LP vs. SACD: An unfair comparison?

I’m about to open a subjective can of worms here. I’m interested to hear the opinion of those who regularly play LPs as well as their digital front-ends.

For 11 years, I’ve enjoyed a Puccini + U-clock to spin CDs and (especially) SACDs. During that time, my analog front end has improved and the above-mentioned digital front end has remained the same. The gap between them has become noticeably large, in favor of analog. Some would say that’s not surprising, since the turntable + arm + cartridge + phono stage costs $160K and the Puccini/U-clock much less, and the Puccini is older. My choices were always biased toward the analog front end because I believed that a digital front end would never match it, no matter how expensive.

Well, that may be changing. I’m debating whether to upgrade to a Rossini or Vivaldi. I really don’t want to spend the $ because so much has already gone into the analog front end, but I will do it if I could attain a level of sound quality commensurate with the analog. Among those who regularly listen to both analog and dcs digital, can you honestly say that the digital front end is as satisfying? Does it meet or exceed what you expect to hear from analog, if the source material is top quality in both cases? I’ll assume that your analog side is of reference quality, since you’ve already spent lots of coin on the dcs gear.


George, I will attempt an answer to your question - a ‘half answer’ because I was a Puccini + clock owner for the same amount of time as you, but have not had an analogue source for a very long time.

I recently upgraded to Rossini transport + Vivaldi dac, and my immediate impression (which has not changed since) was that what I had happily believed was a lifelike sound with the Puccini in fact wasn’t as close as I thought. With simply recorded voices and acoustic instruments (mostly jazz) the Vivaldi is causing me to say “Of course! That’s what he/she must really sound like. I never knew before.” I don’t think it is hard to recognise a step closer to being in the room with the performer when you hear it. There will also be moments when you’ll hear things you weren’t aware of with the Puccini, and some performances will make more musical sense in a rather intangible but worthwhile way.

Perhaps you should arrange a demonstration. If you don’t stream anything, and your only digital media are CDs and SACDs, then the cheapest route into Vivaldi is the one I’ve taken.

My last comment is that, in my experience and in my system, I’ve found the Vivaldi improvement to be most marked on CDs so far. I’m not unhappy with that, because they are 90%+ of my collection.



I am so glad that you haven’t asked which is best ( which a technical answer can deal with) compared to which is the most satisfying.

I have maintained an LP spinner since 1965 without abandoning it during the early days of CD and having to replace it later once the deficiencies of CD replay of the time were revealed.

I have also used dCS equipment since around 1999 so all three generations which brings another perspective to this comparison. BTW, my original reason for buying silver disc at all was because my main musical interest is classical music which, had I stuck with exclusively vinyl , would have meant no new recordings for thirty years.

I cannot pretend that my vinyl system used for this comparison cost anything like the sum spent by you or compares with the cost of my Vivaldi three box plus Rossini Transport stack but it is nevertheless of very high quality. A highly modified J A Michel Orbe ( 2 arms and no springs), SME V /Audiomods Series Five/Ortofon Windfeld ti/Ortofon 2M Mono SE into an Icon Audio PS3 Designers Edition two box phonostage ( if you don’t know it in the USA it is wholly tube and the reference phonostage of two of the five UK audio print magazines ).

OK, preamble over. The naturalness and sheer musicality of the dCS equipment has improved generation by generation . However IMO it only really challenged good vinyl replay for that sense of scale and tangibility with Vivaldi 2. Other factors come into it like cable choice (and there’s a lot of cable choice to be made with a four box dCS stack :smiley:). It is not the same as the sound from vinyl but shares that level of humanity and involvement. You need not rely upon SACD or other hi-res digital sources for this. It is exhibited even with the humble redbook CD if the actual recording is up to it. NB: most of my digital music is played from storage rather than disc.

I do think, however, that preference for one or other medium will also depend partly upon genre of music preferred. I mentioned I am a classical music fan. However for pop and rock fans the damage done to the achievable sound of silver disc by the loudness wars cannot be undone and I have a couple of CDs that for me remain completely unlistenable. Their vinyl equivalents may well sound preferable for all I know.

So digital can sound as emotionally satisfying as vinyl. However I don’t regard them as direct competitors. After all when my parents got their first TV set in the 1950s they didn’t bin the radio! For me both fill a need and , these days, have an equivalency.


I can share my experience with both media. I have a Vivaldi dac + Network Bridge on one side, on the other side I have a Linn LP12 (Klimax level…it means the best Linn can do).

Let’s say I play 80% of streamed music. The reason for that is not quality, actually my digital set up and my vinyl set up sound almost the same. I never say, Now I play this music in vinyl because it is better, or I play digital because my Vivaldi dac sounds better.
I play digital when I am not alone in my listening room, and I play digital when I want to discover new music, or when I want to listen to a variety of music, like a playlist in a way.

When it is late night, I know that the phone will not ring, nobody shall enter the room…I play vinyl…well, if I am too tired, safely I play digital, because you cannot imagine the number of times I woke up in the middle of the night, the vinyl turning in an infinite loop… :slight_smile: In conclusion, as far as I am concerned, both media are really enjoyable, musical and emotional, but digital is more practical, vinyl is more a ritual listening experience, but, both of these media are way more enjoyable than the CD, I dropped with no regrets some years ago :slight_smile:

PS that is my longest post, I tried to imitate Pete or Greg…but I can’t compete with them :joy:

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Thank you, Simon_C, for taking a crack at a difficult question. I did arrange with a dealer to compare my Puccini with a Rossini transport + Rossini DAC, and a Vivaldi stack. The improvements moving up the scale were evident, but my impressions were only meaningful in a relative way. I wouldn’t consider taking a step up without hearing the new components in my own room, connected to my own equipment. But that’s a big step in commitment, and I don’t want to waste a dealer’s time by arranging a loan before I’m well on my way to a purchase.

It is not the same as the sound from vinyl but shares that level of humanity and involvement.

That’s exactly the kind of subjective impression I was hoping to elicit. As you’re a classical listener, your sources are most similar to mine (about 80% classical and 20% jazz) because they’re recordings of un-amplified acoustic instruments. While we’re fortunate there’s so much excellent music recorded during the prime years of the LP, I also don’t want to be stuck in the past listening only to old recordings. Plus, there are days when I’m too lazy or tired to clean and spin an LP … and tired people sometimes break cantilevers, as I learned to my great regret. Thanks for your thoughts.

Thanks for your impressions. I haven’t thought seriously about streaming or high-res files, even though many friends have already gone there and they enjoy the ability to sample and discover new music. It’s not that I am trying to be a Luddite, rather that I’ve plowed limited resources into as few directions as possible in order to raise the quality. That’s why upgrading another branch is painful to think of, and adding a server makes my head explode and my bank account wilt. Perhaps I should forego the transport and rip all those silver discs onto a disk drive.

You are right, setting up a server, ripping all the CDs is somewhat painful, I did it some years ago…but actually, streaming is so good now, you don’t need a server to listen to your own cd collection…actually you shall listen to your CDs…but via the streamer…in the Vivaldi stack you get a brilliant streamer…you save the price of the Vivaldi transport :wink:
Initially, when streaming was so so…It was important to get a good server and a good ripping process…in 2021, save that time, you stream from Tidal or Qobuz with Mosaic, it is great…or with Roon…but then you need a server :smirk:. Not everyone agrees on that, but Mosaic is good enough, it is free, and very easy to setup and use…