It’s common wisdom that because digital breaks up sound into bits there’s missing information between those bits—information not lost with analog. But is that accurate?
The comparison between the uninterrupted straight line picture of analog and the chunky digital copy might lead us to imagine differences that don’t necessarily exist.
If I were to side with the measurementists I could pretty definitively demonstrate there is nothing measurably missing in a proper digital recording.
If were to then take the opposite side and agree with the analog proponents that correctly point out the audible differences between digital recordings and analog recordings, we would then be at a stalemate.
If nothing is missing in digital what explains the differences in sound quality?
We can say with absolute certainty that a PCM recording of a live music feed sounds different than an analog or DSD recording of the same event.
Yet, it is also true that a PCM recording of the analog playback is nearly indistinguishable from the analog playback.
Tomorrow I am going to suggest what might be going on.
It doesn’t have to make sense
We love things to make sense and fit into neat little boxes so we can manage our view of the world. When they don’t we can take a number of different paths: ignore, anguish, change the story, disbelief, start researching.
We understand that at the heart of 2-channel high-end audio is the goal of doing no harm: the purer the signal, the better the sound. It’s why we make sure there’s perfect power, low distortion, unfettered transient response. We also understand that less is more—the fewer stages a signal has to pass through the better its chance of arriving unscathed.
Which is why it is so maddening that a good preamp placed between the DAC and amplifier sounds better than going direct.
When this statement of fact is presented to people you can almost always categorize their response: agreement from those that have a proper preamp, disbelief from those that don’t, or sometimes anguish and denial because it rubs against the grain of all they know.
The idea that audiophiles often make decisions based on what they hear as opposed to what they “know” is what drives the Objectivists bonkers.
It doesn’t have to make sense.
It just has to sound good.