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Toys

Two Turntables and a Laser Beam 232

karmaflux writes "Dig this. A turntable that uses a five-beam laser system to read your vinyl. Rad, eh? The cheap ($13k) model doesn't do 60 or 90 rpm. Spring for the good one ($20k). Note: an excellent vacuum cleaner is included in both models. What style this company has to release this product during the current MP3 frenzy! " I've just gotten back into collecting and enjoying vinyl records, so this is terribly interesting to me, although the price looks to be a bit too steep, and I doubt I can use it to scratch at parties.
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Two Turntables and a Laser Beam

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    This has been tried several times. Similar laser turntables have also been very expensive. The problem is that lasers read the vinyl TOO well: every miniscule defect is detected and made audible. This wasn't a problem with old-fashioned stylus playback because of the ratio between the size of the stylus and the groove. The physcial width of the stylus averaged out microscopic variations in the groove wall. The question is whether this new laser turntable managed to simulate a stylus with infinitely small mass but with the virtual physical charactaristics of a real stylus.

    What would be really neat is a turntable with real-time DSP pop & click removal so I can listen to my old un-released-on-CD vinyl albums without wasting large amounts of time cleaning them up in software.

    Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it - Carlos Santayana
  • by Anonymous Coward

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Heehee... my favourites for transients like that were my father's translucent Cooks of thunderstorms and Mississippi tugboat whistles. The groove spacing had to be so wide sometimes they looked like the spacing between bands :)

    On the other hand, have you seen the warnings on The 1712 Overture and The Short-Tempered Clavier? Those digital balloon pops are pretty ... poppy ... and I never worry about them weakening with repeated plays!

  • I'm not God. In fact, I'm really far from it, but the Technics SL-1200 M3Ds ARE my tables. *grin* Sure, it's not the ultra high grade phonographs, and my cartridges are less than a grand, so it's not audiophile quality by any means, but the feel of vinyl is what it's all about. At times a CD feels just too perfect.

    Well, that and I can't scratch CD's.

  • by Yarn ( 75 )
    Either make sure that your amp has a *proper* phono input or that the table has filtered output, otherwise you'll get uncompensated phono output which sounds 'thin'.
  • by Yarn ( 75 )
    I was just saying that because I know someone who got a turntable and was going around saying "its really shitty, i dont know why i bothered" until i plugged it into my amp :)

    CD is generally better, but there's something about a slowly spinning disk :)
  • Slightly off topic, but I'm looking to add a turntable to my home stereo system. Any brands or anything I should be looking for? You can't walk into a store and buy these things anymore either, so where are they sold?

    Thanks
  • I found one of you vinyl snobs among my coworkers and I did a test. The test was 'can you tell the difference between vinyl played on a technics SL1200M3D and vinyl played on a technics SL1200M3D , piped through an Apogee PSX-100 and written out digitall onto tape on a Tascam DA-38'. The answer was that no, they couldn't. Which leads me to believe that my idea is right, that people who like vinyl, don't like vinyl. They like the warm, distorted sound that vinyl afficianados seem to adore. I admit though, I cheated a bit, and did do the digital recording at 24/96. Tube amps? They add tons of distortion... it just happens to be pleasing distortion. My personal opinion is that if the artist wanted the vinyl sound, they would've made a final pass after mastering which would consist solely of playing a vinyl version of the mastered record and recording it digitally.
    ----------------------------
  • I found one of you vinyl snobs among my coworkers and I did a test. The test was 'can you tell the difference between vinyl played on a technics SL1200M3D and vinyl played on a technics SL1200M3D , piped through an Apogee PSX-100 and written out digitall onto tape on a Tascam DA-38'.

    The answer was that no, they couldn't. Which leads me to believe that my idea is right, that people who like vinyl, don't like vinyl. They like the warm, distorted sound that vinyl afficianados seem to adore. I admit though, I cheated a bit, and did do the digital recording at 24/96. And I'll also give you that a $500 turntable isn't exactly comparable to the digital side of my setup.

    Tube amps? Records? They add tons of distortion... it just happens to be pleasing distortion. My personal opinion is that if the artist wanted the vinyl sound, they would've made a final pass after mastering which would consist solely of playing a vinyl version of the mastered record and recording it digitally.

    (sorry about the double post. should've previewed)
    ----------------------------
  • ...sure, once you can figure out a way to scratch on something that won't let you touch the vinyl.

    - A.P.
    --


    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • Reduces the rumble. Direct-drive tables (yes, this includes the 1200s, of which I have a pair and would not trade for anything) introduce a lot of rumble and low-frequency noise. Expensive belt-drive decks (which are usually heavy as hell and take an awful long time to spin up) have little to no rumble problems, leading to a cleaner sound. The SL-1200 is definitely not an audiophile deck. But that's not what it's made for.

    - A.P.
    --


    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • I believe Bang & Olafson (sp?) had one in the mid to late '80s.

    It is nice tech for people who have archives of old records, like Canada's CBC radio archives, and the US's Smithsonian (sp?). As well, some older bands that have wanted to put our CDs of their material have sometimes found that their original masters are either missing, or have deteriorated too much from time/improper storage etc. A facinating story is that of the Canadian Band, FM. Their masters had gone missing and they had to remaster from a virgin vinyl copy of their first album, Black Noise. Luckily, CBC, the label they were on had a nifty piece of technolgy called "No Noise" , that will digitally edit out unwanted noise. It's funny that there are two of these units in Canada, one owned by the CBC with their vast archives of recordings, and the RCMP.

    FM did a test pressing of the remasterd CD, and one of the members brought it over to his friends house to try out. This guy was a big time audiophile. Had speakers suspended from the ceiling and everything. In between the cuts, the band member noticed that the woofers of the speakers were going in and out between the tracks, audio wise imperceptable, but quite dramatic with the woofers. He was horrified, they might have goofed up the No Noise session! He asked his audiophile friend what he thought it might be...his friend something to the effect that if they hadn't been playing a CD, he might have though it was turntable rumble!

    You can now get the CD in Canada, and order it elsewhere. Without the turntable rumble.

    ttyl
    Farrell
    Lo-Grade Audiphile
    Fan of the band FM
  • People always focus on the tiny detail, as if the important thing with analog was to retrieve detail that is below the digital noise floor. This is a losing game. Analog noise ends up being just as bad.

    What _isn't_ usually noticed (surprisingly) is the more logical purpose for those huge cables and absurd slew rates and amperage levels- the _big_ transients. Get a whole horn section to raise the hairs on the back of your neck with a FFF line- or for that matter get the whole orchestra going, or for that matter early Who, with those incredibly strong saturated compressed vocals (very 'tubey' sounding) and LOUD guitars and LOUD drums. You'll have loads of transients stuffed into the music that go way beyond what you can pack into 'polite' digital playback at 44.1/16, especially when the digital equipment designers continue screwing it up by anally plastering HF-rolloff capacitors all over everything to eat the tiny negligible hiss that the transistors and analog opamps produce.

    When put onto a record, these naturally stress the cutting lathe, but that's why cutting lathes went from 100 to 500 to kilowatt amplifiers that fed off 440 volt lines etc ad nauseam. When placed on a record surface, these are not tiny dustlike details that get scrubbed off with the first play. They are fscking big walls of material that tend to fling the needle physically into the next groove and cause skips. When they don't, you get vinyl playback that has the kind of energy and aggression and life that LPophiles talk about.

    A realworld example sure to appeal to CmdrTaco's heart: The Who's album Live At Leeds was released with a label that said in big scrawly letters, "CRACKLING NOISES OK- DO NOT CORRECT". When played on a high end turntable, do you in fact get crackly noises? No, you get the Who, live. It's the same as orchestral recordings breaking up at FFF and fancy cartridges that don't break up at those modulation levels.

    Obviously, no matter how abused the LPs get, you continue to have those energy peaks undiminished. They outlast all the other sounds, and they are exactly what you don't get with current digital media- hence the audiophiles. This provides us sound engineer types a very interesting and exciting challenge. How do we translate this into the digital domain? I've found that multiband compression and physically modifiying the digital recorders to be the best bet. In particular, it's impossible to both get most of the energy and also suppress all the noise of the analog parts. You have to treat the circuits as if they were high end analog circuits even if the opamps are kind of cheap, and get rid of 'total hiss elimination' caps. Often this gives you the proper presentation, and in the cases where things become too bright and edgy, inductive resistance (easily got by those digital noise filters- ferrite chokes, in other words) is a hell of a lot better for the sound than ringy little ceramic chips to ground.

  • Honestly, what a silly notion.

    You start running into _serious_ problems when you treat the band as strictly what the human ear can pick up. Apart from the fact that subsonics are picked up by the inner ear and supersonics can be sensed though not heard through bone conduction, the trouble is that you get cancellation effects and distortions depending on how you roll off the extremes of the band. This is a nightmarish problem for CD audio, as it must put a _really_ steep filter above 22K if not still lower- a brick wall filter that is about as bad as you can get for causing interactions with lower frequencies. Personally, I prefer to start rolling off a lot lower but a lot more smoothly, but that's just me.

    As for the sawtooth, I'm afraid that's the reality. Look, if you take the input signal a bit higher, you start getting a subharmonic through the sampling which can be almost as loud as the sampled frequency! You surely are not suggesting that nearly 100% additive distortion is perfect reconstruction? Try sampling a 44.09 wave at 44.1, obviously you get nothing but the subharmonic. Now try sampling a _22.045_ wave, which technically is supposed to be within the band. Begin to see the problem? The same subharmonic distortions are still affecting you, even within the band. For fun, consider how this affects (less and less) frequencies at 11.0225, 5.51125, and 2.755625K. Each time you're basically halving the distortion- so the interference goes from about 100% at 44.09K to 50% to 25% to 12.5% to 6.25% interference at 2.755625K. But wait, a tone at 2K should be perfect! No, more like a tone at _2.75625K_ (note 756 instead of 7556) will be entirely free of subharmonic distortion sampled at 44.1K, and a tone at 2.755625 is a pathological worst case for that sampling rate w.r.t subharmonic distortions. So be sure not to let your musicians play that frequency ;)

    If you think I'm making this up you should study harder. _Everything_ has its limits, and digital recording is interesting because with it, you can really rigorously quantify exactly what and where the limits are. The ones who told you it was perfect reconstruction were not scientists, they were corporate marketers attempting to replace the LP in popular media with the CD. Sure worked, didn't it? Even got many people believing the mathematically, provably wrong claims of no distortion. To me, _SIX!_ percent subharmonic interference in a pathological worst case frequency at a mere 2K or so is pretty damn distorted, frankly. Don't know about you. Maybe I just try harder to overcome this stuff rather than wishing it away...

  • Not exactly. The difference is in the recording technology itself- 44.1/16 is simply not adequate though it _is_ possible to do heavy postprocessing to synthesize what the wave might have been- this is what kilobuck D/A converters like the Wadia do, and can make quite a difference.

    The difference is _also_ in the pre/post stages, for instance it doesn't matter how nice your data is if you just run it through J. Random Op-Amp. It's very very common to find extremely crap parts in these supposedly perfect digital devices, and this limits them unfairly. Rotten cheap little op-amps, pathetic coupling caps to save costs- I've bought a _recording_ deck of fairly high end pretensions, an Alesis LX-20 ADAT, and while it does 24 bit recording, and while digital is in theory quite capable of dealing with bass _very_ nicely indeed, this recorder nevertheless has pathetic 47uf coupling caps on the channel outs. This says that they designed to be 3db down at maybe 30hz- they designed out the capacity for clean accurate subsonic information that digital HAS. I'll be rewiring it, probably with 100uf which will at least take the low end down closer to 10hz or so. This will also clean up boominess in the low bass, as when you near such a cutoff you end up getting a certain amount of accentuation- a unit with 47uf cutoffs might 'thunder' pretty impressively but lowering the cutoff frequency produces a cleaner and more responsive sound in those frequency ranges, less muddy. Translates in sonic terms to a touch less sub-bass but going deeper, bass that is markedly clearer and less prone to get in the way of other musical information.

    So essentially it's _both_. Yes, digital audio at CD levels is substantially lacking, but on the other hand most of the equipment makes it sound even worse than it is. I'm a rock guy, not really a classical music person, and I know that I've been able to get rid of a _lot_ of the 'polite, sterile, thin' qualities of digital audio by just treating the players and recorders like they were instruments, and tweaking things like the highs. To some extent you really can give the hardware itself more life and energy by letting the digital outputs come through the analog opamps and circuitry as unimpeded as possible. This does also include allowing the noise floor to have normal op-amp noise, transistor hiss. It's not even intrusive, but attempts to completely obliterate this normal circuit noise inevitably also take a major toll on the music.

  • Turntables with laser "styli" have been around for at least ten years. (And we're not talking about CD players here.) But they've never caught on, and not just because of the price.

    The reason? Simple: while a contact stylus does produce gradual, minimal wear on the vinyl, it also does a great job of shifting dust, hairs and other crap out of the grooves, without the need for ridiculously expensive vacuum cleaners to blow it out of the way.

    Go retro. You can find high quality turntables really cheaply these days in junk shops. And if your vinyl's of decent quality (the disc, not its contents), you won't notice the wear anyway.
  • Hang on. A 12in record has a couple of inches inside for the label, so let's say 5in ~= 120mm radius of playable vinyl. One side might play for, say, 25 mins; at 33 1/3 RPM that means about 800 grooves have to fit in that space, so each groove is about 0.15 mm wide. Clearly the groove can't wiggle by more than 0.15 mm, and probably much less - let's be generous and say 100 um (microns). Reading that with, say, 100nm light, you get a resolution of 100 um /100nm = 1000 - ie you can distinguish 1000 different displacements. That doesn't compare well to the resolution of a CD player - 65,536 possible displacements.

    I'm not an expert on this stuff, and my math may be screwy - but this doesn't check out on my calculator...
    --
  • I wouldn't mark this as a very good purchase. We now have CD players (lasers included) for about $30. Not $30k. I can appreciate the cost of compact lasers 10 years ago, but things have changed and things are cheaper now. I think the company should consider modernizing its lineup before charging such outrageous prices.

    Besides, it looks like a late 80s product (I'm thinking USR plastic type.) If it looked and acted like one of those uber-cool minidisc players, then I'd be interested.

    -B
  • It actually looks like it's been around for ages...

    The copyright notice on the bottom of the FAQ is dated 1997, and one of testimonials says

    <I>"The after-sales service of ELP is perfect. Although I had a failure on LT in 1990, I am fully satisfied with the LT."</I>

    Maybe they just need to hire a better publicity manager...
  • it depends what you mean by 'decent' and just how much you're going to be doing with it. Seeing how you only want one, I doubt you're going to be doing much DJ action on it. It also depends on whether you want belt drive or direct drive on it. Now seeing this, I don't think you need a Technic (top of the line), and could probably settle for something far far less expensive. Check out http://www.audio-depot.com, they have a decent variety.
  • Just the thing to play Alan Parson Project albums on!

    Bwahahaha!
  • I spot a trance fan in CowboyNeal. Completely useless information follows...

    One of the earliest and most successful underground tracks was called Two Full Moons and a Trout released on Platipus records under the artist title of Art of Trance (I think that's right, or it might be Terra Firma). Wicked track. Anyway, just happy to see another raver in the /. crew.

  • The lego one doesn't hint at the subject matter at all.

    Or perhaps a music or hifi or A/V icon would be more appropriate, ie. to avoid offending those who don't think vinyl is a retro topic, particularly scratching DJs.
  • That's a good point which I hadn't considered before. Yes, there must be quite a few such uses for turntables yet.

    However, the MAJOR use of new turntables (by numbers sold) is still by DJs, whether you like them or not. :-)
  • You may be right, but as none of the people that I know with top-end audiophile systems rate their turntables anymore, I extrapolated that it was a rare affliction. Maybe my acquaintances aren't typical. Maybe yours aren't. Who knows?!
  • This thing has been around for at least a decade. Hardly new.
  • Maybe it's not the right tool for audiophiles, but I can think of a use for in the studio: you may want to transfer the music on a very old collectable record to CD, perhaps to re-release it, but the original tapes are no longer available, or in a dismal state. In that case this gadget may give a slightly better quality copy than an ordinary record player...
  • Phonograph stylii (styluses?) are not for digging dirt out of record grooves. The area of contact between the groove wall and the stylus is so extremely small that a gram or two of tracking force becomes thousands of pounds of pressure and the friction generates enough heat to melt the vinyl in the area of contact which means that a little speck of dust will get "welded" into the groove wall to serve as a "click" or "pop" forever thereafter.
  • I believe that the system to which you refer used a "needle" (stylus) and groove only as a means of guiding the "tonearm" across the disc, but the signal was detected by the change in capacitance (to put it roughly, the change in the distance between two conductors--that distance being filled by an insulator, in this case, air)between the disc and the "pickup". This meant no actual contact, and therefore no wear and tear, on the part of the disc containing the information.
  • Actually the Germans were working with tape when the U.S. was still doing wire. Think BASF. The Roberts/Akai reel to reels trace their heritage to German machines captured and brought back to the states by a American officer. It was Bing Crosby's huge (for the time)check to Ampex that really got the ball rolling on post-WWII tape recording, though.
  • I believe such a system has been tried before, marketed on the grounds of less wear and tear as well as sound quality. IIRC the problem is that without a needle making physical contact, there is no way to get dirt out of the grooves of your record.
  • Many years ago I stumbled across a magazine called (I think) High End. Amazing fun. People who built $250,000 listening rooms, people who would not even have light dimmers in their house because someone might use it and disrupt their listening pleasure, mono tube amps and vinyl players only (no radio; no CDs; not even tape, IIRC), people who bitched because they couldn't get Con Edison to give them two transformers at the power pole.

    In other words, people with way more money than brains.

    Basically they claim to have golden ears which are not satisfied with any recordings except live to master to vinyl. These idiots spent tens of thousands of dollars just for a stylus, not to mention more tens of thousands for the tone arm and huge block of granite for a base.

    I might allow that the very first listening of a vinyl record might seem better than a CD, but not the 2nd or subsequent ones. So that's why the laser turntable -- no mechanical wear.

    But this only applies if there's no dust on the vinyl, which explains the emphasis on its vacuum cleaner. I doubt that's really good enough. I often wondered, reading those couple of High End issues, how much it would have cost these suckers to build a clean room for their collection, with rubber gloves to access the vinyl and place it on the turntable.

    --
  • I don't doubt you can hear a difference. But you do not hear The One And Only True Sound. I do not believe that the mechanical mastering and playback process is that good. I do not believe you can hear .004% distortion or whatever the figures are for current amps. And I do not believe that the speakers are so good that the amp distortion is even discernible. If there really were such a thing as The One And Only True Sound, there would be only One True Speaker.

    What I sneer at is idiots who waste money on concrete bunkers, separate pole transformers, etc, when the wear of each playback makes the next one worse, and when all that money could have gone into a filtered container for all that vinyl, so it would sound better the tenth time than the dirty one sounds the second time. I suppose the ultimate is to record direct to vinyl (could you get even a hundred copies for each recording?) and one playback, then toss it out and buy another. When you get to that level, you'd be better off hiring the artists in the first place and skip the damned one-shot recording. Is there any point in having a playback room of better quality than the recording studio, or the concert hall?

    The point of a recording is to get a wider audience, in both time and space. A recording which is only good for one playback because the playback wears it out is pretty useless in my book.

    --
  • Check all your facts again, starting with being an AC. I ain't. Read carefully. Then read what I said in the message again. Carefully. You do NOT hear the One True Sound just because you play vinyl. You simply hear The Vinyl Sound, modified by the recording setup, modified by your playback setup. It is NOT the One True Sound. Only the original performance is The One True Sound.

    A recording is meant to distribute the sound in time and space, so more people can hear a performance, and hear it when they want, and more than once. Vinyl wears out. The closest vinyl will get to The One True Sound is the first playback, and then only a direct to disk with limited copies. Your second playback will not sound as good as the first. And if this is how you want to listen to a performance, and you have the bucks, then you also have the bucks to simply hire the artist for a live performance.

    Any playback, vinyl or CD, goes thru so many imperfect steps, and depends on speakers which don't even come close to The One True Sound, that if you like fancy schmancy playback methods, it's because you like that sound, NOT because that sound is closer to The One True Sound.

    --
  • The Point award sent me scurrying to the bottom of the page: copyright 1997. Oh well.
  • This type of turntable has been around for a while now... The one thing that they all seem to have in common, is that to get any sort of reasonable sound out of them, you have to keep a vaccum cleaner riding ahead of the cartridge. One of the great things a needle has always done, is to push any lightweight crud out of the groove, anything you miss with the cleaner you will hear. You might be able to fix this with a DSP, but considering that there is no AD conversion in the current system, this would also not seem to be a great idea.

    I saw a review of these once that summed it up like this, if you've kept your LP's in a cleanroom all of their life, and never used anything but a laser on them, they might be in good enough condition... Then again, they still might not.

  • If you're an archive, a radio station, or whatever and you have hundreds of thousands of pieces of vinyl, the vast majority of which have never been and most likely will never be released on vinyl, you want to make sure they stay in good working order so they're still useful in the future.
    If somebody requests an item from your archive, the options are either to use a conventional stylus-based turntable for transcription, which will add some wear (not much, but it adds up) to the record, or use one of these gizmos, which won't cause wear. You can then dump it to DAT, Minidisc, or whatever, for the end user.
    And as to the cost - the CD player cost millions to develop, but is now cheap through mass production and high volume sales. These turntables will have also cost a lot to develop, but as the market is so much smaller, the unit cost to recoup your investment has to be higher. Remember, these are high-end turntables, not the gramophonic equivalent of a £70 Discman. And high-end kit is always expensive.
  • It's not analogue?

    "despite its CD-like design, the ELP is still a 100% analog device as far as the signal path is concerned."

    This product is _not_ for Vinyl DJs. It is _not_ for CD DJs. It is _not_ for people who want to digitize thier vinyl collection. It _is_ for people who love to listen to their vinyl, and wish to cause as little wear as possible while doing so. It _is_ for libraries, museums and other historical institutions who wish to preserve a piece of musical history, again without causing damage. In the audiophile community, where many consider their collection of vinyl irreplacable and priceless, the ELP is a bargain.

    --

  • Oh relax, haven't you ever heard of a phono preamp?

    If you don't suffer from audiophilia, you can get a reasonable one for under $20.

    (I feel blessed that my ears are crude enough to forgive most forms of electrical noise in recordings, my music habit would be a lot more expensive otherwise)

  • I have about 200 vinyl albums, 25 or so of which I'd love to have converted to digital form. Of course I'm not going to buy one of these turntables, but I would pay someone to do a high-quality A-D job on them.
  • Some (ok, several) musicians complain about digital not because it introduces noise -- mere amplification alone can cause enough of this -- but because it's not as "warm". This is one of those terms that is mighty hard to explain in words, but it seems nevertheless to identify something: many musicians I have known can identify "blindly" a digital versus an analogue recording.

    Of course, this could reflect alternative aesthetics. After all, some musicians like digital recordings better. The question, I suspect, is really one of what makes sound better. And it does seem obvious that a multiple-laser reading system will necessarily be subject to a DSP. Given that, the lack of "warmth" will show up. Whether this is good or bad, then, is related only to the listener.

  • actually, you can make music by "scratching" CDs.. just not the way you meant. Try to find something by Oval [cdnow.com] to listen to-- most of their music is really cool ambient created by engineering CD player errors (skipping, scratches in the cd created by hand.. i read something somewhere that said they've actually used _painted_ CDs at times)..

    God is a DJ.
  • > because I'm into ALOT of the funky soul jazz
    > from the 60's and 70's, much of which is very
    > obscure and they'll never release the albums
    > onto CD

    if you aren't already hipped to it, check out www.dustygroove.com [dustygroove.com] to feed your 60's 70's soul jazz bossa dub reggae funk habit :) its amazing the number of classic records that are being reissued on VINYL these days!

    -freq
  • YEAH! fuck the DJS! they could use a little action every once in a while...

    And im real sorry, but most turntables ARE aimed at djs. I can think of roughly 10 models off the top of my head which are aimed at djs... including the venerable Technics SL-1200-MK2, and kids are buying boatloads of them! I know alot more people who own turntables than portable mp3 players actually :)

    and wether you are a stuck up old audiophile who can afford a 30k turntable or a 14 year old with some beat up geminis and a couple cheezy hiphop battle records, vinyl is A BEAUTIFUL THING. and regardless of the "original primary purpose" of the turntable, some kids are doing some really interesting things with them these days besides just playing music.

    VINYL IS BEAUTIFUL! and given the choice between a future with vinyl and a future with dvd audio, well i think its an easy decision :)

    --freq--
  • and I really dig this one...Dick Solomon says something to the effect of

    'Cds? Ha! When will these silly human realise the superiority of vinyl!'

  • Sure, the germans used magnetic recorders (wire, in this case) to disguise hitler's whereabouts during WW2... It was another of those technologies which the germans worked on in the late 20s and early 30s while everyone else ignored them.
  • Just search Freshmeat for TerminatorX. Same type of thing.
  • "It outperforms many turntables 2 or 3 times its price" -- Dr. CP Yu.(www.elpj.com/welcome.html)

    OK, so this guy claims he knows of turntables out there that cost >US$27,000? Wow... I think it'd be a rare audiophile who threw out cash for one of those. He also claims that it makes CDs "unlistenable." Oh really? Hmm... seems to me that even a clean vinyl record (played with a laser) would sound worse than a dirty CD. Remember that a CD has a protective coating on it, and it's impossible to keep those records PERFECTLY clean.

    Nice concept though, and awfully weird how it follows my dream last night of listening to my record collection.
  • Actually, not at all..
    There is not necessarily any need to go digital.

    Remember Video Disc? those big 2 sided suckers? They were read with a laser... and were completely analog (digital audio tracks did come later, and are now standard). The video was all analog....
    it was via modulated beam.

    There is no reason an analog circuit cannot be built do accomplish whatever a DSP can accomplish; it's just simpler and more flexible to use a DSP.

  • I have a AIWA px-e855. I recently got into vinyl (I'm into the punk/hardcore thing, and a lot of bands have 7" records and vinyl-only releases), and my good freind, who is a major audiophile, highly recomended this turntable. I got it from www.soundsfine.com or about $120 (plus free shipping). I consider it a worthwhile investment. If you don't want to play vinyl much, this is also great for recording onto your computer, and making mp3's out of your vinyl, like I do. If you don't have a amp/reciever, this also has a preamp on it, but I prefer to use a amp/reciever myself. I hope this helps.
  • You would think they would use something better than a belt-drive turntable, which wear out over time. High-end turntables use direct drive, which is far better and is also noticible in the playback of vinyl. Also, here's a snippet from their specs page: Reproductionable Record type
    12"(30cm)/10"(25cm)/7"(17cm) Black Record - This might mean that it can only play black vinyl. While most records are black, I have many splatter and colored vinyl records in my collection. Also, many many records (mostly from Europe) were pressed useing colored vinyl. This may or might not be the best turntable if your looking to play rare vinyl, especially if it's colored, etc.
  • Did I say consumer-level? I was speaking on principle. Let's see... a near perfect analog system would consist of 1) somebody playing an acoustic instrument, and 2) a human ear. Better SNR than 16-bit quantization, and the only noise in the system is going to be due to bloodflow in the ear (ok, maybe dogs and traffic if you're not in a sound room). Anything else processing the sound in between, digital or analog, is just going to add noise.

    Tell me, in the scenario you listed above, what would the point be of putting any digital component into the system? The main reasons for digitizing an audio signal are:

    1) Storing it for later playback
    2) Transmitting it greater distances than it will carry naturally
    3) Applying special effects to it

    If you're not going to do any of these things to the signal, a digital system is totally pointless anyway, so there's no point in comparing them.

    Nyquist's theorem is useful for data transmission. If it is applied to audio, then there's really no reason that a classical music CD should sound worse than actually being there, even when played on the best hardware. But then we'd be getting into psychoacoustics.

    Indeed.

    There are plenty of other weak points in the channel, though. Microphones, amplifiers, speakers... These all add their own bits of distortion into the signal.

    Correct me on this if I'm wrong (but do it nicely). If the original sound source has two signal components of 60kHz and 65kHz, there will be a tertiary tone of 5kHz as a result of the other two being superimposed. Is that 5kHz tone sampled successfully with a 44.1kHz sampling rate?

    Consider the opposite question. 60-65kHz is outside the range of any consumer-quality analog recording equipment. (Maybe some professional quality equipment can do it, but then, you can trivially expand the range of a digital system by increasing the sampling rate and sample size, too.)

    So, neither the analog nor the digital system will pick up the fundamental frequencies. That means, then, that either both the digital and the analog system will pick up the 5kHz beat signal, or neither of them will.
  • The ones who told you it was perfect reconstruction were not scientists, they were corporate marketers attempting to replace the LP in popular media with the CD. Sure worked, didn't it? Even got many people believing the mathematically, provably wrong claims of no distortion.

    Kindly refrain from constructing straw men. I don't recall anyone ever saying that there was no distortion in practical applications -- just that the distortion was much less than was possible with comparable analog systems. If you think that this isn't the case, then kindly provide some proof.

    BTW, the claim of no distortion is provably correct, but only assuming a bunch of ideal conditions that never occur in the real world.

  • However, those who are willing to put up with the extra work, and spend a lot of money for good equipment, end up with a sound you don't find on CD.

    I beg to differ. I suspect that you only _think_ that you have better sound quality.

    Do you remember back in the late 80's/early 90's when people swore that colouring the edge of a CD with a green marker improved the sound quality? I think the same thing is at work here.
  • As the matter of fact, it has become commonplace to oversample the heck out of a signal in the front end of the A/D converter (ie. sample at several times the Nyquist rate), do the anitaliasing filtering with a digital filter (which have much nicer characteristics than analog filters), then downsample the signal to 44.1kHz. This gets around some of the stickier problems associated with sampling.

    Interestingly enough, with your 60Hz sine wave example, you got the situation backwards. If you sample a 60Hz triangle wave at 120Hz, playing it back will result in a 60Hz sine wave. The reason? A 60Hz sine wave consists of only a single harmonic -- that is, if you took the Fourier transform of it, you'd end up with a single spike at 60Hz. The 60Hz triangle wave, on the other hand, consists of a fundamental harmonic at 60Hz, and a diminishing series of harmonics at higher frequencies. Since all of these higher harmonics would be lost in the sampling process, you'd end up with only the fundamental harmonic -- a 60Hz sine wave.

    Neat, huh?
  • With 16-bit audio, the best S/N ratio you can hope for is 96db, am I correct? I haven't seen the math behind this, I've just read this in several places as being the theoretical S/N ratio for 16-bit digital audio.

    I'm not going to go through the derivation of this -- check out a DSP textbook if you want to know that -- but the formula for the SQNR (Signal to Quantization Noise Ratio) for a digital system is:

    SQNR = 6.02B + 1.76 dB

    where B is the number of bits per sample.

    Therefore, the theoretical maximum SNR for a 16 bit digital system is 98.08 dB. For a 24 bit system, it's 146.24 dB, and for a 32 bit system, it's 194.4 dB.

    There are actually upper limits on the SNR of an analog system, too, that result from the effects of thermal noise, but I don't know what they are, off-hand. Also, you never truly have infinite bandwidth.

    The thing is, I find that comparing devices that can only exist in theory to be rather pointless.

  • OK, this is interesting. Basically, you've stated that the difference isn't in the recording technology itself, but rather in the pre- and post-recording stages which surround the recording itself.
  • Actually, any recording method, be it analog or digital, will lose some of the information in the original signal, and distort some of the remaining information. I think the thing is that LP fans actually like the sound of the distortion introduced into the signal.

    Considering that compressing a digital audio signal with an MP3 encoder will discard about 90% of the information in the original signal while only having a slight impact on sound quality, you can see that the minute amount of information lost in the quantization process shouldn't amount to a hill of beans.
  • Well yeah, that's assuming your DAC is doing a nice job of reconstructing the sine wave. If you sample any waveform at 120 samples/sec with a fundamental of 60Hz and that only has harmonic overtones (120,180, etc) the output will always be the same. As far as I know, most DAC's don't do this very well at their frequency limit, in which case the output would be more "connect-the-dots" and you'd have a triangle waveform with some slightly rounded-off tips.

    Certainly true. I should have prefixed that with 'theoretically'. In practice, no device performs very well near the limits of its range.

    Most audio pros work with the digital audio at 96k and then downsample right before the CD master. On the other hand, my SBLive insists on outputting 48khz, which makes that card useless for digital transfers to/from DAT that wind up on CD. I just do everything at 44.1k (on another soundcard) and I'm happy.

    I think you misunderstood what I was saying. The oversampling I was talking about occurs in the A/D converter, and the end user never sees it. As it turns out, it's easier to sample at a rate so high that aliasing simply won't occur, then use a digital filter for antialiasing, then convert the sample rate down to the user requested sample rate than it is to create an analog filter with the sharp cutoff required for the antialiasing filter.

    For example, to get that 96kHz sample rate, the A/D chip might sample at 250kHz or 500kHz, then use an FIR lowpass filter (which can be made with a very sharp cutoff, and, as a bonus, can be made so that they don't mess with the phase of the signal like analog filters do) for antialiasing. Then they might downsample the signal to 96kHz.

    All this happens on the A/D converter chip. (Obviously, it has to have a DSP processor -- essentially a special-purpose CPU -- integrated if it's going to do this.) The downsample to 44.1kHz just before the CD mastering stage is an entirely separate step.
  • My question is: what does this have to do with anything? There is no DFT performed in the signal path of a consumer digital audio system. About the only place I can see a DFT being used in a piece of consumer audio equipment is to implement a fancy spectrum analyser on the front panel.

    BTW, what exactly do you mean by 50% of the signal? It doesn't seem to have a lot of meaning.
  • Remember that the nyquist rate is greater than 2 times the highest reproduceable signal (not greater than or equal). There are actually an infinite number of 100 Hz sine waveforms that can be reconstructed from a 200Hz sampling frequency (by varying the amplitude and phase) That is just a mathematical pedantry though. Anything less than 100Hz is unique (mathematically; this assumes a perfect filter is used)

    The problem w/ consumer digital sound is simply that the sampling rate and SN ratio, while fine on paper, require that the post-D/A filtering be very good. Unrealistically good (Heck, it was very ambitious for the time in which it was designed). But it is very hard to design zero-phase filters with a steep cutoff and low ringing, and I think this is what the audiophiles typically complain about. If the sampling rate had been 100,000Hz and 24-30 bits of quantization, then the filters could have been much more gentle in the high end, the D/A could have been very linear where it counted, and audiophiles who claim to like the "warmth" of analog systems, would be very pleased. Methods like oversampling, etc. are very helpful in this respect, but have their own implementation issues.

    I personally think that "warmth" that analog audiophiles often talk about is simply a learned response to the type of gentle noise that good analog systems inherently have. A good digital system is all about reducing or removing noise, since the type of noise it introduces (aliasing typically) is quite unpleasant. But the noise of analog systems has a different and distinctive feel, which many people simply call "warmth". It is still an artifact of playback, though, and not an example of better reproduction of the signal. In other words, gaussian noise is something that people are just trained to accept, and when you mess with it, some people get upset.

    Anyway, CDs were a good compromise at the time, for producing decent consumer audio that didn't degrade with plays, and shouldn't really be held as an example of what digital audio is truly capable of. Perhaps, in the future, we will have DVDs with much higher grade audio that WILL show everyone that digital can be both "warm" and accurate. Audiophiles will still want to play them on tube-amps, however. :)
  • I don't actually know how much they cost, and I think it's more than $200, but the Rega's are good. ie when I read my dad's Audiophile magazine (see above post about golden-eared rich people who swear by vinyl), they say that the Rega turntables are amazingly good for the price (and I think maybe they just can't handle that there's a turntable almost as good as theirs for 1/50th the price).

    And I wouldn't listen to the people who are urging you to get a Technics 1200 and warning you against belt drive. It might suck when a belt breaks, but there are no high-end direct drive turntables, because direct drive is noisy. And the 1200 is a great table, if you're a DJ, but otherwise it's just a pretty good table, and probably has a heavier arm than you want (the heavier the arm, the quicker your records die).
  • Cool! I know what you mean, Cowboy Neal. A laser never physically touches the vinyl. You could scratch all day long without wearing out the record. :)

    One possible bad thing--vinyl records have that wonderful sound partially because of the needle riding in the groove. If you removed that interface it would sound different.

    Scratching is fun. Check out this crazy setup [n2it.net] that lets you scratch mp3s using a turntable interface.

  • I won't argue that they definitely have a niche product here, but I can think of a few reasons to buy one:

    • You have tons of old LPs that haven't been released on CD.
    • You are really damned rich and what the difference between $13,000 and $200 doesn't seem that much to you.
    • And in a more lucrative vein, buy one of these and start a media transfer service. People bring their old LPs to you, you give them bright shiny Audio CDs. I'm not sure what the legal ramifications are here, but I think media transfer is OK for your own use, especially if the new media format is not available. This is similar to MP3s; makeing an MP3 is not illegal (although the RIAA would like to make it so), it is distributing it that is illegal. (Note, I'm in the US, don't know what other countries are like.)

    Nevertheless, this is very cool, old meets new. And I wouldn't be surprised to see vinyl revatalized a bit (only a bit). The high cost of these is probably because they don't expect to sell many. They have to recoup their dev. costs.

  • I don't recall any specifics, but I definitely remember reading about a laser-based turntable back in the late 80's, when I was reading lots of stereo mags. Didn't pay much attention as I wasn't a vinyl fan.

    Probably not related, but I recall a George Michael video (one with lots of soopamodels) where there's a brief shot of a record playing with laser light shining on it. Dunno if that was a laser turntable or just a regular turntable with a separate laser set up to look nifty.

  • Therefore, reading the grooves of a record with a laser would completely defeat the purpose of vinyl.

    Nope. Simply using a laser doesn't mean that it's a digital process.

    It's probably like the technique of eavesdropping on a room by bouncing a laserbeam off the window. Sounds cause vibration in the glass, which changes how the laser beam is reflected. Measure the changes in the beam, convert the changes into sound, and voila, you're listening in.

    No analog/digital/analog conversion involved.

    In the case of a record, they just have to bounce lasers off the sides of the groove. Pick up the reflected laser light, convert the fluctuations in the beams into voltages (an analog process), and feed that signal into an amp.

    There may be an analog delay circuit involved, if the lasers aren't pointed at the same place in the groove. Point one slightly ahead and put a slight delay on the signal. This may not be necessary.

  • Why assume it's for the home market? The price should be a good clue that they're not selling to the home market. They might sell some for home use, but the most likely buyers are businesses and institutions. The few home users will be like the rare person who buys an SGI for home use.

    Their page has quotes from the National Library of Canada, a brain surgeon (big $$), a dentist (big $$), and a professional classical musician. These are not Wal-Mart electronics department shoppers.

  • It's easy to quote signal to noise ratio figures because they're listed in the specs of just about every bit of audio equipment, and the theory is taught in every introductory signal processing course. To me such figures are largely irrelevant. Many modern CD recordings are compressed so hard at the mastering stage that they sound bloody awful, noise or otherwise. (We had loudness wars with 45s too, have we learned nothing?) Those that aren't over-compressed probably don't use all 16 bits very effectively anyway, so the theoretical SNR is not realised. Also, the 96dB figure is the theoretical SNR of the CD medium itself; the 'signal' on that CD probably has a noise component, originating from the equipment used in the studio, and the analogue stages of the player itself.

    Some of my favourite records are 45s from the 60s that I bought second hand, and which must have spent more time out of their sleeves than in. There is an abundance of surface noise, scratches, and distortion from mastering. Still, they sound great to me. A great song with noise is still a great song.

    When arguing the pros and cons of analogue vs. digital you also have to bear in mind that not all distortion is a bad thing. To illustrate, I can make copies of CDs onto a 20+ year old tape recorder (1/4 track, 1/4 inch, 7.5ips, Dolby B) which sound, to me, better than the original CD. The tape recorder specs claim 65dB SNR with Dobly. There's no way that I can have done anything other than _add_ noise, colouration, and distortion, and I know there's nothing above 17kHz on the tape, yet the sound is wonderful, smooth yet detailed, and without the harshness that you can get on some CD recordings, particularly older ones. If I had the time and money I'd make copies of all my CDs onto tape, but what with a reel of tape costing at least as much as the CD itself, and the hassle of threading the machine each time, I don't think I'll bother. :-)

    >Of course, I master digitally on a DAT, because
    >my analog setup would introduce more noise.

    I mix (I don't master) to 1/2 track 1/4 inch tape at 15ips. No significant noise that I can hear, and more importantly, it sounds great. If I want to get my sounds onto CD I go to a mastering engineer who has better A/D converters than I could ever afford, and better than the ones in any DAT recorder.
  • >The "warmness" they are refering to is due to
    >the fact that analogue outputs nice rounded
    >waves, whereas digital outputs square waves.

    Not quite. There are various ways of doing digital to analogue conversion, some of which produce the sort of 'stair-step' output that you describe, and some of which don't. Whatever process is used, the raw output _will_ have edges or discontinuities that weren't in the original signal. For this reason, all DACs use a low pass reconstruction filter on the output, with a cut-off at approximately half the sampling rate. The characteristics of this filter, such as the steepness of the cutoff, and the flatness and phase response in the passband can have a significant effect on the quality of the output signal, but I can assure you that the analogue outputs of your CD player don't have any square edges.

    Various different types of DAC (one-bit, multi-bit, oversampling, etc.) have different characteristics that allow different kinds of filter to be used. For example, a one bit DAC with a lot of oversampling pushes the effective sampling frequency right up allowing a very gentle filter to be used, and a filter with a very gentle roll-off tends to have fewer undesirable effects in the passband.

    In fact, if you listen to sine and square wave outputs from a function generator, I think you'll find that the sine wave sounds rather thin and 'cold' whereas the square wave will sound 'warmer'. This is because the sine wave is a single frequency, f, whereas the square wave also contains components at 3*f, 5*f, etc., which tend to be quite musical, and 'nice' sounding.

    Winsk, in his/her reply to your posting, talks about clipping and distortion. Solid state amplifiers can actually manage 'warm' and 'analogue' pretty well, and cannot be held entirely to blame for the 'cold' sound of digital. When clipping does occur, valves tend to generate odd harmonics (like 1/3 and 1/5) which sound quite musical and 'good', whereas transistors generate even, and higher order odd harmonics which sound less 'good'. Under normal operating conditions transistors should not be generating significant amounts of distortion of this type anyway, whereas valves distort slightly thoughout their operating range, giving rise to the 'warming effect' of valve amplifiers.

    I am unable to explain why digital signals sound 'cold'. Early digital recording and reproduction systems had a reputation for a harsh and overly bright sound, but modern systems are considerably smoother. I suspect it is that digital sound is not subject to the same colourations and distortions as signals coming of tape or vinyl, and for whatever reason, we find those imperfections pleasing to the ear.

    Don't forget that any recording, digital or analogue, is nothing like it would sound if the performer was there in the room with you. The difference between digital and analogue sound is miniscule in comparison.

    Molly.

  • It's not analogue though, it's digital so I'm not sure exactly who they are marketing this to. Vinyl DJs *like* surface noise, it's part of the experience. I also understand you can't scratch with this, which you can even with CDs now. CD DJs on the other hand are not too likely to give up on their vaste CD collections and flock to vinyl because of this. The only neat thing about this is that you can tape your broken records and the laser can still read them. Expensive solution though. Anyone have anything that rare?!?
  • A valid point. However, if you have a system priced at $13,500/$20,500 I just can't imagine this catching on in the home audio market. If they sell 1,000 of these, I'll be amazed. It's kind of a neat idea (yeah, I realize it's analogue now - missed that before), but it's just not neat enough. I have several friends that DJ, it's what I'm used to.
  • For the most part, you're probably right. But because cd's only contain sound recorded at 41,000Hz (or is it 48k?), they lose some very minute amount of information. Where as vinyl, being analog, has no gaps whatsoever. Is the difference descernable to the human ear? I doubt it.
  • You start running into _serious_ problems when you treat the band as strictly what the human ear can pick up. Apart from the fact that subsonics are picked up by the inner ear and supersonics can be sensed though not heard through bone conduction, the trouble is that you get cancellation effects and distortions depending on how you roll off the extremes of the band. This is a nightmarish problem for CD audio, as it must put a _really_ steep filter above 22K if not still lower- a brick wall filter that is about as bad as you can get for causing interactions with lower frequencies. Personally, I prefer to start rolling off a lot lower but a lot more smoothly, but that's just me.

    In modern oversampling DA converters this is done in the digital domain where one can make a very well behaved filter. AD konversion on the studio side typically uses a higher resolution which is downsampled to 16 bit also digitally.

    As for the sawtooth, I'm afraid that's the reality. Look, if you take the input signal a bit higher, you start getting a subharmonic through the sampling which can be almost as loud as the sampled frequency!

    Now there is no such thing as 'subharmonic distortion' usually this term is incorrectly used for intermodulation distortion or aliasing. In this case you seem to refer to the latter. Obviously if one doesn't filter out frequency components over the f/2 limit one will suffer from distortion. At 22.045 KHz the antialiasingfilter, be it digital or analogue, should have reduced the input level to below the quantification noise limits (or sufficiently close).

    Why you imply that aliasing distortion should affect frequency components below f/2 are however beyond me. While it's correct that to achieve perfect DA decoding require infinite computing power, we can approach perfection sufficiently that it's not reasonable to think we can hear the difference.

    You seem to think that only a tone whose frequency goes an integer amount into fs can be correctly decoded. This is _not_ the case neither in theory nor in RL. I suggest a closer examination of the universal sampling theorem.

    Correct decoding will look at more than the sample ta T=t to determine et correct momentary value, preceeding and following samples will also be used.

  • Think you're young? I don't own any (music) CDs.

    Ryan
  • But your cheap CD-R with even a good soundcard fed through a great amp and speaker will still sound crap in comparison.

    Different people are passionate about different things. To get some understanding, go to a hi-end Hi-Fi shop, and listen to some good recordings on a good setup. Beware though, you may end up with a distinct desire to spend some serious money before leaving! The big disadvantage of a decent setup is that is does highlight how crappy some recording are (CD or LP).
  • Well, you could go for a decent second hand one, and invest in a decent cartridge. Or, go for a Dual. There is also a Czech turntable, whose name escapes me at the moment, but that is a very good entry level model. They sounds great, and a lot better than some better known marques.

    Most deck aimed at audio-philes are belt drive.
  • Maybe a DJ would agree (I don't really know), but an audio geek would have you burnt at the stake for blasphemy ;-)

    Audio-phile decks almost exclusively use belts, and do not include speed correctors; they are full manual, and some even have clamps to hold the LP. Oh, and higher up the range, you'll need a fork-lift to carry it.
  • I have not seen a high end AUDIO-PHILE (as opposed to DJ) turntable use direct drive. Some of the mega expensive ones are as much art pieces as they are LP players.
  • The point be missed is that there are hundreds of millions of vinyl records in the hands of collectors, vinyl that will never be replaced. These records constitute an enormous amount of our modern (post 1800's) musical heritage and many have never been digitized. Having a laser to read them helps to ensure the quality of the recording will never be degraded.

    Yeah, sure, some say digitize the vinyl and be done with it. But some listeners want to hear the recording in its original analog mellifluousness (a Katzian-style word in a tech posting -- see he does have influence).

    And correct me if I am wrong, but can't a laser drive an analog process? The unit doesn't necessarily have to digitize the sound before playing it through the speakers.
  • I think you're missing alot of points here. Firstly you write:
    It's read with a laser, so it must go through digital processing.
    Where does laser reading imply digital processing? THe optical input they're using to read the laser is most probably a photodiode, which would give an analog waveform. Granted, they're using 5 lasers probably to get a better picture of the "grooves" which seems to hint at some fancy DSP, but just using a laser in no means automatically implies "digital".

    This would seem to undermine the goal of listening to vinyl - that is, to avoid the "noise" that some audiophiles feel is added through digital processing.
    Ummmm, that's not why I listen to vinyl (I'm maybe semi audiophile). As far as I know, very vew albums are released not on Vinyl, most that are released are aimed for DJ's and spinners. I listen to vinyl because I'm into ALOT of the funky soul jazz from the 60's and 70's, much of which is very obscure and they'll never release the albums onto CD (probably because they'll sell 5 copies, one of which would be to me, but still not very profitable for them. Sucks...) If I could get most of this stuff on CD, I'd definitely go for it. In fact, once I get off my arse, I've got plans to lay out a decent analog-digital front-end for my computer such that I can sample the songs off my records onto MP3. THis leads me to the next point...

    Seems like not much more than an expensive toy (obviously) to show your friends rather than a realistic audiophile piece.
    You're missing one point here. While CD's and DAT's are digital, and employ some sort of error-correcting methodology, records are inherently analog. And every time you play the record, you damage it slightly (ultimately governed by quantum physics - you can't measure a system without changing it). In CD's, at least you've got some hysteresis between 0's and 1's, but with a record every time you play that track the needle drags in the groove and rubs it down a little. Just listen to a record track that's been played a hundred times or so, it can sound horrible, even if care was used with good sharp needles. That's why this laser system is pretty cool, because you don't need much contact with the record, so this won't be an issue. Also much harder to scratch now that you've removed the needle altogether.

    Finally, I've not heard the arguments about DSP adding to the noise, can anyone comment on the validity of this? As far as I know, once the analog waveform has been sampled (which is where most limitations are introduced), they use 24 or 32 bit wide DSP's to avoid introducing any noticable errors through the processing stages. Then at the Digital-Analog stage, the choice of output filter can affect the waveform too. But I didn't think the DSP was too much to blame.

  • I agree -- analog is better quality than digital, in theory, because a digital signal is only an approximation of the original analog source. Think about what "analog" means. You store a signal on one medium that is a direct analog of the recorded signal.
    However, with digital, you're taking repeated samples, and approximating each sample to the nearest quantized level determined by the bit depth. So you lose some quality converting to digital.
    And then you lose some more when going from digital back to analog, which you HAVE to do with sound or you can't hear it.
    You can build an purely analog sound system that introduces less noise than digital. The big advantage digital has is the ability to make exact reproductions, with no loss from generation to generation.
    That doesn't change the fact that you can't make a true 10khz sine wave on a CD (roughly 4 sample points per cycle, and you actually have a sawtooth wave that phases in and out w/ the sample rate).
    To get the best of both worlds for audio, you need to go digital with a very high sample rate (96kHz) at 24-bit depth. That way you have a much better digital approximation of an analog signal.
  • There are some artifacts and noise that even the best DSP's will add, solely due to the nature of converting to digital.
    Imagine you have a recording with lots of high's, like around 5kHz. What happens when you try to convert a 5kHz waveform to digital?
    Well if you're sampling at 44.1kHz, it'll take (on average) 8.82 samples to record one cycle of the 5kHz wave. Try to draw a complete crest and trough with only 8 points-- it's pretty jagged! Plus, you really can't have that .82 of a sample on the end... what actually happens is that the actual analog waveform falls out of phase with the sample rate, and then your sample points don't line up exactly on the peaks and valleys most of the time, because 44100 samples per second is not divisible by 5000 cycles per second. When the come back into phase, the tone sounds louder. What you hear off the CD then is not a true 5kHz tone, you hear a 5kHz jagged waveform that's being amplitute modulated, causing new frequencies to appear that weren't in the original waveform.
  • Since a large portion of the slashdot audience knows very little about signal theory... maybe a little "intuitive" analysis would help.
  • What universe do you live in? In mine, you can't do that. The best you can do is store a signal that is an analog of the source

    Thanks for rephrasing what I already said.

    And this quantization noise can easily be less than the noise introduced in going to an analog medium. Easily. What consumer-available analog medium has better SNR than you get with 16-bit quantization?

    Did I say consumer-level? I was speaking on principle. Let's see... a near perfect analog system would consist of 1) somebody playing an acoustic instrument, and 2) a human ear. Better SNR than 16-bit quantization, and the only noise in the system is going to be due to bloodflow in the ear (ok, maybe dogs and traffic if you're not in a sound room). Anything else processing the sound in between, digital or analog, is just going to add noise.

    Please, learn Nyquist's theorem. Audio is bandlimited. You can reconstruct it perfectly from discrete samples. No "sawtooth wave" at all.

    ...as long as the highest frequency is less than half the sampling rate. Yes, I know. In actuality, you can't (without filters) recreate a perfect SINE WAVE (that was my point), but you'll get something that's the same frequency. However, anything that's not a sine wave would have harmonics added which you won't hear anyway, and don't need. Now I'm sure some more DSP engineers are going to want to jump in again and smack me around, but I'm speaking purely from a musician's standpoint.

    Nyquist's theorem is useful for data transmission. If it is applied to audio, then there's really no reason that a classical music CD should sound worse than actually being there, even when played on the best hardware. But then we'd be getting into psychoacoustics.

    Correct me on this if I'm wrong (but do it nicely). If the original sound source has two signal components of 60kHz and 65kHz, there will be a tertiary tone of 5kHz as a result of the other two being superimposed. Is that 5kHz tone sampled successfully with a 44.1kHz sampling rate?

  • man harmonics

    man fourier

    And then read my reply to billybob jr.

  • It says any waveform can be reconstructed perfectly if the sampling rate is twice the highest freq. component in the signal.

    It seems to me that if you had (for example) a 100Hz sawtooth wave, you couldn't ever reproduce it digitally. Well, with filters you could, and in essence a speaker cone is a filter, but let's just stick to theory.
    A sawtooth wave is the sum of an infinite series of harmonics, ie sine wave components. Therefore, you'd have to sample at infinite frequency to reproduce it perfectly. Now, most people can't hear above 15kHz anyway and the realistic upper limit is 20kHz, so generally we're OK with 44.1kHz sampling.

    BUT.... let's say you have a low, 60hz sine way. You sample it at 120Hz.
    If you play it back digitally, at the 120Hz sample rate, do you get a 60hz sine wave? Absolutely not. You get a 60hz base with a bunch of higher harmonics thrown in, because you're playing back a 60hz triangle wave. A triangle wave contains higher frequency components that weren't there in the original recording. This is noise. So, you have to apply a filter on the output that blocks out all frequencies that are over half your sampling rate.

    So, *my* interpretation of Nyquist's theorem is that if you sample at twice the frequency of the highest component you care about, you won't lose any information. But my point I was trying to make, before a bunch of engineers jumped on my case, was that the playback waveform has all the original sounds plus some additional unwanted artifacts, which has to be taken care of with filtering. In my mind, that's not a perfect reproduction. Fortunately, in a CD, most of the unwanted noise is well above the human range of perception, although there are other factors at play that can cause reduction in sound quality when recording to CD.

    On another note (bad pun), there is a noticeable difference in sound quality between 24bit 96kHz audio vs. 16-bit 44.1kHz. According to Nyquist's theorem and the frequency response range of the human ear, that shouldn't be the case.
    I suppose signal theory alone doesn't completely account for sound quality.
  • Okay, I understand what you're saying. I haven't had much education in signal theory either. But after some thought, I do know that if you're given a set of sample points, there's one and only one solution for a sine wave that fits those points. I wasn't thinking of this earlier though... I was pretty much assuming that the sample points were just going to be read only as voltage levels on the output. There were some other issues I didn't address that cause loss of sound quality with AD/DA conversion. Some people will do a master on a DAT at 48kHz, and then do a sample rate conversion to 44.1kHz which kinda screws things up. But that's not what this discussion was about.
  • man am I bored.

    Here's what I know about DSP: Korg, Proteus, Tascam. And that the SBLive does sample rate conversions when you don't want it to.
    At least in the end, there's always beer.

    I'll stick to quantum mechanics from now on...
  • Let's compare an ideal, perfect AD converter with an ideal, perfect analog recorder.
    With 16-bit audio, the best S/N ratio you can hope for is 96db, am I correct? I haven't seen the math behind this, I've just read this in several places as being the theoretical S/N ratio for 16-bit digital audio.
    With an ideal, perfect, doesn't-exist analog system, it's much higher. Like I said, the closest thing is the human ear.
    If I had my way, all my digital equipment would work @ 24 bit 96kHz. But that's expensive...
    When I said "analog is better than digital" I was referring to the ideal conditions. Of course, I master digitally on a DAT, because my analog setup would introduce more noise.
  • Thank you!
    I was about to spend a couple hours doing research to back up my claims which I simply and "intuitively" knew to be true.
    The engineers are correct in that you don't lose any INFORMATION in a signal if you sample at at least twice its frequency. However, that doesn't account for the, uh, "extra" information that's added. When transmitting data across a wire, you don't really need to worry about subharmonic distortion. But as I said in another post... there's more to reproducing the original sound than signal theory suggests.
    I take it you're a musician?
  • There are actually upper limits on the SNR of an analog system, too, that result from the effects of thermal noise, but I don't know what they are, off-hand. Also, you never truly have infinite bandwidth.

    That's a shame, because that will be a requirement for Windows 2010. The problem with keeping a system thermally noise free (absolute zero) is that as soon as you have a signal, you have heat, and thus noise.

    The thing is, I find that comparing devices that can only exist in theory to be rather pointless.

    And thus is the difference between theoretical science and engineering! Anybody have a massless, frictionless pulley that I can borrow?

  • True... for a speaker to produce a true square wave, it can't have any intertia. For that matter, the cone has to tunnel from A to B without going the distance between for each cycle, requiring a negative energy field, which would probably have a side effect of destroying the planet.
    However, as soon as the Klipsch Promedia's come off of backorder, I'll have the next best thing.
  • morons who know nothing about signal processing beyond Nyquist-Shannon theory but here goes.

    I know what you mean-- those retarded idiots that don't know anything about nanophase solid-state physics beyond the Hall-Petch relationship annoy the crap out of me too. [/sarcasm]

    However, you did give a reason why 96kHz audio is preferable (especially during the mixing stage) compared to 44kHz 16-bit.
  • Well yeah, that's assuming your DAC is doing a nice job of reconstructing the sine wave. If you sample any waveform at 120 samples/sec with a fundamental of 60Hz and that only has harmonic overtones (120,180, etc) the output will always be the same. As far as I know, most DAC's don't do this very well at their frequency limit, in which case the output would be more "connect-the-dots" and you'd have a triangle waveform with some slightly rounded-off tips.

    Most audio pros work with the digital audio at 96k and then downsample right before the CD master. On the other hand, my SBLive insists on outputting 48khz, which makes that card useless for digital transfers to/from DAT that wind up on CD. I just do everything at 44.1k (on another soundcard) and I'm happy.
  • If you want to get a good turntable, you have to pay up around 500 dollars, for a deck like the technics 1200. This is the deck that almost all DJ's use. It is driven by magnets instead of a belt. It looks cool as hell too.

    I have a cheap 120 dollar sony turntable. I bought it about 2 years ago and it works great. I use it for my small collection of techno that I have on vinyl. To me it sounds almost as good as my cd's. I got it at best buy as well, most larger electronics stores actually still keep 1 or 2 models in stock.

    Basically you're looking at spending about 90 - 140 dollars for my cheap turntable which works well enough, or you have to spend at least 400 dollars to get a good DJ style turntable. There are also "audiophile" type decks for up to 10k, but you wouldn't want those....I think its funny that they even exist :)
  • We now have CD players (lasers included) for about $30.

    I think you miss the point. Vinyl, IMHO, gives a much better, smoother, richer sound than does digital. CD's are great and all, but they really can't compare to the sound of a well-mastered vinyl record played on a top-quality turntable. The whole reason CDs are more popular than vinyl is that a cheap CD player sounds 10 times better than a cheap record player. But a really excellent record player sounds at least 10 times better than a really excellent CD player. It's a tradeoff. I, for one, would definitely buy one of these if I had the extra $30k lying around. Maybe Hemos wants to buy one for me? come on Hemos, support a starving college student:)!

    As for your point about the cost of compact lasers, it's well taken, but the cost of this unit is most likely _not_ in the lasers. There's a whole load of signal processing equipment that's required to turn the (I'm assuming) Doppler shift detected in the reflected light into sound.

    In short: Yes, you could buy a CD player that will give you decent sound for $30. But keep in mind that you won't even come _close_ to the quality of a really, really good record player. And if this unit is all they promised, which seems reasonable, then the cost of a really, really good record player just dropped by an order of magnitude.
    --

  • 0 to 9? I don't think you quite understand what analog means. The signal recorded on a vinyl record is a representation of the actual sound wave hitting the original microphone's diaphragm, minus electrical distortion and such. As the sylus moves up and down in the grooves of the record, it moves inside a magnetic field, generating a current, which is sent to your amplifier. The amplified current is sent to your speakers, whose magnets move in and out with the current, making sound again. Vinyl recording has nothing to do with numbers at all. Now as for which is better, I don't know. I have a few albums on vinyl that I also have on CD. The CD sounds a lot "cleaner" to me, and the recording and sampling is certainly of a higher quality, but the LP does feel more "natural" even with all the hiss and pop.
  • Wander into a high-end audio store (the ones that have $$$$$ vacuum tube monoblocks!) and tell 'em you're looking for a low end turntable. They'll probably point you in the direction of a Rega or the likes. (lovely tables)

  • Damn it all to hell, I'm SICK OF HEARING, "but what about the DJs? What good is this table if you can't scratch on it?"

    Some of you youngsters should beat it into your thick skull that the original and still primary purpose for a turntable is reproducing sound that's on records. NOT scratching, NOT sampling, and NOT back-cueing.

    Furthermore, there are a lot of records out there, some well over half a century old, which are one-of-a-kind. There are historic recordings on wax cylinders (including some of Caruso) which will NEVER be copied onto CD or MP3...unless they can read those recordings in a non-destructive process. For record studios, for museums, and for archivists, this sort of technology is invaluable.

    So if you STILL can't figure it out;

    1) These turntables are not aimed at DJs.
    2) Most turntables made aren't aimed at DJs.
    3) The world of vinyl doesn't revolve around DJs.
    4) Deal with it.

  • "And im real sorry, but most turntables ARE aimed at djs. I can think of roughly 10 models off the top of my head which are aimed at djs... including the venerable Technics SL-1200-MK2, and kids are buying boatloads of them!"

    Heh heh heh... Considering the SL-1200 was originally considered a 'DJ-quality playback table, the above statement is amusing. Regardless, I can list probably five times that many turntables that are aimed at audiophiles/old vinyl owners.

    More to the point, "VINYL IS BEAUTIFUL!" I can agree with that. As long as people are willing to accept that a turntable could possibly be useful for or even (gasp!) aimed at a group OTHER than DJs, we can all get along.

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