I finally compared CD to vinyl and...

I finally compared CD to vinyl and it was close, very close. But let me put some perspective on this first. In my main system I have an Audio Note 2.1x balanced DAC with Accustic Arts Drive 1 transport (on a Sistrum platform); this is not cheap, plus there's the digital cable and power cords. The vinyl setup I tried was the one I had back in high school and just shipped from my folks home along with some 80s music LPs. This consisted of a cheap Yamaha PF-20 TT, Signet TK4Ep cartridge, stock 20 year old interconnects, and the phono stage in my Mcintosh preamp. I took the TT to a local repair shop for a once over and all they could find wrong is that it runs about 1% fast.

Last night I relived my high school days by playing a bunch of 80s music (and realizing how bad some of it was, but who cared back then). My first impressions were that the TT was very dynamic with great bass and soundstage; it was very smooth. The music was really fun. So much for the glory days.

Today I went to Amoeba and purchased 4 LPs that I already had on CD to do a "taste test" of sorts. Here's my general thoughts...

Keith Jarrett, The Koln Concert
This LP was used. Better on LP. More natural sounding. But lots of popping.

The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow
Not my usual stuff, but some fun pop. Too close to call here.

Johnny Cash, American 4
I think I preferred the LP, but it was close. My wife preferred the LP; warmer she said. But she likes the detail of digital, seems to prefer the cleaner, sterile sound of it.

Norah Jones, Feels Like Home
The LP sounded better to me, but the CD allowed more detail to come through. very close here, slight edge to LP. But with the careful listening I realized that this album sounds compressed. My wife preferred the CD.

Back to my original point: thousands in digital equipment sounds about equal to a 20 year old TT that probably cost $125 in the day. This experience allowed me to hear how "digital" digital can sound; somewhat artificial, clean, sterile. The TT sounded somewhat soft; either it's the TT, cartridge, preamp, or I'm just hearing how "hard" CD can be. the midrange was a bit recessed, but nice, tight bass and very good, natural highs. Johnny Cashs's voice sounded very real on vinyl. In the end I'm not really sure what to make of this. Some of the LPs I bought could have been poorly mastered.

I don't see myself really getting into vinyl right now. Though most of the LPs were clean there was some popping and a few were downright dirty. CD is very conveneint and easier to store. But it's great to be able to buy used LPs for pennies and try out new music. I bought a used Norman Blake LP fpr $2 that I had been wanting to hear for some time on CD. it sounded great, but was dirty.

I'm sure I could get a better TT, cartridge and phono stage and see an improvement. A cleaning machine would help too. But I would prefer to simplify rather than complicate my system. The frustrating thing is how hard it can be (and expensive it can be) to get CD to sound relatively close to analog. I've tried SACD, but not ready to commit to that either.

For you serious analog folks, what CD players have caught your analog ears the most? I bought my Audio note DAC from a guy who was a real vinyl freak and it was the first digital that he liked.

I have some old Genesis LPs that I'll try tomorrow. A few more spins of the 80s stuff (boy, there was a distinct 80's sound). I also have some of my grandfather's classical LPs to cruise. Then I'll probably get lazy and stick to CD. I'm sure after getting away from the vinyl for a while CD will sound great again. This was a fun exercise, though, and certainly enlightening.
Imagine how good LPs would sound with a fairly cheap newer table and a reasonable record cleaner.
Clean all those LP's and play it again !!
You are going to Amoeba every week !!

If you want,send them to me and i'll clean them all using my VPI17 for free !! (10-20 LP's max)
thanks for your testimonial

I recently went back to vinyl and my very detailed cd setup just doesn't do it for me any more

I bought a Nottingham Spacedeck / Space Arm

very reasonable table, and a used Audio Research PH2

once I learned how to properly clean the records (disc doctor, sink, groovemaster to protect label) the surface noise was gone and the music just breathes

I have a Band and Olufsen turntable from the early 80's,
no comparison to the Nottingham

I'm sure you will be astounded with a turntable upgrade

cd's are in the car and office
vinyl at home
worth every effort

I hate to tell you this Bud...BUT, if that old crap sounded better than your high priced digital, you've been asking to many questions on Audiogon and not doing enough listening before you laid out your hard earned cash. Good luck with your future components and please remind me not to buy any of your present components.

Uh Oh! Denial is the first sign of becoming a vinyl junkie! Just kidding!!!

But I think you are in trouble bud. Let's see....

1.)"This was a fun exercise, though, and certainly enlightening."........ You have seen the light! Be careful not to be too close to the light!

2.)"I'm sure I could get a better TT, cartridge and phono stage and see an improvement."......You betcha! If you do, then now what? You will long for the next day to go back to that nice place, where it's warm and cozy. Where the lights are just right, soothing, calming...a special place were dreams come true, expectations and cravings fulfilled. Ah yes, there is no place like AMOEBA! (or any place you score your records).

3.)"Back to my original point: thousands in digital equipment sounds about equal to a 20 year old TT that probably cost $125 in the day. This experience allowed me to hear how "digital" digital can sound; somewhat artificial, clean, sterile".......I hear you! Sometimes, the truth is hard to handle. When I had the same feeling, it shook me up! But hey, at least I am pretty darn sure that your taste is exceptional and so are your hearing.

Okay, I'll stop now. I think I already presented my point (or lack thereof!). All these are just my opinions of course. Not meant to offend, just stressing a couple of points between CD and LP's comparison/preference on the lighter side.

Boss, one more thing, get a better cart and a decent LP cleaner. Maybe some of your observations will change. If not, then at least you can say that between the CD and the LP, the comparison is at least a little bit fair in all aspect. May I suggest a Teres table and a modified Rega arm using a Denon 103R in the future?

Hope to see ya at local LP stores in the near future.....

It might not be fair to compare LP with CD just because that they are from the same recording.

Most of the old beloved CDs are remixed and then reissued. Remix means that the engineer added some highs, tightened the bass, more glamorous spatial effect, etc. The output is different than that of the original master tape and not likely to be the same with the LP (which also been through this process before they were manufactured)

So, they are different in tonal balance. Worst things are, Analogue master tapes, if old enough, bear the inevitable hiss and less than satisfied dynamic range. These are "treated" with modern technologies and the output seems to be quieter but not better.

I'd like to see a direct comparison on LP and CD that were made with the same final master tape, using current technology and equipment. That, in my humble opinion, should be quite close.

You threw almost the worst possible conditions at your analog components and it seems that you and your wife still prefered the TT to the ceedee. As these other guys have said just image what sound you could be getting from analog with just a few improvements that all together won't cost anymore than a dozen or so ceedees. You already have a very decent phono stage with the McIntosh. It is not true that you have to "put up with all that popping and ticking" with vinyl. You really can eliminate this almost entirely, especially during tracks.

You also asked about digital players. I have not upgraded from my 10 yr old Marantz and don't plan to. I may upgrade my DAC at some point in the future because there is alot of newer music that I can't get in vinyl. I agree with you about SACD and all of the other new digital formats, they are not worth the investment.
ALC 777 does that mean that everything done to improve the sound of "Perfect Sound Forever" has really destroyed the quality of the recording? All that technological improvement and CDs sound worse! Well that explains a lot!

Talk about a vacuous arguement.
I have been in the vinyl hobby for over 20 years and I couldn't get into to CD no matter how hard I tried. I think the main reason is that I listen to classical music and CD just don't have the naturalness for classical music. In my experience, I find the source (records) dictates at least 70% of how well your system will sound. A bad recording will sound bad in any system. I have upgraded my system through the years to a certain point that I think is adaquate and now I just listen to music instead of listening to equipments. In my opinion. After you have your equipment up to certain standard, keep upgarding doesn't really get you anywhere for the money because the source (records) plays such a huge factor in sound.
I have many English Decca SXL 2000 and 6000 records from the 50's, 60's and early 70's. These are the absolute best in sound ever made because they were recorded and cut with tubed equipments. As soon as solid states equipment came out in the 70's, the sound quality of LPs dropped. Some early Columbia SAX, EMI ASD, Murcury SR labels are very good too and the early tulips DGG, early Philips SABL labels are also quite decent.
Budrew, in answer to your question for vinyl lovers as to which CD player sounded most analog-like to their ears, I did a side-by-side comparison with my Linn LP-12 (Akito arm, van den Hul MC-1 Special cartridge) through the same preamp (Adcom 750) as an Electrocompanient EMC-1 (non-upsampling), Adcom 750 CD player, and Resolution Audio CD-55. The Electro sounded almost identical to the Linn; next closest was the Resolution Audio. The Adcom was fine but not in their league. I kept the Electro Mk I, which you can find used pretty cheap nowadays, since everyone bought the upsampling Mk II version.

On re-reading my post, sorry for the tone. I do think vinyl may sound better than cd in many cases, I also can understand tube lovers. My system is digital and SS but not because I think it's any better (or worse) than the other.

Many, many components on the market could make me happy when matched with my speakers of choice (this changes every 5 years or so for no reason other than change).

Your post came at a time when I was breaking in a very cheap DVD player I bought for Video only but desided to use as a cd player for the evening. This piece of crap was sounding VERY GOOD but with a little less weight than my other player.

"Weight", this is the thing that I like about vinyl, it has that thickness that 1's and o's don't seem to capture at times...drums are a good example.

That said, I still have to wonder how bad your digital must sound. My Sony XA-777 sacd player (sold it) sounded as good as vinyl on many sacd at the time I had it in my system. I do own an old TT which was pretty good in it's day (hardly ever use it). As a matter of fact, it's not even hooked up.

I think that digital and analogue can sound quite similar yet each have their own strengths. Much of what determines what sounds "better" is up to the individual recording.

Having said that, it was quite evident to anyone that listened to CD when it first came out that it was a FAR inferior format to even a decent phono system. Problem was, most people didn't have a "decent" phono system back then, so they thought CD's sounded "better". Couple this with the increased convenience of CD's and you can see where that led.

Luckily, technology and parts quality have advanced. While most of these benefits have been applied to digital technology due to the wider marketability of such, some of that has trickled down into vinyl too. As such, the gap has closed somewhat, but good vinyl that is well maintained still has an advantage. Given that the average digital system still sounds relatively "sterile" and "mechanical", most people that hear even a "fair" vinyl rig can't believe how good analogue can sound.

I know this from first hand experience as i and my immediate family members went through this several years ago. Even with hand-built DAC's using high grade parts, those noisy old "antique" records can still convey the passion and flow of music in a way that brings a smile to one's face. Given that the mass majority of digital systems only hint at this type of performance, instead giving you chopped and disected bits of info rather than a cohesive musical presentation, i can't understand what all the fuss is about. That is, unless they've tried it for themselves and found to the contrary. If such is the case, i would suggest that the vinyl gear and phono stage being used may not be quite as good as they think it is.

Obviously, this is all from my point of view based on my experience and others might / will disagree. That's the great thing about this forum. So long as one can convey their message in a meaningful manner without attacking others, we can all share and learn why we believe what we do. Sean
Thanks for the replys. I'm priming our new garage today and will add some comments later when there's time. Cheers!
Last night after a full day of painting I was too tired to do anything but sit and listen to music, specifically the turntable. I'm a little more intigued now. Where should I go from here? If i wanted to explore a newer TT what would you recommend? What would put me on the next plateau to stay a while comfortably and continue to appreciate vinyl? From what I've read a record cleaning machine is also a worthwhile purchase. I would continue to use the phono stage in my preamp. So basically i would need a TT, tonearm, cartridge, cleaner. That should be it for now, right (I hope)?

I should have never listened to the TT. Now I'm off on another audio tangent!
Depending on your budget! Having gone through the newbie beginnigs, I can suggest that you could build a quality system aound a fullt modded Rega 250 tonearm. I would change the endstub to a 2xtreme end stub, from Express Machining. I have tried both counterweighhts from Express and Kerry Audio. I prefer the F2 titanium counterweight from Kerry Audio(it stays closer to the pivot point of the tonearm.)You will need a VTA adjuster too, Express has a nice one too. Then upgrade the tonearm wire. Check E-bay and the Gon for the tonearm. I currently use a Sota Sapphire with the Rega, much quieter than the Rega P3 I had before.
Budrew, Dude you have only but had a glimpse into what the good old Lp can do.
(Yamaha PF-20 TT, Signet TK4Ep cartridge), This will give you a feel for vinyl, but with no low level detail and you are missing a lot of bottom and top end with this setup.

First off you need a low out-put moving coil cartridge (MC).
Your Mack only has MM I believe?

I need to know how much you can afford to spend.

Remember guys analog has made great strides in the last 5 years. Many New great products are even affordable.
Seems itÂ’s getting better and more affordable. Take the new
EAR 324 phono preamp for example.

You should read the archives, lots a stuff in there.
This topic is a broken record, pun intended.

Budrew just go to the analog forums and start reading.

I use an Origin Live Table, TWL modded Origin Live silver Tonearm and a Shelter 501 MKII MC cartridge.
Life is good,
Thanks guys. I've been reading the archives and some of my own postings and the responses. Lots of great info available. I have not determined a budget yet, but probably under $2000, or even less. For now I'll have to stick with the phono stage in my preamp, and you're right, it's MM. Depends on how I can configure my rack to fit another component. Also dealing with a wife who is tired of upgrades, but the vinyl has her interest too.

I've heard some of the new high-output MC cartridges are good too. Would this be compatible with my phono stage?
Budrew, welcome to vinyl-dome. What you have discovered is not just another audio tangent. I'm afraid you've stumbled onto the closest thing to real live music available with current technology. Hey, even your wife is interested. You will soon become as obsessed and boorish as the rest of us, and that's a good thing!

There are some very decent TT/arm/cart choices in the $1500-2000 neighborhood. If you can push it to $2500-3000 however, you can enter a whole new realm. Give it some thought before you decide. Knowing what I know today, I'd willingly have downgraded my $2K CDP if necessary to free up cash for a better analog rig. The sonic payoffs for analog upgrades in this price range are huge, far larger than they are in digital.

Save some coin and build your own record cleaning machine.


A very decent MM cartridge is the Shure v15vxmr. I have heard that one can be had for less that $300 but I can't give you a pointer just now. A recent search should pull up the post I am thinking of. As for high output MC, TWL has suggested the Denon 103R. I have not tried this cartridge yet but plan to soon.
What is "triple deionized water"? Cation resin, then anion resin and a mixed bed final polisher? Just wondering.
Dan_ed: That was a great link for the DIY record cleaning machine. Thanks for posting it. Sean
Geez, if some professional chemist wants to jump in, please feel free.

Short, short answer:

It is all about purifying water more and more (the water of your vinyl cleaner) so that residue is not left behind when the water has evaporated.

Short answer:

Both ions and molecules are composed of atoms. Ions are entirely charged species which "cling tenaciously" (remain dissolved) in water. The most typical is in hard water, usually calcium and magnesium ions. But there are lots more. They remain dissolved until the water of your record-cleaning solution evaporates and leaves behind ions as residue salts--undesirable as noise during playback. The various resins, non-soluble polymers, are used to remove ions as a three-stage process. Thus triple de-ionized water.

Long answer:

Both molecules and ions are composed of atoms. Molecules are sharing of their electrons whereas ions do not share. Water molecules, being very polar although not charged, do exhibit a sort of charge-like character ("dipole moment") and therefore strongly attract ions (entirely charged species).

Ions come in the form of positively-charged "cations," where the electron(s) has been given away entirely. Or negatively-charged "anions," where the electron(s) has been entirely retained. Thus, ions strongly aggragate with other ions of opposite charge or with polar molecules, due to electrostatic force. The size of ions can be a single atom (some metal or mineral), several atoms (typically organic or carbon-based; there are others) or many, many atoms--bound in a chain-link like polymer-resin. The smaller ions can be hard to remove from water whereas resins are never dissolved.

(I hope I got this right.) Triple de-ionized water has been taken through a three stage process of removing ions--cation resin, anion resin, mixed resin.

Charged resins can be used to attract and hold the oppositely-charged ions in water when water passes over, around or through the resin. The resin can exist as positively charged (cation resin) or negatively charged (anion resin). The "mixed bed polishing resin" seems to be some sort of mixture of resins that is used as the last refining stage.

Heck, what do I know? I'm just a musician. Anyone, please feel free to correct my chemistry.
Montobo, I make ultrapure water for a living. However, the system I operate does not use "triple deionization", whatever that is. My employer uses mobile trailers for temporary/emergency use with cation, anion, mixed bed tanks but the system I use goes even further in purification. After mechanical filtration, water goes through reverse osmosis, then through two gas transfer membranes, deoxigenation w/ hydrazine, a softener, electrodeionization cells and finally to two mixed med polishers in parallel. What comes out is sodium levels in the 0.8-0.15 ppb range, TOC < 20 ppb, zero DO, conductivity is 0.056-57 micromhos. I think this is currently the state of the art.
FWIW, Brian Weitzel of Record Research Labs says he uses QUADRUPLE de-ionized water as the base for his cleaning solutions. Don't ask me what that means or how he achieves it. I have no clue. OTOH if you want to ask me if his solutions clean well and leave absolutely no sonic signature behind, feel free!
Thanks for the correction TWL! Yes, I did confuse that one. What I think I was remembering about the 103 is that it is not low compliance. It is getting harder and harder to keep up with what I am thinking about at any given time, or so my wife keeps reminding me.
Dude there's a Rega 250 with the 2xtreme endstub, heavyweight, and VTA adjuster on sale RIGHT NOW on the 'Gon for $245. That's one hell of a deal!