Microtime: the key to analogue versus digital debates?

A really interesting article from a neuroscientist on why digital systems measure variable amplitude at a fixed time interval (23 microseconds for CDs), yet the human brain is much more sensitive to the timing of its neurons (down to 2-3 microseconds) than the amplitude.

CD based music systems are much better at generating the correct amplitude but 100% analogue systems are much better at the microtiming accuracy which is more critical for the human brain.

What this does not explain is why listeners may prefer a vinyl record over CD when that vinyl recording has been digitally processed during the mixing and/or mastering stages.

Analogue versus digital - a neurologist’s take

Rob Watts of Chord fame seems to be a keen advocate of correct microtiming. Perhaps it is no coincidence that those who listen to a digital system containing one of his M Scalers talk about the amazingly good imaging and more relaxed, natural sound.

Food for thought.

Best regards, BF


Microseconds not milliseconds.

Maybe the “better air” type comments often expressed re hi res is explained by this, though only 24/384 (2.6uS) or higher sampling frequency matches or beats the 2-3 human ability, though I think may be rare for recording: certainly rare distributed.

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Yes. There is a lot of advanced technology in a Chord Dac, the Mscaler is just one of them…

As per his public postings, he had already solved the issued of micro-timing with the Hugo 1…

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Bluesfan, I’ve edited your opening post to “Microseconds”.

Many thanks Richard!

A microphone only produce a varying voltage. Not voodoo. Normal redbook will reproduce this varying voltage. Pretty much case closed.

O.k. to explore tha max dynamic range of analogue you could extend 44/16 to 44/21.

I think Rob Watts is discussing timing problems that occur with the specific typ of DAC:s he builds? If you want to avoid those - use a NOS-type DAC.

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I hate the analogue vs digital debate. Especially when too many people just substitute the word analogue when what they really mean is specifically just vinyl.

Given that most current vinyl comes from a digital master (often close to or the same as one available for download) it really comes down to which reconstruction method sounds better to you.

I much prefer the digital vs analogue argument in the context of something like reel-2-reel. To me, that represents true end to end analogue and it’s drawbacks are sonically far less than vinyl to my ears. In that context I’m likely to believe whatever anyone says about analogue superiority simply because the format sounds so amazing. Conversely, I’ve never heard a turntable I liked more than a mid range CD player. Shoot me dead if you like but years of access to a maxed out LP12 and I was never floored by it.

I’m afraid that article put me off when it claimed that Thomas Alva Edison is credited with inventing the movie - so not enough research has been done in the writing of the article.

Depending on the definition is should be one or more of:
Eadweard Muybridge
Étienne-Jules Marey
Louis Le Prince
William Kennedy Laurie Dickson

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Tried one (TEAC) didn’t get on with. Chord Blu2 DAVE and Naim DAC sound better to me. TEAC could be switched from NOS to 3 sampling regimes. I preferred all of these to NOS, but it was when it was switched to DSD and fed appropriately that it began to shine. Perhaps dedicated NOS DACs sound better, but I’m so enamoured by Blu2 DAVE it has become the end game for my digital replay.

Hi Jan, during our dac selection auditions, 3 of our favourites featured R2R DACs - the Naim ND555, the MSB Discrete and our absolute favourite, the MSB Premier.

There seems to be something inherently “musical” about R2R DACs.

However, the ND555 uses that SHARC processor to oversample, so isn’t a NOS dac and I’m not sure about the MSB ones.

Comparing the Chord combo with MSB Discrete, the MSB seemed to make music flow in a wonderfully smooth and effortless, laid back way. It sounded smoother and less “digitised”/artificial/slightly grainy than even the Chord combo could manage.

The Chord combo bettered the MSB Discrete with its handling of transients. The dynamic range was audibly greater, i.e. transients such as cymbals and drums were noticeably more errr transient, so music sounded more alive and real. It also bettered the MSB with its faster sense of timing and stronger ability to portray rhythms. The leading edge of key notes just came in more quickly.

Given how closely matched the MSB Discrete and Chord combo are in overall capability (and price), I would not be surprised if half of those who compare the two prefer the smooth flow of the MSB while the other half are tipped towards M Scaler + DAVE by the dynamics and better portrayal of rhythms.

Nice to have the choice.

Best regards, BF

Many (possibly most) of the things credited to Edison should not be. He stole a great many of his ideas.

Even the lightbulb wasn’t his invention Joseph Swan got there first - after trying to claim that he got there first, eventually Edison was forced to buy Swan’s patent.

yes - and the courts said that the credit for the invention should be shared, IIRC - but Edison still claimed it as his.
He was a bully, really.

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