On vinyl vs CD (again)

People say some bloody silly things about vinyl.

Take this guy, who taught his 13-year-old son the “sheer joy of listening to vinyl” via the medium of Cameron Crowe’s bullshit rose-tinted rock-mythology nostalgia-fest, Almost Famous.

The particular scene Nostalgia Dad bangs on about – “when the young aspiring music journalist has his mind set free by his older sister, who leaves him her LP collection under his bed when she leaves home” – isn’t actually about vinyl; it’s about music, and adolescence, and family, and missing someone, and a million other things. The fact that the music is on vinyl is a chronological accident because the film is set in the 70s, and is about as important to the emotional impact as the fact that the bedspread is made of polyester.

I could get angry and swear at Nostalgia Dad – for describing Miles Davis and Art Blakey as “cats”; for teaching his son that his father’s adolescent experiences are more valid than going out and forming his own; for making his son listen to Dire Straits and Dark Side Of The Moon; for confusing mythology and nonsense with significance and lived reality – but I’ve already written a ranty, opinion-spouting thinkpiece about the whole mythology side of the vinyl-vs-CD debate, so instead I’m going to gather some actual evidence and make a reasoned argument with supporting quotes from people who know far more about vinyl and CD as formats than I do. Because you can quote Henry Rollins waxing nonsense about “the sublime state of solitude”, or you can quote the guy from Pere Ubu stating that vinyl distortion is “NOT what we wanted” and link to him explaining exactly why.

Because, frankly, there have been a raft of blog posts, puff pieces and shitty listicles this year telling me how great vinyl is, and none of them have contained any evidence whatsoever beyond borderline solipsistic pontification. “Vinyl’s great! It’s really warm! You can hold it! The artwork’s really big! You can skin up on it!” This is post-blog writing at it’s worst, the kind of navel-gazing that we’re in increasing danger of mistaking for journalism (and increasingly replacing journalism with), where all you need is an opinion and a feeling and a few people to click ‘like’ or ‘share’ to give that opinion instant validation, even if it’s based on nothing at all.

Take that Buzzfeed piece (sorry Matt; I know it’s your job and fully understand why pieces like this have to live alongside the proper stuff); half the things it posits as being great about vinyl are dreadful things that I hate (surface noise; crate-digging; super-specific genre names in independent record shops that act as obfuscating gatekeepers rather than navigation aids), and the other half are completely incidental and can be ‘enjoyed’ with CDs (amazing set of speakers; sorting things alphabetically; supporting local independent shops; meeting someone cute while browsing). Neither Nostalgia Dad nor Fetish Hipster substantiates any of their proclamations with evidence, research, or fact; they just make vague claims and allusions and presuppose that the weight of rock mythology will carry them aloft. Well I hate rock mythology and I pretty much always have.

Some context.

A few months ago I pitched a feature idea to NME about the relative merits of vinyl and CD, with specific focus on the negative side-effects that the current resurgence in vinyl sales is having. Dan Stubbs, NME’s news editor, said yes, and commissioned 600 words from me on the subject, which got published a couple of months ago. Sadly, Dan and NME have style and deadlines and readership and publishers to think of, and 600 words weren’t really sufficient to explore this massive, divisive, and hearsay-riddled topic, and I had many, many thoughts, quotes, and pieces of evidence left over, so I’m going to use them here.

One of the main thrusts of my NME piece was essentially that demand for vinyl is outstripping supply, vinyl pressing plants being unable to press vinyl as quickly as they used to in the past, because no new vinyl pressing machines have been manufactured since 1981; so the industry is relying on old machines. Poor technology + increased demand = falling quality. Vinyl gets used as a marketing hook, and has become a signifier of a premium product, promising you more than CD; the elusive experience that so few people seem to be able to qualify or quantify properly. It’s priced, packaged, and sold correspondingly, but it’s often not actually fit for the purpose it’s meant to be for; at least not as fit as it ought to be for the premium. Remember that the redemptive obverse of a record is to play music, not to look good on a shelf.

So here’s Steve Albini on the merits and demerits of clear, black, and coloured vinyl at The Quietus; scroll down to the penultimate answer, which starts with: “There’s a theoretical point there, which is that polyvinyl chloride is colourless, so if you’re adding something to it to colour it, then you’re changing the chemistry of it slightly, and that has potential to make it sound not as good by having inclusions.” The conclusion? New coloured vinyl probably sounds like crap most of the time, and is a gimmick, a piece of ‘added value’ designed to make you buy a record on one format rather than another (i.e. to buy it at all, rather than download it for free). Records for looking at, rather than listening to.

But Albini’s got no beef with vinyl as a format if it’s done properly, and that’s fair enough. Some people do, though. This is what David Thomas of Pere Ubu has to say about some technical myths regarding vinyl on his website:“The putative ‘warmth’ of vinyl is another one of those mass-hysteria hoaxes that the human race is prone to. ‘Vinyl warmth’ is not some semi-mystical, undefinable phenomenon. There is actually a technical term that audio engineers have for what you are hearing – it is called distortion. The bottom end is distorting. Now, distortion is a valuable audio tool, and an Ubu favorite, but only when the distortion is distortion we choose. You may like the phenomenon but it is NOT what we wanted and it is NOT what we heard in the studio.”

Which seems to contradict what some people claim regarding vinyl being closer in sound to the master tape than CD is. David Thomas isn’t the only person to think so; here’s what David Brewis from Field Music said to me via Twitter the other day: “When we’re putting records together, I have to steel myself for the deficiencies inherent to the vinyl pressings, even though I enjoy those same deficiencies in other people’s records – especially when combined with the ‘sit and listen’ element.” So vinyl is deficient, isn’t the sound people hear in the recording studio, and isn’t necessarily how they want you to hear their records, even if it can be enjoyable.

Michael Jones, much-loved ILX poster who works in digital media somewhere, and who co-engineered The Clientele’s lovely debut album, The Violet Hour, and mastered a bunch of Matinee comps for CD, dropped some serious science on ILX a decade ago, regarding the myths and misunderstandings about what CD and vinyl each bring to the table, from relative resolution and sample rates to analogue waveform reproduction and the happy euphonic accidents that David Brewis alluded to. Highlights and key points include (questions Jonesy’s responding to in italics; his answers in quotation marks; my emphasis in bold):

are you saying that 24/96k can rival the resolution in the grain of good vinyl? (I realise it’s not really comparable and that there are many other factors involved)
“Well, what is the resolution of good vinyl? In information theory terms (resolution = dynamic range x bandwidth), vinyl is miles behind – not even very close to 16/44.1k. It’s a mistake to think that an analogue system is inherently more ‘natural’, or has more detail. Every recording and replay system has its limitations.”

Do circuits exist that can provide a smooth (actually analogue) interpolation between the x levels available in a digital recording? Do good digital players do this?
“*All* digital equipment does this. There are no gaps or stair-steps in the sound – a continuous analogue waveform is reconstructed from the sampled info. The Nyquist theorem states that we only need sample a waveform at at least twice the highest frequency within that waveform to gather a complete record of the data. Now, bandwidth-limiting a musical signal to just above the upper limit of adult human hearing may produce its own set of problems, but we can be sure that the subsequent sampling doesn’t chuck anything *else* away.

“The fixed number of amplitude levels associated with digital means a limit to how small successive changes in the amplitude can be – but with analogue and its greater associated self-noise, the limits are even more restrictive. The noise obscures anything smaller than itself. So there’s *less* resolution in the amplitude domain with analogue despite it being a continuous system.

Is this one reason that LPs can sound better?
“There are lots of artefacts associated with vinyl replay which don’t completely go away with even the most exotic turntables or pristine pressings. Happily, many of these artefacts are euphonic – phase anomalies magically expanding the stereo image, tonearm resonance warming up the mid-range, HF roll-off giving that silky tone. It’s more of a case of what vinyl adds to reproduction, than what CD omits. Beyond that it’s a matter of preference.”

Why not watch him say some of this stuff in person on Youtube? The ‘closer to the master tape’ fallacy gets mentioned here, too.

You can also read the Hydrogen Audio FAQ he linked me to when I asked him for a quote for the NME piece.

Graham Sutton is my usual go-to record producer and technical guy when I need a quote about dynamic range compression or distortion. Sadly he was out of the country working when I wrote the NME piece, but here’s a quote from an interview I did with him a few months ago which has some serious relevance here: “As an aesthetic, for the sort of music I’m involved in making, I also find I don’t like the sound of tape. I don’t want the medium to sonically alter what I’m hearing, I want a linear response and I don’t like hiss. I think part of why digital gets a bad rap is because engineers early on tried to apply the same tape-based tricks to digital without really using their ears, and things came out excessively bright and hard as a result. There’s also a sentimental attachment in the ‘rock’ world, bordering on elitism, to analogue – the smell of tape and the love of big old dusty machines – that just isn’t there in many other areas of music, for example classical, jazz, EDM, broadcasting, film, where this debate ended a long time ago.”

So love of analogue warmth seems like it might be a rockist hangover, a comfort-blanket for an industry, which, 40 years ago, was forward thinking, and cutting edge, but which is now retrogressive and paranoid and faltering. Looking through the records I’ve bought and enjoyed in 2013, and there’s notably less and less ‘rock’ (and pop and associated genres or whatever) and more and more electronica, jazz, avant-garde, whatever-you-want-to-call it. This has been an increasing trend in my tastes for quite a while now.

If you really wanted, you could visit the Steve Hoffman forums and get involved in some of the ranty exchanges that the vinyl-vs-CD debate regularly inspires over there. Neither side comes out looking particularly good though, and it’s very easy to descend down the audiophilia wormhole, which I’ve got no interest in.

A few years ago I got really into headphones and spent far too long (and far too much money) on Head-Fi, where I noticed that people would describe Sennheiser headphones as being ‘veiled’ in terms of sound; i.e. that the sound signature was dark, obscuring detail a little via a thin layer of distortion or lack of focus. This description is how I hear vinyl, pretty much; as if someone is holding a layer of net curtain between the speakers and my ears, which takes away clarity and space, stops me fully getting a hold on individual sonic details. For me a lot of the magic of recorded sound is how psychedelic and otherworldly and magical it can be, and clarity is a big part of that. Mythology isn’t, and though I like the fact that we have shelves full of CDs and I have to pull them out and put them on one at a time in a CD player, that’s less about ritual and mythology than it is about convenience and concentration and not feeling like a data-entry temp.

Here’s another shitty listicle by Matt, except that this one isn’t shitty, and actually talks some sense, in that it admits that a huge amount of vinyl fandom is about aesthetics and lifestyle and not about sound quality.

So I guess I am saying that CD is better than vinyl, in terms of cold, hard, technical, objectively measurable factors like dynamic range, frequency response, and resolution, but that’s not really the key point here: the main thing is that I prefer it; it suits how and why I listen much better than anything else. Vinyl sounds different, and if you prefer it, that’s fine, just don’t tell me, sans evidence, that it’s “better”. Because it isn’t.

(While we’re at it, let’s not conflate and confuse the terms ‘vinyl’ and ‘record’ anymore: ‘vinyl’ is the format, the medium; ‘record’ is short for ‘recording’, and is the content delivered by the format. My ‘record collection’ is mostly on CD, which is how I like it.)

Post-script
A few people have asked me why I don’t just listen to MP3s (or any other digital file type). The answer is quite simple: I’d rather browse shelves than databases when choosing what record to listen to. Accessing and maintaining a digital music collection mostly makes me feel like a data entry temp. I used to look after library databases for a living. I’d rather not do it for my hobby.

It’s also been suggested that I’m the only person banging on about this debate and that no one else cares. That may be so, but I get sent a lot of links to articles, lists, and opinion pieces about how great and magical vinyl is (and occasionally about its actual merits as a format). In addition to the pieces linked in the original piece, here are some more things that people have written about vinyl over the last few years, some of them stupid, some of them sensible.

“Vinyl, they say, just sounds better, warmer, more immediate than digital.”

A whole radio show devoted to vinyl mythologizing.

A sensible piece by Graham Jones.

Over-pricing for packaging and ‘feel’, rather than sonic benefits.

“Vinyl-only” New Year’s Day; on a digital-only radio station.

Mark Richardson talking sense at Pitchfork.

Another Steve Hoffman debate.

Do records really sound warmer than CDs?

“We tried an A and B test with some vinyl freaks and found that they could not really tell the difference but they still genuinely swore that vinyl was the king.”

Top ten reasons why vinyl sounds better than digital. Particularly check out point 6, which is so unbelieveably wrong-headed and loaded that it makes me actually angry. “The quality [of vinyl] is incomparable as each groove contains every intended detail captured holistically, every frequency shift perceived.” Just nonsense. Never mind points 5 and 4.

Sense from a mastering engineer. Even if he does like Dark Side Of The Moon.

At least this guy knows he’s semi-coherent.

“I am sure I know absolutely nothing about how it all works and why, but the one thing I know for certain though is that music sounds better on vinyl.”

Reddit gets in on it.

£2,500 vinyl records. Insanity.

Here’s another quote from Graham Sutton, which he posted on Facebook yesterday in a conversation about the original piece: “I hope you guys realise that almost all vinyl cuts (with a couple of notable exceptions) for the last few decades have passed through a digital delay via A-D-A converters, as a last safety stage before hitting the cutting lathe head, regardless of the analogyness or otherwise of the Master medium, or indeed whether the sequencing had been assembled on Sadie or whatever.

“If you like your music with added distortion that you find pleasing then great, but for anything else this argument is bunk. Vinyl has so many technical limitations it ain’t true.”

And that’s enough for now.

20 responses to “On vinyl vs CD (again)

  1. This is a great piece, by which I mean I agree with all of it. The vogue for vinyl is much more about nostalgia and “heritage” than quality, and I’m as prey to that as any middle aged man: there was an intense sensory pleasure as a teenager in the process of buying vinyl, mostly olfactory, from the smell of the PVC sleeves in the record shop to the inky perfume of a new sleeve to the static inflected electricity of the vinyl itself. Records were hard to come by and so everything about them became part of a cultishness, the crunch of the needle as it went down for the first time and the crackle of the lead-in grooves being a gateway to discovery of the music itself.

    But it wasn’t about sound quality: CDs have always been better, and the only “advantage” of vinyl was that it introduced various levels of analogue filtering which created a conventional level of distortion or warmth. I spent hours trying to find ways of reducing surface noise. So I think people buy vinyl for the same reason they go to Glastonbury or buy sports cars or motorbikes, it’s about lost youth. It’s embarrassing to say you’re having a mid life crisis, hence the mythology about better sound quality.

  2. Up next, sundials versus water clocks.

    Only joking. I’m glad somebody finally pointed out, and so eloquently too, that the emperor’s got his dangly bits out.

  3. Nick, this is excellent. (By which I only partially mean that I feel this way too.)

  4. I agree that the vinyl resurgence is mostly a nostalgia thing, but for me it’s also a ‘give money to artists I enjoy’ thing. I download or stream everything and then what I really like, I buy on vinyl. I think a lot of people, like me, got comfortable in a reality where there was no need to pay for mp3s or CDs. The result is I feel weird paying for them now, but I’m also not comfortable with essentially stealing from bands I like. So I buy the LP.

    • And I do exactly the same by buying the CD, because it sounds better…

      • I get that for you, CDs make sense, just trying to point out that CDs are irrelevant for a lot of people. I’m a junior high teacher and know for a fact that most of my students don’t have CD players other than their laptops. For many, CDs are only useful as an intermediary for digital files from the artist to a computer/phone/etc.

        I’m not going to buy a CD just to import it on my computer, because it’s much easier to just download it. But I would like to support the artist, so I buy the LP.

  5. Probably the best article on the topic I’ve ever read, well researched and despite being a vinyl head I agree with what you say. I don’t agree with the idea of vinyl being a nostalga trip for people, you don’t say the same for books – how long have they been about, yet we have Kindles and the Web and book sales are still healthy. I see plenty of younger people buying vinyl, certainly under the age of 30, and the evidence is that a lot of people still want artefacts. I’ve never been interested in sound quality, early live gigs and Radio Luxemburg helped with that. I think something vinyl and cds do give is the ability to play an lp as it was meant to be heard in track order – mp3 and everyone’s short attention span means we skit from artist to artist more – whether people still put an lp on and just sit and listen is another issue.

  6. Seems a fairly reactionary piece: vinyl is in vogue therefore only voguishness can account for vinyl’s resurgent popularity. But not all trends are shite and the article doesn’t really address the empirical evidence and anecdotal experience of people who have consistently found that vinyl versions, particularly of older albums, do indeed sound more pleasing. Also, there is absolutely no way to refute the fact that original listeners to records such as the one used to illustrate the article, Dylan’s ‘Blonde on Blonde’, listened to them on vinyl. (By the way, the label shows this is a stereo version of ‘Blonde on Blonde’; really, you should have used a mono copy.)

    Hiding behind pseudo science – digital versus vinyl ‘resolution’, etc. – is disingenuous. As is the way you use digitally produced vinyl to denigrate all vinyl. I don’t think you even touched upon the heart of the matter, i.e. the listening experience. Overall, you have not done the subject justice, and the positive comments you have received reflect a knee-jerk, anti-cult sensibility which, while entirely understandable, arises from a lack of real grasp of the matter at hand. The vogue for vinyl may have bogus and regrettable aspects, but these should not impact anybody’s judgement of vinyl per se. That’s a false argument. Vinyl and digital both have pros and cons. The attractions of vinyl are not all about nostalgia, retro appeal, or cultishness.

  7. There is a select group of people that primarily “collect” vinyl records because the music they are after is not available on any other format. In this case the obscurity of the music- from library “production” music to private press records (self released), is what they seek. Yes they may also on occasion purchase new releases or reissues but this would be because the bulk of their collection is on vinyl and they want to keep their formats consistent.

    Anyone who is still debating the sound quality of vinyl w/ CDs is greatly missing the point. Vinyl sounds good enough, its what is available on vinyl that is special and not available (in some cases) anywhere else.

    Unless people live by good used record stores, or frequent thriftstores outside of metropolitan areas they will probably miss out on the wide variety of music that was released on vinyl over the past 5 decades. Most stores seem to carry bullshit hipster releases that come with an mp3 download code. If this is what you buy than you are doing it because vinyl is in vogue.

  8. Almost Famous is the only evidence that suggests Led Zep weren’t fucking children. Talk about “bullshit rose-tinted rock-mythology nostalgia-fest”. Agreed, but I don’t feel the way it makes a fetish of vinyl is your enemy. The whole nostalgia dad concept sounds a lot like the mythologised £50 man. An anechdotal character no one actually knows. Aren’t all the nostalgia dads on Play.com buying CDs for £1.79? For fetish hipster (that’ll be me given I don’t have kids) I’m buying vinyl because I wince at the thought of owning any more CDs.

    You’re right about vinyl being “a coincidence” and I really respect the myth-busting approach, and sonic examination, but surely the problem is not nostalgia but shitty jewel cases matched against the poetry of vinyl and vibrations. Don’t you think there’s a better case to be made for the vinyl enthusiast?

  9. Another great piece. Thank you for validating my experience. I think my frustration is that I want at least one of the vinyl purists to admit “I like it ‘cuz it’s cooler, man” instead of kidding me, and themselves, with this “it sounds better” nonsense. I’ve yet to meet a vinyl adherent who has independently done an a/b comparison of vinyl versus any other format. Thank you for making me feel less alone in my proclamations of “the emperor’s not wearing any clothes”

  10. I totally agree that vinyl has been fetishised in order to sell units to hipsters, but I would also say that a lot of old recordings sound glaring through digital – all the processing in production was for them to be played on vinyl, so digital is not so appropriate for them. For modern dance music (really showing your rock stripes calling it edm) it makes perfect sense for it to be as digital as possible – that’s the point of the music and aesthetic.

    In fact, for almost all modern-produced music I’d say that this is the case, although the efforts of Daptone Records and other soul/funk laabels have been to reproduce the warmth of old soul and funk productions, and they’ve made great strides from when they just made it all sound muddy..! Good production, as it has ever been, is a trick that studios keep to themselves when they’ve worked it out.

    The rock market has been a problem for vinyl, pumping up the bullshit hype (well-said on coloured vinyl, people just don’t want to hear that it sounds bad, they want to believe the hype) and the prices to the point where it is a luxury product, not the easiest and cheapest format. The soul scene has been doing fine for years making records, but now it seems that the record companies have a new strategy. People seem to be falling for it like they fell for ‘replace all your boring old LPs with CDs, no-one will use vinyl anymore.’ As you say, I’ve always bought music, not formats, so I ignored them then, and i ignore them now.

    You’re right on the well-off dad revisiting his youth, but now with a full wallet, and trying to impress his kids, who should be bored by it all, but the industry has always waxed fat off nostalgia. I’ve always been very wary of it, as a teenager watching the Stones embarrass themselves in the 80s, and then having a time of it with acid house, I find the whole rock scene one that has always been happy to sell its ass to the man. Took a few years for acid house to do that, who knows if the next punky movement will come to make it all new and ignore the pleas of the older generation for respect, attention and money. It won’t need celeb-hungry music press, either.

    Gotta disagree on calling it vinyl, though, mainly because I’ve always called them records, but also because it feels like calling CDs ‘plastics.’ They may be made of vinyl, but that’s not how they’ve been known, just as cars are not called metals, etc. minor point, though, glad to read a sane article amongst the sales-crap dressed as alternative culture. Have a good new year, man.

  11. THANK YOU. Loved this piece. The idea that vinyl sounds better based on the concept of analogue vs. digital just gets spouted off as a given in shitty listicles and it totally ignores how many variables you have to control for (and good your equipment has to be) to make that the case (and even then, it’s still subjective preference).
    My issue (as a collector of CDs who is frustrated that the medium is dying/being killed off) is that the arguments in favor of vinyl are almost uniformly arguments for physical media generally. There’s a circularity to the idea that a CD is just a delivery mechanism for digital files, so you may as well download files, but if you want something physical to hold, then it has to be vinyl. A CD is a physical object (that conveniently lets you rip the files so you can listen on your phone too).

  12. I used to collect vinyl because it was much cheaper to buy second-hand. But now you can pick up CDs from Amazon Marketplace for pennies, so I’ve been buying up as many as I can. It wouldn’t surprise me if my collection went up in value in years to come as people start to re-appraise the merits of the last mainstream physical format for records and they become collectable (maybe).

    The audio quality argument has always seemed bogus since only a tiny percentage of music listeners have sufficiently high-end hi-fi that would allow them to hear any real differences. The Guardian writer in the linked article claimed he could hear the difference after spending just £100 on an amp and speakers and picking up a free turntable from a Facebook friend. That sounds ridiculous.

    The only query I have is that it sounds like engineers process CDs to be played loud (ie compression), whereas they don’t for vinyl. So even though CDs are theoretically better, in practice maybe they aren’t because of poor production?

    But in my experience, the more you spend on hi-fi for your vinyl, the more you start worrying that your equipment isn’t quite setup right, or your needle isn’t properly calibrated, or your record is damaged in some way. I used to get fixated with it and it would drive me mad.

  13. I really enjoyed this piece. And for what it’s worth: I totally prefer CD’s instead of vinyl. One thing is the quality of the sound, which in my opinion is simply of a higher quality. Another thing is that it is pretty fucking hard mashing a 12″ into your pocket before heading for the party at your best friends house. CD’s are a hell of a lot handier. Last, but not least: I think that about a third of my collection are discs that I bought used, because Im poor. Now if I had bought 700 used vinyls, I think 90% would be unlistenable. Well, my CD collection is flawless. And used. And still flawless.

  14. This is a great article, and one which I very much enjoyed reading. Perfectly reasoned and very articulately put across.

    I myself am first and foremost a music fan (as I’m sure we all are here) and I think that whatever the format it’s about making the air vibrate so we can get those soundwaves into our lugholes!!

    I’ve collected and enjoyed cassettes, CDs, minidiscs, mp3s and vinyl in my pursuit and love of music, and I do feel that it’s a shame that formats get in the way so much.

    I personally love vinyl – I don’t have a particularly large collection but I’ve been building it up over the last 10 years or so since my teens. I know that it’s a bit of nostalgia that I’ve inherited from my Dad, and the rock mythology, but it’s something I enjoy and share with friends equally. I have many more CDs than I do records, and many more MP3s than I do CDs, and they all have their time in place in which I enjoy them. Bizarre as it sounds some of the records I have are scratched to buggery, and I LIKE them like that as it adds to their character and history as an object that’s had a journey through the world.

    As with everything, everyone has their own way of doing things, and preferences (we could argue equally over making tea in the pot, in the mug, with milk, with sugar, should you use loose leaf tea, bone china etc.) At the end of the day we all want to enjoy a brew at the end of it!! (With a biscuit if there’s any going round?)

    Keep up the writing as it’s always excellent and original.

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  16. I’m not very cool and don’t try to be. I don’t know very much about the technicalities under issue here. I do have hypersensitivity about certain aspects. A picture on a wall that’s wonky can make me feel a bit sick.

    I liken cd/vinyl to digital/analogue photography. I can spot a digital photo a mile off. There’s something that slightly unnerves me about digital imagery. I can’t be more specific than to say there’s something wrong with the lights and shadows.

    I feel the same about digital/vinyl. My main experience in comparing the two is in looking at LPs made for vinyl versus their CD release. For sure there is something about nostalgia for the sound I heard in my youth (I’m nearly 42) but there is something more going on for me which is tangible. There is more richness, aliveness, depth and my brain is more stimulated. MP3 is at the bottom, followed by CD then vinyl (that is, albums recorded for vinyl) delivering the best hit.

    MP3 is powdered cappuccino, CD is stove top coffee with whisked milk, vinyl is cappuccino made in authentic, metal expression machine with steamed milk with high quality coffee.

    I used an analogy based on sex on an AV forum once and got thrown off so I won’t go with that one.

    My point is, my experience is my experience.

    That said I am not convinced that songs recorded for CD that are then pressed for vinyl will be any better so have not invested, apart from a couple of Radiohead which are definitely better on vinyl, for me. And yes my partner and I have done blindfolded comparisons. I can tell, he cant. I do have Thunder and Consolation by New Model Army on both formats and the CD version is particularly terrible. Very flat and shitey production sound compared to the vinyl. The comparison isn’t that marked on other albums I have in both formats but still an issue. Big differences with Bowie’s Hunky Dory.

    • Re: albums owned on both formats, I’d ask which CD versions you had – Wikipedia tells me the New Model Army is from 1989, and CDs from that era were notoriously poorly mastered on the whole because engineers hadn’t cottoned on to how to master for CD yet, so were using vinyl/analogue tricks and techniques and habits which didn’t work. Wiki also tells me a remaster was released in 2005, at the height of the ‘loudness war’, so may just have had the levels pumped-up without much nuance added.

      The same goes for Hunky Dory; Bowie’s material has had an odd history with CD releases, and I gather not all of them are particularly great. For reference, I have the 1999 remasters, and, aside from when Bowie was full of cocaine and mixing stuff without any bass because he didn’t know where or who he was, they sound pretty good to me.

      There’s also the issue of what CD player vs what record player you’re using, amongst other things…

  17. Well, you sound exactly the same as vinyl beleivers who tries to convince people about music quality…. I’ m a musician for 20 years, i play and i record .
    Recording science has been developed so people could bring the “concert” at home and have a good time. Since the very first recorded sound, there has been mistakes and incontroled deformation of thèse sounds. Remember how it took a loonnng time before we had “good” background claphands sound, it used to sounds like sh*t !! The thing is, no matter what, it will never be perfect, vinyls,tapes, cd or mp3 will give each différent quality and mistakes. People dont even give a shit about quality as they use compressed mp3 in cars stereo… Please Just shut the f*ck up and either play music or Just appreciate it your own way, we dont Care whos best, music it self is best…… Dance to it, smile to it, flirt to it, right to it, cry to it … But dont f*ckin sit Just to critic it … It will make your sleep hard way …!

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