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Vinyl LP vs Digital


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19 hours ago, Gilbert said:


What's a "Real" concert?


It seems to me the concert sound is heavily dependent, if not totally dependent, upon the sound technician aka Audio/Sound Engineer.



OK, the topic has already been discussed at great length here in its own thread of the link below (and other threads in the past). I say this so that this new thread does not get too distracted from its topic. I didn't want to activate such a discussion at all now. 

My point is rather that one should have many sound experiences in one's life. In my case, it's decades in the rehearsal room, standing next to a drummer, next to a bass player, knowing the sound on stage. I know PA sounds, of course, from very good to not so good to terribly bad. But first and foremost I would like to underline what  @robert_kc also says, the experience of natural instruments and voices in our concert halls, and there are some very good ones in terms of acoustics, are a fantastic basis of experience that you remember well unconsciously or consciously when you listen to your recording at home. Likewise, the sound in a jazz club can be educational. And even a really good sounding rock concert via PA can be very good as an inspiration for the imagination of the sound in your own living room. If two people listen to the same music over equally good gear in comparable rooms, e.g. Pink Floyd at home, I bet that the person who was at a live PF concert before will experience the music as emotionally deeper and sonically fuller. Perhaps those influences are similar important as analog vs. digital.






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17 minutes ago, KT88 said:

But first and foremost I would like to underline what  @robert_kc also says, the experience of natural instruments and voices in our concert halls, and there are some very good ones in terms of acoustics, are a fantastic basis of experience that you remember well unconsciously or consciously when you listen to your recording at home.

Well said! While my younger son was playing trumpet in the Chattanooga Youth Symphony, his mom and I would accompany his to see the CSO almost every week. We went to a concert of guitasrist Manuel Barrueco and orchestra. It was a terrific concert. Barrueco used a small microphone and single monitor speaker to supplement his guitar. Using the added amp/speaker wasn't at all obvious sitting in the audience and the guitar wasn't lost in the orchestra.


Also heard Christopher Parkening in a college chapel, but by himself. Style totally different between the two artists. Parkening looked like he was fighting with his guitar while Barrueco acted like he was having a date/love affair with his instrument, smiling and enjoying his own playing.

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As I’ve said many times, IMO the genre of music, and vintage of the recording, are relevant to this discussion of LP vs. digital.

For a recording of “small-scale” music (e.g., jazz trio) that was recorded in the 1950s or ‘60s, I’m not surprised if some prefer high-quality LP pressings (perhaps an original pressing) played via a high-quality turntable.   FWIW, IMO the following statement makes sense:  “For the vintage jazz recordings that I love, I prefer my original pressing LPs”.   (I’m not an expert on analog deliverables – my understanding is that some prefer RTR tape, some prefer original pressing LPs, and some prefer newer audiophile-grade LPs.)  


For those who assert that LPs are generally superior to digital, I respectfully suggest two sincere questions:

  1. Do they listen to music that has significant dynamic range and frequency range?
  2. What is their goal for their hi-fi system?  To create the illusion of attending a live performance?  To create a small-scale simulacrum of a live performance?  Or, simply for their hi-fi system to “sound good”.  (FWIW, I think these are all reasonable goals.)

I don’t recall hearing anyone claim that an LP of large-scale classical music (e.g., Mahler Symphony 2) is better at creating the illusion of a live performance compared with a modern hi-res recording delivered via Blu-ray’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track.   


The reason that I often cite Mahler Symphony 2 is the tremendous dynamic range of a live performance in a purpose-built world-class symphony hall.  For example, the opening of the fourth movement ("Urlicht") involves an alto operatic soprano singing softly.  (In my local symphony hall, neither the orchestra nor the singer uses a sound reinforcement system.   From my mid-hall seat, the opening of "Urlicht" is very faint.) 




OTOH, from my mid-hall seat in my local symphony hall, the unamplified sound of the opening of the fifth movement is so explosively loud as to be almost painful.  (Mahler Symphony 2 is sometimes performed with as many as 200 musicians.)  The challenge in playing an uncompressed modern state-of-the-art recording is to set the level so that the quiet opening of the fourth movement ("Urlicht") is at a level that creates the illusion of being in the hall at the live performance, without the extremely loud opening of the fifth movement causing the hi-fi system to distort.   


I’m not a recording engineer.  I imagine that an LP of Mahler 2 would have to involve compressed dynamics, and probably restricted low frequency.  I imagine that this might result in a pleasant small-scale simulacrum of the live performance.  What are the thoughts of LP aficionados?


Do any LP aficionados have an LP of Mahler 2 that they think provides excellent audio quality?   If so, have you compared it with a modern performance/recording (last dozen years or so) that was captured and mastered in hi-res (e.g., 24bit/192kHZ) multi-channel, and delivered on a Blu-ray disc featuring DTS-HD MA 5.0 (or 5.1) surround-sound, and played via a surround-sound system that incorporates “high-end” Klipsch speakers and large subwoofers?  

Here’s an excellent Blu-ray of Mahler 2:


The good news IME is that this recording played via a surround-sound system featuring “high-end” Klipsch speakers and large subwoofers can come close to creating the illusion of being in the symphony hall.  IMO my Klipsch speakers paired with 6L6GC tube amps do a good job of reproducing the natural timbre of orchestral instruments.  And my surround-sound systems equipped with subwoofers can deliver significant dynamic range and frequency range when playing top-quality Blu-ray recordings.   (My Oppo’s subwoofer cross-over is before the main amps, and thereby offloads the power-hungry low frequencies from the main amps and speakers.)  


As has been discussed before, IMO another issue relevant to LP vs. digital is the concept of what is the “work of art”.

For the classical music that I love, the “work of art” was the live performance.   For classical music, the artists were the composer, conductor, and orchestra.   The music was not created by record producers using electronic tools.

I’ve heard Beethoven 9 performed live several times in a world-class purpose-built symphony hall where the sound was 100% natural (i.e., no use of a sound reinforcement system).   And I’ve heard many other classical orchestral performances in my local symphony hall, and a number of operas in my local opera house, and many chamber performances in various venues.   These experiences form my benchmark for how classical music “should” sound.

My goal for the sound quality of recorded classical music played via my home hi-fi systems is to create the illusion that I’m in the symphony hall or opera house where the music was performed live and 100% natural.   I want inevitable deviations to sound pleasant vs. unpleasant to my ears.    

I’ve compared more than a dozen recordings of Beethoven Symphony 9, with performances ranging from 1942 – 2015, and recordings delivered via LP, CD, 24bit/96kHz FLAC download, SACD, DVD, and Blu-ray.  I prefer modern performances/recordings delivered on Blu-ray’s DTS-HD MA 5.1.  (I’m not trivializing vintage recordings that have historic significance.   For example, many revere the 1942 Furtwängler performance of Beethoven 9, but let’s be honest – the audio quality is horrible.)  My long-winded assessment is on talkclassical.com: https://www.talkclassical.com/threads/question-about-sacd-vs-cd.73864/post-2197583

Beethoven’s music is NOT defined by a particular recording.   There’s no such thing as “Beethoven’s recording” of Beethoven Symphony 9.   Beethoven lived 200+ years ago – long before recorded music.   

OTOH, I imagine (I’m not knowable about this) that many Beatles fans want to listen to the Beatles’ recordings (i.e., not a modern band covering Beatles’ songs).   In this case, is the “work of art” a particular vintage recording?  Do some LP aficionados believe that a particular original pressing LP (mono?) is closest to the original work-of-art?


LP vs. digital?  IMO, it depends on the genre of music.


P.S.  As already discussed, there’s the issue of “snap, crackle, pop”.  My hat’s off to an LP aficionado who achieves LP playback with no surface noise.


P.P.S.  Just to show that I’m not opposed to LPs, once a year or so I’ll pull off the shelf and play my vintage LP (which I bought new MANY years ago, and I think is an original pressing) of Maynard Ferguson, “Live at Jimmy's”, “Macarthur Park.”  It sounds fabulous, and its smell creates a feeling of nostalgia.


Believe it or not, once in a blue moon, I enjoy spinning one of my vintage Patsy Cline LPs.


And I occasionally enjoy spinning one of my vintage Bobby Short LPs.  


I saw Bobby Short perform live at the Café Carlyle (NYC) sometime around 1980.   I knew this would be a once in a lifetime experience, and so I went to the Café Carlyle the day before and tipped the maître d' $40, hoping that at least we wouldn’t have a horrible table.  When we arrived, the maître d' walked from behind his station and greeted me by name.  (Of course, I’d only met him for a few minutes the day before.)   My date swooned.   We were seated at the VIP table.    Bobby Short walked directly to our table and chatted with us for several minutes, as though there was no one else in the room, and there were no time constraints.  He was one of the most gracious people I’ve ever met.   Then he said:  “Well, I guess I should get to work”.  He walked a few steps to the piano and started playing.     It was a fabulous evening, and I cherish my vintage Bobby Short LPs.      



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On 11/5/2022 at 2:05 PM, robert_kc said:

The classical concerts and operas that I attend involve no use of electronics.  The sound is 100% natural.  There are no electronic instruments.   The classical concerts and operas that I attend do NOT use a sound reinforcement system – IOW, the orchestra’s sound and singers’ voices are not amplified.


Thanks for the clarification. That is a "Real" concert, about as real as it gets.

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I’d like to point out that some electric guitar aficionados report that they know the sound (i.e., timbre) of a specific guitar, played via a specific amp that is equipped with specific tubes.  I respect that – it’s just something that I have no experience with.
My experience is listening to live classical concerts, so I have a pretty good idea of the natural sound of a violin, trumpet, double bass, timpani, etc. – and the sound of a string quartet, large scale symphony, choral group, etc.  (Of course, there is some variation in instruments, and venues.)   Because my memory of how classical music “should sound” is routinely refreshed by virtue of attending approximately 30 classical concerts each season, I can use this memory to assess how well my hi-fi systems are meeting my goal of creating the illusion that I’m in the concert hall.   I imagine that aficionados of other music genres could do the same.

And, as I’ve said before, I respect that others may have different goals for their hi-fi system.

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