I'm not arguing for bad digital sound -- I don't know who would.

I am saying that a top-line converter like the Benchmark is a real stretch for some funding-limited 
organizations and I'd much rather see limited budgets spent on excellent quality -- and the 
maintenance thereof -- ANALOG gear so you don't need a "by the light of the virgin moon" kind of 
digital chain but rather the very good and relatively inexpensive stuff that is out there if not 
plentiful. There are probably some who have more faith in digital processing than I do -- I say make 
it sound good before it goes into the box. So under this philosophy, one wouldn't even try extreme 
digital processing since you can't put lipstick on a pig and most people I know find digital 
artifacts super-annoying compared to minor analog imperfections.

I still think the CardDeluxe is the best DAC device for under $1000 but some are very insistent on 
keeping all the audio circuitry outside of a PC/Mac box, for understandable reasons. There are a 
variety of external devices of excellent quality out there for well sound of the Benchmark's prices, 
although if your budget is rich and your tastes are toward the excellent only, that equipment has a 
sterling reputation. I can't recommend a specific external box because I don't have any. I will note 
that some of these devices seem to devote a lot of the development and marketing budget to mic 
preamps and/or built-in analog stuff like tube "warmers" or compressors of various flavors which may 
or may not be desired in a transfer chain.

Even more important that what digi-toy you happen to have is your practices -- are you presenting 
undistorted, in-azimuth audio to the analog-to-digital converter? Is polarity and phase constant in 
your chain? Did you chase down and eliminate grounding and hum issues? For that matter, have you 
scientifically measured your equipment and do you have the equipment to measure it and keep it 
running to spec? If you're doing disks, have you cleaned them properly and played them with the 
proper stylus? Is your tape machine aligned to the proper standard? Do you keep the tape heads 
cleaned and degaussed (sp?)? Are you converting at 96/24 and leaving plenty of headroom so your 
processing won't present digital clipping? Do you have a proper storage and backup system? To my 
thinking, all of this is much more important than what brand of DAC you use as long as you find 
something in your budget that can produce digital copies that come out sounding like what was fed 
into the digital system, minus whatever digital processing you choose to do (and I would choose to 
be as conservative as possible with that).

Just to be clear one more time, I'm not advocating a bad-sounding anything -- EVER!

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "phillip holmes" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 8:27 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Shopping for AD/DA

> Amen.  Bad analog sound, plus bad digital sound, equals junk.  Many "restorations" of old 78s 
> sound worse to me because I can still hear the limitations of the 78, and then, they add a layer 
> of mediocre digital processing.  Obviously, there are guys who do good "restorations".  I say 
> "restorations" because you can't restore what's not there.  You can only take away ticks and pops, 
> and in the process, some of the music you'd like to keep.  That's why I'm a record collector.
> Phillip
> Bob Olhsson wrote:
>> -----Original Message-----
>> >From Tom Fine: "...I would argue that these would be great overkill for such
>> things as cassette field recordings, almost any spoken word, private recordings, old non-hifi 
>> media, etc."
>> If the recordings are worth cleaning up, I'd argue they are worth the best
>> converters one can afford. Digital artifacts are not covered up by analog
>> recording artifacts. It comes down to the actual value of the recordings vs.
>> the cost. High quality converters create audio that can accept a lot more
>> signal processing before turning crunchy.
>> Bob Olhsson Audio Mastery, Nashville TN
>> Mastering, Audio for Picture, Mix Evaluation and Quality Control
>> Over 40 years making people sound better than they ever imagined!
>> 615.385.8051