It's a debate that's raged in music circles for decades — does vinyl or a CD provide the superior listening experience? Mp3 share.
And the advent of digital downloads and streaming services has done little to quell the contest.
Vinyl listeners swear by the medium's distinct, warm sound — and the enjoyment digging in the crates to collect LPs brings.
Music giant Sony has announced it will re-enter vinyl record production to meet increasing demand, especially with young listeners. It seems the format many had written off as dead will be sticking around for a while.
But is vinyl best if you're trying to hear what your favourite band were playing when they laid down the track?
Trouble with vinyl
"If you want to look at what's closest to the original sound, it's definitely the CD," said John Smith, an associate professor of physics at the University of New South Wales.
That's because of the physical limitations of vinyl.
The more bass in a song, the wider the groove of the record needs to be.
This poses two problems. It limits how much music can fit on a record, because the groove takes up so much space.
And a wide groove makes it easier for a needle to jump out of place on the record, creating distortion.
That means to put very low bass frequencies onto an LP, a sound engineer will reduce the bass signal level to ensure it physically fits.
It's the opposite with high frequencies, where the signal level is boosted to ensure the groove is wide enough for a needle to track it, and larger than any surface imperfections on the record.
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Down the chain, an amplifier reverses this process — boosts the bass and reduces the treble — but "there's always some information lost in the process", Dr Smith said.
Other limitations of vinyl include physical warping of the LP — Dr Smith said the disc will rarely be perfectly flat, and any variance will cause the needle to go up and down, distorting the pitch.
Dust and grooves in the record can introduce pops and clicks into the sound. Then there's "pre-echo" — when the needle picks up a loud sound in an upcoming and adjacent groove of the LP and plays a faint, ghostly version of it seconds before it's meant to appear in a track.
"It used to happen on Led Zeppelin, their first LP on the first track," Dr Smith said.
"It started with a 'bam bam,' and a few seconds before, you'd hear the same noise, very faintly, just as the needle picked up the motion of the following groove.
CDs on top
Compact discs have far fewer limitations, Dr Smith said.
The information on a CD is encoded in binary — a string of billions of 1s and 0s — that are read by the laser in a CD player that converts them into an electric current. It's then turned into sound energy by a speaker.
Because the information is read by a laser disc, rather than a needle, there's no distortion from the hiss of the needle against the vinyl or the pop and crackle of particles of dust in the LP's grooves.
And a CD's digital storage method means the high and low frequencies don't need to be tweaked as they are on vinyl.
What about digital files and streaming?
It really depends on the bitrate of the digital file, which governs how much information is conveyed in the audio per second.
Digital audio formats like MP3 and AAC can come in a range of bitrates — often ranging from 96 kilobits per second up to 320.
A lower bitrate means some of the sound from the original recording will have been sacrificed (to make the file size smaller and easier to stream or store).
How much gets discarded depends on how low the bitrate goes, but Dr Smith said at higher bitrates, people won't be able to tell the difference unless they're a keen listener with a good hi-fi system.
A team of scientists from McGill University found similar results when they brought a group of musicians and audio engineers together to compare CD-quality sound with audio of varying bitrates.
On average, the listeners could distinguish CDs from low bitrate audio (from 96 to 192 kilobytes a second).
Only expert listeners with years of studio experience could tell the difference between CD quality and high-bitrate audio (256-320 kilobytes a second).
If you fancy yourself an audiophile, you can test your ears (and audio system) on distinguishing between a variety of digital audio formats.
The ritual of records
Acoustic engineer Andrew Steel said despite the differences in audio quality, vinyl's enduring appeal comes from its collectability and distinctive sound.
"It's nicer to get a thing that's as big as your head that you can grab onto and read and play with. It's a little more personal than just looking at files on a screen," he said.
Steel said often, people focus on what audio format their music comes in without looking at other weak links in the chain — like the acoustics of the room they're in or the quality of their headphones.
"You'll see $100,000 turntables — people spend amazing amounts of money on — and it's sitting in this poxy square hard reflective room," he said.
he said getting too obsessed with the technical aspects of your music takes away from the emotion.
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"The magic is when music makes you feel an emotion — whether it's a live performance or you hear the song on the radio that reminds you of the girl who dumped you in grade 8."
What influences our format choice?
People are likely to mix and match how they listen to their music, said University of Melbourne research fellow Dr Amanda Krause.
Dr Krause surveyed 400 people from three continents to find out how and why they listened to music through particular devices and formats.
She said she wasn't able to tell if people were only listening to CDs, or only listening to free digital streaming — but that there was a definite split between digital and physical methods of listening.
The majority of those surveyed said digitally downloaded files were the format they used most often to access music, with free and subscription-based digital streaming both about half as popular.
Physical means of accessing music — including CDs, vinyl, and tape — were among the least used formats.
Live music was the least common way for people to listen to music. But while rare, it was actually the favourite overall because it offered something that the other formats didn't appear to.
"In terms of people saying why live music is their favourite, there's a social element — you're in a crowd sharing an experience, sharing emotions," Dr Krause said.