Why Vinyl?

I have a growing collection of vinyl records. Three things make me love the collection and make me want to add to it: The cover art is cool, it is the true sign that you appreciate an artists work, and, for some reason, it sounds better to me.

For most of my infatuation with vinyl, I figured I was just tricking myself into believing that it sounded better. The argument had been made by many so I figured that it could be a proper justification for the steep price of records.vinyl

However, the argument may have some truth to it.

The argument that vinyl is better than digital audio starts with the origin of the music. When someone streams something on Spotify, the music has gone from the artist to the digital audio recording system, compressed so it can stream without taking up too much storage, and to the listener. According to a report from the Oregonian’s David Greenwald, the vinyl sound follows a much more pure transformation from artist to listener. The sound travels from the artist to the physical tape recording, to the record making device (shown in this video), to the record, to the listener. This process involves no compression and mirrors the exact depth and pitch that the original artist intended.

According to Correy Binns of Popular Science, compressed audio in the form of an MP3 file can take away almost 90% of the sound from the original recording. This is because the digital download strips the music of its subtleties. Binns goes on to explain that this process occurs because of advanced machines that see what sounds the human ear requires to hear the song. The rest of the recording is deemed unnecessary and cut from the original piece to save storage.

vinyl-record-playerAlthough, it can be hard to differentiate between the two unless you are a true audiophile. Here is a recording a DMX song played on MP3 and record. Try to see if you can differentiate between the two.

The previous test is anecdotal because a well-developed study with sizable data of how people perceive the music has not been sufficiently performed. All in all, it’s a matter of preference. It may be hard to tell the difference, but listening to vinyl is the equivalent of eating organic, non-processed foods: You may not feel very different, but you know it’s better for you.

Side note: Here is a great microscopic view of what the grooves of the record look like, as well as the movement of the needle (plot twist/spoiler: the needle primarily moves side to side to create the sound).

Sources: hyperlinked in the text.

2 thoughts on “Why Vinyl?

  1. Rebecca Aronow

    I really liked reading your blog because I’m a big believer in vinyl sounding not necessarily better, but warmer than digital audio recordings. There’s also, like you said, the design of the sleeve and just the feeling of putting the vinyl on the turntable that makes the experience more hands-on than any other type of music listening. You can also create a fullness with vinyl—The Flaming Lip’s album Zaireeka was made so that the four separate records have to be played simultaneously on four separate turntables to produce the full sound of the album. Their album was produced on CDs too, but in my opinion it’s much cooler on vinyl. I think that part of the reason why people may think that vinyl sounds better is because of the nostalgia that often comes along with it. For people our parent’s age, they grew up with vinyl, so they have many memories and emotions associated with that form of listening. I know I like records because it feels like more of an experience. I love the little pops and cracks that happen when the vinyl has some dust or is a bit scratched, although to many that is viewed as poor sound quality; but I think it gives it a warmth. So we can argue all day about whether the sound quality is better on vinyl or not, but I think what’s most important is the emotions and experience that come with this medium. Either way, here’s an NPR article with two audio geeks arguing about whether vinyl is better and why, and I found it very interesting to read.


  2. Christina Rae Locurto

    Hey, great blog post! I was immediately drawn to your post, and thought this topic was a very interesting and unique thing to blog about. I haven’t really thought much about vinyl vs. an mp3 recording, but the differences do make a lot of sense. I wonder if listening to vinyl records is better for you than listening to music via mp3, since the sound produced from each is immensely different. For example, does listening to vinyl records improve your overall mood more than listening to an mp3? Since a lot of studies have come to the conclusion that listening to music in general can improve moods and increase happiness levels, I wonder if listening to vinyl records will further increase those levels even more. To reach a conclusion, I would probably conduct a meta-analysis of this topic, and preform a large, randomized, double-blind experiment on two groups of people. I would measure their levels of happiness beforehand, and then afterwards, with each group listening to either vinyl or music via mp3. I’m very curious to know what those results would be, and if there would even be a noticeable difference between the two. Again, great blog post. It really piqued my interest and curiously on conducting an experiment on this topic.

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