A recent blog post on Wired magazine promotes several audio myths popular among audiophiles and music listeners. The piece, titled Vinyl May Be Final Nail in CD's Coffin, discusses the continuing popularity of vinyl - the LP music format predecessor of the CD - and why, according to the author, it's poised to make a comeback to mainstream audiences.
Having had the opportunity - that is, "had no other option than to" - listen to my favorite music on vinyl for many years before switching to CDs, I know there's no way I'd ever go back. But there's no denying some people prefer the sound of vinyl - and it does have a sound - to its digital counterpart.
This brings us to one of the myths in the article:
Portability is no longer any reason to stick with CDs, and neither is audio quality.
Hey, it's one thing to subjectively prefer vinyl's "warmth" and "richer sound" (what others might call "muddy bass" and "rolled-off highs") to CDs. But that subjective judgment shouldn't be equated with better "audio quality," which implies a more rigorous technical standard of measurement.
Everything else being equal - and admittedly, that isn't always the case - I know of no technical criterion where vinyl is in any way superior to CD (with the possible exception of upper frequency range, but only in some special cases). This of course doesn't suggest that all CDs sound better than all LPs, or vice versa, or that CDs are perfect - only that CDs offer a (far) greater potential for accurate sound reproduction.
Which brings us to another myth:
Since the audio on vinyl can't be compressed to such extremes [as CDs], records generally offer a more nuanced sound.
Huh? The author here is referring to the so-called "loudness war," which refers to the music industry's tendency to highly compress the dynamic range of recordings so that they can be recorded at a louder level.
The fact that many in the recording industry are engaging in this silly and detrimental practice is really beside the point. There's no getting away from the fact that CDs offer - by far - the better recording medium for wide-dynamic-range recordings compared to vinyl by virtue of the former's inherently wider dynamic range capability.
And finally, when it comes to popular audio myths, here's one of my all-time favorites:
Another reason for vinyl's sonic superiority is that no matter how high a sampling rate is, it can never contain all of the data present in an analog groove, Nyquist's theorem to the contrary.
This statement is, of course, mistaken on several points, but remains a popular belief among many non-technical audiophiles and listeners. Obviously it shows a misunderstanding of Nyquist's theorem, but also a failure to recognize - or acknowledge - that the "data present in an analog groove" is limited in any way.
Once again this appears to be a case of music listeners and audiophiles grasping for technical reasons to justify their subjective preferences. Why they persist in doing this I'm not sure - perhaps it has something to do with a need to be "right" - but in the vinyl vs. CD debate this approach is destined to prove unrewarding.
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