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Finally got a decent TT... My opinion on digital vs vinyl

Discussion in 'audio' started by ThELiZ, Aug 15, 2012.

  1. ThELiZ

    ThELiZ pfm Member

    Hi everyone.

    I just thought I'd take a moment to share my opinions with you regarding the age old (often heated) debate of vinyl vs cd (digital).

    Please bear in mind that these are MY opinions, and are not meant to be seen to offend anybody or say that one format is better than the other.

    I have grown up in the digital age (I'm 26) and have had very few run ins with vinyl. What I had heard from going into hifi shops always pleased me. I was never blown away by the sound quality, but always found it pleasing. I always found it interesting.

    After become slightly disillusioned with listening to music, by which I mean that I just put it on instead of listening to it, I decided to look into vinyl. I really like the idea of physically having something and having to go through the ritual of playing it. After finally stumping up the cash, I got myself to a turntable demo of the new Rega RP6 & Exact cartridge. This was all fed through a Rega Brio-R into Kef LS50. Let me just say here and now that the LS50s are my favourite speakers I have ever heard/owned, and I have owned speakers costing more that twice as much. More on this later.

    The sound was enjoyable. Very open, lots of space around the instruments and a lush, warm tone that was very pleasing. I knew I wanted one!

    The problem was, I was not cross referencing the sound with a digital setup. Considering this venture was to move me on from digital, I really should have tried demoing against another setup.

    I pulled the trigger. I purchased the whole setup. I needed a whole new setup as I had sold mine a few months back after needing some cash.

    Everything was set up at the shop, all I had to do was put the platter on and away I go! I had washed and cleaned all my records that I had been collecting for the arrival of this day. All in great condition. The first album I listened to was a new copy of Radiohead's 'OK Computer'... Jeesh. It sounded so dull and boring. Completely lifeless. It would have sounded better on my Aiwa all in one system from back in my teens! I thought that it must have been the record. Poorly pressed. I then put on an album that I knew sounded fantastic. Steely Dan's 'Aja'. Phew! All was sounding very sweet. Lovely, and warm, open and great timing. I was happy.

    Record after record was played, most of which sounded good, a few sounded great. Equally, a few sounded pretty bad. Still, this can be said for various digital copies of albums. It's all down to production and mastering.

    All in all I was very happy. Until... I have some vinyl rips stored in flac format on my PC. I have a good DAC soundcard from Cantatis Audio. Now, I have demoed this card against a Rega DAC in the past and could honest to God not hear anything that would make me think it was worth 'upgrading'. Possibly heard a deeper bass being produced, but this was probably my brain telling me so considering I had read a review stating that it's bass performance was impressive and could thump well. The power of the mind. I had 2 other people with me who could tell absolutely nothing apart between the two DACs. Anyway, I digress, the main point was that I had some vinyl rips of LPs that I owned. I thought it would be interesting to see how they A/B'd against each other...

    Hmm. I switched from input 1 to input 5 (DAC). Both tracks playing at the same time. I could hear no real difference. Honestly, nothing stood out at all. To me, they both sounded the same. They both sounded... Great! Still, what is the point in spuffing £998 on a TT setup if it sounds no different to a vinyl rip coming from your DAC?!

    I had to try something else. The thing I should have tried in the demo room. I played some digital music. It sounded incredible. It really did. So detailed, so rich, with a hint of warmth in there too. It was beautiful, tight. Just what I had always wanted. It turns out, in my opinion, what I was hearing in that demo room, was the incredible sound of the Rega Brio-R and Kef LS50. Such an incredible combination!

    I also performed some tests of digital vs vinyl records. Namely, Pink Floyd's The Wall. 2011 CD remaster vs an old pressing that belonged to my father. I cleaned it up a treat and got it spinning. Through the vinyl player the sound was very pleasing. I enjoyed it. It had all of the characteristics I originally described. I then switched inputs to the 2011 remaster... It blew me away! So engaging, so tonally perfect. It was a sound that I was very happy with.

    Let it be known that I am not saying one format is better than the other. I just preferred the sounds of the digital in my setup. Don't get me wrong, the RP6 sounded great. I can easily see why people like love vinyl. I still do. It's just that I can get the same sound from a vinyl rip. So, really, I have no need for it. In all honesty, cleaning all of the records is annoying me already!

    So, here are my thoughts...

    Both formats have their rightful place. One is not better than the other, I just happen to prefer digital (when it's mastered well). They just do things differently. I would love to keep the RP6, but I cannot warrant having it now. I will be taking the demo unit back to the shop and cancelling my order. I will, however, be keeping the Brio-R and Kef LS50 speakers. Superb combo!

    Look forward to other people's comments. I would love to talk more on this. I'm fed up of writing right now!

  2. Gaius

    Gaius Trade: Stiletto by Tangerine

    Have to say I heard the little KEF LS50s yesterday, brilliant speaker for the money, loved them and a nice nod to the LS3/5A.
  3. tdiddey

    tdiddey pfm Member

    You really need to hear the RP6 with better cartridge IMO. Dig the
    Rega tables but the MM cartridges...eh!Though the Exact is the best
    of their MM's. Try a Dynavector 10x5 or 20xH or maybe the dealer could
    make another suggestion.

  4. dudywoxer

    dudywoxer pfm Member

    without a deck, where are your vinyl rips coming from?
  5. Mr_Sukebe

    Mr_Sukebe pfm Member

    Good on you for making your own decision. Shouldn't really matter a stuff what we prefer.

    I did try a fairly cheap (Walker CJ55) deck against my digital solution a couple of years ago. Whilst the deck did some things well, on the same tracks, my digital version walked all over it in many areas, and that's before you even got to ease of use (as I use a streamer). So I certainly do NOT believe that it's cut and dried.

    For all that, I've heard some expensive vinyl solutions, and do think that if your system is optimised for it, that it CAN be the best sounding medium around.

    Right now, I believe the easiest thing is to buy your kit based upon the medium on which your music is available. If all your favourite music is on vinyl, pointless having the most amazing digital source available.
  6. Gaius

    Gaius Trade: Stiletto by Tangerine

    tdiddey makes a good point above, the RP6 is a great player and deserves a better cart, I used one for a bit with a Clearaudio Aurum MMwhich made a very enjoyable combination.
  7. sean99

    sean99 pfm Member

    I agree with the OP. I've never heard vinyl do anything that digital can't do. I only own a turntable because of my age and because I have quite a few albums on LP, but I don't buy into vinyl being superior to digital. Both can sound good, both can sound awful. In the end it's the recording and mastering that makes the biggest difference. If I were 26 there's no way I'd be buying a turntable unless there was music I wanted to listen to that was unavailable on digital.
  8. ThELiZ

    ThELiZ pfm Member

    I did wonder whether a 10x5 could do a better job for me, but tbh, I can't afford to buy a new phono stage to use with it. It just seems like a lot of money to get the performance of my digital setup.
  9. ThELiZ

    ThELiZ pfm Member

    Completely agree. Both can sound good or awful.

    It is nice to watch it spinning around though :)
  10. Gaius

    Gaius Trade: Stiletto by Tangerine

    You can use the 10x5 through the MM stage in the Rega and it is a lot better. ;)
  11. john & Jake

    john & Jake Jake was smarter than me

    Vinyl fans make a lot of the physical pleasure of handling a record and placing it on a turntable.
    I thought it was a bit of a chore to be honest.
    Trying to be so careful taking it from the sleeve that it was easy to drop it.
    Checking it for dust, getting the dust brush out.
    Carefully lowering the stylus which sometimes plopped off the edge.
    Dashing back to the sweet spot seat before it started and....... relax.

    click, pop, click, any comparison to live music is dashed as live music is devoid of dust and scratches.

    No, I now get pleasure from handling a silver disc that at least looks like it belongs in this century and pressing the remote when seated and hearing the black bits, completely black. Never have I been more satisfied with music.:)
  12. Alan Brown

    Alan Brown Registered LUser

    I'm glad you have found your own conclusion and stuck to it - well done.

    We were talking about this on AudioChews this week - and the received wisdom that vinyl is better than digital...as you say, both formats have their place, both can be done well or badly, and more to the point - both require a little forethought and a certain level of investment to get right. Digital has often not received this, being seen as plug'n'play - [irony]and it all sounds the same anyway[/irony]...not a fair crack of the whip IMO.

    Don't get me wrong, no one needs to spend a fortune on either approach to get excellent results, but careful thought or good luck is needed.

    By far the largest contributing factor to SQ is mastering on the recording anyway, and much of the well mastered stuff out there was cut to vinyl (though not all). Having either source, or deciding to invest in both is most likely a factor of what format your preferred music is available in.
  13. Alco

    Alco pfm Member

    Interesting story and experience, ThELiZ.

    I've heard some raving words about the new KEF LS50's, which makes me curious towards these speakers.
    Too bad they're soooo ugly, imho. (well, at least the gold/copper coloured woofer...the person who decided to place that unit into the LS50 cabinet should be fired immediately!) ;)

    Your experience with vinyl through a Rega TT and a vinyl-rip of the same album, reflects a similar experience I had once.
    When I had a Rega Planar 3 with Goldring G1042 I ripped 1 LP.
    (Carmel - 'The drum is everything') To my big surprise the vinyl-rip, burned to CD sounded very, very similar to the original.
    (no, I don't mean the clicks and pops) ;) It's one of the best sounding CD-rips I now have.

    Would be nice to see a picture of your system, with the Brio-R and LS50's. :)
    (would that be possible, here or in the systempics 2012 topic ?)

    (I also have a Brio-R and despite the looks of the KEF LS50 I might consider giving them a try, but I wonder how far they'd have to be placed from a backwall)

    Enjoy your lovely new purchases! :)

  14. Robert

    Robert Tapehead

    I've been sitting on my hands a bit as the last thing you need is someone being critical of a new toy but I'll say this as nicely and diplomatically as possible.

    Rega make some great turntables and arms.
    They produce a range of MM cartridges and the Exact is the best of the bunch.

    However, the choice of cartridge will be seriously hampering this potentially excellent system. At the nearest opportunity, replace the Exact with a Denon DL110 (£130), Ortofon M2 Black (£400) or perhaps Audio Technica OC9 (£400).
    The latter is a low output MC and requires a MC input or step up transformer.

    All will improve on the rather diffuse and splashy sounding Exact.

    If you are anywhere near London and want to hear what a decent MC cartridge (or MM for that matter) can do, drop me a PM and I'll pop one on your RP6 and let you decide.
  15. john & Jake

    john & Jake Jake was smarter than me

    I have only spent a little more than £400 on my digital system but I have chosen carefully and modded a little (tailoring) and never been happier.
    As you say Cd's have always been marketed mis-leadingly Drilled holes, jam etc, definitely not plug and play, but with a little care a first class system can be had for no money.

    Slightly modded Philips cd 940 Modded chinese DAC Quad 33 pre wired almost straight through and regulated Linn LK280 Heybrook HB2's (Kevlar coned type)
    just over 400 quid.:)
  16. ThELiZ

    ThELiZ pfm Member

    Yes, I must say that I thought I would like the odd pop and click here or there. But hen I hear it, it kind of takes me away from the music. I almost try to listen for another one!

    Having a nice black background is great, for sure.
  17. sonddek

    sonddek pfm Member

    There might be a lesson to be learned here. IMO a record brush is probably a good way to ensure clickety-pop vinyl hell. I used to use a carbon fibre brush back in the 80's but gave up pretty quickly when I began to suspect it was making things worse. My advice for a solution to this problem is to clean your records once with PVA, zerostat them whenever necessary, and clean your stylus with safety match abrasive or the green stuff. I have a great many 25 year-old records which sound as good as new.
  18. ThELiZ

    ThELiZ pfm Member

    Ha, well actually I do enjoy the look of the LS50s, and so does my partner. So that's a plus!

    I will certainly try and get a picture of them put up soon. I would ideally like a new rack first :).

    Yes, vinyl rips, as I mentioned earlier, really do sound very good through my DAC. Pretty much indistinguishable from the vinyl.

    Hmm, I am at a loss now. I was all set on sending this RP6 back. £998 is a lot of money for me. A different cartridge would really have to wow me.

    What about the Dynavector 10x5 into my Rega Brio-R? I thought it was a MC cartridge?

    I'll read up on the Denon, too.

    Thanks for all the replies.
  19. Alan Brown

    Alan Brown Registered LUser

    Stunning result! :) Would be even better without dem CDs... ;) I m sold on rips and streaming myself.

    This thread is making the point nicely for both sides - we now see suggestions that a little more careful thought and investment on the analogue side will bring improvements that are really worthwhile. I dare say the same may be applicable true on the digital side also, though I don't know the equipment under discussion.
  20. Erocka2000

    Erocka2000 pfm Member

    It's a high output MC which has an output similar to an MM. You can use it with an MM phono stage with no problems.

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