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Differences in Sound Quality Between Streaming, CD and Vinyl Playback

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    sound-quality-google-searchFor people that care about getting the best sound out of their music collection, it’s important to understand which playback medium delivers the best sound. For enthusiasts, good sound quality is defined as an experience that makes you feel like you are really there listening to live musicians play.

    Many audiophiles insist that the old vinyl record technology still delivers more accurate sound playback than digital formats such as CD and streaming audio. Here are five compelling reasons why they prefer those old vinyl records.

    1. Digitally recorded music is a sampled medium

    Digital media such as CD and MP3 are composed of sound samples that describe, in machine language, what sounds are being produced at specific points in time. This process is called sampling.

    Vinyl records, on the other hand, are an analog medium, which means that the information is a continuous, unbroken flow of information. An analogy for digital information would be like drawing a series of dots, whereas analog information is like drawing a continuous line. When looking at this analogy, you can see an inherent inferiority in digital media because of the missing information between samples.

    1. Most digital music is stored in a lossy format

    The term “lossy” has to do with the sample rate. Standard CD recordings use a sample rate of about 44,100 samples per second. However, In order to create smaller files that can be downloaded or streamed more easily, files need to be compressed.

    Most people listen to music on their phones or mp3 player with much lower sample rates as low as 128 Hz or lower. These compressed files are referred to as “lossy,” which have a noticeable loss in audio quality. Vinyl, on the other hand, is never subject to these compression techniques.

    1. Digital recordings are victims of the “loudness war”

    With the introduction of the compact disc, there was a focus on increasing the loudness of a track during mastering. This has led to increasing amounts of distortion done during mastering that prevents listeners from hearing the music as the artists originally intended. Vinyl recordings, on the other hand, have remained immune to this problem.

    1. Vinyl is the only playback format that is fully analog and lossless

    With vinyl records, artists are able to transport their music from magnetic tape to LP to your headphones or speakers without any digital conversion or sampling along the way. This is the closest you can get to hearing what the artist intended.

    1. That “warm vinyl sound”

    According to many music enthusiasts, vinyl produces a pleasant and vibrant sound that many describe as “warm.” This is due to how vinyl more closely produces sound the way humans are used to hearing them. Another reason is vinyl tends to reveal more detail in the midrange, which flatters vocals and rock guitar.

    Vinyl is an old technology, but it’s not going away anytime soon. Not only does it offer a great deal of nostalgic value and collectability, but it’s still the best for a realistic and authentic music playback experience.

    Jessica Kane is a music connoisseur and an avid record collector. She currently writes for SoundStage Direct, her go-to place for all turntables and vinyl equipment, including VPI Turntables.

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