For the record lover

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There’s science behind analog vs. digital

Adam Petrash
The Manitoban (University of Manitoba)

I wasn’t going to go into the science of why vinyl is better because not everyone can relate to science but everyone can relate to the emotions of the human condition.

But let’s face it: if you’re a geek like me, science is cool.

The reason vinyl sounds better all comes down to analog versus digital. If you know anything about analog and digital wavelengths, then you’ll know what I am referring to. If not, allow me to explain.

Analog wavelengths are as pure as it can get. Sound is, by nature, analog – it’s continuous. To better explain this, imagine a green-covered rolling hill in the countryside. Now, take a pencil and trace the outside of that hill. You now have a bell curve, right? This represents what an analog wavelength looks like. With digital, the sound is not continuous; it consists of a series of shorter sounds. Now, take that same green-covered hill, but this time, instead of tracing the hill accurately, draw stairs into the left side leading up to the top of the hill and back down the right side. This represents what a digital wavelength looks like. And, as you can see, it’s missing pieces of that hill, thus making the argument that analog captures a more organic, truer representation, whereas with digital audio, subtleties are absent.

Now, I get that these days with all the latest advances in digital technology, there’s the argument that no one can tell the difference anymore. That yeah, sure, if it was recorded on analog, it’s a safe bet that it sounds best on analog. But who records on analog anymore? Well, you’d be surprised. Bands like the Black Keys, Bright Eyes, Death Cab For Cutie, and Jack Johnson, among many, many others, still choose to record using analog.

I know others would say if it was recorded digitally then it has to sound better on CD or MP3. So why buy it on record if you’re not missing anything? Point taken. The truth, in short, is that it’s all subjective. How we interpret music, as we do with most things, is all personal preference. For me, I’m an audiophile at heart. I believe vinyl to sound full and warm and that it creates an atmosphere digital continues to lack. But that’s just me.

So I say go and conduct your own science experiments.

Go up into the attic, or down into that crawlspace, or out to the garage, and get your parents’ (or any other family member’s) turntable that’s sitting there just collecting dust. If no one you know has one, find one. Then, just make your way down to your local record store and discover all the old, collectible, and new LPs they sell. Conduct your own science experiments, then go and find out for yourself why vinyl very may well be, in your own opinion, better.

So come on and discover your own little wonders. You’re never too old to rediscover magic.

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