Image Credit: Florencia Viadana

Why do vinyls sound better – and is that even the case?

Vinyl records have had a resurgence, with vinyl at certain times over the last year making more money than CDs for the first time since the 1980s. Their rising popularity was perhaps driven by stay at home orders of the pandemic, with people having more time on their hands to enjoy the slower pace of selecting a record, sliding it from the sleeve and placing it on the player.

There’s no denying that vinyl records are more beautiful than an album on a streaming service. Sure, album art still looks pretty and videos are impressive, but something is lost when music is started with a single tap of a screen.

Vinyl may look better than streaming music – but does the music sound better on vinyl?

Listening to the same music in different formats brings an entirely different sound every time. An album playing through tinny phone speakers is obviously going to lack the rich sound of a vinyl record. Equally, an album playing on a cheap record player is going to sound terrible compared to an album being streamed in high quality on TIDAL.

But why do vinyls seem to sound better? The immersive warmth of vinyl comes from the analogue format and the lack of compression when the record was pressed. A record also plays continuously, giving a more intense listening experience.

There’s always little details lost in the digital process, but if you’re streaming in better-than-CD-quality on Amazon Music HD for example, the sound quality is going to be close to what the artist intended in the studio.

Apple Music’s Spatial Audio adds a different, deeper dimension to the sound. Vinyl records will also suffer from wear and tear in their lifetime, not something to worry about with a music stream.

There’s a huge degree of personal preference, of course. Vinyl lovers will always be influenced by the feel of the record, emotionally biased towards the sound, feeling a deeper physical connection to the music.

The mindful quality of the slower pace of vinyl perhaps means that you pay more attention to the quirks of the sound than when hitting play on Spotify.

The vintage crackle and hiss of vinyl that so many people love may be replicated on thousands of lo-fi playlists, but they don’t quite match the warmth of the real thing. Music streaming quality will no doubt keep on getting better, but it will never match the unique experience on wax.

What do you think? Does music sound better on vinyl, and why? Let us know in the comments.