The quest

I have a question that may or not be easy to answer: are all efforts to improve digital music just a quest to achieve the quality of sound of the good and old LP? I keep reading expressions like "an almost analog quality" and similar things. Is digital sound just a more convenient means to store and play music that one day may reach the sound qualities of LPs, or we can reasonably expect one day to hear a really more natural ("better") sound from digital sources?
Listening to Digital is like having a shower with millions of little ice cubes instead of fresh water (vinyl)
Yes, hold on to your vinyl as digital will never end in trying to empty your pocket book.
The dynamics from digital can exceed that possible from vinyl. With vinyl, the mass of the moving parts in the cartridge and the grooves are the ultimate limitation.

The other analog qualities of Vinyl, like vocal smoothness can be duplicated with digital, but it requires very low jitter and low noise from the components. These components don't come cheap, but they are available.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
It's long been my belief that those of us old enough to have been raised with tubes as the only means of powering not only stereos but even TVs have a romantic link (for lack of a better word) to it and to the sound of vinyl due to it's coexistence. They went hand in hand.

That bar for what sounds good has been passed down and improved and tweaked to the point where vinyl is the standard but digital has come a long way in a shorter time and continues to improve apace. I can still detect when a record is being played in another room at an audio salon due to it's identifiable nature. Incredibly pleasant, natural and wonderful to behold when done right.

For me it's not a matter of settling for less with digital but learning anew to appreciate what it can do and the potential it has to get even better. At times it can sing to me as well as vinyl. But that's me. :-)

All the best,
"12-24-13: Buconero117
Yes, hold on to your vinyl as digital will never end in trying to empty your pocket book."

Silly comment. An audiophiles pocket will be always be emptied; digital or no digital.
IMO digital keeps improving after only 31 years. The bigger issue is the recording quality of music not the format. Great vocal recordings(Krall-Barber-Bisson-Joyce)in the digital format leave very little room for improvement.
Not everyone actually thinks that vinyl is the ultimate best sound. There are those who think it can gloss over details too easily etc. Sure there are analog gurus who aim for very detailed and precise sound but IMO not most of them.
There are so many things wrong with digital playback it almost defies description. Vibration, RFI/EMI, scattered laser light, out of round's no wonder stock systems and stock CDs sound thin, compressed, weird, like paper mâché, flat, two dimensional, metallic, discombobulated and dry.
What amazes me is the fact that after years of development of digital sources, players, DACs, the nirvana seems to be the sound from an old fashioned turntable and a tube amplifier. Almost everything I read in the forums discussing digital audio is actually related to how close to analog the sound is. I am saying this but have also to say that I have a full digital system that I am very satisfied with (mind you, I am not a true audiophile with prepared rooms and similar refinements, but only like to listen to good music of various styles with a good and reasonably accurate sound). These discussions, though fascinate me. One day I will have to audition a very high end system to try to understand what people are talking about.
But is "great vinyl sound" really old-fashioned? While I have not been an audiophile that long, I doubt the sound of what is called today great vinyl is the same as what it was 30 years ago. I know my dad had a good sound system, he actually still has it, and the sound is not very good by today's standards. But it was amazing back then.

As someone mentioned above, the improvement pace has been slower in vinyl than digital, but vinyl seems to have improved too.

Also, Tvfreak asked in the OP if digital was "just" convenience, but I don't think about convenience just as a potatoe couch syndrome type of thing. Carefully setting up an extremely accurate vinyl rig is no minor task, requires multiple devices/gadgets (just like digital?), and significant maintenance. Of course, the potatoe couch aspects also have an impact: not as easy to get the media to your hands, and then playing them.

I've chosen not to pursue vinyl since my budget is limited and would rather pursue one avenue and do it right. I run only a computer-based front-end, with tubed pre and tubed amp, and the pre has two volume pots and no remote - hence my differentiation between the flavours in potatoe couchness ;-)

Still this discussion is very interesting to me as I've always kept vinyl as something I might want to pursue some day.

I'm from a generation that was raised on vinyl LPs and for many years
much preferred analog to digital. Things have evolved and I've heard high
quality digital sourced systems that equal or in some cases surpass many
analog systems. So my perspective is there's quite a bit of overlapping
between the two presently. Both can be impressively natural/organic with
emotinal involvement, both can be clinical, edgy, flat and artificial. It
depends on what components are used and system implementation.
IMO it's the quality of the recording rather than the format that's the primary
limiting factor. I can enjoy and live with either format happily if done right.
Geoffkait - precisely why I don't use a CD spinner anymore. Computer audio done right is far superior. Some newer spinners are more like computer audio such as the Perfect Wave Transport, so they don't suffer as much from these maladies.

However the primary problem with digital is jitter, followed closely by poor digital filters. Both of these can be fixed in good digital designs.

Other system problems are quite common to both vinyl and digital systems, including: Ground-loop HF noise, preamp and/or DAC compression, noise and distortion. These can limit the performance of either type of system. These are the reason why there is so much variation in the experiences of different posters to these forums, even with the same format, component or cable. These are systems, and anything in the system can affect the SQ. Its the sum of the parts.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Kinda agree with Charles ... for now. But I am receptive to what Steve says too. If computer hi rez becomes more user friendly for oldies like me, I might dip a toe in. Right now, too many acronyms, formats and techno-babble. I'm waiting.
Funny, I don't hear any of the glaring errors spoken of when doing things via CDP. I guess they've come a long way, I'm very lucky, or I'm just plain tone deaf.
I don't think it's the latter.

As for PC digital, all I hear is problems with interfaces, cables, jitter and all sorts of interference, not to mention great debate as to which rate is best, fllters, etc.

One can point out obvious flaws inherent in any system when done wrong, but when done right, all bets are off. Blanket statements are nothing more than a ringing endorsement of nothing really, at all.

All the best,
Nonoise wrote,

"Funny, I don't hear any of the glaring errors spoken of when doing things via CDP. I guess they've come a long way, I'm very lucky, or I'm just plain tone deaf. I don't think it's the latter."

Everything is relative, I'm not saying you should hate your sound. It's only when you remove the errors you come to appreciate the errors. Kinda like Invasion of the Body Snatchers: There's a lot of resistance to change. :-)
I'm the first to admit that i'm not fond of change, especially after quite an investment in what I like, but I've been to audio shows where the latest and greatest in PC was being touted and it didn't sound any better than the rest of the exhibits. More or less the same save for the MSB room where I thought PC audio had equaled or surpassed vinyl until I found out that they were using the CDP part, spinning a disc.

Come to think of it, when at the PC rooms, they had that look in their eyes, like they all came from Santa Mira, and there was this guy outside in the halls, who looked like that actor Kevin McCarthy, screaming something about pods and not to listen.....:-)

All the best,
Nonoise - Here are a couple of rooms voted best of show at RMAF 2013 that used computers or servers:

Tyson and Jason are the most objective reviewers out there. The play multiple tracks each to compare systems in almost every room.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Someday I'm going to have to make it to an RMAF affair. I have no doubt that PC audio can sound great but there's a learning curve to it and it's in a constant state of evolution, barely out of it's infancy and yet to attain adolescence, where most things are ironed out, standardized (somewhat) and about as foolproof as plopping in a CD and pushing "play".

Laptops are considered a no-no and yet this great sound comes from several laptops that most PC savvy folk wouldn't go near. Consensus is still a ways to go as to which route is best and for those reasons, along with what my own ears heard at the last two Newport Audio Shows, I'll sit it out awhile and polish my system to my own satisfaction. I won't know better until I hear better and like I said, the best digital I've heard was that MSB CDP. Maybe I am tone deaf, but I doubt it. :-)

All the best,
I also agree with Charles. Was a strong vinyl advocate throughout the 90s. Now I primarily play via computer set up as server. Actually not that difficult to set up quality digital system.
Nonoise - there were good computer audio rooms at Newport for the past 2 years also. My own room at Newport in 2013 was rated by Stereophile (JA) as one of the best:

JA also liked my room in 2012:

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Steve, looks like I'm going to have to spend more time at your next room at the next show. :-)

All the best,
Steve, you didn't mention power supply? Is it not a basic for good digital?