• Matthew Kaufman

The Case for Analog: Vinyls

We’ve all heard it and I mean that literally. The difference between listening to something on vinyl versus listening to something on a CD.

I’m sure you’ve most certainly met a person or two who spent at least an hour explaining to you the vast superiority of listening to The Beatles on an old record player rather than listening to it on disc. But why are vinyls better and why should you care? What does the whole argument mean on a grander scale?

At a technical level, the difference between the two are pretty massive. First off, there are often neat tricks that are only done on vinyls, like hiding songs in the label or images appearing when spun. The more important thing people talk about is the quality of sound.

With a disc, you are dealing with sound in a compressed format, most often the mp3 format. What this means is that to conserve space on the disk, manufacturers are forced to degrade the quality of the audio slightly. While this is very rarely a deal breaker, there is a distinctly more pleasant quality when you listen to something that does not do any compression, like a vinyl. The audio on the vinyl is most often analog and lossless, meaning you get every little detail. While this change in detail and quality may not matter in each and every single circumstance, there are times where you’re just poisoning the experience for yourself otherwise.

So if vinyls are so superior, why did we switch to CD and, eventually, digital download?

Well the answer is two fold. It was newer and it was more convenient. After all, when was the last time you saw a car with a record player built into its stereo? Meanwhile, I’m sure we all know at least a few cars that still have their disc players. Not to mention that the idea of a digital disc was just so futuristic at the time. They’re not only smaller but they’re also shinier and cheaper to produce. What wasn’t alluring about this new technology? Since it’s so alluring and so new, we have to put this into everything now.

And this attitude is exhibited in a lot more than music.

It's only natural as human beings to associate "new" with "convenient." Yet this association isn't always accurate.

In our ever pursuit for the next big thing, we often times forget to question if that upgrade is worthwhile. Often times, we are unintentionally missing out on something.

No matter how thirsty a sailor is, he doesn't drink saltwater. Quality matters, not just convenience.

Of course, the case for vinyl is far less serious. None of us are genuinely "missing out" on a vital life experience by opting for newer, more convenient ways of listening to music. Yet the debate over vinyl does afford us an opportunity to pause and consider the other things in life we sacrifice in the name of convenience.

So if you decide to choose something meaningful over something convenient (or vice-versa), don't feel guilty. The mere fact that you've stopped to consider such things is a good sign.

And that's good to know.

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