Yahoo! Answers on why vinyl sounds better than CDs

It doesn't matter what side of that debate you come down on, because this stuff is fantastic.
The same people that hold that vinyl (analog) sounds better than CD (digital) are probably the same people that believe pipe organs are superior to electronic instruments. If Bach was alive today, he wouldn't be on a pipe organ - he'd be using cutting edge technology. And Beethoven would be saying, "Give me the digital"
How much did they want to sell this for, again? Worth every penny. Why does vinyl sound better than CD? [Yahoo! Answers]

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at  
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Yahoo! Answers on why vinyl sounds better than CDs

  1. gabejones says:

    Absurd. Vinyl on a good system will not only sound better, with warmer, fuller lows and better clearer highs than compact disc format compression, but will last longer by an order of magnitude. Add in larger, cooler packaging and the fun of handling an actual record, no contest. If you want to listen digitally (i.e. cheaply, over wifi, or for free) mp3s work great. But if you want something for the archives (i.e. like my 180g pressing of T. Rex Electric Warrior I’m saving for my unborn grandkids) vinyl is inarguably the way to go.

  2. gabejones says:

    By “Cd format compression” I was referring to conversion of an analog signal (which is a precise current variance analog to a actual sound wave) to 1s and 0s and the changes that therefore occur (i.e information compression, rather than wave compression). To pretend that this does not have audible consequences is sort of silly. No one would seriously argue that the dynamic range and quality of an mp3 equals that of a cd, because there is quite clearly less information being reproduced. I think the same thing holds for cds moving up to dvds and records.
    Its not that I think you couldn’t have a digital format where sound quality was indistinguishable from high-modern (i.e. mid-late 70s) analog, just that compact discs are quite audibly not it.

    As for durability, I don’t have any cds over 5-6 years old that don’t have minor to serious problems. There are well-kept records from well before I was born that still play and sound wonderful.

  3. gabejones says:

    Oh, and for realz, tho: Hell yeah a real Pipe organ in a big acoustically sound space will sound better than a nord/korg and actually no, Beethoven would not be playing a digital piano (the best of which, duh, merely play very hifi samples of actual, very nice, acoustic pianos) unless you are speaking of the late, deaf Beethoven. These are people with extremely sensitive, well-trained hearing. Just because something is the newest thing, does not make it the best thing.

  4. Anonymous says:

    @#3: I hope you’re not being serious. Compact disc format compression? I was going to write out a long detailed reply, but then I realised that someone else has done it for me already. The short version is, CDs record frequencies above the upper limit of hearing, and have dynamic ranges that are significantly better than vinyl. They do not wear out over repeated use because they do not require physical contact, and a perfect duplicate of the original master can be created an infinite number of times with no degradation. If you have a single digital component in your entire playback system, your audio is being converted from analogue, to digital, and then back to analogue again, completely removing any purported benefit of the analogue recording. If you want to experience ‘warm’ sound from a CD, connect your player to an old tube amp, which will distort your sound appropriately.

  5. Tubman says:

    @#4, Gabe Jones: Were you not paying attention while watching Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure?

  6. arikol says:

    CDs are a non optimal digital format. The sampling frequency is too low (44100Hz) as it gives insufficient room for resonant frequencies, only for well recorded and mixed material of course (Nyquist freq and all that shit).
    For pretty much perfect audio reproduction use higher sampling rates, most audio pros are recording at around 96khz sampling rate to get the nuances and have better fine control when mixing.

    Ok, over to…..


    A perfectly mastered, perfectly pressed vinyl on a$20,000 vinyl deck will be pretty good.
    In reality most vinyl lovers don’t understand the limits of the pressing process, they don’t understand that analogue has resolution limits.
    (and wear on vinyl is quick to set in, giving a nice warm sound, called hiss. and no, your magic stylus and counterwhatcha turntable won’t cure that. They will treat the vinyl better than a cheap deck but wear is unavoidable).
    The limits of vinyl include mono bass channel (large differences in bass response between channels causes the needle to jump the groove)
    That affects the stereo reproduction of any live recording as well as all modern type albums.

    And importantly, have you guys/gals heard of the RIAA curve (no, nothing about lawsuits)?
    It’s an (logarithmic) equalizer curve applied at the mastering stage which cuts down bass response because vinyl can’t handle it (the needle would jump the groove).
    Then your amp has a “phono” setting. That setting routes your audio through the phono preamplifier which has an equalizer which tries to use gain to restore the frequencies that were previously cut down.
    Often doing a pretty good job, too.

    All flaws that CD has in the high range, vinyl has worse in the low range.
    Yes, a limited run (5000 or less pressed) vinyl on thick stock may sound very clear and nice but the deep frequencies will always be sub optimal.
    CD is a better compromize and BluRay audio is better still.
    Uncrompessed digital audio at high bit rates rules the roost, though.

    Vinyl packaging is nicer though, but for me it’s about the music.

    Vinyl nuts are good for one thing though. Selling them overpriced stuff (magic cables and even sonically superior volume knobs, yeah, the KNOB, not the potentiometer behind)

  7. Secret_Life_of_Plants says:

    @1 Jake0748 made me laugh out loud.

    I remember reading an interview in Spin Magazine in maybe 1987 with Neil Young where he had a great way of explaining digital v. analogue in music…

    He said that analogue was like an intricate stained-glass cathedral window.

    Digital takes that window and places grid over it.

    With this tic-tac-toe grid over the intricate multi-colored window, you determine for each square the dominant color(s) of the window as it fills that one box. Maybe there is a large section of red, and tiny sections of blue and of yellow. You would get rid of the blue and yellow and make that entire box red. (as in pixels, right?)

    Well that is what happens to music when you make analogue music into digital music. You lose all the complexity and warmth.

    I love that description. However, I am afraid that I personally do not hear well enough to appreciate the difference between digital and analogue music. But I am certainly willing to believe that Neil Young knows what he’s talking about. I don’t know what Bach would say.

    Maybe he’d say, “they need to do way instain mother who kill thier babbys. becuse these babby cant frigth back? it was on the news this mroing a mother in ar who had kill her three kids . they are taking the three babby back to new york too lady to rest my pary are with the father who lost his chrilden ; i am truley sorry for your lots!”

  8. Matthew Walton says:

    I expect Beethoven – the non-deaf Beethoven – would have experimented with modern instruments, and most modern instruments are electric. He quite possibly would have had all sorts of fun with electric guitars and modern synthesisers.

    Of course, I’m not saying that he’d have used them to emulate the instruments from his time. If you want those sounds, the best way to go is to get those instruments and play them. I play the recorder and the viola de gamba (the latter of which most people have never heard of), but I also play the EWI, a modern electric instrument. One does not supersede the other – they simply provide me with different capabilities.

    As to vinyl vs CD, yes, vinyl can sound better (or at least different), but without a fair amount of time invested in keeping the records clean and the decks in good condition, you’re prone to all sorts of unpleasant popping and scratching and hissing. I have no problem with CD – it’s live performance where the real sound quality should be found, anyway.

  9. Tubman says:

    @#6, Secret life of plants: Neil Young’s analogy is pretty, but it’s not remotely true. An analogue representation of something is not the same as the original. What he should have been talking about is the difference between a picture of the stained-glass window taken on film and one taken digitally.

  10. Garr says:

    Tubman, neither SecretLifeofPlants nor Young claimed that the two were the same (how could they, given the fact that “analogos” simply means “similar”). I think the analogy is very good, wished our teacher had come up with that one in our first term.

    And by the way, I don’t understand why everybody’s making a distinction here between deaf and pre-deaf Beethoven (not in the least because Rob originally spoke of Bach), since he wrote his 9th while already deaf.

  11. Anonymous says:

    #15 GABEJONES To your last point, what the hell are you doing to your cds? I have many that are over 10 yrs old and are in excellent condition. My vinyl collection, not so much.

    Audible consequences? Give me a break. I believe these arguments to audio “quality” all come down to recording and mixing, not medium. This is an art in itself. The degradation to audio “quality” as a result of converting an electric signal to “1s and 0s” in a cd format is absurd, and I defy anyone to distinguish the difference in a blind “taste test”.

  12. dculberson says:

    GabeJones, I have CDs that are 17 years old that play perfectly. You must be mishandling yours. And these are CDs that I have played hundreds of times; any vinyl record played that many times would have become unlistenable.

    Some of my CDs have been damaged from mishandling, either being put loose in between jewel cases in the glove box or left in a pile on top of the equipment. (Try that with a record and report back!) I have successfully repaired those CDs with a polishing kit.

    I’m willing to leave open the possibility that records have a more pleasing sound than CDs, but not that they are more durable. Absolute rubbish.

    But regarding the signal loss going from analog to digital: no analog recording medium has infinite resolution. There is always a limitation in every recording process; the cutting needle can only move so quickly, the recording medium can only hold so fine of a difference due to material composition, etc. So yes, while a CD may have limits, so does a record, as does 1″ tape, as does a 24-bit 176.4khz digital master. The question is whether those limitations are audible to the average human ear.. and whether they’re worth the cost and trade-offs in durability and convenience to overcome them.

  13. Patrick Austin says:

    @#6: What Neil Young couldn’t have known 20 years ago was that the grid we’re overlaying over the original (or analog copy) has gotten so fine that there is no practical difference between them.

  14. Angstrom says:

    I love the way that #3 GabeJones talks down digital reproduction by refering to “compact disc format compression”. Er, the what?
    If that existed it would certainly be a bad thing.

    Perhaps you were thinking of modern mastering techniques applying crushing multiband audio compression? Or MP3 lossy data compression?

    Audio compression is common to all formats.

  15. pork musket says:

    Vinyl sounds better because the people in charge of the mixing and mastering during it’s heyday were much more skilled. Now any knobgobbler with a PC can give mixing a shot, not to mention the loudness wars that #12 mentioned. The labels support squished dynamic ranges because they want their CD to sound louder than the competitors, and frankly if your listening to Maroon 5 and the Jonas Bros you probably don’t give a flying fuck about dynamic range anyway.

    Also, I laughed at #3.

  16. Jake0748 says:

    I’m still not sure if I understand how is babby formed.

  17. Anonymous says:

    “He said that analogue was like an intricate stained-glass cathedral window.

    Digital takes that window and places grid over it.

    With this tic-tac-toe grid over the intricate multi-colored window, you determine for each square the dominant color(s) of the window as it fills that one box. Maybe there is a large section of red, and tiny sections of blue and of yellow. You would get rid of the blue and yellow and make that entire box red. (as in pixels, right?)

    Well that is what happens to music when you make analogue music into digital music. You lose all the complexity and warmth.”

    This is complete total bunch of BS. All of that extra information is outside the realm of human hearing.

  18. Anonymous says:

    The quantitative physiogyny of our aural perception is what hold the key to this debate.

  19. dculberson says:

    Ask a vinyl advocate what they mean by “warmer.” I’m going to posit that the warmth they speak of is distortion. Same with tube amps. Distortion can be pleasing, but it’s not necessarily better.

    The stained glass window analogy, as mentioned, is pretty but inaccurate. A vinyl recording would be like a photograph of the window taken with a camera that has a light coating of grease on the lens. A digital recording would be like a grid that is so fine you can’t see the component pieces.

  20. LSK says:

    I find Yahoo Answers occasionally useful to ask questions to. It’s nowhere near as useful for Ask Metafilter, though. Some of the questions I’ve gotten useful answers to:

    “I have a sequence of 400 photos. How can I put them online, for free, into a gallery so that they can be viewed in order?”

    Actually, that’s the only question (in 71) that I’ve been helped with.

    In addition, the spell checker is atrocious and seemingly always tells you that you’ve got something wrong. It’s annoying because it makes you feel like a bad speller. Really. You can’t turn it off, either.

  21. Bloo says:

    IANAAX (I Am Not An Audio eXpert) but:

    The Nyquist theorem says that a sampling rate of 44,100 Hz would allow “accurate” sampling of frequencies up to 22,050 Hz which is generally considered to be above the range of normal human hearing.

    CDs are not “compressed” but people do complain the sampling rate is not high enough.

    I suppose the people selling audio could go back and re-sample from the masters at a higher rate, but would it be of benefit to most people’s ears?

    The CD is probably on the way out, too, although what we could consider the “atomic” object, the non-compressed digital audio file, will live on. These are the RAW format for audio (to draw an analogy with digital cameras) and will be needed as source material to be fed into better sampling/compression algorithms as they are developed in the future.

    The great benefits of digital media files:

    1. They can continually be moved to new devices
    2. They can often be converted to new formats although it’s best to go back to the RAW file and convert from there
    3. They have much lower costs for storage and distribution which should result in lower cost of acquisition.
    4. The cost of developing newer, better tools for dealing with them is lower. I realize you still have to create masters from audio sources, and that equipment will probably still be expensive to develop, but the cost of developing a new audio-playing program is much less than the cost of developing a new turntable design.

  22. arikol says:

    Yeah Nyquist allows for accurate freqs of up to 22500 Hz, but resonant frequencies of all accoustic instruments and the space in which instuments (accoustic, electric or just plain voice) are played reach above that and give “character” to the sound.

    Not worth it for the regular home user but for recording purposes it is important.
    The mixing engineer sums the audio channels and creates a stereo mix which can then be downsampled.

    CD audio is a compromise. They just figured how much data a CD can carry and figured how low they had to drop the sampling freq to easily get a LP vinyl on there.

    Audio at 96kHz is noticably clearer using decent equipment, not vinyl freak $20,000 stuff or anything like that. I only have relatively cheap stuff myself, good enough for amateur recording and mixing but cringeworthy by audiophile standards.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


More BB

Boing Boing Video

Flickr Pool




Displays ads via FM Tech

RSS and Email

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution. Boing Boing is a trademark of Happy Mutants LLC in the United States and other countries.

FM Tech