Better: CD or LP?

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by Mark Zielinski, Jan 18, 2004.

  1. Mark Zielinski

    Mark Zielinski Auditioning

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    Hey guys,
    I've always thought that CD recordings are naturally "better" because they are simply digital, but I've been reading things recently on newsgroups and in magazines that people find their LP's nicer sounding. This sort of confused me as I thought that, aside from higher-rez formats like SACD, CD is the way to go.

    Now I realize that CD's won't deteriorate over time and don't get scratched up like LP's will, so how is it possible for this old, analog disc to sound better? If both are made from the same analog master tapes, that is.

    -Mark

    (BTW, I'm referring mostly to older recordings - not newer ones.)
     
  2. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    A digital recording is not really a recording as it is a representation of analog information captured in "swatches" and represented digitally-- but will never be able to perfectly recreate the original analog wave. The question becomes how many pictures of the audio you need to make an accurate reproduction?

    Some people find the digital "sampling" of audio to be an ineffective and inaccurate means of capturing this analog information- at any level. Some find it to be more pleasing at higher than CD resolutions (more pictures of the sound per second). The concept of "fidelity" is a slippery slope-- but in theory digital can never perfectly reproduce an analog signal with true fidelity-- but the question becomes- how close can it be before you don't notice?

    So: there is a science behind it, but it is also very possible that a large portion of vinyl lovers are merely being self-delusional snobs. [​IMG]

    -Vince
     
  3. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    There's some company that makes a record player that uses a laser instead of a needle. I've heard that using these most any LP will sound better than a CD, plus it takes away the possibility of scratching the record with the needle. Unfortunately I've never heard one because last I saw they cost well over $5000.

    Apart from that, I think a decent argument can be made for either CD's or LP's
     
  4. JohnnyG

    JohnnyG Screenwriter

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    Question:
    Better: CD or LP?

    Answer:
    Different.
     
  5. Ed Moxley

    Ed Moxley Cinematographer

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    Of course it really comes down to personal taste, but LPs have a warmer sound. The very first time the LP is played, while brand new, is the best sounding it can be........... to me and a lot of other people. That's why I used to always record to cassette tape, the first time I played an album. Then play the tapes and save the albums. The stylus on the tone arm cartridges of turntables, were always a diamond tip. Diamonds will scratch glass, and your album, each time you play it, eventually wearing out your album.
    If you get a brand new album, and a cd of the same album, and play both, I'll almost promise you that you'll like the album better. CDs made it so convenient to jump from track to track and they DO sound good too. Just not as warm and nice as an album............ [​IMG]
     
  6. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    Ed,

    For the benfit of those reading, could you define what exactly "warm" means. [​IMG]

    -Vince
     
  7. JohnnyG

    JohnnyG Screenwriter

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    Asking that is like that episode of Star Trek where they asked the computer to compute PI to the last digit!
     
  8. Mark Zielinski

    Mark Zielinski Auditioning

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    Hehehe, thanks for the replies guys. I guess it's a little more complex of a question that it first seemed.
     
  9. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Many serious audiophiles claim to be able to hear a significant difference between CD and LP recordings—and that difference is weighted towards the LP. Vince has given a very succinct summation of the differences.

    But there are some other things to consider as well. The oft-repeated claim that analog recordings are ‘warmer’ than digital ones is true (if true at all) only when reproduced using moderately high-priced equipment. If you played a record on a turntable, where the turntable, tone arm and cartridge cost no more than a low to medium end CD player, you can almost be guaranteed that the reproduction from the record will be inferior to that of the CD—plus on that equipment, the LPs will wear out faster than on high-end equipment.

    The one area where CDs have a clear advantage over records is in dynamics. The dynamic range (softest to loudest) available on a CD is greater than on an LP, where the physical limitations of what is possible in the grooves limits the dynamic range possible.

    What is becoming known as ‘HI-Resolution’ audio (SA-CD and DVD-A) has features such as six discrete channels that are not possible on a record and the players have sampling rates that are in theory high enough to make the digital sound reproduction as accurate as analog reproduction. Now technically this is not a CD, but it is just another implementation of digital recording and playback.

    Wheather or not you think that Hi-Resolution is better than 2-channel audio, it is clear that records are limited to 2-channel (although several years ago there was some brief efforts to record and playback 4-channel sound on records—it never took off).
     
  10. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    Vince is right of course, if he states that sampling can only represent the original so far.

    But the same can be said about any analogue representation of the sound signal. When you magnify the groove enough, you will start to see irregularities that are not part of the signal - call it grain (like in pictures). That's where the limits begin. Also, the whole process of translating the sound waves to an analogue pattern and back can by no means lead to results that are totally (100%) identical to the original.

    Of course, the digital processing is also dependent of the same (type of) electronic circuits that are used in analogue processing. Thus there's a limit above wich finer sampling makes no sense anymore, but apart from that and in principle every level of resolution imposed by the analogue carving can theoretically be equalled - or surpassed - by choosing an appropriate sampling rate and depth (bits).

    Now the question remains if that is already the fact for our current CD standard...


    Quite another question, BTW, is wether or not those imperfections are perhaps insignificant next to those caused by microphones and speakers - and needles and lasers.


    Cees


    PS Sorry, Lew. Didn't see your post before I was through posting mine. Independently repeating some arguments!
    C.
     
  11. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Well Cees, clearly Vince has studied the calculus. [​IMG] Can a digital representation of an analog reality (in this case sound waves) exactly duplicate that reality? The theoretical (and actual) answer is no.

    But we can say that as the sampling rate raises, the digital representation approaches replicating the sound wave. [​IMG] So the practical answer is yes.

    QED. (OK, actually it is not proven (just implied), but I could do so).
     
  12. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    Lew,

    Indeed - and in any case made to be closer to the real wave than any given analogue approximation (once you know how much the error of that is).

    I think we're saying the same. [​IMG]

    Cees
     
  13. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I actually don’t know how LPs are made now, so things could have changed. But, even assuming that the tape of the sound to be reproduced is exact, and is analogue, the process of reproducing that analogue wave pattern on the physical media of a record (the grooves) is essentially, mechanical. And as such introduces error as regards its representation. Not only that, but that error is not necessarily predictable or repeatable (due to the mechanical nature of the transfer), so error correction is very much problematical (if there is any attempt, which, the more I think about it I doubt).

    It is not then a question of, ‘if error exists’ in physically reproducing the sound wave, but, ‘how much error exists’. Now the physical cutting of the master is not the only step where error may be introduced, but there is also a chance that when each individual record is pressed from the master, the new record will not be an exact copy of the master, as here again the process is entirely mechanical. Not only that, but as the master presses out additional copies, it suffers wear, meaning that each successive record that is pressed is more likely (than the previous one) to deviate from the master as it existed when it was first created.

    The difficulties of physically picking up the information on the record via the needle and cartridge have already been mentioned, so I won’t further discuss that.

    Now the CD too is a physical representation of the sound waves—actually they represent the digitization of the sound wave (which we have said approaches the sound wave). And I would suggest that the ‘bumps’ on the CD, which represent those digits are a much closer representation to that digitization than the physical grooves are to the sound wave on the tape. In fact it is reasonably easy to verify the extent of the error comparing what can be discerned from the CD to the exact digitization.

    I would expect from this, that it is probable that the digital representation of the sound wave is indeed closer to ‘reality’, than the analogue one.

    Now this does not mean that anyone cannot validly prefer the sound of a record, just as I prefer a movie projected at 24 fps to a video at 60 cps. It is just that a preference does not necessarily match to what best represents the real world.

    In short, we are saying the same thing. [​IMG]
     
  14. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    Now, let's just repeat it once more, all over.... [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Cees
     
  15. Ed Moxley

    Ed Moxley Cinematographer

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    LOL........ hard to explain!
    I guess it would be....... not as bright sounding and a softer overall feel to the music.
    You know how some cds sound bright, and you have to make adjustments, so it doesn't? Well, with an LP, you'd have to make adjustments to make it sound bright.
    Other than this, I really don't know how to explain it. The best explaination would be for you to connect a turntable with a good cartridge and stylus on it, and play an album that's in very good condition. If you could have a cd of the same album, to compare it to, you'd see and hear the difference!
     
  16. JohnnyG

    JohnnyG Screenwriter

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    Another thing to consider is that production has also gone from analog to digital. Does an LP made today from a digital source sound as 'warm' as that LP would have if the source had been analog?
     
  17. Ed Moxley

    Ed Moxley Cinematographer

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    Don't know................haven't heard a recent LP. [​IMG]
     
  18. Jack Ferry

    Jack Ferry Stunt Coordinator

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    For what it's worth, I heard George Harrison quoted more than once saying how much he disliked CDs compared to vinyl.

    I guess when you are used to hearing that hiss in the background, music sounds empty without it.

    When I think about it, I miss fussing over my albums to make sure I had static free sleeves, comparing the A-side to the B-side, finding good cleaning sprays, having a proper size album jacket with art you can see, etc, etc...
     
  19. Ed Moxley

    Ed Moxley Cinematographer

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    If you take care of them, there's no hiss. I have some albums you won't hear a bit of hiss on. [​IMG]
     
  20. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    keeping in mind, of course, that there are still MANY record produced- whole or in part in the analog domain. in addition, anything recorded in digital now is done on super high resolution digital gear with sampling rates up to 192k! This is resolution that might be better suited to an analog delivery source like vinyl, versus a downconverted digital source like CD.

    Makes you go hmmmmmmmm.

    On a side note, i recently finished a recording session, tracked on an analog 8 track, dumped to 24/96 digital and mixed in the digital realm. The resulting masters were 24/96 resolution, and the intended output was 7 inch vinyl. However, none of the record pressing places were able to accept 24/96 digital files: they could only accept CD (16/44.1 resolution), DAT (16/48k max resolution) or 1/2 inch analog tape.

    Because we had no access to an affordable, calibrated 1/2inch machine-- we ended up delivering masters for the 7 inch on CD. None of the 20 places they considered for doing the record plating was able to open 24/96 files and use the output to cut the masters-- so we had to downconvert the work to cd quality before then getting it cut to analog! So, it's kind of an odd dynamic going on between analog purity and digital ease...

    -Vince
     

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