The romanticism of vinyl – a skeptic’s view (BBC radio interview)

Close-up

Close-up of vinyl grooves, viewed under an electron microscope. Image from the Vinyl Factory.

I appeared on BBC local radio last week to discuss the ‘vinyl debate’. I’m a skeptic – in my opinion there isn’t a debate to be had, at least regarding sound quality (although I personally remember my own ‘vinyl years’ of 1980s album-buying very fondly).

The fact is that vinyl sounds worse (and is sonically measurably worse) than CD or even medium-bitrate streaming audio. The arguments have been rehearsed by both sides many times – the pro lobby likes vinyl’s ‘feel’ (fair enough) and ‘warmth’ (i.e. signal distortion and low/high frequency loss). The anti lobby likes sound quality. Here’s a summary of the pro arguments, debunked with some physics and history.

I was interviewed on the Graham Seaman show, discussing the history of vinyl and speculating about why people still like it despite its sonic limitations. Here’s the audio, in two parts of around 5 minutes each; it should play directly in the browser, or download part1.mp3 and part2.mp3.