The debate, surprisingly, goes on. 

Proponents of vinyl insist vinyl sounds better. And there are a lot of proponents of vinyl out there, supporting numerous small shops specializing in vinyl records.

At the same time, in blind tests, vinyl doesn't have a good record against digital recordings. Not that one is better or worse than the other, but that in double-blind tests, vinyl believers can't even seem to tell which is which. If they were able reliably to identify "this one is analog" or "this one is digital." One would think that if vinyl sounds better, there'd be no problem distinguishing the one from the other. 

If it's a myth that vinyl sounds better than digital, perhaps can we trace it back to where it began. When CD's arrived on the scene, most of the first recordings offered were analog to digital rerecordings. A preexisting analog master was digitized onto the CD format. Often (indeed, almost always), the rerecordings were done in a rush by engineers who were new to digital audio and, thus, were on a learning curve.

A few pioneering companies such as Telarc started producing original digital recordings which were almost invariably given 5-star reviews by the critics, but for many years there were almost entirely a classical and a bit later a jazz label, so many interested rock, pop, hip-hop, etc. were almost totally unaware of them.

It took a considerable time for most recordings to be all-digital. 

As I understand it, the explanation given by proponents of analog/vinyl goes like "In digital recording, music is sampled. In other words, you're not hearing it all. It's like a movie with so many frames per second. If you'll notice, at times you realize that the movie is basically a string of stills, especially when rapid motion is involved. Then you realize you're seeing the action in a series of jerks. Digital audio is analogous to that." 

It seems the experts on perception aren't buying. They point out that our senses aren't truly analog. We perceive through specialized nerve endings, and all a nerve ending can do is either fire or wait to fire. A visual or auditory nerve does not provide us with a continuous perception of any sort. Our brain, in effect, becomes a kind of digital to analog converter. 

A seldom-recognized fact is that, aside from a very few direct-to-vinyl recordings which are then processed in analog form all the way to the final pressing, most so-called analog recordings are digitized at some point along the way and then converted back to analog before pressing the vinyl.

This debate will probably never die as long as people can convince themselves that vinyl sounds better, even if the belief seems to be something akin to the placebo effect whereby if you think it should sound better you will think it sounds better.

Tags: CD's, analog, digital, recordings, vinyl

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A fool and his money are soon parted.

It's only a fallacy if it's fallacious and lacks any basis in fact or logic.

Since vinyl can do 50KHz or even 100KHz with good cutters and players, the real limitation of vinyl is amplitude dynamic range vs record length.

I don't know about you guys, but my hearing drops off fast for anything past 12KHz.

Can you hear this?

I have played in rock bands for 35 years.

Some of the most amazing playbacks I've ever heard came from vinyl.  That being said, the systems had turntables that cost thousand$, specialty pre-amps, an equalizer that was tuned by a technician for the dwelling, huge power amps, and speakers that, each, were more expensive than my entire collection of furniture today.

I only know one person who still owns a sound system like that.  These days music is portable, organized into personalized playlists, and we can click from song to song at will.  I wear my mp3 player on my wrist and it has enough storage for me to listen continually for a month without hearing any song twice.

My mp3's are not at all hi-fidelity but I am glad to have my music so conveniently arranged and portable.

Absolutely.  I simply don't have lodgings that would allow for a full system to be appreciated - plus I move too often to be investing in so much equipment.  My best option would be high quality headphones and a lossless format like FLAC.  I guess I really should at least look at collecting some of my favorite pieces in FLAC - then I can start sourcing the hardware appropriate for hi-fi headphones.

Back in the early days of recordable CD's, there was a line of CD's which were black on the recordable side, not clear revealing the metallic substrate as on almost all CD's and DVD's today. For some reason (which I have forgot) they were supposed to be better. The ultimate. Now I realize it was just marketing horseshit.

BTW, when CD's came out they were touted as "lasting forever." This has turned out to be horseshit as well. Even well taken care of, the data on them gradually decays. I think light and temperature can degrade them at a faster pace. Ironically, a vinyl disc made today  may still be playable 200 years from now whereas a CD might be trashed. Saving music digitally and in some form of computer memory (backed up and refreshed periodically) may be the way to go as far as preservation.

BUT THEN, one has to worry about digital standards changing over the years. Taking an example from video, VHS players are harder and harder to find. Someday CD and DVD players will become a rarity as well.

On the other hand, they do seem to stand up to neglect better than vinyl. While all of my CD's remain in their "jewel cases" when not being played, I've gone to friends' houses where they stack their CD's like pancakes at IHOP and don't even check them for dust, fingerprints, or scratches before popping them in the player, and invariably they play just fine.

I would say both are equal while vinyl sounds warmer there is the scritching noise that is made when a record is played. Cds are a bit more portable though. It's really a matter of preference. I can't picture some of the classic rock i listen to on a cd. Would ruin it a bit.

My credentials...

TITLE: Analog Archivist, Music Historian, and general Music Snob.  Founder of Innerspace Labs.

MY LIBRARY: ~8,000 albums, 750 CDs, 2,000 LPs (95% original pressings), and the rest are 320CBR or FLAC EAC + logs.  Complete discographic archive of all artists in the Library.

THE LISTENING ROOM: Denon DP-60L Rosewood Turntable
McIntosh C39 Pre-Amp
Integra ADM2.1 Power Amp
Sonance SonAmp
NAD L40 component integrated amplifier/CD player
Harmon Kardon 1950s Solo Tuner (mono)
Focal 814v floorspeakers
Cambridge Audio DACMagic Digital to Analog Converter
Sennheiser HD380 Pro Studio Monitors
XLO Ultra speaker cable
Tributaries Silver series RCAs
AudioQuest Python XLR interconnects

My next investment will be acoustic panels for the room.

AUDIO PREFERENCE:
1) Original Mono Mastered Pressing wherever possible
2) Original Stereo Pressing
3) A-A-A modern pressings by reputable engineers and labels
4) FLAC + EAC log

MY POSITION:
It all comes down to the mastering process.  50s and 60s jazz LPs are best experienced from the original mono pressings.  Weeks of labor went into perfecting these recordings, and at the time Stereo was a sloppy afterthought.

By the time CDs peaked, there was a shift in audio engineering and many of the best-produced recordings were mastered FOR CDs.  There were exceptions, however.  The Ninja Tune future jazz label continued their dedication to producing great-sounding LPs all through the 90s slump when vinyl sales were at their lowest.

There are exceptional recordings of Russian Basso Profondo vocal music on compact disc, and I've yet to hear a vinyl recording match its quality.

Then came the Loudness War, where nearly everything was mastered like shit.  German minimal ambient music and the darkjazz genre are two glorious exceptions to the contemporary dark ages of mastering.  William Basinski's Disintegration Loops and the Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble's From the Stairwell are among the quietest and most delicate LPs ever recorded; a sure sign that we will survive the Loudness War.

I've written several papers on the vinyl vs digital debate, but I'll highlight a few of my favorite statements.

The first is a short but spot-on article titled, Down With Fascist iPods.  It was written by Adam Mansbach, author of Go The Fuck To Sleep and was published June 13th, 2012 on Salon.com. 
And I'll close with a quote from the Skeptoid Podcast about the romance of vinyl.  This is from Episode 303, Mar 27, 2012.

"It's about an experience, not about metrics or tabulated results. More senses are involved: the smell of the album cover, the touch of lowering the tone arm into the groove, the sight of the stroboscope indicating the precise turntable speed.

It's a full experience to which the listener must dedicate focused attention and time. Vinyl records are a hands-on, personal connection to the actual audio, and that's something no amount of digital perfection can replicate."

Credentials accepted - Opinion valued.  Thank you.  :D

I like a lot of the 40's big band recordings, stretching into the 50's. I find that as recordings get newer, they become more processed, and I'm generally not fond of the result.

Given the wider dynamic range available in a good CD, apparently the enhanced experience involved in preferring vinyl comes from the lost range, which apparently makes vinyl seem warmer and less crisp. 

BTW, as someone who's attended my share of live performances, they tend to be more crisp than warm. Thus a crisp-sounding recording may,indeed, be a more accurate reproduction.

Also, as I'm sure you're aware, recording techniques and technologies back in the 40's and 50's were not as good as capturing dynamic range as today.

Today you rarely hear in instrument playing raw - so many have built in pick-ups, are run though effects processors, then clean-up processors, then equalizers on their way to the recording device that what the device records isn't true to the instrument at all.

I'm not at all skilled on my violin, but when I practice I hear a violin.  There are so many people out there now playing electric 'violin' through so much processing that people seem to be forgetting what an actual violin sounds like.

Oh, I do so agree Heather.

Most people I'm afraid have never heard an actual string or horn or drum instrument, and most likely never ever will...they don't know what they are missing. :(

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