Vinyl is dead! Long live vinyl!!!

Numpty112233

Active Member
I bought my current turntable some 30 or more years ago. Most of that time it has just gathered dust. I bought it 2nd hand to play the records that I had acquired as a student in the ‘80s, however when played through my Pioneer A400 amp it sounded noticeably inferior to CDs in my Arcam Alpha+ and therefore my collection of what was then newfangled silver disks increased exponentially whilst the record player was largely forgotten for decades.


When I treated myself to a Cambridge CX system for the new extension a few years ago I decided to treat the ol’ girl to a new Ortofon 2m Blue cartridge and a separate phono stage, the ProJect Phono USB-V, in the hope she may finally perform. Sadly not. I have previously described (on my Denon PMA-2500NE thread Denon PMA-2500NE & DCD1600NE review ) the sound as like coming from the bottom of a well or the room next door. It was crap. And so digital continued to take centre stage.


For my yet to be completed garage conversion a new system has already found its way through the front door and so, out of nothing more than idle curiosity, I plug the Systemdek IIX into the new Denon PMA-2500NE internal phono stage. Sweet music suddenly fills the room like I had never heard from analogue - so much so that my equally new Denon DCD-1600NE SACD player is sulking at not getting my fullest attention… In the past few weeks I have purchased some 30 or more LPs (from Abbey Road and Van Morrison to Funkadelic and Santana to The Specials and Ziggy Stardust and from Marillion to John Coltrane) and only half as many SACDs (mostly classical)


And so I ask myself the old chestnut of a question;-


which sounds better - vinyl or digital?


Objectively the answer is clearly digital. LPs have many compromises that are way above my pay grade to understand, let alone explain. Stick on a SACD of a live performance like Reference Recordings Lieutenant Kije or Jazz At The Pawnshop (30th Anniversary) and close your eyes and you could be there.


Subjectively though the answer is, er, subjective. What I love about my vinyl is it sounds warmer, smoother and easier on the ear compared to digital. There is a much larger, more 3 dimensional soundstage and the midrange is fuller and more luxurious. Saxaphone, guitar and cello have a glorious velvety rich, sweet quality that can, on the right recording, bring a grown man to tears, ahem. It also has wonderful toe tapping timing which cranks up the enjoyment factor. If music is playing the 1st giveaway that it’s vinyl rather than digital is my right foot is involuntarily moving to the beat, regardless of the tune. I am enjoying the music, not listening to the quality of the sound.


There are, of course, also many cons, not least background noise, including the hum of the motor. The bass is also a bit wooly, but that could in part be due to the Systemdek being only temporarily set up next to the speaker, which leads me to a major difference between the two formats. Digital is switch on and play, vinyl a tweakers’ paradise. And I lack the knowledge and experience to tweak competently. Playing vinyl requires effort and is not as user friendly as digital (particularly in the car lol).


So let me conclude with a question. Which is more beautiful to look at, The Mona Lisa or a multi million pixel forensic mug shot of Lisa del Giocondo? If she was gorgeous perfection personified then the photo wins. Any warts, blackheads and other imperfections would be meticulously represented, however, allowing the painting to flatter. The sound of my SACD of The Rite of Spring, performed by Leonard Bernstein, tells me in no uncertain terms “this was recorded way back in 1959 when most folk listened on mono”. (Then to contradict my own point Shubert’s Trout sounds sweeter and smoother on CD than vinyl, which is somewhat screechy and harsh because they are different recordings. But then I have a 2nd record of this which sounds pleasanter than either, with a lovely delicacy to the violin and that foot tapping timing allowing it to flow like a babbling brook…)


Some music inherently suits vinyl (e.g. Reggae), some digital.


So I can only conclude that both formats have their virtues and, finally, both are now an absolute joy to listen to on a decent system. But they are both different. Now do I prefer chocolate or vanilla ice cream? Whichever one I am currently devouring. So long as one of them has a decent phono stage.





Can anyone advise what is the nearest current equivalent to the Systemdek IIX with Linn Basik LVX arm? Or what 2nd hand turntables would be a reasonable upgrade?





What are others’ thoughts on vinyl versus digital?





P.s. Just before pressing the POST button I googled Systemdek IIX and came up with this. Muchness relief their findings aren’t polar opposite to my own. Systemdek IIX TurnTables user reviews : 4.2 out of 5 - 22 reviews - audioreview.com
 

rorackowe

Well-known Member
I'd imagine you'd have to spend a pretty decent amount to better this turntable if it's running to spec. Maybe a project classic? In it's time it was between the price of a Linn Basik and a Linn Axis, rather above that of the Rega Planar 3 of the time. So think £1000 or so.
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
When looking at reviewsof my Linn Axis / Basik arm which was a similar price/performance point as your Systemdek in the day, the view was you would need to go to at least a Rega Planar 3 with an RB300/330 to get any benefit. So you are looking at £600+ new to make any difference (excl cartridge).

Personally I'd love a Michell Gyro but more for looks than anything else :)

Edit - posts crossed in the ether, agree with @rorackowe
 

bobert

Active Member
I have a Systemdeck IIX too, fitted with a moth 250 arm and a At cart that I cant quite recall.
I also have a bluesound 2i for streaming tidal MQA and have tried a back to back test (Van Morrison - Into the Mystic) and my thoughts reflect your own, I prefer the sound of the vinyl. Im not an audiophile, so I cant explain exactly why though. I feel Vinyl is more suited to a 'serious' listen after going through the ceremony of getting the needle on the disc and all that entails, just having it play as background music seems a little disrespectful, so for me, its Streaming for background music, but for an album that I really want to listen to, ill turn to the vinyl.
 

rorackowe

Well-known Member
I have both - a Systemdex IIx900, RB250, Goldring 2100, (in my study with Creek MM phono stage and Ruark MR1 spekers) and a Gyro SE, OL RB 250, Reson Reca on the built in phono stage of a RN 602 Yamaha.

My wife won't let me move the Gyro out of the lounge as she loves the looks.

I'm not a critical listener, they both sound good enough. I've come to a point where I can't justify spending more and don't have the room for a dedicated space so these are likely to stay. I've had the Gyro for 18 years now, still looks fresh.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Well, well. I'll go to the foot of my stairs. All the cajoling and prodding you towards SACD and you're going back to snap, crackle and pop. ;)
 

Khankat

Well-known Member
I know which I prefer and I know what ought to be the better system for sound reproduction. But, subjectively, analogue is my preference. Always has been, always will.

Mark Baker of Origin Live views sums it up for me.
 

Numpty112233

Active Member
I know which I prefer and I know what ought to be the better system for sound reproduction. But, subjectively, analogue is my preference. Always has been, always will.

Mark Baker of Origin Live views sums it up for me.
An interesting article with the potential to plant a seed that could blossom forth with great financial out lay... However it is just one person's view and many a digitophile (if such a word exists) would rip his arguments to shreds
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I know which I prefer and I know what ought to be the better system for sound reproduction. But, subjectively, analogue is my preference. Always has been, always will.

Mark Baker of Origin Live views sums it up for me.
Really, like everything in audio, it's personal preference and what suits each individual best. We bought our first cheap CD player because it was simply easier for the wife to listen to music when she was working in her darkroom. Then we bought a second higher quality one to go in the rack as it was pointless buying vinyl and CD of the same album. Got to prefer the CD's sound. In those days the CDs were of a far higher audio quality for dynamic range than new artist's material is today.
 

Derek S-H

Distinguished Member
Really, like everything in audio, it's personal preference and what suits each individual best. We bought our first cheap CD player because it was simply easier for the wife to listen to music when she was working in her darkroom. Then we bought a second higher quality one to go in the rack as it was pointless buying vinyl and CD of the same album. Got to prefer the CD's sound. In those days the CD's were of a far higher audio quality for dynamic range than new artist's material is today.

It's funny you should say this, Gibbsy, because whenever I listen to some of my 80's CD's I am shocked at how quiet and muffled they sound compared to a contemporary CD.

Mind you, brickwalling probably plays a part here - it just seems more dynamic, punchy and loud but there's actually far less of a dynamic range than those old CD's, and certainly Vinyl.
 

Numpty112233

Active Member
It's funny you should say this, Gibbsy, because whenever I listen to some of my 80's CD's I am shocked at how quiet and muffled they sound compared to a contemporary CD.

Mind you, brickwalling probably plays a part here - it just seems more dynamic, punchy and loud but there's actually far less of a dynamic range than those old CD's, and certainly Vinyl.
Interesting - my old CD of Brothers In Arms plays at half the volume (possibly less. The difference is stark) than the CD layer on my SACD (20th Anniversary) Because of this imbalance I found it difficult to compare, but may have another attempt
 

gibbsy

Moderator
It's funny you should say this, Gibbsy, because whenever I listen to some of my 80's CD's I am shocked at how quiet and muffled they sound compared to a contemporary CD.

Mind you, brickwalling probably plays a part here - it just seems more dynamic, punchy and loud but there's actually far less of a dynamic range than those old CD's, and certainly Vinyl.
A lot of the early CDs were pressings from early tapes that were used for vinyl to cash in the popularity of the new CD players. Some analogue recordings transferred very badly to digital. Ones that were then re-mixed to a better standard can sound wonderful. Artists that recorded direct to digital in the 1990s produced perhaps some of the best CDs.

Even re-mixing can produce some stunning results, just think of Steve Wilson's re-mixed Jethro Tull albums. MoFi and other specialist studios went a step further and some of those discs are selling for a pretty penny on the secondary market. Perhaps some of the best CDs to come out in the late 80s, early 90s were Fleetwood Mac's Rumours and Tango in the Night. To me those CDs were better than the vinyl.

CD recording modes explained here.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Interesting - my old CD of Brothers In Arms plays at half the volume (possibly less. The difference is stark) than the CD layer on my SACD (20th Anniversary) Because of this imbalance I found it difficult to compare, but may have another attempt
I've got the French edition of Brothers in Arms CD, that has a dynamic range average of 16. Had it for years. Now I also have the same SACD as you and the figures for the CD layer is just 08, that's the difference you are hearing volume wise. The SACD layer's figures is harder to find but even compared to my French CD the soundstage of the SACD is much wider, although that's fairly typical of most SACD compared to their redbook cousins. There's also a richness to the vocals on the SACD, dare I say it, more analogue sounding.
 

Numpty112233

Active Member
You dare, you dare!
Higher and higher res digital is more and more "analogue sounding" indeed. Although I diplomatically add without the snap, crackle and pop and general user unfriendliness ;-)
Just to keep you happy I'm currently listening to Reference Recordings The Planets SACD, impeccably sweet and analogue sounding, far better, dare I say it, than my old LP of Holst's classic
 

Numpty112233

Active Member
Now that would certainly interest me.
VERY highly recommended. Great performance. Great standard of recording.
I got their Lieutenant Kije SACD, which is also excellent, as well as Beethoven's Eroica, Mahler's Titan, Dvorak No8 and Rachmaninoff SACDs. Early days yet but I'm impressed. And at proper prices too! Indeed the same price as their standard CDs, which are also excellent quality in my experience (I got Blazing Redheads and Viva Segovia at the same time)
 

gibbsy

Moderator
VERY highly recommended. Great performance. Great standard of recording.
I got their Lieutenant Kije SACD, which is also excellent, as well as Beethoven's Eroica, Mahler's Titan, Dvorak No8 and Rachmaninoff SACDs. Early days yet but I'm impressed. And at proper prices too! Indeed the same price as their standard CDs, which are also excellent quality in my experience (I got Blazing Redheads and Viva Segovia at the same time)
Classical is well served by SACD, little wonder as it's capabilities suit orchestral works so well. No rip off prices. It's not a genre that interests me that much although I do already own The Planets on CD and Beethoven's Pastoral.
 

Welwynnick

Distinguished Member
Higher and higher res digital is more and more "analogue sounding" indeed. Although I diplomatically add without the snap, crackle and pop and general user unfriendliness ;-)
This sums it up for me. I love SACDs because they sound less "hifi" than other formats, and the best thing I've heard at home so far is Blu-ray audio, with some very high sample rates indeed.

The overall result sounds like a good LP rather than a good CD, just without the downsides. Seems to be the best of both worlds.

Unfortunately there are few recordings available on BD audio, which is a great opportunity lost IMHO, as the format and the hardware are already there.

Nick
 
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Ugg10

Distinguished Member
This sums it up for me. I love SACDs because they sound less "hifi" than other formats, and the best thing I've heard at home so far is Blu-ray audio, with some very sample rates indeed.

Subjectively there's no greater frequency extension at either end - CD does that well enough - but the overall result sounds like a good LP rather than a good CD, just without the downsides. Seems to be the best of both worlds.

Unfortunately there are few recordings available on BD audio, which is a great opportunity lost IMHO, as the format and the hardware are already there.

Nick

Does this also hold for the hi-res streaming services like the 24/96-192 new amazon music?
 

Welwynnick

Distinguished Member
Does this also hold for the hi-res streaming services like the 24/96-192 new amazon music?
I haven't tried them, but I imagine they would be similar, as long as the whole chain is up to it.

Nick
 

Khankat

Well-known Member
Regarding Hi-Fi; it's very much a matter of each to his/her own. I would never mock or disparage someones choice of equipment nor their musical taste. After all, variety is the spice of life, as someone once said.
 

Numpty112233

Active Member
Unfortunately there are few recordings available on BD audio, which is a great opportunity lost IMHO, as the format and the hardware are already there.

Nick
One can always download DSD onto DVD+RW to make your own disks that will play on a SACD player and can be higher res (VERY big files) than SACD. On the one occasion I compared back to back DSD with 24/192 I preferred the DSD which sounded more solid and grounded. The file was 4 times the size of 192 though and already I had gone down a level from full fat that was simply too big
 

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