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Old 01-15-2008, 12:05 AM   #1
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modern recording techniques and vinyl

Maybe somebody out there will be able to help me with this.
I've been thinking about abandoning CDs altogether and just buying anything I love enough to want a high-quality hard copy of on vinyl (when it's available.) With this idea in mind I bought In Rainbows on vinyl - the first post-eighties vinyl LP I've ever purchased. I was surprised to realize that it didn't really sound very good, not much better than a CD, until I stopped to consider the obvious - because the music was recorded digitally, what I bought was really just an analog copy. The sound is really stunningly disappointing for someone like me who's only ever heard vinyl from the pre-digital days.
So here's my question: because most music these days is recorded digitally, I'm guessing at 44.1 kH, is it really worthwhile to own vinyl any more? How much of an advantage over CDs is there? Is the radiohead album unique because they use so many digital effects - and the music therefore probably goes through dozens of analog-to-digital-and-back conversions during the recording process - or is it pretty much par for the course? Does anyone record anything analog anymore?
Thanks in advance to anyone, audiophile or otherwise, who can shed some light on this.
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Old 01-15-2008, 03:49 PM   #2
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I think the White Stripes use analogue equipment on their albums...

I do think though, vinyl has a special quality to it, and can either make something sound terrible, or amazing. There are some songs that only shine on vinyl. One that springs to mind is The Police's Dont Stand So Close To Me, on a record, the begging is totally different.

Of course there are the people who just prefer it. Like one would prefer CD to Mp3, or CD to Tapes, etc. Or people who just collect them. I collect a few things, and do try to get U2 stuff on vinyl whenever I can. I had Vertigo on vinyl, and as my mum is one of those who prefers it, proceeded to steal it off me.
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Old 01-15-2008, 04:39 PM   #3
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In general, I do prefer vinyl. Digital recording by nature is not as accurate as analog recording - sure, a CD sounds better than a tape, but that's just because tapes are a crappy medium.
There are two issues. One is how music is recorded - eg, on a reel-to-reel tape, or a laptop, or whatever - and the other is how it is released - on vinyl, CD, mp3. Nowadays a third issue can also come into play, which has to do with how music is made - if you're using digital effects on your guitar, the effects box converts the analog signal coming out of your guitar into a digital signal. Even if you convert that back to analog, you've still effectively "downsampled" the sound by digitizing it.
So I wonder, with digital equipment being used in so many phases of the recording process today, is the ability of vinyl to capture "true" sound wasted, since the "true sound" itself is not that true?
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Old 01-15-2008, 05:13 PM   #4
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If anything Radiohead uses analog effects instead of digital. Which sees them using as much analog effects/vintage equipment or real instruments as possible. They haul a real piano around on tour rather then use a digital soundmodule or keyboard for heaven sakes! Or has anybody failed to see the huge stack of analog synthesizers and wires that's on stage?

I think that what made vinyl sound good to many was the combo of vinyl with the analog recording process of the time. Digital recording by its nature is probably too perfect for our hearing. While with analog recording you either don't notice them or it adds to its charm.

You can see that with delays. Digital delay is the best there is as its a crystal clear repeat of the original as is. But echoes in real life aren't crystal clear, more analog in nature, so to our hearing crystal clear digital delay sounds cold. Which has many guitarist choosing analog or tape delay instead. It's imperfect, the sound degrades with every repeat yet through our ear it sounds more natural and thus warmer.
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Old 01-15-2008, 05:45 PM   #5
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Well... if you play a note on a piano, for instance, and then record it to CD, the best reproduction you can get is 44.1 kHz, which means that the sound is being sampled 44,100 times per second. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but it also implies a quality loss.
CDs sound "crisp" because the sound exists in a kind of vacuum. As part of the digital recording process, "atmosphere" is eliminated. Another way to put it is that CDs sound crystal clear because they are capturing less sound, not more.
I don't mean to start a debate over which medium is better. Muad'zin is absolutely right that vinyl sounds better at least in part because of the analog recording processes used in the old days. I'm wondering, though, if as a rule it still sounds better today, when few people use analog recording. Is is worth my while to buy new stuff on vinyl, if sound quality is my goal?
Muad'zin, I think radiohead use a combination of analog and digital effects, depending on what sound they want. I don't think they have any particular allegiance to analog processes, though. Thom's solo album was done entirely on his laptop.
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Old 01-15-2008, 09:56 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by bgmckinney
In general, I do prefer vinyl. Digital recording by nature is not as accurate as analog recording - sure, a CD sounds better than a tape, but that's just because tapes are a crappy medium.
There are two issues. One is how music is recorded - eg, on a reel-to-reel tape, or a laptop, or whatever - and the other is how it is released - on vinyl, CD, mp3. Nowadays a third issue can also come into play, which has to do with how music is made - if you're using digital effects on your guitar, the effects box converts the analog signal coming out of your guitar into a digital signal. Even if you convert that back to analog, you've still effectively "downsampled" the sound by digitizing it.
So I wonder, with digital equipment being used in so many phases of the recording process today, is the ability of vinyl to capture "true" sound wasted, since the "true sound" itself is not that true?
This actually is not true. High quality digital recording is more accurate then analog tape. Tape adds saturation and other artifacts to the signal that isnt there. Now, this isnt necessarilly a bad thing. Some people prefer the sound of this in certain styles of music.Now on vinyls the advantage is it is possible to have a playback that hasnt been converterd.(Radioheads album was most likely recorded at atleast 24 bit 96k.Possibly higher) The disadvantage with vinyl is you generally lose high end detail that digital formats generally playback better.Also the dust bunnies and other noises. Check out high res digital (SACD DVD-audio) sometime.Theyre pretty awesome. But as for me, I buy cds, vinyls and mp3s. I buy vinyl because its fun to play and collect. And id say if you still get that enjoyment out of it, then it is worth it.
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Old 01-16-2008, 12:45 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by bgmckinney
Well... if you play a note on a piano, for instance, and then record it to CD, the best reproduction you can get is 44.1 kHz, which means that the sound is being sampled 44,100 times per second. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but it also implies a quality loss.
CDs sound "crisp" because the sound exists in a kind of vacuum. As part of the digital recording process, "atmosphere" is eliminated. Another way to put it is that CDs sound crystal clear because they are capturing less sound, not more.
I don't mean to start a debate over which medium is better. Muad'zin is absolutely right that vinyl sounds better at least in part because of the analog recording processes used in the old days. I'm wondering, though, if as a rule it still sounds better today, when few people use analog recording. Is is worth my while to buy new stuff on vinyl, if sound quality is my goal?
Well, originally when CD's came out and the old analog recorded LP's were transfered to digital CD they sounded crap. Which is why there were so many digital remastered releases later on. What sounded good on vinyl didn't sound as good on CD. So recording techniques changed to fit digital CD output. To put a digital recording on an analog playing medium seems like audio disaster to me.

Quote:
Muad'zin, I think radiohead use a combination of analog and digital effects, depending on what sound they want. I don't think they have any particular allegiance to analog processes, though. Thom's solo album was done entirely on his laptop.
Of course Thom's solo album isn't indicative of Radiohead, otherwise it would have been a Radiohead release. Watching their gear as a guitarist and a gearhead I can only notice that where possible the two biggest noisemakers in the band use analog equipment rather then digital. Jonny Greenwood uses a 70's tape delay, vintage pedals and more analog then digital synthesizers. And where possible real instruments rather then sampled ones. I know the massive drum beats of Idioteque are being created using his Analogue Systems sequencer. Ed O'Brien uses a little more digital gear but even he has ditched most of his Boss digital delays for an analog EHX Memory Man
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Old 01-18-2008, 03:22 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Muad'zin


To put a digital recording on an analog playing medium seems like audio disaster to me.

Hmm, yes indeed. Good point.
Regarding DVD Audio and SACD, I remember reading sometime around 2001 that Neil Young, who was a notorious opponent of CDs, had endorsed DVD Audio as his preferred audio format. I don't remember the details, but he was quoted as saying that it captured the sense of warmth and space that CDs lacked.
Pearl Jam I think had similar objections to CDs, at least earlier in their career - Vitalogy was released on vinyl before anything else...
Anyway, I digress. Thanks for the input, if anyone has any experiences with vinyl vs digital formats, I'd welcome your opinions.
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Old 02-06-2008, 01:46 AM   #9
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It doesn't matter whether their gear is digital or analogue when it is recorded with digital equipment....
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