Please note I am NOT at all against digital and in fact believe higher resolution formats such as 24 bit etc is better than vinyl but unfortunately there is not much music available in those formats at this time to make me considered dumping vinyl.
If I still had my major investment in vinyl, I wouldn't dump it either. But, as I mentioned before, there never was (and probably never will be) much material that is as good as the grand masters. But that's not a "vinyl v. digital" issue, it's a "studio v. retail quality" one.
I have a very realistic handle on the limitations of vinyl AND of Redbook CD.
In the 30+ years since the Red Book was published ("Redbook" is a women's magazine, BTW), a whole lot has changed, and a whole lot of very clever engineering solutions have been applied as solutions to what was thought as insurmountable 30 years ago. Even the 44.1/16 narrow place in the chain hasn't been the impediment that many people, myself included, thought could never transmit good music from the artist to the listener. We were proved wrong by people who used clever DSP algorithms and ADC/DAC designs to shove a lot of information through the pipe that they were constrained to. I give them credit, because it really does sound excellent.
I enjoy listening to both formats. There are some crappy sounding records and some crappy sounding CD's. However, I still get more listening enjoyment from vinyl overall.
Enjoyment is paramount for the listener, of course. And as a "golden eared" listener, I learned early on that a perfect transfer function is rarely the most enjoyable. That's why studio monitors "sound terrible" to the consumers of music. At the consumer end, the wise listener will embrace distortion, and choose components that distort the signal in a way that pleases them the most.
First I want to clear up a misconception that seems to always be the first thing people defending CD over vinyl bring up. I highlighted the statement in bold in your response above. That statement is oft repeated but is just plain wrong.
The problem with your claim is that the "evidence" that you put forth to support it, fails. the "vinyl LP high-frequency content" that one photo shows cannot be said to be the exact signal that the artist recorded, and not unwanted harmonic distortion. In fact, is MUST be harmonic distortion. Why? Because the finest recording equipment available in 1974, when the album was recorded and mastered, were unable to record frequencies much past 16 kHz, much less 90. So to represent that which is undesirable in the reproduction of music as being desirable is to lie. You need to find better sources.
Even with the RIAA equalizer inserted into the chain, the HF response of an LP is limited by the mechanical size of the grooves, and the lathe that cut them. There's no way around that! That's why mastering for LP has always been something of a black art. The engineers who master vinyl mothers don't share their tricks, but they do admit that they alter the original recording to fit the media. Likewise, the bands that rely on getting exposure through broadcasting, where the typical dynamic range of a Rock station is 2-3 dB, master their retail products to sound like they do on the radio.
There has been a lot of research done and published that explains why LP resolution is as limited as it is, but because it was written before the Web, you have to go to engineering libraries to find them. What you will find is that HF response is not only limited, but things like the heat generated by dragging a diamond past the undulations in vinyl grooves causes the vinyl to get soft and deform, and do other things like ring in the same way that certain tire tread patterns make noise over certain pavement types. The ONLY way to fix any of this is to completely re-engineer the mechanical recording process. (BTW, SQ, QS etc. failed because the high frequency subcarriers were too weak to resolve clearly, and got burnished away after a few plays.)
The truth is that an average music recording is NOT a single sine wave. CD media have 16 bit/channel resolution, not 4. And although I used to be able to hear all the way up to ~30 kHz (per my hearing ultrasonic motion detectors (I was involved in the install of a store security system), I was the exception, not the rule. The truth is that very little music has even fundamentals at the top octaves, and even if they did, 99.9% of listeners cannot hear them at all.
MP3 can be brutal on these.
MP3 isn't for those. MP3 is for casual listeners who tend to be more interested in the lyrics than the sound, and care more about the number of tunes they can put on their ipod than how they sound. It's been nearly three decades since I had my peak hearing, so I can't tell just by listening (as with all middle-aged pundits that pretend to hear things they can't) just how good my is, but I've written some Vorbis
encoding algorithms that give me ~256 kbps streams that sound as good or better than the 44.1/16 LPCM that I started with.
This takes me to the other part of the equation. The mastering and re-mastering.
I really wish that you had followed that up with some talk about the same. Instead you chose to delve into matters of ergonomics, and technical issues that only apply to some genres of music, and don't represent the music transmittal technology at all. Back when we got our music on records, and made it mobile by transcribing to Compact Cassette, I used to transcribe using my college roommate's Nakamichi compander to compress music for playback in cars. Today there's a button on many car stereos that does the exact same thing in situ
. Sure, plenty of people used compression (another example is recording a tape using Dolby B or C, and playing the tapes on a Walkman without any decoder) post-sale. That says nothing about the mastering process, though.
One of the big complaints of the latest stereo Beatles Box Set of remastered albums is that it has been severly compressed.
Then don't buy them. This is the 21st Century equivalent of why I used to buy $25 imported LPs when an American pressing cost $8, and why I used to jettison my clothes so I could stuff my suitcases with superior European LP pressings when I traveled abroad. Go to Amazon.com and you typically can choose between three or four different version of the same album. Clearly the Beatles box set wasn't remastered aboard Astoria
, but then again there are very few virtuosos in the world.
I'd rather hear it with the maximum dynamic range that can be had within the technical limits and not the least.
What, like listening to music through the dbx expander-only that was sold briefly in the '70s? Or no less and no more than the dynamic range that the artist originally intended? Again, just because some corporate producers produce sonic trash, that doesn't mean that their practices are representative of the medium as a whole. What's your point? It seems like you're just making straw man arguments here.
CD's can also suffer from distortions caused by transport jitter but that can be largely eliminated by ripping them to a music server purpose built for best of everything.
Like I said, there have been some mighty clever solutions.
If you haven't read them already, you can find several posts I've made about my jitter-free system. Essentially I rip everything to disk, then use the large amounts of cheap RAM that is available to standard computers to buffer the audio stream far better than the cheap PLL circuits that multi-thousand High End CD players still feature as their best effort. The quartz crystal in a $20 sound card offers more than enough stability, but there are TXCO
kits available to add a studio quality master clock
to that $20 sound card. That, with a modestly priced studio DAC, makes an excellent playback system.