Up to this day, many of us still don’t know the difference between analog vs digital music and are wondering which is better– CD or vinyl. This has been discussed over and over by audiophiles since the CD arrived. It has been asked around too much that it’s like a CD skipping or vinyl record that’s gone wonky. The answer is, of course, it’s totally up to you. It depends on your preference and in what terms you measure what is good.
But it’s time we talk about it again since many regular folks are getting curious with vinyl again. After all, vinyl sales have skyrocketed and even overtaken CD last year. Something that hasn’t happened in the last 35 years!
Many of us are ruminating if it’s time to ditch the CD players for a turntable. It’s quite tempting to buy limited edition custom vinyl records. They’re all too cute and fancy you’d want to spend all your hard-earned money on them, especially now during the pandemic that you can’t even attend a $20 concert. But first, you gotta know if vinyl is really worth it or you should stick to CDs.
Let us compare the CD and Vinyl based on the following criteria:
Most of us cannot tell the difference in sound quality and for those who can, they have different preferences so it’s hard to make any recommendation. But let’s break down the difference between CD and vinyl in purely technical terms.
Some like the gentle sound of vinyl because it has a dynamic range limit that’s more soothing to the ears (70-80 dB) unlike the CD which can go up to 150 dB. Many engineers push this limit to make the CD worth it. But of course, to some of us and depending on the type of music, louder isn’t necessarily better.
But the good thing about the CD is that since it has a higher dynamic range, CD can afford to have certain instruments go as loud as they can like cymbals, which could get distorted when it’s on vinyl. However, a good mastering engineer can turn any of these limitations into something pleasing to the ears. So which medium is better? We should let the CD win on this one because it can accommodate more.
Fidelity means how accurately a copy reproduces its source. “High fidelity” or “hi-fi” were popularized for equipment and recordings which exhibited more accurate sound reproduction. CD also wins because analog media like vinyl lose fidelity with every single playback. With the CD, unless it gets damaged by scratches and whatnot, the quality of sound remains the same.
Most of us don’t really care so much about the technical difference between vinyl and CD because the music listening experience requires more than just the quality of sound. For most of us who are considering buying music on vinyl, we’re really all about the experience!
The CD is all cool and it’s much cheaper and compact. Doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. Just don’t scratch the CDs and you’re all good. The vinyl, on the other hand, is like owning a cat. You have to be very careful on how you handle it and stack it, but as the Little Prince once said “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” But it’s not just the time, of course. The money too! There are vinyl records that cost $25,000 or more and boy oh boy, do we feel proud of owning these pretty things (not that you’d buy something that expensive! Or…)
The act of removing vinyl from its sleeve and putting it on the turntable is a kind of spiritual act. It’s just simply more romantic. They might say you’re a hipster but you’re not the only one! Imagine you have a date over for the night, would you want to listen to your favorite artist’s album on CD or vinyl? Why?
There are so many cool CDs with thick booklets that contain lyrics and photos of the band but unless it’s an autographed CD, vinyl is still the hotter choice. Why? You get a big artwork and the custom vinyl records sold today are absolutely beautiful and worth collecting. If you just do a quick Google search of creative vinyl records, your mouth would water! There are just so many pretty vinyl records released in the last decade.
CD duplication and custom vinyl pressing are also totally different. CD takes 2 weeks to make while vinyl takes at least 4 months! CD duplication and packaging is also 3-5 times cheaper. Vinyl pressing is so meticulous a process that the artists consider it a work of art, not just a medium for music.
Vinyl costs more and requires a lot of maintenance. It’s not even as technically superior as the CD. The CD is cheaper and it sounds great.
But can we decide which is the better medium based on these?
It’s a “you do you” kind of thing.
It all depends on the individual.