Can Digital beat our Analog installations?

Having gone a long walk on developing my analog systems I am addicted to phono reproduction. Nevertheless I always kept an eye on CDs and also SACDs. Before I currently updated my digital dCS chain to the complete Scarlatti boxes I experimented on the best wordclocking connections. in the end I decided going for an additional rubidium clock added to my Verona master clock.

I am using also a second system equipped with the Accuphase 800 drive and 801 DAC, an Esoteric XO1 Limited and a Wadia 861 SE for other utilization. Let's concentrate on the dCS stack. These four boxes are sounding such good and analog like that I like to question my friends, Why isn't Digital an alternative to our best analogue chains?

So it's time comparing digital vs. analog systems and maybe some sophisticated digital chains are beating our sophisticated analog systems. Will it be possible?
Thuchan, I use Naim CD555 with PS555. Some users on the Naim forum added an additional PS555, one separately each for Analog and Digital. One year ago Naim had introduced their upgraded PS555DR, "Discrete Regulator" Some are now using a PS555DR for the Analog and the PS555 for the Digital.
It already is possible. This topic has been brought up not too long ago. Almarg described how. I don't remember the thread. Search the archives. Or pm Al.
The two are so fundamentally different they will never sound the same. If I'm not mistaken to get to the level where some say its equal will cost at least $6000.+ with cabling and converters possibly adding thousands more, just like analog!

I own so much vinyl and wax that will never get digitized it don't matter. I have finally come to reality with digital because of an easy to listen to NOS DAC.

I'll go out on a limb and say wireless wi-fi connection is dramatically inferior and the quality of all the cabling matters, even ethernet seems to have termination issues.
On the other hand I did hear an LP recorded to digital and I was hard pressed to tell the difference.

There are still a few studios that still have two inch tape recorders. The issue is the knowledge of analog recording is dying with the engineers that have the experience to mic and record live studio music.

Dave Grohl rescued the Sound City Neve board, Bravo! So who knows maybe it won't die.
Can u describe a bit more on your clocking arrangement? I own the dcs Scarlatti also... What about cables for the clock?
09-06-13: Csontos
It already is possible. This topic has been brought up not too long ago. Almarg described how. I don't remember the thread. Search the archives. Or pm Al.
Thanks for the mention, Peter, but it wasn't me.

FWIW, I enjoy both formats, to a greater or lesser degree depending mainly on the quality of the particular recording.

Best regards,
-- Al
No digital is too pristine and/or clean to me. Even in life nothing is that quiet, there is always some kind of noise no matter what. I have the dCS Debussy, it is very good at what it does but at times it just sounds too clear and does not sound natural. It is the closest I have come getting digital to sound like analog though.
Thuchan, I admire your purchasing power, but the topic has been hashed over beyond ad nauseam. Let me turn the question around: do you like either of your digital rigs better than your EMT927?
You're right, at this point I don't know what you can say that hasn't been said previously. Both formats can sound fine and both can be disappointing, depending on the quality and the set up. I like both.
clocking cables are running from the clock to transport, dac and upsampler. from the external extension of the clock the bnc cable runs to the rubidium clock (perfection10). In this way the dCS clock is the master but getting more precision by the atomic power :-).

on wordclock cables i refer to the rules:

1. Use good quality 75ohm impedence cable.

2. All cables should be of equal length.

3. All cables should be a short as possible.

which cables are you using on the AES 2 connection using the Vivaldi mode and which Firewire cables do you prefer?
Thanks Lewm. I have submitted the congrats to my purchasement department. btw. they are also contracted on selling some of my units in the next time on Audiogon.
When the last of the four boxes of the Scarlatti system has arrived at me - the Scarlatti Upsampler then exchanges the Purcell - I will answer your question comparing the full system to the R 80.
Hi, I've tried 3 types of clock cables. All were clearly audible. dCS Stock, Cardas Lightning 15 and Purist Proteus Provectus Praesto. I prefer the Purist out of these 3, however the Cardas is a lot better than stock. Seems to bring more focus and lower the noise floor...

Right now still using firewire (I've tried stock and audioquest diamond)....The audioquest again made a improvement...although I though the clock cables was more dramatic and crucial...go figure.

I have not updated to the new firmware yet for AES 2 off the transport to DAC. ( I just have the Scarlatti Trans, Clock and DAC) (have you?) Wonder if AES 2 vs firewire is better for SACD?

What do you notice with with out the rubidium clock as a reference? (and what brand model # pls)

Thanks in advance
Never! The physics of analogue can never be reproduced in the digital mode, no matter what sampling rate is used. Fact, just accept it.
I am in the process of rebuilding my dCS system to the same configuration you already have. I will also test the AES 2 connection between STT and SDAC and SUP, I may need two more weeks, also with my different cables I am testing. A friend of mine is absolutely excited about running DSD via this connection to the SUP. You should get the dCS update 1.33 for the STT so enabling the Vivaldi mode.

I have tested dCS Firewire, Oyade and Audioquest Diamond (with long endings). The Audioquest is really superior but the Oyade is for the price given not bad too.

Purist Proteus Provectus Praesto bnc to bnc I have not heard. Thanks for the hint.
The SSR Perfection10 Rubidium clock from California is one of possible add ons to your system.
It is an amazing experience in combination with the dCS clock, gives more accuracy on top of the stability you already have with your SCLOCK.

Are you using the SUP (Scarlatti Upsampler)? I was always excited about my upsampling adventures I reached by my Purcell. I would never use a dCS system without upsampler and unpatiently I am awaiting the arrival of the SUP.
09-07-13: Buconero117
Never! The physics of analogue can never be reproduced in the digital mode, no matter what sampling rate is used. Fact, just accept it.
The question raised by the OP was "can Digital beat our Analog installations?"

For that to happen does not require that the physics of analog be precisely reproduced in the digital mode. It just requires that the shortcomings of digital relative to analog, if any, be reduced to the point of inaudibility.

Not sure how that can be declared to be impossible. Not sure how it can even be declared that there are no systems in which it has already been achieved.

Declaring something to be "fact" does not necessarily make it so.

-- Al
At least to me, the analog experience is more than just the sound. There is something very organic and deeply satisfying about a vinyl record and the routine that I engage in to get it set up and then see spinning making wonderful sound. No digital system can replicate this experience so to me the answer is and will always be a big fat NO regardless of whether the sound in an absolute sense is comparable or better.

Also, after watching "Sound City" and experiencing the awful quality of many of today's recordings, it seems to me the conversation should perhaps focus as much on their recording quality as on their reproduction. I can't imagine a recording done completely digitally could compete with an analog recording done right, and no insanely expensive stack of digital junk could help it.
Your reply to Buconero117 was rational and intelligent and par for the course . No one here is knocking analog whatsoever, quite the contrary(it's used here as a lofty standard for crying out loud).
I dont understand why those who prefer analog records get so worked up over this common subject. This isn't religion folks.
Pop, pop, click, click oh what a distraction it is ...... To me and the sole reason I cannot do records!
Digital is still in the early days of its development. There will continue to be significant improvements in sound quality and user experience, e.g. metadata, room correction, etc., for many years to come.

I think eventually you will even be able to replicate the sound of vinyl including groove noise, pops and clicks and your choice of equalization curve in a one box system.
In 2002 at the CES high end audio show of the six best sounding systems in the show as judged by senior audiophile reviewers all except one was digital. The one judged the best of show was all digital. Note to self: that was almost 12 years ago!
I think a dollar amount has to be established for the discussion to make sense. After 10 years of trying to get digital right, I spent half as much on analog and it sounds better than any dcs or wadia set up I had.
I regard it as an enourmous improvement going via Dual AES. curently in my small solution (SUP and SCL will arrive maybe in a week about) I am able to enjoy DSD and upsampled DSD from the STT (Scarlatti Transport) This is much better than by the Firewire connections. Wordclocking is going Perf10 => Verona => everywhere. What is your experience?
Even according to Al, I still can only believe that quality of digital reproduction in the mathematical and scientific terms can only "approach" quality of analogue reproduction as close as possible when sampling resolution approaches infinity [aka Q(digital media/playback) --> Q(analogue media/playback) when sampling resolution --> infinity], but can't be any greater potentially and so practically.
Neo(aka Matrix movie hero) may certainly have a different opinion, but certainly not proven yet :-) so the analogue today and probably in far future has and will have the HIGHEST possible resolution of sound.

Despite my HUGE analogue library of near or more than 10k of vinyls/45's/7"/flexi/75rpm, I do have digital PC audio playback/great DAC simply because I love media and music more than any type of playback regardless of format. If artist I desire isn't available on vinyl, I'd never mind having it on CD or other formats or medias.
Jfrech, I wondered how you could perceive that the Cardas cable reduced "noise" compared to two other cables, when the background is said to be better than -100db for any respectable digital playback system. I don't doubt your perception that the Cardas sounded "better", just the rationale for it. The brain is a funny thing.

Granny, I feel sorry for you if your vinyl is or was plagued by pop pop click click. It doesn't have to be that way. Blame your LPs, not the medium.
Well, the pops and clicks were not terrible by most standards, but there after cleaned properly etc....I guess I have a low tolerance due to my years of digital only...
09-11-13: Czarivey
Even according to Al, I still can only believe that quality of digital reproduction in the mathematical and scientific terms can only "approach" quality of analogue reproduction as close as possible when sampling resolution approaches infinity...
Czarivey, although I understand your point I would respectfully disagree. If you are not already familiar with it, you may want to read up on the Nyquist-Shannon Sampling Theorem. While it only represents an approximation when the length of the sampled waveform and the number of bits per sample are not infinite, it can, at least potentially, be an extremely close approximation for bits per sample and sample rates that are achievable (and arguably that have already been achieved).
... sampling resolution ... can't be any greater potentially [than analog]
It doesn't have to be. The sampling resolution just has to be good enough to reduce sampling artifacts to the point of either being inaudible, or to the point where they are less audibly significant than the many things in analog that are not infinitely perfect either. Including tracking error distortion, offset error, azimuth error, VTA/SRA mismatches, anti-skating, VTF adjustment, cartridge loading effects, and noise and RFI pickup, not to mention less than perfect performance of the cartridge itself, the tonearm, the turntable, the phono cable, and the phono stage.

-- Al
Grannyring, ticks and pops can be an artifact of the preamp where it exacerbates a tick or a pop that may have otherwise been inaudible.

I have seen LP surfaces that are as quiet as digital (IOW the electronics was the noise floor, not the surface of the vinyl).

While it is true that digital continues to improve, its not like analog has been standing still either. In the analog world, the limitation is mostly in the playback side, not the record side. Because of this the mastering engineer for any LP has to be aware of those limitations, but the cutterhead and the media otherwise has dynamic range that puts digital to shame.

One reason for this has to do with resolution. Digital files often have to be compressed so that the signal won't loose resolution in the quieter passages (in a 16-bit system, at -45db its only using 8 bits, which sounds pretty bad). Vinyl's limitation in this regard has more to do with the individual pressing (noise) than the overall media.

With regards to bandwidth vinyl currently has it all over digital. Anyone remember CD-4 4-channel LPs from the mid-1970s?? That employed a 50KHz carrier onto which the rear channels were encoded in FM stereo. That takes some bandwidth! Digital is usually limited to about 20KHz or so; the newer systems sounding better because of the higher scan frequencies, eliminating the need for the traditional brickwall filter. But even on such systems getting bandwidth is a problem- you can't have any signal exceeding the Nyquist frequency or you have trouble. If you don't have a brickwall filter that means you have to be careful about what the highest frequency to be recorded actually is.

So far the Stahltek is the best digital system I have heard- beating out the dCS pretty handily without much of a fight (although it is also one of the more expensive units I have heard...). I had the designer in my room at RMAF one year, and IMO it is his pragmatic nature that has resulted in the extreme quality of his product. He played a track for me which I realized I had on LP, so I offered to play for him, which he gladly accepted. After listening for 5-10 seconds he turned to me and said "Digital has *such* a long ways to go..." He plays analog at home himself.
Al, I clearly understand limiting factors of both reproductions. The number of variable in the matrix of analog reproduction is substantially larger than digital and that makes it EXTREAMLY sophisticated to achieve perfection, but in reality as even with digital...

It doesn't have to be. The sampling resolution just has to be good enough to reduce sampling artifacts to the point of either being inaudible, or to the point where they are less audibly significant than the many things in analog that are not infinitely perfect either.

What theoretically said in terms of approaching an infinity certainly isn't practially done in one or another domain, but having the fact that digital domain is less depended on analogue imperfection factors it's definitely cleaner.

What about presence of overtones and subtones that harmonise with audible spectrum in analogue? We know that they're not audible let's say in most of cases after 14kHz, but they're being superposed with the audible frequencies. Isn't that gives a sound it's signature and naturality?
I think that these may be and are diminished during sampling processing.
Lewm, dont think of noise as like noise (hiss/hum). In this case, it allows more musical info to emerge. So maybe a better analogy is like a focus ring on a camera, allowing the image to be better percieved from the background when optimal focus is found...hope that helps...
you are favouring the Stahltek vs. dCS. May I ask you with which dCS stack did you compare? Did you listen to both systems in one chain or in different fair rooms?
What do you like most of the Stahltek?
Cerrot, I respectfully would mention that the limitation of the 44.1kHz sampling frequency is only inherent with redbook CD quality recordings. High resolution digital files continue to become more widely available in 24/96, 24/192, and DSD formats which are not limited by such a restriction.
Seems to me its been the Elgar, which was accompanied by some sort of upsampler unit. For a long time this was one of the better setups I had heard, until hearing the Stahltek.

The Stahltek is the first unit where I was not thinking about analog/digital when listening to it- it was very much about the music. None of any previous digital systems I have heard were that successful at not drawing attention to themselves. I don't know how else to put that- the Stahltek is simply more musical (and without coloration). Anyone who has heard it knows what I am talking about.
Thanks for your input Atmasphere. I don't know the Stahltek. Is it possible to transfer a DSD signal via a similar encrypted high quality connection like the Dual AES DSD feature of dCS does it. Or do have to go via Firewire connection?
having built up the whole Scarlatti stack and having tested the dCS system intensively I am now able to comment on your question. As you know I should be able drawing conclusions from my analogue setups (EMT R 80, Micro Seiki SX 8000 II, Continuum Criterion with Cobra arm) comparing the sound to my full Scarlatti Digital system.

You know that I am basically an analogue driven guy, also having established a line of my two R2R machines (Studer A820, Studer C37).

First of all you cannot beat 1st copies of master tapes like Miles Davis -Kind of Blue. The sound coming from the masters is such "quiet", unjittery and overwhelming that it keeps the most desirable source playing in my room. But the question was a different one.

I compared many CDs and SACDs to vinyl records. I did not come to the result that vinyl is outmatching digital formats in any case. It really depends on the recording meticolousness and the production quality of the software. For example Pink Floyd the wall SHM CD and the MFSL CD will never reach the power and musicality of my EMI UK pressing of 1979 but when listening to the Kei Akagi Trio - Palette SACD i am listening to a warm, driving and powerful high resolution sound which is amazing. Also some modern Jazz CDs like the ones from ECM or ACT do sound in an upsampled version to DSD or 176,4 KHz really stunning.
you may listening to these digital formats hours and hours...

On the other hand when I am comparing some of my old Rock music CDs to the old vinyl pressings it is no question that you better go to the shredder machine with these CDs.

Anyway I made the expierence that a digital reproduction chain is not at all inferior to a good analogue chain. With the Dual AES digital connection (rather than Firewire) and excellent wordclocking cables (which have an impact as all digital cables as well!) using (a) master clocks you can produce a sound in your home system which is nearly unrivaled, a least to from modern recordings not issued on vinyl.
Can digital cables be wordclocking?
If yes how it's achieved?
Never heard of wordclocking cables. I only know that wordclocking can be achieved with electronics.
czarivey, we're discussing clock cables connecting our wordclocks to the dac and trans...the cables aren't themselves the clock...
Thuchan, I am with you. I have great analog and a great digital set up, To me, it depends on the software which is has come a long long way...I can only imagine how the Vivaldi improves on our Scarlatti...I'd love to try the dCS Vivaldi DAC...keeping my dCS Scarlatti clock and trans...

To lock the DAC to a word clock signal, it is necessary to synchronise the DAC's internal clock with a Phase-Locked Loop. You cannot do that directly from (for example) an SPDIF cable carrying digital audio. Therefore you are using separate wordclocking cables going from the sources (CD, DAT, Upsampler, Laptop etc.) to the Dac or to a Master Clock (here including the Dac as source - in slaving mode).

Wordclock is "something digital" -SPDIF see under Wikipedia
Thanks Jf, That's what I thought of some kind of synonym to our ordinary digital cable "wordclocking".
Jfrech and Thuchan, while I agree that the software plays a huge role, I feel like I have to point out an often overlooked issue:

We often see very well done digital recordings. They sound amazing, and seem to challenge analog reproduction. The question though really is- what would this same recording sound like if the master was analog instead of digital? I ask this because you might be surprised at how modest the record chain can be in an excellent digital recording (although there are recordings that sport some high end hardware in the record chain too). What I am getting at here is how easily a good analog recording system can best the best of digital. It can do it in a heartbeat.

If you are playing an LP that has a digital master, it quite often can sound better than the CD simply because it is mastered from the master file and has less data loss. But you really aren't hearing what that LP can do unless it also has an analog master.