why vinyl sucks compared to mp3s

a mashed up vinyl recordLet’s make a bit of a bold stand here, and crack down on the old black crack called vinyl which still seems to be appreciated so much by the so-called music connaisseur.
Wired posted this article about why vinyl may be the final nail in the CD’s coffin which is so full of crap I found it hard to believe it got through their editorial process. In fact, I’m starting to think they are taking the whole Wired-wiki thing to far and allow just about anything to be posted nowadays.

Without going into too much depth however, here’s a list of reasons why vinyl sucks compared to a good quality mp3 file (320kbps baby, no less plzkthx!). (Thx Gabber!)

  1. Vinyl dies on you. It bends due to heat, it scratches, it needs maintenance. Mp3s only need a backup.
  2. Vinyl is clunky. It takes up a lot of space to store.
  3. Vinyl isn’t portable. It sucks to drag around in crates if you’re a DJ going to a gig, and you can’t play them in the car or while commuting.
  4. Porting vinyl to any other format will make you loose quality. It’s the advantage of analogue technology baby.
  5. Dust may reduce your listening experience. Crackle. Pop.
  6. Vinyl can’t take extremely high frequencies. Nor can it deal with panning on lower frequencies. How’s that for the myth of audio quality?
  7. Badly maintained turntables will cause your DJ gigs to sound crappy. Playing the same tunes off a laptop might not look as cool, but it will make it sound good at least.

Since you can rip any CD into a perfect 320kbps mp3 file without any real effort, unless you find popping the disk into your CD-ROM drive hard, I’ll take CDs over vinyl any day.
Oh, and yeah, I know there’s quality loss when converting to mp3. Not that I ever noticed at 320kbps, but yeah, I know it’s there.

31 thoughts on “why vinyl sucks compared to mp3s

  1. n3wjack Post author

    I don’t know where you got those 60-90% numbers, but I’m pretty sure that if you use a proper bitrate (320) and encoding algorithm you are not going to loose 40%.
    And there’s always FLAC of course. Lossless, and all the benefits of the digital format. :)

  2. elmo

    Wow! If someone can’t hear the music over the hisses and pops then they must be extremely careless with their vinyl. I have owned some vinyl records for over 30 years and they still sound better than an mp3. Vinyl can actually store much higher frequencies than CD because they don’t have a brick wall filter at 22khz like CDs do. MP3s kick ass for storage and portability but thats it! Hard to defend an mp3 for sound quality because mp3s “throw away” 60%-90% of the musical information. Vinyl strives to reproduce EVERY nuance and doesn’t purposely disgard any musical information.
    Just imagine ANY other product missing 60%-90%…

  3. n3wjack Post author

    Thanks for replying.
    If there’s one thing that keeps coming up regarding to vinyl is that people attribute a warm and more natural sound to it. I wonder why that is. I know vinyl is mastered differently due to technical reasons so that can be one reason, but I bet that listeners bias is another. You see it all the time in audio-gear quality discussions and reviews. With vinyl that bias is hard to take away as you can’t even do a blind test on it as you’re bound to hear the something that tells you it’s a needle following a vinyl track. With digital I’m afraid a lot is just mastered to be loud, killing the dynamics and life in the music. But if you listen to the harder electronic styles like myself, this doesn’t really matter anyway.

    As of the writing, yeah I tend to put some internetish acronyms in there. It’s a personal blog after all. I like to make it less boring to read and write than the average tech article. I don’t always succeed. This post was meant as a bit of a rant/troll attempt after not agreeing with the now removed Wired article. It’s the one that generates the most replies too. So I guess it worked. :)

    Vinyl is making a comeback indeed (6 million in 2013 in the US). But compared to album sales over all media it’s still very much a niche market (that’s 289.4 million, making vinyl sales only 2%). I’m 100% sure however that has everything to do with the nostalgic ritual of getting something physical for your money, enjoy the artwork and smelling and feeling the vinyl. Vinyl has this hipster cool a CD never had. I bet that isn’t going away any time soon. People are getting back into crochet and sowing too btw. But on the other hands things are also getting “worse” with digital subscriptions on stuff like Spotify. You don’t even get to have the mp3 there. Where will it all end? Not to mention you have to get pro if you want 320kbps, and a lot of people don’t even do that. Go figure.

    Talking quality, as you can see in previous replies on this (quite popular) post you’ll see I’m mentioning FLAC, so yeah I know about lossless digital formats too. :)

    Oh and if I’m not mistaken, a personal preference is always subjective instead of objective. :)

  4. Oska

    This is so stupid, while I do love (and wont listen to anything less than) 320’s, there is something about a good vinyl that sounds incredible. It has a “life” to it, whereas most mp3’s these days sound limp and lifeless. Analogue will never truly die out in terms of recording, playing and listening because there will always be people who PREFER (see that, an objective personal preference) the sound of it over digital sounding gear/music.

    Frankly, re-reading over your comments I actually find your way of writing quite ignorant and immature. I know it’s a blog but if you’re going to make such a bold statement, at least back it up with professional writing instead of “plzkthx”.

    If you haven’t noticed as well, vinyl is making a HUGE come back at the minute, not to mention they’re extremely collectable (when have you ever seen or heard of someone showing off their MP3 collection?…Yeah, never).

    I digress and am also starting to sound like quite the vinyl fanboy, which is not the case at all. I just appreciate that it sounds good on a different level to how 320 MP3’s sound good, but harking back to what I said before…it’s all just a personal listening preference, “different strokes for different blokes” so to speak.

    P.S. with such a bold statement about MP3’s being the be all and end all, I hope you realise that there’s formats that are better quality than 320kbps, right?

  5. Psychedelicpiper

    Analogue will never disappear, but will exist side-by-side with digital. Most of people’s criticisms here have to do with physical limitations of vinyl technology, which COULD be improved if money was being spent on improving and developing the technology further.

    This is the 21st century, we should be able to have records that are impervious to scratches, smudges, dust, pops, cracks, warping, etc. We should be researching other, better, and organic (hemp?) materials that could be used to improve both analogue tape and records, while also bringing the price down and making hi-end equipment affordable for everyone.

    If I was a hipster, I’d be buying vinyl for simply the retro fetish, but for me, it’s mainly about the sound quality. It’s about being able to buy something that the digital files I torrent simply cannot replicate. Obviously you haven’t had the chance to absorb the experience of what a modern all-analogue pressing sounds like on a good system. If you want the closest feeling to being in the studio with the musicians, go vinyl.

    Yeah, the market right now is full of problems, and there’s a major learning curve that people who want good sound quality may not want to bother spending time on. Or money on, for that matter! But for all the critics who use retro fetish as an argument, I could easily argue against digital fetish, and how everyone blindly worships anything having to do with digital technology, because it’s “new” and “better”. You’re likely the same morons who think transhumanism in the form of storing consciousness on hard drives is a viable option for humanity, despite the reductionist science behind such thinking.

    I love both vinyl and lossless digital audio. In fact, the majority of my music right now are torrented FLAC files. BUT just because I’m broke right now doesn’t mean the majority of my collection won’t be on vinyl one day. I’ve heard the difference, I know the difference, and I want to explore it even further. Portable audio is a wonderful thing, and I would love for hi-res 24-bit audio to become the norm, completely free of any loudness war-style digital compression. But that still won’t replace vinyl in the end. VIVA CO-EXISTENCE!

  6. DONALDRock

    I prefer vinyl over fucking MP3s!! Vinyl Is better because It Is the original sound of It(1920s-1980s)!! It looks very nice and sometimes fun to watch It spin and It can come In a very cool Color Vinyl or Picture Disc!! It Is also more collectible and the artwork of the album Is like 20X bigger and more easier and enjoyable to look at!! It also sounds better and the crack and pops makes It a better experience listening to!! The warps,vinyl bends,skips,and big scratches all depends on the people who takes care of the Vinyl!! If you take good care of It the Vinyl will be 100% fine!!:)

  7. Jack

    It all depends on the original recording, I’ll explain further

    For older music it was all recorded in analogue up untill around 1990 when digital finaly became the norm. This meant that all digital formats had to have the analogue recording converted in order to make them storable on CD’s or a computer as an mp3. Early attempts at this were weak and lead to a washed out sound compared to there vinyl counterparts and some digital conversions still contain these horrible erors. For me both vinyl and mp3’s contain rolled off highs and disapointing bass but I have an excellent sound sytem with a $900 DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) installed, however I find Vinyl contains a better core sound however I know that this sound distorts over time so I ALWAYS make a copy in a 24/96 flac version. I hope the industry will make a bigger effort to make flac or apple lossless the industy standard, replacing mp3s as I hate having to chose between the two inferior formats if a cd version isn’t available.

  8. my2cents

    While we’re at it, anyone want to debate some other equally pointless dualities such as free will vs. determinism, or maybe nature vs. nurture? lol, but seriously it’s seems pretty clear to me that the popularity of digital and analog formats aren’t mutually exclusive. Anyone who looks at this objectively can see that digital is here to stay. There is no doubt about that. However, vinyl has a different type of value to collectors. It’s tactile. It’s big. You can get creative with packaging, inserts, color/picture disc vinyl, etc., making it a collectible piece of multi-media artwork. As for sound quality, the difference between a brand new vinyl record and a digital audio file is negligible. Of course, the vinyl quality will gradually deteriorate over time and the digital file will not. This doesn’t detract from the aesthetic value of vinyl to a collector with a sense of nostalgia and an affinity for the visual/tactile experience of playing vinyl. Of course, most collectors have digital versions of their entire vinyl collection at this point as well, and rightly so. I know I do and I appreciate both formats for completely different reasons. I’m glad I don’t have to choose.

  9. Jek

    It’s hilarious how people still cling on to these outdated, inferior-sounding formats. I say this as a 40-year-old dude who lived in the harsh times of vinyl and cassettes (especially cassettes since they were all that we had at the time for portability and making copies for friends and family).

    I’m glad CDs existed. I’m so darn happy that now I don’t have to deal with buying vinyl or any analog format and used CDs can now be found at thrift stores for cheap.

    320kbps .mp3 is the ONLY bitrate I allow for such a format; otherwise, CDs/lossless (like .flac) all the way!

    Fuck vinyl! You hipsters have no idea how annoying it was to accidentally have your cherished records warped because of sunlight or when a stylus broke a million times (and you had to pay a crapload of money to replace it).

    The future is digital. And DON’T bring the “loudness wars” into this because when CDs were first introduced they were taken STRAIGHT out of their master tapes. Also, “pops” and “clicks” never were intended in the masters, so how about THAT?

  10. 3amsleep

    mp3/flac is more convinient. Vinyl is better sonically. You have absolutely no idea what youre talking about. I’m not an elitist/snob/self proclaimed “audiophile”, but i have a good Vinyl setup and you would be embarased to hear the vinyl vs mp3 and remember the things you’ve written here.

  11. Man

    The difference between mp3 and vinyl?
    You hear the mp3 and you listen to the vinyl.

  12. dj laptop standd

    There are also very specialized cases that let you take them while you fly. The boxes are quite light weight and they do not ask you to pay much as duty fees. They are extra protective when compared to the other cases. They have a protective coating of foam. When you buy cases, only go for customized ones that are specific to equipment because it has to remain safe and tight when they are traveling. Too much of shaking will lead to hitting on the sides of the case itself and thereby causing damage to the equipment.

  13. n3wjack Post author

    I’d like to see (or hear?) a blind test with a vinyl & high quality mp3 version of the same track playing randomly over a very good sounds system to see if people could hear the difference.

    I remember reading a WAV vs 320kbps mp3 test like this where people simply couldn’t spot the difference.
    I wonder if it would be the same for vinyl & mp3.

  14. Ryan

    I have a large collection of vintage and modern stereo equipment. If I want warm sound I just hook up a cd or mp3 player to an old Sansui stereo or tube amp. I feel this gets me the depth and warmth without the problems that come with vinyl. I have some vinyl but if I were to switch my mp3 and flac collection to vinyl I would loose a room in my house to store it. I feel I am exposed to more music by not limiting myself to vinyl.

  15. FlappyPappyJacks

    I started off as a mp3 collector and ended up falling in love with vinyl. I remember listening to mp3s on my Pentium 150 with 16 Mb of ram Ive been listening to them since the beginning. Collecting vinyl isn’t cheap, every aspect of the hobby is a money guzzler but with reason. I owned most of my records as digital copies before i purchased them on vinyl, there is no argument vinyl sounds better. Now maybe you own shit equipment or can’t tell the difference or just never took the time to actually buy a record, either way if you want to argue digital over analog the last thing you should be talking about is mp3s. Uncompressed wavs is the way to go if you are a digital DJ, mp3s can be buggy and depending on the encoder used they sometimes will not load properly onto mixing software. If you call yourself a DJ and all you do is mix on your laptop, im sorry but no one wants to watch some nerd type on his keyboard its not much of a show. Your only diluting the music so go out and invest in some real equipment.

  16. my2cents

    I will never understand why there is a rivalry between the mp3’s and vinyl. Afterall, it was mp3’s that killed cd’s, thus giving rise to vinyl’s resurgence in popularity. The way I see it, they go hand in hand. I have a digital copy of every record I own on vinyl. How else can I listen to music, while I drive, run, grocery shop, or work? But when I am at home and I have the time, I prefer to listen to vinyl. I will admit that this is largely the result of my fondness for the tactile experience of spinning the record, dropping the needle, and looking at the full-size art/liner notes while I listen.

    As for sound quality, I have heard both sides of the argument and rather than try to add my perspective to the debate I’ll just say this- when I listen to vinyl, I always hear more depth and have a generally more fulfilling listening experience. Perhaps there is some truth to the pro-vinyl argument. Or maybe it’s the way I listen to vinyl that causes me to experience it more thoroughly. I can’t say one way or the other with total confidence. One thing is for sure- when you sit down to listen to a record on vinyl, you are making a commitment to the experience of the record which, IMHO, leads to the kind of in-depth listening that an artist would hope for out of their audience. And I can dig that.

  17. n3wjack Post author

    I have to say that the physical medium, being it vinyl or CD still has an attraction to me too. Whenever I buy music online and have to choose between the mp3 package or the physical CD I’m always in doubt. But then I notice that large collection of jewel cases collecting dust on the other side of the room and go for the digital one anyway. Vinyl does have those great large sleeves so that would be a factor if I’d be playing/buying vinyl.

    When it comes to the quality control thing it’s something that goes both ways. I’ve heard DJ’s complain about badly mastered and pressed vinyl too. It’s not always that great. But the cost of pressing records will stop any amateur from getting his crappy unmastered tunes on vinyl. That much is true.

    The fact that anyone anywhere can release mp3’s is a double edged sword. I’ve downloaded awesome free stuff for free as mp3’s, but I’ve heard lots of terribly bad and uninspired crap as well.
    I guess it comes with the territory. The internet has great stuff to offer, but it contains huge quantities of crap as well.

    Excellent list though. This post + comments sure lists about all pro’s and con’s of vinyl & digital by now. That EMP shock one is funny but true. :)

  18. vinyltilidie.oryou

    yer i agree it’s definately one of those subjects that always ends up with polarized unchanging views lol, so rather than continuing to point out what the problems with your list were, i’ll submit a list of why vinyl is better than mp3’s, so you at least get where i’m coming from.

    Seven reasons why vinyl is better than mp3s!
    1. It’s tactile, you can touch it, look at it, smell it, hold it and have it. It’s a Real thing.
    2. You can see the grooves, where the tune breaksdown, where it drops just by looking at it.
    3. Sleeve Artwork is fantastic and big enough to frame and stick on your wall.
    4. Impervious to EMP shock – records will continue to play after an electromagnetic shock (providing a working player can be found).
    5. Records will continue to play if your computer blue-screens and shuts down. Can’t stop em that easy!
    6. Records have a resale value. How much is that 10Tb mp3 collection actually worth?
    7. The Audio on records is mastered specifically to go on vinyl. By an Engineer. Anybody can ‘release’ an mp3!
    7.5 Vinyl costs money to manufacture, so the music has got to be pretty good and assured of covering its costs which means quality control is a massive factor. Anybody can ‘release’ an mp3…

  19. n3wjack Post author

    Funny how this post brings out such strong reactions in people who are emotionally attached to their black crack.

    I don’t mind discussing pro’s and con’s of digital vs analogue but on the other hand it’s pretty much one of those never ending discussions where everyone just sticks to his or her original idea. I do like to see rational arguments though, and I’m afraid you haven’t offered a lot of them.

    Your 1st point basically agrees with mine. Great. It takes more trouble to maintain. There’s always accidents too. For mp3’s you have backups. If you happen to drop a record you’ll be shopping again.

    I’m glad to see you agree in the 2nd point as well. It does take up a lot of space. And you’ll have to dust it too.

    In the 3rd you call me lazy. Nice. But still you don’t debunk my point. Try boarding an airplane with your complete vinyl collection. Try doing the same with your complete digitized collection. As long as you’re not flying to the US and your laptop gets confiscated for no reason you’ll be fine.

    You misinterpreted irony in the 4th point. That “It’s the advantage of analogue” was ironic. I meant the opposite. Digital can be easily replicated. From CD to WAV/FLAC/MP3 is a piece of cake. Vinyl does not allow this. A smart move by modern record labels is that some offer a free mp3 download with each vinyl record bought. That way you get the best of both worlds. A smart move if you ask me.

    5. Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. It sure does require some doesn’t it?

    In 6 I’m talking audio range. Vinyl can’t handle the same range as digital. Mastering won’t help. Since for electronic music most of it comes straight from a computer, you’re going to be missing stuff on vinyl. That is my point. But mastering does cover for a lot.

    7. Apparently I misnamed a part of the machine used to spin vinyl records with. I’m sorry. But still, the point remains. Bad hardware causes bad sound. Same goes for digital. Crappy laptops or cables can ruin it too, but at least you can have that under control. You talk about bringing your own tables. Well that sorts it too, but I doubt most DJ’s do that.

    My guess is you DJ in a more hip-hop kind of fashion. Lot’s of scratching and tricks on multiple decks (since you bring your own). That’s quite different from the techno/breakcore/drum’n’bass DJ kind of gig I had in mind when I wrote this post.

    So I wouldn’t say my points are mute at all.
    The fact that there are lame not-even-worth-the-label DJ’s out there ripping mp3’s from the net and playing those in clubs proves that those people have no respect for the artists producing the music they are spinning. That doesn’t mean that this turns digital into a bad medium just because there are some bad apples using it.

  20. vinyltilIdie.oryou

    What?
    This is rubbish, there is no evidence to support any of your points..

    So I will address them:
    1. Vinyl dies on you. It bends due to heat, it scratches, it needs maintenance. Mp3s only need a backup.
    Yes if you treat the stuff you own badly it will deteriorate.
    If you look after your records and keep them in sleeves they will be perfectly usable for many years. Will mp3 players still be around in 50 years?

    2. Vinyl is clunky. It takes up a lot of space to store.
    Hell yeh, and my flat is a shrine to music as a result, wouldn’t have it any other way..

    3. Vinyl isn’t portable. It sucks to drag around in crates if you’re a DJ going to a gig, and you can’t play them in the car or while commuting.
    You being lazy isn’t a good argument against vinyl, buy a trolley, get a youngster to cart your record box about: there’s a million ways around this non-problem

    4. Porting vinyl to any other format will make you loose quality. It’s the advantage of analogue technology baby.
    ?? WTF ?? So you’re saying Vinyl is higher quality than digital?
    Why anyone would copy a record in order to play the mp3 is beyond me… Also google mastering and learn why records are mastered….

    5. Dust may reduce your listening experience. Crackle. Pop.
    Oh my good lord, clean your needles regularily and treat your records with respect and you won’t encounter this problem…

    6. Vinyl can’t take extremely high frequencies. Nor can it deal with panning on lower frequencies. How’s that for the myth of audio quality?
    See above about mastering….

    7. Badly maintained turntables will cause your DJ gigs to sound crappy. Playing the same tunes off a laptop might not look as cool, but it will make it sound good at least.
    You’re joking right? Have you even done this? Badly maintained turntables make no difference, it’s all in the stylus..

    So to sum up, all your points are completely non-entities.
    Not to mention the fact that MP3 deejays in my experience are nothing more than pirates plundering the internets for the next hot tune, and bashing the torrents to build a collection.
    I’ve got thousands of records and thousands of mp3’s, I gig every single week and i would be ashamed to turn up and play a set of mp3’s, whereas I am happy to carry my heavy record bag to the venue, set up my dusty old turntables and do a bunch of cutting and blending, showing ppl the sleeves if they ask what the tune is…

  21. n3wjack Post author

    I think FLAC will be the lossless format of choice to replace the MP3 I guess. The problem is that mp3 is right now the most supported format which plays on basically any mp3-player/iPod/whatever. For audiophiles this isn’t good since digital downloads are in some cases only offered in mp3 format. Even though at 320kbps the quality loss is practically inaudible the fact that you know it’s there gives you this annoyed feeling. It does with me anyway.
    Charging more for a FLAC or WAV download sucks as well, but I think that’ll be something that’ll drop in a number of years as competition between various online services selling music is going to increase.

  22. Mike

    I grew up listening to vinyl and then switched to CDs in the eighties. I also think vinyl sucks. But I also think MP3s suck. We need a new organic medium or at least hi res downloads. I refuse to go back to an obsolete format. You people have no idea how much of a hassle vinyl is, especially if you own more than a handful of albums. I remember buying albums and having to return them 3 or 4 times to get a copy that wasn’t warped or just flawed from a bad pressing. I have a feeling a lot of vinyl listeners aren’t really listeners at all. It’s this whole “history repeating itself” that young people seem to think is the best way to live your life. If you missed it you missed, so create something new. It reminds me of the Onion article where they say German youths are annexing Poland as part of the next retro craze.

  23. n3wjack Post author

    Even though the article mainly puts the CD (digital) vs vinyl (analogue) it also talks about so called sound-quality of vinyl being superior and therefore the weapon of choice for DJ’s.
    That’s what I’m responding too. Digital vs analogue, as in mp3 vs vinyl.

  24. ruiner2001

    The reason you’re wrong is because you’re responding to points that the article never made. While the article does mention some of the subjective reasons why someone might prefer vinyl over other formats, it’s ultimately about why vinyl will most likely outlast the CD. And frankly, Wired made a lot of valid points to suggest why it most likely will which you neither acknowledged or addressed.

  25. n3wjack Post author

    The media step will be skipped completely in the near future I think. Straight from the studio’s in high quality format onto the internet for distribution. No more CD’s, vinyl or whatever. The future is digital. :)

  26. andreista.ecks

    Agreed! Vinyl sucks donkey balls. I for one want to hear my music the way it sounded in the studio…all of the highs and lows, and you just can’t get that with vinyl. You barely can hear the damn song over all of those hisses and pops.

  27. n3wjack Post author

    Care to back that up with some facts and figures? Or at least some sort of explanation as to why I have no idea what I’m talking about here.

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