Are CDs really better than vinyl? Vox seems to think so.


I came across this article on stating, “Viny’s great, but it’s not better than CDs”.  The article goes onto state several items such at the distortion on records.  The article seems to hinge its claim on the superiority of the CD around the argument that humans cannot hear above 20kHz.

The sampling rate for CDs is 44.1kHz, meaning that CD recordings sample the master recording 44,100 times a second, and can capture frequencies as high as 20 kHz. That is about the limit of what humans can hear; at least one experiment has confirmed that listeners in blind can’t tell the difference between recordings which include frequencies above 21k and ones which don’t. You may think think you can hear more than CDs are giving you. But you probably can’t.

A few paragraphs down, the article continues attempting to refute that apparently the only criticism of the CD is that it doesn’t hold information above 20kHz.

Metcalfe brings up another problem with this line of CD criticism. Even if an actual recording method can hold frequencies above 20kHz, that doesn’t matter if there isn’t a microphone capable of capturing them in the first place, or a speaker capable of playing them back. And most studios don’t have microphones that record above 20kHz, and it’s very rare for speakers to play frequencies above that. Indeed, most playback systems feature low-pass filters, which specifically cut off anything above that marker.

I have to say that after reading the article as a whole, I left scratching my head as to how this is supposed to prove that CDs ripped at 44.1 and 16 bit are superior to LPs.  I highly doubt, given what the author wrote that they have experienced good vinyl recordings on a high end setup.  Secondly, if “digital” recordings (and by this he means CDs at 44.1) are truly more “accurate” then why have people flocked to high-res recordings? Why has Neil Young launching a new high-end digital audio player (The Pono) to play high-res 24/96 and higher file formats?  Why have advocates of higher-res digital advocated that it sounds “more like vinyl” if CD is indeed the perfect medium?  The folks over at audioholics did a head to head between CDs and vinyl… and vinyl won.

I don’t mind opinions and opinionated articles, but the science behind the article left me completely unconvinced to end with such bold statements in the conclusion:

But if you’re a vinyl collector, you also shouldn’t go around telling your friends how much purer your audio is. First off, that’s generally dickish behavior, but more to the point it’s false. Digital recording just is more accurate. That’s not the only thing worth considering by any means, but it does make the puritanism of some vinyl true believers look rather ridiculous.

For those looking for some interesting commentary in the analog vs. digital battle, take a peek at one of the most recent Home Theater Geeks podcasts below. This and many past shows touch upon many of the issues in a more coherent manner: