Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

For those that would like an explanation of how vinyl and digital differ, here is what Paul has to say about this.

It would see from what he says that it would be impossible for vinyl to sound better than digital, but I and my Audiophile buddies know that this isn’t always true. In  fact, it’s often not true at all.

It’s all in the recording  and now Paul…..


Apples to…

It’s easy to mistake one thing for another.

In yesterday’s post I mentioned liking vinyl vs. digital was a matter of personal taste. Fair enough, but multiple readers wrote suggesting the superiority of one vs. the other still existed, as if those opinions were based on the fact that we were comparing apples to apples—something we’re clearly not doing.

The source material for vinyl is often different than that of digital audio. Mastering engineers routinely master one way for phonograph records, another for digital.

A major consideration for vinyl mastering is making sure the playback needle tracks properly, and what engineers place on the record works well with the cutting lathe limitations. Higher frequencies (as well as dynamics) are tough for cutting lathes. Vinyl groove width, measured in microns, can get pretty small as the frequency gets higher, challenging playback tracking. There are other problems as well. As frequency rises, the cutting head of the record lathe takes increasing amounts of power—power that has its limits. To accommodate these limitations, overall level as well as high frequency content is truncated on vinyl masters—often with multiband limiters.

Digital audio hasn’t the same limitations as vinyl, but it is not without its own restrictions. The one thing you can’t tolerate in a digital recording is clipping – not even a little bit. So much of the heralded dynamics of digital are wasted when levels are turned down or compressors are added to make sure nothing clips. And we don’t want frequencies over 20kHz upsetting things either.

There are certainly examples of the same master used for both, but how often are mastering techniques spelled out for listeners? In my 40 years of playing with hi fi I have never seen this info published.

Truth is, each format has its merits and problems.

Make mine the most musical.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Today, Paul writes about Perfection in audio, whether it’s 2 channel or Home Theater sound, but this is probably applicable for many things. He asks which is better LP’s or digital, digital being CD’s and computer generated music.

Well, from my personal experience, I’d say that my best LP probably sounds better than my best digital. However, I listen to more digital than LP’s due to the excellent sound quality and unmatched convenience of poking my iPad and having instant gratification with over 20,000 songs to choose from, which can be played in an instant..

Using the iPad, which resides in a different room than my stereo, yet connects via USB, I can decide want I want to hear, without having to get up. Lazy, yes, but also very cool…

To listen to an LP, I bend down and pick out a record I want to listen to, clean it, play half a record, get back up, switch it over, listen and get up again to keep it from making terrible noises as it its the lead out groove of the LP. Not hard work to be sure and kind of fun, at least sometimes.

Digital may not sound as good in general terms, but records are noisier and most people that hear my stereo playing digital would not even think that there is better to be had and often times, I agree with them.

Now Paul….

It’s personal

Yesterday’s post about perfection sparked spirited debate in the comments section. Excellent. My hope in writing these posts is to get people thinking, talking, discussion, arguing, whatever. Anything but sitting on our collective duffs and not engaging. As a community, I think it’s important we engage with each other in good natured, spirited debate—not the kind of back biting we see on television debates (cough), but debates with strong opinions expressed in the hopes of learning and growing.

We learn when we open up and share strong held opinions and are brave enough to express and defend them. Some will agree with our views, others will not. But, when we share, something magical happens. A community member might throw a piece of new thought—evidence to the contrary or in support of your worldview—and that small nugget of wisdom might help you turn a corner you needed to turn. Or not.

Perhaps here’s something of the sort I am referring to.

Vinyl vs. digital.

Can we agree that both have merits?

I know there are strongly held opinions to the opposite, denying there is any value to the one vs. the other. But I believe that view is too strongly held and inaccurate.

Few of us argue the technical differences, the limitations of each format, or the benefits. But where we might differ is in the advantages of one over the other.

For example, digital’s superior dynamic range is important to me and my listening habits. I simply find it difficult to overcome the longing for real dynamics like you find in music. But turn that around for a moment. I have listened to excellent vinyl systems whose music makes me swoon with pleasure.

Which is right?


It’s personal.