Some time back I blogged about the audio myths surrounding the vinyl and CD formats and how the former simply couldn't compete technically with the latter. Since then, I periodically receive emails from non-technical vinyl fans/audiophiles who have run across my post on the Web, and the discussion usually goes something like this:
Vinylphile: I saw your article about vinyl. You are wrong - vinyl sounds better than CD. There is NO WAY that the digital process can preserve the original analog signal by chopping it up into numbers and reconstituting it.
Me: Hey, if you prefer the sound of vinyl that's great. However that subjective judgment shouldn't be confused with the objective facts, which show that CD/digital does a far more accurate job of reproducing the original musical signal.
Vinylphile: Who says? Vinyl provides a warmth and immediacy that digital can't, and provides more continuity in the music. Digital veils the music. Obviously the reason is because digital is a much more complicated process than analog and results in "digital" music, while analog preserves the analog waveforms that our ears are designed to listen to.
Me: I'm afraid you're mistaken on several points. If you choose not to believe the technical facts regarding CD/digital - which have long since been demonstrated in theory and practice - and instead wish to believe that digital somehow audibly and mysteriously "veils" or fails to "preserve the continuity" of the original signal, or that the end resulting signal isn't just as analog as the original, then that's certainly your prerogative.
Vinylphile: You're talking about using electronic instruments to measure digital's "superiority," but these measurements aren't relevant to what our ears perceive. I let my ears judge - not some sophisticated electronic devices.
Me: [Sigh.] Thanks for your comments.
Obviously the subjective aspects of audio in music recording and playback will continue to remain fertile ground for discussion/debate among audiophiles. However, over 25 years after the introduction of the Compact Disc, there's no reason for there still to be confusion or misunderstanding over the technical basics of digital audio - even among the non-technical public.
So who's to blame? Audiophiles themselves must take some of the responsibility. Good technical information is readily available - on this site as well as many others - but won't benefit those who restrict their "research" on the subject only to resources like subjectivist audiophile publications and like-minded forums.
At the same time, it is possible for the unwary to be led astray by stumbling across authoritative-appearing sites on the Web that contain incorrect or misleading content. For example, several of the emails I've received on this subject have mentioned one url in particular (http://www.howstuffworks.com/question487.htm).
The content on that page, which presumes to answer the question "Is the sound on vinyl records better than on CDs," is, frankly, tripe. On a quick scan I counted six outright errors - mostly uninformed opinion being expressed as fact.
Unfortunately, this is notable because 1.) it appears on what is ostensibly an authoritative site, and 2.) this particular page comes up in the top search results on Google using the terms "vinyl" and "CD." It appears this content has been up for some time and has never been corrected.
Perhaps at some point I'll create a post here specifically refuting the technical errors on that page, as well as listing some of the many good technical resources available on the subject. If anyone has suggested links - or other material/comments - for such a page, please let me know.
Comments, questions or suggestions? Email me at email@example.com.
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