I’ve been on a tidying kick for quite some time. Today I won a major victory by getting my daughter to join in. She went through her bathroom and filled up two bags of stuff to be discarded. Yay!
Tonight, while sitting in my entertainment room after watching a movie, I glanced at my vinyl collection. I wondered if it was time to do something bold: Get rid of all my records.
I know how audiophiles always say that the sound from vinyl is superior. So I decided to do a scientific test to help me make my decision. I would listen to one of my favorite songs on vinyl, then on compact disc. If the vinyl version sounded far superior, I might want to keep my records. If I couldn’t tell the difference, or if the CD sounded better, then yay, lots of records to discard.
I had to select the right song for the test. I didn’t think about it too much, and I chose “Here Comes the Sun”, by The Beatles. I have this song on both vinyl and CD versions of the album called “1967-1970”, also commonly known as “The Blue Album”.
I decided to listen to the version on vinyl first. Of course, I had to go through all of the ritual. First, I took out the album from the shelf. I pulled out the sleeve, and the record slipped out, because the paper had come apart. Yeah, I remember that. The record sleeve is far from indestructible.
I put the record on the turntable, cued up the tone arm, used my velvet dust brush to make sure the record was pristine, and finally lowered the tone arm onto the record. I noticed that the strobe indicator showed that the speed was off. The record was going a bit too slow. So I adjusted it until the speed was exactly 33 ⅓ revolutions per minute. Or as close to it as I could get.
Now it was time to listen. The record sounded OK. Back in the early 1980s I had played this record a lot, and as happens with vinyl, the grooves had worn down and the sound was a bit flat. But it still sounded good. No crackling or skipping. I had taken good care of my records.
Next it was time to listen to the CD. I had to remind myself how to use the CD player. I hadn’t used it for a long time. There was a way to select a single track and optionally tell it to repeat. I didn’t quite remember how to do that, so I just decided to select the track and hit play. First, I had to look at the CD box to find out what the correct track number was. Eight. The track number on the Blue Album CD for “Here Comes the Sun” is eight. On disc number two.
Just a few seconds into listening to the CD version was enough to convince me what I needed to do. To my non-audiophile ears, the CD sounds was far superior to the vinyl sounds. Goodbye records!
Then something happened. About a quarter way through the song, the CD player started playing “Come Together”, the next track. Track number nine. What happened? I thought maybe I stepped down on the floor to hard and caused the CD to skip, so I tried again, restarting “Here Comes the Sun”, track eight. And it happened again! I realized that it would be impossible for me to listen to the entire song on the CD. The CD was not scratched or anything, Just by sitting on the shelf all these years, the CD had deteriorated to the point of making it unplayable.
Boo. It seemed that all the money that I invested over the years in CDs was now sunk. I didn’t even want to try listening to any of my other CDs, for fear of being disappointed again.
Apparently, CDs are an inferior technology. A record could get scratched, maybe crackle a little, but at least, unless you really abuse it and scratch it deeply, the whole record will play. My father has old 78 rpm records from almost 100 years ago, and they still play (if you can find a turntable that plays that speed). But a CD, just because of its age, becomes a circular brick. It seems that entropy is not kind to CDs.
So, I think I won’t be discarding my vinyl collection just yet. Or maybe the answer is to dump all of the physical discs, both vinyl and compact, and just stream my music. Alexa, play “Here Comes the Sun”.