Vinyl Vs CD Vs Streaming: A history of music sources is a history of ever-evolving technology and ever-lasting love of high fidelity sound. The 2010’s has seen vinyl, CDs and streaming battle it out for attention. Since the mid-twentieth century, there has been an ebb and flow of music sources, with traditionally the CD eclipsing vinyl and streaming significantly denting the CD market.
The 2010’s has seen vinyl, CDs and streaming battle it out for attention. Since the mid-twentieth century, there has been an ebb and flow of music sources, with the CD eclipsing vinyl and streaming significantly denting the CD market.
In the past few years, however, vinyl has seen a well-documented resurgence while CDs have not died out as predicted, although they have taken a hit. Progressions in technology have not been reflected in audiophile’s tastes and preferences- there is a reason why vinyl is still going strong.
Each music source possesses strengths and weaknesses that match or fall short of each individual listener’s tastes. In this blog we will explore the history and compare the advantages and disadvantages of vinyl, CD and streaming, helping you to make an informed decision.
First thing is first, sound is by its very nature analogue. As a result, analogue music sources deliver a sound that is as close to the original recording as possible, warts and all. Added to this, vinyl is a lossless format so nothing is lost when the record is pressed, again retaining the sound as it was recorded, in the respect to compression.
Before the birth of the vinyl LP, records were made from abrasive material and their recording time was limited to five minutes per side. The vinyl LP revolutionised this as it could fit up to twenty minutes of music on both sides. Perfect for extended recording, artists could now record albums of work. The rest is history.
The first advantage has to be sound quality. Yes, you may hear faint crackles and smoky tones, but that is part of the vinyl listening experience.
As mentioned above, vinyl is an analogue medium so is well suited to reproducing analogue sound. Sound quality is particularly rich for recordings made in the 50s, 60s and 70s as they were recorded analogically. The sound of vinyl has a depth and authenticity that more modern mediums find difficult to match.
One such superior area is the tangibility of vinyl. Many people love the physicality of vinyl, from physically placing it on the turntable, caring for it and poring over album artwork and sleeve notes. You cannot replicate this experience with streaming. Indeed, with streaming services listeners do not ‘own’ the music, so in a few decades time they will not have a physical collection of archived music.
The downside to the physicality of vinyl is that they take up room you may not have, especially if you have a large collection. With CDs taking up less space and streaming none at all, it is clear that vinyl is the most space-demanding of the trio.
Vinyl is notoriously high-maintenance. If you are willing to put in the effort and time to look after your vinyl properly this should not be a problem, but realistically wear and tear does happen with consequences to your sound performance.
Vinyl is vulnerable to dust, scratches, warping and scuffs which causes problems such as fluctuations in pitch, ticks and pops or can even make the record unplayable. If you find yourself with a scratched or cracked record then you will fully understand the meaning of the phrase ‘like a broken record’.
With careful handling, time and effort your vinyl should last for a remarkably long time. Vinyl from fifty years ago still sounds magnificent now thanks to careful owners. The team at Audio Affair can advise you on the best way to look after your vinyl.
The 1980’s saw the rise of the CD aka compact disc, an event dubbed as the ‘Big Bang’ of the digital audio revolution. Co-developed by Sony and Phillips, the CD was launched in 1983 with the aim of offering clear and noiseless digital sound.
The CD was praised for its clear and clean sound reproduction. The CD eliminated the impurities (some may say character) of vinyl and currently still enjoys superior sound quality to some internet streaming services.
Compared to streaming, CDs are more reliable as you just pop your disc in your player and off you go, whereas streaming relies on an internet connection and software which can’t always be trusted to work effectively.
Sound quality is a double-edged sword for CDs, with some people put off by its clear sound.
It is argued that CDs lose that authentic character enjoyed by vinyl and instead offer a clinical, cold and thin quality. This is especially the case of older works that were recorded in analogue and have since been digitized. Moreover, because of the act of compression, frequencies are cut and as a result the sound lacks depth.
As with most areas of life in the 21st century, the internet is now a music source via streaming services. If you want more information about setting up a streaming system, check out our blog here.
The major advantage of streaming is immediately obvious: it is effortlessly convenient and gives you access to practically every song ever made, instantly at your fingertips.
The price is also a major advantage considering that the monthly cost of a subscription to a service such as Spotify Premium is a similar cost to one CD. For the price of one CD you can discover a huge range of artists, research new music and curate your library according to your own taste.
Compared to both vinyl and CDs, streaming is the essential space-saving solution. It is amazing really when you sit back and think of the vast array of music at your fingertips, all because of your internet connection.
This is not to say that streaming is faultless.
Concerns over sound quality have dogged the reputation of streaming. For example, Spotify has a bit rate of 160 kpbs which is less than the standard of mp3 files, while Spotify Premium comes in at 360 kpbs which makes it just equal to mp3.
Both offer less quality than a CD, indeed, only Tidal offers a lossless compression audio, making it the only streaming service to offer CD quality. Streaming has a long way to go if it helps to excel CDs for sound quality.
Rather than pitting each music source against each other, it is clear that listeners are swayed by an emotional preference, as no source is 100% perfect.
Rather than sticking steadfastly to one, it seems that audiophiles enjoy a mixture of all three, as seen through the rise in multi-channel listening where streaming is used for research and vinyl for collecting.
Whether you are a vinyl junkie, CD aficionado or a streaming super-fan, the team at Audio Affair are more than happy to assist and advise your journey to the ideal hi-fi system based on your desired music source.