So Vinyl LPs Sound Better, Eh?

Yes, I have a turntable. Even had to buy a phono preamp when my replacement stereo receiver didn’t feature one.

I have lots of LPs too. I’ve collected them since I got my first stereo record player back in 1965.

I have a complete set of original Simon and Garfunkel vinyl. The Doors too. I grew up with the stuff.

All that changed when the CD player came out in the 1980s. My first CD player was a Samsung, and I later got a Technics model which is still going 35 years later. The first CD I bought was Phil Collins’ “No Jacket Required.”

Now I admit that a vinyl record is beautiful in appearance (CDs look like a Tax Return program.) And the cover art on a vintage LP is to die for – especially if you got a poster included.

However I have read quite a lot of bumph lately about how Vinyl LPs sound warmer and frankly better than CD audio – and to this I say simply “Pah!”

I think one reason for the belief in the superiority of analog vinyl over “digital” is that the comparison is made with streaming audio like Spotify and/or MP3 files. Vinyl is analog and the whole sound wave is impressed on the disc, whereas any digital reproduction has to sample the wave discretely. CD WAV files do this sampling in enough detail that little quality is lost, if any. MP3s and streaming data must be compressed and as such will not sound as good.

Having said that, it must be stated that a vinyl master which makes up the master disc for pressing has to undergo changes of its own. Sound engineers have to be careful to adjust the mix to avoid the needle skipping out of its groove. This mastering might give a desirable ‘warm” effect, but it is a change from what went down in the studio. In fact, some early CDs sounded muddy because it was the vinyl mix that got encoded, rather than a digital remaster of the master tape from the vault.

Then there is always the problem of surface noise, snap crackle pop on a vinyl LP. You can’t clean it well enough to avoid at least some of it. In other cases the disk gets damaged – I have a few that might give a “whump” rather than a click. I’ve been careful enough that few of them actually skip ( I have a decent enough turntable.)

A CD, in contrast, is quite noise-free. In fact, some of the most popular CD remasters (Beatles albums for example) have been so well restored that they were able to filter out the tape hiss from the master.

I was just listening to a digital remaster of Chicago IX. To hear the horn riffs on “Just You and Me” today is quite unlike any other recording I listened to in the 1970s. And this is on a CD from that era which was redone in the 1990s.

A CD is in its own way dead technology. I’ve got lots of them, but I rarely buy any these days. For most uses, Spotify works for me. My Sony receiver is 5 years old but replaced a deceased 30-year-old Yamaha. The speakers, turntable and the CD player date from the 80s.

But I don’t intend to resurrect my vinyl collection any time soon. And I’ve got remastered CD versions of most of my favorite LPs long ago.

Maybe the younger set can convince themselves that vinyl is the best audio media, But I grew up with the stuff, and I know better.

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