The argument has been around for decades: Does music really sound better on vinyl? The answer to that question depends on who you ask, and to me, it’s not a simple answer. It must first be considered how the music was recorded.
For instance, many artists are choosing to release new albums on vinyl; however, if the music was recorded digitally, like most modern music, then does the vinyl sound any better than the CD, or the digital download?
When people talk about the superior sound quality of vinyl, they’re referring to albums recorded in analog fashion, as opposed to digital. Perfect example: I have Bob Seger’s classic album, “Live Bullet,” on two formats: vinyl and digital download.
I can tell the difference between the two. The digital download has a certain thinness to the sound, and it feels like a left/right stereo mix, whereas the vinyl sounds fuller and creates the feeling that the band is performing around you.
As far as vinyl superiority goes, the reason I’ve found doesn’t actually relate to the sound quality, but rather how the songs were sequenced. If you listened to Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” on a CD, you would hear the album from beginning to end, without any pause.
When you listen to the vinyl version, however, you get the full emotional effect of the album.
Side one ends with “Songbird,” an emotional ballad. As the final notes fade out, you’re left with time to reflect as you get up to turn the record to side two. “The Chain” opens up side two, and the feeling gets a little more intense, as if you’re halfway through a great movie, and the plot’s starting to thicken.
Is the sound quality better than the CD? Of course. But the sound quality isn’t what makes the difference.
These classic albums were recorded to fit perfectly in a vinyl format. They’re not just collections of great songs. They all work together as one piece.
There are special remastered versions of many classic albums available on newly-pressed vinyl. They run in the $20-$30 range, and some of them sound great.
That being said, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding an original pressing of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” or Seger’s “Live Bullet” for a $5 bill any day of the week.
No matter how good the remastered reissues are, they’ll never replace having the original pressings—in my eyes.
I’m afraid my generation might never understand the concept of listening to an album the way it was intended.
Perhaps this is part of the reason why album sales aren’t what they once were. It’s not about the radio singles. It’s about the songs in-between.