Vinyl vs CD

It is often claimed that vinyls sound better than CDs.  This is simply untrue.  At any reasonable price tag, in terms of all technical specifications (specs) relevant to audio reproduction, CDs are as good as or better than vinyl or tape.  To understand why, one has to understand the specs.  Unfortunately, adequate specs are rarely supplied with any modern equipment  often they aren't even available from a manufacturer's website  and with audio systems such bad practice has led to widespread ignorance as to what constitutes good audio reproduction.

The following are the most relevant that need to be understood:

So in all these technical specifications CD systems match or exceed legacy analogue systems.  CDs are also a more convenient size and weight  I'd rather manhandle 100 CDs than 100 vinyls  and though not as indestructible as once claimed, they are certainly significantly more durable.  Their main drawback is the small cover size, track lists are often printed ridiculously small and occasionally in unreadable combinations such as blue text on a black background  unlikely to sell me your CD  and there is no room for iconic album art by artists such as Roger Dean.

Tape and vinyl noise were the curse of legacy analogue systems, the fragile media gradually wearing on each play back, so inevitably favourite tracks were the worst affected.  Individual heartbreaking foreground scratches apart, it's this background noise that appals by comparison with CD: "However could we listen to that?!".  It might just be possible to claim that a new vinyl on an expensive new deck with a new stylus sounds as good as a CD on a moderately priced deck, but after a year in average homes played on average decks there really is no comparison between vinyl and CD!

Additionally this noise drowns the faintest, highest transients and overtones in music, reducing FR.

So why do people persist in claiming against all scientific reason that vinyl is better?  Abuses that were difficult, expensive, or impossible in analogue can be done comparatively easily in digital.  Perhaps they erroneously blame the results of such abuse on the technology itself?

For example, apparently rules state that TV advertisements should not have a volume greater than the programmes they accompany, so instead sound is processed to amplify a wide range of frequencies up to this limit, making adverts sound much louder, even though they are 'not'!  This happened with analogue TV, but with digital is now rampant.  By far the most objectionable I've encountered is Eurosport, whose breaks are not only deafening to the point of being mildly disorientating, but even worse contain a lot of white noise.  Of course, this backfires because viewers like myself, naturally resenting such abuse, either for preference watch the same content on another channel, any other channel, or if we can't, learn very quickly to anticipate every commercial break by muting the sound.

Similar processing of popular music CDs to give 'impact' is now widespread, and this is just the latest stage in a process that began with the advent first of disco and then of club and dance music, as well as the influence of genres of such as rap.  These led to a modern taste in sound which, even before the advent of digital processing, was to my ears bass heavy and artificially aggressive.

Further, either because modern sound engineers are so used to this sound that they consider it 'right' and always aim to recreate it, or simply from good but misapplied intentions such as reducing hiss from master tapes, when restoring for release on CD analogue recordings originally released on vinyl, instead of mere digitisation, excessive digital processing is often applied, destroying the 'balance' and/or dynamic range of the sound.  This has been widely discussed, and demonstrated experimentally by Jim Lesurf, as linked below.  For an aural example, listen to those Fleetwood Mac tracks which are on both their Greatest Hits CD (7599-25838-2) and their Rumours CD (7599-27313-2).  I think you will agree that those on Greatest Hits have an authentic sound that compares well with the original vinyl, whereas those on Rumours sound as though the speakers are behind heavy drapery  muffled?, bass heavy?, lacking in transients?  and do not.

The more observant will have noticed that such abuse nonsensifies the concept of a flat FR, and, predictably, such a disregard of good standards has its cost.  Listeners' ears tire of an unbalanced sound much more quickly than a balanced one.  Someone my age may barely tolerate a couple of tracks of a CD with heavy digital processing, and younger people will also tire more quickly of it.

In fact, CDs are perfectly capable of conveying faithfully that 'warm' analogue or any other sound, most importantly any well-balanced sound, it's just that, sadly, as described above, too often those producing them deliberately choose otherwise.