Do Vinyl Records Sound Better than CDs? (Spoiler: Nope)

I’ve been discussing a number of audiophile myths here on Kirkville, and today I’d like to address another one: the myth that vinyl sounds better than CDs (or downloads). Vinyl sales are booming, reaching the highest levels in more than ten years. To be fair, this isn’t difficult; as long as sales continue to increase, they’ll be higher than any time since the Great Vinyl Decline of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

People abandoned vinyl for several reasons: CDs were more convenient, less fragile, and sounded better[1]. Turntables were annoying and fragile, and you had to manually change sides of records; with CDs, you can play an entire album without flipping discs.

I grew up with vinyl, and, while I miss the bigger artwork, and the added room for liner notes, that’s all I miss. I don’t miss the clicks and pops of vinyl, or the way that, if you bumped into the turntable, or whatever shelf it was on, you could scratch a record, damaging it permanently. With older, scratched records, sometimes the only way to listen to them was to place a penny on the cartridge to add weight to it. Also, the quality of the plastic used for vinyl records was often poor, meaning that records wore out quickly. Oh, and you had to deal with dust, records that warped if exposed to heat or were stored flat, static electricity that could perturb things, the spindle hole that might be off-center, and wow and flutter that added noise to playback.

But the biggest problem with vinyl is simply that records wear out. Audiophiles tout the higher frequency response of vinyl over CDs, saying that vinyl can play back those frequencies that we can’t hear.[2] First, this is only true with a pristine record, a perfect stylus, and a high-end stereo system; in most cases, vinyl’s frequency range is lower than that of CDs. Bear in mind that needles used to play records are made of diamonds, a very hard substance, and each play of a record wears it out a bit. This wear results in lower frequency response and lower overall fidelity. Stereo separation is poor on vinyl; there is spillover from one channel to the other, which is an inherent weakness of the playback process. And, because of RIAA equalization[3], the sound on a recording is manipulated, both for pressing, to reduce low frequencies, and for playback, to attempt to restore them.

But there’s another problem with vinyl that most people don’t consider. The first grooves on an LP offer 510 mm of vinyl per second, but as you get to the end of a side, there’s only around 200 mm per second; less than half the resolution. This is similar to the difference in tape speeds dropping from, say, 15 ips (inches per second) to 7.5 ips. Anyone who has worked with tapes knows that this speed difference results in much lower fidelity. Back in the LP days, musicians would argue about who got their songs on the beginnings of sides, and the music you listen to on an LP gets lower in quality as you get closer to the center.

Most people, when discussing vinyl, talk about an “analog sound,” saying that vinyl sounds “warmer” or “richer” than digital. It does; because there is less frequency response (poorer reproduction of high frequencies), and more distortion. Just as tube amps may sound “better” because of the distortion they introduce into playback, the same is true for vinyl. That “warmth” you hear is simply the poor quality of the playback; the distortion caused by the analog chain, and its lack of detail.

“But the other part of it is that the experience of listening to an LP involves a lot more than remastering and sound sources. There’s the act of putting a record on, there is the comforting surface noise, there is the fact that LPs are beautiful objects and CDs have always looked like plastic office supplies. So enjoying what an LP has to offer is in no way contingent on convincing yourself that they necessarily sound better than CDs.”[4]

There’s a fetishism around vinyl, it’s about the process of listening. If you take more time to prepare for something, it’s likely that you’ll enjoy it more. If this is what you want, then by all means, go for it; but the sound of vinyl is actually inferior to that of CDs or digital audio.

So this is yet another myth that’s used to market products to people who don’t know better. You may like the idea of vinyl, but my guess is that, if you grew up with vinyl, you are probably aware of its limitations, and don’t want to go back into the past. I find it interesting that many audiophiles prefer a format that provides audio in a lower quality, and with more distortion.


Let me close with a few tidbits from turntable reviews in hi-fi magazines.

Each instrument and voice sat unambiguously in the soundstage with a largeness and roundness at its edges–the opposite of an analytic and etched sound.

Kraftwerk’s The Man-Machine sounded brilliant on the Clearaudio Ovation, which lent just enough warmth and body to the sound to humanize this music while not obscuring its drive and pulse, its stops and starts.

the music was a steady stream of sound that quickly became a river, then just a few drops

produced a big, slightly warm orchestral sound. String tone was rich, with a pleasing golden glow. The piano’s lower register was cleanly rendered and remained well defined against the hall’s reverberant field. The upper keyboard sounded supple, with a rich, woody, yet sparkling bite. Image stability and solidity were never in question, and the system’s dynamic punch announced a turntable that seemed in complete control.

And, I’ll finish with another gem from What Hi-Fi?:

Play an album such as Nirvana’s Nevermind and the Point 5 delivers an energetic sound that combines fluidity, stability and authority brilliantly.

Where most rivals render a sharply etched sound packed with detail, the Point 5 has a more rounded presentation where the leading and trailing edges of notes aren’t overly emphasised, but the bits in between are defined richly.

The result is an immensely likeable presentation that’s big and muscular without suffering from a lack of agility or finesse.


  1. Yes, many early CDs sounded bad, because mastering engineers initially used masters created for LPs, and it took a while for them to, well, master the process for the digital medium.  ↩
  2. See Music, not Sound: Why High-Resolution Music Is a Marketing Ploy.  ↩
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RIAA_equalization  ↩
  4. Pitchfork: Does Vinyl Really Sound Better?  ↩

368 thoughts on “Do Vinyl Records Sound Better than CDs? (Spoiler: Nope)

  1. If I might spew a bit further… The one legitimate criticism one can throw at digital recording is the need for anti-aliasing filters in recording, and low-pass filters * in playback. At relatively low sampling rates (and 44.1k is low as such things go), you need very sharp filtering to keep ultrasonic noise from being “mirrored” in the audible spectrum. Both types of filter introduce timing errors (and sometimes ringing), which might be audible. SACD has the advantage here, as its high sampling rate minimizes the amount of filtering needed.

    It must also be emphasized that the people who prefer the LP are overwhelmingly people who don’t listen to acoustic music. They have no reference to judge what is good or bad, because there is no reference (other than the cutting master).

    I have a challenge for vinyl lovers. Linn (of all companies!) makes absolutely superb SACDs. Their St Matthew Passion was recorded in the church where it was originally performed. The sound is quite lifelike, and you need not suspend much disbelief to believe you’re present at that venue.

    Can anyone recommend an LP of comparable “realism”?

    * NOT “reconstruction” filters. Sampling is a form of convolution in which the original signal is never lost.

    • “It must also be emphasized that the people who prefer the LP are overwhelmingly people who don’t listen to acoustic music. ”
      Wrong. I’m a musician, producer, composer and performer, I mix and master my albums and I listen almost exclusively to vinyl or digital music at least at 88200Hz 24bit. The vast majority of my musician colleagues, friends and various members of my audience listen to vinyl or high resolution digital audio, I have very good ears and I find 44100Hz 16bit unable to reproduce all the subtleties and textures of acoustic Jazz or Classical music, particularly in the mid range. There is a lot of frequency masking and other weird artefacts going on in CDs. I can spot immediately audio at CD quality or 96kHz 24bit but people incapable to do it don’t understand that it is possible, like people unable to learn perfect pitch refuse to believe that it can be learned by many people. Unfortunately we don’t have all the same ears and a good percentage of people with less developed hearing spend a lot of time explaining with numbers and formulas how people with more advanced hearing capabilities are suppose to hear music, it is quite entertaining. I think it is more about justifying their limits and persuading themselves than persuading people like me, I can hear perfectly that vinyl is superior than CD, even with all his inherent limits and problems it registers more audio information than a CD, I don’t need science yet to discover many aspect of sound and more generally physics, to disprove something that I am perfectly able to hear, science will discover in the future what exactly vinyl register than 44100Hz 16bit don’t but I don’t really care as it is already clear to me and many others, well before Newton’s findings about the law of universal gravitation people knew very well that things would fall on the ground and possibly crash. Once I had a yellow car body work fixed, the guy at the garage used a slightly different yellow and I immediately spotted and told him, he was in disbelief and insisted he could not see any difference and he sampled the original colour with a colorimeter, in fact half of my friends couldn’t see it either, their reactions where quite hilarious, they were looking at me like if I was mad; the other half agreed that it wasn’t a particularly well done job as the mending was clearly of a slightly different shade of yellow, we are all different, we see, smell, taste, feel and hear differently… Many people are very happy with vinyl, there is a big resurgence, Sony started pressing them again, yesterday I saw brand new vinyl for sale in Tesco! All hipsters or nostalgics? Nah. Many people are able to hear that analogue audio vinyl cut from the original tapes or high resolution digital masters is richer than 44100Hz 16bit CDs, not cleaner but richer; you can’t? I can and I will keep enjoying it, sorry. Also, I agree that high resolution digital audio is better than vinyl, the contention here is low-fi CD vs Vinyl. Also who really care about which media people choose to listen too? Plenty of people perfectly happy with low quality MP3s, that is fine, everything is fine, it is about choices, we don’t have to be all the same, right?

      • I don’t like being told I’m cloth-eared (though I might be). And I appreciate your making it clear that you believe Red Book CD — not necessarily all digital — isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

        I’m willing to be convinced that 44.1/16 digital recording introduces artifacts I haven’t been aware of. * So… give us an example we can download. Describe the errors we’re supposed to be hearing.

        Even better… Give an example from a hybrid SACD.

        * It’s rather like the harmonium in the opening of “Salome”.

        • I have several of the same album in vinyl and CD and most of the vinyl version, alongside the well known defects of the medium still renders more fine details than CD, there is more space and depth in the music and the high end, particularly cymbals in Jazz, is way better and more realistic. When I record in studio the standard is recording at 96kHz 24bit, most of the time with Pro Tools, 44.100 Hz 16bit is thin and flat and lacks definitions in the mid and high range, where also all the harmonics of the low notes are audible. What you need to do is to get a couple of Neumann km87, go to a venue and record at 96kHz/24bit and CD quality some acoustic live music with good dynamic and different instruments and listen to the two versions, the difference is very noticeable. When I mix from high res digital and convert to CD quality I can hear a loss of details in the fine textures and in dynamic, I don’t even make my albums in CD anymore, I sell a USB memory with the highest digital resolution I can provide, with CDs I felt I wasn’t selling my music at its best quality. If you do not hear any difference between CD and 96kHz 24bit I have nothing to suggest to you to download. Also it doesn’t mean you are cloth-eared, the details I’m talking about are very fine and probably unnoticeable when we add the sound of a room, ambient noise and other factors. I can hear my dog ultrasound whistle it is very possible that I am the odd one… 😀 Anyway, my contention is that somehow vinyl registers more fine details than 44.100Hz 16bit but definitely without the CD’s cleanness, I am perfectly happy with anything from 88.200kHz 24bit upward and in that case I do not miss the vinyl.

          “In 1977, Geoff Emmerick, who with George Martin recorded The Beatles at Abbey Road and later at Air Studios in London, showed me that he could hear a difference between two identical channels on a recently delivered new console. After some hours of listening with him, I agreed that I could hear a subtle difference. When we measured I found that, out of 48 channels, three had been incorrectly terminated and displayed a rise of 3 dB at 54 kHz. The limit of hearing for most humans does not extend beyond 20 kHz and this small resonance, whilst obviously an oversight in the factory, would not normally have been regarded as important.”

          -Rupert Neve, Wimberley, TX September 2001

          • I used to have Pearl (Milab) variable-pattern mics, but no longer do. Nor do I have high-sampling-rate recorders.

            Without an accessible sample, I’m in no position to agree or disagree with you.

            The only obvious difference (for me) in the sound of an SACD layer and the Red Book layer of the same disk is that the SACD is slightly less hard-sounding, and has slightly greater “air”.

            I worked for Neve in Connecticut many years ago. The employees were convinced that the older consoles, with fewer gain stages and far fewer unbiased coupling caps, were more-neutral sounding.

            • “The only obvious difference (for me) in the sound of an SACD layer and the Red Book layer of the same disk is that the SACD is slightly less hard-sounding, and has slightly greater “air”.”
              I couldn’t agree more, for me the less hard-sounding translates in more rich/detailed tone and the air in the sound again translates in more natural sounding, I think we all have a different way to verbalise our aural perception. Personally I can hear a similar difference when comparing vinyl an CD, once I manage to ignore the inherent noise in the vinyl but I’m aware that here we could disagree, still it is my opinion that if only CD and Vinyl are available of a given album and the vinyl has been recorded from r2r tape or high resolution digital audio I would choose vinyl over CD, conversely I would most probably choose SACD over vinyl. I think SACD and generally high resolution audio would find everyone agreeing about its superiority over vinyl but I’m not big fan of the red book CD and I’m not convinced of its sonic superiority over vinyl, CD it is certainly better in other respects like constant speed and very low floor noise but I miss something in the music content that I can hear in the vinyl, and I don’t think it is about the colour of the sound or the fact that I grew up listening to vinyl, otherwise I don’t think I would prefer high resolution digital audio to vinyl.

  2. If I might spew a bit further… The one legitimate criticism one can throw at digital recording is the need for anti-aliasing filters in recording, and low-pass filters * in playback. At relatively low sampling rates (and 44.1k is low as such things go), you need very sharp filtering to keep ultrasonic noise from being “mirrored” in the audible spectrum. Both types of filter introduce timing errors (and sometimes ringing), which might be audible. SACD has the advantage here, as its high sampling rate minimizes the amount of filtering needed.

    It must also be emphasized that the people who prefer the LP are overwhelmingly people who don’t listen to acoustic music. They have no reference to judge what is good or bad, because there is no reference (other than the cutting master).

    I have a challenge for vinyl lovers. Linn (of all companies!) makes absolutely superb SACDs. Their St Matthew Passion was recorded in the church where it was originally performed. The sound is quite lifelike, and you need not suspend much disbelief to believe you’re present at that venue.

    Can anyone recommend an LP of comparable “realism”?

    * NOT “reconstruction” filters. Sampling is a form of convolution in which the original signal is never lost.

    • “It must also be emphasized that the people who prefer the LP are overwhelmingly people who don’t listen to acoustic music. ”
      Wrong. I’m a musician, producer, composer and performer, I mix and master my albums and I listen almost exclusively to vinyl or digital music at least at 88200Hz 24bit. The vast majority of my musician colleagues, friends and various members of my audience listen to vinyl or high resolution digital audio, I have very good ears and I find 44100Hz 16bit unable to reproduce all the subtleties and textures of acoustic Jazz or Classical music, particularly in the mid range. There is a lot of frequency masking and other weird artefacts going on in CDs. I can spot immediately audio at CD quality or 96kHz 24bit but people incapable to do it don’t understand that it is possible, like people unable to learn perfect pitch refuse to believe that it can be learned by many people. Unfortunately we don’t have all the same ears and a good percentage of people with less developed hearing spend a lot of time explaining with numbers and formulas how people with more advanced hearing capabilities are suppose to hear music, it is quite entertaining. I think it is more about justifying their limits and persuading themselves than persuading people like me, I can hear perfectly that vinyl is superior than CD, even with all his inherent limits and problems it registers more audio information than a CD, I don’t need science yet to discover many aspect of sound and more generally physics, to disprove something that I am perfectly able to hear, science will discover in the future what exactly vinyl register than 44100Hz 16bit don’t but I don’t really care as it is already clear to me and many others, well before Newton’s findings about the law of universal gravitation people knew very well that things would fall on the ground and possibly crash. Once I had a yellow car body work fixed, the guy at the garage used a slightly different yellow and I immediately spotted and told him, he was in disbelief and insisted he could not see any difference and he sampled the original colour with a colorimeter, in fact half of my friends couldn’t see it either, their reactions where quite hilarious, they were looking at me like if I was mad; the other half agreed that it wasn’t a particularly well done job as the mending was clearly of a slightly different shade of yellow, we are all different, we see, smell, taste, feel and hear differently… Many people are very happy with vinyl, there is a big resurgence, Sony started pressing them again, yesterday I saw brand new vinyl for sale in Tesco! All hipsters or nostalgics? Nah. Many people are able to hear that analogue audio vinyl cut from the original tapes or high resolution digital masters is richer than 44100Hz 16bit CDs, not cleaner but richer; you can’t? I can and I will keep enjoying it, sorry. Also, I agree that high resolution digital audio is better than vinyl, the contention here is low-fi CD vs Vinyl. Also who really care about which media people choose to listen too? Plenty of people perfectly happy with low quality MP3s, that is fine, everything is fine, it is about choices, we don’t have to be all the same, right?

      • I don’t like being told I’m cloth-eared (though I might be). And I appreciate your making it clear that you believe Red Book CD — not necessarily all digital — isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

        I’m willing to be convinced that 44.1/16 digital recording introduces artifacts I haven’t been aware of. * So… give us an example we can download. Describe the errors we’re supposed to be hearing.

        Even better… Give an example from a hybrid SACD.

        * It’s rather like the harmonium in the opening of “Salome”.

        • I have several of the same album in vinyl and CD and most of the vinyl version, alongside the well known defects of the medium still renders more fine details than CD, there is more space and depth in the music and the high end, particularly cymbals in Jazz, is way better and more realistic. When I record in studio the standard is recording at 96kHz 24bit, most of the time with Pro Tools, 44.100 Hz 16bit is thin and flat and lacks definitions in the mid and high range, where also all the harmonics of the low notes are audible. What you need to do is to get a couple of Neumann km87, go to a venue and record at 96kHz/24bit and CD quality some acoustic live music with good dynamic and different instruments and listen to the two versions, the difference is very noticeable. When I mix from high res digital and convert to CD quality I can hear a loss of details in the fine textures and in dynamic, I don’t even make my albums in CD anymore, I sell a USB memory with the highest digital resolution I can provide, with CDs I felt I wasn’t selling my music at its best quality. If you do not hear any difference between CD and 96kHz 24bit I have nothing to suggest to you to download. Also it doesn’t mean you are cloth-eared, the details I’m talking about are very fine and probably unnoticeable when we add the sound of a room, ambient noise and other factors. I can hear my dog ultrasound whistle it is very possible that I am the odd one… 😀 Anyway, my contention is that somehow vinyl registers more fine details than 44.100Hz 16bit but definitely without the CD’s cleanness, I am perfectly happy with anything from 88.200kHz 24bit upward and in that case I do not miss the vinyl.

          “In 1977, Geoff Emmerick, who with George Martin recorded The Beatles at Abbey Road and later at Air Studios in London, showed me that he could hear a difference between two identical channels on a recently delivered new console. After some hours of listening with him, I agreed that I could hear a subtle difference. When we measured I found that, out of 48 channels, three had been incorrectly terminated and displayed a rise of 3 dB at 54 kHz. The limit of hearing for most humans does not extend beyond 20 kHz and this small resonance, whilst obviously an oversight in the factory, would not normally have been regarded as important.”

          -Rupert Neve, Wimberley, TX September 2001

          • I used to have Pearl (Milab) variable-pattern mics, but no longer do. Nor do I have high-sampling-rate recorders.

            Without an accessible sample, I’m in no position to agree or disagree with you.

            The only obvious difference (for me) in the sound of an SACD layer and the Red Book layer of the same disk is that the SACD is slightly less hard-sounding, and has slightly greater “air”.

            I worked for Neve in Connecticut many years ago. The employees were convinced that the older consoles, with fewer gain stages and far fewer unbiased coupling caps, were more-neutral sounding.

            • “The only obvious difference (for me) in the sound of an SACD layer and the Red Book layer of the same disk is that the SACD is slightly less hard-sounding, and has slightly greater “air”.”
              I couldn’t agree more, for me the less hard-sounding translates in more rich/detailed tone and the air in the sound again translates in more natural sounding, I think we all have a different way to verbalise our aural perception. Personally I can hear a similar difference when comparing vinyl an CD, once I manage to ignore the inherent noise in the vinyl but I’m aware that here we could disagree, still it is my opinion that if only CD and Vinyl are available of a given album and the vinyl has been recorded from r2r tape or high resolution digital audio I would choose vinyl over CD, conversely I would most probably choose SACD over vinyl. I think SACD and generally high resolution audio would find everyone agreeing about its superiority over vinyl but I’m not big fan of the red book CD and I’m not convinced of its sonic superiority over vinyl, CD it is certainly better in other respects like constant speed and very low floor noise but I miss something in the music content that I can hear in the vinyl, and I don’t think it is about the colour of the sound or the fact that I grew up listening to vinyl, otherwise I don’t think I would prefer high resolution digital audio to vinyl.

  3. Take the line out from an amp connected to a record deck, and attach it to a computer or CD recorder, and record it. It will capture the “vinyl” sound perfectly, and be indistinguishable from the record itself on playback.

    When I was was young, I had the KLF’s “the White Room” on cassette tape, recorded directly from my dad’s record deck. It sounded great: miles better than any shop bought tapes — in fact, it sounded exactly like a hissy, and maybe slightly lower definition version of the vinyl. The technology of reproduction isn’t the issue, it’s something around the way the sound changes when played back through the record deck. (I do wonder whether it’s something around amplifying resonant frequencies, perhaps the lack of perfect isolation and dampening in the tone arm / crystal enhancing some elements, almost like a mechanical gain / echo device; artificially enhancing elements (via resonance / positive feedback) while providing greater smoothness (dampening effect of the physical momentum of the stylus))

    The distinctive sound of vinyl, while pleasing, is a defect — it didn’t sound that way when mastered, and the CD / digital version is the one they sound engineer created.

    Records do often “sound better”, but there’s no technical reason why a CD couldn’t sound exactly the same.

    I wonder if there’s a market for “re-recorded” CDs and streaming, that are simply recordings of the signal out when the vinyl pressing is played (aloud, in a nicely resonant room).

    • I disliked LPs long before the CD appeared. This might be due to there not being very high quality LP playback 45 years ago. But I heard commercial open-reel tapes, and they beat the pants off LP.

      The LP has pleasing colorations. And that’s about it.

  4. Take the line out from an amp connected to a record deck, and attach it to a computer or CD recorder, and record it. It will capture the “vinyl” sound perfectly, and be indistinguishable from the record itself on playback.

    When I was was young, I had the KLF’s “the White Room” on cassette tape, recorded directly from my dad’s record deck. It sounded great: miles better than any shop bought tapes — in fact, it sounded exactly like a hissy, and maybe slightly lower definition version of the vinyl. The technology of reproduction isn’t the issue, it’s something around the way the sound changes when played back through the record deck. (I do wonder whether it’s something around amplifying resonant frequencies, perhaps the lack of perfect isolation and dampening in the tone arm / crystal enhancing some elements, almost like a mechanical gain / echo device; artificially enhancing elements (via resonance / positive feedback) while providing greater smoothness (dampening effect of the physical momentum of the stylus))

    The distinctive sound of vinyl, while pleasing, is a defect — it didn’t sound that way when mastered, and the CD / digital version is the one they sound engineer created.

    Records do often “sound better”, but there’s no technical reason why a CD couldn’t sound exactly the same.

    I wonder if there’s a market for “re-recorded” CDs and streaming, that are simply recordings of the signal out when the vinyl pressing is played (aloud, in a nicely resonant room).

    • I disliked LPs long before the CD appeared. This might be due to there not being very high quality LP playback 45 years ago. But I heard commercial open-reel tapes, and they beat the pants off LP.

      The LP has pleasing colorations. And that’s about it.

  5. Anyone who thinks CD sounds better than vinyl day in and day out obviously have incredibly untrained ears.
    CDs/Digital sample the music. The key word here is “sample”, which means some of the original signal (yes even distortion) has been lost.
    I have a Shandling tube cd player that I absolutely love, but I’ll take the sound of my turntables ( I have four) anyday.
    I also use tube gear for my phono, pre-amp and mid/high frequency horns. I use a Mcintosh transistor amp for the bass, because transistors on the bass sound better.
    When you talk about “all out” stereo, price is not the object. I’ve got 40k invested in my analogue system and its sounds better than your $800.00 MP3.

    • “Sound better” does not mean “is more accurate” — which is all that matters.

      About 60 years ago, my father splurged $12 on a half-track open-reel tape of one of Frank Sinatra’s classic albums — “Where are You?”. I remember the sound being almost steely. The CD sounds the same. It was probably dubbed from the LP master.

      Few analog recordings come even remotely close to matching the “realism” of the better digital recordings (all formats). What this proves is debatable — other than that the belief that digital recording are not or cannot be “realistic” is unsupportable.

    • “incredibly untrained ears” sounds like audiophile voodoo to me. The CD records what’s there, the digital sampling is much better than the equivalent transition made by dragging a needle across a piece of plastic. Look at how records are physically made — it’s a marvel of technology that you can have anything even approaching hi fidelity sound after scraping bits of metal away, then molding plastic into the shapes, even before you start worrying about playback.

      The sampling rate and quality of CDs is amazing, and much higher than even the “trained ear” could possibly hear. As I say, try recording the output from your turntable onto CD, and it’ll sound exactly the same when played back — it’ll even capture the distortion added by the vinyl manufacturing / playback processes.

    • Another way of looking at it is this:

      You’ve finished your recording at the studio, and it’s now held on your computer, in ProTools/whatever.

      Your normal process is to copy the recording, currently in digital form, straight to a CD. But someone comes in to your studio and tells you that if you place a lacquer on a spinning bit of plastic, that will cut the sound into it. And then they can coat that in metal. Then peel away the plastic. And then use a hydraulic press to squish the shape of that metal into yet another plastic disk.

      They then tell you that this will produce a more accurate sound. Not just that it’ll add some nice effect, and sound better, but that it’s more accurate than just copying it digitally.

      You’d laugh them right out of your studio.

      Vinyl may sound better to you, but it’s an accidental artifact introduced by the way it’s been physically made. Any “training” is just you listening for the artifact you’re used to hearing.

      I like the bass boost on my headphone amp — it makes the music sound better. An audiophile might not like it, but I wouldn’t tell them it’s because they’ve got untrained ears.

  6. Anyone who thinks CD sounds better than vinyl day in and day out obviously have incredibly untrained ears.
    CDs/Digital sample the music. The key word here is “sample”, which means some of the original signal (yes even distortion) has been lost.
    I have a Shandling tube cd player that I absolutely love, but I’ll take the sound of my turntables ( I have four) anyday.
    I also use tube gear for my phono, pre-amp and mid/high frequency horns. I use a Mcintosh transistor amp for the bass, because transistors on the bass sound better.
    When you talk about “all out” stereo, price is not the object. I’ve got 40k invested in my analogue system and its sounds better than your $800.00 MP3.

    • “Sound better” does not mean “is more accurate” — which is all that matters.

      About 60 years ago, my father splurged $12 on a half-track open-reel tape of one of Frank Sinatra’s classic albums — “Where are You?”. I remember the sound being almost steely. The CD sounds the same. It was probably dubbed from the LP master.

      Few analog recordings come even remotely close to matching the “realism” of the better digital recordings (all formats). What this proves is debatable — other than that the belief that digital recording are not or cannot be “realistic” is unsupportable.

    • “incredibly untrained ears” sounds like audiophile voodoo to me. The CD records what’s there, the digital sampling is much better than the equivalent transition made by dragging a needle across a piece of plastic. Look at how records are physically made — it’s a marvel of technology that you can have anything even approaching hi fidelity sound after scraping bits of metal away, then molding plastic into the shapes, even before you start worrying about playback.

      The sampling rate and quality of CDs is amazing, and much higher than even the “trained ear” could possibly hear. As I say, try recording the output from your turntable onto CD, and it’ll sound exactly the same when played back — it’ll even capture the distortion added by the vinyl manufacturing / playback processes.

    • Another way of looking at it is this:

      You’ve finished your recording at the studio, and it’s now held on your computer, in ProTools/whatever.

      Your normal process is to copy the recording, currently in digital form, straight to a CD. But someone comes in to your studio and tells you that if you place a lacquer on a spinning bit of plastic, that will cut the sound into it. And then they can coat that in metal. Then peel away the plastic. And then use a hydraulic press to squish the shape of that metal into yet another plastic disk.

      They then tell you that this will produce a more accurate sound. Not just that it’ll add some nice effect, and sound better, but that it’s more accurate than just copying it digitally.

      You’d laugh them right out of your studio.

      Vinyl may sound better to you, but it’s an accidental artifact introduced by the way it’s been physically made. Any “training” is just you listening for the artifact you’re used to hearing.

      I like the bass boost on my headphone amp — it makes the music sound better. An audiophile might not like it, but I wouldn’t tell them it’s because they’ve got untrained ears.

  7. About the time that CDs took off in the 80s there was an anecdote doing the rounds. So the story goes, lovers of classical music were quick to deride the new digital format as it didn’t sound as good as even (analogue) FM radio. Purists were convinced that a classical track listened to on BBC Radio 3 was superior to the same track on CD. That may have been the case given that the available consumer-grade technology was relatively immature. What few realised however was that Aunty Beeb had been using a proprietary digital transmission system based on 13-bit / 32kHz linear PCM to relay programme material to most of its transmitters for quite a while before CD came along (the rollout began in 1973!). So technically FM radio was already substantially inferior to CD before any of the FM artifacts were factored in.

    The history can be found here if anyone’s interested http://www.audiomisc.co.uk/BBC/PCMandNICAM/History.html

  8. About the time that CDs took off in the 80s there was an anecdote doing the rounds. So the story goes, lovers of classical music were quick to deride the new digital format as it didn’t sound as good as even (analogue) FM radio. Purists were convinced that a classical track listened to on BBC Radio 3 was superior to the same track on CD. That may have been the case given that the available consumer-grade technology was relatively immature. What few realised however was that Aunty Beeb had been using a proprietary digital transmission system based on 13-bit / 32kHz linear PCM to relay programme material to most of its transmitters for quite a while before CD came along (the rollout began in 1973!). So technically FM radio was already substantially inferior to CD before any of the FM artifacts were factored in.

    The history can be found here if anyone’s interested http://www.audiomisc.co.uk/BBC/PCMandNICAM/History.html

  9. I’m almost finished with digitizing what remains of my vinyl. I gave away most of the vinyl to a colleague; I should be able to sell the remainder once I’ve completed my task. I feel that ultimately, the reason so many listeners express a preference for vinyl is because they are emotionally invested it that medium and everything that constitutes that investment. That’s fine. “Whatever floats your boat,” as was once often heard about any number of preferences. I’m very happy with my bits, bytes, files, and DACs, though. The threshold I crossed was one-way—no going back. YMMV.

  10. I’m almost finished with digitizing what remains of my vinyl. I gave away most of the vinyl to a colleague; I should be able to sell the remainder once I’ve completed my task. I feel that ultimately, the reason so many listeners express a preference for vinyl is because they are emotionally invested it that medium and everything that constitutes that investment. That’s fine. “Whatever floats your boat,” as was once often heard about any number of preferences. I’m very happy with my bits, bytes, files, and DACs, though. The threshold I crossed was one-way—no going back. YMMV.

  11. I haven’t read through all comments, yet, so I don’t know if someone already have said this. But a problem of today is that they do not use the CD media as good as it can be. One (awful) thing of the recordings of today, on CD:s, is compressing, compressing, compressing. Compressing is depressing… 😀 : (
    Of course a CD will sound awful (in many cases) when the music is heavily compressed. In that case I prefer vinyl. However if the DR value is high and the recording overall is good I prefer CD. I have no “scientific” argument for that. But the pure fact that I don’t have to handle the music media and equipment with silk gloves makes CD a good chose…

    Before the CD came I was actually (believe it or not) waiting for something new and better to come. (I didn’t know that CD was coming.) I thought that vinyl was an outdated thing with all the care you have to do with handling the media. It felt like stone age and I thought that it was time for something else. Then CD came and I was really happy for that. (I am grown up with vinyl so I have encounter the difference.) I can not however argue that all CD:s are “better” then vinyl but CD can really be good and I don’t have to hear those clicks that comes with the vinyl. I have no plans to go back to vinyl. Not at all. I find a good CD very good in sound quality and very convenient to handle. In fact I prefer music in digital form now. That is even more convenient.

    About the (digital) quality I am most interested in the DR value. 16 bit or 24 bit is not the most important for me. (I doubt I can hear the difference.) The DR value makes much more difference to me and is what I am looking for.

    I can give you one example of using the CD quality to maximum and shows how good it can be. I have a fantastic recording on CD, that is the best I have ever heard. It is called “Oförfalskat” (Swedish, in English it would be “Unadulterated”).
    It is a recording from 1988 and is a collaboration between Swedish National Radio and Pioneer.
    On that recording they have really, really consider every aspect in the recording, mastering and pressing to get it good. Everything from microphones and where they are put to the cables they have used and everything inbetween. Even the plastic for the CD where considered !
    The sound is absolutely fantastic ! You can even hear the cello player’s breathing on one recording with classical music ! (They have a put together songs from totally different genres on the recording.)
    So, my experience is that they do not at all use the CD media as good as it can be. Not at all, sadly.

  12. I haven’t read through all comments, yet, so I don’t know if someone already have said this. But a problem of today is that they do not use the CD media as good as it can be. One (awful) thing of the recordings of today, on CD:s, is compressing, compressing, compressing. Compressing is depressing… 😀 : (
    Of course a CD will sound awful (in many cases) when the music is heavily compressed. In that case I prefer vinyl. However if the DR value is high and the recording overall is good I prefer CD. I have no “scientific” argument for that. But the pure fact that I don’t have to handle the music media and equipment with silk gloves makes CD a good chose…

    Before the CD came I was actually (believe it or not) waiting for something new and better to come. (I didn’t know that CD was coming.) I thought that vinyl was an outdated thing with all the care you have to do with handling the media. It felt like stone age and I thought that it was time for something else. Then CD came and I was really happy for that. (I am grown up with vinyl so I have encounter the difference.) I can not however argue that all CD:s are “better” then vinyl but CD can really be good and I don’t have to hear those clicks that comes with the vinyl. I have no plans to go back to vinyl. Not at all. I find a good CD very good in sound quality and very convenient to handle. In fact I prefer music in digital form now. That is even more convenient.

    About the (digital) quality I am most interested in the DR value. 16 bit or 24 bit is not the most important for me. (I doubt I can hear the difference.) The DR value makes much more difference to me and is what I am looking for.

    I can give you one example of using the CD quality to maximum and shows how good it can be. I have a fantastic recording on CD, that is the best I have ever heard. It is called “Oförfalskat” (Swedish, in English it would be “Unadulterated”).
    It is a recording from 1988 and is a collaboration between Swedish National Radio and Pioneer.
    On that recording they have really, really consider every aspect in the recording, mastering and pressing to get it good. Everything from microphones and where they are put to the cables they have used and everything inbetween. Even the plastic for the CD where considered !
    The sound is absolutely fantastic ! You can even hear the cello player’s breathing on one recording with classical music ! (They have a put together songs from totally different genres on the recording.)
    So, my experience is that they do not at all use the CD media as good as it can be. Not at all, sadly.

  13. The biggest problem with the vinyl fanboy hype is, that, it seems to have an extremely narrow frame-of-reference regarding (particularly) audio history. I mean: (most) people today are inventing all these delusions about it (WHICH NO ONE…40/50 years-ago, in the heyday of records, EVER PRAISED THE FORMAT FOR) because they’re living in an era of; where, the digitalization of media has (unfortunately) made so much of the content contained in it “disposable”.
    To the uninitiated: comparing a record, for example, played back on a component stereo vs. earbuds plugged into a phone….OBVIOUSLY is going to sound 1,000x better to anyone with a pulse (hopefully). It should! However, when the snake oil starts creeping in and terms like: “warmth”/”what the artist intended”/”closer to the master tape”/etc. start being tossed around, it’s amateur BS coming from quarters -most of the time- whom wouldn’t know the difference between Crosley and Thorens (or whose concept of “tape” is limited to cassette). RECORDS WERE NEVER THE “HOLY GRAIL” OF HI-FI: NOT IN 1948…1968…1988. THEY WERE THE CHEAPEST SOFTWARE TO SELL COMMERCIAL MUSIC ON. No less than RCA(!), in 1963(!), understood that surface noise was a major problem in the way of them trying to maintain any “natural” sound quality (then vs. the playback response of their consumer REEL TO REEL TAPE album counterparts). So…RCA addressed this by, essentially, inventing the original loudness war: something called “DYNAGROOVE”. It was a primitive, computerized automatic gain control in the lacquer’s mastering stage which (artificially) boosted ANY SIGNAL below a certain decibel level to the point of equalling whatever the peak limiter was referenced at. Result: completely out-of-proportion soundstaging and, for instance: the drummer’s brushes were now AS LOUD as the guy playing the sax solo(!). No. NOT the way musicians -or the master tape- sound.
    A record could never contain the dynamics of a master tape — the consumer playback medium wouldn’t (flatly) be able to reproduce it without destroying the stylus/groove interface. TAPE IS THE ELECTRICAL SIGNAL OF A RECORDING, A RECORD IS A MECHANICALLY-COMPRESSED COPY OF IT.
    Before the cd era, when the only competitor to vinyl was (well produced) tape: tape was 5x costlier to manufacture. That was why records won out in the market. Tape, though, always had far better bass response and stereo separation than records ever were capable of (stereotape, in fact, was available four years before engineers figured out how to cut stereo records).
    The idea, too, that the vinyl obsessives are constantly wanting REMASTERS of vintage stuff -to me- is almost like an admission; that: they (apparently) don’t think the glut of already 50 years of countless pressings STILL sound “right”(?). Why? The older the master tape gets (presuming it’s not lost…which, insanely, is a not uncommon reality thesedays for even what one would think were all-time-famous artists beyond such carelessness): THE MORE EQ TWEAKING IT NEEDS to make-up for any storage degradation effects on its frequency range (again, another factor further away from “the studio sound”). Also, couple this with cases of resorting to 3rd/4th/5th generation sources (all, ultimately, being backed up anyway in the SAME DIGITAL FILE to issue either format)…the only thing a turntable is going to likely add, is: the environmental distortion they just can’t get rid of without putting a $3000 granite fortress underneath their plinth(!).
    Digital audio tech aspired to be the one medium WHERE THE PLAYBACK DEVICE DID NOT INTRODUCE ITS OWN NOISE FLOOR INTO THE SOURCE SIGNAL. That was -and, maybe, will continue to be- a noble goal. The existence of the cd format, though, has had its beginning and current state dictated by cash-grab corporatism which, always throws quality control standards out the window (in the beginning: cd’s were usually haphazardly culled from the -wrong- RIAA eq’d master of bass cut and treble boost — the reason the ’80s ones sound so tinny and; now, at this point: their sound quality has been relegated to being tailored for car stereo and shelf system listening). Late-1990s/early-2000s discs mastered, for example, by people like Ludwig or Grundman -to my ears- ARE FANTASTIC! Even on a Sony ES player from 1996 (with a decent pair of interconnects; not the red/white insulator, $2.99 WallyWorld junk with bad soldering!), THEY SOUND CLOSER TO A TAPE THAN VINYL COULD EVER GET.

  14. The biggest problem with the vinyl fanboy hype is, that, it seems to have an extremely narrow frame-of-reference regarding (particularly) audio history. I mean: (most) people today are inventing all these delusions about it (WHICH NO ONE…40/50 years-ago, in the heyday of records, EVER PRAISED THE FORMAT FOR) because they’re living in an era of; where, the digitalization of media has (unfortunately) made so much of the content contained in it “disposable”.
    To the uninitiated: comparing a record, for example, played back on a component stereo vs. earbuds plugged into a phone….OBVIOUSLY is going to sound 1,000x better to anyone with a pulse (hopefully). It should! However, when the snake oil starts creeping in and terms like: “warmth”/”what the artist intended”/”closer to the master tape”/etc. start being tossed around, it’s amateur BS coming from quarters -most of the time- whom wouldn’t know the difference between Crosley and Thorens (or whose concept of “tape” is limited to cassette). RECORDS WERE NEVER THE “HOLY GRAIL” OF HI-FI: NOT IN 1948…1968…1988. THEY WERE THE CHEAPEST SOFTWARE TO SELL COMMERCIAL MUSIC ON. No less than RCA(!), in 1963(!), understood that surface noise was a major problem in the way of them trying to maintain any “natural” sound quality (then vs. the playback response of their consumer REEL TO REEL TAPE album counterparts). So…RCA addressed this by, essentially, inventing the original loudness war: something called “DYNAGROOVE”. It was a primitive, computerized automatic gain control in the lacquer’s mastering stage which (artificially) boosted ANY SIGNAL below a certain decibel level to the point of equalling whatever the peak limiter was referenced at. Result: completely out-of-proportion soundstaging and, for instance: the drummer’s brushes were now AS LOUD as the guy playing the sax solo(!). No. NOT the way musicians -or the master tape- sound.
    A record could never contain the dynamics of a master tape — the consumer playback medium wouldn’t (flatly) be able to reproduce it without destroying the stylus/groove interface. TAPE IS THE ELECTRICAL SIGNAL OF A RECORDING, A RECORD IS A MECHANICALLY-COMPRESSED COPY OF IT.
    Before the cd era, when the only competitor to vinyl was (well produced) tape: tape was 5x costlier to manufacture. That was why records won out in the market. Tape, though, always had far better bass response and stereo separation than records ever were capable of (stereotape, in fact, was available four years before engineers figured out how to cut stereo records).
    The idea, too, that the vinyl obsessives are constantly wanting REMASTERS of vintage stuff -to me- is almost like an admission; that: they (apparently) don’t think the glut of already 50 years of countless pressings STILL sound “right”(?). Why? The older the master tape gets (presuming it’s not lost…which, insanely, is a not uncommon reality thesedays for even what one would think were all-time-famous artists beyond such carelessness): THE MORE EQ TWEAKING IT NEEDS to make-up for any storage degradation effects on its frequency range (again, another factor further away from “the studio sound”). Also, couple this with cases of resorting to 3rd/4th/5th generation sources (all, ultimately, being backed up anyway in the SAME DIGITAL FILE to issue either format)…the only thing a turntable is going to likely add, is: the environmental distortion they just can’t get rid of without putting a $3000 granite fortress underneath their plinth(!).
    Digital audio tech aspired to be the one medium WHERE THE PLAYBACK DEVICE DID NOT INTRODUCE ITS OWN NOISE FLOOR INTO THE SOURCE SIGNAL. That was -and, maybe, will continue to be- a noble goal. The existence of the cd format, though, has had its beginning and current state dictated by cash-grab corporatism which, always throws quality control standards out the window (in the beginning: cd’s were usually haphazardly culled from the -wrong- RIAA eq’d master of bass cut and treble boost — the reason the ’80s ones sound so tinny and; now, at this point: their sound quality has been relegated to being tailored for car stereo and shelf system listening). Late-1990s/early-2000s discs mastered, for example, by people like Ludwig or Grundman -to my ears- ARE FANTASTIC! Even on a Sony ES player from 1996 (with a decent pair of interconnects; not the red/white insulator, $2.99 WallyWorld junk with bad soldering!), THEY SOUND CLOSER TO A TAPE THAN VINYL COULD EVER GET.

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