Digitally recorded vinyl vs streaming

I know this is an hot button for many, but here goes... I like vinyl and have many albums from the 60's, 70's and 80's.  I'm interested in some 80's and 90's albums - like U2, REM, Nirvana,  but I wonder if they will sound any better than streaming since they were probably recored digitally.


too many variables to say whether your streaming is better than your vinyl playback with your digitally sourced vinyl.

---how great is your streaming?

---how great is your vinyl playback?

---do you mostly listen to processed pop music? acoustical jazz? or acoustical classical?

there are fine sounding digitally sourced vinyl pressings. and some really sucky stuff too. some of that 80's and 90's pop vinyl is pretty good.

in my system my best digitally sourced vinyl is somewhat better than my streaming. but my streaming is tip top, and so is my vinyl. and i mostly listen to acoustically sourced recordings.

if you have better quality vinyl playback than your digital then the differences might be greater. of vice versa.

I have a McIntosh tube amp, and a VPI table.  For Streaming I have a Bluesound Vault.  But my question is, on a nice or a very nice system, will vinyl recoreded in the 90's be any better than the streaming since the song was originally recorded digitally before being pressed to vinyl?


It’s very possible that albums from the 90s were recorded to 2" analogue tape. Then transferred to digital for post production; many ADD albums from the 90s.

No matter what the process, there were many good quality albums from that era.

In my experience, where I have both the digital and digitally engineered LP’s to compare, I almost always prefer the LP’s recorded digitally vs the digital file.

“I have a McIntosh tube amp, and a VPI table.  For Streaming I have a Bluesound Vault.”
Based on your preference for Vinyl and given your investment in digital, stick with spinning Vinyl. 

I really like the Blu app, easy to use and I can stream Tidal.  It also holds my entire CD collection.  Having said that, I have considered upgrading.  I listened to a Rose rs150 ($5000), but it didn't sound 4 times better than the Bluesound Vault.

It is about the value you place on better sound quality. I find each time you double (or better) the investment (a well researched and chosen upgrade), I get a “wow… that sounds better” to me. That makes me very satisfied and happy.  So, on all my components, I have gone from ~$500 -> $1,000 -> $2K -> $5K -> $10K -> $20K over the last fifty years. Each has been incredibly satisfying and worthwhile. I could not be happier. Lots of people would have stopped at the first purchase and called everyone that went further a fool. 

So, it is what makes you happy. I told you what makes me happy. If the market does well, maybe I have time to go to the next level. But if not I enjoy my system for three hours a day and am happy I did it.

One of the topics that will never go away...

Hear an LP that is recorded/transferred on a nice setup, the file should sound identical to the LP.

Most of the Rock/Alt Rock from the 80/90's and beyond is digitally recorded. I would imagine the quality of the digital file/transfer(Digital to analog)  for the "stamper" used pressing the LP would come in the question?

What sounds "better" or more "convincing" then, is the playback rig and the final subjective call from the ears?

“I listened to a Rose rs150 ($5000), but it didn't sound 4 times better than the Bluesound Vault.”

Bluesound iOS app is very nice. I suggest trying an external DAC with Vault, you should hear noticeable improvement over its internal DAC which is decent at best. May be consider a NOS DAC like Border Patrol,

Cutting vinyl from a digital source if done by top remastering engineers 

Ryan Smith 

CHris Bellman 

Bernie ect…

the digital to vinyl can absolutely improve the file that beats

digital playback

in most cases the vinyl reissue is typically been better 

 a cd playback on a pretty nice Luxman


Poor mastering = poor vinyl sound quality

you can do a lot to a file

Maybe choices that weren’t available at the time of the recording

Biggest difference is a slight veiled  with cd playback sound overall

Good luck Willy -T


I have the Node N130 and it sounds okay, but I upgraded the power supply and it sounded better. Then I hooked it up to a Shiit BiFrost DAC and it sounded better. Then I got a better USB cable and it sounded better. Then I hooked it up to a Denafrips Pontus ll and it sounds fantastic!  

All the best.

Sorry, I got my decades mixed up on an earlier post. 

In the early 90s record labels stopped pressing vinyl. There were independent record plants who kept the presses going. Some "Audiophile" records were available. There were a few bands who released vinyl in addition to their CDs. These were bands who wanted their fans to play records.

@lalitk I suggest trying an external DAC with Vault, you should hear noticeable improvement over its internal DAC which is decent at best. May be consider a NOS DAC like Border Patrol,


By chance you happen to own the BP dac now? I ask because I’ve been trying different NOS R2R chip dacs past three years. Interesting you mentioned the BP. I recently ordered the SE-I model for rotation, periodically. We’ll see how it goes.

I think a lot depends on the specifics of the digital systems used, i.e. were they 16/44, 24/96 or something else entirely? If the recordings were made using 24/96 technology, the vinyl made from those masters might  sound better than CD, stream, or vinyl made from 16/44 sources. Vinyl made from 16/44 sources can't sound better than the originals. Different, yes, better, only if vinyl is masking flaws. Better? Not possy.

I am awaiting the arrival of the Beatles Abbey Road 50th Anniversary edition LP! This I couldn't pass up! The late Art Dudley gave it a two thumbs up!

To knock digital out of the park or to put it another way to have it sound as good as as a fancy vinyl set up it takes a lot more than an entry streamer. All sorts of info you can dive into here. Just search.

With a service like Qobuz the voluminous amount on offer along with ease is why many choose streaming.

Assuming your system/room is jake both have great and poor recordings. So…

I love vinyl but choose to stream. Like recordings both can be marvellous or not  


In ultimate terms ifyou spend say $12k on analog  and the same on digital 

digital is much quieter  ,better dynamic range, Lower Bass 

it’s a fact a turntables is only capable of under 13 true bits 

digital 20 bits , and sonically digital has come along way in the last 5 years and to have a library at the touch of a button on your tablet digital is now better ,

on low expensive like a $5k setup a turntable is better buy a dac at least around $5k on up digital then can hold it down ,but you need  high quality usb cables 

good ethernet cables and upgraded switches , and on router a good Linear Zpower Supply . That’s why I say $12-15 k excellent digital on up $$ .


There is no fixed answer to this because it depends on the quality of the playback system but also where the material is sourced from and, critically, when it was mastered.

Just to give an example. I very recently did an a/b/c comparison of a very well recorded album, copies of which I have on vinyl, cd, and available on streaming.

The album in question was originally recorded on a Studer A800 2 inch analogue multitrack and mastered to DAT.

My copy of the album dates to the time of original release as is the CD.

All of the playback equipment is of a high standard - Esoteric CD and network DAC and Clearaudio/Passlabs vinyl playback.

In terms of sound quality, the vinyl sounds best, slightly better than the streamed file, but both are better than the CD by quite a margin.

But that's just one specific instance. Other instances could give a completely different result.

You mention 60s and 70s albums and say they were probably recorded digitally.

They won't have been because there was no digital recording then.

But many have since been re-mastered digitally.

If you want to be sure of pure analogue sound, buy records issued before the late 1970s.

Clearthinker, I actually meant, and thought I said, that the 80's and 90's were probably digital.  I know the 60's and 70's were not.


I see a couple of suggestions for DACs above, but I have not seen them at the places I shop - Audio Advice / Upscale Audio / Crutchfield so I am stuck at this point.  

Can I get more suggestions on a streamer? 

The only upgraded DAC / streamer I've listened to is the Rose rs150.  It says it has a better DAC but it also seems to really promote its large beautiful screen, which I don't really care about.  MAny other DACs I've reserched refer to them being a pre-amp, but I have a nice McIntosh integrated amp and don't want a new pre-amp, I just want to listen to a better streamer and see if its better.

I have upgraded cables/power supply/ethernet cables, so I feel like I'm ready to test drive a new streamer.  Thanks for all the suggestions.


On your original question...I have run this experiment many times.  I find that that if I can get my hands on an undamaged copy of the album on vinyl, it never sounds worse than the digital stream.  This is usually true even if the album was originally recorded digitally. 

That does not mean that the vinyl release sounds better 100% of the time, although it usually does.  Basically, the worst possible result with the vinyl edition is that it is of the same quality as digital.  If find this most frequently happens with recent releases, and usually when the digital release is of low enough quality that I was really hoping to get a big improvement with the record.  I know some artists are now releasing albums at a maximum quality of 320kbs mp3, because "you can't hear the difference" by which they mean THEY can't hear the difference when plugging a pair of Sony headphones into the USB-C jack of their Macbook Pro.

The main issue with the decades you mentioned is availability.  The 90s in particular seems to be an era when vinyl releases just weren't happening.  Luckily the digital streams are often of good quality.

@mojo771 I will second the recommendation for an external DAC.

I too ordered a Border Patrol DAC online. To put it simply it gives me more: More details, depth, more soundstage. Please note that it is the power supply that is rectified by tube. The signal path is SS. Even so it was a nice improvement for a IMHO, reasonable amount of money. 

While I prefer vinyl, sometimes I just want to sit. 😉

Happy listening. 

I have a Brinkman tt, but my streaming setup comes close on a lot of records. Now... I think you go all in or not. I stream. From Qobuz via Innuos Zenith. In my setup, the audio switch, USB reclocker, msampler, quality BNC, USB and Ethernet cables, all brought it closer and closer to finally ask myself, was the fancy TT and expensive records worth it. The answer is still yes but  it is a close match.

Mojo, if you’re looking for a streamer, check out Lumin and Bricasti. They both offer different models with and without DACs. Since I have an external DAC, I purchased the Lumin U2 mini a few weeks ago. This is my first Lumin product. So far, I’ve been impressed on multiple levels. I’m definitely not an expert regarding streamers. As you can imagine, there is a lot of information available online regarding streamers. I’m sure you will find this site helpful. Your budget may also help narrow your list of options. 

I sold all my vinyl and vinyl playing gear over a year ago because frankly, there was no consistent "better" when comparing the 2 formats

I didn’t have a huge vinyl collection, maybe 250 albums. Sometimes the vinyl sounded better, sometimes the digital stream did. There was no question digital was quieter and much more convenient to access and explore. Ever buy an album and find it sounds crap, sometimes even unlistenable? That is a thing of the past for me now. I now only listen to music I "favorite" on my steaming platform. There is so much music out there. I feel life is too short to listen to crappy recordings, unless the performance is utterly compelling,

I also started with the Bluesound node a few years back, and at that time my vinyl set up was still often better. Since upgrading to an Auralic G2 streamer and Musician R2r Dac, I was so satisfied with the sound and thrilled with unlimited access to so much music on Tidal. that I found I simply wasn’t using the vinyl gear much and it was not worth the hassle.

BTW my vinyl set up was VPI Aries 2, turntable, Benz Wood Cartridge, Art Audio vinyl One tube phono preamp.

I suspect in a rush to cash in on the CD "perfect sound forever" craze, much Analog to digital mastering for CDs was done rather hastily, on converters that were primitive by todays standards (were talking 1980s). Much music has been digitally remastered and sounds wonderful now, So, in a nutshell, sold all my vinyl and playback gear, at top dollar I might add, and never looked back.

I've asked myself this same question. I doubt there's a singular answer, but I basically save my vinyl purchasing for analog recordings only. There are exceptions, but that's my rule of thumb. Just seems like the sonic benefits are maximized when the album was recorded to analog tape.

Mike Lavigne +1 agree right on the money. I do have good sacd players , and tube cdp, as well as analog rig, I always go back to vynil.


Congratulations on your purchase of BP.  It’s a fine sounding DAC and appropriate for pairing with decent streamer like Vault. I am currently using a SS DAC, which I am extremely happy with. There are no valve components in my system. If I ever choose to go valve route, picking a Lampizator DAC like GG2 would be my first choice. 


In reference to your last post, there are lots of options depending on your budget. You can easily end up with something that can easily rival your analog rig. IMHO, it’s no longer about which format is superior given the advancements in both Analog and Digital gear. It comes down to personal preferences (some find it hard to give up tactile and curating experience of vinyl). I get that, but if original source of the recording is good, both Vinyl and Digital is equally capable of spine tingling experience. 

I believe your best foot forward is to find / audition DAC’s that elevate your digital playback before you dive into a better streamer like Aurender N200. In my experience, a DAC will yield much higher return on your investment than a streamer. This is not to suggest that streamer is not equally important but the ‘delta’ between streamer performance vs cost is bit smaller than the DAC’s. Another important thing to keep in mind while choosing a streamer is its User Interface (UI). Outside ROON, Aurender’s Conductor App is pretty straightforward and robust in its implementation and most faithful to your incoming bit stream. I believe Upscale Audio will let you home audition Aurender, once you’re ready.  Good luck! 

@lalitk Congratulations on your purchase of BP.  It’s a fine sounding DAC and appropriate for pairing with decent streamer like Vault. I am currently using a SS DAC, which I am extremely happy with. There are no valve components in my system. If I ever choose to go valve route, picking a Lampizator DAC like GG2 would be my first choice. 

Thanks for the note.  I won't have it for at least a few more weeks. Being built now. I sold off the last of my tube dacs prior to this.  In my situation, I'm not a fan of tubes directly in the signal path for my DAC setup.  The BP SE-I DAC associates the tube as a rectifier for the power supply part of the circuit, and not directly in the signal path itself.  Something I prefer, as with the rest of my system being all-tube. It may be a dac to rotate in/out adjacent to another dual-chip NOS solid state dac. Will be interesting to compare. Thx

Regardless of whether the vinyl mastering source is digital or analogue, play back is still 100% analogue. Taking a DAC out of the equation makes a difference. Not always for the better though. Many variables as discussed prior.

Personally, I don't care what format the vinyl mastering source is, as long as the pressing sounds good.      

Find a used Lumin T3 or X1 for one box. You will get a LOT of recommendations and all will be good as long as the rest of the peripherals are good. Power, cables, et all. X1 has PSU. Check out Muon too.

Or get a great phononstage, etc.



Vinyl reproduction in its entirety has a unique set of characteristics/distortions that overlay any other format type as to make them all sound like vinyl playback. It does not matter how the recording was done. Once the recording is in the vinyl format it will always sound like vinyl. This is something anyone who records vinyl to high resolution digital files will tell you. Whether or not this is good or bad is another issue for others to argue about. 

@mojo771 New issue of Sterophile (Aug) has a well written, detailed, and very favourable write up on the new ifi Audio NEO stream. It’s only $1299 and “punches way above it’s weight.”  Get your Mojo working. 

@mojo771  Blusound is great but when I hooked it to my Holo Spring Dac it sounded much bigger and better. I like the Blusound by itself as well. I'm not completely convinced on spending huge money to upgrade a streamer.

I read the review of the iFi Audio NEO Stream that @wsrrsw mentioned and one thing intrigued me.  The support for direct optical connection, I currently run optical from my router to my Bluesound box with transceivers at each end to replace the 50 foot ethernet run I had.  It made a big difference. Are there any other streamers out there that support direct optical?

@upshift Yup Lumin's do. I'm sure other bands must too. Obviously check photo's of the back and specs.

Have not reviewed all responses but my two cents is, which one “sounds” better - streamed or digitally recorded and cut to vinyl - has to do with your preferences and quality of playback front end. Certainly, a digitally sourced record can sound great and I have had plenty of those in my collection. But why spend the money on an LP form a digital source, if you can stream it?

I have changed my thinking about this over the years. I used to be heavy pro record, thinking that the analog source was superior. Records did sound nicer in my system, but the quality of my vinyl rig and cartridge (Hana SL with Rega, vpi and well tempered turntables, various well regarded phono stages from Lehman and Tom evans) was far greater than digital. I was using a Bluesound node at that time. But then, I switched DACs, first to Schiit then to chord. Suddenly the LP versus the streamed version (either analog original source or digital) mattered much much less, and I couldn’t honestly say that one was consistently better, or that the sound was different, depending on the recording. This, I strongly suggest the other user suggestion that you get a better DAC than the Bluesound. It will change your perspective and priorities. 

In my view, a well done digital system and well done vinyl rig are (usually) striving towards neutrality, ie not imparting distinct sound on the recording.* Therefore the better your gear, the more parity. I do appreciate that analog provides some additional spice/distortion, apparently second order harmonic, that is typically subtle but alters the sound. See Dave McNair’s writings on this topic. I like it and am not putting it down. 

I have also found that ripping my records using a high quality A/D in high res, played on a high quality DAC, sounds identical to live LP playback. This makes sense to me as digital is transparent to source. The digitized LP sounds like a record (since it is recording the sound of your vinyl rig, table cartridge phono and the LP). Whether or not that is “better” than the DDD streamed is in the eye of the beholder. Similarly, try listening to an A>D tape. THese can sound great and retain an “analog” sound quality. 

for me today, I sold my fancy turntable and phono stage and downgraded to a vintage well regarded table, solid entry level cartridge and phono, and just enjoy records for the experience. That is not to say that digital is “better” than analog. It is just different. And MUCH cheaper to achieve the same level of sound quality.  

*nothing against products that affirmatively “sound like…,” ie introduce distinct distortions on the source. But I do wish people would accept that those sounds are indeed distortions and not “what the artist intended” or “connecting to the emotion of the music” or whatever other phrases are out there…

@mojo771 , I am going to agree with @mikelavigne on this one.

I record vinyl to a hard drive on a regular basis using the same system Michael Fremer uses from Channel D. In 24/192 it is extremely hard to hear any difference between the digital recording and the album itself. For very special records like the Led Zeppelin 45 RPM box set by Classic Records it is a no brainer.

It does not matter how the record is recorded. Vinyl will always sound like vinyl with the characteristics of your system and the quality of the record added to the mix. Once an album becomes vinyl it stays vinyl from a sonic perspective even when played back from a digital file.

I am a music collector. To me streaming in not a first line modality. It is useful for listening to new material before you spend your money on the software. 

Sounds like you want to stream due to its convenience and that is a perfectly valid reason to go that route. If you want it to be a better sound experience than vinyl then spend more money on separates; DAC and Streamer. You will easily be able to exceed your present vinyl rig but you will need to dump money into it. The Bluenode and Rose as nice and convenient as they are will not get you there in my opinion although the Rose is getting a lot of praise. I also feel the Rose is a larger step up from the Node than you feel based on the Rose's expense. As I said if you want a much more noticeable sound improvement over vinyl then your digital set up must cost a comparable amount more.

The 90s were chaotic as to whether a vinyl recording was AAA, ADA, DDA. There are other variables, as others noted, too many variables. I’d go maybe a little farther than others here by simply saying that you have to judge on a case by case basis. Each LP has its own unique set of issues. 

My collection is 96% vinyl. You should keep both formats maybe. 

I actually am keeping both formats.  I love the convenience of streaming though and its allowed me to sample albums I may not have listened to otherwise.  I've found soome I really like from the nineties but I just didn't know if it made sense to buy it since it was recorded digitally. 

I'm still considering the hifi Rose rs150, but it seems from the posts above that I may not get the sound I'm seeking unless I go to the 10k range.  And many posts have said I need a better DAC while others have said I just need a better streamer.  So I'm still researing and trying to understand the gear.


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If you don't mind paying the premium that new vinyl - digitally sourced or not - costs, then go for it! I've no problem with the sound but it's a poor value proposition when the digital counterpart is cheaper and should be just as well. I get that some still have a preference for vinyl regardless and that's cool. 

I'd tend to think those earlier 80's albums were still analog. Not sure about the 90's and later though. Finding out the source is not that easy either :-(


voolston - audiophile by day, music lover by night