I can remember the first time I heard a CD. It was in a high end audio store in Victoria, B.C. in the early 80’s. Needless to say I was blown away by the clarity and dynamic range of the sound produced on the in-store system. But that’s not what really convinced me of the validity of the format. I had collected recorded music for many years including 78s, 45’s, LPs and even pre-recorded reel to reel tapes. What really convinced me was the silence. Prior to the CD there was always background noise; the crackle and pop of static, dust, the sound of the needle tracking and, even with reel to reel recordings the sound of tape hiss. When a music track came to an end on the CD there it was – glorious silence. I had not ever experienced that before. So, in those early heady days of CDs there was lots of discussion in the audio magazines comparing data, charts and the sound quality of vinyl and CDs. As we all know the CD won the battle and in the end dominated the market. That is, until the MP3 format came on the scene and changed the rules of the game. It was no longer about sound quality it was about quantity. The MP3 allowed for music in a compact format – more music in a smaller packet. For listening to music while riding on the subway, while working away at a menial job or just screening out the ambient surrounding noise it is not an unreasonable solution. Besides most of us couldn’t tell the difference in quality anyway. A number of audiophile formats (SACD, DVD) have been launched over the intervening years and have basically failed in the market place. The latest salvo in that war is Neil Young’s PONO device that, despite it’s audio claims, is probably also doomed to failure in the market place for no other reason than it’s awkward physical footprint. (“is that a Toblerone in your pocket or do you really like me?”). There is little need to go beyond the sound quality of a well produced CD and the market place has virtually confirmed that. In truth most popular music is not recorded to an audiophile level anyway and does not even take full advantage of the CD format.
However, quality is back into the discussions with proponents asserting that “Vinyl is better than Digital”; “it is a warmer sound” or “it is a truer reproduction of the original sound” “it has more soul”. In fact most of the discussion points are hog wash. However, the sentiments seem to have initiated a movement back to vinyl in pop music with a limited number of releases in both a vinyl and MP3 format. Even the bench mark Jazz recording label BLUENOTE has re-issued a limited number of their classic recordings in Vinyl. Also in the jazz re-issue market Mosaic Records has always had a limited number of heavy weight vinyl format recordings in their catalogue. There is one sector of the recorded music industry that appears to have shown a complete disinterest in returning to a vinyl format. That is the Classical Music sector. I think that, in itself, says a lot.
The fact of the matter is that vinyl and digital (CD) are just different. The article in the link Vinyl versus CDs is probably one of the best explanations of the whole issue. Rather than recap the article just click on the link and read for yourself. However, there are a number telling points that have surfaced in this article and in recent discussions on the net. They include the following:
“Let’s not fool ourselves, though. Vinyl is great, but the idea that its sound quality is superior to that of uncompressed digital recordings is preposterous. They sound different, and that’s exactly the point.”
” Each format has its charms, and their overall differences in quality are often overwhelmed by differences in the quality of initial recording equipment, in mastering approaches, and in playback setup. But if you’re a vinyl collector, you also shouldn’t go around telling your friends how much purer your audio is. First off, that’s generally “dickish” behavior, but more to the point it’s false. Digital recording just is more accurate. That’s not the only thing worth considering by any means, but it does make the Puritanism of some vinyl true believers look rather ridiculous”.
“What difference does any of it make? The music being made today all sucks, so high resolution audio is just like putting lipstick on a pig”
What more can I say. Do a Google search on the net and you will see that most of it has already been said. In the meantime I have stacks of vinyl in my basement that I never play. If it is something I really like I endeavor to find it on CD.