Friday, August 29, 2008

Vinyl - the "New" Hi-Def Audio?

Over the last year I've been reading how vinyl is making a big comeback (more proof than you can shake a stick at here, here, here, and here). Some bands are taking a large amount of time to make sure these releases sound darn good. They say, "Hey, if you care about how your music sounds, buy vinyl rather than a crummy CD!"

This is inherently stupid. For the moment, let's forget some technical details, such as the fact that CDs have a higher dynamic range than vinyl, and its frequency range is going to more than good enough for most people. And yes, I'm aware that the "feel" of vinyl can be more pleasurable since the analog nature of it gives off more warmth. But the fact is that in most cases, not enough care has gone into making a good CD. If engineers spent half as much time with the CD as they did with these new vinyl releases, a lot of us would be pretty happy.

And what if you wanted that extra bit of technical data on your side? Then the SACD and DVD-A formats are just great. They can store numbers with higher precision (to better approximate the sound samples), they have high frequency response, the decks play your old CDs, the medium is more portable, they're inexpensive, and they support lossless surround formats. Yes, they have copy protection, but if you're fumbling around in the hi-def arena, as long as the copy protection doesn't severely affect your listening experience, who cares? But unless your band's name is Porcupine Tree, releasing in one of these hi-def formats just isn't on your radar screen in 2008.

So exactly why are people gushing over vinyl? Large album art, nostalgia, and "the experience" of unwrapping this huge product and sliding large discs out of sleeves? That's all well and good, but the price of vinyl these days has been bordering on the absurd. It's a bit of a scam, actually. I mean hell, Metallica is going to be releasing Death Magnetic on five pieces of vinyl for around $120. Never mind the absurdity of the price; I'd have to get up off my ass nine times to hear the whole album. And for what increase in quality? Even though Mobile Fidelity is doing the transfer, chances are the original mix isn't that good to begin with, so any advantage spent by someone putting this thing to 180 grahams and at speed of 45 RPM is wasted.

But hey, someone gets a lot of money from the fanboys. And that's what counts.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

CDs have a tremendous dynamic range, but one that is ALMOST NEVER USED in pop music, where producers have learned that "louder = greater sales." Pop music is mostly pants, anyway, but when well recorded at least it can be tolerated. Loud, over-EQed music pushed to the point of saturation is inexcusable on CD, but that's what we're being offered.

Some radio stations in the USA (cough*ClearChannel*cough) with RoboDJ systems are digitally compressing their signals before sending the across the internet to broadcast (the compression artifacts are obvious). Makes it even worse.

2:52 AM  

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