Originally Posted by edorr
Dan, keep in mind that the guys claiming vinyl sounds better than digital tend to do so on the basis of what they hear on ultra expensive hardware (TT, Cardrige, Phone Preamp). I'm willing to bet that if you spend $5K on digital hardware (say bryston + 3K dac), and $5K on analog hardware, the digital 192/24 file beats vinyl hands down.
Actually, the claim of vinyl sounding better has to do more with the dynamic range in the source used for the vinyl pressing. In most instances, the compression applied to the album master used on the vinyl is much less than the one used for CD. CDs are often used in cars or burned to portable devices. The need to compete with road or street noise is greater, so softer passages or elements in music are raised to be as loud as louder sounds, reducing dynamic range significantly. Hence why many albums actually have a hi-fi master and a compressed one. Unfortunately, the compressed ones are the ones seeing the light of day.
I listen to mostly rock, which is often brick walled for CD and is very fatiguing to listen to an album all the way through. I can't control how loud it is because the mastering engineer for the CD has already determined that for me. Most often, but not always, the vinyl format does use the engineer's preferred master with far more dynamic range as opposed to the CD one that is planned to be played back on a multitude of devices. Vinyl is often just spun for one listening condition, so the other more dynamic master is used. That's not the only reason, there are also reasons based on the vinyl technology. You'd be surprised on how radical these differences can be.
Let's take a look at Disturbed, a group I enjoy listening to. Here's a dynamic range scan of the vinyl of the album The Sickness
Here's a scan of the same album on CD:http://www.dr.loudness-war.info/details.php?id=20184
There's nearly a 7dB difference in dynamic range not because of the vinyl technology, but the master used for CD is compressed for cars and portable players. The CD sounds so loud and aweful. Ugh.
I picked up THE BLACK KEYS: El Camino this weekend. It came with the CD. Here's the vinyl:http://www.dr.loudness-war.info/details.php?id=15811
Here's the CD:http://www.dr.loudness-war.info/details.php?id=17482
Good music but it sounded exactly as it looks. Aweful.
So... I've had it with new CDs. Time for a good turntable. I'll use my CD player to spin older discs or for parties but that's about it.
HDTracks.com is interesting as it depends on the master used. Let's look at the Bob Marley Legend as discussed.
Not only do you have increased resolution, but it also appears to be from a much more dynamic master.
On the other hand you could listen to Eagles: Hotel California CD - http://www.dr.loudness-war.info/details.php?id=14934
The same album on HDTracks in high res: http://www.dr.loudness-war.info/details.php?id=18678
In sum, there's no guarantee that 24/96 files through $5000 of digital components will surpass a $5000 table. If the master used for the sources are the same, I would think you are correct. But as it stands, I'd rather listen to the CD or vinyl with 5dB-7dB greater dynamic range than a 24/96 version that's compressed with a maximum of 5dB dynamic range through most of the song. Just using a good $500 table will still give you much better results.
Anyways, this is a big reason why I've chosen to revisit vinyl, criticize "remastered" CDs, and be cautious with anything claiming high resolution. Unfortunately, we often don't find out until we've hit PLAY.