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  Topic: Now Spinning.., Musical Interlude< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
Reciprocating Bill

Posts: 4230
Joined: Oct. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 12 2007,23:58   

Quote (stevestory @ Nov. 13 2007,00:23)
I've heard that tubes and vinyl have pleasant even harmonics, while solid state stuff have unpleasant odd harmonics. Anyone know if this is true?

That's the theory vis tubes, although not vinyl. Some argue that well designed solid state and tube amplifiers sound equivalent until overdriven. The harmonic distortion generated by tubes near clipping is 2nd order versus 3rd and higher for SS, and is therefore less noticeable and less objectionable.

There are other differences that relate to the interaction between amplifiers and speakers of varying designs; speakers often present very complex loads, with impedance that varies wildly with frequency, so there are significant speaker - amplifier interactions. Additionally, SS equipment typically presents a damping factor to a speaker an order of magnitude higher than does tube equipment, which gives it much more control over bass performance - good for some speaker designs (e.g. acoustic suspension), bad for others (horns, bass reflex, ported designs).  

The bottom line is that matching speaker to amplifier is often more important than the characteristics of individual components. All my stuff is quite vintage, and matches well.  

The advantage of vinyl is resolution. The "redbook" CD data format reflects some very serious and audible compromises that limit the resolution of the sound, particularly at high frequencies. It is not that digital is inherently inferior - but rather the sampling and data formats selected in the early '80s for CDs, which was adapted to the realities of the computer power that could be mass produced for a consumer device at that time, introduced limitations.  

Practically speaking, I find that well engineered vinyl recordings retain a "silkiness" in massed strings, a high frequency "sheen" with brushed cymbals, and a purity with voices and woodwinds that I've never heard in from a CD, at least not with my equipment. "Sound stage" (the sense of a space spreading between the speakers) is also subtly superior. When I first resuscitated my turntable and returned to vinyl I experienced a shock of recognition: Oh, THAT!!!  I hadn't heard THAT in 20 years, a set of qualities I had associated with high fidelity, but had forgotten. When CDs were first introduced we were all wowed by the low noise floor, convenience, and lack of wear with repeated playing and didn't notice what we had lost. Mp3s are even worse, introducing an audible "edge" that I liken to a metallic taste in food. SACD and DVD digital audio are of far higher resolution and are very close to analog.

The irony of the design selected for CDs is that a vastly superior system (although probably not practical to implement as a mass market device) existed at that time: Telarc's "Soundstream" digital recording system. Superior in every respect, those recordings are breathtaking in their quality, but there are just two ways to hear them the way they were intended: via the original LPs (recorded as soundstream digital masters and directly transfered to the vinyl cutting heads) or the re-releases now available as SACDs. They don't convert well to CDs because of artifacts introduced in mathematically converting data generated by the 50 kHz sampling rate of the soundstream system to the 44 kHz sampling rate of the Redbook format.

Here is a great little "tiny history" of High Fidelity that speaks to many of these issues.

Myth: Something that never was true, and always will be.

"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you."
- David Foster Wallace

  337 replies since Nov. 12 2007,10:35 < Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

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