Is Vinyl actually superior to modern audio formats?
So, it seems that a dated audio format is strangely making quite the comeback with its recent 25 year-high in sales. But I’ve been thinking, is vinyl better than our modern formats, such as the CD or online streaming? Or are people just slightly blinded by nostalgia?
As a slight old timer and vinyl lover, I’ll try not to be too biased… but here are some pros and cons to this vintage format.
Let’s start with all the good points that to help you decide between the vinyl or CD.
Vinyl is known to be a “lossless format”, meaning that it has more more musical information to go with than a regular MP3 file. Because of this, a lot of people consider it a much more superior sound quality than digital – me included, as you probably guessed. A lack of digital conversion complications usually means you are hearing exactly what the artist intends.
However, to get the most of this you need a good turntable with a good needle. Definitely a worthy investment though.
Some artists choose or create some amazing artwork to accompany their music, but most of the time you can’t really see it very well. The images on CD cases (or even cassette cases back in the day) are too small, resulting in no real appreciation for it. If you digitally download an album you’ll probably never even bother to look at it properly.
Vinyl packaging gives album artwork a meaning once again. I recently picked up Ghost‘s newest release, Meliora, on LP to find there is so much more to that artwork than I initially noticed. I had the same experience when browsing through a bunch of my old Iron Maiden and Rush records too. Even though I’ve seen them all before, I’m still noticing new details each time.
Admittedly, I’ve only just started wearing my specs as often as I should. I’m sure that has nothing to do with it though…
A better physical product
I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve had a CD or digital download I’ve not really felt like I’ve had my money’s worth. Sure, the music that I purchased is what I wanted and it’s great to support the artist and label, but it always felt a bit empty in a way.
Buying an LP feels like a much greater investment. Because you’re always getting it out and being more physically involved with it, it feels like I’ve gotten my moneys worth and I make good use of it. They’re not rocket science to work, but they’re still fairly idiot-proof at the same time.
Digital Download Codes
A lot of newer vinyl prints are coming with codes that can be entered into a website to get the purchased albums digitally at no extra cost. If you want to take your music on the go then you can do so without paying an extra penny!
If that isn’t perfection, then I don’t know what is.
Yes, I’ll admit it. There are a few minor drawbacks to this very well aged technology.
Turning Them Over
Sometimes you just want to sit back and relax while blasting out some of your favorite music. I could listen to hours of Pink Floyd and The Doobie Brothers without moving an inch. However, if I’m doing this on my turntable then there is a slight problem.
It’s not that much of a big deal really, unless you’re super lazy, but LPs are split onto 2 sides, sometimes 4 sides on 2 records. This means you can’t sit motionless and listen to your music for any longer than half an hour at a time.
Carl says this is his prime reason for never investing in records. He often makes unintelligent remarks like that – I’m not surprised.
No Music on the Go
I know I said you can get download codes, but that tends to be exclusive to newer records. If you go to an old record shop and strike lucky buying yourself a bargain original print of Led Zeppelin II, but don’t own it digitally, then you’re going to have to buy it again to hear it on the go.
Back in the day this wasn’t a problem since the idea of a mobile music device hadn’t been thought of, but in this day and age it’s quite the essential really. Long train journeys get quite dull to the sound of coughing, snorting and screaming children.
Crackles and Fragility
Anyone that respects the vinyl disc should know not to be too rough with them, but it’s a common fact that people are reckless and things get broken. I remember when Malcolm managed to obliterate an old, allegedly indestructible Nokia phone many years ago. Putting an LP in his hand would be its certain demise.
Crackles caused by dust are quite noticeable in quiet sections of music. Now it’s up to you whether that’s a bother or not, some people like it and say it gives an authentic feel at low levels, where others find it destructive to their musical enjoyment.
It can easily be avoided by keeping your turntable and records clean though, as well as making sure you have a good dust cover over the top when you’re not using it.
If you want to collect vinyls then you’ve got to save your pennies. Newer prints aren’t often too bad, ranging from £13 to £20, but if you’re after something that dates back a bit and is still in a worthy condition then be prepared to hit the £50+ mark.
Having said that, if you get the opportunity to visit your local record store and browse through the used vinyl records section, you can sometimes come across a rarity for quite the bargain. However, if you’re likely to notice it then other people are too. Just hope that you’re faster than them.
There you have it. Most of those cons aren’t that much a worry really, are they?
All in all, I would say that even though Vinyl is a format that hasn’t evolved much over the last 60 decades, it’s still a superior format. The sound is generally better, the product is more physical and you’ll likely end up with a digital download code anyway.