A little help from my friends: Digital vs. vinyl

Clair Scott, freshman design student, spends her free time going to shows, collecting vinyl records and discovering new music. In her column she discusses and reviews the music and venues that keep her going.
Clair Scott, freshman design student, spends her free time going to shows, collecting vinyl records and discovering
new music. In her column she discusses and reviews the music and venues that keep her going. Photo courtesy of Ariana Hansen.

    If any of you know me or live on my floor in Davis Hall, you probably know that I have my fair collection of vinyl. It seems as though I am always either listening to vinyl or trying to find more of it. I prefer vinyl to mp3 simply because I think it sounds better.

    This may be a weird concept to grasp, but vinyl is the purest form of physical music, and in reality, it is the only form of physical music. By physical I mean analog, a recording method that stores information as a continuous signal in or on the form of media.

    Basically, the music lies within the grooves of the record. Think of a sound wave, now imagine that cut into a record creating the texture in the grooves. As the record spins a needle follows the groove, the needle vibrates, then that vibration is amplified into what your ear hears as music.

    Digital is a much different story. A digital recording takes snapshots of the analog signal at a certain rate. For example, a CD is captured at 44,100 a second. So by pure justification, digital does not record the entire sound wave. Because of this method certain sounds become distorted, such as trumpet or drumbeat sounds, they change too quickly for the digital rate and information is lost.

    In order for digital music to play through your set of speakers it has to be converted back into analog form and then fed through an amplifier that raises the signal to a level that is powerful enough to be carried through the speakers. The output of a vinyl record is analog, which can be fed directly to the amplifier. This way no information is lost.

    The reason it sounds better and carries what might be described as a richer warmer sound is because the waveforms are more accurate. Unfortunately, and this is something that I can attest to, any speck of dust or damage can be heard as a sound. Also records wear out over time, which of course reduces the sound quality.

    However there is something about taking a record out of its sleeve, looking at the cover art and placing it on the record player that cannot be replicated with digital music no matter what your sound preference is.

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