One of the biggest draws toward vinyl record collecting is undoubtedly the sound quality. Many vinyl record collectors claim that vinyl has the best sound quality possible, but is it really true?
It may not be as clear-cut as you might think. In fact, the answer tends to be fairly subjective, hence why the argument still continues. Although many music enthusiasts are aware of the argument for vinyl sound quality, many don’t know the actual reasonings behind it.
So, if you’re someone who doesn’t know very much about the argument of Vinyl Records vs. Digital, here are some facts that may help you determine which medium has the superior sound quality.
Vinyl Records versus Digital Music
The Creation Process: Vinyl Records vs. Digital
Vinyl Record Creation Process
The creation of a vinyl record first starts with a recording. Afterward, the discs undergo the lacquer cutting lathe, which is the machine that cuts the specific grooves into the discs. Then the discs are dipped in a tin chloride solution.
Once the tin layer is removed, the negative image of the record, called a stamper, is placed onto both sides of a disc-shaped piece of PVC. From there, it is then heated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and pressed into the records we know today.
Digital Creation Process (Streaming)
The process of submitting music onto streaming is much simpler than the creation of vinyl. It starts out, of course, with the master recording.
The recordings are then uploaded to a streamer’s server, then the service delivers their data to the user whenever they select a song.
This data is delivered in small amounts continuously, allowing the user to listen to the song without waiting for buffering or download speeds. They are then able to play the song of their choice on the service.
Dynamic Range: Vinyl Records vs. Digital
This refers to the variation between the loudest sound and the quietest sounds. The range is how loud or quiet the recording can get.
Dynamic Range of Vinyl Records
Vinyl Records have a dynamic range of 55-70dB.
Dynamic Range of Digital Music
Digital Recordings have a dynamic range of 90-96dB (decibels).
Digital has a Wider Dynamic Range
Digital recordings actually have the advantage, with 90-96dB (decibels), whereas vinyl records typically have a dynamic range of 55-70dB. Essentially, this means digital has a larger range of sound volume than vinyl is capable of.
Musical Sound Mastering
The mastering process for vinyl and digital is different due to the different dynamic ranges available for each.
Musical Sound Mastering for Vinyl Records
If the sound is too loud on the vinyl, it can cause the player’s needle to jump. Because of this, the recordings for vinyl are often purposely made slightly quieter in order to not stress the record players.
Musical Sound Mastering for Digital
However, the master recordings for digital are often more life-like due to their audio not being manipulated and purposely made louder for digital consumption.
Noise Distortion: Vinyl Records vs. Digital
Noise Distortion with Vinyl Records
The most common noise distortion in vinyl is caused by dust or scratches on the surface of the record, resulting in a slight popping noise or skips. If your vinyl record is warped, it can also result in changes to the sound as well.
Noise Distortion with Digital
Although digital doesn’t have the same problems as vinyl, there can be issues with audio files whenever they are compressed, causing small amounts of audio to be removed. However, this is typically imperceptible to the average listener.
Overall Experience of Use: Vinyl Records vs. Digital
This one comes down to personal preference. Some love the physical act of putting a record on and playing it. Others prefer the ease of use of streaming.
Those who are musical enthusiasts are likely always going to prefer vinyl no matter what, and those who are used to streaming tend to gravitate towards it and likely will continue to do so.
Because there are pros and cons to both digital and vinyl, it makes it hard to make a definitive stance on the argument. This means it’s up to the individual to listen to both and find out for themselves.
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About Elijah Cross
Elijah Cross is a 22-year-old writer in Orange County, California. Originally from Tennessee, he moved to Irvine to pursue a career in media in hopes to become an author. In his free time, he enjoys thrift shopping, record collecting, and occasionally skating.
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