When it comes to music you have a choice of formats to listen to – whether that is on CD, streaming music, MP3, or vinyl.* Each format comes with their own positives and negatives. Of course, streamed music or MP3 are certainly convenient – they weigh nothing and don’t take up physical space to store. However, physical formats like CD and vinyl also have their own benefits, from being a genuine physical back-up for your music
However, physical formats like CD and vinyl also have their own benefits, from being a genuine physical back-up for your music collection, to the visceral sensation of actually holding a record cover in your hands, not to mention the cover art and booklets themselves. However, when it comes to formats, it is generally agreed that vinyl offers the best sound – and isn’t that what music is all about?
If you really want to appreciate the full range of sounds, from deep basslines to beautiful, crisp high notes, then vinyl is the best option. When asked about vinyl, Sir Elton John, speaking to the BBC, stated:
With vinyl sales actually on the rise, it seems that the format has once-again pushed against the industry death-knell to continue to appeal to music lovers. This is certainly helped by the physical aspect of owning, holding, and playing a vinyl record, but there is also a lot to be said for the actual music quality too…
When music is stored in a digital format (MP3, CD, Streaming, etc) it is compressed so that the files are small enough to be stored on your phone, a disc, or broadcast over the airwaves. However, wih vinyl there is no compression – meaning that it is a lossless format – it sounds as good as the artist intended with no sound lost through the compression process.
Vinyl also tended to escape the battle for loudness, where digital music was engineered to be louder than it should be – again, compromising quality. Making tracks louder distorts them and takes away even more depth but, since vinyl escaped this, it maintained a cleaner, clearer sound (despite the odd crackle!). The volume of a vinyl record depends on the how many tracks are included on each side (the less the better), and how deep the grooves are in the pressing.
This is all without even considering ‘gentler’ effects like the way vinyl offers a warmer, more organic sound than digital music (including your streams and the radio).
However, there is a note of caution – as not all vinyl sounds better!
Some record companies press vinyl from digital sources, which includes old albums that have been repressed from CD-quality audio rather than a higher resolution source.
Then there are also some interesting things with the way vinyl works itself…
The beginning of a vinyl record can sound better than the end as the circumference of the grooves shrink as the needle goes towards the middle. So, a record without a decent amount of run-out (that bit after the last song on each side), may not sound as good as one that has more space. However, with many of today’s records being pressed onto four (or more) sides, this is not such a problem as it may once have been.
With the continued success of initiatives such as ‘Record Store Day,’ which promotes vinyl sales in independent record stores with special releases each April, it is clear that vinyl remains as popular as ever…
(*We know you can still get cassette tapes too – word to the old school!)