As some of you know I acquired my parent's record collection recently. I am now the proud owner of records that span from the late 60's to the late 80's; that's when we got our first CD player. I remember these albums growing up and they are very special to me. When I listen to them now they take me back to my childhood when Dad and (mostly) Mom would play them and it feels like I'm a little kid in the front room of the house again. I'm also introducing Quentin to a whole new generation of music as my family had done for me, so now my hope is that this music will hold a place for him as well.
Now on to more important issues! Talking to Dad the other night, I was sharing my joy at playing the records and how my TV watching has dropped since I stared spinning them; I still break for hockey though. I also told him that I wanted to buy more of them because there is just a different feeling when you play a record versus other forms of media. He sounded a little puzzled and said, "Why not just buy them on CD or via iTunes?" A valid question if you ask me, so I stated like any other vinyl snob that it sounded better on vinyl; Dad said he wasn't so sure about that. So I set out to test this theory and this morning I did! I donned my Sony headphones and found all of the CD's that I also have on record and lined them up. My control group was Billy Joel, The Clash, and The Beatles. A varied group and also varied ages for extra reliability in the results.
I started by playing one song on record and then again on CD but I only noticed minor differences. I then decided that I would cue them at the same time and switch back and forth to see if I notice the difference. This method worked the best and I can finally say that I have settled which is better. The answer is: they're the same. There are differences so minor that they should hardly even be talked about. The biggest thing is the volume; CD's tend to be a little bit louder. Other than that the most common thing was that CD's tend to have a little more of a "treble" sound while the records lean toward a more "bass" sound; this is the "warm" sound that vinyl affectionados point to.
In my opinion, however, I still prefer the record for listening and the CD for reliability. Why? Well the record doesn't bring on a feeling of ear fatigue. When music is recorded now, it is cranked up so high that our ears notice even if we don't initially; this is the biggest complaint of MP3's also. Records have a softer smoother sound, even with their hisses and pops. Records don't seem as distant as CD's, they seem to be closest to the real thing as you can get.
I'm no scientist of sound, but that is my very uneducated observation.