So vinyl has made a comeback in a big way. Perhaps this was simply due to the resurgence in nostalgia that typified the late 2000s when everything retro was once again new. But this renewed popularity opened up a brand new and unexpected discussion – is vinyl actually the best way to listen to music?
As with any discussion of this sort the real answer is purely subjective. Some people love the way vinyl sounds while others prefer the way a digital format reproduces a song. There is no right or wrong answer to this question.
That being said I’m going to argue the merits of vinyl as the best because this is the Internet and that’s what we do here.
As with any good discussion dealing with vinyl there are two sides to this issue. (See what I did there?) The one side is the “crisp and clean” sound of digital formats as opposed to the “raw and analog” sound produced from a vinyl recording. Both of these distinctions are a bit reductive and do not really convey what is really happening when you listen to music on these formats.
Most people believe that the digital format is the better version because it reproduces the music without “pops and hisses” that can happen with vinyl and that it removes any background noise so that only the music as it was intended shines through. This sounds like a good argument on the surface but when you look deeper into how music is stored and played on digital this argument falls apart.
Most of the music stored and broadcast on digital is “lossy”. That is to say the audio is compressed in order to make it small enough to broadcast on streaming services or crammed on your phone. It does not matter what service you are listening to – it could be Spotify, the radio, or an MP3 – there will always be data loss and will not be getting the fullness of the track as intended by the artist.
Vinyl on the other hand is a lossless format. When pressing a record nothing gets lost. Everything the band or the producer intended is right there. Also on digital the tracks are often artificially engineered to be louder to compensate for the lost data often making the sound disto
rted – this does not happen with vinyl. The sound you hear is exactly what the artist wanted you to hear in all its rich and full glory.
And there is one more reason I feel vinyl is better – and this has nothing to do with sound, rather it is purely atheistic – and that is the album cover itself.
There is something special about the 12.375 inch square packaging that vinyl records come in. The images and deign have become an art form in and of themselves and to be able to go into a store and flip though the stacks is such a pleasing experience. It is tactile and tangible in a way that you simply don’t get with a tiny CD and something you will never experience with an MP3. Plus you get to go outside and see the world and other people and interact in a way that you just don’t do on Amazon and iTunes. So in a way vinyl is the best and most real kind of social media there is – from a certain point of view.
So for my money that is why vinyl is better than digital. We could go round and round on this issue (get it?) but why not just meet me down at the record shop and we can have a drink while sorting through the stacks. You don’t get to do that on Spotify.