vinyl vs flac

Vinyl vs FLAC: The Debate of Analog Vs Digital Music

A very popular yet inconclusive debate among the audiophiles that’s been going on for centuries. It’s not tough to differentiate vinyl and FLAC music because they are so different. But to draw a conclusion? Well, that’s something many can’t do properly.

So, what are the differences between vinyl vs FLAC?

Compared to vinyl’s warm sound signature, the digital FLAC is more accurate and precise. And obviously, vinyl is a backdated analog system whereas FLAC is advanced. Typically, the dynamic range is also wider in FLAC audio. There are some other differentiating features like noise level, connivance, etc.

By the looks of it, FLAC might seem the way to go. But is it really the best one?

For that, you’ll have to stick with me as I compare these two in full detail.

Looking at the Two Medium of Audio

I’m guessing you already know a bit about what FLAC codec is all about. Even If you don’t know a lot, it’s fine too. Because this comparison will help you to understand almost every aspect of it. You’ll also get to know the answer of is vinyl worth it or not.

Speaking of worthiness, here’s a quick table to compare these two-

CharacteristicsVinylFLAC
Bitrate12 bit16-24bit
Dynamic RangeMax 70dBMax 144dB
Noise LevelsMore noiseLess noise
Sound QualityWarmAccurate
ConvenienceLess convenient More convenient
Preferred GenreRock, popMetal, rock, alternative & progressive rock 
Setup CostAround $350-500Around $150-200

Now a table can’t really tell you a lot about the two mediums. That’s why you should hurry up to check the full comparison!

A Detailed Side-by-side Comparison

There are many audiophiles who have tried to compare the sounds from these two mediums. Many have stated their conclusion while others could not find many differences.

Some even make some funny notions about vinyl records!

Jokes apart, let’s see how I can help you to differentiate between these two!

Medium of Music:

Both the music systems are very unlike each other. On one side you have a vinyl record which is the analog medium of music. On the other side, you have advanced FLAC audio with digital manipulation.

While the Spotify and FLAC support is still yet to be confirmed, there are many other platforms. So, you don’t really have to search for FLAC audio.

That’s why the medium of your music definitely matters. You can’t expect others to have a turntable for your vinyl records to play, can you? But you’ll obviously find sound systems to play your FLAC audio almost anywhere! 

Winner: In this vinyl records vs FLAC segment, the digital medium is the winner for its updated medium.

Dynamic Range & Bitrate:

Now, when it comes to the dynamic range, these two show a contrasting showdown. Let’s start with FLAC audio first.FLAC audio is standardly rated at 44.1KHz with 16-bit specs. Moreover, the FLAC bitrate can go up to 24-bit as well.

Source Tennessean
Source: Tennessean

However, vinyl bitrate falls into the 12-bit range. That is quite the step down from FLAC audio.

So, the bitrate game is wider in FLAC compared to vinyl.

As for the dynamic range, you can get 144dB from uncompressed audio. However, that’s only a theoretical range. Usually, you can get around 120dB with DACs. But a vinyl dynamic range can only go up to 70dB with the best equipment.

Winner: FLAC is a clear winner in this vinyl sound quality vs FLAC segment.

Noise Levels:

We often tend to forget that our audio gears can fall victim to noise levels a lot. And that’s true for both of the audio systems. But which one suffers more from it? That’s what we want to figure out.

Noise Levels
Source: Cnet

Vinyl sound quality can become noisy due to the rumbling turntable. On top of that, the vinyl records can easily get scratched if you’re not careful. And because of the damage, the audio can distort, and the noise level increases.

On the other hand, FLAC does not suffer from the damaging issue at all. You can get accurate audio with little to no noise level. Some frequencies can be lost due to compression for other lossy formats. But you don’t have that with FLAC audio format.

Winner: The noise levels are much less in FLAC audio.

Convenience:

This is a really easy comparison to do for these two audio categories. Because you are probably aware of the complications that come with vinyl.

When you’re concerned with convenience, you’ve to sacrifice a lot with vinyl. You can obviously buy good vinyl records from legitimate sources like the popmarket

But you can’t really take your turntable with you anywhere. 

Meanwhile, you can easily listen to FLAC audio wherever you go. You don’t have to carry bulky equipment with you all the time to enjoy quality music. However, you’ll definitely need a good pair of Hi-res supported headphones.

Hi-res supported headphones
Source: Manuals+

Otherwise, the quality won’t reach your senses. Now, do you have a good idea about which headphones can be good for FLAC audio? If you don’t then you can check out these excellent headphones that I personally used-

However, you might not love headphones and that’s alright. Because there are tons of good IEMs as well-

Once you have good hardware, FLAC is way more convenient than vinyl.

Winner: FLAC again takes the upper hand in the convenience segment.

Cost:

In the end, we all tend to care about the whole setup cost, don’t we? Because, sometimes, it’s not possible to go the extra mile to fulfill our passion. Whatever the reason may be, the cost is a valuable determinator in making a decision.

As you know, vinyl requires a pretty good turntable to run. Usually, a starter turntable costs around $150-200. 

Without a turntable, it’s not possible to enjoy the classic sound or feel of the records. Many complain about vinyl being trash. However, they tend to forget that the device needs to be good as well.

If you want to enjoy an excellent vinyl experience, a turntable is much needed. 

However, which great turntables won’t break your bank? Well, I’ve got some suggestions for you. 

Many audiophiles like you just love these turntables-

Now, the thing about turntables is that they often don’t come with a built-in preamp. But you definitely need one to complete your setup. That’s why the total cost goes up to almost $300! 

If your turntable does not have a preamp, here are some good ones to get-

You might even need speakers on top of a preamp as most turntables don’t include one! 

That’s why the total setup cost for vinyl goes beyond $300 to $400!

Now, for your average FLAC experience, you mostly need good headphones. Yes, DACs and Amps can also enhance the experience. But if you’re just starting out, then a pair of good headphones or IEMs is what you need.

I’ve already talked about headphones in the previous segment. Even including a good preamp, the cost does not go more than $200 on average. 

Even in some cases, you don’t have to go past the $100 mark! Yes, the FLAC experience is just that affordable.

If you use Tidal or Bandcamp, then DAC isn’t necessary if you have a good listening device.

Winner: FLAC setup is generally more affordable than vinyl gears.

Which One Should You Go For?

Before wrapping up the whole discussion, let’s re-examine all the segments.

Almost every aspect of FLAC audio outweighs the analog vinyl records. From bitrate, and dynamic range to convenience, all of these are strong points of FLAC. For a more vivid soundstage and better dynamic range, you can’t really go wrong with FLAC audio.

On the other hand, the listening experience is the highlight of vinyl. Because of the warm sound, vinyl is liked by many audiophiles. Even some are massively impressed by vinyl for this reason only. 

However, the strong points are not enough to say the vinyl sound quality is better. FLAC definitely outweighs vinyl in most cases! So, there you have your answer. Now, the rest is up to your ears and soul.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Vinyl Better than Spotify?

Vinyl can be better than Spotify if you’re using the right equipment. As Spotify still does not support FLAC audio, the vinyl records have better sound quality. From frequency response to phase stability, most of the features are better in Vinyl records. But, you will notice a higher noise level in vinyl.

Why is Vinyl So Popular?

Vinyl is widely popular among audiophiles because of its warmth and auditory appeal. The analog sound is more reverberating than the digital compressed audio counterpart. That’s why you get a more vibrant and warm sound signature. Also, the vintage and royal feel of vinyl is another strong point.

How Long Does Vinyl Last?

Typically, a vinyl record can last more than 100 years depending on the level of care. But some experts suggest a lower lifespan. It’s easy for the analog records to get scratched, damaged, or broken. But, if you’re talking about decomposing, then it takes more than 1000 years to become obliterated.

Conclusion

Do you feel like you know everything about vinyl vs FLAC now? Well, I sure hope you do as I tried my best to compare these two.

One last thing before you go. Even with knowing the differences, you should only listen to your soul. Because music is only here to inspire our souls!

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