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Hifi Sources DACs Amplifiers Speakers

Audiophile Hifi

Digital Sources


Early digital (CDs) got itself a bad name in hifi circles: the technology involved a compromise. CDs gave us no more crackles and scratches, no more reduced sound quality as the needle approached the slower-running record centre, zero cross-talk, lower distortion, higher dynamic range. But always a hint of harshness to the sound, a lack of perceived "warmth" and "musical involvement" that couldn't be ignored simply as psychoacoustics, or the fact that studio-mastering had been geared to the weaknesses of vinyl rather than the strengths of digital.

Years, arguments, discussions, research, opinions galore, and we now find that vinyl is making a comeback and yes it is on audiophile grounds. But digital has also moved on big-time and the arguments are now resolved. High quality digital sources give you a direct-line to the mixing desk or recording platform that simply cannot be argued with—it is the best source for music reproduction you can possibly have. And low-fi digital (eg streaming mp3s) is convenient and good-enough.

As an audiophile with both digital and vinyl I know which camp I'm in. Vinyl will trump a digital chain with some weak points, but if your digital chain is strong... it's not a contest. For the digital stuff, it starts with how that digital stream is converted into an analogue audio signal. Digital chain critical point number 1.