The Original “Why CD is a Con” essay, circa 1992

What is the essence of digital recording/reproduction?
Digital recording systems work on the principal of turning a signal into a series of binary numbers, which are then stored for reproduction. This system of encoding averages the input signal to minimize the amount of data generated. It was believed that 44,100 samples per second was a high enough resolution to sufficiently encode any music signal without the listener being able to detect the inevitable degradation.

Analogue encoding systems work by taking the musical information as it is and turning it directly into mechanical movements ~as in the case of vinyl or directly into magnetic modulations (as found on tape) which in the replay stage do not have to be decoded or mathematically reconstructed. There is no trickery involved; what you hear is what you had.

The scientific community has, over the past 10 years, slowly come to the startling revelation, that there are many systems in nature that cannot be broken down or reduced to a set of simple component parts. This realization has overturned the prevailing paradigm of nature which as ruled for the last 200 years. T he death of reductionism has direct implications for the field of audio, and confirms what everybody has been feeling and saying in private for some time about digital music systems; the resolution obtained at 44.1khz is not high enough to reproduce music properly.

The resolution of analogue systems however, depends on the quality of the materials and components used in the audio chain; in the case of vinyl, the resolution goes down to the molecular level. It is millions of times more sensitive than any digital system that has ever been manufactured.

Because digital systems irretrievably reduce the input musical signal to a series of numbers that is insufficient to encode all of the music, there is a limit to how much you can upgrade your reproduction system (hi fi) to obtain a better sound. No matter how much money you spend, the original musical signal can never be retrieved belong the fidelity at which the encoding took place. With analogue recording however, the amount which you can gain is enormous. I he molecular resolution of analogue tape and vinyl facilitate this upward mobility, and even if you don't choose to upgrade your equipment, the quality of the signal is still preserved in your recordings, if you should ever desire to take advantage of it. Digital denies you this potential.

What's happening in the studios: engineers reactions
Studio engineers are consistently confirming that digital systems do not measure up under close scrutiny. At a world famous audio mastering facility which specializes in the preparation of lacquers and PQ encoded tapes tot CD production, the verdict has been that digital must be treated with extreme caution. At this facility, the production of masters is carried out from many different sources; DAT, Sony PCM 701, analogue tape @ 15ips and 30ips, 1630 U-Matic and Cassette. The Monitoring systems that this studio employs are among the finest in the world, custom built and calibrated by hand by an audio genius. Constant exposure to different kinds of music, heard through an exceptional reproduction system, from different source tapes, has given these engineers the experience to be able to judge audio. Here is the testimony of one of their senior engineers. . .

“There appears to be an unquestioning attitude to digital audio. It is generally and wrongly accepted that digital recorders provide a true to original sound, however there are many variables that can drastically alter the audio signal and there is a widespread ignorance to the various permutations. On the simplest level, one finds that comparable DAT players of different makes have markedly different sounds. The variety of digital interfaces also gives rise to further differences. The idea that a digital copy is an exact copy of the original music is simply not correct. One can look at all of the variables and reach a good compromise but manufacturers still have a long way to go. There is also a growing feeling that the digital sound is conditioning people to accepting the digital sound as the TRUE sound whereas in reality digital systems impart a texture to the sound which is invariably 'restricted' and 'stifled' as opposed to 'open' and 'breathing'. Sound engineers seem to be subconsciously working around the problem, working towards a compromise that 'sounds good on digital'.”

The analogue infrastructure
The knowledge gained in the manufacture and operation of analogue recording systems is invaluable and irreplaceable. Research and development into further improving the near perfect world of analogue audio reproduction has virtually stopped, due to the destructive influence of digital. It is not only the patents and designs that must be carried into the future, but also the personal expert knowledge of engineers, gained over many years, which must survive; knowledge which can never be replaced once lost - the knowledge of what quality to expect from the best possible analogue reproduction system.

Analogue computing
Digital computing is only an evolutionary step in the development of computers. There exists today, the working components of a new type of analogue computer which will revolutionize computing, and make digital computing obsolete. With the establishment of analogue computing, all tasks that are now being handled by digital computers will be switched to analogue computers, including the recording and reproduction of music. Much experience has been gained in the field of optical discs. High density optical discs will, without doubt, be a major resource for data storage and retrieval when analogue computers come on line. I he advantages of optical disc storage (when the disadvantages of digital encoding are stripped away) are many; durability, pitch stability, low distortion and track numbering to name a few. When these advantages are combined with the perfection of analogue encoding, we will have a system of playback and recording with a quality beyond all expectations. Such a system however will be of no use to anyone if the analogue infrastructure has been dismantled, and there is no one left who knows first hand what real, true to life audio sounds like.

The mass destruction of masters
For the moment, digital is here with us, and a terrible price is being paid. l he entire history of recorded sound and music is being systematically 'saved' into digital formats . . . at 44.1 khz. This disaster is taking place because of the life span of recording tape; the glues that have been used to bind the magnetic material to the flexible substrate of most recording tape have been found to be decomposing, putting at risk most of the master tapes that have been recorded in the last 50 years. In what seemed like a sensible move, all of these master tapes have been scheduled for saving to digital; (also, conveniently, this ties in with the re-releasing of the back catalogues of most record companies onto CD) I. What nobody bothered to tell these companies, is that digital sounds like shit; and so, thinking that they have permanently saved their masters, the record companies are THROWING AWAY their original analogue master tapes. . . to save space. When the penny drops it w ill be too late. All of~our favorite music will be lost forever in a quanitized quagmire of brittle, cold, shitty sound, and for no good reason, because analogue machines could just as easily be used to preserve decomposing masters.

The proper place for CD
CDs are very useful, just as cassettes are useful; they have a place in the audio chain, and should be used and sold; BUT NOT TO THE EXCLUSION OF ANY OTHER FORMAT, and certainly not to the exclusion of vinyl, which is the best mass produced reproduction carrier ever made.

Who's in control?
You have to wonder how this sham has continued for so long, and of course, we all know who is behind this insane state of affairs. The audio equipment manufacturers have realized that if they design and manufacture the hardware i.e. CD players, mini-disc, l)CC, they must control the manufacture of the software I music) to ensure that their investment in time and R&D pays off. Sony learned this the hard way, with the failure of Betamax; it failed because there was no software available to watch; they tried to push the system, licensing movies from film companies at huge cost, but it was too late. NOW Sony owns Columbia Pictures, and every picture they have ever made, so if they want to launch any type of new hardware to play movies, the availability of software will be no problem, no matter how good or bad the system is; they can even release films on reels of spaghetti if they want to. Sony also own CBS records and the CBS back catalogue. Phillips own Phonogram and A&M. This is a terrible situation, not only because the production of music is in the hands of a small number of giant companies that are also the exclusive manufacturers of all audio equipment, but because these companies are deaf to sound quality, due to their need to launch more and more new playback formats. Mixed with the profits to be made from re releasing hijacked back catalogues, the resulting brew is poisonous; companies that profit from reissuing old music again and again into a never ending stream of different and inferior devices to a public addicted to electronic novelty. GOD SAVE US ALL.

It's not too late
Most of the engineers and companies involved in the production of analogue recording systems still exist and are working. If we stop the digital disease now, music and sound in all of its intricacy will be saved for everyone. Keep buying turntables and vinyl records. Keep buying cassettes. Boycott any release that is on CD only for no good reason. Make sure that the labels you buy from are not controlled by the manufacturers of music systems. It is the only way we are going to save sound.

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Our new motto: Analogue Adored. Digital Deplored.

Copyright 1992, Irdial-Discs.
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