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Thread: Analog vinyl records are not more accurate than digital.

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    Analog vinyl records are not more accurate than digital.

    So since I ended up contributing to taking a thread off-topic (sorry) and the other poster said he wouldn't mind talking about this in a different thread I'm now posting it here. Basically he referred to the following article: "Is the sound on vinyl records better than on CDs or DVDs?"



    My contention is that the article isn't just incomplete, it is straight out misleading. Here are things that ticked me off:



    1. "Distortion"

    The distortion it talks about is addressed in two ways. First frequency dependent distortion is addressed through filtering. The sharp edges in the graph are essentially just high frequencies. By inserting a filter and cutting them out when reconstructing the waveform (digital-to-analog) that problem is solved. The other issue is the number of bits used per sample to describe the amplitude of the signal at that point. The thing is however that the article doesn't point out that adding more bits doesn't increase the amount of steps to describe the same limited range of amplitudes, it instead extends the dynamic range. A 16-bit system has a potential dynamic range of 96dB and a 24-bit system 144dB. The latter would have been "more accurate" if it still had 96dB but represented it with more steps, but that's not the case.

    And so the question here isn't so much about the accuracy of what's captured as it is what we want to capture. Do we need increased dynamic range? Do we need increased frequency range? The former is pointless since the practical dynamic range allows for signals to go from disappearing into the combined noise floor of the playback system + acoustic space all the way up to damaging our hearing. We don't need more than that I think. And the latter would take us beyond what is recognized as being the limits of human hearing at our peak, roughly speaking. Or in other words; what's the use of playing back frequencies only our dogs can hear?


    2. "A vinyl record has a groove carved into it that mirrors the original sound's waveform. This means that no information is lost."

    This is just plain inaccurate (assuming "the original sound" is what went into the microphone). While there is arguably no "great amount" of information lost when taking a signal and "carving it into vinyl" the issue is really what happens before that is done in the mastering process. In order to control the needle not only is audio filtering (cutting out and/or attenuating frequencies) taking place but so is dynamic compression - before the groove is "carved". So yeah, "information is lost", it's just that it happens before what's left is carved into the disc.



    I wouldn't normally start a thread to just diss a random article, but since it was brought up and was misleading and this is the section about "audiophilia" I thought it was worthwhile pointing this out.

    Any additional thoughts/comments are welcome.
    Last edited by MattiasNYC; 07-04-2013 at 05:14 AM.
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    I gotta disagree with your way of thinking. Cd's have their advantages such as you cant play a record while out for a jog or in your car as well but a good recording on vinyl just cannot be accurately replaced on a cd or mp3.

    The stereo separation is superior on vinyl. You can actually pinpoint where the musician is playing in the band, cd's just are not as good at the task.

    Nuances are more detailed on vinyl, musical depth is more realistic.

    Im not trying to knock cd's i listen to them all the time and im not the only one who can tell the difference between the two.

    Maybe on a low to medium priced audio system the differences are minimal but you should be able to hear the differences on most.

    Some bands add distortion to their music so i wont go there not to mention distortion from the speakers, amp and playback device.

    Frequency response is another thing that's overrated, my Klipsch la scalas frequency response is 53Hz-17kHz(+-) 4dB , you would think they sound like garbage by that specification but jaws drop from those who listen though i did add a horn loaded subwoofer to fill in for the lack of super low frequencies witch are part of my main system.


    May i ask what kind of audio system you are comparing the two with ?

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    It's actually not really my personal way of thinking as much as it is that of those who formulated the math behind sampling. That and the way the technology works.

    Just to be clear; I'm absolutely not saying digital sounds objectively better than analog - not at all. And I'm also not saying people can't hear a difference. But based on that article and the exchange we've had I'll make the following points;

    - there's a difference between what is picked up by electronic equipment, temporarily stored and processed in order to create the mix, and on the other hand what ends up on vinyl/CD after mastering. Both formats require mastering and it's done differently because they're different formats. But neither will give you an "accurate" representation of what was recorded. My point was that it's simply not accurate to say that vinyl is more accurate, because the signal has to be processed in order to end up on vinyl just as it has in order to end up on CD.

    - theoretically the dynamic range is smaller on vinyl than on a well mastered CD, so "more detailed nuances" is a bit of a misnomer I think. Because the dynamic range is greater on a CD it would certainly contain better nuance than a vinyl record. On the other hand I can absolutely see why someone perceives vinyl as containing more detail simply because it has been compressed to become more "prominent", or "easily perceived", for lack of better wording.

    - frequency response isn't overrated. It is directly related to what we hear. But be that as it may, it just further reinforces what i was pointing out, that CDs contain more information and "detail" and "nuance" than vinyl.

    - just to reiterate: I'm making a clear distinction between three separate things;
    - - The source sound and its signal path while being part of production
    - - The mastering process which takes the final medium into account
    - - The purely subjective experience of enjoying either format

    Quote Originally Posted by jason str View Post
    May i ask what kind of audio system you are comparing the two with ?
    I don't. I'm talking about this from a purely technical standpoint. That's why I mentioned the last point above. The subjective experience isn't really arguable unless there is no difference to be discerned, which isn't at all what I'm saying. What I'm saying is simply that the difference between the two isn't what some think it is.

    My listening experience comes with a College education in digital audio as well as about 12 years of working professionally with it. There are plenty of great things to say about analog, be it tape or vinyl records. There are also a lot of good things about digital, be it CDs, DVD-As, SACDs or just PCM files. I personally prefer productions with plenty of analog gear involved in the production and where it's then been mastered for digital high-quality playback, meaning a good mastering engineer did his thing and it then ended up on CD or preferably better. "Best" recording I've heard to date was Diana Krall in surround on an SACD playback system. To me that was simply stunning ......
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    Quote Originally Posted by jason str View Post
    I gotta disagree with your way of thinking. Cd's have their advantages such as you cant play a record while out for a jog or in your car as well but a good recording on vinyl just cannot be accurately replaced on a cd or mp3.

    The stereo separation is superior on vinyl. You can actually pinpoint where the musician is playing in the band, cd's just are not as good at the task.
    Is the vinyl multi-track with two needles? If not, there is no stereo separation and this is blatantly false.

    Nuances are more detailed on vinyl, musical depth is more realistic.
    What is the saturation point of the needle? Do you own a multi-needle system which has multiple needles for different frequencies? If not you are enjoying distortion and limited dynamic playback as it is impossible for a single needle to "play back" (certain, or for that matter to record them to the vinyl in the first place) multiple frequencies at once without combining them.

    Im not trying to knock cd's i listen to them all the time and im not the only one who can tell the difference between the two.

    Maybe on a low to medium priced audio system the differences are minimal but you should be able to hear the differences on most.
    Vinyl is not bad, but its nothing special, and no better than CD if you understand the physical capabilities of the needle and single track (vinyl, cd, etc) audio (poor).

    Some bands add distortion to their music so i wont go there not to mention distortion from the speakers, amp and playback device.

    Frequency response is another thing that's overrated, my Klipsch la scalas frequency response is 53Hz-17kHz(+-) 4dB , you would think they sound like garbage by that specification but jaws drop from those who listen though i did add a horn loaded subwoofer to fill in for the lack of super low frequencies witch are part of my main system.

    May i ask what kind of audio system you are comparing the two with ?
    Agree with Mattias. We could spend to our hearts content but the fact of the matter is that the technical capabilities of either vinyl or cd are neither "good" enough to be better than the other.
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    MattiasNYC if you cannot A/B the two (vinyl vs CD or mp3) how can you fairly judge the two ?


    STEvil one groove in the record holds 2 different tracks for stereo sound, 2 stylus are not needed.
    Basic function of the stylus.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jq2sjGFvNnM

    Maybe the future holds better sounds for us but it seems like sounds are being degraded rather than improved over the years.

    SACD looked promising a while back but did not take.

    Neil young has been working on something but i forget exactly what it was. I will look into this further.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jason str View Post
    MattiasNYC if you cannot A/B the two (vinyl vs CD or mp3) how can you fairly judge the two ?
    I don't think you're paying attention to what I'm saying. I'm NOT judging one over the other subjectively. But knowing how two technologies work we can make statements about them without experiencing them. It's like looking at two types of vehicles from a technical standpoint and making a statement about them without experiencing them directly. Submarines are slower than space shuttles for example. I can say that without A/B-ing them.

    What I was objecting to was the terrible article which is technically incorrect. If people read it and believe what it says then they will possibly say that analog "sounds better" or "is better" for technical reasons, and they'd be wrong. It could still be that analog sounds better subjectively, that's all good, but we shouldn't spread misinformation.

    As for actually A/B-ing the two it's way harder than people think. Most people are aware of which one they're listening to. And many may not know if A is Analog or Digital, but they know if it's A or B. The only thing I trust is a double-blind test where you don't even know the order of the sources. It could be A B A B A B or A B B B A B or A A A B A B B A. It's really the only way to get rid of one's own bias (assuming the test is technically well set up etc)


    Quote Originally Posted by jason str View Post
    Maybe the future holds better sounds for us but it seems like sounds are being degraded rather than improved over the years.

    SACD looked promising a while back but did not take.

    Neil young has been working on something but i forget exactly what it was. I will look into this further.
    We can already make things sound great, be it analog or digital. I think you make a good case for that; you seem to think analog "sounds better" subjectively, and this despite a fair amount of information having been lost (or compressed) in the process of creating that vinyl record. If degradation = change then wider frequency response and dynamic range = improvement, and that's what we have in CDs. So that's not the problem really. I think the problem is more about convenience and cost. People want smaller and cheaper. And they settle for crap if they don't have to pay for it. I think that's the primary problem.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jason str View Post
    I gotta disagree with your way of thinking. Cd's have their advantages such as you cant play a record while out for a jog or in your car as well but a good recording on vinyl just cannot be accurately replaced on a cd or mp3.
    That's an apples to oranges to mangos comparison. And its one commonly used by non-objective vinylheads without any hard evidence. Again, the difference in mastering and source for the masters used in vinyl and CD pressings make this comparison almost impossible to objectively compare

    The stereo separation is superior on vinyl. You can actually pinpoint where the musician is playing in the band, cd's just are not as good at the task.

    Nuances are more detailed on vinyl, musical depth is more realistic.

    Im not trying to knock cd's i listen to them all the time and im not the only one who can tell the difference between the two.
    Another set of subjective observations commonly used without the poster having listened to superior CD masters. The 24kt MFSL Gold remaster of Cannonball Adderley's "Somethin' Else" is far superior to the original master and CD pressing. It has great detail, depth, and realism.

    Another point worth making is the quality of the initial recording, especially for live performances. Listen to the original CD pressing of "Thelonious Monk +2: Live at the Blackhawk". It captures the essence of the performance, right down to the ice tinkling in glasses as audience members drink. Bill Evans live performances captured on "Live at the Village Vanguard" and "Moonbeams" are other examples.
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    cds are a low fidelity format when compaired to vinyl, now dvd audio or whatever the 32bit format is called are in a whole other league than ether vinyl or cd.
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    Quote Originally Posted by yojimbo197 View Post
    Another set of subjective observations commonly used without the poster having listened to superior CD masters. The 24kt MFSL Gold remaster of Cannonball Adderley's "Somethin' Else" is far superior to the original master and CD pressing. It has great detail, depth, and realism.

    Another point worth making is the quality of the initial recording, especially for live performances. Listen to the original CD pressing of "Thelonious Monk +2: Live at the Blackhawk". It captures the essence of the performance, right down to the ice tinkling in glasses as audience members drink. Bill Evans live performances captured on "Live at the Village Vanguard" and "Moonbeams" are other examples.
    Awesome examples!
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    Quote Originally Posted by zanzabar View Post
    cds are a low fidelity format when compaired to vinyl,
    Based on what set of data?
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    Quote Originally Posted by zanzabar View Post
    cds are a low fidelity format when compaired to vinyl,
    Define "fidelity" then. As far as I know a CD can have a greater dynamic range and frequency response. What else is missing?


    Quote Originally Posted by zanzabar View Post
    now dvd audio or whatever the 32bit format is called are in a whole other league than ether vinyl or cd.
    I don't think there are any 32-bit converters in the consumer market. Or prosumer. Not even us pro engineers bother with 32-bit converters. It's completely unnecessary. If it's 32-bit fixed point processing we'd be looking at a maximum (theoretical) dynamic range of 192dB !!! I don't see how anyone on the planet needs that range.

    A normal conversation is like 60-70dB. As you start hitting 90dB sustained listening will cause hearing loss. Loud rock concert 110-115. You start experiencing pain around 125 with permanent loss of hearing at 140 (jet engine) or so even if it's short exposure. Even 96dB (16-bit) should be sufficient in most cases seeing that you'll turn the volume up to be louder than all the crap around you (talking, neighbor, wind, grandma breaking wind, refrigerator, kids, pet turtle etc). 192dB is just a waste of space.
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    Quote Originally Posted by zanzabar View Post
    now dvd audio or whatever the 32bit format is called are in a whole other league than ether vinyl or cd.
    I've listened to recordings done at 16 bit/44Khz and 24 bit 96Khz. Frankly, even with a good set of cans there isn't much of a difference, if any, that I can detect on all but maybe 1 or 2 recordings. And those were live recordings made by different people at the same concert, so the recording setups were different. If I"m remembering my details right from my hours of perusing Hydrogenaudio and other sites, there is very little detectable by the human ear sonic detail that is gained between a 16 bit/44 recording and a 24 bit recording. Using 32 bit recordings just sounds like an attempt to extract more $ from people's wallets.
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    I just came up with an analogy that I think may be useful to see just why increasing the number of bits isn't necessarily useful;

    Suppose I'm a tailor and I measure all of you guys and make clothes for you. I get to use one roman numeral to indicate your height. Each value corresponds to one foot. So you can be 0 to 9 feet tall. That's obviously a problem when rounding the numbers. A guy that's 5'4" will get either too short clothes or way too long ones. So I double the amount of digits I get to use and let the second be a division in tenths of a foot. That's much better.

    But now lets say that I'm a contractor instead. And I need to decide what ladder to use. With my one digit I get 0 to 9 feet ladders and using the added digit like I did above doesn't help me. That 10th of a foot is useless for my application. So instead I increase the range rather than "precision", from 0 to 9 to 0 to 99. Much better.

    Going from 16-bit to 24-bit increases the range, not "precision". Each bit is roughly 6dB.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jason str View Post
    MattiasNYC if you cannot A/B the two (vinyl vs CD or mp3) how can you fairly judge the two ?


    STEvil one groove in the record holds 2 different tracks for stereo sound, 2 stylus are not needed.
    Basic function of the stylus.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jq2sjGFvNnM

    Maybe the future holds better sounds for us but it seems like sounds are being degraded rather than improved over the years.

    SACD looked promising a while back but did not take.

    Neil young has been working on something but i forget exactly what it was. I will look into this further.
    In the video you linked it shows using a single needle for stereo pickup, hello distortion and lack of separation, let alone the afformentioned saturation point of the needle.

    Again, unless you use two separate tracks and needles its a pretty poor version of stereo as far as current implementations go, not that anyone really records in stereo anyways, which is a shame.
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    Just dont mention

    As long as no one mentions Valve/Tube Amps vs Integrated Circuits we should be OK!

    So does a Analogue Vinyl Record sound better on a valve/tube amp compared to an IC amp?

    or

    If you play a CD on a valve/tube amp are you wasting your time?
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    Quote Originally Posted by chinaguy View Post
    As long as no one mentions Valve/Tube Amps vs Integrated Circuits we should be OK!

    So does a Analogue Vinyl Record sound better on a valve/tube amp compared to an IC amp?

    or

    If you play a CD on a valve/tube amp are you wasting your time?
    Well my point was just that we should be careful so as to not accept and spread misinformation. I think that having a subjective opinion about one being better than the other is totally fine. I can absolutely see why many would prefer various analog devices in the signal chain.
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    Quote Originally Posted by STEvil View Post
    Again, unless you use two separate tracks and needles its a pretty poor version of stereo as far as current implementations go, not that anyone really records in stereo anyways, which is a shame.
    Well, you don't have to record in stereo for the mixed music to be stereo of course. But I guess that's maybe not what you meant anyway.
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    Quote Originally Posted by zanzabar View Post
    cds are a low fidelity format when compaired to vinyl, now dvd audio or whatever the 32bit format is called are in a whole other league than ether vinyl or cd.
    What?

    --

    The problem with the audio industry is the total and aboluste lack of objective trials. There is such a huge amount of BS in the industry that, to me, it seems very very pathetic. Magic cables, special furniture, anti-vibrating wood pieces, etc. All snake oil... and the funny thing is that nobody cares even to ask about a serious study on the subject. "Nah, they are that cheap that I'll buy them to try them out". Fantastic. Brilliant...

    So, my point is that EVERYTHING should be tested using blind-testing techniques. I don't care what someone things when comparing products the he KNOWS are VERY DIFFERENT, and knows the brand, reputation, price and whatnot. You can't compare products if you don't take all of that away, you simply can't.

    It would be like playing with 2 systems KNOWING which one has XYZ components, and decide which is better. Kinda obvious people will choose based on his bias, and not on something more objective, and real.
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    This reminds me of an argument I had with a friend back in the early 90's.
    It just so happened I had Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl and CD, so we decided to do the a/b test. He chose vinyl as having the better sound quality several times in a row... Which won the argument for me!

    It's a matter of preference to each individual, but I've always felt the tonal quality of LP's was much better than cd/digital audio.
    Personally, I think something is lost in the conversion from analog to digital (albeit very slight). The highs on digital recordings sometimes sound tinny to my ears.

    Just like when you convert any other thing in nature (elct./light/heat/cold), there's a certain amount of loss during the conversion. I believe this to be the case with analog/digital conversions as well. At least to my ears there is a "finesse" that's lost in digital music...

    Digital music certainly has it's advantages over lp's, including, low noise (no pops and crackles), transportability, compression and availability.
    However, I still find myself breaking out the vinyl when I just want to get lost in the music...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daveburt714 View Post
    This reminds me of an argument I had with a friend back in the early 90's.
    It just so happened I had Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl and CD, so we decided to do the a/b test. He chose vinyl as having the better sound quality several times in a row... Which won the argument for me!

    It's a matter of preference to each individual, but I've always felt the tonal quality of LP's was much better than cd/digital audio.
    Well, that has pretty much nothing to do with what I was talking about initially. I and many other people are totally fine with people digging vinyl more than digital. But that wasn't the point at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daveburt714 View Post
    Personally, I think something is lost in the conversion from analog to digital (albeit very slight). The highs on digital recordings sometimes sound tinny to my ears.

    Just like when you convert any other thing in nature (elct./light/heat/cold), there's a certain amount of loss during the conversion. I believe this to be the case with analog/digital conversions as well. At least to my ears there is a "finesse" that's lost in digital music...
    But the problem I have with the above way of stating things is that it implies that there's some sort of loss due to manipulation of analog on the way to digital and that this is the problem. But as I wrote above you have more loss on vinyl, as far as I know.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daveburt714 View Post
    Digital music certainly has it's advantages over lp's, including, low noise (no pops and crackles), transportability, compression and availability.
    Probably more compression on vinyl than digital.
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    This is a lot similar to:

    film vs digital
    accurate vs nice (color)

    It usually boils to the fact, that something can be better for someone despite being from technical point of view.. suprisingly not better.

    Is better digital or analog AMP? I think its more about "which one you like more" cause Im not sure how you, but I listen music for various reasons, but its never to count if there are bits missing.. Neither I take photos to make them accurate and 100% matching reality.

    That said, I never actually thought that analog vinyl would be more accurate. Anyway it doesnt even matter to me..
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    Quote Originally Posted by MattiasNYC View Post
    But the problem I have with the above way of stating things is that it implies that there's some sort of loss due to manipulation of analog on the way to digital and that this is the problem. But as I wrote above you have more loss on vinyl, as far as I know.
    Guess I just don't understand how you could perfectly reproduce a wave (analog) with a series of points (digital)...
    Granted, you can get incredibly close, but loss less?
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daveburt714 View Post
    Guess I just don't understand how you could perfectly reproduce a wave (analog) with a series of points (digital)...
    Granted, you can get incredibly close, but loss less?
    Look at it this way:

    The theory of sampling says a couple of things; 1) That any complex waveform consists of nothing more than a set of sine-waves at various frequencies and amplitudes, and 2) that any sinewave can be accurately described using two samples at twice the frequency of the wave. So what this means is that if you cut out all of the stuff you don't want (need) you can fit everything within your sample rate. Human hearing is roughly 20Hz to 20kHz, and from around that upper point there's a steep filter that cuts out stuff up to 22kHz. Double it and you have 44.1kHz, the sample rate of a CD. All the frequencies we want (need) to capture fit fine within that range. That's the theory.

    The article has this picture in it;



    and then it says "From the graph you can see that CD quality audio does not do a very good job of replicating the original signal. The main ways to improve the quality of a digital recording are to increase the sampling rate and to increase the accuracy of the sampling." But the problem with the graph is that it only shows a visual representation of digital values. It's not what happens after we've converted the signal back to analog! The little 90 degree edges you see in orange/pink represent high frequency content. When the signal is reconstructed the higher frequencies that we don't want (need) are filtered out again which means those little jagged edges are gone, and the signal will once again be smooth. That's the theory.

    Now, of course there will be a change in the signal that comes out compared to the one that went in. But the important thing to remember is that this is true also for taking the same original music mix, mastering it for vinyl records, creating the record and then playing it back.

    So if we look at a clear "problem" with digital, quantization errors (distortion) at low amplitude (volume) we'll see how it doesn't matter in real life. When the incoming analog signal drops and there is only a bit left to describe it we end up with a square wave. Since the squares will fluctuate based on the incoming signal it will sound to us as very nasty distortion of the music. The solution is very simple: Simply shift that lowest bit more or less randomly regardless of the signal. This "dithering" sounds like noise to us. So the very lowest levels on a properly done CD will sound like noise when there is music happening. Why is this acceptable? Because the theoretical range of dynamics is about 96dB, and your average living room where you listen to the CD will have ambient noise around 40dB. The noise of the CD will merge and become "one" with the noise of the real world. The music simply disappears into that.

    The basic point I'm making now is that digital can represent the signal accurately enough, and the inaccuracy that remains is not a problem. Technically, vinyl records present bigger "changes" than CDs. But it just happens to sound like pleasant "changes" that many prefer.
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    so i am not going to quote and do that thing as my point seems to be not taken at face value.

    a cd has a fixed amount of range but a record does not. with a cd if you want super bass like most modern stuff has you have to sacrifice the quality of the high end, but a record you can have both (or more of both.) with most clasical, rock, jazz, or blues it is not a problem, but the way modern stuff is mixed the CD is not going to give you the bass and melody at the same time like a dvd audio file will.


    and with 32bit i was ogling the wave forms from fixed point, there is no real point over 24bit 96 and even that is overkill.
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