Vinyl vs Cd : Which Provides Better Sound and Performance

Music is not just some analog or digital signal, it is related to a person’s taste, memories, and perception. Keeping aside all the major technical specs we will discuss here, some people strongly like the vinyl because of simply feeling nostalgic, more attached to it, and the ‘warm and mellow’ tune that comes from it. Vinyl vs Cd is the main focus here!

Between vinyl vs CD, CD is the clear winner, if you talk technically. It has better SNR, dynamic range, and bit depth. They are small in size and between vinyl vs CD collection, the CDs will take up less space. You can play them several times without the fear that they will degrade with each play.

As we talk about vinyl vs CD comparison, we take into account technical specifications, blind test and user perspective into account. Vinyl vs CD, which one is better? The answer to this is very simple, technically CD is better than vinyl. Vinyl is also just as popular as CDs because of the lifelike music, better representation of analog audio and because people feel more connected to music with it.

Vinyl vs CD: differences

Overview

CD came into the market in several years after vinyl. They were manufactured by Philips and Sony, and became commercially available in 1982. CDs replaced vinyl and their sale was continuously higher than vinyl.

Between vinyl vs CD, vinyl was invented first. It became available in 1930. In 1931, RCA Victor came out with the commercial vinyl records. Then the marketing of vinyl saw a decline in 1970 but slowly regained popularity from 2012.

Since then it is increasing and if we see the vinyl vs CD 2020 sales, it is seen that the vinyl sales outperform that of CDs with a sale of $232 million dollars.

RIAA CD vs Vinyl Sales Oct2020

Vinyl vs CD: Comparison table

Feature
Vinyl 
CD
Format 
Analog 
Digital 
Dynamic range
60-70dB
96dB
Bit depth
11 bits 
16
Frequency response
7Hz-50kHz or more
22kHz
Reading procedure
needle
laser
Rotational speed
33-78rpm
200-500rpm
Storage capacity
12” 33 rpm for 46 minutes
4.7” for 74-80 minutes 
Available sizes
7”, 10” 12”
4.7”, 3.146”
Feature
Vinyl 
Format 
Analog 
Dynamic range
60-70dB
Bit depth
11 bits 
Frequency response
7Hz-50kHz or more
Reading procedure
needle
Rotational speed
33-78rpm
Storage capacity
12” 33 rpm for 46 minutes
Available sizes
7”, 10” 12”
Feature
CD
Format 
Digital 
Dynamic range
96dB
Bit depth
16
Frequency response
22kHz
Reading procedure
laser
Rotational speed
200-500rpm
Storage capacity
4.7” for 74-80 minutes 
Available sizes
4.7”, 3.146”

Definition

Compact Disc or CD is a circular disk made from polycarbonate plastic and to make it reflective aluminum or gold is used. Between vinyl vs CD, CDs can hold more data and play longer. You need a CD player to play the CDs which are quite easy to use. CDs are smaller than vinyl so it is easier to store if you have huge collection.

Long Play vinyl records are also circular disks that are larger than CD. They were made by shellac but later, PVC is used. Another major difference between vinyl vs CD is the format, while vinyl uses the analog format (curve shape) which we eventually hear, CDs use digital format (square/step shape).

 A turntable is needed to play vinyl and placing the needle can be tricky if you are a beginner. Vinyl are said not to produce sound accurately. This is because, as the stylus moves on the record, due to centrifugal force, it gives pressure on the outer edge which is the left channel. So the left and right channel doesn’t give accurate representation.

If you are wondering ‘Are CDs better than vinyl?’, then technically, the short answer is yes. This is true even when you compare vinyl vs flac. To understand this, you need to look into some basic technical terms.

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Signal to noise ratio:

this is the ratio between the recorded and the produced audio, and the unwanted noise. Vinyl can be better or worse than 60dB depending on the vibration of the turntable or scratches on the record. CDs are better than vinyl and has a SNR of about 100 dB.

Frequency response:

this determines the way of how the sound is produced. Human hearing range is from 20Hz to 20kHz. CDs has a frequency response of 22kHz as the upper limit and vinyl can go more than that.

Left and right channel separation:

as the name suggests, this term denotes how well the left and right stereos are separated. It is similar in concept of SNR and it is seen that while digital systems show value around 100dB, the stereo cartridges ha 25dB

Wow and flutter:

this term refers to the distortion produced by a system. It should be less than 0.2%. new vinyl players will experience less wow and flutter whereas, the old ones will be the worse.

In this case, they can’t produce consistent music or remain in a good pitch. CDs aren’t susceptible to wow and flutter.

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What is dynamic compression and how does it affect CD?

Dynamic compression is done to CDs so that it becomes louder. But loudness doesn’t always mean accurate. Accuracy is to represent what the musician initially meant the sound to be. If you overdo the dynamic compression, you might add noise and artifacts into the sound which isn’t a good thing.

During dynamic compression, if you lower the sound of certain instrument, which is intended to be louder, the sound will lose accuracy. So although will the best technical specifications, the CDs may not always sound the best.

Digital vs analog

Between CD vs vinyl audio format, the CD stores audio in uncompressed digital format and then eventually convert it into analog because we can hear analog signals. Vinyl store audio is analog format from the start and doesn’t need any conversion.

The main argument vinyl-lovers do is that, as the CD converts analog signal to store into digital format, they lose data or information in doing so. CDs have a bit depth of 16 bits which is 216. This means from a highest to lowest point of the analog signal, there will be 65536 steps which will eliminate error completely ensuring highly accurate signal.

While many people argue that these steps aren’t infinite so there will be some percentage of error, neither analog nor digital signal are error-free. Some further steps like dithering, noise shaping, digital filter and other methods are used to avoid any minute errors.

As the CDs take the analog signal, covert them into digital and then again convert them into analog, it eliminates noise and hiss from the signal. With a sampling rate of 44.1kHz, the CD will sample each second of analog signal 44100 times. Vinyl stores is analog and lossless format and since there is no conversion included, there is no chances of error occurrence.

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Audio quality

In this section we will discuss the LP vs CD sound quality. Many audiophiles claim they love vinyl more than CDs. Why does vinyl sound better than CD? It’s because they like the way vinyl sound which is warm and mellower. If you dig deep into it, you will realize, the warm sound comes from the distortion or inaccurate bass.

Nevertheless, you can still like the way it sounds. In terms of technical specifications, CD outperforms vinyl as it has around 25dB higher signal to noise ratio, higher dynamic range, improved channel separation and consistent frequency response.

So the CDs have better audio quality than vinyl. However, you will hear people saying, they feel that vinyl sometimes sound better. Why vinyl sounds better than CD? This is because, the quality of CD degrades due to compression.

New vinyl records definitely sound better, precisely detailed and lifelike, but there will be some interference and noise. And the vinyl will degrade rapidly with time which will affect its audio quality. CDs are mostly preferred by professionals and engineers.

Cd vs vinyl blind tests are rare to find, but some people conducting them states that except some ‘very faint pops/tick’ during quiet part, they felt the audio is similar for both cases.

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Degradation

One of the major difference between CD vs vinyl quality, it their deterioration with time. Vinyl records are susceptible to wear and tear which directly affects the sound quality is a negative way. The reason to buy these devices is to listen to your favorite songs repeatedly.

But this repetition becomes a problem with vinyl due to physical friction. Between CD versus vinyl, the vinyl is more prone to damage if exposed on heat, humidity, scratches, and dust. Once you buy it, you need to be cautious all the time to protect it. Vinyl has less dynamic range and increased noise and distortion results in ‘wow and flutter’.

CDs on the other hand, can be played several times without worrying about its quality. the CD-R and CD-RW may degrade when used for several years. This doesn’t mean CDs are prone to damage at all. They are also susceptible to scratches and dust. But compared to vinyl, they can be roughly used and is less prone to damage.

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Ease of use

Anyone who can use the computer can easily use CDs, listen to them or record on them. Whether you are an amateur or expert, CD listening and recording or mixing will be very easy for you.

Whereas, beginners may find it difficult to setup stylus, change speed on turntables using vinyl. Also, printing or recording on vinyl can only be done by experts. They also need special and costly devices to do so.

And if we compare vinyl vs CD vs streaming, streaming music is the easiest to use and store. Vinyl and CDs are prone to damage and consumes space.

Best vinyl player:

Best for beginner: Audio-Technical AT-LP60X-BK Turntable

Features:

  • Supports two speeds, 33 1/3, 45 RPM
  • DC servo-controlled motor
  • Drive method: Belt drive
  • Wow and flutter: Less than 0.25% (WTD) @ 3 kHz
  • Integral Dual Magnet phono cartridge with replaceable diamond stylus (ATN3600L)
  • SNR: >50 dB (DIN-B)
  • Phono preamo gain: 36 dB nominal, RIAA equalized

The sound quality of Audio-Technica AT-LP60X-BK turntable is well-balanced. The bass, mids and treble are well-represented. It has a simple design with four buttons on the front. It is made of strong aluminium metal platter and dust cover.

This device can be connected to integrated stereo amplifier, AV receiver, computer, boombox, Bluetooth speaker, etc. It has a replaceable stylus and fixed phono cartridge. The AC adapter minimizes the noise in the signal.

It is one of the best turntables for beginners because it can automatically place the stylus and remove it. The tonearm base and headshell is designed in such a way that the tracking will be better with minimum resonance. You need a pair of speakers to connect with it.

Pros

  • Automatic operation
  • Affordable
  • Anti-resonance aluminums platter
  • Pleasant sound
  • Easy to setup

Cons

  • Phono cartridge is not changeable

Best affordable: Fluance RT81 Elite High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable Record Player

Features:

  • Audio Technica AT95E cartridge
  • Speed: 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM
  • SNR (Weighted): 67dB or higher (20kHz LPF)
  • Wow and Flutter: 0.2%
  • Channel Separation: 20dB at 1kHz

With a MDF cabinet, isolated feet and aluminum platter, the Fluence has excellent aesthetics. This Product comes with a S-type tonearm and anti-skating system minimizes scratching. It has built-in phono amplifier so you don’t need to buy one.

Also, it has auto-stop feature where the stylus will switch off and rest on the record when playing is finished. The powerful Audio-Technica AT-95E cartridge and heavy plinth improves the audio quality. It sounds softer and mellower. The midrange is good and the bass is very impressive.

The elliptical stylus is well-known to be free from noise, distortion and focus on channel balance. It has a simple yet elegant design with a single large knob on the top to adjust the speed and power it on.

Pros

  • Rubber feet minimizes reverberation
  • Affordable
  • Excellent bass and balanced audio
  • Sturdy build
  • Designed to reduce distortion

Cons

  • Might not produce audiophile-grade sound

Best mid-range: Denon DP-300F Fully Automatic Analog Turntable

Features:

  • rotation speed:  33 1/3 or 45 rpm
  • wow and flutter: 0.1% (WRMS)
  • belt drive
  • high-grade DSN-85 MM cartridge

 

The Denon turntable has aluminium platter and plinth that are resistant to vibration but you should keep them on flat surface. It has a plastic tonearm and changeable headshell. The front side has only two buttons: start and stop

It comes with a built-in phono equalizer which you can connect with integrated amp or receiver. It is fully automatic which saves you from the hassle of placing the needle and taking it off. This also helps to protect the vinyl records.

It terms of audio quality; you shouldn’t expect it to sound like high-end turntables. It has narrow soundstage and may not deliver outstanding bass, but the sound is average and will suit you if you don’t want to scrutinize it.

Pros

  • fully automatic
  • designed to minimize vibration
  • eliminates scratches or damage
  • strong build
  • aluminum diecast causes smooth rotation
  • easy setup

Cons

  • no USB output

Best CD player:

Best affordable: Marantz CD6007 CD Player

Features:

  • supports WAV, MP3, AAC, WMA, FLAC HD, ALAC, AIFF and DSD files
  • L/R/Coax output are gold plated
  • HDAM version: HDAM+HDAM SA2
  • Marantz Musical Mastering
  • Frequency Response: 2 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Dynamic Range: 100 dB
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 110 dB
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.00002
  • Channel Separation: 98 dB

The Marantz CD player comes with a DAC chip of AKM 4490 that helps to work with high resolution files. The CD player is swift in use, it opens and closes easily. The front side has buttons like play, pause, rewind, stop, etc.

The CD player comes with a remote control that makes it easy to control the player and the amplifier. In terms of sound quality, it has a well-focused soundstage with better dynamics. The low-frequencies are precise as well.

You can choose from two different filters, the first one has slow roll-off and focuses on stereo image and filter 2 focuses on ‘direct and brighter presentation’. It has USB, RCA, optical and co-ax connections.

Pros

  • sturdy build
  • two digital filter to choose from
  • very good SNR and dynamic range
  • headphone amplifier is better than before
  • delivers deep bass, precise mids and highs

Cons

  • design is old-style

Best overall: Yamaha CD-S300BL

Features:

  • Burr-Brown 192kHz/24-bit DAC
  • Supports MP3 and WMA
  • SNR: 105dB
  • Harmonic Distortion: 0.003% (1 kHz)
  • Dynamic Range: 96dB
  • Frequency Response: 2 Hz-20 kHz

The parts and circuits are designed in such a way that it ensures stability in performance. It uses high-grade capacitor, low noise/high-gain bandwidth op amp and damping material to ensure excellent audio performance.

The signal paths are short to avoid signal loss. The front side of the player has CD Text display that displays the name of artist, CD title and current track. The Pure Direct feature delivers the best sound quality.

The audio quality is rich and detailed with external interference. It has an IR remote control which is large and works within 20 ft. the CD player is iPod/iPhone which you can connect into USB port. The continuous monitoring, high-quality parts and floating mechanism makes is the best overall CD player.

Pros

  • Designed to deliver isolation & stability
  • Floating laser pickup
  • Intelligent digital servo
  • Pure Direct improves audio even more
  • CD Text display
  • Natural sound

Cons 

  • USB doesn’t support hi-res file

Best versatile: Quad Artera Play+ CD Player

Features:

  • Built-in ESS Sabre32 9018 DAC
  • L/R Channel Difference: ±0.02dB (1kHz)
  • Frequency Response: -0.2dB (20Hz-20kHz, 1kHz)
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: <0.001% (20Hz-20kHz)
  • Linearity: ±0.01dB (20Hz-20kHz)
  • Signal to Noise Ratio (S/N): >110dB (1kHz)

This turntable has a glass top and the control options are on the front side. The build quality is solid and strong. The DAC effectively works with 32-bit/384kHz PCM up to DSD 256.

Like others, it also comes with a remote control. The power supply and feed are such that it produces low noise and doesn’t affect sound quality. it has 4 RCA, 2 optical, 2 coax, Bluetooth, and USB. The audio quality is detailed and decent.

The post-DAC analogue filter circuit is redesigned with improved op-amps. It comes with four digital filters: Smooth, Fast, Narrow, Wide. The Smooth delivers a broader bandwidth filter and produces satisfactory sound quality.

Pros

  • Decent and rich sound quality
  • 6.3mm headphone jack
  • Four filters to choose from
  • Very strong build
  • Versatile

Cons

  • expensive

Vinyl vs CD: which one is better?

The sound quality of vinyl is said to vary and be better on outside edge than the inside. Even so, they are loved by many and the number is increasing day by day. Experts think, it is because the vinyl store file in analog format that remains just as the music is meant to be. The vinyl also sounds rich, detailed with adequate bass.

Between vinyl vs CD, CD has better quality, longer lifetime and easy to use. You can also record or mix in CDs easily as compared to vinyl. Experiments show that if a file is originally created as analog, it sounds better on vinyl than CD. Similar thing happens, where the originally created digital file sounds better on CD than vinyl.

To conclude, CD is best for regular use and with a good player, you won’t be disappointed at the sound quality. However, vinyl can be seen as a classic hobby. If you want to create attachment with music and like mellow sound, you can choose vinyl.

Faq:

How to clean vinyl records?

Answer: Follow these steps to clean vinyl records:

  • Use a vinyl cleaning brush to remove any dirt or hair from the vinyl. Place it on the platter and turn on the vinyl and with normal force press the brush on the vinyl.
  • The stylus will also grab dirt and dust so for that you can use the Vinyl Buddy Stylus Cleaner brush 
  • You can use KAIU record solution where you will get alcohol-free cleaning solution, anti-static microfiber cloth along with a silicon protector. Simply spray the solution on the cloth and wipe the record gently.
  • Once cleaning is done, use the Vinyl Record Inner Sleeves  which will protect your records as you insert them into jackets.
  • Finally, you can add an outer sleeve to cover your entire record, this is done to avoid dusts accumulated between spins.

What are CD-R?

Answer:  CD-R stands for Recordable Compact Discs. It has a lifetime of 20 to 100 years. It is a blank disk where you can record data or files. But with CD-R, you can only do it once.

If you want a CD to record multiple times, you can choose CD-RW. Files in CD-RW can be erased to store new files.