Vinyl Music Still Sounds Good

Although some experts estimate that the Compact Disc will meet its doom by 2015, it seems that vinyl is enjoying a mini-renaissance, some thirty years after LP sales peaked in 1978. The vinyl record has always been popular with DJs, but do they actually sound better than new digital formats?

Analogue Music In The Groove

Vinyl is very much an analogue format – music is produced as the stylus follows a continuous groove etched into the surface of the disc, starting at the outside and gradually moving towards the centre.

The physical construction of a record has a significant impact on how it sounds; because it spins at a constant speed (for example, 33rpm), a single revolution of the disc at the edge affords more stylus travel than one further in. This means that the sound quality at the edge is actually better.

In fact, as you progress through an LP, the high frequencies are attenuated… so when asking whether vinyl or digital is higher quality, you have to bear in mind that vinyl sometimes doesn’t even sound as good as itself.

Vinyl Music Loves Distortion

Distortion isn’t necessarily a bad thing; anything that changes the nature of a signal is distortion. A warm tube amp lends pleasant qualities to a sound, and vinyl can sometimes provide a similar sort of pleasant distortion or warmth that many people enjoy.

However, creating a recording for vinyl requires a lot of attention; there are things you need to consider that simply don’t apply to mastering for CD. For example, it’s vital in a vinyl master for the bass to be centred – otherwise the offset energy is liable to cause the needle to jump out of the groove.

Also, vinyl is generally mastered at lower volumes – loud recordings require a wider groove, which reduces the space available on the disc (which is obviously a fixed width). Emusician have an interesting article on mastering for vinyl.

Making Vinyl – Music On The Black Crack

For those of you who love to know how things are made, here are two videos that go through the process of creating a vinyl record…


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