- Are there any perceptible differences between the sound quality of 192 versus 320 kbps MP3 files?
- Do expensive, “premium” speaker cables actually make a difference?
I've heard this here and there in various casual conversations (hopefully others will also qualify this in the "commonly heard" bucket of claims), but one can also find references online:
Portability is no longer any reason to stick with CDs, and neither is audio quality. Although vinyl purists are ripe for parody, they're right about one thing: Records can sound better than CDs.
Although CDs have a wider dynamic range, mastering houses are often encouraged to compress the audio on CDs to make it as loud as possible: It's the so-called loudness war. Since the audio on vinyl can't be compressed to such extremes, records generally offer a more nuanced sound. (Wired Magazine - Vinyl May Be Final Nail in CD's Coffin).
Question: It is generally agreed among the serious listeners of classical music that the best of the now obsolete vinyl LP records had a superior tonal quality and better fidelity than any CD. Is this true, and why?
Answer: For a CD recording they take 44,100 snapshots in a minute. These snapshots are then converted to digital information with a certain precision... You can probably see where I am going: by definition a digital recording doesn't include all the sound information... A vinyl record has a groove carved into it that mirrors the original sound's waveform... Therefore vinyl recording sound richer than CD recordings... (Google Answers: Vinyl LP sound versus CD sound).
The last three years have each set successive records for vinyl sales in the CD era. In 2010, 2.8 million LPs were sold, up 14% from 2009...
Vinyl’s lasting appeal stems from a heady stew of nostalgia, tangibility and, perhaps most important of all, sound quality that musicians and fans often prefer to any other medium.
“Digital is zeroes and ones, man, anyway you look at it,” says Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for the Rolling Stones. “Whether it’s a CD or a download, there’s a certain jaggedness to it. Vinyl wins every time. It’s warmer, more soothing, easier on the ears” (Forbes Magazine - Vinyl vs. CDs: The Tables are Turning.
One reason I'm skeptical of the quality comparison has to do with how records are made. In that video, around 1:25 the interviewee states that a master is made from pre-recorded, mixed music. This implies that it is already digitized. Around 3:10, he states that the music signal is amplified and made to vibrate the stylus cutting the record master. Thus, I see two paths from media to one's ear:
- Live music -> conversion from electrical signal to digital recording (file of some sort) -> conversion to amplified electrical signal to vibrate a cutting stylus -> engraved record -> turntable -> conversion back to electrical signal to vibrate speakers
- Live music -> conversion of electrical signal to digital recording (file of some sort) -> conversion back to electrical signal to vibrate speakers
I could be wrong in this interpretation.
Ideally, this question might have been tackled in a manner similar to this question on bitrate and noticeable quality -- essentially, with a Pepsi challenge between vinyl and CDs.
Summarizing, Is there evidence that the sound produced by vinyl records is either a) of better quality (via some declared standard of measurement) or b) more pleasing to humans compared to the sound produced by CDs?