Vinyl vs. Digital --- FIGHT!

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Vinyl vs. Digital --- FIGHT!

About 10 years ago I got serious about vinyl. I started scouring craigslist and driving stupid amounts of distance to buy record collections. If the price was right my wife and I found the money and I went.  It was fun and actually created an opportunity to start a small business.

We started listing albums on Amazon and had a website for customers to reach out if they needed anything special or wanted to buy direct. This was the most painstaking long process ever! The process started with me looking the album up to decide if it was worth investing any time to list it. Next step was cleaning. I purchased a Record Doctor V as an entry level record cleaning machine. It worked okay, but the process still required more cleaning once the machine was done. After cleaning I would do the visual inspection and make another decision regarding condition. Looking at/for scratches, quick listening test to make sure all was right with the LP. Then start the listing process. It was time-consuming but fun. It also helped me grow my vinyl collection. I had first dibs on anything that came through. I was selling enough to pay for the collections I was buying and growing my collection 100% win! It also helped me discover types of music and artists I was not familiar with. This is how I really discovered blues. I had always known BB King and Clapton and a few others but was completely unaware who Peter Green or Buddy Guy was.

Record Doctor V
Buddy Guy
Peter Green

My collection is blues and funk heavy now and it really didn’t cost me anything. Eventually, prices for people’s collections went up and it did not make sense for me to buy them any longer. I still look on occasion but since the resurgence of vinyl, collections aren’t cheap any longer.

Digital is something I’m new to. There is a very big part of Hi-Fi that is Digital based and brings plenty of options to the table. For me the only digital I had, besides mp3s, was CDs. When I hooked my cd player into my system it really didn’t sound that great and it never really got used. It was brittle, bright and would drive you out of the room. It was a cheap player and I now know that the player matters. I still need to replace mine, and until OPPO went out of business that was the direction I was going to go, but not sure what I’m going to get now. I like the idea of a CD player with tubes involved somehow. I’ve become partial to the Doge brand after buying their Doge 8 preamp. (Read about it in the previous blog post on the right)

Doge offers a 100% tube cd player vs. some of the other manufacturers that offer a tube buffer. Like most of you, I’m sure, I have a pretty decent CD collection. My generation was really in the heart of plastic discs. Now cd’s are pretty much given away with every fill up at the gas pump. As music formats have progressed online streaming seems to be a big avenue. I first jumped into online streaming with Slacker. I like the format and layout. The phone app felt very good as well and made sense when you went from one spot to another in the menu. When I started upgrading my system I found out very fast that the sampling rate was not very good. The music sounded good in my car but horrible in my main listening room. Until about 6 months ago I pretty much just listened to vinyl in my music room. Until I discovered Tidal and the magic of a DAC! It was like hearing a set of tubes that just made the music right. The DAC got rid of the glaring harshness and lack of midrange. It balanced everything out and left the music alone. Now music was coming through in a way I thought only Vinyl could sound.

I went with the Cambridge DAC because it was low cost, a brand I knew of, and reviews were good. That was a perfect starting point. I hooked it up to two devices a Bluetooth adapter and my Laptop. The Bluetooth offers the ease of sitting and adjusting from the listening position but lacks the bit rate of the laptop. My struggle really begins here. Vinyl compared to Bluetooth into DAC is no competition. It’s vinyl every time. However, when I listen to my laptop through the DAC It takes a big step up in bit rate and the music just sounds better because of it. Vinyl or Laptop is a much tougher decision. A bigger problem is that I know if I upgrade my DAC and CD player the quality is going to keep going up. Vinyl has always had a very nice full sound warm sound. I’ve been reading reviews and I think there are DACs that can get the sound to the same warmth that vinyl offers. I haven’t made the jump yet, but it’s in the near future. What DAC are you using? Don’t forget to catch up on past posts!

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Craig A Boisvert
2 years ago

Great article and sounds so much like others I know. My vinyl collecting journey started in 1977 when my parents got me a nice stereo system for Christmas (a long story in itself). I had bought 45’s and some LP’s before that, but was not obsessed. The first time I sat in my darkened bedroom and listened to “Fly Like an Eagle” was magical, and started me on my path. I was working at a good job out of high school and was buying records frequently, but not doing any cleaning besides a DiscWasher. I saw Devo on SNL and became obsessed with “New Wave”. The next day I stopped at Peaches Records and bought a giant stack of “New Wave” music from a knowledgeable clerk with pink hair. My mom stopped me at the front door and said “why are you wasting all your money buying those stupid records?”, I responded “I’ll just take them back and buy some drugs instead…”. She let me keep them.

I wasn’t truly in trouble until I moved to L.A. with my almost 500 record collection. I had a decent system, but I found this paper called The Recycler. People were buying and selling things to each other… hmmm. I had already hit thrift stores, now I could go pick through somebody’s collection before they dumped it there. I also started buying and upgrading my equipment, and met a bunch of fellow audiophiles that I’m still friends with today. I bought my first Nitty Gritty and VPI turntable… I was set. After seven years in L.A., I moved to the Central Coast and met a new audio buddy who had THOUSANDS of records and bought them not only to listen to, but also because of the INVESTMENT. He introduced me to numerous pricing guides and I started purchasing at a furious rate. I now have over 17,000 records, and if I listen to them three hours a day I will get through all of them in 330 years… plus or minus.


[…] Thomas Keller on Vinyl vs. Digital — FIGHT! […]

Bill Darlington
Bill Darlington
2 years ago

“my cd player…was a cheap player and I now know that the player matters.” Nowadays, it doesn’t. Same with cheap DVD and Blu-Ray players. If you use digital interconnects, the only things that affect the sound and picture are the speaker and the TV (and possibly the driver circuits of your power amplifier).
The “harsh glare” of your CD player may be you hearing things as they should be. The soft, warm of your tube sound is not natural or realistic. Trumpets sound harsh and blaring.
I know, from direct experience, that vinyl cannot be accurate. The absence of surface marks proves nothing, So many second-hand discs sold as near mint have lots of sruface noise from dirt or damge. Even brand-new, mint vinyl has defects. I spend a lot of time converting vinyl recording to digital and removing surface noise. Obvious pops, clicks and crackle are easy but every single vinyl record I have ‘cleaned’ has had lots of little surface defects that I can semalessly and losslessly remove. However, repeated playing will make it worse. I only convert vinyl to digital when I have no other source,

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