CD/Digital VS Vinyl - Anybody listen to vinyl records?

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  • ryohazuki1983 21 May 2014 11:12:47 853 posts
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    Hi,

    I've been doing some reading online and found that a lot of people prefer the sound quality off vinyl over CDs/Digial and wondered what EGers thought?

    Does anybody on EG listen to vinyl records? I must be getting old as I would like a collection off records and can be fussy about sound quality although I'm confused as to what turntable/speaker system to get, so looking for suggestions on a decent first setup.

    Cheers,
  • Tom_Servo 21 May 2014 11:15:00 18,079 posts
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    It's a little better but you need a ridiculously expensive sound system to get the best out of it and new vinyl records aren't cheap anyway. By and large I can't be arsed with it.
  • Deleted user 21 May 2014 11:23:27
    I have a Rega RP1 that is a pretty good entry-level turntable. As for speaker system, you'll need an amp with a built in preamp or you can buy a separate preamp, I have a Marantz with it built-in which was about £200. As for speakers, the world is your oyster but I rather like my mordant short speakers which were around £500.

    So yeah, in total it nears the £1000 mark and none of it is top range gear. An acquaintance has an amp that cost £2500! It is lovely though.
  • BigOrkWaaagh 21 May 2014 11:30:27 10,483 posts
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    I'll stick with mp3s off Amazon.
  • smoothpete 21 May 2014 11:39:49 37,666 posts
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    I would love a huge vinyl collection but I don't have the money nor the space
  • Deleted user 21 May 2014 11:45:48
    I've got a collection of vinyl from the 80's and a turntable that plugs into my amp. I got the turntable from Argos for about £20.

    I can't say that the sound is "better". Maybe its richer and all that, but you've also got pops and crackles as the needle goes over a slight scratch or piece of dust and you have to change the thing over every 6 songs or so (away more for singles obviously). There was a reason that CD's replaced vinyl and that was convenience. CD's are smaller, don't need turning over, can be dumped onto a hard drive / mp3 player and handle fluff etc better.

    Most people can't really tell the difference in the sound quality and I "suspect" the "return" to vinyl is more a marketing story made up record producers who are desperate to fleece people as much as possible.
  • BillMurray 21 May 2014 11:48:29 9,698 posts
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    I've got a couple of hundred records. Haven't bought a CD in about 8 years. Mostly all the records I buy come with a download code these days so it's the best of both worlds. My system is my Dad's old Sony stack he got in the early 90's but it still sounds great.
  • quadfather 21 May 2014 13:26:30 38,799 posts
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    Got a pair of technics 1210s that I use on an almost daily basis. I've had to spend a bit of cash getting them set up separately on their own but I'm lucky enough to have the room. Like Bill says, you get an mp3 download code on most new stuff so have the choice. But given the choice, vinyl all the way by far

    It's fun mixing too with friends round etc
  • Deleted user 21 May 2014 13:52:01
    LegacySystem wrote:
    Most people can't really tell the difference in the sound quality and I "suspect" the "return" to vinyl is more a marketing story made up record producers who are desperate to fleece people as much as possible.
    Hah, that's quite a cynical point of view.
  • Tom_Servo 21 May 2014 13:58:57 18,079 posts
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    It wasn't really made up, it had been happening for years by the time major labels noticed.

    Now, it definitely is a marketing thing. Just look at the extortionate prices they want for reissues of stuff by legacy acts on Record Store Day every year.

    (Also worth pointing out that the limited run of these RSD specials is entirely manufactured by the labels. Creates fake demand)
  • Deleted user 21 May 2014 14:05:04
    I am shocked by how much HMV and John Lewis charge for vinyl. Second hand, charity shops and record fairs are by far the best way to obtain vinyl.
  • Tom_Servo 21 May 2014 14:08:17 18,079 posts
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    Heh, John Lewis sell vinyl? Didn't even realise they sold music.

    Independent record shops generally want around £20 for a new record. On RSD that can rise to £30 for a standard vinyl reissue, even more for a silly boxset. Second hand and charity shops are all well and good, but it doesn't really work if you want to be keeping really up to date with new releases.

    It's ridiculous. Considering you can generally buy MP3s for £6-7 there's simply no contest unless you have serious money to burn.

    Edited by Tom_Servo at 14:08:40 21-05-2014
  • gamingdave 21 May 2014 14:15:24 5,062 posts
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    LegacySystem wrote:
    I've got a collection of vinyl from the 80's and a turntable that plugs into my amp. I got the turntable from Argos for about £20.

    I can't say that the sound is "better".
    Well it's certainly not going to be "better" on a £20 turntable from Argos!

    I've got a nice turntable setup at work in the form of a 1210 with a good Nagaoka cartridge running through an old Yamaha amp that cost £1k back in the late 90s. It's also connected to my PC via a pro M-Audio interface. It's by no means top end but it's certainly not budget either.

    The analogue/digital argument in audio is as old as digital files, and there is so much nonsense spoken (in both camps). In reality a CD quality digital file is capable of capturing all of the audible data in a vinyl record. A high quality digital rip of a vinyl record is indistinguishable from the original to most people (myself included).

    Vinyl frequently sounds different (not better, or worse, as thats preference) to digital recordings because of it's imperfections. Pop and crackle whilst technically interference can have an emotional effect connecting you with the recording. Then there is the way the music is stored on vinyl with RIAA equalisation. The bass is reduced and the highs increased and a preamp then reverses this. As a result different preamps have different effects on the music and essentially act as tone controls.

    In an analytical sense you would want a pure undistorted signal every time, but it's a personal thing. Some people like more treble and bass with a V shape curve, other tweak sound in different ways, others want the flattest sound possible. So vinyl can sound different even though no obvious tone controls are used, the combination of stylus/cartridge and amp having a bigger impact than the source does in a digital chain.

    It's well known that listening environment has an effect on how we hear music, as well as our other senses, and this interaction with the music via holding records can have a positive effect in conecting with the music, which selecting a digital track from a folder on a hard drive can't replicate. Listening to vinyl is a more engaging experience as it is more deliberate. Vinyl is also attractive to look at, as are the sleeves, and I'm a big advocate for listening to albums in their entirety and never using shuffle, these factors again add to the experience. I do think the tactility of vinyl is a huge plus.

    Another big factor is the mastering. Modern albums (and reissues) are increasingly mastered for listening to on portable devices in digital formats. The dynamic range and subtlety in these recordings are often lost, and instead it's a brute force approach to make it sound louder which they think is better. If you like older music frequently the original vinyl pressings will sound better than CD reissues simply because they come from a better master.

    Some in the vinyl camp insist that analogue recordings sound better than digital ones, but for that to be possible the vinyl needs to have come from a purely analogue chain from the mics to the mixing desk, to the editing, and to the vinyl press. If it's turned into a digital file at any point you might as well have a lossless copy of that instead of a converted version into a format prone to degradation and errors. People are going back to pure analogue studio recordings, but a lot of albums released on very expensive vinyl issues using heavyweight vinyl have come from a digital source anyway, so the sound difference argument is nulled to a large degree in those cases.

    Of course if you are a collector and have the space, vinyl is a beautiful thing. You can look through it and get pleasure which a HD or server won't provide. You can spend the time tracking down an old pressing. A turntable is also a much more attractive object to have in your room than a PC or CD player.

    Analogue will cost you more, whilst the laws of diminishing returns are true a decent turntable will cost you a lot more than a competent CD player or DAC to use with a PC.

    I do listen to records at work, but also music via my server and Spotify. I just try to enjoy music regardless of source. I don't at home because I have young children in the house!

    I am in the (very slow) process however of ripping all my vinyl that isn't available digitally to the PC. I have buckets of drum and bass which simply isn't available on anything but vinyl and I have yet to find a way to listen to them on the move.

    I would never want to sell my vinyl collection, and will add to it in the future, but I would also not live without digital audio.
  • Deleted user 21 May 2014 14:19:01
    Tom_Servo wrote:
    Heh, John Lewis sell vinyl? Didn't even realise they sold music.

    Yeah, they have Screamdelica and the like for sale for over £20. Only a very small selection of classic records and they seem to just be bunged in the store. They're in the art section of all places.
  • chopsen 21 May 2014 14:33:11 21,905 posts
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    This is kind of relevant:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/05/13/apple_beats_and_fools_with_money/

    where the guy argues that for the end consumer, there is no merit in having anything better than CD quality audio.

    I've also heard it argued before that DACs are much of a muchness these days, being a very mature technology.

    There certainly is truth that it's the last part of the chain, speakers/headphone, which matter the most. Have shit speakers and it doesn't matter what your source is.

    Edited by Chopsen at 14:33:29 21-05-2014
  • X201 21 May 2014 14:36:40 21,787 posts
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    LegacySystem wrote:

    CD's are smaller, don't need turning over, can be dumped onto a hard drive / mp3 player and handle flflflflflflflflflfluff etc better.

  • quadfather 21 May 2014 14:36:51 38,799 posts
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    The price of the pressing plants affects the shop price as well. This is why I like the beatdelete website.

    They put up various records and once the order count reaches a certain amount, they leave the record available for a bit longer for more people to get a chance to get it, and then once the window is closed, they get the record pressed. Obviously, it's a limited selection of music (mainly ninjatune/downbeat type of stuff, but I think it's a very good idea.

    And as gamingdave says, if you like older music, it's great when you stumble on something you've been after for a while / find something you like from an older period, because they generally put more care into the original pressings back then, and you *can* tell the difference. I have a Louis Armstrong record that really makes it sound like the guy is standing in my room.

    I got rid of my vinyl once, foolishly thinking CD's would be better, but I'm not selling them again, especially at today's prices
  • gang_of_bitches 21 May 2014 14:40:37 5,707 posts
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    @gamingdave

    Not wanting to piss on your cornflakes, but my best friend from university days had a very similar set up to you and by his own admission sound quality wise the Technics aren't that great. I thought and I'm prepared to be put straight that the 1210s were so revered not because of their audiophile qualities but because they were insanely durable and had great features for DJing, no?
  • quadfather 21 May 2014 14:58:12 38,799 posts
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    @gang_of_bitches

    I have 1210s and while they are amazingly durable and popular for DJs, they also sound great to me.

    I'd like to hear some other decks actually to see if/when the diminishing returns kick in.

    Note, I don't obsess with million pound interconnects or anything - I have mp3s on my phone, CDs when I'm away from the decks for extended periods etc - I just love vinyl - as gamingdave states, it's a great medium both from a physical and audio viewpoint
  • gang_of_bitches 21 May 2014 15:03:40 5,707 posts
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    @quadfather

    Interesting.

    Sadly it's all lost on me, I did so much damage to my hearing going to gigs in my youth that anything beyond a modest outlay is a bit of a waste. This is probably a good thing as I used to have a bit of a hi-fi fetish and could have happily wasted a lot of money if I though I might get any discernible benefit from it.
  • quadfather 21 May 2014 15:04:50 38,799 posts
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    To quote my audiophile mate,

    "The absolutely god awful mastering techniques that are employed nowadays are a separate debate but, ultimately, are the most crucial factor in how good/bad something will sound and transcend the formats.

    Much of the great sound of old lps is due to good mastering techniques and euphonic effects caused by limitations of the format. Ironically, vinylís limitations greatly contribute to how pleasing it is
    :)"
  • quadfather 21 May 2014 15:07:56 38,799 posts
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    gang_of_bitches wrote:
    @quadfather

    Interesting.

    Sadly it's all lost on me, I did so much damage to my hearing going to gigs in my youth that anything beyond a modest outlay is a bit of a waste. This is probably a good thing as I used to have a bit of a hi-fi fetish and could have happily wasted a lot of money if I though I might get any discernible benefit from it.
    This is the other problem - the cost. You can literally spend thousands and thousands of pounds getting a half decent setup, and then once you upgrade one part of it, you're tempted to upgrade all the other components. Luckily, even my alcohol-addled brain realises that I simply can't afford it all, and got lucky with some modestly priced decks.

    But it really is great coming across an old record that sounds great, or the pleasant feeling of sliding a new record out of the slightly resistant static sleeve and seeing records spin in general.

    Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds, but it's true!
  • Armoured_Bear 21 May 2014 15:15:46 30,575 posts
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    @ryohazuki1983

    I have some records
    What do you listen to your music on at the moment?
    What sort of budget do you have?

    I personally prefer the sound of vinyl. However, CDs *should* in theory be able to sound as good or normally as good and have many practical benefits.
    In reality, vinyl is often mastered with much more care, with less dynamic compression, brick walling etc. and often sounds miles better.

    With LPs now you get and MP3 or FLAC Card or sometimes the CD as well so you get the best of both worlds.
    To get the best out of Vinyl you need to look after /clean your records and have a decent turntable. The listening experience, packaging etc. is IMO far more enjoyable than with CDs. You have to be prepared to spend some cash and make some effort.
    If music is mostly background listening then it's fairly pointless to use vinyl.

    A 20 quid Argos turntable will sound like utter shite and is a complete waste of time, an entry level model from the likes of Rega or Project will sound god when paired with a decent cartridge and other equipment.
  • gang_of_bitches 21 May 2014 15:15:57 5,707 posts
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    @quadfather

    Sounds perfectly reasonable. I rather wonder whether my age has something to do with it. As a kid I got everything on tape and then there was only a relatively small window during which I bought vinyl before I switched to CD. As a result I only have about 50 albums on vinyl and don't feel any great attachment to them. When I do play them my basic Pro-ject turntable does a pretty good job.
  • Cappy 21 May 2014 15:17:24 14,312 posts
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    I have the massive vinyl collection built up back in the 90s, I don't have a record player anymore though.

    I started to dispose of some of it on eBay since I had a fortune in records sitting around risking damage in less than optimal storage, but I hit a roadblock with my first 'CD age' collector who expected a mint record to be noiseless all the way through like a CD. Lot's of furious messages from his end and bad feedback. Muppet.

    Production and pressing quality varied immensely, I'd say vinyl peaked in the 70s, a lot of those gatefold rock albums were on nice heavy vinyl and sounded great. 90's albums that play at 45rpm, spread across multiple discs were great also.
  • gamingdave 21 May 2014 15:17:50 5,062 posts
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    Chopsen wrote:
    This is kind of relevant:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/05/13/apple_beats_and_fools_with_money/

    where the guy argues that for the end consumer, there is no merit in having anything better than CD quality audio.

    I've also heard it argued before that DACs are much of a muchness these days, being a very mature technology.

    There certainly is truth that it's the last part of the chain, speakers/headphone, which matter the most. Have shit speakers and it doesn't matter what your source is.
    I agree with a lot of the article, though the assumption that someone in the market for a pono would own Beats headphones I think is way off the mark.

    He also falsely assumes there aren't analogue masters of youngs old albums to go back to to make higher rate digital files.

    It's nitpicking though and irrelevant as the science suggests that high bitrate files are unrequired, good length article here.

    I have a few 192/24 bit recordings myself and have done ABX tests in foobar using both good headphones and speakers. I cant pass them when comparing the 192/24 with a 44.1/16 and in many recordings I need to go below 320kbs mp3 before reliably passing. I was suprised myself but the results don't lie.

    I totally agree that the last steps, the amp and the headphones/speakers is the most important though you don't need to spend mega bucks in either to get fantastic quality.
  • Armoured_Bear 21 May 2014 15:18:55 30,575 posts
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    quadfather wrote:
    @gang_of_bitches

    I have 1210s and while they are amazingly durable and popular for DJs, they also sound great to me.

    I'd like to hear some other decks actually to see if/when the diminishing returns kick in.

    Note, I don't obsess with million pound interconnects or anything - I have mp3s on my phone, CDs when I'm away from the decks for extended periods etc - I just love vinyl - as gamingdave states, it's a great medium both from a physical and audio viewpoint
    Temptation?
  • Armoured_Bear 21 May 2014 15:19:49 30,575 posts
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    Cappy wrote:
    I have the massive vinyl collection built up back in the 90s, I don't have a record player anymore though.

    I started to dispose of some of it on eBay since I had a fortune in records sitting around risking damage in less than optimal storage, but I hit a roadblock with my first 'CD age' collector who expected a mint record to be noiseless all the way through like a CD. Lot's of furious messages from his end and bad feedback. Muppet.

    Production and pressing quality varied immensely, I'd say vinyl peaked in the 70s, a lot of those gatefold rock albums were on nice heavy vinyl and sounded great. 90's albums that play at 45rpm, spread across multiple discs were great also.
    A mint record should be close to noiseless all the way through.
  • Armoured_Bear 21 May 2014 15:22:55 30,575 posts
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    Interesting TT based on the Technics
  • gamingdave 21 May 2014 15:24:32 5,062 posts
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    gang_of_bitches wrote:
    @gamingdave

    Not wanting to piss on your cornflakes, but my best friend from university days had a very similar set up to you and by his own admission sound quality wise the Technics aren't that great. I thought and I'm prepared to be put straight that the 1210s were so revered not because of their audiophile qualities but because they were insanely durable and had great features for DJing, no?
    They are revered for their robustness first and foremost along with the pitch control essential for DJing, but are used in professional broadcasting too. In fact they are so well built the put themselves out of business as no one ever needed to buy a replacement and second hand (and third, forth, fifth...) decks can be as good as new. Mine are 20 years old and still run faultlessly.

    They actually make a very good high quality deck when paired with a good cartridge and potentially modified tone arm (though I have not felt the need for that). Setting it up right also makes a difference.

    Being direct drive they don't suffer from wow and flutter as much as a belt system can (though I've never really noticed it as a major problem).

    There are better turntables out there, but for their money the sound quality is up there with similar priced equipment.
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