Forget Vinyl: 4 Reasons Digital Is Superior
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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.


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 Remember A Fresh Look at the Redesigned Music Service Remember A Fresh Look at the Redesigned Music Service With a new redesign now available as an open beta, 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 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? How does file compression work? Learn the basics of file compression and the difference between lossy versus lossless compression. 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 Streaming media is convenient, but you're giving up something important: ownership of digital media. 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.


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

Explore more about: MP3, Music Album, Spotify, Vinyl Records.

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  1. Michael Lloyd
    October 10, 2017 at 8:03 am

    If you're a real audiophile, then yes Beethoven for instance sounds the "best on a great turntable". No, not a cheap Denon player...but rather a high end phono player like Kronos or Sota initially. After which a pristine recording can be saved in high resolution through DSD, SACD, etc and on high quality and through a home server that can stream those priceless recordings to you.