A Letter From Australia

An AnalogPlanet reader today wrote:

I recently decided enough was enough. Vinyl prices in Australia have skyrocketed to the point where any new digitally-sourced release will cost you at least $40. If you want a nice 2xLP release, that'll be $50+. And don't even think about a new AAA Audiophile release. That privilege will set you back a whopping $100.

For. One. Album.

But what about second hand I hear you say? Well that market is well and truly over-inflated as well. With so many people digging for that old gem, good stuff is rarely there for the taking. And when it is, sites like Discogs will instantly give the seller an idea of worth so they can price it accordingly. Now I don't have a problem with stores making money, but the days of stumbling upon an amazing bargain are long gone. So with all that, I decided to sell my turntable and buy myself a nice CD player (for the first time in my adult life). I would also rebuy all my favourite albums on CD. Thankfully, most of the record stores in my area also sell used CD's and they're practically giving them away. On my first trip, I picked up 5 CD's for $20. I was over the moon!

That was, until I started playing them.

I'm going to go on record (no pun intended) and categorically state that I HATE CD's. Seriously, everything about them sucks. The packaging is awful. Jewel cases have to be the worst design ever. The booklets are tiny, poor quality and get stuck when you try to pull them out of the case. Even Digipaks are terrible. And then there's the sound. Hard, clinical and completely unengaging. On my first listen, I struggled to get through an entire album.

It took me a week of trying to like CD's before I threw in the towel. I sold the CD player, shelved the CD's and started shopping for a new turntable. I decided I would rather own one fantastic record than 10 CD's any day of the week.

So Michael, you're right. CD's do suck. And while records might be expensive in Australia, there is nothing quite like the experience of buying, owning and playing them.

Regards,

Niall

COMMENTS
Andy18367's picture

I definitely get (even though I don't agree) how someone can like legacy vinyl better than a CD. That's because you're getting a true analog experience all the way through the signal chain.

HOWEVER, as your correspondend Down Under notes, most current releases are digitally sourced. So, when you play them, what you're listening to is essentially a downgraded version of the digital file. The same file you can listen to on the CD (without clips and pops and degradation over repeated plays).

BUT, BUT I hear you say, the vinyl STILL sounds better. How can that be, when the only difference (other than the aforementioned clips and pops, plus IGD and coloration by the cartridge) would be the mastering, which essentially is just the EQ.

So are you saying that you like the way vinyl is mastered and that's why it's better than CDs? You're saying you like the summed bass?

Anyway, I won't go on any longer. Yeah, I get that I'm trolling a little bit, but here's the thing: I myself buy a fair amount of old vinyl off of Discogs, but I absolutely won't buy any newly manufactured LPs. What on Earth is the point of listening to a digital file on a vinyl disc? I don't get it.(Sure it's great to have cover art that's bigger than a thimble; that's the one valid point you make.)

deniall's picture

So are you saying that you like the way vinyl is mastered and that's why it's better than CDs? You're saying you like the summed bass?

Well not entirely. Sure, sometimes the mastering is better and sometimes the coloration of the turntable components make the sound more enjoyable. But there is also something to be said for owing a record over owning a CD. The artwork, packaging and inserts are all part of the experience and something CD's lack. I'm proud of my record collection and enjoy looking at it daily. I garner no pride from owning a CD and find them borderline annoying to own. The booklets are essentially useless and get damaged when you try and remove them and Digipak's are a slight improvement in terms of cover art but don't include any inserts at all.

I do try and avoid digitally sourced vinyl when possible but I still enjoy owning those records over their CD counterparts.

Each to their own.

Analog Scott's picture

but most vinylphile will not like the answer. Euphonic colorations. Plain and simple.

Michael Fremer's picture
And as with most simple answers, completely wrong.
Analog Scott's picture

it's right.

BillK's picture

I guess next is "nuh uh."

Just one factor alone - the company doing the vinyl release is likely to have a better DAC than you have at home - comes into play.

Then there are other factors, including the format of the digital master in question - it's not like they are just playing a CD into the vinyl mastering gear.

But I'll let Michael take it from here if he wants to.

Analog Scott's picture

You cinveniently overlooked that fact. And no they don't have an effectively better DAC than the ones I have at home. The ones I have at home are audibly transparent. And they probably aren't just playing a CD into the vinyl mastering gear. But it is no problem to take a hi res digital file and convert it to a redbook CD file with no audible loss in quality. You can be quite confident that the vinyl playback will not be audibly transparent to the original digital file from which it was cut. It CAN be quite close with the right cutting lathe and the right vinyl playback gear. But it won't be indistinguishable.

BillK's picture

Ah, firrst double-blind testing and now DACs all sound the same, despite the fact it is very, very demonstrably not true.

The fact that you believe that it is possible to make a 44.1/16 CD out of a high res digital fail with zero loss of audio quality is equally ridiculous.

If you don't hear it, that's fine, best to you and enjoy your gear.

The differences are night and day to my ear.

BillK's picture

Apologies for the typos, I wish this comment section had an "edit" button…

Analog Scott's picture

And we have a substantial body of science known as psychoacoustics that use this gold standard but has also done extensive research demonstrating why it is absolutely necessary. Now you can reject an entore field of scientific study if you choose to do so but understand that it is no worse than rejecting the science showing climate change is real, evolution is real and that vacinations actually work. Let's be clear. I did not say "all DACs sound the same" did I? I siad my DACs that I personally use are transparent. I know this because I have tested them under blind conditions. I do just about all my auditions/comparisons in audio blind. I have no trouble hearing differences under blind conditions when they are actually present. There is no magical force in blind comparisons that makes a listener deaf or causes a stereo system to lose resolution to the point that it makes everything sound the same. These are among the lame excuses often in effect used to rationalize why these alleged dramatic differences somehow magically disappear under blind conditions. It's bullshit. I never, never have any problem differentiating vinyl from all digital sources under blind conditions. If you think it is ridiculous to make redbook copy from a high res file that is indistinguishable then would you like to prove that? Under blind conditions? It's been done before and the results are always the same. But as for all DACs sounding the same, nope. There have been any number of DACs throughout the history of audio that had audible colorations. And those colorations were detectable under blind conditions. Now I expect you you to decline participating in any blind tests. but I would have to ask. What do you think is magically happening when we do blind tests? Poeple magically lose all hearing acuity? The brain is magically shut down from being able to process what we hear? Or the DBT magically destroys all audible differences within a stereo system? And this only happenes when it comes to interconnects, digital audio and SS amplification? And with those only the ones that coincidentally measure in a way that would predict audible transparency.

abelb1's picture

One possible reason among many is that the digital master used for the LP release is a high resolution studio master, not the version crushed down to to fit on a digital format from 1979!

PeterPani's picture

Better than buying an improved DAC Converter for 2000+ every several years it makes more sense to improve the vinyl chain at home. And trust in it that the mastering process is done with a highly professional state of the art device during the mastering process. I bought already too many DAC‘s. All useless. Better to leave the digital to analog transfer to professionals.

Glotz's picture

You state yourself you don't or won't buy new vinyl. What?? How can you make and assertions to anything? You can't. No experience.

You're also bringing up 'EQ through lossy connections' comments that a layperson with inferior playback components would make. What colorations? Ambience and hall detail retrieval? The best components and cables from each camp work a superlative, accurate experience.

You straight-up are lying to yourself and everyone else, but you don't even know it through your own forced ignorance and a lack of introspection of your own equipment(!!).

And hey, if anyone can't afford an expensive turntable and all of the expensive accessories, then go digital. There is a much higher price of entry to the quality, high-end analog world vs. digital. An old turntable and or an old cd player or even a new budget turntable doesn't cut it. At all. Deal with it.

As a direct lack of your experience and budget, you misperceive the truth about all of this. (The dude from Australia as well.)

Being a troll means you don't know what the fuck you are talking about and want to be a nuisance and a douche. Your comments here (and below) amount to that.

Michael Fremer's picture
Certainly a record cut using a 192/24 or 96/24 file can sound better than a 16 bit CD (unless you think higher than CD resolution is inaudible). Also if the studio D/A is better than yours.... Also, these days CDs are usually dynamically compressed more than are vinyl LPs. It's as dumb a move as can be imagined, but it's "the style" and it can't be done on an LP as easily (which is a good thing IMO). As for streamed files, again these days mastering houses produce streaming-centric versions, CD versions, Apple Music approved versions, etc. The least processed/compressed version, ironically can be the unprocessed master file used to cut a record. Compare a Qobuz and TIDAL stream of the same music at the same resolution. They will not sound identical. Why? Don't ask me! Last year i hosted a store event for a room full of people—a mix of analog and digital enthusiasts. I played a Qobuz stream of the "Abbey Road" remix using a dCS Vivaldi stack and then the record cut from the original hi-rez file. Not one person in the room, NOT ONE preferred the streamed version. All heard greater detail resolution and a far more pleasing sonic picture from the record. And then consider this: All of recording is a false construct. You cannot stuff a symphony orchestra down a couple of microphones. Usually there's some signal processing, EQ or whatever and the storage medium itself, I don't care how "transparent" imparts its own characteristic--EVEN PRO TOOLS! So let's say cutting a lacquer from the file and producing a record from it imparts the final and best signal processing result—a record that sounds the most natural and pleasing. If your answer is 'well it's not accurate', my answer is "Accuracy is a myth. There's no such thing". Accurate to what? The mastering engineer's preferences? Or his or her system? Who cares? I'm the final consumer and what I prefer goes! For me. For you? Something else. If you really want to end this "debate", buy the recent Bill Frisell album I reviewed, which was cut from a digital master. Compare that record with whatever digital version you choose. I'm quite confident the record will sound best by far—assuming your turntable is decent and carefully set up.
Timbo21's picture

Michael, so glad you pointed this out.

I'm 53 and started as a tea boy at Pete Townshend's Eel Pie Studios and ended up mastering at The Townhouse in London. When I started out it very quickly became apparent that what I heard in the control room coming out of the speakers was a world away to what my ears heard when I walked into the studio where the musicians were playing. Accuracy IS a myth

Greg S's picture

I was in a record store a few months ago looking at a record when the owner chimed in, "Good record! That one's digital." So I replied, "If I wanted digital I'd buy the CD" and I walked out.

Analog Scott's picture

aside from the potential benefits of euphonic colorations of vinyl you also have the possibility of better mastering too.

BillK's picture

At least three of my recent CD purchases showed more brickwall compression and limited had been done on the CD release than on the LP version or, even stranger, on the digital files available for download.

For example, when you purchase a CD through Amazon, you automatically can download the same album from Amazon Music in MP3 format, and there have been several in whcih the MP3 is not brickwalled but the CD is.

Wimbo's picture

Yeah right.

_cruster's picture

Wow, you really stuck it to that guy who had absolutely nothing to do with creating anything you referenced!

Michael Fremer's picture
First of all a vinyl record cut from a hi-rez file stands a good chance of sounding better. Plus CDs these days are purposefully dynamically COMPRESSED while records are not. so the odds of the record sounding better is pretty good.
HenryR's picture

I know I'm being wound up,but your Australian correspondent is being silly. Would he/she/you make a categorical judgment of vinyl sound on one turntable/cartridge combination?

Wimbo's picture

Not.

Scamp's picture

I’m not sure I agree with everything mentioned by Niall. The price of new LPs is ridiculous in Australia sometimes .For instance the new one step MFSL LPs are $aus300.00 but if you hunt around the second hand record shops in Sydney you can pick up reasonably priced LPs .
I have both CDs and LPs and a good turntable and CD player . I think the sound of CDs is okay to very good - particularity those pressed since the early 2000s. The sound of LPs is better but negativity about the sound of CDs is hard to understand - especially given the disparity in the prices . I just bought the new Bill Laswell CD and it sounds great AND was about a third of the price of the LP.
Each to their own but how about a more balanced approach to CDs.
Thanks if you read this.

PAR's picture

The letter seems to imagine that the cost of new vinyl records in Australia is uniquely excessive. In fact the prices quoted are very close to those charged in the UK.

In fact vinyl records are now much cheaper than they were during the medium's heyday. For example when I bought " With the Beatles" in 1963 it cost me 39/11 ( 39 shillings and 11 pence). That was 2 pounds. The 2020 equivalent of that sum allowing for inflation is 35 pounds. A typical pop vinyl record is now around 17 pounds ( Aud 31), half the price compared to '63.

What I want to know is how come I had the equivalent of 35 pounds to spend on a record aged 13? :-).

firedog's picture

Either you simply prefer the euphonic distortions introduced during the LP production process or your CD playback setup sucks.

Michael Fremer's picture
How many vinyl mastering sessions have you attended? I have been to many. I've heard direct A/B's between a master tape and a cut lacquer and you'd be hard pressed to hear a difference. There's some loss in creating the final record but it's not an additional "euphonic coloration". And digitization and CDs have their own colorations that are anything but "euphonic". They are PUKE-INDUCING!
firedog's picture

A vinyl LP can't be more accurate to source than a digital copy of the master file from which the LP is produced.

Analog Scott's picture

"A vinyl LP can't be more accurate to source than a **flat unprocessed** digital copy of the master file from which the LP is produced." We have way too many poorly mastered commerical CDs out there. OTOH we have a large body of really well mastered CDs from digital recordings no less that have benefited from substantial alteration (deliberate euphonic colorations) by skilled mastering engineers. Go figure. But in essence you were absolutely right. Vinyl versions of any digital recording will not be more accurate than flat digital transfers of the same digital recording. But that is also true for analog recordings which is sooooo taboo to even speak of.

firedog's picture

I've got no problem with the sound of vinyl, even though I'm one of those people who prefers good digital. I listen to a lot of classical and jazz, so there's no shortage of very well recorded and mastered digital recordings.

Typical classical these days is well recorded in 24/9 and released in 24/96. A minority is in higher rates or even direct to DSD. A small amount of Redbook.

Assuming there hasn't been some travesty done to the digital master for the digital release versions, I don't get the insistence that the vinyl version based on the digital master is better. It may sound fine, but it is by definiton less accurate to source. I prefer getting the digital version that's been alterered less.

Analog Scott's picture

And I have a good number of new classical releases on vinyl that include the hi res digital downloads which are in effect "the master recording." And yet quite consistantly (not entirely but mostly) I find myself prefering the vinyl playback to the hi res download. And in EVERY case so far the CD versions have been indistinguishable from the hi res downloads. Go figure. Preferences are subjective. So while it may seem surprising that I or anyone else would prefer the vinyl over the original digital file it merely points to the reality of my original post. Euphonic colorations are present and some of us prefer them.

Analog Scott's picture

"You have been to many and I'd be hard pressed to hear the difference" OK...That conclusion was drawn by you from direct comparisons between the playback of the master tape compared to the playback of the lacquer? What was the lacquer played back on? What table/arm/cartridge? Not saying you are wrong just getting more info here. My point to follow...

Rashers's picture

sometimes staggeringly expensive. As many of the best Audiophile vinyl producers are located in the US, with import duties, VAT and other charges the may easily double in price. However, it is important to take into account sales taxes that are usually not advertised on US websites or stores, but are included in the sales price in the rest of the world. For example: the most recent Joe Henderson Tone Poet release ("State Of The Tenor" volume 1 is selling on Amazon (US) for $27 versus the equivalent of $40 in the UK (minus VAT this is $33.20). The cost of shipping the album from the US to the UK is about $12, but there is no additional cost if you are a Brit and pay for Amazon prime. With more expensive releases - such as the Mofi One Step albums - the price differential is about $75 (if you can find the product anywhere in Europe) - $50 of which is import duties/retailer profit.
I have never understood why Music Matters, Mofi and Analogue Productions do not send stampers to Pallas and print up European versions of their products, which would sell in big quantities, at reasonable prices (e.g. the Blue Note 80 series - Optimal, and the Sony Legacy products - Record Industry). Music Matters, in particular, have only been selling online directly to US and Canadian customers. The sales of the Tone Poet (and now Verve Series) in Europe (and ?Australia) may wake AP, in particular, to a large untapped market.

jlstrat's picture

I think CD playback is very good now. DACs onboard players are much improved, and even affordable external DACs make a huge difference. Only took 35 years to get it right. And yet...the digitally sourced Blue Note 75th anniversary LPs sound better than the CDs. Better mastering probably, but it starts with a stylus tracing a groove and that makes all the difference. I recently picked up a copy of Grant Green Live at the Lighthouse, pressed in 73. I've had the CD for years. Man, does the LP sound better. You just get a sense of space and atmosphere that digital sound, even in hi-rez, rarely achieves. So, CDs don't suck, but vinyl still rules.

sroy949's picture

As it happened, yesterday I tried to find which of my several hundred LPs bought in Canada in the early-70s had price stickers still on them. A quick search found three and there may be others. The dates shown below are approximate.

Obviously, price stickers typically are on the record shrink-wrap and usually get discarded before playing the record.

1. "Doctor Zhivago" soundtrack probably bought in 1972(?) cost $0.99.
2. "Mary Poppins" soundtrack bought sometime between 1975 and 1980 cost $1.99.
3. "Johnny Cash at San Quentin" bought probably sometime between 1975 and 1980 (could be the early 80s) cost $3.99. This was one of the more expensive records.

According to Statistics Canada,

- $100 in 1972 is worth $608.93 today
- $100 in 1977 is worth $390.83 today

So, the inflation-adjusted price of Doctor Zhivago is about $6 today and that of Mary Poppins and Johnny Cash are about $8 and $16, respectively.

If the Johnny Cash LP was bought later, the inflation-adjusted price would be even less.

The LP records are FAR MORE expensive today than those inflation-adjusted prices. The prices are twice at least and usually a lot more.

It there was a way to upload photographs of the jacket covers, I would have.

scottsol's picture

Your first two examples are clearly flawed as they are titles that were far from popular at the time of purchase and whose prices were undoubtedly far lower than those of recently released titles.

In 1971 the best prices I could find in Chicago was three for $10 during special sales at E. J. Korvettes. That’s $21 each today at a meaningfully lower sale price than normal. Certainly, $30 for a single LP at normal pricing for a product not subject to the economies of scale present fifty years ago should not be objectionable.

sroy949's picture

The examples provided were PURELY random. They were not selective at all.

However, your example is selective.

So a comparison of random examples with selective ones is flawed.

Besides, the third RANDOM example couldn't be refuted.

Isn't ignoring that selective too???

scottsol's picture

Since new LPs are available today for as little as $5 (much more, though, at $10) and you didn’t take that into account in evaluating modern prices, it was completely inappropriate to include bargain priced releases for your ‘70s analysis. Moreover, if you look at pricing for domestic, black, <140g product you will see that most range from $12 to $22.

My method used a sale price that applied to the vast majority of current LPs then available. A far more representative sample than three records out of your non randomly purchased collection.

Tom L's picture

I worked in a record store at the time in question. Those prices are typical for LPs found in the cutout bin, not full retail which was in the $6.99 to $8.99 area.

isaacrivera's picture

Is still $0.99 today... or less.

scottsol's picture

Ironically, LP releases often have wider dynamic range than their pure digital counterparts.

firedog's picture

Unless the CD version has been especially compressed, and the LP hasn't,that isn't true. If you look at calculated DR, it gives a fake boost to the DR number of vinyl because of quirks in the way it calculates the dynamic range. You can Google it and see examples that show this.

scottsol's picture

For example, the Sgt Pepper 2017 remix had a far less compressed master for the LP version.

PAR's picture

Yes many, or even most, pop/rock CD releases these days are indeed " especially compressed" so that they play LOUD. The dynamic range is often limited to a handful of dBs. The LP release of the same material can indeed offer a wider dynamic range.

Please Google "Loudness Wars".

firedog's picture

Vinyl doesn't have more DR than CD. That can only happen if the CD has had compression added.
What I was referring to was calculations of DR you often see, done with the "Dynamic Range tool" such as you see at The Dynamic Range Database". That tool gives a non-existent boost to the DR ratings of vinyl, even if the vinyl and the CD are from identical masters. It gives a false picture that the same master has higher DR in vinyl than in digital.
I suggest you look it up, as you seem to be ignorant of the issue.

PAR's picture

... that vinyl has more dynamic range than CD. The posting that you first responded to simply said " LP releases often have wider dynamic range than their pure digital counterparts". That is true for the reason that I gave.

I never made any reference whatsoever to any "Dynamic Range Tool" or related calculations and it is therefore impertinent of you to accuse me of ignorance of such topics.

scottsol's picture

Moreover, I described that dynamic range difference as “ironic”.

Michael Fremer's picture
CDs today are purposefully and ridiculously compressed because CDs are the "more commercial" format for masses and LPs cannot be so compressed.
BillK's picture

Regardless of what you think of her music, the CD if 1989 is horribly compressed, brickwalled and is generally unpleasant to listen to.

The LP, on the other hand, is open, dynamic and actually a pleasure.

BillK's picture

Sorry, left that bit out somehow.

Jim Tavegia's picture

He may have been trying to save the manufacturer some embarrassment. There certainly is a huge difference in DACs these days. I do have some CDs that are not great, but I have many that are just like my good and bad vinyl.

I wish you had kept your tt until you tried the CD player.

Rasti's picture

Too me this letter is funny because I’m in worse situation
Even if I wanted to pay for those AAA records I couldn’t
I’m in iran and there’s not a record store here
And I even can’t buy from Discogs or eBay directly
So I think it’s pretty funny that somebody have all of this privileges
And ends up selling his turntable because prices are expensive .

Of course even here cds are cheaper but there’s a reason for it.

Buy 10 or 12 vinyl in a year and enjoy them
Doesn’t need to buy every releases
Of course everybody wants more but enjoy what you have .

vince's picture

I'm surprised how much anti-vinyl gobbledegook your article has stirred up! On a site dedicated to vinyl.

I agree that most records sound better, which is why I collect them. There is another benefit to collecting records. Their value generally goes up while CDs value generally goes down, over time. And of course, digital files free from media only have value at the time of first purchase.

So take heart, should you decide to sell your vinyl collection you will get a better return than if you choose to sell a similar CD collection.

rich d's picture

This discussion was boring 30 years ago. Many of the responses here are right on the border of Troll Town and a few merit gentle rebukes:

One can't choose three examples and then say they are PURELY (capitals his) random and not selective. You selected them!

If a post ends with "period", "end of story" etc. it means someone not in command of his facts has attempted a pre-emptive strike against any possible criticism or challenge.

This silliness about euphonic distortions/colorations really needs to be put to bed. All formats have their measurable and audible advantages and disadvantages.

And to those misguided souls whose lives are somehow enhanced by logging on and telling us we're idiots for liking records, why don't you go find something that makes you happy rather than raining on everyone else's parade?

Analog Scott's picture

You might want to do a little research on the subject. Euphonic colorations are a fact. Those are both the audible and measurable advantages of vinyl and the only audible and measurable advantages.

rich d's picture

I did. For many years. From inside the industry. None of which makes my opinions any more valid than yours, of course, but a little humility would go a long way. The facts (actually researched!) are that vinyl at its best has a bandwidth roughly one octave greater than that of CD. Indeed, old quad records (and modern cutter heads) can go just beyond the sampling rate of CDs whereas the maximum audible bandwidth of a CD (or any digital audio format) is one half the sampling rate. Considerable research exists to suggest that bandwidth limiting, even above the nominal 20-20KHz human hearing limits, has a deleterious effect on the frequencies we can hear. Moreover, the distortion of digital media tends to increase as signal level or effective bit rates decrease, in some cases digital distortion can reach pretty shocking levels, albeit at very low signal levels. Good engineers have the ability to minimize this, but it typically involves dither or other techniques which raise the noise floor and/or reduce the dynamic range. I could go on but frankly it's beyond the scope of this website. My point is that LPs do in fact have some measurable technical advantages along with their known disadvantages (and there are plenty of disadvantages, I admit). I just believe strongly that one shouldn't question someone else's knowledge while simultaneously making a definitive yet incorrect statement. I wish you well and I hope you enjoy music in whatever form (live is best) pleases you the most. It is not my intention to start an argument so I won't respond or post any more, but if we're comparing "research" and hands-on knowledge of audio reproduction I believe I can add something of value here.

Lastly, the Record Store Day Brian Eno LP is really good (alert: that's an opinion) and somewhat reminiscent of Fripp and Eno's "Evening Star" from 45 years ago. Getting old sucks (and that's a fact).

Analog Scott's picture

if you researched the actual technical data on vinyl playback and some of the less well known studies of euphonic colorations in audio you would know that this is not a matter of opinion. It's a matter of fact. And there is nothing arogant about pointing that out. If someone says creationism trumps evolution it is not arogant to point out that evolution is a scientific fact. Now let's look at the actual facts you cite. 1. vinyl has a greater band width than CD. That is true. It is also insignificant. Both exceed the band width of human hearing. 2. "Considerable research exists to suggest that bandwidth limiting, even above the nominal 20-20KHz human hearing limits, has a deleterious effect on the frequencies we can hear." Considerable research? Love to see some citations of the considerable research. I only know of one paper and it's results did not hold up to follow up studies. And of course there is the little detail of what content above 20Khz is actually on a recording itself. Mostly, if fact almost always pure noise. 3. "the distortion of digital media tends to increase as signal level or effective bit rates decrease, in some cases digital distortion can reach pretty shocking levels, albeit at very low signal levels." This is also a fact but again you very casually brush over the fact that it's at very low levels. VERY low levels. So low that one would have to design a recording specifically to expose this distortion. So low that it is completely masked on just about every commercial recording. Now if we compare this to audible levels of distortion on vinyl that is inherent and clearly audible on all vinyl playback there is no question which medium is audibly more accurate. It's not even close. 4. " Good engineers have the ability to minimize this, but it typically involves dither or other techniques which raise the noise floor and/or reduce the dynamic range." Yes were doing good when you cited dither but then you got everything wrong after the citation. Dither does NOT audibly raise the noise floor nor does it effectively raise the noise floor. It's the opposite. Dither increases the effective dynamic range by reducing distortions at low levels. The bottom line is Redbook CD is for all practical purposes when executed competently with the intent of being transparent Redbook CD is utterly audibly transparent with the possible exception of extreme cases. The same simply can not be said for vinyl. So regardless of your beliefs, my statement is correct. Now with that said, I generally do prefer the sound I get with vinyl over CD. Mostly due to mastering but even in cases where the mastering is identical (there are cases) I prefer the sound of the vinyl. *That* is the result of euphonic colorations. Colorations inherent in the medium and unique colorations in the specific hardware. Very few argue that there are audible differences between different cartridges, pick up arms and turntables. And anytime you have audible differences between two pieces of gear *at least* one of them has audible colorations. Preference is inarguable. And my preferences dictate my choices. But accuracy is objective in nature and redbook CD as a medium is far more accurate the vinyl. It seems to me that some peoples' ego simply can't deal with the idea of having a preference for a less acurate medium. Doesn't bother me

Michael Fremer's picture
"Accuracy" is bullshit. Total bullshit. Every technology, every medium and process created by mankind has its own set of colorations and sonic characteristics, especially CDs, which have a particular and damn annoying character I find unlistenable after a very short time. And "accurate" to what? To a recording engineer's preferences? To a mastering engineer's preferences? Every mastering system every mastering room has its own characteristics. It's not like video where there are absolute standards. It's the wild west. In the wild west, I find CDs mostly unlistenable and I have THOUSANDS of them. They all have a sonic character that announces "CD". In fact I think they are more easily identifiable than is vinyl record playback. But that's just me and that's why i run this friggin' website! Vacuum tubes have "euphonic colorations" but once CDs were invented the market for tube microphones exploded. Why? To add some "euphonic colorations" to a drab, dry and annoyingly un-euphonically colored digital medium! So most of why you are buying on CD ALREADY HAS EUPHONIC COLORATION BUILT IN FROM THE TUBE MICROPHONES. In digital playback you add back some non-euphonic coloration, which can be shifted depending upon which "perfect filter" you use. So if adding back some "euphonic coloration" by playing it back in the form of a vinyl record makes it sound MORE LIKE ACTUAL MUSIC (which it almost always does), I cannot understand why that's such big issue with some people. BTW: ALL audio gear is "colored" one way or the other. I am sorry but Redbook CD is not "utterly transparent". It's better now but it was called that from the beginning when awful digital filters that RANG LIKE CRAZY and produced gross phase errors were also declared "perfect".
Analog Scott's picture

is transparent. " Every technology, every medium and process created by mankind has its own set of colorations and sonic characteristics, especially CDs, which have a particular and damn annoying character I find unlistenable after a very short time." And yet everytime this is put to the test under level matched blind conditions no one can tell the difference.

"And "accurate" to what?" The source signal.

"Every mastering system every mastering room has its own characteristics. It's not like video where there are absolute standards." Bullshit. Just about every mastering suite is quite capable of doing a flat transfer. Of course they are also set up to tweek the sound.that is what you hire a mastering engineer to do.And this of course has nothing to do with the reality of euphonic colorations of vinyl or the transparency of CD.

"I find CDs mostly unlistenable and I have THOUSANDS of them. They all have a sonic character that announces "CD"."

Bullshit. You know this because you know you are listening to CDs. And what you like has nothing to do with what is audible colored and what is not.

" In fact I think they are more easily identifiable than is vinyl record playback. But that's just me and that's why i run this friggin' website!" And that makes you an authority. What a ridiculous argument.

"Vacuum tubes have "euphonic colorations" but once CDs were invented the market for tube microphones exploded. Why? To add some "euphonic colorations" to a drab, dry and annoyingly un-euphonically colored digital medium!" Thank you for making a great argument to support my point. Yeah, a lot of people prefer euphonic colorations.And when there are none present it then saavy folks add themsome other way.

"So most of why you are buying on CD ALREADY HAS EUPHONIC COLORATION BUILT IN FROM THE TUBE MICROPHONES."

that doesn't even make sense.

You are all over the place here. Bottom line.You are wrong. we could easily put it to the test under blind conditions but as is always the case people who believe bullshit always find a way to not do blind tests. This will be no different. I could offer a $1,000 bet or even a $10,000 bet but you will find some excuse not to take it.

Warszawa's picture

Rx: Ativan
disp: five hundred 6mg tablets
sig: take two tablets before using the internet

refills: unlimited

*avoid human interaction

rich d's picture

The prices are the prices, but as a consumer you do have some leverage. Get friendly with a U.S. retailer and have him or her set aside new titles until you have a large enough purchase to make the shipping cost worthwhile. I was party to such an arrangement a few years back and it worked quite well.

BigT's picture

We are spoiled to live in a time where we can argue over shades of excellence in sound reproduction. Both vinyl and CD's/digital can be awesome, with the right setup and listening environment. I listen mostly to vinyl, but CD's can be good too.

From my first music experiences with a crystal radio at age 7, it's been a long and rewarding journey to get here. Let's Enjoy!

Happy Listening All.

rich d's picture

On an otherwise benighted thread, Big T makes a cogent and thoughtful comment. Well done Sir (or Madam, I can't tell from the name).

Robin Landseadel's picture

I was playing and collecting LPs from when I was a little kid to June, 2019. Obviously, I got something out of it. Right now, having other priorities, I don't have any LPs or LP playback gear, probably won't in the future. But there's aspects of record collection that I understand, having worked for so many years in LP/CD stores.

In terms of access to LPs, my peak years were from the mid 1980s, as CDs first appeared and I was working at Tower Records in Berkeley to 1999, when I left Berkeley. Back in the mid 1980s, Tower's Classical Annex had tons of cut-out imports. Harmonia Mundi was clearing out its inventory, so was Qualiton, Tower was picking up lots of imports by other means, and I could buy them for $1 a pop. Got over 50 Fonit Cetra issues of Furtwängler that way. Had an AR XA with a Grace 707 tonearm, Dynaco 70 and PAS 3 electronics from a used/vintage audio store on University Avenue and Small Mission bookshelf speakers.

Blurring into the 1990s, working at The Musical Offering D shop and Cafe, got lots of promo CDs, turned them into LPs and/or other CDs at Amoeba, just around the corner and down the block. Rasputin's too, though usually to buy, as they tended to be a little cheaper than Amoeba. There was Mint Platter, Leopolds, and a half-dozen shops in Oakland, more than than in San Francisco. Doing radio shows meant that my promo machine was in hyperdrive.

Around that time I primarily listen to music via Stax Earspeakers. I was hearing every little bit of surface detritus and pitch variation, thanks to the black backgrounds and absolute speed stability of CDs. I heard things I liked too, particularly when listening over speakers.

About 5 years ago, my system had a Strathclyde 305m Turntable, a SME III arm, Shure 97xE cartridge, Scott 299B integrated and a pair of RBH mini towers. That system did amazing things with LPs, particularly Capitol pressings from the 1950s.

I moved from a big house to a small apartment. My listening habits moved from LPs to CDs to files to streaming. It's most likely going to be primarily streaming from now on. I can easily access recordings now that I would not have been able to hear in the past. I'm losing the desire to own stuff. But if someone is playing a gray-label copy of "Songs For Swingin' Lovers" on gear that costs more than a fully loaded Porsche, I can see the attraction.

Michael Fremer's picture
Streaming is great but it never, ever, ever sounds remotely as good as a record. Just doesn't.
Robin Landseadel's picture

And to me, nothing is more deflating, sonically, than the end of an LP side.

You pays yer money . . .

Trevor_Bartram's picture

Niall, if you'd lived in the U.K. in the 70s and suffered truly awful vinyl, you'd not be so harsh about modern vinyl (or CDs). When you buy modern vinyl you are paying for a perfect luxury product. When you continue to buy vinyl, you are giving the manufacturers carte blanche to raise prices. They have livelihoods to protect, who knows when the fad will end. You are harsh regarding CDs, not all CDs (or CD players) are created equal and, if you have high standards like most audiphiles, it takes much work to get satisfaction. As one who now has hearing loss, your complaints appear trivial.

Analog Scott's picture

We are waaaaaaaaaay past the point where the vinyl revival can be called a fad

Archimago's picture

To me this seems like a post put up on a slow day just to get the kinds of responses we're seeing here!

Seriously, who sells their turntable and LPs without overlapping with the purchase of the CD player and a few disks? That's not reasonable for any audiophile who loves their music and wouldn't be without accessing it even for a week with just a handful of 5 CDs!

Second, yeah, why not tell us which CD player this is?! You can't paint all CD's as "bad" the way this letter did yet not give us some specifics like which player and maybe what CD he's listening to... We all know that many modern CD remasters are highly dynamically compressed and do not represent the best of the technology. Likewise many supposedly "audiophile" CD players especially some that have crazy stuff appended like tube outputs and such have issues.

Finally, this is 2020. Surely this writer must have listened to CD-quality digital for years even if not purchased his own standalone CD player, right? If digital overall sounds that bad all these years (including all the YouTube/Spotify/website streams), would he not at least be approaching this with some caution? Again, why sell off the turntable and want to re-buy all his albums?

Forget feeling guilty that you're potentially trolling this post by leaving a response! This letter itself is troll material for the audiophile community.

As one who likes both LPs and CDs even though I believe it's inappropriate to label LPs as "high res" or even capable of "high fidelity" compared to good digital in the 21st Century, there's still no point arguing for extreme positions like this supposed letter from Australia. All formats can coexist in our listening rooms.

Warszawa's picture

you all are a bunch of pedantic, overly captious fetishists.

rich d's picture

You failed to back up your insult with a 1,000 word diatribe using specious reasoning to prove that we can't possibly hear what we're hearing. Which leads me to believe you kinda like us. That's so sweet.

Seriously, if people are so certain that we're wrong, and so determined to prove it on an abacus and/or slide rule rather than simply listen, why do they come here? Did Mom forget to lock the computer after looking at Analog Planet?

Warszawa's picture

I just can't help but play the dissociative jester when I see these goofy, dichotomous arguments. I'm sure many of the musicians we admire the most would feel nothing but a blithe contempt for such a clinical assessment of their art.

That being said, vinyl is always superior whether it's digitally sourced or not--I'm also a hypocrite!

dfsdave's picture

Who apparently got a dictionary for their birthday.

Warszawa's picture

I've been burned... wait, let's go with scorched.

BillK's picture

I know a number of musicians who have absolute garbage for home audio gear, simply because they rarely listen to music that way.

For many it's all about playing and creating the art, not sitting back and enjoying their work or that of others.

The best analogy I could give is that few artists have their walls decorated with the same kind of art they create; painters rarely have paintings on the walls, sculptors rarely have other sculptures.

But there are those who care; Sinatra was one back in the day.

swimming1's picture

I buy most of my lps at the salvation armani $1 and cds too $2

rich d's picture

I really should let discretion be the better part of valor, but my sense of fair play compels me to point out the following:

My learned correspondent claimed that LPs have but one technical advantage and that said advantage is merely a form of distortion. I replied by pointing out a couple other advantages. That's the point at which an open-minded person says, "I see your point but I continue to disagree and I believe I have valid reasons for doing so. Happy Listening!" Alas, we live in a world in which open-mindedness is seen as weakness, and people log into websites for the perverse pleasure of telling others they can't possibly know what they know. I imagine somewhere in the world there's an online wine forum in which someone is saying, "you're an idiot to like that wine; I don't need to taste it -- I proved on my slide rule and my abacus that it's terrible!"

Lastly, on this forum I recently recommended three newer LPs which I felt would be widely enjoyed for both musical and sonic reasons. The response, including a handful of personal messages, was both kind and gratifying. With that in mind, I'm going to recommend a 43-year-old record which has been in ridiculously heavy rotation of late:
Be Bop Deluxe: Live! In the Air Age. The UK Harvest original sounds slightly better, but the US version is on white vinyl and the bonus disc is 12" rather than 7" which is a bit more convenient. Used record shops all seem to have copies for next to nothing. As for the music, it's clever, catchy and it rocks when called upon to do so. Enjoy!

dfsdave's picture

HOW DARE YOU BE FRIENDLY ON THE INTERNET! I'M REPORTING YOUR POST! ;-). Thanks for the recommendation I'll check it out. Happy listening!

powermatic's picture

to your previous recommends? I've just Discogged the BBD:L!ITAA album, so thanks for that. I'm generally leary of the sonic capabilities of white vinyl, but we shall see! (-:

Analog Scott's picture

"My learned correspondent claimed that LPs have but one technical advantage and that said advantage is merely a form of distortion." To be more accurate euphonic colorations (plural) constitute several differences that can lead tyo a preference. "I replied by pointing out a couple other advantages. That's the point at which an open-minded person says, "I see your point but I continue to disagree and I believe I have valid reasons for doing so. Happy Listening!"" The problem being what you pointed out was nothing new to me and they simply aren't advantages unless you are into listening to dog whistles. You also claimed there was a great deal of research in support of the advantages. I asked you to cite it.You didn't. And for good reason. There was only one study that ever came up with test results showing an "advantage" in having ultrasonics that were present in the original acoustic event present in playback. The problem is those results have not been replicated in multiple attmepts. That is a big problem. And of course we can't forget that most, by far most original recordings don't actually havemuch if any recorded content in t he ultrasonic range. So there was very good reason for me not to "see your point." Your point simply wasn't valid. And that fact was old news. "Alas, we live in a world in which open-mindedness is seen as weakness, and people log into websites for the perverse pleasure of telling others they can't possibly know what they know." I am actually quite open minded. That is where you are completely wrong. But I don't have to cut myself to know I bleed. And I don't need to review old debunked audiophile myths. If you had something new.Something backed by science I would be quite interested. Are you open minded? If so would you like to hear the latest greatest arguments for a flat earth? You are open minded right? "I imagine somewhere in the world there's an online wine forum in which someone is saying, "you're an idiot to like that wine; I don't need to taste it -- I proved on my slide rule and my abacus that it's terrible!" Which is in no way analogus to refuting tired old myths that have already been refuted many times before. And by the way if you actually readwith carewhat I said you should have noticed that I expressed a preference for the sound of vinyl.Did you even catch that? So do tell how does your analogy jive with that?

Jeffrey Lee's picture

Could you please give it a rest long enough to learn how to make paragraphs? Thanks.

rich d's picture

I can barely remember what I had for breakfast. Oh, hang on a second, I just burped. It was granola and coffee.

Anyhow, the recommendations were:

Cosmo Sheldrake / The How How Much Much and I
Steve Harley / Uncovered
Lloyd Cole / Guesswork

As for the white vinyl - I've owned a couple of the US white pressings and they're not the best but they're not bad. And in case such things matter to you I'll add that it looks bitchin' sitting on the turntable. Finally, lead guy Bill Nelson was, and continues to be, a fine and original guitarist.

Also, please accept my apologies for trying to interject civility to the proceedings. I hope you don't report me to the interweb cops. We males have two unfortunate characteristics (three if you count never maturing beyond age 14): 1] we get hung up on the process rather than the result and 2] we see any discussion as a chance to show how much we know and shut the other guy down. Given the foregoing, I'm surprised this forum doesn't descend into the morass (heh heh, he said ass) more often.

powermatic's picture

...bitchin' sitting on the turntable."

Are you kidding me? TOP PRIORITY! (-:

DigMyGroove's picture

Nial, you have my sympathies on the high cost of vinyl down under, it's unfortunate. But I can't agree with a blanket statement like "CDs Suck". Yes, many do, but it's not too hard to learn about the best digital masterings of the music you like on a site like the Steve Hoffman Music Forums, or to quickly look up the dynamic range of a particular CD mastering on dr.loudness-war.info.

I have collections of many thousands of vinyl records and CDs as well as SACD and DVD-A purchased over the course of 45 years, and enjoy all formats. While I play much more vinyl than digital, I have invested in great equipment to play either format, including good DACs of various price points in my systems such as a Schiit Gungnir Multibit, Topping D50S, and SMSL Sanskrit 10th. With a quality DAC, well mastered CD, or it's hi-res streaming option from Quobuz or others, along with audiophile software such as Audirvana or JRiver for playback, you can indeed hear digital at a very high caliber, and it doesn't have to cost a fortune.

I will agree that most of the time the vinyl source played on quality gear will best digital, but not every record is a winner and not every pressing is well done, particularly current vinyl production. That for me is far more of a caution than whether or not the vinyl record came via a digital master. I have too many of those that sound really good to knock them all. But I also have others that sound identical to their CD counterparts. If so it usually indicates that the CD doesn't suffer from having it's dynamic range crushed, a good thing!

Do your homework and research before buying, use a hi-res streaming service to preview new releases and reissues before purchasing, who knows, you may be happier with the results then, enjoy!

TomFleming's picture

To me it feels like a calculated decision to position vinyl as the premium product by virtue of its price. Most current buyers will fall for the idea that it's high-end simply *because* it's expensive, even though they will either listen to it on their ~3 LP's-worth of Crosley USB turntable (and drool about aspects of the analog 'sound' that they may have read about but can't possibly be accessing themselves) or, more often, the included download - obviously not including the OP or anyone else here in this observation, before anyone starts...

The fixation with 180g pressings (which are often highly charged with static and covered in dust and other debris, more prone to infill and offer no inherent advantages over thinner vinyl) is also part of this. It's the worst of both worlds at the moment: new vinyl is hideously expensive (in the UK too at least), and definitely not guaranteed to sound better than the CD release, though we know it can, and you never know if you'll have to send it back.

I'd love to see the vinyl revival escalated to the point where higher volumes enable much lower prices (and vice versa) *AND* quality control is uniformly high, so we can be reasonably sure that any LP sounds at least as good as the CD, and isn't covered in crap before it's even been played - but also the odd duff one would be less of a disaster. I'd love to be able to go and get a whole bunch of new records for the current price of a single one - who wouldn't? Gross profit margins might be lower at these prices but net profits could be higher in absolute terms and the whole thing would feel much more vibrant and real again.

The fact that no record companies are shooting for this model could of course just mean I'm wrong about some key aspect of the equation. They usually follow the money pretty successfully, after all.

rich d's picture

If so I can content myself with the knowledge that I've been kicked out of better places. In any case, I just want to say "thanks" for all the fun and illuminating posts one finds on this forum. It's evident from the tone and content that many of you still subscribe to the antiquated notion that being a gentleman counts for something. And on the internet no less. Obviously there are exceptions but they typically stand out like a backwards baseball cap at the opera so there's no need to be specific. What I'd like to know is what you believe are the essential qualities and skills which make a gentleman. I don't mean to leave the ladies out (that would be ungentlemanly) but let's face it, the audiophile world is pretty male-oriented.

I'll get the ball rolling:

- You should be able to play a musical instrument (playing it well is not essential).
- You should own and be able to use a few tools. This is not the same as being a tool.
- You should be able to tie a tie and, ideally, a bow tie.
- You should never pass up an opportunity to hold open a door, pull back a chair, etc. for a lady.
- You should never insist upon having the last word; that's usually the one which leaves a bitter taste.
- You should be able to operate a manual transmission, even if you choose not to own a vehicle so equipped.
- You should have a minimum of one scar and a good story to go with it, even if that story must be invented.

Those are mine - how about you? And don't say "never hijack a thread" - I've heard that one...

That's all for now; I plan to go on internet hiaitus for a time but I'll probably check back and see if anyone has any good additions.

All the best.

Warszawa's picture

- being able to make fun of yourself
- being able to acknowledge your own contradictions and inconsistencies
- avoid being a solipsistic a$$hole, but acknowledge when you inevitably are one
- have at least one story about an accident with large equipment-preferably a log splitter (I still have all of my limbs thankfully)
- acknowledge the male proclivity for making such lists and their total futility
- must have read every Nabokov novel at least once because in my solipsistic worldview he's the only author who has ever mattered : )

Michael Fremer's picture
I'm clearly well qualified. I play guitar not well. I sing. Pretty well. I can use tools. I rebuilt my car engine. I can tie any kind of tie knot but I'm not bow tie guy. That's a preference. I can be chivalrous, though not sure if that's the correct spelling. I'm open to not having the last word but someone has to, you know. I have never owned a car with an automatic transmission and I never will. Perhaps my next car will be electric and it won't even have a transmission but for now 6 on the floor, thank you. A scar with a good story? I have 16 stitches in my leg produced by my pet coatimundi, which got into a fight with a dog and accidentally ripped my flesh. It may look like a weasel but it's not. Can anyone beat that scar story? No!
rip38-65's picture

Rzzzzzzzzz!

" pet coatimundi, which got into a fight with a dog and accidentally ripped my flesh. It may look like a weasel but it's not"

PS thanks for expounding on the benefits of vinylized digital...that's been a nagging question.

Roy Martin's picture

...Andy Hernandez.

budley007's picture

"...Andy Hernandez." Oh nice! I had to look that one up.

BillK's picture

I love jewel boxes, and in fact to this day if I buy a CD and it comes in a digipak, or even a box set with envelopes or trays, the first thing I do is transfer them to actual jewel boxes.

They were designed wonderfully, and they are fragile, as they were specifically designed so that the box would break to protect the disc inside from stresses that might damage it.

Store yours however you like, but all of mine are in jewel boxes and will continue to be (I do the same with my Blu-rays, extracting them from the scratch-inducing cardboard used on many releases today and placing them into Amaray Blu-ray cases.)

proftournesol's picture

This letter is also commenting on the exorbitant cost of vinyl LPs here in Australia. It's rare to find a new release priced in the $30s, luckily, it's usually an artist or band from the very good local music scene. LPs are regularly priced at over $45, and up to $70 for something like the new Dylan album. Good quality used LPs are $20 to $50 as well, gone are the days when I could pick up a quality second-hand LP for under $10.
It's all a part of what we call the 'Australia Tax', everything sold here has an additional markup that makes the cost of living extremely high.

Dubhousing's picture

Yes, vinyl is expensive here in Lockdown city. I have 3000 albums which I sincerely hope will fund my nursing home stay one day. What drives me mad about modern vinyl is not knowing its origin. Remember when CDs had the ADD codes printed on the case- why not AAA for modern vinyl? I write this as I listen to Samantha Craine's Under Branch & Thorn & Tree (AAA) - worth every cent of A$70.

pessoist's picture

I read the article and I wonder how sick people behave, desperate, confused, weird...

You only need one excellent joyful record and a really great affordable turntable kit.
That is cheaper than a CD player (what is that actually? ;-) ) and can create a wonderful cultural personal life.

Just remember the Grammophon scenes in the midst of a desert, a jungle, ... they have only one record and that is playing for party, chilling, while being attacked by warriors, while a tsunami is going on, whatever and the listener enjoys listening without end, regardless of him or her be likely to survive the next 30 minutes of the movie.

What you call CDs I do buy too, sometimes, but that is like a filled flash drive to me, a medium to copy the data off it to a drive and an archive. But listening? That I do with analog radio or my turntable and so it’ll remain.

Have a wonderful time, beautiful people.

X