The Truth About Vinyl - Vinyl vs. Digital

Real Engineering
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Narrator/Director: Brian McManus
Writer: Seán McManus
Co-Director: Stephanie Sammann (www.stephanie-sammann.com/)
Co-Director: Mike Ridolfi (www.moboxgraphics.com/)
Sound: Graham Haerther (haerther.net/)
Thumbnail: Simon Buckmaster twitter.com/forgottentowel

[1] www.businessinsider.com/technology-is-changing-the-way-americans-listen-to-music-2017-11
[2] blog.echonest.com/post/62248127937/the-loudness-war-is-real-and-we-can-prove-it-with
[3] thevinylfactory.com/news/record-vinyl-sales-usa-first-half-2018/
[4] www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-36027867
'Disc Playback Characteristics', Wireless World, April 1956, p. 171.

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Science & Technology

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Nov 30, 2018




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Comments 12 594
freedom lover
freedom lover 5 hours ago
I have boxes of vinyl and even more cds. That said, besides the ritual of collecting and playing the record, I'm not sure why anybody would still want to spin a vinyl record; so annoying are the distortions, the surface noise and the continuous midrange whine from the needle drag. Is this really high end? Even the "warm, rich sound" is coloration, a plastic tone from the vinyl matetial itself in the signal path. No doubt there are bad masterings on cd, but there are just as many on vinyl. And there is NO LEGITIMATE way to compare a cd and a record since the masterings are never exactly the same. And even if they were exactly the same, what about the difference in the players themselves, the turntable and the CD player? Again, when directly comparing the two it will always be like comparing apples with oranges.
JJ333 Torus
JJ333 Torus 8 hours ago
20kHz for the ear disregards what we feel. Chemical reactions result from exposure to frequencies, even the ones we don't hear.
ReaktorLeak 2 hours ago
Evidence? www.psaudio.com/article/audio-myths/
Tom Servo
Tom Servo 13 hours ago
I believe those analog studies were done by comparing high quality cassettes to CDs.
gegloff1 22 hours ago
Great lesson in the history and mechanics of recorded sound. Thank you for putting this together. Shout out to ProTools, Logic Audio, and Digital Performer as great professional audio software (in addition to the acknowledged FL and Ableton.)
3V0 Day ago
As a Digital DJ, listening to why people have a preference between vinyl and digital was absolutely perfect! i dont have a vinyl setup yet but i agree that the mastering process placed on records and such have a HUGE impact on what the final product of a song is going to be. thank you.
leadfoot foot
When we see the stylus lowered onto the LP the tonearm is not parallel to LP surface. This will adversely affect the vertical tracking angle (VTA) which, in turn, adversely affects distortion levels, channel separation, and optimum stylus tracking downforce. How do these guys call themselves experts?
creator Space
creator Space 2 days ago
That's a good one. blog.naver.com/7heppy7
Bilbo Baggins
Bilbo Baggins 2 days ago
I get that the sound wave physically pushes and cuts the vinyl- but how are multiple sound waves I.e high and low frequencies that occur at the same time...a cymbal and a bass guitar of example get reproduced from one groove depth??
Sleepy Ancient
Sleepy Ancient 2 days ago
I kind of want that crackle that comes with a worn vinyl, especially for Bobby Darin's rendition of Beyond the Sea... for full old-timey feeling while listening.
clayton jackson
clayton jackson 2 days ago
Not Edison first.....new evidence exists...
Eric Vickery
Eric Vickery 2 days ago
ha rap might get one song on vinyl.... on a serious note you can't even compare those two. the human ear is not that good
german imperial gasmask
When he says high quality digital recording does he mean mp3 or lossless files like flac alac wav
Grim Fandango
Grim Fandango 3 days ago
I grew up with vinyl, and before stereo too. You say it is superior in longevity, and point to a gold plated record sent off into outer space that will not deteriorate. My actual experience is the exact opposite. Records are fragile, touched with fingers they collect oil which attracts dust that microscopically collects on the tracks. Scratches are inevitable, causing audible ticks on playback, and if severe enough, you wind up with a record that keeps playing the groove over and over, or one the jumps from groove to groove skipping over parts. The stylus cuts into the groove every time you play the record, diminishing the range and volume over time. I remember playing one song on a LP over and over, and winding up ruining that one song on the LP when I played it in its entirety. The stylus also wear with use, and if not replaced frequently, really damage the record quickly, and unfortunately, there is no way to tell beforehand that the stylus has gone bad. I suppose if all records were gold plated, they would have longevity, but I bet they too would deteriorate if constantly plated. Give me MP3. Reproducible, indestructible, and you can make a play list of thousands of songs on one USB drive
LordOfMalice 3 days ago
Why not use a pure direct laser that reads the groves in a vinyl disc and translates that information to the analog transformer? I'm a fucking genius.
LordOfMalice 3 days ago
The standing O would totally remove the speed variation / disc size problems, with a fixed recording imprint speed.
LordOfMalice 3 days ago
Also, instead of a "disc" make it a "ring" imagine it like a standing O rotating towards or from the needle(the needle head reads from left to right or vice versa).
Downtown Flats
Downtown Flats 3 days ago
Ahhh...vinyl always made me feel closer to music. Putting the needle in place is always satisfying
Incremental Earth
His conclusion is wrong, if you listen to the best digital audio setup vs vinyl audio setup, vinyl is better, it's just that to get there, it will cost much more than having a nice digital setup
ReaktorLeak 3 days ago
The more you spend, the better it sounds!
Edward Balboa
Edward Balboa 3 days ago
Dont download.... buy cds
Murilo Vidal
Murilo Vidal 3 days ago
Purists prefer vinyl over digital. Pah. Real purists kidnap the band and make them play all the songs live in their living rooms.
̐ 2 days ago
El Chapo style audiophile ;)
keepsit100 4 days ago
This just makes me want to get into the vinyl movement even more, now that I know choosing the right equipment isn't that serious since it'll be inferior anyway
backslash68 4 days ago
6:22 there is a terrible misconception about the nyquist theorem - yes, it says that by sampling at two times the maximum sample rate, all frequencies can be reproduced faithfully later. Yes this is true BUT there is a very important thing which is overlooked: it is assuming that the sampling is done at an infinite resolution in amplitude, which is obviously impossible. The higher the no. of bits in the sampling word, the better, but the original analog content can never be reproduced exactly as it was in the analog domain - unless the bit depth can account for the Plack length.
ReaktorLeak 3 days ago
You are correct, though, that you can't sample at exactly 2x the highest frequency in the signal. It has to be _greater_ than 2x to avoid aliasing.
ReaktorLeak 3 days ago
@backslash68 Here's a great demo: usvid.net/video/video-Rc_-eavKptY.html My point is that you do _not_ need infinite resolution to reproduce the signal exactly. (Signal and noise being considered separately) Do you have Adobe Audition? You can generate a square wave (say 1000 Hz) at 8-bit and 24-bit and compare. They sound exactly the same. The spectral graph is exactly the same (with a higher noise floor in 8-bit).
backslash68 3 days ago
@ReaktorLeak I admit that what I wrote could be misunderstood, however, sure, bit depth does not affect the range of reproduced frequencies - only the noise shape and dynamic range. I only meant that sampling at the nyquist frequency is not a guarantee that the resulting D->A output will be faithful to the original.
ReaktorLeak 3 days ago
This is a misconception about digital audio. The bit depth doesn't affect the frequencies in the signal at all; it only affects noise and dynamic range. The fact that you can do 1-bit sampling at super-high sample rates (à la DSD) proves it in practice.
backslash68 4 days ago
also another thing often overlooked: the highest frequency might be sampled exactly to nothing (thus not be reproduced at all later), if the sampling happens exactly where the wave crosses the Y axis (which is completely a matter of chance, in the real world)
Иван Васильевич
I record vinyl on mp3 Then I record mp3 on tape and listen though Bluetooth Headphones, sounds amazing
Huw Morgan
Huw Morgan 4 days ago
Good explanation for 2010 when CDs were common, but ignores streaming altogether. You might want to address compression of the various streaming sites in a follow-on.
Bees toe
Bees toe 3 days ago
Good point.
Charley Vox
Charley Vox 4 days ago
I’m just an old record collector and was 30 when the CD came out. With a bunch of friends my wife and I had a comparison party around 1987. I stood up for vinyl & the wife, CDs. I had an awesome sound system. Records had to have a little more volume as opposed to the CD and if you don’t have a pristine copy of the record, you experience surface noise. I had 6000 LP, 1000 45’s & 200 CD. That came to 2 pallets, 4’ high. I sold most of these on eBay and enjoyed every minute of it and gave over half to Goodwill. Spotify & USvid have allowed me to get everything I loved and that alone is worth it. I never embraced CD or cassette. It’s all personal preference.
EJP 4 days ago
A microphone does not turn audio into a digital signal. A digital signal can't simply be replayed as an analog signal. Moving coil cartridges exist, and other types. The reason bass notes require more groove modulation has to do with RIAA equalisation, and the 'fact' that speaker cones move further on bass notes is both irrelevant and untrue. There is a volume constraint on digital recording. Stylus skipping in the bass has to do with vertical modulation, which is why centre-panning fixes it, but sibilance has to do with lateral modulation, contrary to the picture shown. RIAA equalisation is described as a shortcoming when it isn't, and equalisation didn't start with RIAA: it was practised from the beginning. Audio compression does not affect sine waves in the manner shown. Much of the concern about digital formats relates not to CD-quality sampling but to adaptive compression schemes like MPEG, which can be much lower fidelity than LP., and certainly _not_ 'functionally the same'. Too much nonsense here.
Wibble Wobble
Wibble Wobble 2 days ago
@EJP You're being pedantic. Some mics on sale today come with a usb output, doing the conversion internally from sound pressure - analog signal - digital signal. I don't believe for one second he was saying that mic directly converts sound pressure waves to digital he's talking about the whole audio chain. All my other points still stand too.
EJP 4 days ago
Wibble Wobble I am quoting him _verbatim._ Watch it again.
Wibble Wobble
Wibble Wobble 4 days ago
Too much nonsense in your post as well. Nowhere in this video does he say a microphone is outputting a digital signal, nor that digital signals can be played as an analog signal. the video IS correct about RIAA being a necessity because of the limitations of the space on a vinyl, the width needed, and how the cutting equipment operates. This is in addition to the seperate issue of ensuring sub frequencies are mono. I do however agree that the video really badly explained the true damage of the loudness wars, which is to do with the way digital limiter plugins are used which try to push the shape of the waveform way beyond what is normally possible, resulting in some form of distortion, that distortion type varying depending on the type of limiter used. This causes far more damage to the audio quality than compressing to mp3 btw, so you're wrong on that count EJP. Your mentionin volume 'constraint' on digital is pretty irrelevant too as the dynamic range, signal to noise and channel separation of digital is vastly superior to vinyl. It's just sad that these stupid loudness wars are wasting most of this available dynamic range by forcing the audio to be so badly squashed as close to 0dbfs as possible with ridiculously high RMS levels. I hope some day there will be a trend to no longer using digital limiter plugins so we can hear digital in all its true glory :)
Brian Krueger
Brian Krueger 5 days ago
I still prefer cd’s as a storage medium. No popping and no crackle, while still having a tangible item with artwork and liner notes. They are more durable and take up less space as well.
Melissa H
Melissa H 5 days ago
First, the tone arm graphic - yikes. Second, records are a pain in the ass, cleanliness, static, dust, needles, cartridges ... But, if kept perfectly clean and devoid of static, they sound great. A properly recorded Hi-Res digital also sounds great and it's not a pain in the ass. MP3's are garbage, streaming services are garbage.
Doc Flatline
Doc Flatline 6 days ago
Unless someone knows the high quality loss and changes in timbre following compression, I think the video is a bit misleading, albeit a very informative one
Shane Gilmer
Shane Gilmer 6 days ago
Theory is that the media is the same. CDs have a cold flat sound that lack a certain stereo ambiance maybe they are so perfect that the stereo separation disappears and the music becomes flat or maybe it's because of the compression of digital data that does this, maybe the analog turntables pre amp and the riaa amplify enough of an audio signal and the imperfect audio signal to give it that warm spacial ambiance which is exactly why people are not only buying vinyl again but also older stereo equipment to listen to it on. Maybe in part for nostalgia or maybe it really does sound better!!! Maybe in our pursuit of perfect sounding audio we digitized the life right out of it. Also I have noticed that by keeping the recording media, mixing media and everything analog down to the CD disc kind of keeps alot of the warmth and clarity of the music or maybe it's that slight imperfection that makes analog sound better. I've found analog, abalog, digital, instead DDD to sound best (my opinion)!!!😎
freedom lover
freedom lover 6 days ago
I like the sound of surface noise.
J N 7 days ago
So I have two questions to someone who is smarter than me about the topic... Here it comes: If DAC converts digital signal to analog surely during that conversion some of the sound quality is lost. My question is why would someone spend thousands of dollars for the best DAC if pure analog devices like turntables don't require such conversion and are just available? (Assuming that all they care about is the sound quality and nothing else) Secondly I would like to find out is there any general rule about how to compare DACs to Turntables in terms of the quality? I mean that in order to match the sound class of a turntable for let's say £500 you have to spend £1500 for a DAC etc. I would be grateful for your time.
ReaktorLeak 5 days ago
@J N As Monty points out in his "Digital Show and Tell," There is only ONE band-limited signal that passes exactly through each sample point. If you sample a band-limited signal and then convert it back, the original input is also the only possible output. usvid.net/video/video-cIQ9IXSUzuM.html
J N 5 days ago
@ReaktorLeak thanks, this article is more about frequencies rather than pure differences between analogue and digital. I am not educated enough in engineering field to learn anything meaningful from this.
ReaktorLeak 7 days ago
I would recommend reading Dan Lavry's paper on Sampling Theory for an explanation of how a DAC reconstructs the original signal from samples: lavryengineering.com/pdfs/lavry-sampling-theory.pdf
lumox7 7 days ago
Mary had a little lamb. She had it with mint jelly. And everywhere that Mary went. The lamb went, in her belly.
Big Daddy
Big Daddy 8 days ago
For the 1st time ever, I have a correction for this channel. You neglected the fact that DIFFERENT mastering leads (sometimes, but better than 50/50) to a SLIGHT preference for vinyl. Think of how some re-masters suck and some fix major problems. The mixing and recording engineer are just as much a part of a band's c.d. as the players themselves. Some (but not all) albums use slightly different mixes, usually to combat the 'loudness war,' as you stated. There has been (repeatedly) a better than 51% preference for vinyl MIXES, whether through digital or analogue reproduction format. And some REALLY smart and REALLY talented bands have stated that they don't know why or the exact mechanism in the chain, but RECORDING on analogue makes a MUCH bigger difference than reproducing on analogue. I think the RECORDING MEDIUM (the masters containing the master tracks from the actual performance) is important, more-so than the reproduction medium (cd, vinyl, tape, etc). The AVERAGE person with music equipment that costs less than a crappy used car will NOT be able to distinguish. I myself can list all 3 instances in my life where I noticed a difference without any knowledge or provoking or 'testing.' I'm certain there were other instances, but I just didn't notice. Format wars are relevant to 10% of listeners (those that have the ability- MOST people don't know what they're listening for, or their own audio map- a detailed 'hearing test') and of that 10%, maybe 02% of THEM have the money to even CONSIDER purchasing the equipment with the needed fidelity, and that equipment opens 100 other can of worms.
Potato Smasher
Potato Smasher 5 days ago
Vivek 8 days ago
Hipsters love vinyl ...
liber sounds
liber sounds 8 days ago
I like phisical formats. Vinyl, Cassette and CD.. I don't give a shit about streaming service for shity pop music...
The Jazz Shepherd
Pawel D
Pawel D 8 days ago
0:29 - My grandfather lost two fingers on one of those! Afterwards he added a safety feature where the machine would only move if he pressed two buttons, one for each hand.
Elias H
Elias H 9 days ago
In this case i dont care about science, i only trust my ears in this case, and vinyl still sounds better according to me, its full of distortion just like life is(quote from Michael Fremer), Of course i like digital music and it can sound great with proper equipment, but not anywhere close.
duefriday0 9 days ago
"...just like a Speaker thumps out wider when it plays bass." What? I am utterly confused here. What does frequency have to do with amplitude? Why must low end frequencies move out wider? Is this a psychoacoustics issue? Do we boost bass because we are less sensitive to it? Im mean, right after it is stated that "[w]aves with higher amplitude also require wider grooves." So, bass frequencies and higher amplitude are the same? Can someone explain in more detail where this stems from, because a higher amplitude is not something that characterises low frequencies. Low frequencies, in my understanding, are low because the wave *length* is greater (distance needed for one cycle of the wave), not because the amplitude is higher (distance between crest and trough within a cycle of a wave). These two are entirely independent :/ ...acoustically speaking. Pls halp! :)
ReaktorLeak 8 days ago
You're correct, the frequency is correlated with how _fast_ the cone is moving back and forth, not how far!
J Hutson
J Hutson 9 days ago
*As long as you take good care of a vinyl record and don't mishandle it, it can act as a back-up for one's music library for their entire lives. Digital on the other hand... I've had files in my music library "go corrupt" simply from sitting on my hard drive. Digital is far more convenient, but vinyl is forever.*
Spacey Face
Spacey Face 10 days ago
The only thing I wish this video would have touched on was how saturation and harmonic distortion play a part in the listening experience - this would have been a good topic to tie in with the compression and frequency response discussion towards the end of the video.
Syahmi Mujahid Itsar
In my opinion, music is a daily life. the sound of your laptops fan, a frog in the pond, cars, or someone talking. Imagine if those random sounds playing at 80dB simultaneously. your ears will blow itself from fatigue. that's what happens to modern music. vocals, guitar, keyboard, drums, bass playing at the same levels, 80 dB and not their respective loudness. It's too much for me to handle. Please restore the dynamics of modern music.
antigen4 10 days ago
sure - if you're using a crap vinyl playback system then sure it will be (subjectively) worse - similarly there are all kinds of different quality digital playback systems available (converters) but they all sound different - and on the high end you won't be able to out-do vinyl - on the low end - sure no problem at all
Nick Knittle
Nick Knittle 10 days ago
It's pure nostalgic dude. You didn't have to make a video about it. No record player owner ever said it sounded better.
lightingman117 11 days ago
Except that's not how digital works. There are no staircases or lollipops. It is discrete-time.
Thomas Cott
Thomas Cott 11 days ago
Good video. Well done. One criticism if I may, @ 4' 32" your animator shows the coil of the analog stylus in the counterbalance of the tonearm and not in the stylus itself. I would assume that the animator is not a "stereo buff" and does not own a turntable. I leave you with this one correction that needs to be corrected for accuracy.
David Alexopoulos
David Alexopoulos 12 days ago
Great video. the short version: if it sounds better to you on vinyl, then it's better- if your ears can pick up the difference, then go vinyl. Otherwise, if sound perfection doesn't matter to you- that's all good, no worries, listen to your smartphone, but the speakers you play this on and that system can create a sound that envelopes your entire body and mind- that means when it hits that Bang and Olufsen sound system, you can bath in the music...
Rob Adams
Rob Adams 12 days ago
Some believe that the quality of sound created by vinal is really in the older tube amplifiers over the transistorized amplifiers and not actually the vinal recording. To them, they hear a softer more pleasant sound.
Matheus Hoff
Matheus Hoff 12 days ago
Well, I hear better some details in vynil... specially the bass. Perhaps its that thing about "loudness" the video said at 11:40-11:58..
IOK Wasamatau
IOK Wasamatau 13 days ago
You should have stuck with the quality of the sound reproduced and even had some "ears" listen and pick the best sound on the same equipment. You just brushed over the quality of the sound reproduced, but you did mention the compression/loudness issue. Would like to have heard human listening preferences from humans, themselves, but that was not your goal.
Tarquin The Rotter
Tarquin The Rotter 13 days ago
Why so many blacks shown? Have you got an agenda? WE WUZ KANGS!
Matheus Bitencourt
Matheus Bitencourt 13 days ago
I love listening to my Kajagoogoo's White Feathers album while drinking a cup of coffee. It's so good to have a physical connection to my songs and favorite artists, while listening to the smooth, non-so-tremble music the only Vynil mastering can provide us. I love vynil!
Randy Stegemann
Randy Stegemann 14 days ago
It's hard to get used to the idea of "consuming" music.
geonerd 14 days ago
For the love of god, PLEASE watch this video before making another video about audio encoding. You people are SO wrong in SO MANY ways! usvid.net/video/video-cIQ9IXSUzuM.html
MrTragicDragon 14 days ago
So there's no difference between a vinyl album with the label "High fidelity" and a CD?
Digga Dirt
Digga Dirt 14 days ago
I'm not even gonna watch the video. I already know vinyl is the shit.
Charango123quena 15 days ago
You can’t do a scientific analysis on vinyl There’s a human element to the sound There’s a primal essence that takes over If you listen to sampled Congas and a real congas you will know the difference Sorry don’t buy your analysis
Enes Ozan
Enes Ozan 15 days ago
great explanation
The gamer
The gamer 16 days ago
Thais is just a bunch of techno garbage to falsely prove that digital is better than vinyl. Just kidding, but as an electrical engineer I feel this is The only reasoning that can explain why millennials are in love with vinyl. It is so frustrating…
QuantumRift 16 days ago
So, inadvertently, EDISON created those asinine annoying robocalls. He was working on the telephone and decided to work on a way to RECORD sound to be replayed later: "Hello. THIS IS THE IRS. A WARRANT HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR YOU..."
Yudhi G
Yudhi G 16 days ago
No matter what the arguments are, nobody and even no audiophiles on earth can hear beyond 20 kHz.
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