A simple question from the new guy ....

I have never listened to vinyl played with good gear. Are the pops and hiss still there when played on a good system? How about on a brand new record.....still there? I am constantly tempted to give vinyl a try, but I know the pops would drive me nuts if it is anything like I remember from long ago.
You will still get surface noise, although it can be minimized to a degree with good record cleaners. Somehow I find it easier to ignore than compressed dynamics... YMMV.
I have found that as the quality of my vinyl playback rig has improved the ticks and pops are far less noticeable, though there are still some there (almost like they are sort of disassociated from the music), and rarely do I hear hiss unless it's on the master tape (like on Mercuries, for example). The quality of the vinyl on today's re-releases (not talking about regular pop commercial releases) on the whole is consistently better than in the past, mainly because the companies doing the releases are careful about those things and the 180/200 gram pressings and Classic Records "Quiex" or whatever formulation do make a difference, but I have found there are still occasional ticks and pops on some new records. I would suggest that you make the effort to find a dealer or a local audiophile with a good vinyl set-up and listen on it in order to satisfy yourself, as there are some people who just cannot stand any extraneous noise, no matter how small it may seem to others.
Yes the pops and ticks are still there, which is the reason I've never bought a turntable. I've listened to a Rockport Sirius 2, basis 2500, VPI TNT hotrod 5(set up by Harry) and a number of other lesser tables and they all have pops and ticks that are audible from the seating area.
What I find interesting about the better vinyl playback gear is that it seems to minimize the importance to the music of those pops and ticks. They may be there, but they don't bug me.

Some TT systems seem to exaggerate surface noise. Perhaps this is because their system resonances fall in the same range as the pops and ticks, but whatever the reason, I would not want to live with them if I had the alternative of a good digital source.

However in my view it is not right to generalize and say all vinyl is subject to surface noise, therefore I can't relax as I listen to it and I won't consider vinyl for that reason. One day you may hear an analog system which makes the music so much more important than any noise that you feel you could enjoy living with it.
I have an audiophile friend who is into vinyl he has a JA Micheal Gyrodec, SME tone arm (I think), benz micro glider cartridge and cj ev-1 phono amp. I have listened to it and "Yes" you will still get the clicks and pops and surface noise in "general" with vinyl. Some albums will be very quiet while others will not. Also you will deal with warped/damaged records even when purchasing new. A record cleaning machine is a must if you want to get the most out of vinyl as cleanliness is the key to eliminating as many pops and clicks as possible and even then you will not (in general) get all the noise out.

I like you have also considered trying vinyl but when I hear all the hassles he goes through there is no way. I am all digital and since having the my SCD-1 upgaded with the Superclock 3/ Superclock power supply and the transport caps upgraded it is so good that my desire to even think about vinyl is gone. I would consider for asthetic purposes only if I was "extremely" wealthy.