Monday, October 29, 2007

Vinyl Better Than CD?

An amazingly lucid discussion of the benefits of Vinyl over CD (or lack thereof) is going on over at Slashdot right now.  So far the trolls are straying away.  If you want some understanding of dynamic range compression, sampling, etc.  Check it out.

For the record, I'm in the CD is better camp.  It handles the frequencies that humans can hear (with perhaps a very small minority left out) and is much more stable.  Unless we are mastering CDs for our dogs to listen to, 44.1 is probably sufficient for a consumption medium.  Sure, there are mastering issues on many CDs right now but that's not the fault of CD but rather the process.  A CD without all those issues could easily be produced.


  1. I don't see that anyone has addressed *why* CDs are overcompressed; because users *want* low-dynamic-range audio.  Dynamics are all fine and dandy in a concert hall, but they just don't work for background music.
    I have a couple of DVDs with "good" dynamic range, and I have to fiddle with the remote constantly while I'm watching them.
    Start the movie with average volume...
    Credits start rolling (turn down the music...)
    Plot exposition starts (turn up the dialog...)
    Action starts (turn down the music...)
    Dynamics only work if they're used sparingly, and if the user is willing to accept them.  Remember <blink>?

  2. Claude Shannon said that you only needed two samples per wave to be able to reproduce the sound.
    I don't think that aliasing effects have been sufficiently accounted for.  Aliasing effects are familiar in the visual world when a stripped shirt shows up in a moire pattern on television.
    Can not the same thing happen to sound?

  3. Maurits
    WRT DVDs, you can adjust the dynamic range out of the Dolby Digital decoder in either your DVD player or HT amp. Most HT amps have a "night mode" that does just that.
    As for CDs, anyone who wants a low dynamic range surely does not listen to music for pleasure.
    Proper background music will always have a compressor between the source and amplifier.

  4. > [Reduced dynamic range] produces a flat, boring sound, without punch, impact, or emotion.
    True, but you can hear the quiet bits in a car.
    "I think you overestimate our dear Viennese, my friend.  Did you know you didn't even give them a good bang at the end of the songs?  To let them know when to clap?"
    -- Salieri, /Amadeus/

  5. @Doug, Good question.  Nyquist theorem says that you can sample a sound frequency 1/2 the sampling rate without any aliasing.  That means a 44.1KHz CD can reproduce anything 22.05 KHz and lower with no problems.  Anything in the 22.05+ KHz range would cause aliasing.  The way that is avoided is by putting the audio through a low-pass filter before sampling.  That way only 22.05 KHz sounds ever get to the sampler and no aliasing can occur.

  6. I agree that CD's are a more stable medium than vinyl, however, given that, they are more artificial sounding to me with less fidelity.  I well-cared for vinyl record played on good analog equipment will provide better sound and higher fidelity than a CD.  I have records that are over 40 years old that still sound pristene.  CD's and MP3 players are convenient, but I think you will find that most audiophiles prefer vinyl for sound quality and high fidelity.

  7. I think that CD's have more technical potential than Vinyl, in terms of mere audio fidelity.  
    However, given the recent trends in the recording industry, many CD's are highly overcompressed, THIS is the issue.
    Take Depeche Mode's most recent album "Playing the Angel" for example.  A side by side waveform comparison, between the Vinyl and CD versions of the album, indicate a TREMENDOUS DIFFERENCE in dynamic range, with the latter of the two showing clear signs of extreme (IMHO) dynamic compression.
    I had always thought Vinyl advocates were foolish, until Playing the Angel came out.  The  CD just sounded like utter and absolute effing garbage, and after taking a look at the waveforms I quickly understood why.
    Vinyl is superior IMHO not because it is more capable, but because it is the medium within which the better mastered versions of more recent mass marketed popular music may be found.
    Big record labels just want their stuff to stand out when played on the radio, so they are constantly churning out super loud over compressed garbage, hence the so-called "loudness race."
    Until somebody realizes how jacked up most CD's  are in terms of mastering, the average joe will just go on assuming that they are superior in quality because they are the more "modern" medium of audio reproduction.
    Nevertheless, I will choose the medium with the superior mastering over the one with superior audio capability REGARDLESS OF WHAT PEOPLE SAY.