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Records vs CD vs Digital: Why fight?

I love my CD collection, I love my vinyl collection, I love my digital collection, I love my TIDAL playlists. Why do we all fight?


I have heard The Beatle's Abbey Road a million times. From my mom's tapes, CDs, the digital collection I got her for Christmas, and streaming of course. Now, I am not a Beatles obsessed fan. I like some songs, but this was always my favorite album and the source for this post.


Today I bought the anniversary edition of Abbey Road, picture record edition. I came home, put it on my RCA 1200 from the 90's, plugged it into my Kenwood (also from the 90's) and plugged in my HD650's. I sat at my desk in bliss for what seemed like forever. Something about hearing the needle bounce and be dropped automagically on the record through my sennheisers just felt nostalgic. The little pops of dust and the warmth of the needle and receiver just changes the sound a little. I also beg to differ that the sound stage was a little better on the record over my CD rip digital.


I turned over to CDs next. I played the same album (published somewhere around 2001, when I bought it) and found it was cleaner. The pops were obviously gone, the spinning sound between tracks was gone, and the sound was what I expected. Still bright, though that could be the headphones or receiver, who knows? I noticed a slight difference in sound stage, specifically the field of sound. My sennheisers or my ears have a issue with sound perceived as behind me when I wear headphones. They sound more like they are inside my head than directly behind me. Could be me, my headphones, or the sound I'm not sure. I found that the CD did a better time with the bass, however. A little more bass, but not enough to make a huge jump.


I turned over to TIDAL master quality on the 2019 remaster. I noted right away that it sounds very close to the CD. Everything is cleaner that the record, but it sounds.... cold? The warmth of the record/receiver is gone. I'm plugged into the receiver still, SE 1/4 jack to the Sennheiser, but digital output from my Nu Audio sound card to the receiver instead of player directly into my receiver. The digital version sounds "accurate" instead of bright and fun to listen to. I did notice quite a bit more low bass, mid bass too. I haven't paused to enjoy the music as much as I did with the record. The CD still had some warmth to it, but the MQA digital is just cold and precise.


Realizing that it was cold, I popped over to my record of "Nirvana Live and Unplugged in New York". I found myself again entranced with the record. The warmth of the sound, the enjoyment I was getting out of the record was surreal. I turned it over to the digital TIDAL version, and again felt cold. It was accurate, more bass, but not as much fun. I don't have a CD of this sadly...


So what am I getting at? Records are better? No, I am saying that I prefer the sound of records. Warm tones, nostalgia, and the vintage gear. The sound of all three parts just makes the sound fantastic. I enjoy it immensely. It doesn't matter where I go, I usually listen to TIDAL versions because its portable and easy. Digital editions are easy to access and convenient. No one is going to carry around a record player everywhere they go and plug it into their car, its possible but impractical. I know how I enjoy music at home and how I enjoy it on the road. You need to find your niche and enjoy it your way.


It also really sucks to flip over a tape/record. Enjoyment one minute, silence the next. Food for thought.

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