Why do some songs sound better on records than their digital counterpart?

name that tune
Post Reply
RJDG14
member
member
Posts: 46
Joined: 29 May 2018 16:24

Why do some songs sound better on records than their digital counterpart?

Post by RJDG14 » 01 Jul 2019 20:34

When I've played some of the songs I have on vinyl on good equipment I've found that they have sounded better than their digital/CD counterpart. These are a couple of them:

*Soul Asylum - Sometime To Return (released 1988): My 1988 mastered CD track of it lacks much highs and sounds quite boring (despite me loving the song) yet my 7" vinyl version, which is also a clean edit, has a very punchy sounding drum track, and while the bass isn't quite as strong, the song still sounds a lot more enjoyble.

*The Rain Parade - You Are My Friend (released 1984): The guitar on the original 1984 British vinyl copy that I have is very ringy and dynamic sounding but the same song sounded quite sterile on the iTunes version (possibly remastered in the early 2010s) that I've had a look at.

The digital versions sound cleaner, and lack any crackling or distortion that my 30-40 year old vinyl copies have, but otherwise sound a lot duller, and I wanted to know why this is.

Bob Dillon
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 790
Joined: 03 Mar 2019 20:22

Re: Why do some songs sound better on records than their digital counterpart?

Post by Bob Dillon » 01 Jul 2019 22:14

The mastering and / or your gear. It's not a "digital vs. records" deal.

DarthMaul
long player
long player
United States of America
Posts: 2612
Joined: 18 Aug 2010 02:58
Location: Michigan

Re: Why do some songs sound better on records than their digital counterpart?

Post by DarthMaul » 02 Jul 2019 04:12

Another song that sounds better on its original vinyl release is "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by The Righteous Brothers. The greatest hits CD I have pales in comparison. I have both the stereo LP and the 45. The LP sounds better. I have two copies of the LP actually. One sounds like peanut butter, while the other is clear.

Solist
senior member
senior member
Slovenia
Posts: 893
Joined: 08 May 2017 18:49
Location: Ljubljana

Re: Why do some songs sound better on records than their digital counterpart?

Post by Solist » 06 Jul 2019 13:39

Philosophy time!

I started to think a while back that the reason vinyl sounds more natural it's because it's not perfect. Not even close to perfect. That imperfection could then give some character to the record. It's a common idea in the art and craft world. Look for example at a cnc made sword and a completely hand crafted one. The cnc one despite its perfect symmetry it just does not look right, gives you an artificial feeling. On the other hand a hard forged sword looks more natural because of its asymmetric symmetry. It's something the ancient Greeks figured out a long time ago, when they ornated the outside of their temples.

It could be the same thing with digital. It just might be a bit too spot on for the human ear. Also, a lot of digital recordings tend to smooth things out a bit too much. Every type of instrument or voice, will have some amount of distortion. Take that away and while it may sound perfect to some, it's not an instrument anymore.

MostlyHarmless
member
member
Posts: 168
Joined: 20 Apr 2016 13:03

Re: Why do some songs sound better on records than their digital counterpart?

Post by MostlyHarmless » 06 Jul 2019 14:57

Soloist, I think you are on to something. Your observation brings to mind the "uncanny valley" or, from another perspective, the ancient tradition of intention error by various artists and scribes.

vintagevinyllover
member
member
Great Britain
Posts: 113
Joined: 16 May 2011 12:13
Location: UK

Re: Why do some songs sound better on records than their digital counterpart?

Post by vintagevinyllover » 06 Jul 2019 16:01

RJDG14 wrote:
01 Jul 2019 20:34
When I've played some of the songs I have on vinyl on good equipment I've found that they have sounded better than their digital/CD counterpart. These are a couple of them:

*Soul Asylum - Sometime To Return (released 1988): My 1988 mastered CD track of it lacks much highs and sounds quite boring (despite me loving the song) yet my 7" vinyl version, which is also a clean edit, has a very punchy sounding drum track, and while the bass isn't quite as strong, the song still sounds a lot more enjoyble.

*The Rain Parade - You Are My Friend (released 1984): The guitar on the original 1984 British vinyl copy that I have is very ringy and dynamic sounding but the same song sounded quite sterile on the iTunes version (possibly remastered in the early 2010s) that I've had a look at.

The digital versions sound cleaner, and lack any crackling or distortion that my 30-40 year old vinyl copies have, but otherwise sound a lot duller, and I wanted to know why this is.
The cd version could have some mastering compression and 16/44 in general terms can’t touch a good vinyl copy. Meanwhile iTunes is only a lossy AAC 256 for downloads, though you can rip lossless at higher bitrates. Things get much closer with hi-res digital with non lossy files like FLAC or ALAC as long as they were mastered that way (say 24/96 or 24/192) and your dac is a good one

Coffee Phil
vinyl addict
vinyl addict
United States of America
Posts: 5849
Joined: 20 Sep 2008 08:22
Location: California

Re: Why do some songs sound better on records than their digital counterpart?

Post by Coffee Phil » 07 Jul 2019 04:04

The perception is that CDs should be noise free.

I had an early CD copy of Miles Davis KOB. It sounded fine but I lost it. When I went to replace it Columbia had remastered it and even changed the album artwork. It was very quiet but the highs were muffled and it had no life. Fortunately a used record store had a vinyl copy. It was potato chipped, but I was able to flatten it to where it plays fine. Later they found me an early CD. When Sony bought Columbia they re-did KOB in a gold CD and even fixed some original pitch errors from an out of calibration analog tape recorder. The Sony CD was fine. I now also have an audiophile vinyl pressing. It also sounds fine but the pitch errors are not fixed. Apparently the thinking is that the original release is the “valid” artistic statement and should not be altered.

Phil

Post Reply