Yeah, what is the deal – CD or Vinyl? I scoured the Internet for info and combined a collection of articles to try and put it all into perspective.
First of all, the Cliff Notes for all you techies out there…
As humans, we perceive the world in analog. Everything we see and hear is a continuous transmission of information to our senses. This continuous stream is what defines analog data. Digital information, on the other hand, estimates analog data using only ones and zeros.
For example, a turntable (or record player) is an analog device, while a CD player is digital. This is because a turntable reads bumps and grooves from a record as a continuous signal, while a CD player only reads a series of ones and zeros.
This means that the waveforms from a vinyl recording can be much more accurate, and that can be heard in the richness of the sound.
In recent years, many commercial recordings have been compressed in the mixing stage to make them sound louder and, presumably, more appealing to radio programmers. Without compression, a recording will have a wider range in volume, and more closely resemble the original performance. No medium is better suited to represent those dynamics than a vinyl record.
But there is a downside…
Any specks of dust or damage to the disc can be heard as noise or static. During quiet spots in songs this noise may be heard over the music. Digital recordings don’t degrade over time, and if the digital recording contains silence, then there will be no noise.
Most music is recorded using digital technology, which means that the source information isn’t necessarily going to sound better when it’s played on an analog medium.
To complicate matters…
A recording will sound only as good as the way it is recorded, mixed and mastered. Many vinyl albums of older recordings sound excellent because they preserve the nuances of an analog recording session. But a compact disc can offer a fantastic representation of a well-engineered digital recording.
Here’s another thought to rattle your brain…
Record pressings manufactured in different countries have a different sound. Some record labels are better than others. Some records are pressed better than others.
Now, for all you non-techies out there…records are more than just about the sound.
Vinyl is more fun to tinker with … different cartridges, turntables, amplifiers. And then there is the size and presence of the album cover artwork and liner notes you can actually read without a micron microscope, the division into sides and all the involvement and work the listener has to put in.
Some people say vinyl it’s the format of choice for people who really care about music. Some say it’s for neurotic and obsessive audiophiles on a mission for the perfect sound. Some say it’s case of misplaced nostalgia. (I like that one because I’m a big believer of misplaced nostalgia!)
My opinion? Here’s a real cop-out for you – what ever you’re into – go for it! I like to keep reminding myself why I’m listing in the first place – it’s all about the music!
This article is also available on Chestnut Hill Patch