Saturday, 28 May 2016

Analogue vs. Digital Audio

I've just read this: An interesting fairly well balanced view of Analogue vs. Digital reproduction of music.

I am not what I would call an audiophile, but I do appreciate the "quality" perceived or imagined of music. The emotional quality and as the Techrepublic article puts it the emotional response to placing the needle of the turntable on my beloved vinyl recording.

However to add my little bit to the debate, it has come to my attention that dynamic range seems to be the thing that has taken the beating. I even did my own experimentation with this and pulled an MP3 recording that seemed washed out and very difficult for the singer's vocals to be heard.

I pulled a dynamic range app (TT Dynamic Range Meter) from the Internet and also ended up here: It seems I am not alone in spotting that the music industry has been making music louder at the expense of what I feel is "quality". You need to hear the tinkle of the symbol and the bass of the drum and the full range of frequencies and loudness levels to get the "texture" of the sound.

You also (IMHO) need to have something decent to provide the reproduction of the source material, LP, MP3, tape, CD. I have to admit to having a very old circa early 80s Sony separates system, which still has its original Amp, Deck and an addition of a circa 1993 CD player.  Playing various sources, new and old Vinyl and new and old CDs, and MP3 via the AUX input from my phone, I can hear the difference between older reproductions where the dynamic range is wider.

That also takes me on to a recent discovery, not a complete revelation for some I am sure, but new and surprising to me. I recently tested a soundbar - Thank You Richer Sound for the week trial. I get fed-up with not being able to hear the dialogue from movies.

I have a very nice Logitec Z5500 surround system. Which I plug into my blueray/DVD player and we have a family movie night using a projector on the wall. The dialogue is loud and proud using this set-up and full on 5.1 THX certified sound a pleasure to listen to....... So with this as my baseline, I figured that the less than perfect speakers in my flat panel LG TV could be improved on with a soundbar. Now I didn't go top of the range, or the bottom - I thought lets shoot for the mid-range and one that has won a What-HiFi award.

Let's just say I was disappointed. Where was that Centre Dialogue - still not there!!! even using the Direct Digital input from the HDMI cable. So the soundbar went back to the store.

Last weekend we did a movie night but, not on the projector and DVD, but streamed from Amazon. I plugged my Z5500 into the Optical out of the TV and "WHAT!" where's the 5.1 audio gone? It seems the compressed audio format for streaming media required my Z5500 to be manually switched to decode in Dolby Prologic II. SOOO that explains a little of why unless you go with a soundbar with all the bells, you're still gonna get poor dialogue. Also to my surprise whilst looking at soundbars, there nearly all 2.1 - unless you pay a lot more and then well quite frankly - save your money and stick with a proper decoder like my old Z5500, half or a third of the price of a top notch sound bar and SOOO MUCH more sound for the money.

No comments: