Originally Posted by Aliens
Staying OT on the CD/LP conversation (my apologies to the "please discuss speakers only" advocates) as I find this a fascinating subject, so I'll try to be short. It must have been 7 or so years ago that I did an unscientific comparison between my old vinyl albums and CDs by the same artists that replaced them. I had around 20 CDs and LPs to compare against each other. I can't say I had any bias going in other than the convenience of the CD, so after reading the many heated debates about which was better, I was curious what my ears would hear. To the best of my memory (I wish I could retrieve that post but the archives don't go back that far) it was pretty much a draw. CDs won some, so did the LPs, with a few being so close as I was unable to make a call, but some weren't even close, and that goes for both mediums. Not all CD recordings are created equal, and the same goes for the LP.
I think many live for the nostalgia of the LP. As a teenager in the 60s, and then growing into adulthood, reading and cleaning the album, finding a needle that would fit your budget, then balancing the tone arm, were all a part of the enjoyable process. But I no longer care to go through that process. I can record every song I want to a CD (try getting 16+ songs on an album), insert it into the player, and I'm done. Some songs clearly sound better than others, and too many bad recordings will fatigue you in no time on a good system, but it is what it is. This is to say nothing of the hundreds of songs I have on USB drives that are in my Explorer.
This thread is massive and has gone in several directions, but it seems to me something of a safe haven for rational discourse on a number of issues. So on that note, and hoping this doesn't strain the patience of others on this thread....
As I've mentioned I've been mostly digital since probably the late 80's/early 90's or so. There have always been arguments about LPs vs digital, and I've never fallen for the common vinyl-fan claims about "the superiority" of vinyl - b.s. like "analog is inherently more natural to the human ear" and "digital doesn't capture the whole waveform" or all that stuff. Digital sources have been putting a big grin on my face for decades.
For many years I've had a nice mirco seiki DD40 turntable given to my by my very engineer-minded father in law. He's a classical music fan and once CD arrived he couldn't ditch his record collection fast enough. It wasn't easy to integrate that turntable in to my system so it's sort of been in and out for bits over the years. An extended session with that turntable more recently had me realizing how much I was enjoying listening to vinyl, and it encouraged me to pick up some new releases, which finally spurred an vinyl-rig upgrade (audiophile that I am).
Before my upgrade, I found listening to vinyl vs digital something of a trade-off. Vinyl sounded wonderful and cozy in it's own way and was nostalgic, digital was cleaner and more accurate sounding. Since my upgrade to a really heavy duty turntable and high end cartridge...wow! Now I "get" what the high end vinyl fanatics
were on about. I still don't buy many of the "analog is better" arguments on technical grounds. But I get the subjective grounds for why they prefer good vinyl over digital.
And it's weird as heck to even be thinking this, from my perspective. Aside from just the technical specs that show the potential superiority of CD, if you look at the actual process of mastering and cutting vinyl it's like one big kludge after another to even get it sounding decent. It seems hilariously antiquated and it makes sense that when looking to increase fidelity, we'd want to move past all those vinyl liabilities as quickly as we could.
Yet when I'm not playing a well produced record I find myself utterly seduced not simply by the nostalgia....but by the sound quality! So many records that I've listened to on CD for decades have been blowing me away on vinyl. There's quite a number of time where, if I was asked to play a sound quality demo of my system, I'd actually reach for the vinyl version vs the CD version (even sometimes when they come from the same master). I'm not sure exactly how to explain it, but my hunch is that, when you play vinyl through a really precise turntable set up, many of the gross or distracting distortions in the process are well reduced. (My records sounded markedly "quieter" in background noise once I got the new turntable, for instance). Yet you never really get rid of the subtle distortions that are part of the vinyl-producing chain (even from a digital master). And some of those distortions remain pleasing. So when I compare excellent LP pressings and the CD counter-part, they sound in some ways remarkably similar. But they also sound a bit different, and my ears seem to generally prefer the difference brought on by the vinyl - just a bit more sense of spaciousness, density, roundness, texture. Even if a bunch of that could be put down to the different eq/mastering for the vinyl version...it seems I really like it. The subjective effect for me is the speakers seem to "disappear" just that much more, and there is a sense of texture and fullness, and often thickness and punch, that are extremely pleasing and even in some aspects more "convincing" to my ears. (E.g. if I compare the CD version and the Vinyl version of Neil Young Live At Massey Hall - from the same original master - Young's guitar sounds a bit more full, his voice a bit more filled out and coherent, softer more natural - on the vinyl).
At the same time, I can easily imagine someone else listening to both the digital and vinyl on my system, and finding the digital better suites their tastes (even the slightest ticks or pops, or background hiss, or wow/flutter could for instance put off a classical music lover comparing both formats). So this is certainly not a "vinyl is objectively superior" stance I'm taking.
But I find it fascinating to have ended up where I'm at now. After so many years of enjoying digital, if the vinyl version is available that's usually what I want over the digital version. (The the previously mentioned aesthetic appeal of vinyl LPs adds to this as well).
Anyway...that's my recent experience.