Difference between digital streaming & Vinyl


Well-known Member
i have been doing a lot of listening after finally being happy with my setup. Mostly at lower volumes as early morning and neighbiurs so id not really noticed before. Started listening to my Vinyl and was somewhat dissapointed but couldnt put my finger on why, it just didnt sound great, i listed to the same album via Tidal previously and it sounded a lot better.

So it got me puzzeled as to why or better yet how could a digital stream sound better than a vinyl record.

so this afternoon i got to testing everything the same except source. Arcam SR250 with Dali Oberon 5 speakers is what both are going through, with the EQ on.

Source for the digital stream is from phone Tidal app through a chromecast audio via a toslink cable, volume set to 45 about 72/73db. Played the songs that i played previously both time. Sounds good nice and clear.

Onto the record player, Rega Planar 3 through a rega phono box, volume match to 72/73 as best i could, volume set to 50 played the somgs. Sounds very nice its not as clear cut precise as the stream but im hearing more, esspecially drumms (and different drums) it feels weird to say it but it sounded a bit slower or there was a bit more to the sound and vocals were much better.

I think the ket was volume, id not turned it up when i was originally listening to the vinyl but why or how is there such a difference?


Distinguished Member

Human ears become less sensitive at low bass and high treble as the mean volume is reduced (link above), so if one source has a little more in these areas it may sound better at lower volumes. This is why many older amps (and some more modern Yamaha iirc) had “loudness” button that boosted high and low frequencies for listening at low volumes. Also, as you have found, if you volume match it becomes more difficult to differentiate, easy trick used by Hifi sales men, play the kit with the biggest commission slightly louder!


Active Member
There are of course so many variables at play right through the audio chain in the two examples you've tried (even using the same amp and speakers), that a digital source versus a vinyl source can never be identical.

Starting with the recording itself and whether they are actually the same (bearing in mind all of the different vinyl pressings and digital copies of the same original recordings) and then on the digital side, the file size, the format, the streaming quality, the DAC, the chips, the power supply etc.

On the vinyl side, pretty much every component of a deck can affect the sound. The motor, the arm, the power supply, the cartridge, the way you have set up the anti-skate and counter-weight. Even things like the platter or the table it's standing on can affect the sound of a turntable to some degree.

Then there is the phono stage, right down to which capacitors and resistors have been used.

In fact, that they even sound similar is a surprise when you think about it.


Well-known Member
IMHO you need a very decent cartridge to start to approach the sound quality that even budget digital can provide with most budget cartridges having no hope in hell of being comparable. Even then there is getting the setup right etc and inherent crosstalk etc, quality of the vinyl pressing etc.

Change in sense of timing when listening to music through different systems/sources can be down to different tonal balance causing slightly different aspects of a transient to register to your brain as dominant - end result, apparently different timing and this will make a track seem faster or slower.

Even walking around a room can cause this effect, however it is an illusion (assuming all other timing is correct).


Active Member
Hi. I think as long as your set up is correct, and your equipment is decent, there's no reason your vinyl shouldn't sound the same as your digital streaming service. As stated above, different pressings and recordings can have a big impact. For example the vinyl reissue of Pet Sounds, from the late 90's, sounds appalling.
I got rid of my Ortofon 2M Blue precisely because I couldn't tell the difference between it and HiRes streams from Qobuz, and I don't want my vinyl to sound digital.
For proper listening, good quality vinyl, played with good gear, still trumps streaming for me.


Distinguished Member
Did Digital actually sound better, or did it just sound different?

Because Vinyl is a physical media that requires contact to play, and because of this, it is subject to wear as well as the accumulation of dirt and dust. So, over time, the sound can become slightly compromised.

I ...personally... think it is a mistake to pit one format against another. They all have their place. There is no need to pick one over the other because they all bring something different to the table.

Streaming is very convenient, and is a great way to become exposed to new music without any additional expense. Vinyl is a great nostalgic way to listen to old favorites in the way they were designed to be listened to ... assuming the Records are in good shape. Even AM/FM Radio have their place, though today that format is pretty much dead, but they do still have their place. Same with CD, they are fading fast, but it is nice of have and OWN your own music.

Which bring up another point, if you own a CD or Vinyl, you actually own the physical thing, and can buy, sell, or trade to your hearts content. However, with Digital Music like digital downloads, you do NOT own that music, you are merely LEASING the Right to play it. You can leave you CD or Record collection to you children, but, technically, not digital downloads. I think, when you die, the lease expires and the music should be deleted. And of course, with Streaming Music, you don't own anything.

I also think there is a day of reckoning coming for Streaming Music. Artist get paid very little for music streams. Since streaming is killing the sale of CD, Vinyl, and Digital Downloads something is going to have to give. There is that old say, though usually applied in a different context - Why buy the Cow when you can get the Milk for Free?

I think at some point in the future, the Artist are going to force a very different price structure on to Digital Streaming to generate more revenue as sales of physical media fall, and that is going to mean higher cost to consumers. Though I also think that even at a higher price, Streaming is still a bargain.

But the point is, all formats serve their purpose. There is no need to pick one and just one. Enjoy each for what it is.

Just a few thoughts.



Well-known Member
the digital sounded better at the lower volume. Vinyl sounded better once volume matched, the digital sounded clinical and precise but there was just more to the Vinyl sound.

Just thought it was a bit weird how different it was.


Well-known Member
the digital sounded better at the lower volume. Vinyl sounded better once volume matched, the digital sounded clinical and precise but there was just more to the Vinyl sound.

Just thought it was a bit weird how different it was.
Ok... True hi res digital ..whether streamed or downloaded from computers, is much better in every technical aspect than vinyl. But of course Vinyl is better than compressed lossy sample rate digital. There usually IS more on the vinyl sound..it is the distortion products and artefacts produced in the cartridge. . But you know , some, indeed many people prefer that.

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