It’s the time of year for saving money!
Sometimes I feel like Larry David as I am always getting in trouble somehow, someway. A few weeks ago, I was visiting with my client, Bill Voss from Technics, at the AXPONA regional audiophile show. We had just completed a small ad campaign and were talking a little business which quickly morphed into a presentation on his newest products starting with some retro-cool Technics turntables. I told him that I really liked the industrial design and its retro appeal, but we really are focused more on full resolution formats like digital (meaning they can reproduce 120 dB of dynamic range and don’t inherently make distortion by the physical insertion of a stylus into the groove of a record) and Bill’s reply didn’t miss a beat. He said, “Jerry, we got it covered from both ends as we have some of the better digital that you will find as well as some really cool electronics.”
And he was right. As we turned to look at the Technics ultra-cool, retro-awesome integrated amp with one of the best-looking meters that I’ve seen on an audio component in a while, a show-goer interjected into our conversation how great vinyl is. For him.
Sure, everyone is allowed their opinion but much like flat-Earthers and climate change deniers – some opinions just ignore facts. This Baby Boomer show-goer went on to say “to my ears, vinyl just sounds better.”
Let me start by saying vinyl is very trendy in 2018. It’s collectable. It’s tactile. It’s affordable. It’s retro. There are some upsides. Just like the guy who drives the Mercedes 1959 300 SL convertible down Sunset Boulevard . He isn’t worried about how much slower his car is than the twin-turbo charged, V-12 SL-65 AMG that pulled up next to him at the stop light. He drives the old SL as a style/comfort statement. For history. For art and design. But nobody ever expected the 1959 SL to blow away the V12, twin turbo charged Benz in a race from 0 to 60. Both have their appeal, but there’s no question as to which car performs better.
Trying to be polite, I asked the guy about his background is in audio. “Are you a recording engineer? Do you have degree in music? Are you a filmmaker?” and he said he was none of the above. No problem, but I could not resist the urge to avail him with anecdote… “Imagine we could get into a time-space transport right now and I could take us all from this hotel room in Chicago to Capitol Records Studio A in Hollywood to make your first ever recording. It will be a simple recording with one track and really only one instrument – a snare drum sitting on a stand. I have procured one of John Bonham’s famous tree-trunk drumsticks and my sole directive to you as your first record producer is to haul off and hit this drum as hard as you humanly can…” The guy is looking at me like I am crazy and perhaps for good reason, but I am continued toward my point. “Bob, how loud do you think that snare drum will sound?” Bob didn’t know. He didn’t want to even field a guess, so I helped him out a little. “I think you could get upwards of 120 dB in terms of volume on that snare but my question to you Bob is… what’s the maximum dynamic range of vinyl?”
You could see him getting pissed off like a Fox News host who’s about to have the facts presented to him right on TV. “The answer is about 65 dB. Thus, we can only reproduce about half of the dynamic range that we heard in the studio if we released your song on vinyl.” This is when he kind of lost it, “I know what I am hearing, and my ears know best” and he left the room. Another potential reader, lost…
Perhaps your ears know best, but analog master tape, like what many of the most important recordings in the history of music were recorded on, can capture the 120 dB-ish range of an actual musical event. Music was sold on vinyl at the time because we didn’t have a better, affordable, mainstream distribution method that could get closer to the master. That was the 1950s through the 1980s. Then came CD, which while admittedly limited to 16/44, is capable of far higher dynamics and doesn’t suffer from the “warmth” that vinyl true believers don’t like to admit is second degree, harmonic distortion.
Yes, distortion – the one thing that top electronics designers go to ultimate extremes to get out of our lauded audiophile electronics, but vinyl true believers still want to pour “50-octane audiophile gas” into their high-performance systems, when today’s HD digital files like the ones you get from say HDTracks.com, stream from Tidal, or find even find on a Blu-ray can reproduce ALL of the dynamics on the master without any clearly audible distortion needed.
I bring up this topic, not to rehash my argument (that comes with help from recording engineer and former Audio Engineering Society President, Garry Margolis) but to point out how great a world that we live in today in terms of audio playback! In 2018, you can for $20 buy an entire album that is literally the facsimile of the original master tape be it a recording done in the analog domain or the digital domain. Obviously, you can’t get access to the VERY fragile and environmentally sensitive analog master tape of a recording, but what you buy music on current HD formats that are damn-near bit-perfect to that master tape. For $20 you get a meaningful recording with full 120 dB plus dynamics, no meaningful distortion from the playback source.
I want to hear exactly what’s on the master tape when listening to a top performance music playback system – don’t you? I want to hear the closest reproduction of what the musicians, engineers and producers had in mind when they were in the studio or on stage. While remastering might be needed to deal with issues of getting a historical master tape to sound its best on a higher resolution, higher bandwidth format – that’s a price I am willing to pay gladly.
Steven Stone makes the argument that vinyl is by its physical nature “a built-in limiter” which can be a useful tool. He argues that some people are accustomed to the sound of vinyl and have tailored their systems to optimize for that and the results can sound damn good. Also, some recordings never were mastered for the wider dynamic range possible in HD and need remastering for HD, and that’s a good argument. Analog-only engineers had to fit the dynamic range of their masters onto the LP format (and in the case of classic RCA and Mercury recordings, did it amazingly well) but the result was not as faithful to the original as a high-resolution digital copy can be.
These are golden times for audio. It is now possible to enjoy music playback in HD, be it streaming, on some form of soon-to-be-obsolete silver disc, or via download. The options are plentiful. Today, you can actually have your music at a level of quality that people who made it wanted you to hear it at. I encourage you, that if your goal is to have the best audio performance you can afford, to embrace music in HD today.
Nicely put. And without getting into vinyl storage, handling, cleaning, destruction by playing, and additional cost.
I got my first REAL collection of vinyl from our old AVRev.com music editor, Charles Andrews. He lives with his wife and now college-graduated daughter in Santa Monica in 900 share feet. He had over 3,000 “pieces of vinyl” and easily 3,000 CDs in there with his family. When ripping music became a thing he saw his opportunity. He sold me ALL of his cool, first pressing vinyl. Maybe 50 Hendrix records, Pink Floyd, All of Zeppelin, The Eagles – everything.
And I got rid of it.
This was when I moved into my last house in Brentwood. And the reasons were a) there was no place to store this much music (CDs were bad enough as I had 1,500, plus DTS CDs, plus DVD-Audio discs, plus SACDs) and b) there’s no good way to install a turntable into a professional AV rack – the likes that a good custom installer is going to use like Simply Home Entertainment. It just took up too much space.
With that said, I worked a deal with my old friend, Brian Morris, in the UK at The House of Linn to have the records which I assume are still there if you ever want to go listen to them.
Good article Steve. Steve do not like the Fox News comparison. Stick to Audio please that you do so well thanks.
Please note the author was the publisher, Jerry Del Colliano…who will stick it wherever he pleases…
Jerry just said every word that bangs around in my head every time someone tells me how vinyl is superior to digital. (And for that matter, my opinion of Fox News, but I digress…) I really don’t object to someone telling me they prefer the sound of vinyl and I get that they appreciate the tactile aspect of it. But I want true, clean audio performance and what vinyl guys think of as “tactile”, I think of as an annoying waste of time. I just want to plop my butt in my chair and listen to a couple hours of uninterrupted, high-quality music.
Thanks for the kind words Jeff!!!
You will be happy to know that my wife just quit her executive job at Fox five weeks after Rupert got his 57 billion. She got a WAY WAY WAY better job at Amazon Studios where she is paid better and much more happy. Fox Studios was a fun place to work for her. Cool lot. Simpsons. So much more. Now its Sports and “so-called” news or as I call it infotainment. I am proud of her for making the move.
And if someone wants to play vinyl for fun, to be disconnected from a computer or to experience audio history – COOL BY ME. All I am saying is… don’t tell me its better than a 24 bit, damn near bit perfect copy of the master complete with tons of dynamic range and basically no distortion.
if the medium, the carrier is more important then the truth in the music…more power to you, but if you say vinyl is technically better than HD…i will laugh in your face
what’s most important to me is what i hear. while vinyl may be technically inferior on paper, the reproduced sounds it makes, sound more like the real thing. so, i say it’s technically superior because of what it DOES, not because of numbers written on a piece of paper. obviously, all criteria about what makes reproduced sound seem real, are not known and cannot be measured. laugh all you want. ;~)
I’ve listened to vinyl since two years old. CD since day 1. Live music always. Digital closer to the real thing. To my ears. 😆😆😆😆😆😀😆😆😆😆😝😝😝😝😜😜😝😝😄😄😄
Jerry, Your liberal bias is showing. Why must rabid liberals always interject their bias every chance they get – even in an article as innocuous as this one? I am not interested in your liberal jabs. Conservatives comprise a majority in this country and for you to insult half, or more, of the American population is both childish and unwise. Respectfully, I would suggest you refrain from making such meaningless comments in the future and stick to the subject at hand.
Well said and thank you for responding This seems to happening allot in this business as of late. A real shame.
This type of talk will not help a struggling industry.
will saying that digital is “obviously” superior sounding to vinyl help this “struggling industry? ;~) (and, btw, the “high end” has *always* been a “struggling industry”, w/only the lunatic fringe of music listeners being participants.)
the only “obvious” thing to me, re: the digital-vinyl debate, is that there is still a hell of a lot that’s unknown regarding sound reproduction. because, while digital certainly cleans vinyl’s clock on paper, the tables turn when it comes to sound from an audio system.
ya, digital has come a long way. it was not really even listenable for its first 10 years, imo. then it became listenable, but still not very enjoyable. i finally broke down and bought a cd player in ~1995, cuz there was some music i couldn’t find on vinyl. but i wasn’t able to actually enjoy digital audio until ~y2k.
yes, today, i listen to digital audio, and i enjoy it – a lot. it *has* come a long way. but it still doesn’t sound as real as vinyl. if you disagree, then i’d say you’re fact-averse, because clearly, all the facts about how humans hear are still not known… ;~)
“Conservatives comprise a majority in this country…” As this is not true in the United States I can only conclude this guy’s from some other country, such as Russia, based on this self-admitted factoid…it’s remarkable what folks will try to pass off as “fact” when it comes to politics…with conservative “facts” like this it’s no wonder that the country is going off the rails…Conservatives enjoy the same “majority” as audiophiles…
on paper, digital may be superior. but i guess that’s just because not all things that affect audio reproduction can be measured. because, even in 2018, 35 years after “perfect sound forever”, there isn’t a digital audio format that is superior to vinyl. and i say this, even tho the majority of my listening is to “low rez” internet radio. (fip radio france is probably the best radio station on the planet? and radio naba from riga latvia, and radio student from ljubjana slovenia are’t too shabby, either.) i’ve compared 5-figure digital set-ups to vinyl on more-than-suitable systems, and when switching from digital to vinyl, the improvement is so startling, it’s not even something anyone present can debate. you can talk specs all you want, but vinyl still sounds more like the real thing.
regarding “faux news” – sorry charles, you may enjoy watching it; but, tho it is certainly a tv show, it’s anything but news. of course, i don’t even own a tv, so i have to hunt around for my current events info… ;~)
i stopped watching tv back in ~1969, and haven’t missed it even a little. frank zappa nailed it back in 1973; i think it’s even more true now then it was back then.
“i’m the slime”:
Dougie S I do not watch Fox news or any other news station. My comment was to leave out the political BS or snide remarks.
Stick to Audio that’s all.
Amost more to the point, today’s run-of-the-mill Accords, Camrys and Focuses will outperform the ’59 300 SL, just as virtually any competent DAC playing high-res files will objectively outperform vinyl.
i listen w/my ears, not a spec sheet.
That argument is what audiophiles use and its about as powerful as someone saying…
“I believe in Scientology… Because someone told me that my Opperating Theton levels are high”
The exec at the cable company doesn’t want to measure. You don’t want to measure thus you are both true believers.
The science is out there if you ever want to know. For now, the Earth is flat for you. Try not to fall off. And when you get to the edge – call me because I am looking to buy real estate there as I want a view of space from my next house.
nicely said….. Where can I get that t-shirt?
Oh how you live to kick this hornet’s nest. LOL. Wish I’d known you were at AXPONA. Woulda bought you a drink.
I don’t know what came over me (perhaps my 3rd Tito’s?) but on the Wends before AXPONA I just got the urge to go. I FORGOT that I had credits on AA, United and Alaska from canceled trips last year thus I just had to pay for a hotel room. The Peninsula (not close to the show as its downtown) had a great rate and I got to go out for sushi with my Chicago buddies in “the loop” whatever that means.
I was VERY GLAD to go to the show. I made some new friends and saw some key clients. I spent about 5.5 hours there (what SHITTY weather BTW) as I was supposed to play golf at Medinah no. 3 (to add to my US Top 100 list of courses played) but as you know it was like 37 and sleeting. I just did the show and flew home.
I did the whole trip in 33 hours. Crazy but I was glad to be home as the Sunday flights home to LA were lousy.
I hope to see you at the next show and the drinks are on me!!!
I’ll be at RMAF and Capital AF (it’s just too close to miss). Let me know if you plan to attend either!
Any reason I am no longer getting the posts sent to my email ?
If you are referring to the weekly Newsletter, there have been some delivery issues. If you are referring to Disqus, I’ve notice that sometimes the email notifications come hours after a post has been made…
Thanks for your post.
We had a REALLY SHITTY week on the tech front last week as I am guessing you read your email using Outlook.
We switched from Vertical Response Classic interface to their V2 interface. This was so that my YEAR-LONG project to get my CRM to automatically feed our 3rd party email serving company our key data would work automatically via what’s called an API. Nerdy, I know but REALLY helpful. Imagine if Joe Blow as XYZ Audio moves to Screw You Speakers – how do I update that? Manually, now. It will be automated likely this week and that will help us do a better job marketing, selling etc…
With that said, our HTML code for the email works flawlessly on the classic interface. It doesn’t work for Outlook on Windows. It took Level 3 support and 4 days of phone calls and emails to figure out what code was causing the problem. I will be testing this on Monday and likely sending through V2 interface on Tuesday. I will have my developer and VR Level 3 test this ASAP Monday. Wish us luck. I think we have it all good now however.
With that said… We did get Tuesday’s email out via V2 and Thursday’s email out (albeit on Friday) via classic. We didn’t find the code problem until 8 PM PST Friday night thus the need for Monday testing for next week’s email.
I hope this clears things up because as an Apple user and a Gmail.com user – everything worked fine for me last week. Who would expect code that worked PERFECTLY on the Classic interface to NOT work for Outlook on the V2 interface? Not me.
We will get it perfect this week I hope!!!
Its the dam spanish inquisition.
Just let it alone, if people want records then let them listen to them because sound it a matter of taste and oppion no matter how you do the math.
What’s on paper all sounds the same making it a ball.
I have ZERO problem with people playing music back on anything they like. Reel to reel. 78 acitates. Whatever.
My issue is when audiophiles, including a smart exec at a former long time client of ours, telling me that vinyl is high performance. It is NOT. Its provides about 1/2 the dynamic range of master tape at best. It has TONS of 2nd degree harmonic distortion which defeats the point of ever buying fancy electronics from today’s best audiophile companies.
See my example above with the classic 1959 Mercedes SL. The car is to DIE FOR and trust me, I know as a former Porsche Club concourse judge, but don’t tell me that its going to beat a 2018 twin-turbo charged v12 SL-65 AMG in 0-to-anything. It isn’t but that’s the bullshit that was being sold at Axpona, RMAF and at too many stereo stores around the world. JUST because you found some nostalgia to sell more gear to 70-year-olds doesn’t mean its the right thing for a dying business. It isn’t.
Once again, what is your obsession with dynamic range? You act like the only thing that affects sound quality is dynamic range. Ok, let’s look at http://dr.loudness-war.info/. Vinyl almost always is higher. Therefore vinyl is always automatically better? Of course not. But who is actually saying that? You seem to have a different viewpoint on what resolution means. When analog fans talk about resolution, they mean that there are no gaps in the sound waves that have to be dithered to become analog. That doesn’t mean vinyl is perfect. But it is definitely higher res than any digital file.
Because almost all of us are over 18 years old and our ears do not work like a 12 year old.
Let’s take him to a live concert, let him listen to a recording being made at the same time, do both analoug and ditigtal formats, then cut a lp and cd and play back both, then ask his opinion what sounda better, and more real? Becuse none of us have a real clue anymore!
For the record – this is EXACTLY what my degree is in from music school and I have done this test in many venues.
We once went to the Greek Theater to meet with the Steve Miller Band as they were doing a sound check. Note: in this Hollywood Hills neighborhood you must be VERY MINDFUL of the performance volumes thus we tracked this along with learning how in-ear-mixes worked and so much more.
If we recorded the show it would be likely 110 dB. Vinyl can reproduce at its max (a Harman exec suggested as low as 45 dB) 65 dB dynamic range thus if you wanted to hear the dynamics of the show you have NO HOPE with a record pressing. You can try to fake it with EQ but you wont come close. With high bit rate digital – you are good for all of the dynamics. You also wont suffer from the 2nd degree harmonic distortion from the stylus vibrating in the groove of the record which renders your audiophile electronics meaningless because of the high distortion.
NOW – if you want to try to make your argument we could try to rent a professional analog tape machine like used to record MANY of our favorite records from the past. 2-inch tape CAN in fact capture the dynamics of said show. BUT HERE’S YOUR PROBLEMS… a) nobody makes these tape machines any more b) there is no tape to record on anymore and c) LITERALLY NOBODY has said tape machines to playback at home. Compare that to being able to play back easily from any computer and you easily see the difference.
The answer to the question is: the only way in today’s world to capture a musical event live accurately is to record it digitally and play it back digitally.
And when I say digitally – I mean at the highest bit rate and sample rate. In other words using as much digital power as money can buy to be as “analogous” to the musical event as possible without suffering the physical, scientific flaws of a 100 year old format that audiophiles can’t seem to give up.
So 100+ year old things are not as good or better?
Because there are a lot of ticked off people in photograph who cried when
Eastman kodak stoped making Kodachrome film.
I’m sorry Jerry but I’m having fun arguing this point.
But your right on one point both cds and lp take up too much room.
Almost all my music collection is in ditigtal formate in loosless. Its nice to know I dont have to run over flip a lp, or change a disk.
As both those formats have peoblems. I seriously think my cassette tape player belt has perment humps in it from not being used in 20+ years and I’ll even bet my belt driven turntable has the same problems.
But I still have my record collection. It was never all that big anyway.
I only had about 300 lps.
And of them 50 were unrelesed lps made as demos from a recording studio of music in plain white covers with no artwork. From the 70’s
I dont even think I ever played all of them even once.
And I doubt I ever will.
But its still fun to argue my point. And I have heard a record play in the past 5 years
It deffently sounded different then ditigtal, as I recall ditigtal always sounded sysentic to me and vinal sounds real.
Were not talking ampltude or loudness of sound, but feel.
Its the difference of biting into a steak that’s air cured and ones that’s been cured with brine.
The air cured meat lost most of its water content but kept its flavor.
The brine cured steak is unfit to feed dogs. ( dogs should not eat salt)
The time aged meat has a lot more flavor.
This is what the hormonic distortion you talk about flavor. And why people like vinal better.
this puts sound qulity more into prespective then some benz most of us have never had the plesure to ride in or drive. By the way the benz always did have a ride almost no other car came close to ecpt a linclon with air ride shocks.
Both cars gave you a felling of floating down the road.
You don’t get any of the feedback on new cars as most of them are electronicly controled like drive by wire.
What’s the dynamic range of the human ear capable of hearing? Is it closer to that of the HD track? Or that of the vinyl recording? I own no vinyl.
I think the argument is CD’s were never as good as Vinyl LP’s.
I’m Paul McCartney’s 64yrs old and I can still hear the difference.
Listen to remastered Dark side of the moon CD vs original vinyl. Gold vs rock.
Listen to remastered Dark side of the moon CD vs original vinyl. Rock vs gold. You really need to work on how to make an argument.
Your kidding me? You go far left with a disparaging remark against Fox News? You people are disgustingly pathetic! With your bubble headed fake ass world!
Thank God they are slowly starting to die off.
True. HD recordings sound great. Most millennials just went from CD’s to online streaming and head phones making audiophilics and their equipment even rarer.
What does HD mean in specific frequency and sampling rate; 24bit 192K or 15 bit 96K?
What am I listening to on Spotify or Pandora? Not only aren’t you given the digital specifics but the ungodly practice of dating the track by its remastering year instead of the recording date?? Come on..it hearkens back to the mid to late sixties when albums had no year on the label.
I loved DVD audio but it had limited breadth and depth of content. The same will be true of HD tracks and Tidal.
I think vinyl appeals to those who just can’t stand CDs and their under-sampled high frequencies. They are quickly tiring on the ears and I just want to leave them in their jewel box cases.
I’ll be throwing most of mine away, while keeping my 300 – 400 or so LP’s.which I can listen to for hours, second degree HD (sic) or not!
By the way, for those of you pairing the Echo dot with your Audiophile equipment make sure you have a Bluetooth 4.2, low latency receiver. There is fairly good frequency response in 2 channels.
StreamingDigital Pro: With Spotify I can listen to both sides of Nat King Cole’s “Penthouse Serenade” in order with out getting up to flip it over.
StreamingDigital Con: Thomas Dolby and Its a Beautiful Day pulled from Spotify so I still need my vinyl.
The short answer: http://dr.loudness-war.info/
As long as this problem is not taken care of, it is nonsense to spend a fortune on audio gear.
Bullshit. What good is a Bugatti Veyron or some other car that might be able to reach 250MPH on roads that are speed-limited to 65? Sure, bragging rights are fun, but so what, if you’ll never, ever, actually use what you’re bragging about? The fact of it is that a 120 dB dynamic range is simply not present in the overwhelming majority of music, live or recorded, or in the overwhelming number of High-End audio playback systems As proof, consider that in order to reach a 120dB peak, a speaker system that makes 90dB @ 1 Watt/1Meter will require 1000 Watts of input power. How many High End amps do you know of that make anything like that kind of power even instantaneously?
I’m reminded of the old Fulton Premiere speakers that had a “super-dooper” tweeter that crossed-IN at 45K and ran all the way out to 80K. So what? There was not, at the time, any recording technology or playback chain on earth that could handle even the cross-in frequency, so what good did it (or could it) do? Even now, I doubt — even it could be recorded and played back — if there’s any need for 80K reproduction, and if there is, other than to support rise times at lower frequencies (See my past and coming articles in TAS) no none could hear their sonic effect, anyway. And to make huge dynamic range even more superfluous, think about “The Loudness Wars” that have plagued popular music (at least that hoped to be played on the radio) for the last many years. Producers of that kind of music are constantly striving toward LESS dynamic range, in hopes of getting more radio air-play.
What’s of far greater importance than maximum top speed in a car is its styling, its comfort, its usable-speed-handling, and how it performs in the range of operations that it will actually be called upon to deliver. This is said, NOT to tout vinyl, which has its own range of problems, but to point out that the major benefit you claim for digital ISN’T digital’s major benefit — or, except in the very rarest of circumstances, any benefit at all.
There is no such term as ‘HD’ in both audio and video. In sound reproduction there is the CD format solely. CD only requires noise-shaped dither and upsampling to get rid of digital distortion, recover full dynamic range, avoid high-frequency roll-off, make transients clearer.
There is in my world…
Accordingly, quality of digital video is determined by one simple question: is compression applied or not ?
Goodness gracious. Were you beaten with vinyl records as a child? The hatred that is all over this blog for vinyl is crazy. Some people think vinyl sounds better. Some don’t. Do you think your obsession with dynamic range is going to convince anyone that their ears are wrong?