Does music sound better on vinyl records than on CDs?

July 12, 2016, Tufts University
Does music sound better on vinyl records than on CDs?
Credit: Ingimage

Vinyl is back, no doubt about it. Sales of vinyl records have been soaring, although they still represent only a tiny fraction of the music industry's revenues: about 2 percent in 2014. Is this growth because, as some respected sources breathlessly state—I'm looking at you, Wired magazine—vinyl sounds better than digital media? Or is there some sort of retro-hype going on?

It's true that some really don't sound very good. Low-bit-rate MP3 makes compromises in fidelity, as does low-bit-rate AAC, the higher-tech successor to MP3 that is used by iTunes and YouTube. Low-bit-rate AAC files are also what you typically hear on Pandora, Spotify and SoundCloud, and on your phone. While they are OK for casual listening in the gym or the car, many people can hear their limitations in a quiet environment.

But what about compact discs, which some claim compromise the listening experience as well? Certainly the act of putting a record on a turntable and having to change it every 20 minutes makes the listener feel more involved with the music. It's different from sitting back and letting your CD changer do its thing. However, by any measurable criterion, CDs are superior to LPs. And so are MP3 and AAC files with bit rates above 300k, which in most cases are indistinguishable from CDs. Here are the reasons why:

  • Dynamic range. The difference between the loudest and softest sounds an LP can play is about 70 decibels (dB). CDs can handle over 90 dB. In practical terms, this means that CDs have more than 10 times the of LPs.
  • Surface noise. Dust particles in the grooves of an LP cause crackles and ticks that are present and audible no matter how well you clean the record. CDs are not affected by surface noise, because they use light beams to read the musical data, which ignore any foreign substance on the disc. Besides that, have an underlying hiss generated by the needle moving over the surface.
  • Mechanical noise. Every turntable, even the most expensive, generates a low-frequency rumble that is transmitted by the stylus into the amplifier and speakers. The system has to work much harder to handle all that low-frequency energy, and that can cause distortion in other parts of the audio spectrum. Many audio systems include a rumble filter that can reduce this, but that filter also removes the lower-frequency sounds on the record, like the bottom octave of a piano, or the low tones that give a bass drum so much of its power.
  • Speed variation. Listen to a recording of a solo piano on an LP, and then on a CD. I'll bet you can hear the difference immediately. Vinyl depends on a mechanically driven system, and any such system will introduce minute changes in the speed and pitch of playback. A vinyl record that is even slightly warped, or has a hole that is not perfectly centered, will have "wow"—slow variations in pitch. Tiny imperfections in the belts or wheels of the turntable will cause more rapid pitch changes, known as "flutter." CD players, because they use super-accurate digital buffers, are immune to this.
  • Channel separation. On a CD, the separation between the left and right channels used in recording is over 90 dB. On LPs, it's 30 dB at best. That means engineers have a much narrower range to work with when they're mixing and mastering the audio, and the result, for the listener, is that the stereo "image" is highly constricted. It's worse at lower frequencies; a loud bass signal in one channel of a record can push the needle out of the groove, so engineers have to make sure bass frequencies are always in the center.
  • Continuous vs. "chopped up." Some people believe that because digital audio "chops up" the signal into discrete numbers, it cannot carry all of the information that an analog signal does. But before the digital signal reaches our ears, it is reconstituted into a continuous analog wave. The process does filter out sounds above 20 kHz, which is the highest frequency the most acute human ears can hear. However, no phono cartridge, amplifier or speakers can reproduce those frequencies anyway. So really, nothing is taken out that affects the sound.
  • Longevity. Friction causes heat, which softens plastic and makes it easy to deform. This means that every time you play a record, the smallest peaks and dips—the high frequencies—soften and can literally get shaved off. The more you play it, the worse it gets. Also, whenever the needle encounters a dust particle, it gouges a hole in the soft surface, so that pop or crackle becomes permanent. By contrast, CDs will sound the same essentially forever, unless you leave them on your car dashboard on a sunny day. And you can always make as many perfect copies of them as you like.

CDs reflect exactly what the artists recorded in the studio. Vinyl distorts it. Some listeners honestly feel that the defects vinyl introduces somehow make it more attractive or "warmer." But from any objective standpoint, there's no justification in calling the sound of vinyl records "better."

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Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jul 12, 2016
The process does filter out sounds above 20 kHz, which is the highest frequency the most acute human ears can hear.


This is false. The limit of a CD is 22 kHz but that doesn't mean you can perfectly record signals up to even 20 kHz. The phenomenon is identical to what happens with pictures https://en.wikipe...l_factor

Sound data is like a picture one pixel tall - it gets the same beat pattern below the Nyquist frequency. Reconstruction filters exist, but aren't perfect.

However, no phono cartridge, amplifier or speakers can reproduce those frequencies anyway


This is false as well. The cartridges can and do pick up ultrasound signals well up to 50-100 kHz, and there have been attempts to produce quadrophonic vinyl records by injecting an ultrasound signal in the recording and then pulling it back down to audible frequencies in the amplifier. It didn't work because the records wear out too quickly and the signal vanishes.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (1) Jul 12, 2016
A common tactic for the liar, to present only the faults, or what you want to typify as faults, of the other guy and pretend your guy has none because you don't mention them. A technique of the arrested development, to think that sheer number of faults, or what you want to call faults, is all you need to know to decide which is better. Music from vinyl is analog, like the sounds we hear, music from CD's and such is digital. Downplay that, toss as many faults, or what you want to call faults, of vinyl against it, and that will still be a dominant factor, if not the dominant factor. The article promotes the "perfection" of a CD recording, again, measured by only an artificial collection of qualities. Which invokes the idea of the "uncanny valley", of the superficially "perfect" android mock ups of human faces not appearing even necessarily pleasant.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jul 12, 2016
When you sample a wave at exactly twice its frequency, you get a constant number depending on the phase difference of the sampling clock and the signal - that is to say, whether you always take a measurement from the bottom of the wave, the top of the wave, or somewhere in between. You essentially record no signal.

So, when the frequency of the signal you're measuring drops by a small amount from exactly 1/2 your sampling clock, the point at which you measure the waveform on each clock cycle is shifting at a rate proportional to the difference and you start to see something coming out.

But the sound appears to be amplitude-modulated by the frequency difference. That's alright, you know it's happening so you can "reconstruct" it for playback and remove the modulation.

But because your sampling resolution is finite, the beat effect is actually modulating the effective recording bitrate and you lose information, which is why CDs are not "perfect" above 14-15 kHz or so.
Eikka
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 12, 2016
Music from vinyl is analog, like the sounds we hear, music from CD's and such is digital.


Music that comes out of a CD is necessarily analog just the same. You cannot hear "digital sound", unless you've trained yourself to hallucinate music when you hear it being described in binary.

Both vinyl and CD take in an analog signal, transform it into some physical representation, and reconstruct it into an analog signal on playback. The question is simply, which one does it more accurately over the range of frequencies that are interesting to hear.

Vinyls also have the added disadvantage of the RIAA filter, which distorts the sound to fit it into a groove, and then "un-distorts" it upon playback. Problem being that the filter that distorts the input at the factory is not the same device as what un-distorts the output in your record player, so the output remains distorted by the difference of the two filters.

Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Jul 12, 2016
Any practical analog filter is going to be somewhat non-linear, so when the music is put through the RIAA-equalizer to push the bass frequencies down and the treble up, some of the signal energy in the affected frequencies spreads around and forms harmonic distortion. Then when the opposite filter is used in playback, more harmonic distortion appears, muddling the original sound.

https://www.youtu...ZbJceKZE

Some prefer the effect it does on the sound, others don't. It's a matter of habit.
winthrom
1 / 5 (2) Jul 12, 2016
I note that the overtones of the sampling rate are distinct and harsh on CDs. The individual samples are like vertical bars simulating a sinusoidal wave that looks like a bar chart. The smooth sine waves are stepped representations of sine waves. To my ear, I hear the CD "scratch" of the stepped sampling as overtones that are distinctly out of harmony with the music. Smoothing algorithms are simply not that good. I ask, would you go to a concert hall to hear a Beethoven sonata on an electric piano or acoustic grand piano? True, not quite the same, but analog vinyl has the velvet sound nearest the real instrument, compared to digital samples converted to analog for the same instruments. If the price ever comes down, I want a laser stylus analog vinyl turntable.
Eikka
4 / 5 (4) Jul 12, 2016
I note that the overtones of the sampling rate are distinct and harsh on CDs. The individual samples are like vertical bars simulating a sinusoidal wave that looks like a bar chart


That's just a visualization of the principle.

The actual data is much finer - it's got 65,536 levels over 44,100 samples a second. A computer monitor can't even show how fine the signal is if you scale the waveform to fit on your screen because the full picture of the wave has more than 60 times the resolution of a regular HD monitor, and even the small bit of it that would fit on your monitor 1:1 would look like a perfectly smooth curve.

The "overtones" caused by the "blocky" nature of it are completely over your hearing range, and they're filtered out anyways by an analog lowpass filter that bridges the gaps between the "bars" because they could damage speaker coils and amplifiers that aren't designed to play back ultrasound.

Eikka
not rated yet Jul 12, 2016
http://www.ni.com...4806/en/
See: "Figure 1. A 5 kHz Sine Wave being sampled by a 3-bit versus a 16-bit ADC"
winthrom
1 / 5 (2) Jul 12, 2016
@Eikka: Fine for a simple sine wave. However when the recorded waveform is complex and includes CD over tone dissonances well outside the range of hearing that resonate with other frequencies inside the rang of hearing during audio processing, you get "scratch" that should not be there. Once within the audible range, these noises are not filtered out by low bandpass filters. We often mistake the "crisp" sound of a CD for clarity, when it often is "scratch" buried in loud sound. The noise is mostly in the higher registers of audible music. Not many folks go to classical music concerts anymore, so pure, clear music is unknown to them. If you have attended such a venue, and then compared a CD and an analog recording to that experience, analog wins.
Many audiophiles are returning to tube amplifiers because of similar problems with transistor amps. The transistor amps have "schott" noise that resonant the same way as the inaudible CD frequencies do. These folks take their music seriously.
KBK
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 13, 2016
inter-channel phase response:

for digital to equal that of vinyl, or open tape...requires an accurate jitter free 7 million samples per second.

Most music has no more than 50 db of dynamic range.

Subtleties of level and structure in complex harmonics, analog vinyl or open tape, has it again, digital would require about 600k samples per second, minimum, and with no jitter.

When you cross that with the inter-channel phase response, analog walks all over digital again.

There's more to it than that, again, so it is no small wonder that well played analog makes current digital technology look like a joke.

I know a guy who designed some of the best audio dacs around and he knows straight up that digital, at this time, cannot compete with analog when analog is at it's best.

as well, the engineering weighing in measurement and thinking, has nothing to do with how the ear hears, the direction of the testing is all wrong. Good for engineering - but not for audio engineering.
Eikka
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 13, 2016
Fine for a simple sine wave.


No. It's fine for just about any sort of wave. ABX testing is your friend - you can't actually hear the difference.

We often mistake the "crisp" sound of a CD for clarity, when it often is "scratch" buried in loud sound.


That's actually the argument people make of vinyls - they say it sounds "clear", when in actuality they're listening to the hiss made by the needle dragging against the vinyl. The noise floor from the quantization noise, or what you call "scratch", on a CD is about 90 decibels down on a well mastered record, whereas the hiss on a vinyl is 70 decibels down and getting worse on worn out records.

What's more, modern audio processing uses noise dithering to spread the quantization error in such a way that the noise energy spreads and any individual noise compoent becomes quieter. It also means you get to choose whether you want tube-like distortion or transistor-like distortion in your sound.
Eikka
3 / 5 (4) Jul 13, 2016
for digital to equal that of vinyl, or open tape...requires an accurate jitter free 7 million samples per second.


That sounds like complete and utter bullshit. What sort of information content do you think you're hearing at 3.5 Megahertz? You tuning to radio channels with your ears?
ThomasQuinn
4.5 / 5 (4) Jul 13, 2016
Just to add my 5c to this discussion, as someone with a little experience in recording music and preparing it for a number of different carriers.

In theory, CD audio is vastly superior to vinyl audio for a number of technical reasons, including the fairly large degree of noise added by the mechanical transfer of sound from the carrier to the amplifier in the case of vinyl. I'm not going into all that because the list is long and convoluted, and different factors are subjectively appraised as either beneficial or detrimental.

But here's what I think is most responsible for the subjective experience of music on vinyl sounding better: the production in the mixing and mastering phase. Digital audio has, as a rule, a much greater degree of compression applied to it (see: loudness war), with little "headroom" remaining. Vinyl, for technical reasons, needs a more restrained approach, not in the least to stop grooves interfering. Result: 'weaker' but subjectively more pleasant sound.
jrodman
4 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2016
There's also a difference between the CD vs. vinyl issue, and digital vs. vinyl. This is because CD is a specific digital format, 44.1kHz/16 bit, but analog/digital tech has advanced far since those days. 96kHz/24bit is commonly used in studio work, and 384kHz/32 bit is easy to find. The higher rates move the theoretical (Nyquist) limit far away from the audibility limit, so analog filters in the A/D/A chain become simple and linear (although they were linear already). Still, I know people who swear that vinyl sounds better than any digital at all, but cannot explain why. Smart, technical people too.
jrodman
4 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2016
Regarding the comment about the RIAA filter introducing distortion, this is only true to the extent that any electronics may introduce distortion if poorly designed or wrongly used (overdriven, etc). The RIAA filter is an equalization filter. Even in the frequency domain it has a smooth shape, slowly rising from 20dB attenuation at 20Hz to 20dB gain at 20kHz, to compensate for the physical limitations of the mechanical recording process (which was even an issue before vinyl in 1948). A passive RIAA filter contains only capacitors and resistors (there's a nice collection of implementations at beigebag dot com/case_riaa_1.htm), which will have no distortion at all, demonstrating that distortion is not inherent in the RIAA characteristic.
richardwenzel987
1 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2016
If you are a snob at heart, you will sing the praises of any outdated technology, it seems. Vinyl is garbage. Vinyl is Edison. And Edison is dead.
TransmissionDump
1 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2016
There's nothing like hearing the crackles before Tinkerbell rings her little bell so you can turn the page.....

You just don't get that on modern day formats.
KBK
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 16, 2016
for digital to equal that of vinyl, or open tape...requires an accurate jitter free 7 million samples per second.


That sounds like complete and utter bullshit. What sort of information content do you think you're hearing at 3.5 Megahertz? You tuning to radio channels with your ears?


That was a rather animal level reactive attempt at a smackdown.

Like I said: engineering thinking and weighting of signal analysis has almost NOTHING to do with how the human ear functions.

Th ear works on the leading edges of transient and micro transients as a complex harmonic timed and level compared structure -----done over a very long time.

Like an impossibly complex wide bandwidth FFT system, tied to a measurement system and computing system that is so complex, that science and technology cannot build anything that is even close to being as capable.

Simple singe line level measurement criteria are less than nothing, compared to the ear's capacities.
KBK
3 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2016
To top it off, each ear is different than the next, as is the brain tied to the ear.

Neural complexity and capacity for learning, intelligence, etc, is as varied for the ear's neural system as is the idea of variations in intelligence.

That an idiot ear and a genius ear exist as obviously separate and real items.. as does idiot person versus genius person. as it is tied to learning and neural complexity/capacity, which is individual.

And, we know that we can have smart people with low athletic capacities, and vice versa, so we cannot say .... that a mathematically inclined person, or any person with a doctorate or whatnot... automatically qualifies as a genius ear capacity. Not a fucking chance.

So, eikka, there is more than ample opportunity for you to be way the fuck out of your league on this subject.

Don't try to double down, you'll just be driving off a cliff of your own making.

Eikka
3.8 / 5 (4) Jul 16, 2016
Vinyl, for technical reasons, needs a more restrained approach, not in the least to stop grooves interfering. Result: 'weaker' but subjectively more pleasant sound.


The loudness war started on vinyl, with studios cutting "hotter" records because louder is psychologically better. They just didn't get very far into it before everyone switched to CDs.

Still, I know people who swear that vinyl sounds better than any digital at all, but cannot explain why. Smart, technical people too.


Which is ironic, because modern vinyls are produced from digital masters.

A passive RIAA filter contains only capacitors and resistors, which will have no distortion at all, demonstrating that distortion is not inherent in the RIAA


Ideal capacitors and resistors are linear, but practical ones have also inductance and practical capacitors change value slightly depending on their DC offset, making them slightly non-linear.

Eikka
3.8 / 5 (5) Jul 16, 2016
So, eikka, there is more than ample opportunity for you to be way the fuck out of your league on this subject.


Prove it.

Science tip: ultrasound above 500 kHz frequencies get absorbed into heat by air before they reach your ears. That's why medical ultrasound devices use that gel between the sensor and your skin, and why you wouldn't possibly ever need a 7 MHz sample rate to record sound. That's going so deep into the woo woo territory we might as well be talking about aliens and chemtrails.

As for the other claims, plenty of audiophiles have gone into ABX testing claiming they can hear things like the difference between a regular CD and a SACD or vinyl, and none have come out winners.

Mostly they just cheat, like the one guy who was listening to the clicks of the relays in the ABX switcher to know which recording was being played.
Eikka
1 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2016
https://upload.wi....svg.png

For example, at 20 kHz the sound absorption properties of air are somewhere in the ballpark of -5 to -10 dB per meter and at 40 kHz it's around -30 dB per meter and so-on, so very quickly when we go further into the ultrasound region you simply become unable to hear anything even with magic ultrasound ears because there simply isn't any sound to be heard.

So if you're sitting in a concert hall listening to live music, and thinking you're hearing sounds in the megahertz range that are not captured by digital recordings until 7 MHz sampling rate... boy, I think I have a bridge to sell you.
Eikka
3 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2016
The only reason to use sample rates in the Megahertz range is if you're using DSD encoding, which is a 1-bit format that pretty much directly forms a pulse-width or pulse-density representation of the original signal. The idea is that this bit-train can be passed into a low-pass filter directly without a DAC and out comes the sound, which greatly simplifies the digital signal path.

https://en.wikipe..._Digital

The reason why the sampling rate is so high is because of the theory of oversampling. You double the sampling rate, and you get approximately one bit more information compared to the original sampling rate.

It has nothing to do with what humans can hear, and since it's a bits/frequency tradeoff, saying that the sampling rate has to be 7 MHz is meaningless - it doesn't have to be anything as long as it's sufficiently high to capture the human audible range.

And most people over 40 can't hear much anything beyond 16 kHz anyhow, so there's that
Phys1
4 / 5 (4) Jul 16, 2016
@KBK
... fucking ... fuck ...

Do you think you are on a porn blog here ?
Eikka
3.8 / 5 (4) Jul 16, 2016
Th ear works on the leading edges of transient and micro transients as a complex harmonic timed and level compared structure -----done over a very long time.


The hairs in the cochlea connected to the nerve-ends are actually working as a sort of feedback amplifier. They actually -generate- sound in response to sound by vibrating in resonance with the incoming sound, which is how the amplification happens. They're much like oscillators that are slightly overdamped such that without an external input signal the oscillation dies down, but with an incoming signal the gain exceeds the loss and the oscillation starts growing.

The sound generated by the inner ear is actually loud enough be recorded from the outside to gauge the level of hearing loss you might be suffering.

The structure of the cochear tube is what performs the separation of sound into frequency components, and the structure simply does not support hearing sounds in the ultrasound range.
Eikka
4 / 5 (4) Jul 16, 2016
For reference: https://en.wikipe...emission

An otoacoustic emission (OAE) is a sound which is generated from within the inner ear. Having been predicted by Thomas Gold in 1948, its existence was first demonstrated experimentally by David Kemp in 1978[1] and otoacoustic emissions have since been shown to arise through a number of different cellular and mechanical causes within the inner ear.


The reason this is important is because the actual mechanism of the ear directly contradicts the idea that the ear works by "leading edges" or "micro transients". The resonant sound amplification mechanism works over multiple wave cycles - a single transient kick is like kicking the seat of a playground swingset - it may wobble around a bit, but it won't induce the kind of resonance needed for sound amplification.

Eikka
3.8 / 5 (4) Jul 16, 2016
The point is that the brain seems to operate at surprisingly low "framerates" for a lack of better expression. The brainwaves representing the large scale operation of the various functions all occur at a range of around 10-60 Hz which means the brain cannot possibly directly respond to events happening at 10,000 Hz or more.

That means you don't hear the sound itself and directly, but a sort of sound-print that remains in the vibrating hairs on the cochlear nerve-ends much like after-images in the eye after the sound has passed if it's not still going on.

From the brain's point of view, sound in the ear is more or less like touch along your arm. Low frequencies feels like rubbing your elbow, and higher frequencies go down the arm until the highest of the high frequencies are like a feather tickling the end of your finger.

Higher than that, and you run out of finger.
Eikka
3 / 5 (3) Jul 16, 2016
Of course, by the laws of physics it's permissible that a frequency twice as high excites a resonance half as low, so a 40 KHz frequency can excite an oscillator at 20 KHz, but the amplitude is halved and the power or percieved intensity is divided by four. So it is possible to experience very loud ultrasound sources, assuming you're close enough to compensate for the loss of power through transmission in air.

That means it's possible to come out with an experiment, and people have actually done so, to transmit ultrasound and have people hear it. It's just irrelevant for practical sound reproduction because you are invariably not able to hear ultrasound from a loudspeaker 3 ft away without the rest of the music being so loud it's causing you permanent hearing loss.
KBK
3.5 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2016
"Which is ironic, because modern vinyls are produced from digital masters."

Actually, they are not.

The vast majority of top level masters arrive at the top mastering studios in 30ips 2" stereo master tape format -- the recognized superior format.

As for the 7 meg-zero jitter issue, note carefully I said it was case of 'inter channel phase' which is a consideration involving the accuracy of timing of transients, micro-transients, etc, all individually or as a complex set, in accuracy of timing, across the two channels.

192kz sampling is a pretty darned far distance away from that minimum that any LP can achieve. Note I said, record/LP, I did not indicate the rest of the chain.

Even a 15khz high frequency limited 60 year old tube amplifier can easily meet this spec.

Why? It's pure analog, that's why.

It may be swamped by other effects when attempting to measure it, but is fundamentally within in the given simple stereo system of analog recording and reproduction.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2016
As for the 7 meg-zero jitter issue, note carefully I said it was case of 'inter channel phase' which is a consideration involving the accuracy of timing of transients, micro-transients, etc, all individually or as a complex set, in accuracy of timing, across the two channels.


Why would the sampling rate have anything to do with inter-channel timing differences?

What would minute differences in inter-channel phase difference matter anyhow, when your listening position and room echoes define the actual timing difference of the sound reaching your ear?

Heck, on a vinyl, the phase difference changes all the time because the tone arm swings and rotates the needle relative to the track. A tape head is never absolutely and perfectly perpendicular to the tape etc. etc.

It's differences you can't hear, and differences that don't matter, and where did you pull the 7 million samples anyways? Out of your hat?
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2016
Actually, they are not.

The vast majority of top level masters arrive at the top mastering studios in 30ips 2" stereo master tape format -- the recognized superior format.


Very few recording studios do full analog anymore - the mixing and effects are done digitally. Even if you put it on a tape, it's coming off of a digital source, through some kind of a DSP.

Of course there are some who still insist on having an echo room, or steel plate echos, or tape reverbs etc. for that "authentic sound", but it's mostly just for hipster cred. In reality it all sounds a bit rubbish - the audio equivalent of a colored in black and white photograph.


Why? It's pure analog, that's why.


Why, it's pure fantasy, that's why.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2016
In fact, the use of analog tape to master records is because the tape has a kind of distortion due to magnetic saturation that yields a specific effect on the sound.

http://www.audiob...og-tape/
About once a month I am asked to master an album that was recorded on a digital audio workstation, like most albums are these days, to analog tape. The idea is that recording the stereo mix to tape will saturate a mix with a sound that is consistent with a recording done entirely on 2″ analog tape. In some cases, the technique of tracking a completed stereo mix to analog tape and mastering back to digital is very successful and in other cases it is not worth the expense.


Reason being that the magnetic domains - particles of metal - on the tape don't respond linearily to the applied magnetic field and they don't retain all of the field applied onto them perfectly even on a top quality tape, which creates harmonic distortion.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2016
See for reference:

http://hyperphysi....html#c3

You may notice that even at "optimum biasing", the B-H curve of the tape medium is not entirely linear - it compresses the signal in proportion to its amplitude ever so slightly, which distorts the waveform and creates new harmonic signals in it. You can reduce this distortion by recording at a lower level, but that's approaching the noise floor of the tape, so it's always a compromise between distortion and noise.

Furthermore, the act of biasing the tape involves injecting it with a 50-150 kHz signal that "averages out" the magnetic domains, and it's this biasing signal that is modulated by the sound you're recording.

Obviously if there's any high frequency components in the sound to be recorded, it's going to mix with the biasing signal and may produce audible artifacts which is why the sound is filtered to contain none.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2016
192kz sampling is a pretty darned far distance away from that minimum that any LP can achieve. Note I said, record/LP, I did not indicate the rest of the chain.


It's technically true that "any LP" can achieve about 96 kHz frequency range, the act of playing the record just physically destroys any information that might be present at those frequencies, and the only way you'll even get those frequencies and "micro transients" or whatever in there is by using a digital master - because as I pointed out above, the analog tape masters can't actually contain that information.

It may be swamped by other effects when attempting to measure it, but is fundamentally within in the given simple stereo system of analog recording and reproduction.


Everything you're talking about will be swamped by other effects when attempting to -hear- it. The measuring devices, spectrum analyzers, sound printers etc. are all vastly superior to the human ear.
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Jul 20, 2016
There's also the curious effect that since a real tape recording head cannot physically contain the magnetic field in a neat sharp line across the tape, the effect of the field spreads from the point backwards and forwards.

Audio signal leaking into the "future" will obviously be re-scrambled by the recording head, but signals leaking into the "past" will produce an frequency and amplitude dependent artifact on playback where you're hearing the sound slightly before it's actually due and that also messes up with the playback. The effect diminishes as the tape is recorded and played faster, but it's always there.

That also throws a spanner in the gears of anyone claiming that pure analog faithfully reproduces some sort of "micro transients" and "leading edges". It simply doesn't - analog sound recording is a mess of compromizes, non-linearities, distortion, dubious signal filtering tricks like Dolby and RIAA, and noise.

The reason it holds such a cult status is belief

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