Tag Archives: vinyl records

Vinyl, CD, or Digital On Line, Which Is Better

Up until recently we produced recorded sound using analog technology.  The technology was to take and analog source like a wax cylinder or flat plastic disk with sound groves in them.  Run a “needle” down the groves and amplify the sound produced.  In the 50’s vinyl LPs we produced first in mono and then stereo.  Stereo recordings started in the late 50’s.  Beginning in the 60’s very high quality sound reproduction could be had from high quality analog record players.  I bought my first higher end system in the early 70’s. In addition to a record player I had a reel to reel tape recorder/ player.

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In the early 1980’s the music CD came along and it took the industry by storm.  Sony made the first CD players that I ever saw and were over $400 dollars back in the 80’s.  Soon lots of people made players and millions bought them.  The CD changed music from analog to digital.  CD’s do a very good job of it and very soon CD’s generated more volume than LP’s.  Some record stores stopped selling records and only sold CD’s.

 

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And finally around the year 2000 on line music became popular with Napster and Apple’s iTunes and iPod.  I knew 15 minutes after using a borrowed first iPod that it was going to change the music industry, and it has.  In 2018 a lot have people get their music with on line subscription services like Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play, and Pandora.

So today I use LP’s, CD’s, and iTunes and on line services.  So which of these types of music delivery sounds best to my ears when it goes through my best audio system which includes very large JBL speakers and a high quality amp.  I like vinyl LP’s the best if it is a well mixed record.  I have a number of times played records, CD, and iTunes on the same music and every time I like LP’s the best.  It is very hard to describe why, but very easy for me to hear.  The best I can do is to say that the LP’s have more sound.

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CD’s provide very detailed sound that can be excellent, but just like digital photos, CD’s can be perfect, but sound clinical / dull / without the color of LP’s.  I suspect that when sound is converted to digital that the imperfections are scrubbed off and even though CD’s synthesize the analog sound at a high rate it is not the same as pure analog and our brains can sense that.

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iTunes and other on line mp3 type music has come a long way in the last 15 years.  I think that Apple music through a late model high quality DAC gives sound quality very similar to CD’s.  5-6 years ago this was not the case.  I could easily tell the difference.

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The fact that lots of people have recognized that the old LP system of sound reproduction was to many people better, has lead to a major expansion of the analog record business.  In our local area there are all of a sudden quite a few record stores where only 6-7 years ago there were only a couple.

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So do we keep vinyl, CD’s, and on line/ iTunes?  Likely.  I am going to continue to use all three.  But in the future I will likely buy more records and not so many CD’s.  I use a couple of the on line music services plus iTunes every day.

For sound quality I like vinyl best when I can take the time to sit in the room with my big sound system.  I also like the additional benefits you get with LPs like,

  • You actually own something that is tangible
  • The last for a very long time.  I have many LPs from 40-50 years ago that sound fantastic
  • You get the pleasure of the cover art front and back.  Sometimes you get a custom decorated inside liner with maybe the words to the songs on it.

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For on the go I like using an Apple device with a good DAC and using either a wired connection or bluetooth.  Bluetooth has good fidelity in my home system or car system.  Additional benefits are,

  • With Apple Music I can listen to any artist or song Apple has
  • Easy
  • The sound is pretty good

A big negative of on line is you only can listen as long as you pay the monthly fee to the service.  I actually know what music my grandparents liked in the 1920’s because I have about 75 of their 78 records from that era.  90 years from now no one will know what I liked on Apple Music.

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CDs are somewhere in between.  I have several hundred of them.  I have uploaded them to iTunes and so can use a mobile service to listen to them. Some CD’s that have good mixing are really startling at how good the sound is.  CDs you can also do portable.  I still once and a while take a few with me in the car and use them.  No internet needed.  Simple no complications like with on line stuff.  You own CDs and don’t pay every month.  CDs can be bought for about the same price as iTunes albums.  And you can buy used CDs.

The Analog Counter Revolution Continues

Digital information technology has changed the World in the last 50 years.  Much of this change is beneficial and here to stay.  I have embraced advances in digital for decades, but now when almost everyone predicted that photography, movies, music, newspapers, magazines, and books and much more would go digital there is an analog counter revolution happening as you read this post.

This week I realized that the analog counter revolution is here to stay and going to get bigger.  I got fed up with trying to read the news on digital and started getting the newspaper delivered again every day.  This is after a two year break of getting almost all of my news via TV & Internet.  I live in a big city and we have a good local paper.  When I stopped getting the paper newspaper two years ago I kept getting their digital version.  I finally realized that it is just not as enjoyable to get your news digitally compared to print.  Why, because it is organized, you don’t have a light box staring you in the face, and you just pick it up and read it without worrying about charging the batteries, anywhere.  Plus source shopping from 100,000 outlets is just a brain pain and your head spins after 12 youtube videos of people shouting at each other or complaining about Trump or Clinton or immigrants or 50 other current topics.

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The fact is that unless you are the President you don’t need to know about every news story in the World.  You only need to know about the news that affects you.  If there is some time left over you can look at some special interest news items.  That said digital news is very good for looking up special interest pieces or specialty news like dog news, or audio news, or news on the planet Pluto.  So for me the best thing is to mix analog and digital.  Does this mean that newspapers will get as big again and as powerful as 50 years ago, no.  But it likely means that a lot more people than I are not happy with digital only.

Lately I have started buying records again, vinyl records.  I bought a new phono cartridge and bought several LP’s from eBay.  As in getting the news, digital music is great, but I missed the other benefits of buying analog records.  Some of those benefits are, an album that is organized by someone other than me, usually beautiful covers, lots of times words to the songs on the inside envelope, I own it no monthly fees, oh and it sounds better.  If you have a good turntable and cartridge a vinyl record has more information in it than either on line or CD’s.  It helps to have good speakers too.  In speakers size matters.  Bigger ones are usually better.  Sure you have to clean the records and be careful with them, but many of my 40+ year old records sound better than CD’s of the same music or high quality on line.  For me, and I have older ears, it is very easy to tell the difference between vinyl, CD, and on line music.  The difference is hard to describe but easy to hear.  I am not alone in this opinion as vinyl record sales last year I believe totaled to more money than downloads.

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I have no intention of only listening to vinyl.  I like digital music if the quality is good and I don’t have to be bombarded with ads.  I have an Apple Music and Pandora subscription to listen to ad free music at home or in the car.  But when I want to sit down and enjoy some music I think I am going to mostly go vinyl.

I have never switched to reading books on digital except for things like wikipedia.  If I want to read something I just buy it.  When I finish I sell it on Amazon.

I have written a number of blog posts about analog vs digital photography.  To me these are two different art forms.  Of course they are close substitutes for each other so they get compared a lot.  But when you shoot film the structure of the image is just not the same as a digital image.  You can clearly see this if you enlarge the photos enough.  And of course with film you have to scan the image if you don’t print it.  That means you are once removed from the initial image and the result is it just looks different.  Most images in my opinion look better from film than digital.  However, photos of children, pets, friends, and action are just so much easier to do with digital that most people should stick with that method.  But for pictures of things and in many instances people (street photography) just comes out way better using film.  Kodak, Fuji, and other film makers have spent a lot of time getting the result to come out well.  Again last year my best photos mostly came from film shots.  And I took way more pictures digital than film.  On the other hand I have never taken super 8 movies, which are coming back.  I shoot most of my video on either my smart phone or DSLR.  I am not going to change that.

On the other hand I find movies shot with film and not digital to be much more pleasing to view.  I can easily tell the difference and I would expect that the movie business is going to go back to more film and less digital.  There are ways using software to make digital look more like film.  In some cases when this is not done I find the resulting product almost unwatchable.  Netflix original movies being a case in point.

The other really strong advantage of personal film photos is that there is so much really good gear still at great prices.  Good digital lenses for a DSLR can run over $1,000.  Many good lenses for film cameras can be bought for under $100.  I have both, and you cannot tell the difference most of the time.  Camera bodies for digital can easily run over $100.  Very good SLR camera bodies cost less than $100.  Improving your skills with new digital gear is very expensive when you start buying news lenses and bodies.  If you buy right older lenses can work on newer digital bodies.

So to sum up, the digital counter revolution is upon us and I suspect this will continue as people realize that not everything new is better than everything old.