Hand to Hand Combat!

I got into it in the discussion section of a ridiculous Rolling Stone story. Why did I waste my time doing so? Because this is hand-to-hand combat folks! Get your hands dirty!

Michael Fremer Andy.... • 4 minutes ago

Andy, you did not insult my "religion". My beliefs are based on facts including the fact that vinyl has a much wider bandwidth than does CD. I am about to publish a paper by an E.E. demonstrating using MATH that vinyl actually has theoretically wider dynamic range than CD..but back to your claim:

Peak limiting and other processing has long been used as much for artistic purposes as well. Rock music doesn't sound very good without a bit of dynamic compression to add some "punch" but that's a different issue.

The fact is there's no reason today for technical reasons to dynamically compress music cut to lacquer. And most properly done vinyl reissues have no limiting whatsoever other than what may have been used originally for artistic purposes.

Ironically the loudness wars are causing CDs to be dynamically compressed while the vinyl version of the same music is not.

I participated in a mastering panel with Bob Ludwig and Doug Sax where Sax played for the audience the vinyl and CD versions of the same reissue and the vinyl clobbered to CD for that very reason and also in my opinion because vinyl just sounds better than CD.

I cannot stand listening to CDs. I was primed to love them when they came out but couldn't believe how awful they sounded and how everyone was saying how great truly awful sounding reissues sounded.

Today the same people say "Oh yes those original CDs did sound bad because (list of excuses here) but now....." And guess what? I still find them sounding pretty bad especially when I compare to the original vinyl.

Vinyl did not "fail" in the marketplace Andy! History shows that formats last around 30 years. Actually cassettes displaced vinyl first and that's because of portability. Then came CDs, which were oversold as having superior sound and durability.

Cassettes faded because of the 30 year rule and because track skipping is impossible. And because high speed duping is bad for sonics.

CDs are now fading. Why? First the 30 year rule. And what replaced it? MP3s. That's CRAZY. It's going to a worse sounding format! But that was also true of the switch from vinyl to cassette, and in my opinion from cassette to CD but CD was more convenient. MP3s are too and they take up less storage space.

Second CDs are fading because they are not all that durable. If you don't exercise the same care as required for vinyl they scratch and once scratched they either don't play or they skip of the reflective layer oxidizes over time and they become unplayable.

The WSJ estimated a few years ago that there are 2 BILLION DOLLARS worth of unplayable CDs in America. The Library of Congress is spending a fortune preserving CDs now before they become unplayable. And of course the packaging has always been awful.

I watched CDs take over. I happily bought up all of the dumped vinyl that sounded better and was much better packaged. I saw the success of CD as a mass delusion and predicted back then that a spinning digital disc was doomed as soon as digital storage became feasible.

That is now and CDs are fading. It was and is a terrible format physically and sonically. Yet today the move to higher resolution digital audio is being fought by a rear guard action by know nothing computer writers who parrot the little they know about sampling rates to "prove" the perfection of 16bit 44.1K audio. It's laughable.

Your final paragraph is wrong on all counts, as much as for whatever reason or reason you wish to declare vinyl a 'dying beast'. If it's "dying" why did Stoughton Press, which manufacturers LP jackets just invest 2.5 million dollars in a state of the art Heidelberg printing press? If it's "dying" why did United in Nashville double it's vinyl pressing capacity (it was previously the largest in the country). If it's dying why did Pallas in Germany and GZ in the Czech Republic just add brand new presses (yes new ones not refurbished).

If it's "dying" why are the other pressing plants operating at full capacity and moving to double shifts?

It is NOT "dying"! It is growing. If you wish to predict it will eventually fade and die go ahead but I predict you will be wrong just as I predicted in the 1990s that vinyl would make a strong comeback.

I was correct. I told execs at MCA (now Ume) not to sell its pressing plant because they'd need it. I was correct. I told Warner Brothers execs in the 1990s not to sell its Olyphant, PA plant because it would eventually be needed. I was correct though they thought i was nuts.

I told Howard Stern on his show in 2001 that vinyl was poised for a big comeback....I was CORRECT!

And why? Because a $399 Pro-Ject Debut Carbon can do things sonically that no CD player manages. The brain LIKES the sound in ways that it does not like CD sound.

Young people exposed to this sound LOVE IT. I get the emails from them daily. They like the sound, they like the packaging and they like the entire experience.

Ironically this market is growing the same way MP3s did in the 1990s: virally. It's not being pushed by corporations. They are following as they did in the 1990s with MP3s.

I have 40 and 50 year old records played hundreds of times that sound way better than any CD reissue. They are quiet, and not at all noisy and/or worn out because they've been properly cared for.

The records kids are buying now if properly cared for will still sound great in 40 years after I'm dead and buried and when that happens a younger generation of vinyl fans will get my collection and those of other boomers who took care of their records.

We agree that vinyl will be a niche market. So what? So are Apple computers, so is fine wine, so is gourmet food so are high performance cars and exotic watches.

The only difference is that a $399 turntable can give a pretty good taste of what's possible. That's very affordable. Pro-Ject sold 250,000 turntables last year. Yes, that's niche compared to the general population but so what?

The goal for me has been to see vinyl survive and prosper. Mission accomplished. I have a friend in L.A. who has befriended many very famous and very young musicians. They visit, they hear a good turntable and the next thing they do is buy one and start buying records. They flip out! They get it after one play.

That is what's happening and that is why vinyl sales are growing. Not because it's a hipster fad. Andy, I couldn't care less what format people use to consume music but I find it fascinating to read the comments under all of the vinyl comeback stories.

The negative ones are so filled with bitterness. I'm left thinking maybe these people aren't enjoying all that much their digital listening.

I know my website's readers (demographic tending younger all the time) are having a great time listening to records!

zzcorey's picture

I love this site Michael, but please please please go back to album and equipment reviews aka Analog Planet, we all agree with you. We don't need to see you argue with some neophyte on the site of a glorified tabloid. Please go back to doing what this site does best, it makes for a much more interesting read. I could care less what the general public or David Pogue or whoever thinks, the proof is always in the listening and you don't prove anything through an online argument or charts, you have to get people to actually listen to hifi.

Michael Fremer's picture
I am currently working on many interesting reviews--hardware and software--including an A/D converter survey. I still feel we need to take on these people and by providing links, our readers can too but feedback appreciated and points well taken.
zzcorey's picture

You should make points about why these people are wrong, but the level of diction and discourse presented here is not up to par with the regular articles on this site. It lessens my opinion of the blog to not present a coherent article with structure that I can easily understand and instead just copy and paste a comments section argument. Even as a young and admittedly green college student I can see this as crappy journalism, what would a first time reader of analog planet think of this?

sdecker's picture

Of course you're free to do as you wish, and have clearly had success doing so for decades. But consider that you've become one of the elder statesmen for vinyl, and for keeping it not only alive, but improving it.

I've no problem with your doing your best to educate the digital masses, offering them alternative perspectives, actual facts and relevant observations.

But I do have issues with someone of your stature (and I have as much respect for your lifetime achievements as anyone) going onto mainstream website comment sections and acting irresponsibly, degenerating to the lowest common denominator of overflamed social media hostility.

To the Average Joe on a Rolling Stone, Gizmodo or Yahoo Tech site, you may appear as a troller posting unprovoked inflammatory statements about others' comments. They're making a post that's within their (limited) experience and out of the blue you tell them they're 'clueless' 'brainless' and posting stuff like 'Learn something before you post wise-ass stupid comments' 'What a dumb comment' 'All of what you've written is complete B.S.' 'THAT IS AN IDIOTIC ASSERTION.' 'You are clueless about the SCIENCE.' 'you are winning the war of showing how stupid you are.'

Michael, please. Most of these regular folks wouldn't truly understand what your points are if you replied to them with a respectful informative correction to their perspective. But to inflame the discourse with personal insults when most of them are repeating their comfortable cliches and feeling they're contributing to a mainstream article makes them question who this analog asshole is and what's up with his anger and know-it-all attitude. And some will look up analogplanet.com or research "Michael Fremer" and your (our, MY) case has more detractors.

We're all amused by how anti-analog and/or pro-CD the digital zealots are, going to great lengths of disinformation, or no information, to discredit all things analog, especially records. But how do you think some of your recent posts on mainstream sites come across to the great unwashed masses we're hoping to convert, or at least inject a little balance to the larger discourse??

I take no pleasure in posting this to a site I visit daily that's run by someone I regard as a kindred spirit. Hand to hand combat? Live and let live. Or at least educate without angry insults.

tnargs's picture

I have to back you there, Corey, it's embarrassing. Michael, please stop. It is demonstrably not your forte. Please stick to the groovy platitudes by way of record reviews.

David_Cormier's picture

I love this site and I've learned a lot of things reading it during the last two years. BUT I have enough with that kind of arguing with these stupid people who prefer digital and dislike vinyls. I agree 100% with your comments when you responded to the guy but I'm not coming here to read that kind of things. I want more album reviews (the video you posted during the holidays was just great), more affordable gear reviews, more exclusive news about what is coming on the vinyl market during the year, etc. That's for these things that I read your blog.

And yes the records may always stay a niche and I'm totally cool with this. My mother prefers to listen to CDs and my friends who think they're so cool prefer MP3s and streaming because they're more easy to use and they can listen to these formats on their cool new iPad or iPhone. But when they listen to a good record on my modest system (I have one of these 250,000 Pro-Ject turntables sold last year), they all go "wow". So for me, I'm already convinced: vinyl is superior. Now that I know that, I'm ready to move on and I don't need to argue with anybody.

And to conclude, we can argue all day long to what sounds superior, vinyl or digital. But there is no way that someone is gonna convince me that vinyl has "environmental concerns". I have more concerns with all the plastic crap that Apple and other cheap devices manufacturers are peddling to us. I guess that my turntable and records will still be working very well in 25 years. What about the new iPhone?

Kurt's picture

I was slow to switch to CDs, waiting til the late 90s after I heard a few good remastered ADD albums. Then, about 5-6 years ago, after a long break, I put an LP on my modest system (Thorens, Rotel, Paradigm) and felt like I hadn't heard anything so good in a long time. I've since switched back to primarily analog listening.

I can imagine that it might be something in my brain's wiring (I grew up on analog) that causes me to respond more favorably to analog, but what matters is it sounds better to me. Another important factor: a lot of good music isn't available digitally – it's never been put on CD or made available for download.

jmoray's picture

The problem is our society and desire for "ever faster, ever easier". As mentioned, Cassette first (because of portability), Then CD (portability and REMOTE CONTROL) began to supplant the vinyl record. The frozen TV dinner, the Frozen Lasagna at your supermarket...None of these are as good as home made, but they are EASIER AND MORE CONVENIENT. If we as society can give up a dollop of convenience, we can improve our lifestyle many times over. I don't mind getting up every 22 minutes. I don't mind making my dinner from scratch. Why? because it is so much better. And my enjoyment of music? NEVER BETTER. Now if they could all end the "loudness wars", limiting and compression, my music listening will be even more enjoyable. KILL THE COMPRESSION, AND LONG LIVE VINYL!

J.D.'s picture

A flavor preferred by the great majority of people who like their opinions unchallenged and their 'discussions' packed with received wisdom, cliché, and automatic, middling dumbdown. They like what they know, and they know what they like.

The occasional fury and passion of a committed advocate-- in this case for better sound-- really makes these people worry. It upsets their applecarts and forces them to have to think.

I say go ahead and worry them. Vanilla is a boring flavor, worse with endless repetition. Polite smoothed-over remarks do nothing but reinforce the sadly misinformed status quo.

Keep the argument lean, mean and skip the ad-hominems, but use the position-- you're regarded as something of an expert in what you do-- to keep the misinformation and corporate-dumbdown forces worried.

Take 'em down. Say it loud & say it proud, MF.

Mac McNabb's picture

Your staunch defense of analog music is well worth the effort! It might even change a few ears. Keep up the fight!

cooker's picture

Hi Mikey, when I saw that this post was another vinyl vs cd/digital debate I cringed a little bit.
Everyone on this site loves vinyl so your not converting anyone here. In my opinion if someone is staunch about CD's or Digital, leave them be, sit back and laugh.
It's their loss, don't waste your precious time which could be used doing other things arguing with these people, because at the end of the day that shows that CD's are controlling you in a subtle back handed way.
Share your knowledge and wonderful reviews with the people who care, not that ones that don't.
Keep it rocking Mikey!

Swalk21's picture

I've grown to believe that it is very difficult to fully convince someone that vinyl is the superior and more enjoyable way to listen to music and gave up trying years ago (although I have a nice stable of converted believers). That being said, it is very painful to read articles by idiots who attempt to deny facts and reality. Thank Michael for fighting the good fight and saying what we all feel.

johntoste's picture

The truth may not set us free but the dissemination of FACT against a chorus of ignorance will help keep mediocrity at bay.

The more that the "good enough" attitude is left unchallenged, the more difficult it becomes to sustain our shrinking hi-fi heaven.

The current visibility of "hi-rez" may be the last opportunity in my lifetime for the larger marketplace to support the concept of better sound.

Thanks be to Mikey for furthering our cause in the court of public opinion.

Martin's picture

Yes, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the streets, we shall fight in the trenches, we will never surrender :-)
Ignorance that is. And the ignorance on display there is breathtaking.
More seriously, as we know a lot of vinyl is done all analogue. Both now and over the last 20 years. Like Lyn Stanley's potions from the '50s. No digital yet devised sounds anything close to that good.
Then there is the Blue Note reissues from Music Matters. I have the SACDs of most of these titles and the SACDs don't come close to the Music Matters vinyl. Let alone a standard 44.1Khz /16 bit CD.
It happens all the time at home, I put on a good record, say "Ben Webster meets Oscar Peterson", play the first track "touch of your lips", then put on the CD. The reaction is generally "Hey, that's awful, it's flat, lifeless... put the record back on"

AnalogJ's picture

I understand your frustration and your need to rant. Of course, you're preaching to the converted here, and many, including me, want content.

But it's really interesting to see the techno-troglodytes who hang onto what their narrow paradigm produces. Rather than being open to truly listening and discovering, then ask why they're hearing a difference when their own framing doesn't match, they just go "nuh-uh!"

It's really surprising when you have tech editors who are really supposed to be at the forefront and are supposed to be intellectually inquisitive. Scientists are always re-examining their assumptions. When a result can be repeated on demand that falls outside of the normal range of assumptions, a new paradigm needs to be established. New research needs to be done. It's intellectually lazy to just go "nuh-uh!"

audiof001's picture

Write what you want, it's your blog. Full support here from me. btw: I wonder if the CD lovers/vinyl haters who post here are just embarrassed that they bought into the false claims marketed to the masses and ditched all their vinyl? The majors jumped on the CD wave because there were few returns of these 'perfect sound forever' discs and higher profitability built in, not because it was truly sonically superior. Everyone: Listen to music any why you want for the love of music.

fairlane500's picture

Guys, no one is MAKING you read anything in particular on this sight. Mikey is prolific enough to do battle and turn out his amazing reviews, etc. And you are obviously welcome to provide any comments and feed back you wish to present.

But If you don't like something, seriously, don't look!

Bromo33333's picture

I agree, vinyl is growing virally, it isn't being pushed, in part, because nobody had to.

I got startedin high end Audio first with CD. Then I added SACD and was blown away. When I added I turntable, I felt like I came home.

I think there are a lot of people spinning Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt out there - and I am not quite sure why. Other forms of entertainment aren't fraught with such controversy - it seems that audio has been the battleground that the crew that gets their jollies trolling and trying to debunk prefer to fight.

I am glad you are standing up to what amount to be bullying. You go get 'em!

isaacrivera's picture

Though I prefer the music and equipment reviews, I think a blog named Analog Planet should defend all things analog when necessary. Truth is we should not need numbers to back up our preferences and neither should CD lovers. Sensory preferences should be their own justification. There is no amount of analytics that is going to make you switch if you truly enjoy what you hear. So why should you be concerned if other's prefer a different format?

I grew up with vinyl, but when the time came for making my own music purchases, CDs were what was on the menu. So I bought thousands of them. A couple of years ago, on this blog, I read Michael's theory that people who switched to CDs have gradually given up listening to music as a main activity and relegated it to a background thing. It made me think and I had to admit that it was true for me. I had very strong childhood memories of music. I claimed to love listening to music. But I hardly dedicated any time to listening anymore. So I decided to make the expensive experiment of getting an analog front-end.

Listening to LPs is highly inconvenient. But I do it whenever I can and I can much more often than I used to with CDs. Whenever I can steal 40 precious minutes for music, I just can't bring myself to use them listening to CDs anymore. Plus invariably my wife screams from the other room to please lower the music when a CD is playing... I enjoy music through LPs tremendously. And all of this enjoyment started because of something I read on this blog.

Whenever I have friends over their jaw drops--they can't believe LPs sound so good. Most of them won't commit to it. Too much money, too little time, kids, etc. But right then and there they all agree. There is no argument. Their ears don't lie. A few of them have pulled me aside afterwards... "How much would I need to spend to get sound like this in my home?"

Keep it up Michael. Review, argue, defend, attack. Every once in a while you will instill curiosity in a new reader and change their music-enjoyment experience. It did to me. Analog Planet is a bagful of surprises I am always looking forward to.

Glotz's picture

"Keep it up Michael. Review, argue, defend, attack. Every once in a while you will instill curiosity in a new reader and change their music-enjoyment experience. It did to me. Analog Planet is a bagful of surprises I am always looking forward to."

THAT rewews my spirit! This bagful of surprises is really what sets Mikey apart from the pack.

Mikey keep being Mikey!

Jumping Bean's picture

I tried reasoning with these people in various discussions. Not only did I encounter supposedly hardcore audio devotees who gave me unintelligible rants about how vinyl has no dynamics, no bass, is compressed more than cds... but people also appeared who argued that CD is better than high res digital because it's degraded by "ultrasonics". I seriously hate humanity now and just want to listen to records to cleanse my soul.

Glotz's picture

I am down on them too, brother. I don't even try to argue with ill-informed idiots.


He's a lot better with his facts, and his writing. Thank you Sir!

Ptruce's picture

You can't let these digital people get away with their lies. Or perhaps some people will believe them - much like Fox News. You have to get right in their face and you are probably the only one with the knowledge and stature to do it.

In our audio group here in the Bay Area, one "only digital" audiophile finally bought a turntable and reluctantly agreed that the lp's sound better. Not measure better, not must be better because everyone says so, but *sounds* better.

Keep up the fight, Michael - hope you are enjoying seeing all your predictions come true!


Glotz's picture


gbougard's picture

Michael can write whatever he wants. It's HIS blog. He has a point, and there is no reason why he should not express it over and over. The "others" are relentless too and they need to be told off. Hats off to Michael for his energy and, I daresay, courage.

Banditcat200's picture

I think you should keep up the presure on digital it stinks mostly,even though if they would do a good job with the digital masters there is potential for a good sound for the enduser, but this is rarely the case, most times the music has been beaten to a state that is unhearable and unbearable to listen to.
Best Regards from Denmark
Analog rules ;-)

nelg's picture

Dear mr. Fremer
I like your determination and your insight of analog playback. Keep up the good work and don't let the " unknown" masses get you down.
It's their loss they listen to digitised music.

andyo5's picture

Just be sure to be informative and not insulting. You want to persuade, not offend. I have no issue with your activities in this arena.