Intelligent Design vs Science, analog vs digital, CD vs LP--and the winner is?
If you love music you gotta check out vinyl.
Natural sound as we hear it in "real life" is pure analog, but recorded sound is, with few exceptions, chopped up into digital bits. So other than live music concerts pretty much every note you hear is digital. Whether you're listening to an iPod, the internet, TV, CDs, DVDs, or the radio, they're all digital in one way or another. We have as a species evolved over the eons to hear analog sound, and it's only over the past 25 years that digital has taken over. And it hasn't been very pretty. The only currently available analog exception is vinyl, but only those hip enough to seek it out have any idea what music is supposed to sound like. I have thousands of LPs, but my job as a home theater reviewer sometimes cuts me off from my turntable for weeks or even months. I start to accept digital as the norm, and it sounds fine.
When I get a chance to hear vinyl after long bouts with zeros and ones analog always surprises me. It just sounds better--nicer--and more, well, musical. You folks who love music and have never experienced vinyl, you literally don't know what you're missing. No one's saying analog's perfect, there are distortions, scratches, noise, and dirt that dig-o-philes never deal with. It's just that digital seems to miss the natural warmth that analog seems to capture so well. Maybe we're "designed" for analog and digital is just too unnatural to fully enjoy.
And it's not just the hardcore audiophiles who think analog trumps digital, some major and indie record labels are joining the fray. Matador's Patrick Amory sounds like a true believer to me, "For many of us, and certainly for many of our artists, the vinyl is the true version of the release...The size and presence of the artwork, the division into sides, the better sound quality, above all the involvement and work the listener has to put in, all make it the format of choice for people who really care about music." I pulled that quote from Eliot Van Buskirk's excellent Wired commentary, Vinyl May Be Final Nail in CD's Coffin.
And decent turntables are cheap enough, I found this groovy Audio Technica AT-PL50 turntable that comes with a built-in phono preamp for $75 at JR.com. What are you waiting for?