2

Many music lovers mistakenly think the vinyl is, somehow, more “faithful to the original recording than CDs”. I wonder if this is the result of deliberate marketing?

6

This might come across as a tad cynical ;)

Personally, I feel it's that people, given sufficient peer pressure, can easily be convinced to fool themselves. No need for marketing pressure.

Most people don't own a system of sufficient quality to actually be able to tell the difference, on a blind test. Few people could even tell the difference on a good system.
I'm a retired sound engineer, so I'm supposed to have good ears. On my studio monitors I can usually (but not absolutely always, nobody's perfect;) fairly easily spot whether I'm listening to a 24-bit master, CD, mp3 or vinyl. There are audio cues that help this call, other than simply "which sounds best". For instance, there's often different compression or EQ curve to a vinyl cut, whereas the 24-bit, CD & mp3 all come from the same source - the 24-bit.

Perhaps people can identify with the compression difference in the vinyl… or maybe not. You do need to know what you're listening for & why.
People claim it's "warmer"… because when CDs first came out it often was. Early DACs were a bit crunchy compared to the well-established 5 grand's-worth of expensive analogue gear owned by existing hi-fi buffs. They could hear the difference. Nobody with a cheap 200 buck home stereo could, so people ignored the 'experts' & bought into the convenience of CD.
This has subsequently expanded into the current convenience of MP3 & AAC. You still find people looking for 'high quality FLAC' which they then play back on their phone… completely negating the point of having a quigh quality FLAC in the first place. (Aside from the fact they never checked the actual source of the 'high quality' FLAC with anything more than a spectrograph.)

Here's one for those consumed by this 'measure of quality'… You cannot tell what a track sounds like, nor judge its 'quality' from a spectrograph. The best it can ever tell you is if at any point in its history it has been subjected to a lower frequency cut-off, sampling frequency & consequent Nyquist limit. As most people can't even hear above 15kHz, even that isn't going to really tell you much. Yet people have fooled themselves into believing they can tell more from a spectrograph than by actually listening.

If I'm listening in my living room environment, which is optimised for cinematic sound & uses some additional custom compression (programmed by myself to exactly suit the room) to average out the dialog against the loud explosions, then I haven't a hope of being able to identify which is which. The subtlety of information difference just isn't sufficient.

I'm fairly tempted to say the average listener's hi-fi is no better than that & many would be a lot worse. Over the years, visiting family & friends, I've often had occasion to wonder just how they made their choice of 'stereo', & could only come to the conclusion that they liked the lights on the front. They most certainly didn't choose it for its sound quality. This always applies even more if their 'stereo' has any form of user-adjustable EQ curves… as without fail people use it to make their system sound worse than out of the box.

I think a great part of this peer pressure towards vinyl also comes from being able to hold up a lovely 12" square of cardboard with a nicely designed picture on it. There's nothing nicer to have & to hold than a real record. Gatefold sleeve, lyrics printed on it, who's in the band. You get none of that from Spotify & not much better from the crystal box a CD comes in. You need to get your magnifying glass out to read any detail.

So yes, give me the vinyl & its fabulous artwork… but don't try to convince me it's because it sounds "better".

1
  • Agreed: when CDs came out, they got big mainly because they sounded better on bad equipment than e.g. cassettes and then they edged out vinyl as a secondary effect. Probably my favorite album cover of all time: i.pinimg.com/originals/96/83/0f/…
    – Yorik
    Dec 4 '20 at 15:51
2

No particular marketing campaign was necessary for vinyl --like many older technologies that were once ubiquitous, it has become a beloved, nostalgic niche product for aficionados. As one of those, I would submit that the reasons are threefold:

  1. Psychological - A vinyl record is a solid, physical, tangible object --it's sturdy and durable. For people who have an attachment to the idea of a song as something you can own, this gives it a three-dimensionality --representing a long-term commitment --not present with digital.

  2. Philosophical - Technically speaking, a digitized recording is really just a very good computerized simulation of a sound, where as a vinyl recording is, in some sense, more continuous with the original soundwaves. Although we may be repeatedly informed that it can't possibly make a perceptible difference, technophobes and vinylphiles like to see vinyl recordings as having more "soul" (speaking spiritually, and not in terms of genre). Of course, that only makes any sense if the recording process has been analog from start to finish.

  3. Cultural - Like trains, gas lamps and typewriters, vinyl has a cultural cachet among people who like to have a connection to the past, or who are expressing some form of resistance to the present/future.

Although there's no necessary relationship between vinyl and higher sound quality, new vinyl tends to be created and collected by audiophiles (since it's now a niche luxury product). In other words, the fact that something is issued in vinyl is a reasonably good promise of quality, since it takes some effort and commitment to produce. Vinyl also usually represents a commitment to album-length work by both the artist and the consumer.

1

The 'Audiophool' magazines and sites certainly perpetrate the myth, in a symbiotic relationship with their advertisers. (For a good laugh, take a look at Russ Andrews' shop.)

A veteran British rocker recently accompanied a CD release with a high-priced "lathe cut" limited-edition vinyl version, it sold out in a day!

So there's definitely a market for such. As with any religion, it's not hard to analyse the subjective benefits and the cold reality. Fool yourself if you wish, but with your eyes open!

-1

Early Masters were made on analog equipment, and so yes, vinyl was made for those Masters. No matter how good your digital music may be, it's still 1's and 0's. On or Off. Music has a lot of "grey" in it, where it's neither on nor off, or simultaneously on and off. Analog music will always be superior to digital because of that truth.

Now, if it was recorded digitally and mastered digitally, you're not going to pick up those greys that never existed in the process.

This is akin to people who use superior equipment and processing to convert home movies from a video recorder. That recorder was only able to record at 480p, so making a 2K Hi-Def copy isn't going to improve the original picture quality. The best it will ever get is 480p. Similarly, if you took a Blu-Ray and converted it to VCD, you're never going to convert that VCD back to Blu-Ray because you've already removed a huge chunk of the picture quality. So taking an Analog master, converting it to CD and then re-issuing it on vinyl is pointless. You've removed the greys, you can't get them back.

Aside from the technical aspect, as mentioned previously it's just a nice package. You need to interact with it. 22 minutes per side, get up off your butt, flip the record. In between, look at the artwork, read the liner notes, recognize names of people who played in other bands, go seek their work out, etc, etc... Like, how many people out there actually realize that a founding member of Foreigner was in King Crimson, or that Journey was a spin-off band from Santana?

1
  • Your opening paragrah is slightly skewed from reality. It doesn't really work that way, even before you take electronics' & speakers' slew rates into account. It might be built of ones & zeroes, but there's no point it ever could be measured as that once it's back in the analogue realm. To draw the conclusion 'analog is superior' because of the first set of mis-interpretations is one of the very reasons people have fooled themselves into thinking vinyl is 'best'.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 2 '20 at 17:27

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