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post #1 of 36 Old 04-28-2019, 08:35 PM - Thread Starter
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would vinyl sound better than MQA?

Hello. I've been hearing some MQA tracks and albums using the TIDAL APP with my BlueSound Node 2.1 and my KEF R7 speakers and I think the sound is wonderful and way better than a "regular" CD/HIFI quality from TIDAL and of course than 320kps tracks from Spotify. My question is: If I were to buy a cheap turntable like a Denon DP-300F or Audio Technica AT-LP3BK or AT-LP120-USB and play some records, would the vinyl sound still be better than it's MQA counterpart? Thank you very much.
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post #2 of 36 Old 04-29-2019, 03:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obonillaf View Post
Hello. I've been hearing some MQA tracks and albums using the TIDAL APP with my BlueSound Node 2.1 and my KEF R7 speakers and I think the sound is wonderful and way better than a "regular" CD/HIFI quality from TIDAL and of course than 320kps tracks from Spotify. My question is: If I were to buy a cheap turntable like a Denon DP-300F or Audio Technica AT-LP3BK or AT-LP120-USB and play some records, would the vinyl sound still be better than it's MQA counterpart? Thank you very much.
First, I'm not all that sure that MQA brings you much improvement over 'HiFi'

Secondly, I don't have an economy analog front-end on my main system, but no, IMO (as In My Opinion), the vinyl rig still sounds better, but YMMV. However, I have four or five SACDs that really sound as good as the LP counterpart and these are ones where I know it's the same master. After those, not much. Tidal, I've had a sound quality issues that I'm still working on. I also have a budget turntable, Musical Fidelity Roundtable with an Ortofon Blue, and in this instance, I might like Tidal better, but I've never directly ABed as I have many times with the big rig. As true so many times with so many things, YMMV
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post #3 of 36 Old 04-29-2019, 05:58 AM
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In my listening, I have found the original source recording is typically better sounding. I have listened to quite a few “remastered” classic rock tracks on Tidal HiRes and it does not sound better than the original vinyl in my opinion. Newer music than say the 70’s or 80’s however sounds much better.

I am confused about your question though, the Tidal HiRes or Masters using MQA is typically comparable to CD quality. Normal streaming or Bluetooth isn’t as good as CD quality. Is that what you meant to say?


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post #4 of 36 Old 04-29-2019, 08:13 AM
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Can’t comment on the digital files but in my opinion, entry level vinyl systems leave a lot to be desired if your goal is to improve on digital files. For example the retail price of my turntable, cartridge and phono stage is over $3k. It sounds great but my next cartridge will by itself be over $1k. It’s whats required to get great sound.
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post #5 of 36 Old 04-29-2019, 08:48 AM
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I didn't know what MQA was, so I read a little about it.Seems that your bitrate is limited to 13bits when you don't have a proper playback device. Also, people voiced complaints that the format introduced distortion into certain samples.
All in all it seems to me that MQA is a second mp3 with additional licensing fees, so in a sense, to answer the title of this thread: no, vinyl probably doesn't sound better as it probably introduces more distortion and equalization (colouration). Will you like vinyl more? Probably.
Analog hardware sounds so pleasing not because it's more accurate or more neutral than a mostly digital chain, but because it colours the sound in a way that stimulate our brains.
That being said,

Quote:
Originally Posted by obonillaf View Post
the sound [of MQA] is wonderful and way better than [...] 320kps tracks from Spotify.
I don't know what Spotify does to their mp3 files, but most audio material is transparent at 192k mp3. Of course, there goes alot into that, like how many times has it been re-encoded before? (Ideally not a single time; convert a wav file to 192k mp3 [with the correct encoder settings] and you won't be able to tell it apart from the wave file [unless you have a problem sample]; convert it from wave to 320k, to 320k apple format, back to 192k mp3 and it'll most likely sound hideous). Also, mp3 is just a container and the format you're listening to is the codec, which can be Fraunhofer or Lame (Lame is more common and up to date, Fraunhofer stopped developing its mp3 codec).
Is your file CBR, ABR or VBR? ABR doesn't make sense most of the time and might be the cause why a certain mp3 file sounds bad.
Long story short, if you know mp3 well enough you can encode all your music to 320k and won't be able to tell these files and lossless apart in ABX blind testing most of the time.
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post #6 of 36 Old 04-29-2019, 11:19 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you all for your replies. Not all DACs can properly play MQA files from TIDAL. In fact, the BlueSound Node 2.1 is one of the listed DACs that can and have received a lot of awards from reviewers.

I listened Spotify/Apple Music/Google Music for years and once I had a taste of Tidal HIFI (CD quality) I could surely hear the difference. Then Tidal started a few months ago to offer MQA to iPhone/Android users and the sound was even better. When finally I tried MQA through my stereo with my Node 2.1 not only could I still hear the difference between MQA and all the others but actually could describe that improvement as REVEALING. It sounds cliché but I revisited many of my favorite albums in their MQA version and for the first time I CLEARLY AS WATER could heard a lot of details I've never heard before. It was actually exciting to hear all my beloved tunes when I was a teen in the 80s in its full revealing glory with the MQA version. From all what I've read, MQA are meant to be superior to CD: "TIDAL has partnered with MQA to deliver something infinitely better: an authenticated and unbroken version (typically 96 kHz / 24 bit) with the highest-possible resolution—as flawless as it sounded in the mastering suite. And exactly as the artist intended it to sound."...

That's why I asked about the vinyl sound. I've read vinyl has no physical limitations in all the "information" it can gather from the original source so I wonder if by listening to vinyl I could actually hear even more revealing sounds that what I hear with MQA. All through the 80s I heard vinyl and had quite a few records but couldn't remember a proper A/B basically because at that age it didn't matter at all to me and my stereo was quite basic. I remember the first time I heard an album with my new cd player (back in 1988 and I was 15 yo) and I could describe the sound back then as CLEAN. Of course, I thought cds were "the real deal" and stopped buying lp records...
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post #7 of 36 Old 04-29-2019, 11:36 AM
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There are *a lot* of variables and therefore no way to give you a black and white answer.

Some MQA sounds no better than redbook CD. Some vinyl records sound worse than CD. Some vinyl records absolutely blow away a CD.

It depends upon how the source material was recorded/what source was being used, how it was mastered, etc.

If an artist only recorded in 16/44, then that's all it'll ever sound like, regardless if upconverted to whatever "hi-res" format is being advertised. That's why I'm always skeptical of such formats unless it is said what source was being used.

But back to the question...I'm not sure if a $250 turntable will really be revealing enough to actually bring out the quality of a very good vinyl record (and what's your phono stage, because that matters too). You will notice that some records sound better than others, but other than that...you probably won't notice much else if you're really looking for detail.
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post #8 of 36 Old 04-29-2019, 01:55 PM
 
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I don’t think a turntable can beat an equivalently priced DAC until you get into a much higher priced bracket. Stick with a DAC under $1k if sound quality is your only goal. There are other reasons beyond sound quality to covet vinyl however.
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post #9 of 36 Old 04-29-2019, 02:27 PM
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many like vinyl for all the imperfections in the recording...you hear more. cd's/digital usually remove too much info.
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post #10 of 36 Old 04-29-2019, 03:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by torii View Post
... cd's/digital usually remove too much info.
Really? Evidence?
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post #11 of 36 Old 04-29-2019, 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by CharlesJ View Post
Really? Evidence?

just listen with ears...everyone wants a scientific study on everything lately. let me see if I can find one for ya.


this work for ya? https://electronics.howstuffworks.co...ds-or-dvds.htm

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post #12 of 36 Old 04-29-2019, 04:45 PM
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would vinyl sound better than MQA?

Quote:
Originally Posted by _tk View Post
There are *a lot* of variables and therefore no way to give you a black and white answer.



Some MQA sounds no better than redbook CD. Some vinyl records sound worse than CD. Some vinyl records absolutely blow away a CD.



It depends upon how the source material was recorded/what source was being used, how it was mastered, etc.



If an artist only recorded in 16/44, then that's all it'll ever sound like, regardless if upconverted to whatever "hi-res" format is being advertised. That's why I'm always skeptical of such formats unless it is said what source was being used.



But back to the question...I'm not sure if a $250 turntable will really be revealing enough to actually bring out the quality of a very good vinyl record (and what's your phono stage, because that matters too). You will notice that some records sound better than others, but other than that...you probably won't notice much else if you're really looking for detail.


Sorry I quoted wrong post...


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post #13 of 36 Old 04-29-2019, 04:46 PM
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here is a pretty good scientific explanation https://blogs.scientificamerican.com...digital-music/

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post #14 of 36 Old 04-29-2019, 04:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obonillaf View Post
Thank you all for your replies. Not all DACs can properly play MQA files from TIDAL. In fact, the BlueSound Node 2.1 is one of the listed DACs that can and have received a lot of awards from reviewers.



I listened Spotify/Apple Music/Google Music for years and once I had a taste of Tidal HIFI (CD quality) I could surely hear the difference. Then Tidal started a few months ago to offer MQA to iPhone/Android users and the sound was even better. When finally I tried MQA through my stereo with my Node 2.1 not only could I still hear the difference between MQA and all the others but actually could describe that improvement as REVEALING. It sounds cliché but I revisited many of my favorite albums in their MQA version and for the first time I CLEARLY AS WATER could heard a lot of details I've never heard before. It was actually exciting to hear all my beloved tunes when I was a teen in the 80s in its full revealing glory with the MQA version. From all what I've read, MQA are meant to be superior to CD: "TIDAL has partnered with MQA to deliver something infinitely better: an authenticated and unbroken version (typically 96 kHz / 24 bit) with the highest-possible resolution—as flawless as it sounded in the mastering suite. And exactly as the artist intended it to sound."...



That's why I asked about the vinyl sound. I've read vinyl has no physical limitations in all the "information" it can gather from the original source so I wonder if by listening to vinyl I could actually hear even more revealing sounds that what I hear with MQA. All through the 80s I heard vinyl and had quite a few records but couldn't remember a proper A/B basically because at that age it didn't matter at all to me and my stereo was quite basic. I remember the first time I heard an album with my new cd player (back in 1988 and I was 15 yo) and I could describe the sound back then as CLEAN. Of course, I thought cds were "the real deal" and stopped buying lp records...


I absolutely agree 100%. “Reading” about MQA to form an opinion makes about as much sense as “reading” about vinyl. You have to hear it to understand and appreciate what it does.

Tidal with MQA to me brings the best of both worlds together. High quality, revealing music and a huge library of music to pull from.


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post #15 of 36 Old 04-29-2019, 05:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by torii View Post
here is a pretty good scientific explanation https://blogs.scientificamerican.com...digital-music/
Oh. Here is a simple video of a vinyl and CD test tone. Wonderful vinyl.

And another explanation of the vinyl shortcomings:
Richard D Pierce
8/17/02
In article <ajj8v.. @ene ws3.newsguy.com>,
- show quoted text -
It is based on the sampling theorem as developed by Claude
Shannon in 1948.

In short, it goes something like this. The amount of information
in any analog channel is proportional to the dynamic range of
the medium times the bandwidth of the medium. The dynamic range
is the ratio between the the maximum level encodable and the
lowest level that is unambiguously separable from the noise

In the case of the LP, the bandwidth is seldom, if ever, in
excess of 20 kHz, and often significantly less than that. Also,
in the case of LP, the dynamic range seldom reaches 75 dB, and
is pretty much physically limited to 80 dB at its theoretical
best, extremely rare counterexamples and claims notwithstanding.

The sampling theorem states that if one wants to perfectly
encode a channel whose bandwidth is f, one needs to sample at a
frequency of greater than 2f to perfectly capture ALL the
information contained within the bandwidth of f. And it also
states that to capture a dynamic range of R dB with a binary
representation, one needs a minimum of roughly R/6.02 bits.

Assuming correct implementation, that would indicate that a
quantized, sampled system with a sampling rate of 2*20 kHz or 40
kHz and a bit depth of 75dB/6.02 bits/db or 12.5 bits matches
the bandwidth and range requirements for high-quality LP
playback. Looking at it another way, considering 2-channel
playback, LP has an information rate of approximately 1
megabits/second. (40 kHz sample rate*2 channels*12.5
bits/channel)

Redbook CD has a 44.1 kHz sample rate giving a bandwidth of 20
kHz or more, a 16 bit width giving a dynamic range of
approximate 96 dB, and two channels, resulting in an information
rate for the audio portion of 1.411 MBits/sec.

There will be those that argue, quite incorrectly, that the
sample rate and resolution of LP is "infinite" and thus the bit
rate is "infinite." These arguments are propped up on completely
cinorrect notions like "continuous" means the same as "infinite
resolution." The resolution in the time domain is a measure of
how often unique and unambiguous changes of state can occur, and
is DIRECTLY related to bandwidth. SImilarily, resolution in the
amplitude domain is a measure of how small a change can be
unabiguously encoded in the presence of noise, and is DIRECTLY
related to dynamic range.

Taken to its absurd logic end, "infinite resolution" in both
time and amplitude requires a system that exists for infinite
time and has available infinite energy and bandwidth. No such
system can evebn exist on a hypothetical basis.

None of the proponets of the "analog is infinite" 'theories' has
advanced a single credible argument to support their contention,
nor have they even shown the possibility of a flaw in the logic
of the sampling theorem.

And none of this suggest what system one person or another might
like to listen to. The specific technical question you posed
above regarding the nit rate, or more properly, the amount of
information in LPs. That technical question has a specific
technicla answer, and Claude Shannon, in his paper "A
Mathematical Theory of Communications," showed a definitive
means of calculating that answer.

--
| Dick Pierce |
| Professional Audio Development |
| 1-781/826-4953 Voice and FAX |
| DPi.. @World .std.com

And, in reality the Fourier Transform doesn't break down for a CD sampling and the wave is reproduced perfectly.
Good try though.
Nothing wrong with enjoying vinyl.
But to claim CD somehow removes anything is hogwash whereas vinyl clearly has a great deal of shortcomings.
And, on top of it all, you cannot hear everything there may be there to hear. For one, masking is real, you don't hear what is really masked by the ear/brain.
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post #16 of 36 Old 04-29-2019, 05:32 PM
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all dacs sound the same also. digital has a ton of shortcomings and its all I listen to mainly for convenience/cost. dynamic range doesnt equate to quality even if its an infinite number of 0's and 1's :P
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post #17 of 36 Old 04-30-2019, 02:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by torii View Post
many like vinyl for all the imperfections in the recording...you hear more. cd's/digital usually remove too much info.
That's a stretch interpretation of the scientific american article you quoted. Of course they are describing the Nyquist Theorem, and the removed information for a cd are frequencies greater than 22 kHz. It's debatable how much these frequencies matter in music playback, but one can always opt for a higher rez frequency digital file or SACD.

Quote:
There is one catch: The theorem requires that when the Fourier transform breaks down the curve into a combination of pure tones, all the frequencies fall between some maximum and minimum. How close together the points on a curve need to be in order to rebuild it depends on the distance between this maximum and minimum. Because humans only hear sounds within a certain range of frequencies, we can get rid of any other frequencies that may show up in a sound wave’s decomposition and still get back the original sound. So the sampling theorem explains how to use a finite amount of information to store any sound wave.
Because mathematics describes an idealized version of reality, the reconstruction of a sound wave from a digital file may not perfectly match the vibrations of the sound itself. On the other hand, analog recording is purely physical. Does this mean analog is more accurate? No, it just means it’s different. Movement, dust or scratches can change the sound an analog player makes, and the recording process is similarly sensitive. The sound wave produced by analog playback could be further from the original than a good quality digital file would be.
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post #18 of 36 Old 04-30-2019, 08:59 AM
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I have a very nice turntable and love playing vinyl.


All things being equal, vinyl will not "reveal" more information. It doesn't. Digital sources have the greater capacity to do so. Rather, vinyl will tend to have a slightly different sonic presentation. The question then becomes whether you like, or prefer, that presentation. (I often do, but not always).


But don't fall for the ignorant claims that vinyl is more accurate or captures/recreates more sonic information than digital.
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post #19 of 36 Old 04-30-2019, 10:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R Harkness View Post
But don't fall for the ignorant claims that vinyl is more accurate or captures/recreates more sonic information than digital.
Often times it comes down to people believing the imperfections introduced by vinyl are actually "subtle details" that are being lost in the digital recordings.
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post #20 of 36 Old 04-30-2019, 10:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Osirus23 View Post
Often times it comes down to people believing the imperfections introduced by vinyl are actually "subtle details" that are being lost in the digital recordings.
An explanation or theory that I find plausible to explain at least part of the vinyl appeal is that because vinyl can't capture the bottom end and top end content quite as well or completely as digital can, the vinyl can seem to offer a more detailed presentation of the mids. With a bit less of the entire musical spectrum present, your aural attention is then able to more deeply focus upon everything in between.
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post #21 of 36 Old 04-30-2019, 11:49 AM
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We have to remember that a vinyl version has usually been eq'd somewhat differently, as well as picking up any imperfections in the whole process of mastering, production, reproduction by the user's turntable system.


I often find a vinyl version a bit brighter, or airier or more forward in tonal balance (as I found again when I just compared the CD version of Kind Of Blue to a record pressing I have). Cymbals for instance seem to have a bit more top end shimmer. That shimmer doesn't have to come from vinyl having more extended high frequencies; it can come from some emphasis within the upper frequencies possessed by the vinyl version. (Or even changing the tracking weight of a turntable's arm, or altering the impedance, can seem to add brightness).


It's also the case sometimes that, like CruelInventions says, the vinyl sounds more midrange-centric. The great trick vinyl pulls off, I find, is that this usually doesn't come at the expense of *sounding* limited. High frequencies still can sound airy and brilliant, so it doesn't sound rolled off.

Whatever the nature of the deviations from neutral, vinyl coloration can be very pleasant. My comparison of the Kind Of Blue copies was pretty typical. The CD was more pure and had slightly more tonal nuance. But compared to the vinyl it also sounded flatter with less sense of "life." The vinyl version seemed to both separate the instruments more, add some more presence and texture (sounded a bit more like real drums), and seemed to be more full and punchy. The CD sounded a tad bit "dead" in comparison. But, depending on what I want to concentrate on, I may prefer the CD version sometimes or the vinyl version another time.
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post #22 of 36 Old 04-30-2019, 11:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R Harkness View Post
I have a very nice turntable and love playing vinyl.


All things being equal, vinyl will not "reveal" more information. It doesn't. Digital sources have the greater capacity to do so. Rather, vinyl will tend to have a slightly different sonic presentation. The question then becomes whether you like, or prefer, that presentation. (I often do, but not always).


But don't fall for the ignorant claims that vinyl is more accurate or captures/recreates more sonic information than digital.
You nailed it.

There is also an aspect of vinyl which is "fun". Hard to explain. One enjoys playing back a system they know they had a hand in carefully tweaking and adjusting. It is similar to how I prefer driving a manual transmission to an automatic. I feel like I'm in more control of what's happening.
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post #23 of 36 Old 04-30-2019, 12:05 PM
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Landed on this vid earlier today. A nicely done comparison of a few different formats. Headphones if you got them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZATL...&frags=pl%2Cwn
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post #24 of 36 Old 04-30-2019, 12:21 PM
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Most people don't understand that when they compare LP to CD the difference they are hearing is predominantly the difference in the master recording used to make the LP vs. the different one used to create the CD. Despite the liner notes making no mention of it, they are almost ever the exact same recording.

Another confounding issue is that the most common dynamic range meters which attempt to show differences in DR are compromised by some of the distortions in LP creation and playback, as shown in this mastering engineer's video comparing the two:

CD, as a format, has a superior dynamic range to LP. As for what recordings they put onto each, that's up to the engineers and record company executives. "The kids like it loud and we make more money by squashing it!"

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post #25 of 36 Old 04-30-2019, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by R Harkness View Post
Kind Of Blue
Decades after its release somebody discovered nearly all version of it are at the wrong speed. For whatever reason their studio tape recorder happened to be slightly off for one side of the LP.

I'm not sure if its true in this instance but one interesting way they discover such things is thanks to the old CRT TVs we used to have. If there was one within range of any of the microphones this means its 15.734 kHz whine from the flyback transformer got recorded. Usually too low in level for people several feet away to notice, but conveniently when that tone hits the mic we inadvertently end up getting a beautifully precise calibration tone on the tape to later analyze if our playback speed is correct!

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post #26 of 36 Old 04-30-2019, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
You nailed it.

There is also an aspect of vinyl which is "fun". Hard to explain. One enjoys playing back a system they know they had a hand in carefully tweaking and adjusting. It is similar to how I prefer driving a manual transmission to an automatic. I feel like I'm in more control of what's happening.

Yes, your analogy to driving manual transmission is apt.


That's what is missed by people who say "Why would anyone still want vinyl to be produced, why should it still even be a 'thing' when we surpassed the accuracy of vinyl long ago and now have a 'better' sound delivery system?"


What they are leaving out is the other elements that are relevant to the desires of some people. A type of interaction that you don't get from digital. I grew up using stick shift, but admit I no longer want to drive stick shift. But I get why some people still like stick shift, or old cars etc. (Similarly, for the same reasons I don't care for stick shift anymore, I get why plenty of people who grew up with records wouldn't care to go back to that "hassle" again).


Your analogy to cars also works, I think, for the general audiophile sensibility of wanting to put together and tweak their sound systems.


Some audiophiles of the more engineer-objectivist stripe see the type of system-building and tweaking as silly. Why bother with tubes when we have solid state? Why bother with separates when we have integrated amps? Why are people still so focused on passive speakers when active speakers solve so many of the distortion problems? Etc.


What this misses is the sense of involvement the audiophile gets in specifically choosing every part and tweaking it. That's sort of what makes it a hobby, rather than some passive buying of a commodity item. Of course we can talk about what level of tweaking is actually based on sound engineering/scientific principles (some may be bogus). But even so, the reason things like active speakers aren't taking over the market for audiophiles can be explained partially by the fact that it reduces the level of involvement many audiophiles enjoy in the hobby. Just like the move to automatic transmission can reduce the involvement some car drivers seek in driving a car.
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post #27 of 36 Old 04-30-2019, 01:49 PM
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post #28 of 36 Old 04-30-2019, 01:57 PM
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I know what I hear. Tidal HiRes with MQA sounds better.


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post #29 of 36 Old 04-30-2019, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by shivaji View Post
Landed on this vid earlier today. A nicely done comparison of a few different formats. Headphones if you got them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZATL...&frags=pl%2Cwn

A little rough trying to compare through youtube, but my opinion matches that of most of the youtube comments, even with the cheap table.
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post #30 of 36 Old 04-30-2019, 04:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shivaji View Post
Landed on this vid earlier today. A nicely done comparison of a few different formats. Headphones if you got them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZATL...&frags=pl%2Cwn

That's quite interesting.


Although we can't tell ultimate sound quality from such a comparison, listening to the relative differences actually convey what I often hear between CD and vinyl.


When I compared the CD and vinyl on that video, I perceived the CD as more pure, less distortion, more tonal nuance coming through. The vinyl version though had that added warmth for the guitar, and a more "lively" brighter tonality for the drums. Made them pop a little bit more.
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