It’s one of the great music snob arguments- the superior aesthetic and sound quality of vinyl over the digital. It’s one that we fall for ourselves sometimes- that’s the powerful spell of vinyl- the format that comes from the days when music was king and has that warm glow of nostalgia to it. Of course it looks beautiful but does it sound better and can we really tell the difference?
The argument of digital versus vinyl has been raging for a few years now with vinyl always being assumed to be more ‘real’ more ‘authentic’ and it’s an argument that has been so successful for the vinyl champions that they have totally won the argument and seen an unlikely comeback in terms of sales.
Of course like any certainty in music it is an argument that does not come without any holes in it and there could be a real trick of the mind going on here.
Many modern vinyl releases are in fact quite digital by the time they come out on the trusted format- many groups will still use digital recording techniques before they cut their music onto the vinyl which makes a lot of the mythology about the so called purity of sound just that- a mythology.
For sure they may be getting the perceived advantages of the warmer bottom end and the ‘truer’ aspects of the vinyl recording but in reality they have already crushed their sound through the angry bytes of digital recording and you just cannot magically get that back by pressing it onto vinyl- the vinyl gives it an authentic veneer, a feeling that and a notion that there is something genuine about the sound and a certain holding on to the past an idea that ‘things were so much batter back then’ and vinyl, like an antique chest of drawers or an old house has a musky warmth and reality to when it is actually selling you the good old days of warm cups of cocoa feel.
There is certainly a genuinely warmer feel from playing vinyl but is that the ‘real’ sound or just another trick of the ear- vinyl is warmer but is it the genuine sound of what was recorded in the first place or just another misrepresentation of sound and is this fake warmth like a comforting old blanket wrapped around the shoulders or is it the way the music was meant to be heard in the first place?
Another problem of course is just how good your record player actually is- is your stereo actually as good as a great pair of headphones plugged into an mp3 player? Maybe your stereo has a poor bottom end? Many times the quality on headphones can be better than a crappy stereo set up badly in an acoustically bad room – there are so many factors at play that it could sometimes be a case of kidding ourselves into believing that a beloved old format, like a smelly yet loveable old dog is the proffered format.
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 and there is nothing wrong with that- if it makes them feel warm and happy then that’s part of the showbiz process.
Of course aesthetically vinyl will win, it’s a trusted old friend and their artwork looks great all blown up but the fact that you can’t carry millions of them around with you in your pocket and the genuine suspicion that we may just be kidding ourselves that we can tell the difference in sound between the formats unless we are suddenly like some kind of audio bats is beginning to nag.
What do you reckon sounds best – vinyl or digital and why…