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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's true! Vinyl IS better than digital!!

 It's a topic of endless debate, but really there is no way a stream of digits can beat the real vinyl experience.

By David Mellor, Course Director of Audio Masterclass

For people of a certain age, there is no doubt that digital audio is superior to anything analog has to offer.

To be this 'certain age' you would have been in your professionally formative years in the early to mid-1980s.

Anyone who had acquired professional experience by this time, but was still young enough to be receptive to new developments, would have been in no doubt that digital audio was MASSIVELY better than analog.

The problem is that, like most people, experience acquired during one's formative years becomes hardened and ossified. People become 'set in their ways'.

But digital ways are not always the best ways, and the comparison with vinyl is a case in point.

By any objective measurement, an uncompressed digital recording is better than an analog recording on vinyl. The frequency response can be much better, the distortion and noise are very much lower. And there are no clicks. Well, not if everything is working properly.

So a digital recording is better than vinyl then?

Well no.

I would contend that any recording made up until around 1985 was made to sound at its best on vinyl.
If you were a producer, you would want the listening experience to be at its best for the buyers of your product.

There would of course be some differences between the sound you heard through the studio monitors and the sound of the end-product, but you would allow for that and make compensations - both technical and musical.

So transferring a pre-1985 master tape to CD may be closer to what the producer heard in the studio, but it isn't necessarily closer to the producer's intentions.

So what about modern recordings - surely they sound better in a digital format?

Well yes, except for one thing...

We are all still hooked on the sounds of the past.

Vintage microphones, vacuum tubes, so-called 'classic' equipment. It's all so popular that I don't have to argue my point any further.

And vinyl is part of the sound of the past that we still seem to love so much.

Take that out of the chain, and something is missing.

Maybe the answer is to master to vinyl, then transfer that to digital. But then people would start worrying - as they do - about the quality of the analog-to-digital conversion.

I have to say that I love my vinyl collection. I buy records cheaply secondhand then transfer them to my iPod. The records themselves are stored in the attic.

But then that may say something about the music you can find on vinyl - and how set in my ways my musical tastes have become!

Publication date: Friday February 12, 2010
Author: David Mellor, Course Director of Audio Masterclass

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