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Greetings, enlightened readers. Back in April, a shameful piece of misinformation slipped through the editorial cracks here at MakeUseOf. My colleague Matt expressed the highly dubious opinion that vinyl is in some way superior to digital music 4 Reasons Why Vinyl Is Better Than Digital 4 Reasons Why Vinyl Is Better Than Digital Greetings, peasants! What, still listening to MP3s? Look, as someone who knows more about music than you, I think it's my duty to tell you there's a better way. It's called vinyl. Read More .

I’m here to correct that grave error. Digital is clearly superior to vinyl for many reasons, some of which being the same reasons my colleague erroneously suggested benefits the aging physical format.

1. Your Taste in Music Will Improve

Ask an art critic what their favourite painting is and they won’t say the Mona Lisa. Instead, they’ll likely tell you a personal tale about a certain piece by a lesser-known artist and how it speaks to them.

Vinyl proponents, like our own Matt Hughes, seems to think that liking the Pixies, or other bands such as The Beatles, whose records fill the shelves of secondhand stores, is somehow an indicator of good taste. Instead it just demonstrates that you like the Mona Lisas of music.

If you don’t like the Pixies or The Beatles then you’re a heathen, but if either of them is your favorite band then you simply lack imagination. Good taste is not a matter of liking what everyone else likes, it’s about understanding and appreciating what you like.

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Advocates for vinyl also argue that record fans are discerning listeners, however, they’re flipping correlation and causality — you need to be a discerning listener and a massive music fan to bother with records at all; but you don’t need to buy records to be a discerning listener. The only thing buying records shows is nostalgia for the Top 40 bands of a different era. Taste? I think not.

If you truly want to develop your taste and appreciation of music then digital is the best way to do it. With services like Spotify and the redesigned Last.fm Remember Last.fm? A Fresh Look at the Redesigned Music Service Remember Last.fm? A Fresh Look at the Redesigned Music Service With a new redesign now available as an open beta, Last.fm is heading out on its own comeback tour. But is this music service worth revisiting? Read More you can explore more styles and genres than ever before.

You can also get recommendations from experts and your favorite artists Spotify Brings Expert Playlists To Suit Your Every Mood & Moment [Updates] Spotify Brings Expert Playlists To Suit Your Every Mood & Moment [Updates] It’s definitely music to the ears as Spotify introduces curated playlists for every mood and occasion. The specially selected playlists selected by the Spotify staffers (experts) is coming to Android and iOS Spotify apps first,... Read More rather than a bearded 40-year-old man called Greg who wears “vintage” T-shirts and still lives with his mum because his record store doesn’t turn enough of a profit for him to move out.

2. All You Need, When You Need It

Some say record buying is an experience. You know what is also an experience? Plummeting to your death. Ask someone who’s just come back from a parachute jump if they enjoyed it and they’ll often say “it was an experience” — it’s now the word of choice for describing those things that are supposedly fun but which all sane people end up hating every second of. So yes, buying music from a record store really is an experience.

Much better than walking into some dingy little shop (after trekking there on public transport or, God forbid, driving and paying for parking) is to sit at home in a comfy chair, think about what music would most fit your current mood, and, using the power of the Internet, get to listen to it in mere moments.

Rather than choosing from a small selection of albums, you have the entirety of the world’s musical output to pull from.

3. Digital Sounds Better

How to recreate the sound of a record player using your smartphone: 1. Start playing your favorite song. 2. Pick up an empty bag of chips (crisps) and rustle it next to your ear. Congratulations, you’ve now recreated the wonderful crackle of vinyl for a fraction of the cost of a record player.

As this piece on vinyl myths, linked to by commenter Adam, breaks down, “despite decades of arguments, there is no technical proof of the sonic superiority of the vinyl medium compared to CD.”

Even though most digital audio is compressed How Does File Compression Work? How Does File Compression Work? File compression is at the core of how the modern web works, one could argue, because it allows us to share files that would otherwise take too long to transfer. But how does it work? Read More , you need to be using extremely good audio equipment to tell the difference as long as the bitrate of the track is high enough. Your grandma’s old record player isn’t high quality audio equipment. Listening to a track at 320 kbs on Spotify through your iPhone and a good pair of headphones is going to sound a lot better, and comes without the annoying hiss.

You’ll also notice I said most digital audio is compressed. If you’re a serious audiophile you can download lossless FLAC files.

4. Vinyl Is a Terrible Investment

Streaming services like Spotify are killing the concept of owning media The End of Ownership: Netflix, Spotify, and The Streaming Generation The End of Ownership: Netflix, Spotify, and The Streaming Generation Read More but for some reason vinyl aficionados are convinced that their record collection is a solid investment, or at worst, a legacy for their children. I know Matt can spot a bad investment opportunity Why You Shouldn't Take Investment Advice from The Pirate Bay Why You Shouldn't Take Investment Advice from The Pirate Bay It's almost a rule. The shadier the site you visit, the shadier the advertising will be. Ergo, you should never use the Pirate Bay's ads for planning your financial future. Read More when he sees one, so how he could believe this myth is a mystery to me.

While some rare vinyls are indeed collectables, nothing you buy in your local second-hand store is ever going to sell for more than you paid. That old copy of The White Album is about as rare and collectable as a signed Terry Pratchett novel.

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Leaving your record collection to your children is an even worse idea. The odds of them liking your music are pretty slim. Ask your kids right now. They probably think Justin Bieber is cool, but have never heard of the Eagles. Therefore, your oh-so-wonderful stack of hand-me-down vinyl is going to be nothing more than a set of oversized drinks coasters that will likely end up in landfill.

Face It, Digital Is The Future

Arguing over music formats is almost certainly pointless Your Apple/Android/Windows Hatred Is Irrelevant, Give It Up Your Apple/Android/Windows Hatred Is Irrelevant, Give It Up Getting upset because someone is buying something you're not interested in benefits no one – so why do we get mad anyway? Read More , but let’s be honest, digital is where it’s at. With streaming services you can listen to whatever music you want, whenever you want to, wherever you want to. I would love to see someone try that with a record player.

The only thing records are good for are as weapons against zombies Keep the Undead Dead: The Best Tech for Taking out Zombies Keep the Undead Dead: The Best Tech for Taking out Zombies This is a breaking report. An unknown disease is sweeping the nation. Please remain indoors. There are some items in your home that may be of assistance. What follows is a special report from MakeUseOf. Read More … with Spotify playlists providing the soundtrack. So what do you think? Are you a vinyl aficionado or a digital fanatic? Let us know in the comments below which format you consider to be superior.

Image Credits: Shattered vinyl via Shutterstock, Alan Stanton via Flickr

  1. PAUL MEDDEMMEN
    November 23, 2016 at 3:07 am

    Why vinyl against digital they are not in the same term set. I am certainly no expert in anything but surely it should be analogue against digital. By definition digital is a compromise as you start with analogue and you end in analogue, anything, and I mean anything you put in between changes something. The advantage, in general, of analogue systems are that they are truly infinitely variable and digital just isn't. The argument, in theory, is lost before you even start. So if that is theory most of what you were really talking, well ranting actually, about was convenience and the disadvantages of the systems. I come from bass speakers brick built into the room and full of sand, Garrard 301 deck, Decca arm and cartridge with Mullard 5-10 amps. This was just good equipment back in the 60s now it is classic and sort after. Do I use it? No of course not. For all practical purposes digital is the way to go just for it's shear convenience and multi platform. But digital wasn't right first time and still continues to develop. I find the modern music lacks base, now that could just be me, my children, in their 30s, don't think so but, hey, they have grown up with nothing but digital and, in my view, have never heard the real thing. I would liken the vinyl hype to your ultra expensive HDMI cables, it's digital D'oh.!!
    As ever it is horses for courses but without being controversial, of course, nobody is going to read your article out of all those out there. See it worked.

  2. Max Mangelson
    October 2, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    Just a comment about your excellent article. I read an article about the physical characteristics of vinyl vs digital. it covered bits per second, the audible capabilities of the ears, supposed nuances, etc. in the final conclusion, digital was every bit as good or better that vinyl.

  3. Jason Policy
    September 2, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    The tone of this article seemed overly aggressive to me, and thus will unlikely to convince anybody.

    I would agree that digital in the wider sense of the term, not limited to web formats, is superior. Many vinyl enthusiasts agree that digital transfers or "needledrops" preserve all sound information present on the disc, which arguably does not include the experience of holding the disc or listening to it uninterruted due to limited skipping and seeking options. Opinions may differ on the technical details, the bit rate, and the correct editing and restoration process.

    But suggesting that web services like Spotify are a viable alternative and upgrade from any physical format is outrageous. I see the web and modern smartphones as a conspiracy by the copyright industry to take options away from the people. They can change formats, obsolete forms of access, pull music offline due to licensing reasons, substitute it with remastered, or otherwise altered versions. The web is a poor man's choice that was made to look cool by corporations who stand to have financial gain. A similar argument was also made when MP3 players became popular, despite being clearly a downgrade.

    "Illegal" options are much better to acquire digital files with no effort. Usually full, unaltered, unremastered albums are ripped. The respective sites that shall not be named here are much lighter on the computer and don't rely on bloated web technologies that slow the computer down.

    Personally I don't like how vinyl deteriorates from bad playback equipment. It is definitely a bad investment for this reason. Digital files can always be recreated even from damaged media and written onto new discs. Vinyl "rumble" is quite irritating when listening on headphones, much more than any full band hiss. It feels like wind blowing against your ears, and due to being out of phase, it cannot be located in space. Sure it can be filtered. Whether or not the noise is removed, we still have only mono bass on vinyl.

    Of course most modern vinyl is mastered digitally, and therefore is pointless. However, where it comes to old albums originally published in 1980s and earlier, the vinyl is sometimes the only option to acquire the record in its original form, without remastering for loudness or bonus tracks. Also artwork scanned from vinyl is clearly superior on those older releases, due to the much larger surface area of an 12'' record compared to CD, even if the print resolution is usually slightly lower, or the record has sustained damage around the edges.

  4. Caemhan Miller
    August 19, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    A vinyl record is one continuous groove along which the needle tracks to produce the sound. It is an absolute and unbroken reproduction of a piece of music. A CD is made up of a finite number of bits and bytes - like any digital recording. Many individual 'bits' (I do not know the exact number) are put together to produce the music. It is not absolutely continuous. Imagine pausing a CD. It stops on one of these individual bits and the next bit is another individual piece of digital data. A gap exists between consecutive bits.

    Obviously this gap, and therefore the time span between these two bits (and all others) is incredibly small and not anywhere near the point where a human ear would conciously notice. On a subconcious level however, I think it is noticeable, and logic suggests that a continuous reproduction would be superior to something that isn't. This reasoning is why I believe there are many people say vinyl is a more pleasurable listening experience.

    By setting up a study that is similar to the famous Coke/Pepsi experiment, you would be able to compare formats. Take a vinyl record and use a USB turntable to transfer it to a computer. This would give you a digital version that has any hisses, crackles or other noises of the chosen record. The participants would be aware of this and upon hearing any of these noises, could not assume this was the vinyl playing. They would listen to both recordings and then state which they preferred.

  5. Luis Olarte
    June 26, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    Wild you may have been born in the late 70's or early 80's most likely the 90's, I in was born in the early 60's.
    And you may not have a real amplifier that put out real 100 watts.
    With a real component system I do have one.
    And the sound of today’s system I can classify them as mediocre quality.
    When they say 100 watts they are talking of RMS or well known as noise.
    And to dose of you can say it sound the same, that is all BS.
    I have to adjust the sound per system with software for a few hours at a time.
    One the media player & the one for my cars system just to get comparable sound.
    So to say that it is all the same you are a bigger idiot, like those in the recording industries that proclaim such crap.
    Is vinyl better recording to some extent, is better them a DVD or CD it would be yes.
    It is analog and as long you do have the right equipment it will sound extremely better.
    Lets start with the main thing the turn table if you use like Edison’s setup you will destroy the record.
    If the needle float’s on the groove the needle only moves from side to side not up and down.
    Most of your generation are already tune deaf, why most of you have grown up using head phones and ear buds.
    Today's #1 cause of deafness, and to the point more music variety,
    I listen to rock, jazz, pop, classical, Latin, Motown, country, Greek, Italian, Japanese, well to make it short 14 different countries plus Opera.
    I have a complete set of RCA classical music plus opera recording of the 30”s to the 50:'s some are 75 RPM some are 45 others LPS like new.
    Can you get that now days or those artist, they are only use as master for recording digital media.
    it is not the same have a record player dragging a needle across or it in sync to the turns of the record.
    So I have well over 6942 vinyl at last count and 1732 real to real 472 cassettes, 3656 CD's.
    Yes I love music my last purchased was a Kitaro DC that cost me $192.00 because it was not sold in the US.
    And where did I here it P2P, and to today’s music in a word most of it! Crap.
    Why most of it is like disco one long and none changing beat.
    Like I stated most there is some, no lyrics on less you are saying nothing that is meaning less or in poor taste.
    Music today is dictated by music industry not by the artist, so it is music just for a quick sell.
    More Crap with little to no music.
    And what I do for a living a software developer, my son is studying to be sound engineer and a DJ.
    Told him to become independent and not to be associated with any of those idiots in music industry.
    At most what an artist get of royalties is pennies they keep the some of the cash.
    And now days from start to end of 30 years,
    That means if reproduction of said music is remaster the only one that gets payed is the recording industry not the artist.

  6. Joseph Phulchere
    June 26, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    I looks like every old thing you guys want to get rid of.

  7. Adrian Brown
    June 26, 2015 at 9:42 am

    There is no way that vinyl can possibly compete with digital media. Vinyl relies on a tiny diamond stylus running in a groove. The stylus is on the end of a 'free floating' arm which is guided, hopefully, around the groove.
    I can remember reviews of cartridges and arms made by the HiFi mags of the day. Some of them chose test recordings. One famous one was recording of the 1812 overture. The vinyl records most taxing section was the cannon blasts which often caused the stylus to loose contact with the vinyl such was the dynamic range. That dynamic range is easily achieved with digital media, and more.
    While I agree with the article regarding the superiority of the sound produced by digital media, I see no problem with individuals who buy vinyl. There is a distinctive sound from a good, well kept piece of vinyl, not as good but distinctive. If people want to hear that or enjoy having the physical material of an LP then let them. This article appears to call them stupid rather than individuals exercising a right to choose.

  8. Todd Clay
    June 26, 2015 at 3:22 am

    In a digital world the sound is either off or on in an analog world you move through different frequencies. Our ears hear what they hear. It's a bit different than our visual systems that fill in the gaps for us. Can we discern the difference is really the debate.

    I can't say that I've noticed a difference but I've never heard the same song played at the same time one digital and one analog, one on the left and one on the right to know if I could tell a difference.

    Finally digital also decays just differently than vinyl...it's just more elusive. The thumb drive eventually no longer is able to maintain the polarity and begins to loose data. A hard drive is prone to failure after so many hours, CD's will loose their reflectivity and on and on it goes. As long as there's an original around (aka a master) then we can always recreate what's missing but someone has to maintain the masters because the users can't be depended on to even have the same device with the same files unlike vinyl records which once in the home rarely have a reason to leave and as long as they're stored right will outlast me.

  9. Stephan Huebner
    June 22, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    I can't decide if this is poorly written satire or just from somebody who never had the pleasure to listen to a record or enjoy the experience of buying in a real record store (or, for that matter in a store with real, physical books).
    To me, the arguments for digital are superficial or even false (like only 60s to 80s artists being available on record, which is simply bs).

    I guess there are quite a few arguments against digital, but one that hasn't been mentioned yet is the cover of a record. Some of them are beautiful pieces of art and it's a whole lot of difference to look at them at the size of a record-cover on your favourite chair or in bed instead of looking at the not-even-postard-size of a CD-booklet or even on a screen (which is anything but comfortable).

  10. Brian Philbin
    June 20, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Having worked in all mediums of recording technology here in Los Angeles with professionals of many different genres of music, I can say unequivocally that vinyl - even when beginning with a digital recording (DAA) is inferior to the sound achieved by a CD produced digitally (DDD).

    While it's okay to prefer vinyl over digital, everyone should state their true reasons for it and not make claims that are scientifically fallacious - such as sonic superiority of vinyl.

    Anyone claiming sonic superiority of vinyl truly doesn't know what they're talking about and hasn't listened to the results on truly spectacular equipment.

    Even listening on your home stereo, the difference should be obvious to even the dullest of listener.

    People from my generation grew up with vinyl, tried cassette tapes for awhile and then saw the light when digital came along.

    I hear & read people talking about the "warmth" provided by vinyl. What they're hearing is - quite literally - the sound that the diamond needle makes while scraping and destroying the vinyl record.

    And contrary to what some are saying above, while MP3s lose some slight fidelity in their transition from an original recording, copying them does not create further loss.

    Read the myths about vinyl here:
    http://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=Myths_(Vinyl)

  11. George Klein
    June 20, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Both vinyl and digital have pluses and minuses, anyone not recognizing it is a hardcore extremist vinyl or digital supporter.
    One thing I don't like is: extremism in any direction, even in one I would agree with, like digital recording. I like that more than vinyl, but I recognize that none of them is perfect.

  12. Richard Oliver
    June 20, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    I don't think vinyl is 'an' experience, it's 'the' experience of going to buy and then fully owning a physical product. Yes, with digital, you can listen to what you want, where you want (and it is certainly more convenient when on the move), but I have always found much more of a payoff when specifically sitting down to listen to an album on vinyl as opposed to hopping across genres or artists on a digital playlist. That's just my opinion. Even my (physical or digital) purchases these days only get a few listens before moving on because there is access to so much these days and, as a former huge music nut, I find the ease of access to so much music bewildering and disheartening. So much so that my listening time has actually gone down in recent years. So I bemoan today's music consumption tools and habits.

  13. Anonymous
    June 20, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Has anyone considered the "distortion" inherent in the storage/playback method ? With analogue (like vinyl records), the distortion is 2nd harmonic - which is not unpleasant to listen to. With digital; the distortion is 3rd harmonic - which is discordant, and not pleasant. When the level of the audio "clips" (exceeds the maximum level for the recording medium); analogue just rounds it out smoothly, while digital makes it a hard flat-top limit which sounds bad. That's why people still like "tube" (vacuum tube) amps and say that they sound better as compared to transistor/semiconductor amplifiers.

    P.S. It takes me 20 minutes to get through the new MakeUseOf process to enter a comment. I liked the old comment system.

  14. Chris Christodoulou
    June 20, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Unfortunately the way digital audio works remains a mystery to most people. The myth that vinyl sounds better because it's analog works wonders for marketing and hipsters with a disposable income and a superiority complex.

    In fact, analog tape's dynamic range (the medium used for analog recordings) is far inferior to CD and measured around 13bits. In comparison CD audio is 16bit and digital audio recordings are done either in the huge dyn.range of 24bit or the practically infinite 32bit-floating point.

    Interestingly enough, all new vinyl recordings are done digitally so it's only playback that remains analog. Unfortunately, vinyl is an extremely handicapped medium for analog playback due to its physical limitation. It can't handle the way modern music is mastered neither any very low frequencies (because the needle bounces off). That's why all music is mastered differently for vinyl. Of course marketing presents this as a "magical" process that adds "warmth" and other fancy, nonsensical adjectives, but in reality it's merely a downgrade from what the artist and the recording engineer had originally intended.

    And of course there's the familiar graph showing digital as a stepladder instead of a linear waveform, which is very misleading since there is no "ladder" there are only points, which when interpreted by your speakers they provide a very linear and very analog playback (it couldn't have been different since speakers are a physical thing that cannot move from point A to point B without passing through all the possible points in-between because it does not operate in a quantum level).

    Strongly recommend the videos at the link for anyone interested in actual facts about digital audio, instead of hearsay and marketing jargon: https://xiph.org/video/

  15. Mark Davies
    June 20, 2015 at 3:54 am

    Vinyl is crap you Luddites!

  16. Francois-xavier Belley
    June 19, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    This is totally wrong, the quality you get from spotify or even a real cd is miles away from vinyl quality, bitrate wise.

    The fact that your tastes might change is one thing, saying digital is better because you can get what you need doesn't make vinyl any worse. If you can't afford vinyl, that's another thing.

    You say vinyl is a bad investement, but what kind of investement is digital, when you can't even sell it back, following that logic, all digital downloads are worthless invesment wise.

    Digital might be the future, but to get the same feeling that you get from vinyl, you'll have to pay much more to get the same quality.

    I usually like your articles, but this one's BS.

    • Christopher Burkhouse
      June 20, 2015 at 9:50 am

      Oh I didn't know you could stream millions of vinyls through your car, home, and friend's speakers all through one portable device, or discover new songs through vinyl with an on-the-go lifestyle. You have to face facts. While physical music can be fun to own, and still beats streaming quality (streaming services even lower degrade quality to save on bandwidth costs), you're only lying to yourself if you believe vinyl is the way to go. For a collector? Sure! I collect classic games. A lot of us love to collect and have a feeling of nostalgia for older items. You've got to be real with yourself, though.

  17. Kenny Wise
    June 19, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    Say what you like but Vinyl is king. It has a beautiful sound that digital cannot recreate nor replace

    • Christopher Burkhouse
      June 20, 2015 at 9:52 am

      I still carry an a-track with me. I keep my vinyls at home.

  18. Saturday Delson Sazaran
    June 19, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    This is mean, and inaccurate. Digital can't be better because it is limited by sample rates. Analogue may be inconvenient; next to impossible to perfectly reproduce; and probably even unnecessary in our modern age but, barring the limitations of stereo systems, analogue will always be technically better.

  19. Read and Share
    June 19, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    To me, the argument is partly subjective -- so really, no absolute right or wrong choice between the two. But I mostly prefer digital over vinyl. There's something to be said about being able to 'carry' my music and listening to it pretty much anywhere. Besides, unlike with vinyl, I don't have to fret over my music deteriorating with each and every play.

    • Christopher Burkhouse
      June 20, 2015 at 10:00 am

      That's exactly it. Between being a collector to convenience, it depends! Especially portability etc. Vinyl sounds scratchy, isn't very portable, and must be bought per vinyl. Digital can be streamed from a device, super portable, can be owned by the millions with one low cost fee equaling ONE vinyl, but it doesn't have that annoying vintage scratchy sound. To each their own. As far as what's the music of the future, clearly it's digital. If you're a collector, go vinyl! Do what makes you happy, and be happy (: The right answer though is that digital is the common sense way to go in today's society. Vinyls have a vintage appeal to them. Is CD quality better than streaming quality? You bet! But who owns CDs anymore? Seriously, who? Nobody. At the cost of one CD, you could get a subscription to Spotify, Google Music, or Amazon Music (plus free 2-day shipping, and video streaming). This requires a little bit of common sense and moving on, however. Again, it's a collector thing. I collect old video games. I'm not going to say the older video games have better graphics. Some of them are a lot of fun to play. Some have better stories. Some modern games also have incredible stories. Convenience and portability of modern digital games, even CD games, is much better than the older cartridge days too. Cartridges were nice because you could easily move them and the data was saved onto the game itself. You could also easily share with friends. That's more difficult than digital. However, again, not only do they both have pros/cons, the most modern is the most modern for a reason. Imagine if I owned all my 1,000+ Steam games in physical format. No thanks. They were so easy to lose too!

  20. Diego Santos
    June 19, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Text very simple but not exactly clear.
    In my opinion the vinyl is better because it comes from the sound waves captured by the needle, the cd is in bits, it has been converted to bits.
    Vinyl for not being digital, has loads of bits, unlike a CD or lossless music that has 16 or 24.
    A vinyl can not be copied to your home with quality 1: 1, as the cd to be digital yes, is unique.

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