Music forums often get quite heated about which is “better”, vinyl or CD? Put to one side the “which is better, chocolate or vanilla?” argument, which is about personal preference, not “betterness”. Some people claim CD sounds ”clinical” or vinyl sounds “warm”. And to them, with their system, I am sure it does. But nothing should sound “warm” or “cold”. The temperature analogy is a hifi artifact, usually a symptom of the music system being unable to properly render bass and treble. The only thing it should sound like is what was being played during recording, or at least what the engineer recorded.
There are two important variables - the quality of the original recording and mastering, – “the source” - and the ability of the Hi Fi to faithfully retrieve and replay what is captured in the source. With vinyl, you influence the first by finding the best quality pressing. With CD, you more or less have got what you got. The second you have much more control over, and expense. However on a cautionary note – good hi fi wont make a bad recording sound better. Counter-intuitively, improved equipment can sometimes sound worse, hear clearly how bad a bad recording is. On the other hand it will often breathe new life into your rmusic collection, which is a heck of a payback.
There is a loss of musical information in the transfer from the original musical performance onto various digital storage media – CD or download-quality MP3. Simple illustration, as they say, not to scale:
Surely CD sampling 44,100 times a second is enough? Well, it’s a big number, certainly, but how would you know it’s the right number? It is often the very smallest bits that make the sound “life-like” – the attack and decay of a note, not the note itself. The number 44,100 was chosen in order to fit the length of music onto the CD medium, not because it provides the best resolution of the sound image.
To other listeners, it makes all the difference in the world, particularly when the instruments in the music are acoustic, as in most jazz. It’s only moving air, but capturing moving air and reproducing it faithfully requires good hi-fi. Otherwise, you end up with the lady on the right anyway. And it’s still the Mona Lisa, isn’t it? No. What you have lost is the very smallest detail – the brushstrokes - that are the difference between the experience of a real painting and a print.
Once you get to the point of good source faithfully reproduced, you can move up to the next level – the music, rhythm, timing, emotion, more easy to follow, freshness. It’s a good experience.
However you will have to struggle with a number of issues, such as storage volume. Research has never been done on this, but I would bet money it would prove that marital difficulties ensue when a record collection exceeds 3,000.
Then there are clicks pops and scratches, because original owners of your records in the Fifties will have played them on a vinyl-destroying machine, known as a record player: Eight to ten grams tracking weight arm, the autochanger, and a stylus that was never changed.
Realistically, you need to equip yourself for the best of both worlds…