While vinyl records have been around for the better part of a century, the music reproduction and playback offering has started to grow more popular again, taking away sales from compact discs and MP3 downloads. However, for many music fans, they may wonder why people are purchasing vinyl and see it as a step backwards in quality. To truly understand this though, it is necessary to answer myths regarding whether or not vinyl is better than digital.
This is one of the most commonly cited reasons behind vinyl being better than digital. Now, this is not actually true. A properly formatted and implemented digital audio recording can sound just as good as analog. However, there is some truth to the saying, from a certain point of view. The key phrase is "properly formatted digital audio recording." Neither CD or MP3 provides this. The audio is compressed down in both formats, which means audio information is stripped away from the file in order to fit it onto a disc or MP3 download. Due to this, when comparing just CD or MP3 to vinyl, vinyl does sound better because it is not compressed.
The human ear picks up audio information differently from a microphone, so there is going to be some discrepancies between what is heard and what is recorded. This, in a way, is true. The better equipment is recording a format of audio, but it is not true sound (which is why a live, acoustic performance always sounds better than a CD or vinyl). This, however, does not have an impact on how the information is presented on vinyl or CD. It all comes down to how it is presented. Now, there are true, uncompressed digital file downloads that can be obtained, and if so, the quality is going to be that of vinyl.
The notion of expense really has nothing to do with audio quality. A newly released album on vinyl is often going to cost double what a digital download or CD costs, but this is more because of the material used in vinyl than because of the quality of audio. Non-compressed audio files can usually be purchased for less than vinyl, although it requires a media device that can store and ready these audio files to function properly.
Many albums produced nowadays are designed to be played loud. However, many people associate loud with better, but this is completely false. Loud simply covers up other mid tone and high tones of the performance and, in fact, flatten the audio recording. Most digital recordings are recorded to be played in clubs and on the radio, where people want it loud, with heavy beats. Even Beats headphones alter the way people hear the music by increasing the bass volume, which makes the song sound louder). When comparing a vinyl record to an MP3, the digital file is most likely going to sound louder. On the other hand, the vinyl is going to have clearer sounding information, which ultimately provides a cleaner and better musical experience.
Many vinyl vans like to preach vinyl is all analog, but chances are, this is not the case. Most modern vinyl albums are produced with digital master cuts and then pushed over to analog. This means some vinyl albums are actually compressed, CD quality content on the vinyl, which means the vinyl really does not sound better. It needs to come from a high-resolution audio format or from a complete analog recording.
There is an almost warm feeling to a vinyl, with a light hum produced. This, however, is not studio air. It is from the production of the lacquer on the album that goes through the production and printing process. Higher quality turn tables and sound systems are required to avoid this.
Most musicians really have no say over how their music is produced. They sign their record deal and do what the record companies say. An MP3 costs nothing to produce and returns almost complete profit. It simply is cheaper to produce. Musicians who have full control over their music (such as Jack White and Neil Diamond) produce all analog records because they want the quality of music heard.