You Still Think That Vinyl Sounds Better Than CD? Listen To The Experts
I don’t know about any of you, but I don’t participate at all into this vinyl revival craze. Between Vacation vinyl, Origami vinyl, Amoeba, High Fidelity, Rockaway, Mono Records, Franky’s, Jacknife, Permanent Records,… I am surrounded by shops selling vinyl, and I am just talking about the closest ones! How did this happen?
Nobody is selling CDs anymore, but old or new vinyl are hot again. Who is buying them? According to what I’ve read, mostly young people, hip students who pretend that ‘listening to a vinyl LP provides a richer listening experience’, and ‘older people’ who are probably nostalgic of the past. Curiously men are much more attracted to vinyl than women, 59% versus 21%, I just wonder what is the sex of the rest of the buyers… But you hear all the time people pretending that ‘vinyl sounds better’, and I have never bought that idea. Vinyl is old and technology is improving all the time, how something invented in 1888 could be better than the CD which made an apparition in the late 70s??
I was listening to an interview of Sean Olive who is director of acoustic research at Harman International, and Scott Metcalfe, who is director of recording arts and sciences at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University on NPR. Two experts, no doubt about this, and what did they had to say about the burning vinyl vs CD question? They both prefer CDs and this is why:
Scott Metcalfe: ‘Well, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m primarily a recording engineer, as far as working with music. And it’s – the closer thing to what I’m sending into the recorder is very much what I’m getting back out. With analog formats, although the sound can be very pleasing in certain styles, it’s definitely imparting its own sound on it. And I think, to an extent, it’s that sound that some people are really drawn to. But it’s nice as an engineer to have the confidence of knowing that what I’m putting into – in most cases these days, the computer – is pretty close to what I’m going to get out.’
Sean Olive: ‘Well, I mean, I grew up listening to records up until about ’85, when the CD was already out. And I was involved in testing loudspeakers up at the National Research Council in Canada. And we were testing cartridges at that time, and it was quite apparent that the amount of distortion coming out of these devices was very high compared to CD. So what we found was that vinyl was a limiting factor in our ability to do accurate and reliable listening tests on loudspeakers, and we had to find a more reliable and more accurate medium.’
It’s pretty clear, these two experts are saying that CDs have a much better sound, much closer to the original – and of course I am not talking about MP3s which are a different format – but people don’t want to hear it. CDs are almost dead and vinyl sales are growing again! My guess is that this vinyl nostalgia is a combination of fetishism about an object, an artwork, a ritual,… but it is basically unfounded to say that vinyl sound better. But this is an old debate now that albums are downloaded on a Samsung phone.