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Home | Technical | Hardware | Why Bother With Vinyl?

Why Bother With Vinyl?

Vinyl
Digital domination

In today's digital age the Compact Disc has become the medium of choice for musical recordings. Indeed the whole recording process is now dominated by digital technology because of the cleanliness of the results and the ease with which digital data can be manipulated. The music industry and media have done much to hype digital technology making it synonymous with improved quality in most people's minds. Cleanliness, however, is not necessarily next to godliness when it comes to the reproduction of music.

Digital Drawbacks

Digital technology has some rather obvious drawbacks: Firstly it is necessarily limited in the musical data that it can represent. While digital advocates would argue that the sampling rates involved result in detail greater than the human ear can distinguish the human ear often seems to disagree. The heavy dependence on digital processing techniques tends to result in music that is too artificial and sterile. The main criticism that is levelled at digital music is a lack of warmth and depth.

Digital may not be perfect but surely its better than Vinyl?

The answer to this depends largely on who you talk to. If you are the kind of person who cannot cope with the odd bit of pop and crackle you will probably think that anyone who still listens to vinyl recordings is a little backward. Vinyl, however, is surprising long-lasting if well pressed and looked after.CD's as we are now all aware are not as invulnerable as they were originally made out to be. If you are the kind of person who really listens you may be amongst those who feel that vinyl recordings offer an edge that CD's never can. They are certainly fussier than CD's but a good piece of vinyl on a well set up turntable will produce music that lives and breathes.Imaging and instrument separation are where vinyl seems to out perform CD's as well as the more general feeling of warmth. Sit down and listen to the same piece of music on a reasonable quality CD system and Phono system and make your own mind up.The fact that vinyl has not died the death that was predicted when CD's first came on the scene suggests many people still find it has something extra to offer.

How can this be true?

But all recordings are digitally mastered nowadays, I hear you say. It isn't possible for vinyl to sound better than a CD when both are from the same master. This is an interesting point and one which I can not really answer in any categorical way. A possible explanation may lie in the way in which the sound is actually produced. Because of the mechanical nature of a turntable pickup there are more factors at work than with a laser reading digital information from a CD. Just as the acoustics of a room may greatly alter the sound of a piece of music so the physical properties of the turntable can alter it. This is why turntables are so fussy - changes in temperature, air pressure, cartridge weight, stylus wear etc. an all affect the performance. More often than not these factors will be heard as noise and imperfection in the reproduction of the music. When properly set up, however, it is possible that these factors actually change the sound in a positive way, adding tonal properties and extra harmonics that are more closely related to the way in which sound is created in nature than the way in which a DAC converts digital data into sound.

It is also possible that the nature of digital processing introduces unwanted signals that effectively destroy the structure of a sound (i.e. its original resolution and spatial qualities). In contrast analogue equipment exhibits less ML and MR distortion since less complicated signal processing is involved.


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