Vinyl records have experienced a massive sales boom over the past decade. As nostalgic music fans looked to satiate their desire for physical media during the streaming age, they skipped over the medium that dominated the 1990s and early 2000s — the compact disc (CD). Does vinyl sound better than compact discs, or are consumers missing out?
Vinyl vs. CD Sound Quality
Vinyl albums are the go-to for the modern nostalgic music fan, but how do records sound compared to CDs? It turns out that CDs have a lot going for them that improves sound quality.
A CD is a digital medium. When capturing a sound wave digitally, the computer replicates it by creating horizontal blocks for frequency and vertical blocks for amplitude. The more building blocks, the more acute the wave’s replication can be.
The number of horizontal blocks informs how many times the computer samples the sound wave’s frequency each second. The number of vertical blocks is how many bit values the computer uses when replicating the sound wave’s amplitude, or volume.
A common CD captures 41,000 frequency blocks per second and uses 65,535 vertical building blocks for volume. Essentially, a CD can hold an accurate representation of frequencies from 0 kilohertz to 22.5 kilohertz and boost them to 90 decibels.
In contrast, a record is an analog media storage device. Record manufacturers literally carve sound waves into the plate, but the groove can only be so large.
Imprinting extremely high and low frequencies at loud volumes would require a lot of physical space on the record, which isn’t available. Audio engineers have to compromise sound quality in order to fit the album on the vinyl plate.
A vinyl record offers frequencies ranging from 20 kilohertz to 30 kilohertz, significantly reducing low-end capabilities. Depending on the groove’s health, the volume peaks at 55 decibels to 70 decibels.
So, Are CDs Better Than Records?
CDs reproduce a greater range of frequencies at louder volumes than records. Still, many listeners appreciate vinyl albums for the intangible factors like crackling, popping and distortion that make listening to a vinyl album a one-of-a-kind experience. There’s a time and place for each, so choose the medium you prefer!
Buy Used CDs and Records From Record Head
Record Head has a massive library of used vinyl records and CDs. Our inventory is the best place to find deals on many of the most influential albums of all time, plus plenty of underground gems. Visit our store in West Allis, Wisconsin, or check out our online shops to see what we have in stock.