Does vinyl sound better?

It’s impossible to answer this question with a simple “yes” or “no.” Defining what denotes a better or worse way of listening to music really depends on a variety of factors, both objective and preferential. In essence, each type of medium produces a different experience. When you get down to it, what we’re really talking about is how sound waves are manipulated. Every type of playback system has its own capacity and inherent properties. The way that they are designed creates different sound qualities. Before a song even gets played in your living room, it takes a lot of work to take a recorded track, blend it with other tracks, and remove any unwanted sound frequencies (i.e. the natural hum of a room).

Vinyl has a strong reputation among music lovers. Turntables represent a time when people were excited to collect physical copies of their favourite music. In an age in which the Internet allows you to play any song, regardless of artist or album, the simplicity of listening to a single record from start to finish is almost a lost art.

Historically speaking, vinyl records feel as though they’re imbued with more integrity than things like tapes or CD’s (or worse, digital files); they weren’t solely bodies of music, they were also generally visually appealing. Because vinyl records carry a sense of preservation of the past with them, a lot of people perceive them to be more “authentic.” They represent a rendition of music that seemed to care more about generating a specific type of listening experience and as such, they make for the perfect gift idea.

To question whether vinyl necessarily sounds “better,” also calls to question the influence of how records are construed due to their historical worth. Though, to specifically evaluate sound, listening to a vinyl record is often perceived as being more of a textural experience. Objectively, it is the physicality of the needle on the record has an effect on the overall sound. A lot of people describe this as a “warm” feel.

Vinyl records are special, because they create a specific type of listening experience, one that allows the listener to be submerged into one particular body of music. To claim that vinyl necessarily sounds better than other mediums is inherently preferential, but points to a sentiment that many music lovers have: vinyl records represent a preservation of music from a time in which songs weren’t faceless files in a super-saturated sea of data.