Friday, September 26, 2008

LPs versus CDs--The Debate Continues

CBS recently did a report on the renewed popularity of vinyl records, which were once thought to be dead a decade ago.

So what happened? Well, a couple of things. First of all, vinyl records are much harder to pirate than CDs, so the record companies like them. Second, they have much more room for artwork and lyrics and the like, so both fans and artists like them in that respect. Third, (and I am not going to provide any links because there are too many opinions out there), vinyl records may interact with a phono cartridge in a way that is simply more pleasing to the ear than is digital reproduction, even though they may or may not be as technically close to the original recording.

For what it is worth, I take a middle position. The vast majority of rock music, up to about 1985, was composed and engineered for vinyl, thus it might not be surprising that it sounds as good or better on this medium. This is true for a large chunk of the great jazz music out there.

With respect to classical music, however, I believe that CDs are generally the better choice for 99% of people. There are so many soft passages in most great classical pieces, which generally date before 1950 or even 1900, that any little bit of surface noise generally becomes obstrusive to the enjoyment of the piece. Most of the imperfections on rock music generally will fall beneath the noise floor.

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