Digital vs. Analog = TIRED…

Jeff Dorgay, Publisher
Digital vs. Analog = TIRED...

I can’t believe that in 2017 audio critics are still whining and complaining about whether analog sounds better than digital. Really?

It just seems like such a tired argument. Sure, I still remember the disappointment back in 1983 when I brought that first compact disc player home from the hifi store. It was kind of flat and brittle sounding, to be sure. But I bought one anyway, because I figured the brainiacs would make it sound better eventually, and it was a cool format. Sure enough, they did.

We’ve listened to so many great DACs lately, here at TONEAudio, I just don’t think digital is a disappointment anymore, no matter what the price point. As much as the used market for really good records has gone so far upscale, bargain analog finds are few and far inbetween these days. Crappy records from the thrift store played on a mediocre turntable that isn’t optimized isn’t the analog magic. Not for me anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, I love analog. I’ve got 11 turntables and three world class phono stages. I love listening to records. But I’ve got a couple of incredible digital front ends too, and it’s come to the point that digital just isn’t the redheaded stepchild it once was. Combine that with the convenience of Tidal, Roon and a few other great ways to catalog and play your digital files back, and the inherent fiddliness of analog isn’t always the way I want to roll.

There are still times when the lights are low, the planets line up, the tubes are warm, and there’s a perfect pressing on the table. That’s one of those magic moments where analog still gets the nod in the seduction department. It’s cooler than cool that analog is still alive, going strong and there are more great choices than ever. I listen to everything. And I mean everything. I’ve been known to bust out the 8-track collection now and then, not to mention the pile of minidiscs that are lying about. It’s all good. It’s all music.

I truly don’t understand the logic that listening to a record is so much more meaningful, because you flip through your stack of records and oogle the jacket, pouring over the liner notes. I didn’t do that much of that back in the 70s and 80’s, and I do it a lot more now with Google at my disposal. Or that because music is being played from a hard drive that I don’t or can’t listen to an entire album because digital has made me into this ADD person who can’t focus and only plays single tracks. Much as I used to love making mix tapes on cassette or reel to reel tape (I even made em on 8 track) I spend nearly as much time agonizing over what music to play for an afternoon or evening. And I still listen to albums all the way through, just like I did with records. Actually, I kind of like the seamless quality of digital where I can listen to both (or all four) sides of an album in it’s entirety. It’s not like I didn’t go through a pile of records, playing a track or two of this and a track or two of that back when they were the only way to listen.

If anything, having Tidal at my command has led me to buying more vinyl, and the records I do buy are keepers. But as TONE’s former music editor (and legend) Ben Fong-Torres used to tell me, “you don’t know what everyone is thinking because you don’t know everyone.” So rather than extrapolate and assume that everyone is doing or not doing this or that, I can only speak for myself and a close circle of friends that share my viewpoint and habits. Not to mention a few that are diametrically opposed.

I’m just as engaged with my music no matter what the format. And I truly hope you are too.