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Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

... vinyl sales have skyrocketed from under a million in 2007 to potentially more than 8 million this year in the U.S. alone — in part thanks to the thinking that vinyl just sounds better.

Is that true? Kind of. Sometimes. It depends.... Does vinyl sound better? ~ The Oregonian
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  ;~)

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #1
Quote
"Vinyl is the only consumer playback format we have that's fully analog and fully lossless,"
And stopped reading there. Listening to those "engineers" is like listening to an homeopath explaining medicine.

It's only audiophile if it's inconvenient.

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #2
What we really need is:

"Does vinyl really sound better? A psychologist explains"

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #3
Quote
"Vinyl is the only consumer playback format we have that's fully analog and fully lossless,"
And stopped reading there. Listening to those "engineers" is like listening to an homeopath explaining medicine.


OK, I guess it depends on what is meant by "fully analog", but other fully analog formats would be various tapes of tape, as far as I know.

Isn't the only thing that's fully analog and fully lossless within the audible range the master tape that was used to make an analog recording?

I don't believe vinyl is fully lossless with respect to what was on the master tape used to make the vinyl.

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #4
Quote
But whether its origins are digital or analog (more on this later), a vinyl disc should have more musical information than an MP3 file — so it should be an improvement on streaming sites such as YouTube or SoundCloud, especially on a good system.


I don't think that's necessarily accurate. I believe it depends on the quality of the MP3. Some youtube files are poor quality, but not all.

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #5
TheWellTemperedComputer.com

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #6
Seriously. There are very real practical limitations with the physical cutting of vinyl. There is this assumption of "infinite resolution." Okay, you go ahead and prove that "infinite resolution" exists within a universe where all matter is quantized. I'll wait.

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #7
You could question how "analog" vinyl really is. With very few exceptions vinyl is just an analog copy of the original digital source. In 1980's parlance most vinyls are DDA.
Every night with my star friends / We eat caviar and drink champagne
Sniffing in the VIP area / We talk about Frank Sinatra
Do you know Frank Sinatra? / He's dead

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #8
I'd like to see the source of the sales numbers and how they compare to this:
http://m.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-30250358

I'd also like a follow-up after the year is over verifying whether this 8-million "potential" was reached.
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #9
I'd like to see the source of the sales numbers and how they compare to this:
http://m.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-30250358

I'd also like a follow-up after the year is over verifying whether this 8-million "potential" was reached.

Pick the same country and then you might have some hope of comparing figures.

RIAA reported 9.4 million LP/EP shipments in the US in 2013, plus 300,000 singles.  Figures for the first half of 2014 were 35% higher than in 2013, but timing is erratic and that may not translate to the full year.  I think you can be fairly confident that they will be higher though.  CD shipments are 10-20 times higher, comparable to album downloads but declining at 10-20% annually.  Single downloads are another 10 times higher than that.  Purchased downloads are actually decling, the real growth is in streaming.

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #10
Do you think the historical trend is significantly different between the US and the UK?
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #11
Do you think the historical trend is significantly different between the US and the UK?

I wouldn't have thought so, but I haven't looked up the numbers.  Just that one market is five times the size of the other.

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #12
Agreed.
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?


Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #14
You could question how "analog" vinyl really is. With very few exceptions vinyl is just an analog copy of the original digital source. In 1980's parlance most vinyls are DDA.


Not just now, either. For example: every time Earache Records shows the master tape for one of their new FDR (full dynamic rage) reissues of late-eighties/early-nineties heavy metal it's always a DAT tape. If I'm not mistaken DAT specs are almost always 16/44.1 too.

...but anyway...for people like me buying some vinyl in the 21st century it's often at least as much about the collectability and investment. The sound of my stone-mint Japanese pressing of Diary of a Madman is phenomenal. Most importantly it's the very modest amount of money I paid for it that's even more than lossless. In fact very few of the records I buy these days even factor into vinyl sales. Even the sealed copies.
The Loudness War is over. Now it's a hopeless occupation.

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #15
http://m.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-30250358


some amusing quotes from the original story that prompted that article:

Quote
Pink Floyd's accolade as the fastest-selling vinyl release this century came thanks to just 6,000 sales


Quote
"I think it's sort of a hipster thing," remarked one shopper at Rough Trade East, a popular record store off Brick Lane in East London.


Quote
One survey that seemingly backs up this train of thought was published in April this year, by the ICM Group. It suggested 15% of physical music - whether vinyl, CD or, less likely, tape - was bought with no intention of ever listening to it.


Quote
Nigel House, co-founder of the Rough Trade retail chain, told the BBC he thought that the big record labels were pouncing on vinyl because it has become fashionable.

"The major labels, their albums are so expensive - £25!

"You get someone coming in, they could buy 10 CDs for £100, or four vinyls. Yes, they are expensive. For me, I don't think that's good at all."


no shit. 


Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #17
But the commenters on that article are mostly level-headed people who can think for themselves.


Fortunately, yes.



Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #18
Isn't the only thing that's fully analog and fully lossless within the audible range the master tape that was used to make an analog recording?


A 1990s remaster of it is certainly not lossless :-o

Actually, with fader automation one could work out the mix first and then make a master tape. AFAIK the mixing desk would record the movement of the levers, and then you sit back and evaluate it while the desk would physically robot-control the levers (do a youtube search!) and only when you were satisfied, you would commit it to (master) tape.

That way the master tape was a copy - necessarily lossy in the analogue days - of the pre-mix tape augmented with the processing instructions.


(And "master" tape is not necessarily what we amateurs think if it as.)
Memento: this is Hydrogenaudio. Do not assume good faith.

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #19
Quote
"Vinyl is the only consumer playback format we have that's fully analog and fully lossless,"

What kind of degree-issuing institution did they get their engineer's title from? The local charity lottery?

It smells awfully like local business stirring to me. "I am a magician of tones! Trust me, I will make you believe you hear everything better, when *I* do it!"

Might as well read a "scientific" analysis of a ufology Ph.D discussing evolution with a creationist...

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #20
Vinyl is certainly making a commercial resurgence. These seem to be the reasons:
(1) Incorrect perceptions about sound quality
(2) Collectible value (not necessary monetary value, but liking to have music as a physical item)
(3) Pure hipsterism

The question is, which of these is the most dominant influence? Speaking for the subset of my record collection pressed after 2005, the majority of purchases were made due to reason #2. Early on, I bought a few records in the hopes they might be less compressed than the CD, and quickly realized that's not the case.

There are a couple of things that make me think #2 is the primary reason, apart from my anecdote. If you look at when the vinyl resurgence took off, mid-late 2000s, it coincides with declining CD sales and the proliferation of online music sales and streaming. As iPods, Pandora, etc. became the normal way of getting music, people no longer had a physical product. With the streaming services, they indeed had no product at all, just a fickle promise for continuation of the service. That's a situation many people don't like. So, to fill that void, they buy albums that are important to them on vinyl - even if they don't regularly play them.

That collectiblity  factor can also be illustrated with colored vinyl. It's been around forever, but as we know, historically the vast majority of vinyl was black. Colored vinyl was used to make a record more collectible, often for limited-run pressings. But the past few years, nearly half of all new vinyl pressed is colored. This implies that a lot of the demand is due to the perceived collectibility. Other new "specialty" records are hollow and filled with liquids, glitter, diluted blood (no shit!). (Well, at least to my knowledge no one has pressed feces into a record yet.)

Ironically, if the trend continues it means colored vinyl will be just as common as black vinyl soon. Perhaps we are seeing a "vinyl bubble" and not a permanent "vinyl resurgence"?

Source on that colored vinyl stat: http://pitchfork.com/features/articles/946...inyls-comeback/

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #21
Quote
"vinyl bubble"

That would be doubly unfortunate

Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #22
Vinyl is certainly making a commercial resurgence. These seem to be the reasons:
(1) Incorrect perceptions about sound quality
(2) Collectible value (not necessary monetary value, but liking to have music as a physical item)
(3) Pure hipsterism

The question is, which of these is the most dominant influence? Speaking for the subset of my record collection pressed after 2005, the majority of purchases were made due to reason #2. Early on, I bought a few records in the hopes they might be less compressed than the CD, and quickly realized that's not the case.


There are some releases where the cut of the record is indeed a different master to the CD release.

Of course they don't always sound better.

In my own experiment a controlled ABX test of a digital transfer of AMOK's "Atoms for Peace" verses the direct CD release, the vinyl transfer was strongly preferred.

Its possible that the mastering was superior but also that the lack of top end response lends itself to the program material.

Vinyl certainly doesn't sound better, but it may deliver a more relaxing experience in some cases.

Opinions?


Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains

Reply #24
Every retail shop I went to around 1990 had 90% of their stock as cassette and CD, especially as the major labels began seriously ramping up production. I couldn't help but think that they must just be responding to consumer demand, and that nobody wanted vinyl anymore. Then I worked in music retail and found out the real story, something those sales charts don't tell you. This isn't to say that vinyl's "death" and consumers converting to new formats wasn't happening due to consumer demand anyway, I mean in-car cassette players were now standard equipment, every kid had a boom box or Walkman, and the mail-order clubs BMG and Columbia House were practically giving away tapes & CDs to every household in America...but it still wasn't happening fast enough for the major labels, so they took steps to get retail shops to stop offering vinyl. First they aggressively deleted vinyl titles from production, then charged higher wholesale prices to shops that returned unsold product, and then made their distributors stop accepting returns altogether. The net effect was that shops couldn't take risks on vinyl anymore, except the ultra-popular titles, so they stopped ordering it. The fact that incomes were rising and people were willing to pay double to replace their beat-up records on CD, plus tapes for the car, sure didn't hurt.

The return policy crap caused a lot of resentment among shop owners at the time, but tape & CD was more profitable for them, too, so there wasn't any resistance to it. But the point is that only part of that huge decline in the late '80s/early '90s was due to consumer demand; it was partly due to other "business decisions" that consumers had no hand in.

I wonder what the situation is with returns now?

 
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