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Analogue vs Digital music: which is best?

posted May 11, 2013, 3:21 PM by Keith Johnson   [ updated May 30, 2013, 6:10 PM ]
I’ve vaguely heard of this discussed in the past, but another recent article I read brought up the topic of quality of sounds of records (LPs) vs CDs -- or rather analog to digital music.

In the Minneapolis Star Tribune of Monday, Oct. 9, 2006 in the “Source” section (e8) in the ‘Sound Advice’ column there was a question posed: “is the frequency response of a CD recording better than that of an LP?” This is a question I’ve wondered about before, especially as my hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of record albums lie deteriorating and nearly forgotten in my basement. Are they worth resurrecting and transferring to digital?
The answer? (verbatim, from Don Lindich,electronics commentator for the Strib) is thus:
“From a technical standpoint, CD is superior in terms of even frequency response as well as wow and flutter. When the music hits your ears, though, it often does not sound as good. Some audiophiles believe the small amount of distortion sounds good to our ears. Some think the act of converting music to digital leaves the music sounding cold and brittle. Remember geometry class? There are an infinite number of points on a number line. That is analog. A digital system, however, has a finite number of points. The trick is getting analog to play back well. It is relatively easy and inexpensive to make a digital system. A good analog system, however, is much more demanding and will not be as repeatable. Whether using a master tape recorded in a studio or a vinyl LP, if you play it thousands of times, it will probably degrade. Most people haven’t experienced how good vinyl can sound because they never had a proper setup. The circuitry in the receiver (called a phone preamp)is very important, as are the cartridge, arm and turntable. Mass-market goods are generally poor in all respects, and when the CD came along, it did sound better than these cheap setups.
    However, I just bought the “Fiddler on the Roof” DVD, all digitally remastered. My home theater is more expensive than my home office system, which is LP based. The 30-year-old LP of the movie’s soundtrack sounds better and more natural than the DVD on the pricey home theater system. All of my music purchases are now vinyl. Virtually without exception, they sound great after I run them through my record cleaner.”
I’ve also heard it said that the audio difference between digital (new) and analog (old) is the difference between painting by dots (digital) and painting with the smooth swoosh (infinite dots on a line...) of painting by brush. I’ll soon be getting my LPs out of the dust bin and see how they’ve survive their 20+ year hibernation. I know at the very least I have to resurrect some songs and get them accessible on digital again, so I can listen to them. They’re so old I’ve never been able to find them online.