Turntables vs. Digital - what do you get for your money?

I use a Linn KDS Mk 3 alongside my P10 Apheta 3 DV P75 IV…I prefer the music from the TT. I am making an assumption that the high end Linn and Naim streamers are in some way equivalent.

I agree that Rega arms are very good & big bang for the buck at their level, but they aren’t a panacea. I had one on my original LP12 for many years, as well as on Rega 3 series TTs. I’m now at a higher range than Rega offer for arms, but I never cared for the lack of VTA adjustment with them, and to a lesser degree lack of azimuth adjustment. That might be fine for use with their TTs and cartridges, but it presents more of a challenge otherwise.

Sadly it isn’t always ok with their own turntables
When I first got my P8 a couple of years ago now …I contacted Rega and told them I was not happy with the accuracy of the standard out the box adjustment’s
They were very nice about it and tried their best to help…but ultimately it came down to …“that’s how we make them and it’s close enough”
Something I found very hard to accept at first …being a perfectionist and a tweeker…
But when you look at the price range of a P8 and listen to it against the competition…there IS NOT competition. IMO

In part how this thread started – a question was raised about whether a happy CD555 owner could be happy with an easy-to-set-up tt of modest cost. The easy-to-set-up choices aren’t often best for tweekers?

in my opinion if given the choice of an NDX2 or a turntable for the same money (and with plenty of Vinyl) - I would still go for the NDX2 without hesitation.

there’s just a world of music on Tidal, Spotify and Qobuz to enjoy.

And the SQ of digital is really very good nowadays.

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A Rega P8 with no cartridge is about the same price as a Clearaudio Performance DC with no cartridge. I have the latter on loan right now, with a Dynavector XX2 cartridge. It is really quite good and I’ll bet it can hold its own to a P8.

Years ago I had a RP3 with Groovetracer upgrades and the external PSU I wanted to upgrade. At the time I borrowed a Clearaudio Concept and it sounded better. That led me to ordering a Performance DC, but they were still in pre-production at the time. After a few delays I ended up getting my dealers ex-dem Ovation and have never looked back.

Regas are great tables, but there is plenty of good competition for them, IMO.

I like both my sources, but for sheer sound quality the rossini wins, dont get me wrong the P10 with apheta 3 does a very fine job, but it cant match the rossini.
But then new, one costs 3 times the price of the P10 and aura phono stage, so i guess it should be better? But then when you are in the right mood, vinyl just hits the spot so well that no other source can, and its so nice to have the option off vinyl, even if these days it only gets used occasionally

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Are we talking about access to music or sound quality. If the former then digital wins hands down but if the latter the only conclusion would no conclusion.

Regards,

Lindsay

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On a purely equipment based basis I’d have to say turntables - my LP12 is as old as I am and some of my records are older but I don’t think that can be said of any digital source. The music and the sound quality is a different facet of the question.

I can’t quite stomach the investment in digital equipment to match or beat my turntable when it’s going to become obsolete and my turntable isn’t.

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A key point is longevity. Look at the Show us your Sondek or Show us your Turntable threads and you will see a great many turntables that have been used and cared for over many years, decades even. While venerable they continue to provide musical bliss.
Digital, and streamers in particular, are newer beasts whose technology will be superseded in a few years and will all too soon need to be replaced. The forthcoming Sonos S2 upgrade illustrates this with many Sonos users being forced to upgrade their hardware, stay on legacy software or split their system into current and legacy parts.
My Nottingham Spacedeck is nearly twenty years old (a mere pup compared to some), yet it is able to do everything I want from a turntable. My ND5XS is a first generation Naim streamer, it is newer than the Spacedeck, yet does not support the latest Naim streamer functionality. My streamer may need to be upgraded soon, my turntable is a keeper.

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I’m discussing the listening – sound qualities. Not access to music, apps vs. changing records, etc.

Hi @Bart. Speaking as a vinyl fan, with the luxury of an RP10, and recalling from my youth the limitations of a rather-above-average (in my neighborhood) Dual 1215 and Shure M44E, considering the more-for-your-money possibilities of vinyl versus digital, I think die-hards with some money are well rewarded for staying with vinyl. Most practical people are better off avoiding this nerd space. I know only one actual human peer outside this forum who still uses regularly a record player — his other friends consider him a “character”. I wish it were not so.

Nick

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Not comparing maybe end game digital with an end game analog…

Comparing Nd555 with p10 maybe? End game vs very good one

In the following comparisons, what you get for your money is based simply on what different systems cost, with the two vinyl ones only very rough estimates in today’s money.

First analogue, two systems cited here, the first being the one I had, and the second a friend’s. (Note, the preamp has to be included in costings because pertinent to the sound comparison and neither needed nor present in the digital systems)

  1. ~£3k?: Thorens TD150 TT with beefed up plinth and felt mat, Rega RB300 arm and AT-OC5 (or may have been OC7, I don’t recall for sure) TAG McLaren PA10 preamp.

  2. ~£5k+: LP12, Ittok, AT-OC9, through Musical Fidelity MVT preamp.

Digital (mine, previous and current)

  1. ~£3k: Mac Mini running Audirvana, through Gustard U12 isolator, Chord Hugo DAC feeding power amp direct (no preamp in system).

  2. ~£10k: Mac Mini running Audirvana, into Chord Dave DAC feeding power amp direct (no preamp in system).

Before giving reactions to these systems it is pertinent to give background to the two people involved: I have enjoyed digital in the form of CD since 1989 or 1990, with the Cambridge CD2, before that disliking the sound. From then on I thought that overall on balance digital was pretty comparable to vinyl, some individual recordings sounding better on one, some on the other, though I particularly preferred the lack of background noise and wide dynamic range of digital with classical music. My friend on the other hand is a die-hard vinyl lover (he did get a CD player in the 1990s, but only because not all music was released on vinyl). Even with my Cambridge he felt the digital sounded harsh compared to vinyl, and same with my first streamer (ND5XS), all having what he called “that digital sound”.

Now how they compare, these conclusions formed from numbers of occasions over several years.

Digital system 1 to my ears beat both analogue systems for sound quality. My LP12 owning friend said he felt it was pretty close, no longer having that ‘digital edge’, but he thought his system did it better.

Digital system 2 to both my ears and my friend’s ears unquestionably si better in sound quality than either analogue system. He loves the sound - but still prefers vinyl for the ‘magic’ of the process, albeit accepting my digital system sounds better (but then it cost a fair bit more).

So in conclusion, a mixed reaction: to one person the £3k digital sounding better than even the £5k analogue, to the other the £5k analogue sounding better than the £3k digital, though close, but not as good as the £10k digital.

———

Corollary:

  • Firstly, the above is based on sound, or sound quality. It does not take into account other factors that make one or other more desirable to different people, such as aesthetics or ritual (the ‘magic of the process’ as mentioned above) or convenience or storage space etc, and as far as possible I have even ignored the surface noise aspect, although with some music it inevitably becomes part of sound quality.

  • Secondly, sound quality immediately presents a difficulty in any comparison, namely that you have to compare like with like. Very often digital and final releases have different mastering, so direct A-B comparison is meaningless, and a balance of many different recordings is needed.

  • Thirdly, another factor of significance is whether the recording is released has made the best of the medium: for example an LP trying to squeeze the absolute maximum length music onto a disk can end up with significantly reduced bass response, while a phenomenon that apparently has plagued digital has been deliberate severe compression reducing the dynamic range in the so-called “loudness wars” despite the medium inherently having a much wider dynamic range capability then vinyl. Such recordings are not a measure of the analogue or digital medium, but of the media production quality, so in my view irrelevant to TT vs digital comparison, but of course possibly relevant in day-to-day musical enjoyment depending on the individual’s music choices.

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I would like to compare ND555 to my turntable/phonostage. That’s closer to the same cost. As it is I think my TT sounds better in general than my NDX2/XPSDR. I wonder how a 555PS on my NDX2 would compare. That would really put them about the same cost.

My Rp10/ ear 912 inside phono( around 3k)/ Lyra Delos : total: 8,5 k euros
Is on the same level as Nds/555dr/Melco n1zh2 / Etheregen / MCRU : 25 k euros
And with some Audiophile Lps, the rega is clearly above.

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I’ve owned an RP10/ Apheta Rega IOS and a linn majik LP12/ puresound p10.

At the time, I made direct comparisons to a chord Hugo DAC and Schiit gungnir multibit DAC aided by a Berkeley Audio alpha usb from a Mac Pro. I did instant switching of sources on the NAC for comparisons and I also did long term listening on each individual source to hear and understand the sonic character of each.

I never thought that RP10/ Linn was any more smoother or informative than the digital setup. In fact the RP10/ Apheta was almost identical to the Schiit DAC. The Linn was less detailed and had a warmer sound overall.

Now as the DACs were priced at half the price of the turntables I don’t think the value of turntables is based on performance alone.

Record collecting, the aesthetics of the turntables, artwork of the records, these are the things about vinyl that really appeal to me. I plan to buy a turntable soon but I know that it’s more about the romance of vinyl than the performance.

Another thing that I would add is that vinyl is a pretty expensive hobby these days. The prices of records in comparison to a tidal/Qobuz membership or even CD is very high indeed. But I do understand that in this day and age the format has to be supported for it to survive.

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As soon as my cartridge gets some more hours on it I’ll do that a vs. b via input switching on my preamp. I can use the 50th anniv. Sgt. Pepper’s lp, and digital file of the same.

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I prefer vinyl and find streaming unsatisfying for some reason. I also have a CDS3 as my only digital source which is good but gets little use.

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Hi Bart,

On my system, (basically the baby of yours - R8/Apheta3/Aria vs NDX2 (bare) into the amplification (252/SCDR/300DR)) the Abbey Road 50th anni LP is more full with deeper bass elements and more space between layers than the Qobuz hi-res version of the same LP. Both fantastically listenable. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other, but they definitely are rendered with different personalities.

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