Music - Other

Which is better Vinyl Records or Cds – CD

Alice Jones's image for:
"Which is better Vinyl Records or Cds - CD"
Image by: 

Compact Discs produce a far better quality of sound reproduction than vinyl records.

I must concede that there is indeed something very pleasurable about the sound, the feel and the packaging of the vinyl LP. I don't think the CD can ever compare with the nostalgic satisfaction of admiring the artwork, taking the glossy black, plastic record out of the sleeve, watching it start to spin as the needle places itself on the first groove, and hearing the crackle of the needle as the record starts to play.

But for me, that's just nostalgia of a bygone age, in the same way that some modern digital radio players replicate the old wireless box. This is proof that however much progress is made, we will always look longingly at the past.

The comparison really must be about sound quality, and here the CD wins hands down. An audio Compact Disc is capable of reproducing the sound close to exactly as the artist intended it, and enables the listener to hear the performance as if they were sitting in the studio listening to the original recording. The vinyl album, unfortunately, does not.

Scientifically, this is because of many factors, the most important of which are a much-improved signal-to-noise ratio and greater dynamic range.

Signal-to-noise ratio is a measure of signal strength (the sound of the music) relative to background noise (unwanted sounds, including unavoidable atmospherics in the studio and playback noises caused by dust, etc.). The greater the signal-to-noise ratio, the more improved the quality of the audio sound as the listener hears it.

Compact Discs have a signal-to-noise ratio, according to the Red Book standard, of 96 dB, compared to 60 dB for vinyl records.

The main reasons for this are the higher number of quantisation bits on the CD, and a much higher tolerance to dust and minor scratches on the Compact Disc, compared to the vinyl equivalent. The grooves in long-playing vinyl records are very intolerant and easily scratched, which causes noticeable degradation of sound over time.

Dynamic range describes the ratio between the loudest possible undistorted sound and the quietest sound, or noise level. These two terms are related, but not the same. A higher dynamic range will produce a higher quality sound, and less distortion at louder volumes.

The Compact Disc has a dynamic range of 90dB, compared to 65dB in a vinyl record.

The superior dynamic range of a CD is due to a lower signal-to-noise ratio and the quality of being able to reproduce higher sound levels without causing distortion. With LP discs, especially at lower frequencies, the needle pickup can jump out of the groove at higher volume levels, causing further scratches and damage to the vinyl disc.

To summarize, I prefer Compact Discs because of the superior sound they produce, and it is scientifically provable that they do produce a better sound. I enjoy the crisp sound of the music on a CD as if I was there listening to the performance. I like to listen to music as it was intended, and if possible at higher volumes, especially when listening to a classical piece. Knowing that my disc will not be distorted or damaged by turning the volume up is important to me.

Some people think that the CD is "too polished" to be as enjoyable as a record. I agree that this argument has some value, so I agree that the vinyl record still has it's place in the world! It is fun and it is comforting.

Personally though, I think the ultimate answer lies in the fact that I can back up my vinyl records to CDs, but I cannot back up my CDs to a vinyl record. The Compact Disc is the winner for me.

More about this author: Alice Jones

From Around the Web