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Thread: Are records really better than CD's?

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    Audio casualty StevenSurprenant's Avatar
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    Are records really better than CD's?

    Many years ago I used to own an ADC Accutrac turntable with an Audio Technica cartridge. This fed a pair of Phase Linear III speakers through a 80 watt digital display JVC receiver. For this time in audio history (1976), this system was extraordinary, in appearance, functionality, and audio presentation. The speakers, being dipole, created an image around the speakers akin to what many dipole planer people today love. Regretfully, I sold the system, but memories of the sound remain in my mind to this day, which leads to the point of this post.

    Since the world has gone digital, many people still hang onto the idea that analog, i.e. records, remain superior. Well, I'm not so sure. My memories of my old system is that every record sounded very good. The balance of the sound from the lowest to the highest frequencies sounded natural, and every recording was clear. The only real downside, in comparison to today, was a lack of soundstage depth. I assume that was due to having 10 drivers on each channel that were not phased aligned. Well, that's what I remember.

    CD's, while technically superior to records, provide sound quality from the best sound I've heard to ear bleeding noise. In addition, some CD's lack the transparency that I remember so well. On the other hand, Cd's create a sense of depth to almost every recording. What concerns me are the bad CD's. As I said, I've never had a bad sounding record. I realize that my memories of the old system could be jaded. I was at a different time in my audio development and what I remember might not be accurate in reference to what I know today.

    Curiosity got the best of me and I recently began looking into turntables. The pickings seem mighty slim. My old turntable was fully automatic with remote control. As for the sound, I couldn't find fault with it. It was my first decent turntable. Feedback was a non-issue and you could beat on it with almost no sound being heard through the speakers. My next turntable, after this one, was the complete opposite. It had an anti-resonant base and a carbon fiber tone arm, but I was constantly fighting feedback and I didn't dare touch it while it was playing or the the speakers would thump. One of the main differences between the old and the new was that the old had a floating turntable base, the new didn't.

    With that said, It's been a while, but I've heard turntables running in some of the stores and never thought one way or the other about them. The sound didn't jump out at me as superior in any way. I do remember some sounding warm and pleasant, but unnatural. It could have been the system they were in. Moving on...

    It occurred to me that it might be the recording rather than the medium that made one sound better, or worse. I went on utube and listened to people playing the same music, first on CD and then on record. Sometimes the CD sounded better and sometimes the record did. I even read that there were two different mixes, one for CD and one for vinyl. The CD version would be more compressed, hence the record would sound better over a decent system. I also realize that some of the utube comparisons could be biased due to inferior turntables and cartridges. I will add this, Most of the CD's that I own which are copies of the records I've owned sound terrible, to the point of being unlistenable on a quality system. This is the main reason for my interest in records,. I loved my record collection and would like to hear it again, sounding right...

    So...

    The question I'm asking all of you is... Am I barking up the wrong tree and are my expectations unrealistic.

    Moving on to turntables...

    Unlike some people, I believe that an automatic turntable doesn't have to degrade the sound in relation to a manual turntable, that's pure hokum. I would think that people who design turntables put more thought in building a better manual turntable to please the audiophiles and I think audiophiles over analyze the technology. It makes sense that the simpler the system is the less chance that the sound will be influenced by added features and I'm definitely not saying they are technically wrong, but there is a point beyond audibility, i.e. a 100lb platter does not sound better than a 50lb platter. Well, that's just my opinion. Admittedly, I am extremely ignorant about turntables.

    From this point on, understand that my preference is an automatic turntable for a number of reasons. Manual turntables are really cool, but they are not for me.

    Looking at present day turntable offerings (lower priced), I see Audio Technica, Denon, Pro-ject, Technics, Music Hall, and Rega have similar offerings in automatic turntables. I'm sure there are others... None of these have floating bases, but that may be a moot point.

    Does anyone have any opinions of these brands? ...other options?

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    I have been kicking myself in the but since the late 80s when I sold off all my albums and bought my first CDP. Before I did that, I recorded to cassette many of them. I think that many of my cassette recordings of albums sound better than the CD it was replaced with.

    I think the way I can describe it for me is the "emotion" you get from an analog recording vs a digital one. Similar to why seeing a color picture of the same exact spot captured in one of Ansel Adams Black & White photos is lacking all the original emotion that draws you into the picture. In color, the same shot is just another color photo.

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    Oldest join date recoveryone's Avatar
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    This issue can go either way depending on ones view or preference of warmth or clarity. Vinyl has that history of warmth and depth, but CD's are only second to Hi res recordings in clarity and I am one for clarity. I like hearing fingers running along an acoustic guitar or standing bass, hearing the singer voice have slight pitch changes.
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    Phila combat zone JoeE SP9's Avatar
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    I guess I'm a hair shirt audiophile. None of the TT's I've ever had or were interested in have been automatics.

    A large heavy platter takes advantage of the flywheel effect. It has less wow and flutter and greater speed stability than a lower mass (lighter) one. However, there is more to it than the weight of the platter.

    Suspended or lack of are two differing schools of TT design. Thorens, Michell and Linn (for example) make very good suspended TT's. VPI, Clearaudio and Project make very good non suspended TT's. Each type has it's proponents and detractors. You have to decide for yourself which is for you, preferably after auditioning both types.

    As for the sound quality. It's the recording and the care used in transferring it to the medium. I have great sounding vinyl and I have bad sounding vinyl. The same applies to CD's.

    As far as the sound of a TT jumping out, if it does that would be a TT I don't want. Just as speakers that jump out are not the ones you want, a TT is much the same.

    For type (belt or DD) I'm a belt drive person. I've owned a VPI TT since the late 80's. It started out as a HW-19Jr. Over the years it's been brought to higher than HW-19 specs with new platter, bearing, motor and SDS speed control. The original Audioquest tonearm has been replaced with a rewired Rega with new weight, stub, wiring and VTA adjuster. I've been nothing but satisfied with it. Needless to say I recommend VPI as a quality product that has superb manufacturer support.

    JM may chime in about his Rega TT. His history with Rega in many ways mirrors mine with VPI and I'm certain he's just as enthusiastic.

    Frankly I don't think much of current Denon, Technics or Audio Tecknica TT's. Music Hall and ProJect IMO are worth a look.

    Lastly, I want to thank all of you who sold or got rid of your LP's when "perfect sound forever" came out. You helped me to acquire a boat load of LP's at fire sale prices.
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    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevenSurprenant View Post
    Since the world has gone digital, many people still hang onto the idea that analog, i.e. records, remain superior.
    It is unfair to lump all the myriad digital formats together. Redbook vs. analog is a mixed bag. Each has its advantages. Since digital is essentially a connect-the-dots picture, its just a matter of getting enough dots to sufficiently fool the senses. Its a shame the industry doesn't release ALL content in 24/192 (or better).

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenSurprenant View Post
    Unlike some people, I believe that an automatic turntable doesn't have to degrade the sound in relation to a manual turntable, that's pure hokum.
    I begin at the other end of the chain. With the cartridge. The Transducer. My experience for the past forty years - along with working at a hi-fi shop and having access to hearing a wide range of models with my reviewer friends is that moving coil cartridges are ultimately superior to moving magnet designs. The next question becomes: how can a given cartridge realize its ultimate performance level. Now the discussion is about tonearms. I've gone through quite a few over the years, some of which were optimized for high compliance cartridges while others were designed for lower compliance cartridges.

    It is here where I've never experienced an automatic turntable that had a sufficiently good tonearm. Like Joe, I favor belt drive designs and have used an Ariston RD-11s (cousin to Linn Sondek LP-12) for the past forty years. I also have a VPI Scout which now lives in the main system.

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenSurprenant View Post
    From this point on, understand that my preference is an automatic turntable for a number of reasons. Manual turntables are really cool, but they are not for me.
    While they can stop at end of record, one still has to change each and every record. The *luxury* of not having to cue the arm at EOD doesn't provide enough of a lure to me to greatly sacrifice performance.

    I live in a dual universe - both my music systems use manual turntables and computer based digital playback systems that can be controlled by an iPhone.

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    I bought this Technics SL-1300 automatic new in 1978 and at the time it cost more than the SL-1200 manual. I love the convience of an automatic and don't think I would listen to vinyl as much if I had to use a manual table. The memo-repeat function is terrific for the 45 LP's that play through so quickly.


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    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    For those who want an automatic turntable, I'd probably recommend a refurbished Dual 1229 or similar from someone like fixmydual.com . I have one. In the world of new automatics, there's the Denon DP-300F, which I think is fine. There are also the old Technics models, like my SL-7 linear tracker and the SL-1300 mentioned above.

    As for brands like Pro-Ject, Music Hall and Rega...I have owned a Music Hall MMF-5. I currently own a Pro-Ject Debut III and a Rega P5. All are fine turntables. They work well and sound great. With my P5 and Benz wood LO MC cartridge, I hear sound quality that I couldn't match with digital until I sucked it up and spent a grand on a CD player...a model that was marked down from $2,400 as a demo/closeout.

    But I'm not a digital skeptic. That story about digital being connect-the-dots or stair-stepped or business like that...not hardly. Unless maybe you're referring to lossey files. Redbook and lossless are reconstructed audio that captures everything below 22k Hz...not snapshots. And despite being a devotee of my record collection, it's because LPs are what I have. I chose to never start my collection over. It remains majority analog, as my CD count never overtook my LP count.

    Anyway, like I said...to anyone who wants an automatic turntable I'd recommend refurbished older ones. For those who can tolerate manual operation, Rega, Pro-Ject and Music Hall can be quite good...as can SOTA, VPI, Well Tempered and other quality manufacturers.





    Last edited by 02audionoob; 09-04-2012 at 09:12 PM.
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    RGA
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    The merits of the technology aside - I personally go with what happens when the play button is pushed and try to keep apples to apples - 2 channel to 2 channel.

    Since SACD has crappy selection it doesn't matter if it's better - I'd rather compare formats where there are close to 200,000 albums available on both - not 7,000 or less.

    The high end community clearly clearly clearly CLEARLY sides with vinyl replay over CD. And by community I mean the manufacturers and most audiophiles willing to put up with the pain in the ass vinyl replay system.

    At the recent California Audio show with my 24/192khz mastered HD discs playing in top flight expensive CD players - I listened was impressed. Then another fellow put on a very old Chet recording on vinyl and it destroyed my disc. Don't get me wrong, technically this is an impressive CD - plenty of rooms inquired to get it. It's a 30 minute test disc followed by the Four Seasons.

    Personally out of my collection - my vinyls tend to be superior even with electronic music - the DJ's kept vinyl going.

    CD sounds "cleaner" in terms of no surface noise, pops, clicks and so it's not all roses for vinyl. Turntables tend to cost a lot more before they sound good. For instance, if I kept my Rega P2 clone (NAD 533) then I frankly would have stuck with CD (applies to the P3 too). They're not good enough IME to make the hassle worthwhile. I also didn't want to screw around with the old, albeit, famous models.

    As for suspended versus not - it depends on how good a job they do of it. And IME either way the more you pay the better they get. That's actually a "good" thing about turntables, arms and carts is that you do actually hear the difference readily. Not so much with digital. Suspended designs are easily impacted by foot falls - if your floors are made of wood they're not the way to go. You have to buy some sort of wall mount - pain.

    PS: Tape sounded better again at CAS but selection is so poor that it's basically a toy to use to impress friends how good tape is.

    Hi res Digital may be the way ahead but the popular market decides - not the niche - and they're not interested in quality - they're interested in storing a billion songs into a device the size of a credit card played through $1 headphones. And the recording engineers (and/or) their handlers (marketing departments) aren't interested in producing quality recordings - just loud ones. In which case the format playing it back is irrelevant.

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    There are still more SACD titles available especially in jazz and classical to keep me buying them for the rest of my life.

    IMO the convenience of CD/SACD trumps any sonic advantages of vinyl. I have a record washing machine that is such a PITA to use that I don't. I'm impatient to hear music and the ritualistic extended foreplay of cleaning and handling do nothing for me. My DIY needs are satisfied in other ways but I believe many do crave the hands-on and visual seduction that vinyl offers.

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    I spend more time looking at this Dual than playing it.


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    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 02audionoob View Post
    That story about digital being connect-the-dots or stair-stepped or business like that...not hardly.
    Perhaps you're not aware that Redbook uses 1.411,200 *dots* (bits) per second to reconstruct the analog waveforms. It works pretty well except for the very top and at lower levels where the word size shrinks and the number of available dots goes down.

    That's why higher resolution formats like DSD64, DSD128, 24/96, 24/192 and DXD more closely duplicate the mic feed. More dots, er bits!

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    Audio casualty StevenSurprenant's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone. I appreciate your feedback, however, I'm still confused. With that said...

    I've been listening online to comparisons between vinyl and CD's and I think I have a handle on it. It all depends on the quality of the recorded material and that ultimately determines which one sounds better.

    It doesn't stop there...

    Assuming that a CD and a record are equal as to the quality of the recording, then the quality of the playback equipment determines which one is better.

    If someone believes that their records usually sounds better, improving their digital front end might close the gap and perhaps surpass the record.... Or the other way around!

    Does that sound about right to you guys?

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    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevenSurprenant View Post
    Thanks everyone. I appreciate your feedback, however, I'm still confused. With that said...

    I've been listening online to comparisons between vinyl and CD's and I think I have a handle on it. It all depends on the quality of the recorded material and that ultimately determines which one sounds better.

    Does that sound about right to you guys?

    How does one compare cd's and vinyl online? I would think that would be far removed from listening directly to a system with cd player and turntable?

    I grew up listening to vinyl so I may be accused of favoring it over digital. Vinyl has always sounded good to me and my first cd player was horrific. Today I have a heavily modded Rega Planar 2 which sounds very good and I own tha Marantz SA 8001 which at one time was a Stereophile Class A component.

    In my modest but decent system I have to say that vinyl to my ears has better imaging, soundstaging and ambiance. Neither sounds like music being performed live but vinyl has more a natural sound, more three dimensional not just in soundstage but with individual vocalists and instruments.

    I prefer vinyl but I have to admit that unless I have time to sit and enjoy I toss in a cd and do things around the place. I sit and listen to vinyl and visualize the band or orchestra. I find it easier to immerse myself in the music with vinyl than I do with cd's.
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    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat View Post
    Perhaps you're not aware that Redbook uses 1.411,200 *dots* (bits) per second to reconstruct the analog waveforms. It works pretty well except for the very top and at lower levels where the word size shrinks and the number of available dots goes down.

    That's why higher resolution formats like DSD64, DSD128, 24/96, 24/192 and DXD more closely duplicate the mic feed. More dots, er bits!
    Yes...technically speaking, I'll concede that point.

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    Audio casualty StevenSurprenant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnMichael View Post
    How does one compare cd's and vinyl online? I would think that would be far removed from listening directly to a system with cd player and turntable?
    No doubt it lacks something, but for most the examples I listened to, the differences were very apparent. Keep in mind that the utube posters would play the record and then the CD of the same recording, so it was more of a comparison rather than straight out listening. Besides I listened to it with Grado headphones.

    You might question the fidelity over utube, but listen to this: Rega P3-24 Dave Brubeck's Take Five - YouTube

    This makes me want to get a Rega P3 and the Brubeck Take Five album... Sound like this would be worth buying into vinyl!

    BTW, I also realize that some of the turntables and cartridges in these video's were not that good. In most of the comparisons, the CD's sounded harsh, but clear, compared to the records and the records sounded dull. I took many of the comparisons with a grain of salt because I remember records sounding much better.

    Anyway, the next step is to listen to live.

    Addendum - I went to Amazon and listened to the mp3 of Brubeck's song and it sounded anemic in comparison to the link I provided above, with a much greater difference than I normally associate between CD and mp3. For now I will assume that the Rega's rendition is better than a normal CD. I've also heard of people recording records onto CD's and the results sound more like the record rather than a store bought CD. That makes sense to me since I was listening to a digital copy of the Rega's output.
    Last edited by StevenSurprenant; 09-06-2012 at 02:15 AM.

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    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    It's hard to explain but for me vinyl just has a smoothness that I have not heard from Many digital players...records sound more natural toned than CD's but a very good CDP Can give you a more analog sound....the Marantz Reference CDP are very good at sounding like vinyl. In order to get the digital edge off of a CD, you have to get a very good CDP in my opinion..and that can cost more than a good TT. I grew up with records so for me there is much fun in taking out the record, running a brush across the record, and needle, dropping the arm and sitting back and reading the cover...and then getting up to turn over the record...And then looking forward to the next record to do it all over again....much fun.
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    Audio casualty StevenSurprenant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frenchmon View Post
    I grew up with records so for me there is much fun in taking out the record, running a brush across the record, and needle, dropping the arm and sitting back and reading the cover...and then getting up to turn over the record...And then looking forward to the next record to do it all over again....much fun.
    I completely understand this!

    I didn't have a large collection (back in the day), but I loved everything I had. I cherished every one of them and treated them like a new born baby. I didn't have a pop or scratch on any of them, but eventually, all of them were ruined because I lent them out.

    I remember getting off of work, placing a record on the platter, and sitting back in awe with what I heard.

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    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevenSurprenant View Post
    I completely understand this!

    I didn't have a large collection (back in the day), but I loved everything I had. I cherished every one of them and treated them like a new born baby. I didn't have a pop or scratch on any of them, but eventually, all of them were ruined because I lent them out.

    I remember getting off of work, placing a record on the platter, and sitting back in awe with what I heard.
    Its all part of the Vinyl experience....I can enjoy records in a way I can never enjoy digital. The cohesiveness of the sound that can never be had with CD, and the natural tone and musicality you would have to pay twice as much for a CDP to get what a good vinyl rig can do in my opinion. But there are trade offs...with CD you can FF or reverse skip or whatever....you cant do that with records without getting out your easy chair. I got rid of my records in the 80's at the advent of CD's. I bought into all the hype back then and continued all the way up to about 2 or 3 years ago. Yes I had not heard vinyl for years until my wife surprised me with a TT. The moment I set it up, and dropped that needle my ears could hear the difference in vinyl and digital. I had made a full 360.
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    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    Wow this record is better than cd's.The vinyl is very quiet and the music is beautiful.
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  20. #20
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    Records verses CD.. the debate continues on

    From a pure technical standpoint, the CD format is a better format clobbering vinyl in both dynamic range and lack of background noise. However, that does not mean that every CD will out perform vinyl. Matter of fact, many vinyl recordings will clobber its CD counterpart. It all depends on the recording engineer behind the scenes. I have examples in my collection where vinyl clobbers its CD counterpart of the same recording and visa versa. Its not a black and white win for either medium.

    The one thing that vinyl has going for it over CD is a sense involvement with the music. The ritual cleaning of teh record before every play, the lowering/raising of the tone arm, flipping the vinyl over and being able to read the line notes without a magnifying glass all adds to the fun and involvemnt of playing vinyl. I hope both formats stay around as both have their strengths.

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    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnMichael View Post
    Wow this record is better than cd's.The vinyl is very quiet and the music is beautiful.
    That recording is in the top 50 best vinyl recordings...its worth the money....but I have a lot of records that are better than CD's.
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    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frenchmon View Post
    That recording is in the top 50 best vinyl recordings...its worth the money....but I have a lot of records that are better than CD's.

    My friend I would love a link to that list.
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    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnMichael View Post
    My friend I would love a link to that list.
    JM...I dont have a list I only read it here.


    Adagio D'Albinoni

    Could be marketing spin..but its a outstanding recording.
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    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3db View Post
    Records verses CD.. the debate continues on

    From a pure technical standpoint, the CD format is a better format clobbering vinyl in both dynamic range and lack of background noise. However, that does not mean that every CD will out perform vinyl. Matter of fact, many vinyl recordings will clobber its CD counterpart. It all depends on the recording engineer behind the scenes. I have examples in my collection where vinyl clobbers its CD counterpart of the same recording and visa versa. Its not a black and white win for either medium.

    The one thing that vinyl has going for it over CD is a sense involvement with the music. The ritual cleaning of teh record before every play, the lowering/raising of the tone arm, flipping the vinyl over and being able to read the line notes without a magnifying glass all adds to the fun and involvemnt of playing vinyl. I hope both formats stay around as both have their strengths.
    I have listened to lots of CD's as well as SACD's, and I have yet to hear either that has better musicality than a good vinyl pressing on a good rig.
    Music...let it into your soul and be moved....with Canton...Pure Music


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  25. #25
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist View Post
    There are still more SACD titles available especially in jazz and classical to keep me buying them for the rest of my life.

    IMO the convenience of CD/SACD trumps any sonic advantages of vinyl. I have a record washing machine that is such a PITA to use that I don't. I'm impatient to hear music and the ritualistic extended foreplay of cleaning and handling do nothing for me. My DIY needs are satisfied in other ways but I believe many do crave the hands-on and visual seduction that vinyl offers.
    You should only have to clean a vinyl once - once it's clean and you store it in a lint free half decent sleeve it should not need to go through a disc cleaner again.

    If you are lucky you live near a quality shop selling second hand vinyl that has cleaned all the records for you.

    I have a VPI and I rarely need to use - never when I buy it from Fascinating Rythms in Nanaimo (incidentally the store Diana Krall shops at to buy her vinyls (yes Diana listens to Vinyl mainly).

    And there are some makers of top end vinyl rigs who claim their machines will dig through the gunk and play well whether it's clean or not.

    I use the VPI for brand new records and for stuff I pick up at the recycling center.

    As for static - simply put a bounce dryer sheet between every third to fifth vinyl (not touching the vinyl but just between albums) and you never have to fiddle with zero stat guns or the like.

    Bounce sheets are dirt cheap.

    I'd love to go to hi-res but unfortunately 99.5% of my music collection isn't available on those formats. My feeling is that within 5 years NOBODY will sell a machine that can play a SACD and no one will be releasing any content on that format.

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