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Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Did people, as in non-audiophiles, think vinyl "sounds warmer" than CDs before that became the mainstream conventional wisdom? I get tired of people parroting that line like it makes them some kind of golden ears when they probably wouldn't know the difference between warm analog and a wet fart. Yes, some records sound better than some CDs. But, some CDs sound better than some records.

The whole line comes from the early 80, around the dawn of CDs, when one could make a blanket statement like that and be pretty much right. At that time, CDs were often times mastered from tapes many times removed from the masters and 80s digital equipment was could be harsh sounding.

However, things have changed a lot since then. Mastering engineers have gotten better at mastering for CD. Equipment has gotten better and it's become standard practice to find the lowest generation tapes for transfer.

In fact, I would make the argument that there are few companies these days putting out records that sound halfway decent, let alone better than their CD counterparts. Though so many label brag about how many grams of vinyl their pressings are*, it's what's in the groove that counts and too often what's in the groove is clipped, sibilant and thin sounding.

Of course, my favorite part of this whole thing is that term "warm". I can't think of any other word people throw around to sound like they know something but it's actually too vague to mean much of anything. I've heard "warm" used to describe everything from something with too much low end to the old hissy, high end rolled off sound of tape. So is warm over bassy or treble deficient?

If people prefer listening to records, that's cool. I know lots of people do, but it always seems to me it has much more to do with aesthetics than a true honest opinion of sound. Records have a hipster snob appeal nothing digital will ever have. The large artwork is usually more impressive and there's still few things as nifty as colored vinyl or a picture disc.

But I have a really hard time taking someone seriously who is trying to tell me they prefer the "warm" sound of their beat up old records on a crappy plastic turntable with a stylus that has needed changing for fifteen years.

* and heavy pressings are another fine example of audiophile snake oil. Yeah, heavy LPs can sound better, but it's not a guarantee. 200 grams of recycled vinyl is still going to sound like shit any way you slice it.

1 comment:

Butchie said...

Thank you, Rob. As an audio engineer, I contend that people who use terms such as "warm" "bassey" "boxey" and "trebley" are, for the most part, fucking retards and should shut the fuck up. Vinyl is outdated. Vinylphiles are fags. And DJs: Serato is better. HAHAHA!