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Vinyl vs digital, does higher Dynamic Range always mean higher SQ?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I've been looking at that website for the past half hour looking up albums I love on CD, and I thought sounded great ripped lossless at 16/44.1. Everything I've looked up even if it has high Dynamic Range on CD the Vinyl's is always better. If Dynamic Range means better sound quality why is vinyl such a niche market? Do the cons of vinyl justify the trade off for less dynamic range? Thanks for any help!
post #2 of 9

More dynamic range isn't always better, even for home music playback in a reasonably quiet setting where you can play at a loud listening level. Some lower dynamic range could make certain things easier to hear, emphasize some things, or provide some kind of musical effect. However, especially with those numbers, what you're seeing is just too much loudness wars and music cranked unnaturally into some smaller dynamic range at the expense of distortion and creating some unnaturally homogeneous, thick wall of sound (sometimes not to that kind of extent, but often in that direction). Most people focused on sound quality would consider that bad.


Vinyl is clearly not popular because few people have record players, they're larger, they're less convenient, degrades over time, and so on. In fact, it's not like a lot of people buy physical CDs these days either. The format itself is capable of significantly less dynamic range than normal audio CDs. What you're seeing is just the difference in masters. The majority of the market still buying vinyl are some kind of audiophiles who are willing to deal with (or appreciate) the inconveniences, and this market would prefer the usually superior masterings with higher dynamic range.


As for what's worth it, that depends on the recordings in question and your preferences. Also, there's nothing stopping somebody from ripping vinyl recordings and storing them digitally.

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
So basically what you're saying is that higher dynamic range doesn't necessarily mean it will sound better?

I know that CDs are capable of higher dynamic range than vinyl but isn't vinyl mastered less loud because of it's very nature? If it is mastered too loud wouldn't the needle jump right off the record? I also remember reading that making bass work on vinyl is hard and there is some sort of distortion introduced in the mastering process to make it work.

So there really is no definite answer to which sounds better? It just varies from instance to instance. It would be interesting to compare high fidelity vinyl rips to lossless CD rips.
post #4 of 9

I posted this recently on another forum.  Years ago, several audiophile friends did a comparison.  We among us gathered a couple dozen or more recordings on CD, LP and pre-recorded reel to reel tape.  As close as possible to the same releases.  We had a Studer Revox for tape and comparably good equipment for the other mediums. 


Surprisingly we found the LP always the odd man out.  We actually did this on three systems at different times.  Always the LP was the odd man out.  We had expected CD would be or that they would all be different.  Yet the balance and general character of RTR was very close to CD.  Even taking into account different mastering and tape hiss they were pretty darn close. LP was always obviously and clearly different.  Sometimes LP seemed better though a minority of the time, and that too surprised us at that time. 


So your typical DR ratings tell you something.  But probably are most helpful on the same medium.  Across mediums there are confounding factors and it is far from the most meaningful way to judge sound quality anyway. 

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Wow that's a very helpful and interesting post. I've always wondered what reel to reel sounds like. Thanks for all the help, I now know that higher dynamic range doesn't necessarily mean higher sound quality. smily_headphones1.gif
post #6 of 9
Vinyl is mastered totally differently than CDs because of the compromises that need to be made for the translation to grooves. It isn't a higher fidelity medium than CDs. All things being equal, it's audibly inferior. If LPs sound better than CDs to you, you're probably listening to rock music, where sound quality is deliberately sacrificed for loudness on CD. Listen to classical music and the exact opposite will be true.
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thank you for confirming my suspicion about vinyl being mastered differently because of it it's limitations. I have a lot of old rock CD's that sound great because they were pre-loudness war.
post #8 of 9

The important point is that vinyl can be transferred to CD with no lose of sound quality, but a CD transferred to vinyl will have a different sound quality.

post #9 of 9
This is why I read this forum. You guys are a riot! Better than coffee. smily_headphones1.gif
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