Analog vs. Digital Audio pt.1
We spent the last post discussing the common digital audio formats and their uses. While it is true that the vast majority of people listen to their music digitally, there are many people who swear by analog, and vinyl sales are actually on an upward trend. Are people just nostalgic? Or are there actual benefits to listening analog? We’ve compiled some key differences between the two, and why some prefer one over the other.
Analog vs Digital Recording
An analog recording is created by taking the signal from the recording engineer’s audio mixer and imprinting it directly onto the analog medium (usually vinyl or tape). In contrast, digital music is run through an analog to digital converter, which takes these analog signals and converts them into digital code for a computer to read.
Benefits of Analog
Digital audio is created by taking a certain number of samples in a second. This is called the sample rate. The bit depth determines the precision of the sample. CD’s sample 44,100 times per second, each sample being 16 bits large. Analog recordings are not limited in this regard. They have an infinite sample rate, and the precision is limited only by the gear on which the audio is recorded.
While some may argue that the physical nature of analog music inherently causes defects in the listening experience, many actually prefer the tiny imperfections in a vinyl record. Additionally, mastering engineers understand that for the vast majority of people are listening to physical records in a quiet, controlled environment (usually through a high end audio system), so music tends to sound warmer and less processed. Digital music is consumed on the road in the gym and everywhere in between, so digital masters trend a bit louder and harsher.
Digital media is cheap. Buying a song from a music service simply gives the consumer access to a string of numbers for their devices to read. However, many people prefer a more tangible, concrete ownership experience. With a physical media the owner of a record can actually hold his purchase in his hands, maybe even let a friend borrow it. Plus album covers double as a decoration, a way to communicate to those around them the music they enjoy and the artists they support. Granted, this can be done with CD’s as well, but there’s something about the novelty of a large vinyl record and album art that seems that much more tangible. Statistics would agree, as the sales of vinyl have steadily grown as CD sales have dwindled.
Analog records are far from dead. In fact, there has been a substantial uptick in vinyl sales in recent years as consumers have realized the advantages of analog over digital audio. If you’ve never listened to an analog record, come by our showroom and experience it for yourself!