Does vinyl sound better than digital?

Lady listening to record player using headphones

If you’ve ever stepped into a record shop at any point in your life, you’ve probably heard someone (typically a skinny, bearded dude with funny glasses) rant about how vinyl sounds better than digital music formats. While it’s difficult not to roll your eyes at this sentiment, these bearded fellows do have a good point: the experience of listening to vinyl really is one of the most sonically fulfilling gifts you can treat your ears to. When considered with aspects such as collectability, tangibility and evolving technology to make for the best possible listening experience, it’s no surprise that Australia reported an 80% increase in record sales last year alone.

Graphic equaliser and sound dials

“vinyl is the only fully lossless analogue musical format”

Digital conversion and compression is nasty

Due to the way the data is encoded and recorded, vinyl is the only fully lossless analogue musical format. This means you get to skip the nastiness that occurs with digital conversion. When you’re streaming music or listening to an MP3 file, you’re hearing a digitally converted version of the original studio recording. This is typically compressed to allow for additional storage space on your smartphone or laptop. However, this compression process removes frequencies which are deemed inaudible to the human ear, decreasing the intended quality of the recording. So, why is it that digital files can’t top the sound quality of an antiquated black disc introduced over six decades ago?

“When you play your records, you’re hearing exactly what the artist or band is wanting you to hear”

It’s all in the groove

The grooves of a vinyl record are actually raw musical waveforms containing every single little nuance possible. When you play your records, you’re hearing exactly what the artist or band is wanting you to hear. This results in the music adopting an extremely organic sound, which is designed to directly correspond to the function of the human ear. While digital files try to replicate this, there’s an obvious difference between the two. If you listen to your favourite album on vinyl and compare it to the album online, for example, you’ll be able to hear the nuances of vinyl immediately.

Sonically, vinyl sounds a lot warmer than compressed digital files. You can notice this straight away when you listen to records with plenty of fuzzy, rock n’ roll guitars – think Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Although there’s definitely a renaissance in making high quality digital files, with streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal lowering the loudness of their songs to allow for greater sonic distinctions, you still can’t beat vinyl for a guaranteed high quality listening experience.

 Guy looking through records and about to play on turntable

“like the saying goes, you can’t hug an MP3”

There’s more than just sound quality

As well as sounding as good as hot buttered toast on a Sunday morning, there’s more to vinyl than just superb sound quality. Records have an uncanny vintage vibe that oozes out a lot of cool, and many people collect vinyl simply for the aesthetic quality. Whether it’s the sights and sounds of a spinning, crackling second-hand LP on a vintage hifi system or simply just the thrill of holding your favourite album in your hands, vinyl definitely has a lot to offer. This is particularly so for current generations who grew up with iPods as their main musical format. Nowadays, you can spot a record player and a crate of LPs in almost every student sharehouse or apartment around the country – like the saying goes, you can’t hug an MP3. For others, collecting vinyl can also act as a viable hobby and even an income stream, with many vinyl enthusiasts constantly scouring crates to find the best bargains for their collection.

Crosley T100 black on white bench top with ornaments around

Better together

While it’s evident by now that listening to music on vinyl is a whole heap better than digital music formats, the modern age allows both technologies to coexist seamlessly and in some cases even work together. Various turntable manufacturers, such as Crosley, Audio-Technica and GPO now offer Bluetooth record players, so you can hook up wireless speakers and control your turntable via your smartphone. If that’s not enough, many turntables also include USB cable connectivity, allowing you to rip and record your LPs straight to your computer so you have a high-quality digital version of the album. And with vinyl and record player sales at the highest point in almost 30 years, you’d be crazy not to see what all the fuss is about. Especially when there’s so many budget record players on the market capable of giving you the best possible listening experience.

So stop your clicking and tapping! Come experience music as it was meant to be.


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