Vinyl vs. Digital Music: 5 Reasons Why Digital Is Better

Ben Stegner Updated 12-05-2020

There has long been a debate pitting vinyl vs. digital. Vinyl collectors claim that their format of choice is superior, citing reasons why vinyl is better than digital 5 Reasons Why Vinyl Is Better Than Digital for Music Lovers Digital music may be more convenient, but there are still plenty of reasons to listen to vinyl records. Read More . However, others, including myself, think differently.


The fact is that digital music is much better than vinyl, and in this article we’ll outline the reasons why. And by digital music we mean CDs, songs purchased on iTunes, and music you stream on services such as Spotify and Apple Music.

1. Going Digital Will Improve Your Taste in Music

If you ask an art critic what their favorite painting is, they probably won’t say something well-known like the Mona Lisa. Rather, they’ll recount a unique story about a lesser-known piece that speaks to them personally.

Music is similar. Someone whose favorite band is an extremely popular group of the day—even if that artist is available in a record shop—doesn’t have much of an imagination in their musical taste. Having a developed taste in music means understanding what you like and why you like it rather than following what’s popular.

You can be a discerning listener that only listens to music digitally, just like you can visit record shops and still only buy albums from Top 40 artists. Music streaming services like Spotify boast excellent recommendation tools that help you find more music you’ll love How to Find More Music You'll Love on Spotify: 7 Methods to Try Here are some different ways to find more music you'll love on Spotify. Discover more music and expand your tastes! Read More , even if they’re not well-known.

The Discover Weekly playlist, for example, updates every week with 30 new tracks based on your listening tastes. By default, Spotify will continue playing similar music when your current playlist or album ends. And you’ll find a Fans Also Like section on every artist to branch out further.


Spotify Recommendations For You

With both built-in and external tools in your favorite music streaming service, you’ll discover dozens of bands (and maybe even genres) that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. That will help expand your musical tastes much more than buying old records from big-name artists.

2. Streaming Services Offer All the Music You Need

It’s difficult to overstate how powerful digital music streaming is. As long as you have an internet connection, you can think about what kind of music you’d like to listen to and start playing it in seconds.

And you have complete control over the mix of music you want to play, too. Feeling nostalgic for an album that represents your teenage years? Want to mix everything from your favorite artist? Or maybe you want to jump into music from a new genre to try it out. It’s all really simple with digital.



Compare that to vinyl, where you have a small selection of records to listen to. If you want to listen to something that you don’t own, you’re out of luck unless you trek all the way to the record store and hope they have a copy. And flipping the record every few songs gets old quickly.

Going digital also means your collection goes with you wherever you go. Paid streaming services let you download your favorite music for offline listening, so you can listen even when you’re offline. You can’t play your vinyl records in the car or bring them on a trip with you.

3. Digital Sounds Better Than Vinyl… Fact

Want to get the vinyl listening experience while listening to music on your computer or phone? First, start playing a song you like. Next, grab a bag of chips and rustle it next to your ear. That’s the signature vinyl crackle, and for much less than the cost of buying a record player.


A page on the Hydrogenaudio Wiki dispels several myths about the quality of vinyl and digital music. It explains that there is no objective basis to state that a vinyl record sounds better than a CD or streaming music.

Some albums might sound better on CD, while others sound better on vinyl. It’s all about the mastering used on that particular project. In addition, many modern albums released on vinyl use the same master as the one used for the CD, since vinyl records are expensive to produce.

Multiple tests have found that few people can tell the difference between a high-quality digital stream and vinyl playback. Even with file compression (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 ), the 320kbps quality used by most premium services, combined with a good pair of headphones, will likely sound better than a mid-range record player.

If you’re an audiophile, you can download music in a lossless format, like FLAC. While most services like Spotify and Apple Music stream in a lossy format, dedicated services like Amazon Music HD or Tidal HiFi stream in higher quality audio formats.


4. Digital Is More Cost-Effective Than Vinyl

Browsing a record store

Buying vinyl isn’t cheap. While you can go to a record store and pick up some albums for a few dollars, cheap records are likely either in poor condition or not the music you want to listen to. And new vinyl releases can easily cost $20 or more. Spending that kind of money on every album you want to listen to adds up quickly.

Digital music streaming offers so much more for your money. Most services cost around $10/month (even less if you make use of streaming family plans The 9 Best Streaming Services That Offer Shared Family Plans Family plans for streaming services come with many benefits, the best being that it ends up being much cheaper than having separate individual plans. Read More ) and let you listen to as much music as you want.

When a new album from your favorite artist comes out, you can listen to it that day without paying any extra money for the privilege. It’s easy to check out a new artist without feeling like you wasted money if you end up not liking them. And you don’t have to buy a whole album if you just want to listen to a few songs from it.

$10/month can either buy you unlimited access to millions of tracks at the click of a button, or one vinyl record. It’s a clear choice which is better value. Some might argue that vinyl records hold their value, but the chances are slim that you’ll ever make much money selling records on.

5. Digital Offers More Convenient Features

If you place importance on music management and organization, digital music is far superior to vinyl.

Playlists, which are a vital element of today’s music scene, thrive on digital music services. It’s easy to make playlists for your own use, to send to a friend, or for use at an event. You can even search playlists others have made to save yourself time. With vinyl, playlists are essentially non-existent.

Digital music streaming also makes it easy to share music with other people. Instead of having to physically lend someone a vinyl record, you can send them a link to an album or song you like on Spotify or another streaming service.

Spotify Share Options

Finally, digital services offer more convenient features. You can create an easy-to-search digital library, making it easy to find just the right track, start radio mode to keep the tunes going without manual input, and manually add tracks to the queue. If you listen to music all of the time, these are huge benefits.

Digital Is Superior to Vinyl

In this article, we’ve spelled out the reasons why digital music beats vinyl. While we have previously suggested that everyone should start collecting vinyl, it just doesn’t make sense to use it as your primary music source when there’s a better alternative available.

Digital music is superior to vinyl, and streaming services let you listen to whatever you’d like at high quality, whenever and wherever you want, for a fraction of the cost.

With that in mind, our comparison of Spotify vs. Apple Music vs. Google Play Music Spotify vs. Apple Music vs. Google Play Music: Which Is Best? Here's our comparison of music streaming services Spotify vs. Apple Music vs. Google Play Music on price, quality, and catalog. Read More will help you decide which music streaming service to subscribe to.

Image Credit: Shattered vinyl via Shutterstock

Related topics: MP3, Music Album, Music Discovery, Spotify, Streaming Music, Vinyl Records.

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  1. HildyJ
    May 12, 2020 at 11:40 pm

    You mentioned the Mona Lisa and it occurs to me that all the same arguments could be applied to graphics files versus paintings.

    Convenience is good but not necessarily better.

  2. 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.