Finally got a decent TT… My opinion on digital vs vinyl

Hi everyone.

I just thought I'd take a moment to share my opinions with you regarding the age old (often heated) debate of vinyl vs cd (digital).

Please bear in mind that these are MY opinions, and are not meant to be seen to offend anybody or say that one format is better than the other.

I have grown up in the digital age (I'm 26) and have had very few run ins with vinyl. What I had heard from going into hifi shops always pleased me. I was never blown away by the sound quality, but always found it pleasing. I always found it interesting.

After become slightly disillusioned with listening to music, by which I mean that I just put it on instead of listening to it, I decided to look into vinyl. I really like the idea of physically having something and having to go through the ritual of playing it. After finally stumping up the cash, I got myself to a turntable demo of the new Rega RP6 & Exact cartridge. This was all fed through a Rega Brio-R into Kef LS50. Let me just say here and now that the LS50s are my favourite speakers I have ever heard/owned, and I have owned speakers costing more that twice as much. More on this later.

The sound was enjoyable. Very open, lots of space around the instruments and a lush, warm tone that was very pleasing. I knew I wanted one!

The problem was, I was not cross referencing the sound with a digital setup. Considering this venture was to move me on from digital, I really should have tried demoing against another setup.

I pulled the trigger. I purchased the whole setup. I needed a whole new setup as I had sold mine a few months back after needing some cash.

Everything was set up at the shop, all I had to do was put the platter on and away I go! I had washed and cleaned all my records that I had been collecting for the arrival of this day. All in great condition. The first album I listened to was a new copy of Radiohead's 'OK Computer'... Jeesh. It sounded so dull and boring. Completely lifeless. It would have sounded better on my Aiwa all in one system from back in my teens! I thought that it must have been the record. Poorly pressed. I then put on an album that I knew sounded fantastic. Steely Dan's 'Aja'. Phew! All was sounding very sweet. Lovely, and warm, open and great timing. I was happy.

Record after record was played, most of which sounded good, a few sounded great. Equally, a few sounded pretty bad. Still, this can be said for various digital copies of albums. It's all down to production and mastering.

All in all I was very happy. Until... I have some vinyl rips stored in flac format on my PC. I have a good DAC soundcard from Cantatis Audio. Now, I have demoed this card against a Rega DAC in the past and could honest to God not hear anything that would make me think it was worth 'upgrading'. Possibly heard a deeper bass being produced, but this was probably my brain telling me so considering I had read a review stating that it's bass performance was impressive and could thump well. The power of the mind. I had 2 other people with me who could tell absolutely nothing apart between the two DACs. Anyway, I digress, the main point was that I had some vinyl rips of LPs that I owned. I thought it would be interesting to see how they A/B'd against each other...

Hmm. I switched from input 1 to input 5 (DAC). Both tracks playing at the same time. I could hear no real difference. Honestly, nothing stood out at all. To me, they both sounded the same. They both sounded... Great! Still, what is the point in spuffing £998 on a TT setup if it sounds no different to a vinyl rip coming from your DAC?!

I had to try something else. The thing I should have tried in the demo room. I played some digital music. It sounded incredible. It really did. So detailed, so rich, with a hint of warmth in there too. It was beautiful, tight. Just what I had always wanted. It turns out, in my opinion, what I was hearing in that demo room, was the incredible sound of the Rega Brio-R and Kef LS50. Such an incredible combination!

I also performed some tests of digital vs vinyl records. Namely, Pink Floyd's The Wall. 2011 CD remaster vs an old pressing that belonged to my father. I cleaned it up a treat and got it spinning. Through the vinyl player the sound was very pleasing. I enjoyed it. It had all of the characteristics I originally described. I then switched inputs to the 2011 remaster... It blew me away! So engaging, so tonally perfect. It was a sound that I was very happy with.

Let it be known that I am not saying one format is better than the other. I just preferred the sounds of the digital in my setup. Don't get me wrong, the RP6 sounded great. I can easily see why people like love vinyl. I still do. It's just that I can get the same sound from a vinyl rip. So, really, I have no need for it. In all honesty, cleaning all of the records is annoying me already!

So, here are my thoughts...

Both formats have their rightful place. One is not better than the other, I just happen to prefer digital (when it's mastered well). They just do things differently. I would love to keep the RP6, but I cannot warrant having it now. I will be taking the demo unit back to the shop and cancelling my order. I will, however, be keeping the Brio-R and Kef LS50 speakers. Superb combo!

Look forward to other people's comments. I would love to talk more on this. I'm fed up of writing right now!



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