"Baby's On Fire" LP vs. CD

Compare an original forty three year old U.K. "pink rim" Island pressing of "Baby's On Fire" from "Here Come the Warm Jets" (ILPS 9268), Brian Eno's debut solo album with the 2004 DSD remaster using the original tape played back on an Ampex ATR playback deck with custom ARIA electronics.

Which do you think sounds better?

I picked up this copy in the U.K. a few years ago. It's the first one I've found with the blue Island insert and a mastering stamp indicating it was not cut and processed by EMI. The first copy I bought in 1974 and all subsequent copies lacked the familiar blue inner sleeve and were mastered by EMI. I thought that one sounded best (on LP).

gbougard's picture

it's not possible to judge from a YT video
so what is the verdict and why?
thanks boss

GoldenEar5Percenters's picture

It is easily possible to judge on YT video's. As long as it was recorded with good equipment, a better source is always going to sound better than a lower one even with compressed formats.
I have listened to 196khz 24 bit recordings put on YT vs the same recording equipment done in 96khz 24 or 16 bit (cant remember). But the difference was clear, I heard more volume steps, which also comes across as more detail. The very highest audible frequencies benefit the most imo from higher bit rate. In a higher frequency the waves are closer together which is why the closer captured samples affect them in our hearing the most.

Michael Fremer's picture
There is none. It's whatever you like!
lee60's picture

The record sounds better starting with the first few notes ,on the CD the guitar solo is cringe inducing like fingernails in a chalkboard , as to more bass punch on the CD or should I say the lack of it in the record I believe this is due to how Michael adjusts his VTA/SRA on his cartridge with a USB microscope this is a static measurement of 92 degrees that can change when the record is moving causing the dynamic angle to be too high which attenuates the bass and accentuates the highs . Michael enen an expert can learn new things check out Analog Magick tutorial #4 on setting the VTA/SRA of your cartridge. Also telling is that the low frequencies of Vinyl and CD's are usually similar it is the high frequencies that suffer on CD's due to the sampling rate which can't faithfully reproduce complex HF waveforms like analog can.

kkatseanes's picture

I almost always have the same impression in these comparisons. It's hard to use terms of warmth or realism in this kind of music but there is another artifact that is very clear to me. Digital recordings seem to compresses the soundstage. I lose spatial imagery, separation, and individualism. Oddly as well, even taking into account that I listen mostly to classical, I found myself grimacing in the digital version, because it seemed to grate on me more, but I wasn't doing that on the LP. It was only after a few repeated listens that I realized I was doing this. For whatever reason that was happening, it's a difference.

Analog Scott's picture

How do you know it's the digital that is compressing the sound stage? I think there is pretty convincing evidence to the alternative explanation, that analog sources add euphonic colorations that expand the soundstage. Which is fine by me.

Michael Fremer's picture
I hear it as you do, but the vinyl detractors say all of that space is really "L-R artifacts", to which I say, "It's all an illusion so if those are "artifacts" but they help produce a more life-like sonic picture, give me the "artifacts".
GoldenEar5Percenters's picture

Compared to the cd, can you hear it? Sticks out big time for me and I notice the same problem with a lot of my records. I messed with azimuth for months, it was driving me crazy. Some records where made that way it seems, maybe late presses from over used stamper. I have a record bought used from 91 with left biased vocals. So to see what was going on I purchased a sealed copy of same album, the bias was still there.

GoldenEar5Percenters's picture

Just to make sure, this was the SACD not a CD? As far as detail, 96khz 16 bit seems to match LP's. But I have not tested sound stage as in depth bc I just use Sennheiser open headphones for most comparisons.
it kinda sounds like you recorded the SACD onto a cd from your description, maybe I am way off here.

Michael Fremer's picture
It is a CD sourced from a DSD master made from the original analog tape.
GoldenEar5Percenters's picture

Would you feel comfortable comparing a 96khz pcm digital rip of the DSD to the record?
What bit rate did you use to record the record? I know that you are demonstrating the problem with CD's bit rate compared to vinyl for the most part. Which is good bc so many still say cd is just as good.

amudhen's picture

Although I AM A VINYl addict, I liked the DSD version better.

AnalogJ's picture

There is a more fullness of body to the DSD version. Usually digital versions are not as good tonally, but the DSD is probably better here. There is a better separation of instruments as well. There might be a slightly better flow to the vinyl, a better forward momentum, but I find the DSD more interesting to listen to.

And I am normally a huge champion of vinyl. Ordinarily, I pick vinyl. But that DSD is damn good.

Michael Fremer's picture
You are hearing a CD made from a DSD file..
Wimbo's picture

In the Guitar solo and also I find a lack of upper midrange detail as well.
The lack of Transient info has to me always been a big letdown of the Format.

JR465's picture

The lack of transient speed on the digital version is what I immediately noticed, which makes for a less involving listen to me.

Michael Fremer's picture
With you here. That is exactly what I hear. It's as if the instrumental point of the song, which is directly in the path of those frequencies, gets suppressed, taking the flow and the drive of the song with it.
Wimbo's picture

"801 Live" from what I remember. I'll have to get that out and give it a spin, haven't heard it in decades.

VirginVinyl's picture

After a one pass listen to both copies I would go with the DSD. Why, cause it sounds full and dynamic and I like it. I don't think we can compare this to CD quality, cause it isn't. DSD work on a different sample rate 2.8843MHz and filter process. Its like comparing Film vs 4K. I love vinyl but you can't convince me that everything cut on Vinyl is amazing. Manufacture vinyl requires the utmost attention to quality control during the process. I have many crapy pressing in my collection from when vinyl was king. We don't talk much about needle wear on our turntable and how it alters the sound. Heck! my system is aging and all the electronic components are drying up.

Michael Fremer's picture
You were listening to a CD that had been produced from the DSD transfer. It is a 16 bit/44.1K red book disc. Who said "everything cut on Vinyl is amazing?" You are quoting from your imagination. I have some crappy pressings too. And a wall full of CDs that are all CRAPPY PRESSINGS compared to a good record of the same music. We don't talk much about needle wear because we keep our records and stylus clean and track correctly and figure we can get well over 1000 hours before hearing sonic deterioration due to stylus wear. Sorry that your system is drying up. Are you as well?
JCapl's picture

So, this is a bit confusing or misleading...we're comparing the vinyl to the 16/44 CD that was converted from a DSD remaster, because as far as I know Warm Jets has never had a high res version available. Michael, you might want to spell this out.

That said, the CD sounds fuller with a wider soundstage. The LP sounds a bit thin in comparison. The 2004/2009 Eno reissues sound very good, but not light years better than the original CD releases.

JCapl's picture

Changing my first impressions...vinyl sounds much better, listening on better speakers/amp/DAC this time around...you can really tell with the constant percussion elements throughout the song. Vinyl is still a little on the thin & boxy side. Now time to go listen to my own pink rim Island again!

kronning's picture

display shows CD resolution. The sound was nice and smoothe to me. I could live with a CD copy of that. But, even with a little vinyl wear, the record perked up my ears a little more and was more involving. I think the high frequency percussion was clearer on the LP.

ixtayul's picture

Could someone tell me what turntable and DAC and Transport Michael is using in this video.

Flash77's picture

What I hear is the following
Digital does not hold my attention, upper treble fatiguing,
Involvement in music less convincing on digital replay,
percussion more forward on digital replay.

jmset315's picture

The LP sound is more detailed, non-fatiquing, while the CD sound is more 'punchy' but less detailed. I can see for some persons choose CD sound but I prefer LP sound - is more natural for me. My computer audio uses Dragonfly DAC from Audioquest and Audioengine 2+ for speakers - the difference in this comparison is very apparent

fetuso's picture

To me the most obvious difference is that the cd is louder, in a bad way. I very much preferred the sound of the lp. It was more relaxing on my ears and there was room to raise the volume for additional fullness without harshness.

Cobion's picture

Definitely a difference noticeable on the output end here.
The original file comes to me at 720p which is encoded on U-toob at 192 AAC. Playback at 192 AAC through my DAC Sternberg UR22 on Yorkville SM6.
Blind test...
Vinyl has a subtle delicate tone and texture, more pronounced highs and cleaner cymbal SSSSSSSSSS
Digital has forward vocals less depth, Cymbals are MMMMMSSSSHHHHHHH
Results of blind listening
Vinyl does sound better in this case

audiotom's picture

The digital had a higher mean volume
The analog had more dynamic range so turning the analog up to where the digital is in a mid sound level would have been a better comparison


can you please show a pic of the lp label
Is this the one with the sun rays?


audiotom's picture


The average level on the digital was higher than the lp which had a lot more low level detail and dynamics

having the amplitudes more balanced would be good

that digital did sound nice

Can you please show a close up pic of the lp label?
Is it the sun rays one?

love me some Eno

Michael Fremer's picture
A/K/A "Pink rimmed Island"
Stringreen's picture

I'm using an Ayre SACD/cd player.... and it always sounds more closed in - less dimensional than the lp version. I found the same in your example - even on my crappy MacBook Pro.

Jim Tavegia's picture

only because of the surface noise of the lp. That is the one madding thing about lips that will never go away, but with 3 turntables here at the house I get over that part of it quite often.

Joffa's picture

For me definitely the LP sounded better. I could hear electronic chatter that didn`t present itself in the digital copy. The digital copy sounded flatter... though I could live with it I much prefer theLP

jk's picture

how can you tell whether its mastered by emi ?
my pink rim copy has a white inner sleeve with made in great britain on but I bought this record used.
into the run aut groove ILPS 9268 A-1E / B -1E and RA (not 100% sure about those two letters/initials?) is etched
thanks for your support

nando's picture

To me part of the difference gets lost when you transfer analog sound to YT
Still, there are clear sonic differences
The vinyl version sounding more transparent and resolved mostly on the high end and the digital sounding maybe more tonaly even but darker
I would really love to hear that lp "live" from the caliburn to have a clearer picture

GoldenEar5Percenters's picture

to it. The LP could be more dynamic overall but its just between the highs and everything else. The cd was louder but in this case I think its bc more sections of the music where dynamic compared to the Lp.

Wimbo's picture

I can here the guitarist playing solo on the vinyl.
Which means I'm more in touch with the performer. Can't say that with the CD.I tend to lose the guitarists work on the CD.I know its a guitar, but that's about all.
Maybe its just me, but after demonstrating and selling the stuff for 33 years, I'm over it.

rexp's picture

Most CD Players like yours sound bad to me, file players like Aurender etc sound much better, could you post a file v vinyl comparison? Cheers!

J70s's picture

during the guitar solo and it becomes clear immediately - that the vinyl version produces a much more mentally engaging reproduction.

my new username's picture

I was listening across the room and thought the LP was very bright with those cymbals. (Assuming that's not a synth; I don't know this music.) And then I heard the missing mid bass and better balance on the CD version.

StonedBeatles1's picture

I have to add this:
My vinyl pressing of Eno's Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) "always" sounded wonderful, was pressed beautifully and the gate fold cover was nice. Years later I picked up the DSD sourced CD and that sounded wonderful as well.

I now I'll get slaughtered on here for this statement, but in my opinion, 16 bit digital can sound wonderful when sourced and "mastered" correctly. Sadly, it's becoming rarer and rarer since the advent of the lousy IPod and the limiting, compression and damn loudness wars that have sucked all the musicality out of some great recordings. If the first 2 Brian Eno albums can sound so good on CD why don't other recordings? Another one that comes to mind is the late 80's Ryko CD Hendrix at Winterland. Digitally transferred and mixed from the original analog tapes that CD sounded amazing. So do the Stones 2003 remasters no matter what layer is being played (SACD or CD layer). But my DMM mid 80's White Album from Germany (As well as MMT). That's another story being the best one I've ever heard. Period.

jpvisual's picture

The hi-hat sounds so much better on the record.

DJ Huk's picture

The CD comes off as too much bass, so there's a general murkiness to it. The LP is clearer with all the instrumentation more distinct. I suspect some of that has to do with a superior turntable setup and adjustment. But it's all almost a moot point when that Fripp guitar solo kicks in.

markGan's picture

My opinion of this based on listening to it on an iPad with crappy Philips in ear headphones.It is no coincidence that the LP version can be played back at a higher volume level without harshness.Digital can sound strident and have a certain nervousness or tension about it that can cause listening fatigue.Digital can fool the inexperienced listener because it can sound impressive on first listen or when not having a point of comparison i.e. LP. When debating things like you can here a cymbal better or a drum clearer you are missing the point.The point is the musical intent of the musicians is far more apparent on vinyl.Therefore it is not wrong to describe LP as being more musical with better timing and CD as sounding mechanical. Also the vocals on the CD sound desiccated (dry) and lacking 'soul'.I haven't heard CD sound musical and captivating on many occasions except for an old naim cd3 I once owned a long time ago.

jpvisual's picture

As we continue to see the same Bob Dylan and John Coltrane records begin reissued over and over and over again, we're missing out on classic albums like this NOT being reissued. What a shame.

Michael, maybe you could talk to your buddy Chad about this one? I know he would do this album justice.