Headphones: Stax Lambda Pro, Schiit Lyr 2, Schiit Loki, HiFi Man HE-400S

        *Modified/Customized Component

        Comment


        • EdAInWestOC
          EdAInWestOC commented
          Editing a comment
          From a standpoint of the waveform it is KISS. The waveform is never transformed into another format.

          When you master digital media for production the steps are not direct to media either. At least we are not sampling the analog waveform based on an assumption that the sampling rate will be sufficient for the purpose.
          Last edited by EdAInWestOC; 10-13-2017, 07:56 AM.

        • mkuller
          mkuller commented
          Editing a comment
          The real answer for KISS is listening to analog tape. Masters if you got 'em.

        • EdAInWestOC
          EdAInWestOC commented
          Editing a comment
          Agreed...

      • #5
        Really? We’re still having this discussion?

        Comment


        • #6
          Originally posted by rbbert View Post
          Really? We’re still having this discussion?
          To me, more relevant than ever given that you are either buying old records (sometimes priced beyond reason and/or variable condition) or "audiophile" reissues (which I find limiting, though there is the occasional jewel). This is one of the main reasons for my belated interest in the digital domain; that, and the results I've heard, not so much through the latest batch of components, but through archival restorations and commercial remixes, such as the Steve Wilson stuff, where the trade-offs lean toward digital.

          Comment


          • #7
            It's all opinion, and/or it's all math. Each person has to make his own decisions based on priorities, whether audio, financial, convenience, or whatever, and thinking that an article like this (which is superficial at best and presents no new information) will or should affect those decisions is a bit laughable.

            Comment


            • Analog21
              Analog21 commented
              Editing a comment
              This isn't in an audio magazine. It's in Scientific American. It gives a brief history of music background and one millennial's experience with vinyl. It reaches a lot of people who may have not considered or known much about digital vs playback and reaches more of the masses more than any Stereophile Magazine or Rocky Mountain show ever will. (a problem that this hobby has reaching the newer generation). We live in an audio bubble sometimes. There are a lot people who have not much information about this hobby or music playback. Take it for what you will.

          • #8
            I think the people living outside the audio bubble are probably happier. They listen to a tune, because they want to hear that tune. Analogue? Digital? Mastering? It's foreign to them
            Dynavector DV20x2L MC cartridge - Genesis G7.1f speakers - Marantz Reference PM-KI-Pearl Int. Amp. - Oracle Audio Paris MkV turntable - Various Morrow & Valab/King cables

            Comment


            • Rob
              Rob commented
              Editing a comment
              exactly. we as audiophiles bloviate over minutiae that the vast majority of music lovers roll their eyes at. more to the point, as rbbert pointed out the article brings nothing revelatory to the discussion.

          • #9
            I've found the article interesting and I guess I'm in the minority. "No value and nothing to bring to the discussion" I think speaks to the audio bubble we live in.

            Comment


            • Rob
              Rob commented
              Editing a comment
              Rob "computer aided design" didn't exist in the early stereo period from which, arguably, the most coveted records came form.

            • Bill Hart
              Bill Hart commented
              Editing a comment
              For me, I am on a huge learning curve regarding digital. I basically ignored or avoided it as a primary source for listening- obviously dealt with it in work, but that didn't necessarily focus on SQ. So, it's not about which is better, more about optimization given source material. I'm sure I mentioned this at some point, but hearing some parts of the Benny Goodman concert at Carnegie Hall from the late '30s in the process of being fully restored via digital blew my mind, as did listening to digital conversions of the earliest Les Paul acetates that were cut direct to disc. Now, for me, it's choosing what I want in my home without spending 1/2 a Ferrari to get there.

            • Rob
              Rob commented
              Editing a comment
              I can understand the learning curve part as I'm not up on the very latest digital interfaces, etc. I have listened to the the latest SOTA digital and as pleasant as it can be It still falls short to vinyl playback in ways *important to me.* That said, I've sat next to experienced listeners that will say the same thing about a $100K vinyl front end and no matter how much money you throw at the problem, they hear bugaboos with vinyl replay that annoy them just as much.
              Last edited by Rob; 10-14-2017, 04:00 PM.

          • #10
            For those who would argue in favor of digital, based on the Nyquist theorem (and I am not sure there is anyone here that falls into that category...thank god), there is this paper:

            Sampling: What Nyquist Didn’t Say, and What to Do About It
            http://www.wescottdesign.com/article...g/sampling.pdf
            Life is analog...digital is just samples thereof.
            https://www.edsstuff.org
            TT: VPI Prime, HRX Pulley, 3 Belt Drive, VPI Dual Pivot, VPI ADS, Ortofon Quintet Black S, Tru-Lift, AQ Leopard, Liberty Audio B2B-1.1
            Line Stage: *Audible Illusions L1
            Pwr Amp: Parasound Halo A21
            Speakers: Magnepan MMC2
            Digital: TASCAM UH-7000, Pioneer Elite DV-47Ai, NAD 446, Schiit Modi Multibit, Schiit Wyrd
            Headphones: Stax Lambda Pro, Schiit Lyr 2, Schiit Loki, HiFi Man HE-400S

            *Modified/Customized Component

            Comment


            • #11
              Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music? I listen to music not the method used to record or covert or play. .

              Chris
              ----------------------------------------------------------------
              Kef 201/2, Pass xa30.5 or W4S STP-SE, Manley Chinook, VPI Classic, Dynavector DV20x2L, ExaSound e22Mkll, Acoustic Zen cables. (Office): Vincent SP331 Mkll, Quicksilver Pre, Quicksilver mid-monos, Lumin D1, (Ken Lau Signiture Edition PSU), Bryston BCD-1, Vapor Audio Breeze, WooAudio W6se, HD800, HD600, Mr Speaker Ether C Flow, Kimber cables

              Comment


              • Bodhi
                Bodhi commented
                Editing a comment
                You tell 'em Chris!

            • #12
              Does that include MP 3 ?

              Comment


              • Analog21
                Analog21 commented
                Editing a comment
                Only if played through a smartphone

              • don
                don commented
                Editing a comment
                And ear buds

            • #13
              I like to stick to the recording/mastering format. I think the trouble starts when converting between the two. For me, if it was recorded/mastered in the analog domain, naturally I want to listen to it analog whether it be tape or vinyl. If it's digital...I want to listen to it that way. Keeps things simpler.
              Christian
              System Gear

              Comment


              • #14
                Please note, this is not an article in Scientific American, rather an opinion blog. So it is not reporting a study or results, rather the opinion of a math grad student at UNC. Glad she is interested in vinyl, nonetheless.

                Larry
                Analog- VPIClassic3-3DArm,SoundsmithZephyrII+MiyajimaZeroMono, 2xAmpex ATR-102,Doshi3.0 BottleheadPhonoPre
                Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacMicroModel2
                Dig Play-mch NADAC, Emotion, HQPlayer, Oppo95
                Electronics-Herron VTSP3APre,CJ MET1mchPre, Cary2A3monoamps
                Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR
                Other-ArtKelmGroundOne IsoTrans,AudioDiskeSystemVinylClea ner,AirTightRecordFlat, Scott Rust Interconnects, Power Supply
                Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1KR2Rtapes,50TBrips

                Comment


                • rbbert
                  rbbert commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I still wonder why attention was called to the blog, article or whatever? What useful information or even opinion does it bring to this forum?

              • #15
                There is may ways to judge sound be it digital or analog.
                Great is great be it any format analog or digital . Pitting one against the other is where the muddy begins.
                Here is an obvious conundrum if tape is the source of a great digital track one might wonder how can a rip or transfer be better.
                I have felt that way too and I still do.
                The answer I have come to is this. Each recording medium has its virtues and sounds . I feel there is no perfect recoding medium , digital heads point to there's as being more perfect . I don't feel it is. What I do feel and hear is magic that happens when great tape or digital is transferred dsd or PCM. One needs to search for truth in this perspective to find the answer.
                I feel the answer is neither is better. They all are when lighting strikes , I also feel each has some distink advantages that can be heard and maybe not measured. If I walk into a room at a show it's obvious if it's gigital or analog playing. It's also obvious if I like that sound scape or not.
                I think digital does complex better , I think analog gets supple soinds better , but who am I to commit this for all.
                I for one don't feel anyone is the authority for all of us. For any judgement to be accurate there would have to be many varibles to be levied out not just considered.
                I have had played the same exact tracks played in vinyl and digital . What becomes obvious is the level of each playback system , meaning level of quality . Who sets this up matters and what is the quality of each front end matters much more than the medium does.
                While analog always has its pleasing sound , digital has virtues that are also good providing the DAC is at a certain level.
                The article shows why I think analog has that sound we love it's steady , it's not broken up into billions of tiny slices
                of sound bites . What it does not comment on is hiw hinrez or dsd is closer or why it's better as some perceive if transferred from tape.
                Pure sounds and math are part of this debate but not an answer but clues.
                One last thought consider this. No mater the medium played we each lime or dislike the sound speakers reproduce . This is just a tiny part of hiw complex the questions answer might be.

                Comment

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