PS AUDIO: Opening up an age old debate

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Paul McGowan: There was a time when we could accurately say that most all digital was inferior to most all analog – the CD vs. vinyl debate. As I pointed out the fact we can master a digital recording into vinyl and have it sound like analog suggests that’s no longer the case. In fact I would suggest that hasn’t been the case for some years now as most mastering studios are digital at one point in the chain even if the work started out analog.

I think what’s happening is that how close a recording gets us to our goal of being in the room with the musicians depends more on the playback equipment and the original recording and mastering process than any other factor – but here’s the rub – it isn’t the purity of the equipment design that matters.  Kit doesn’t have to be pure to be true to the experience.

Purity demands nothing be added or subtracted and that term works well when we refer to reproducing the actual event – not the equipment playing it back.

A great DAC playing a great recording can send us into musical bliss just as easily as a great turntable and vinyl disc can – while a cheezy off-the-shelf consumer stereo system playing the same media can leave us uninvolved.

It takes a great high-end setup playing well recorded media to recreate the musical truth of the original event – purity of the kit’s design, digital, analog, CD, hard drive, vinyl, tubes or solid state are just the means we use to get there – and one isn’t necessarily better than the other.

So, the next time someone tells you they only listen to vinyl or analog and they can’t stand the “sound” of digital, you can smile knowing full well the truth of the matter.

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