Tales of Chuffleigh: Chapter 1

Wednesday afternoon at about 3.30 in Chuffleigh is like Wednesday afternoon, at about 3.30 in any other small village in Devon. Except for the fact that Chuffleigh feels as though it has been cut off from the rest of societyfor some time; almost frozen in time perhaps back to some year in the late seventies.

In years gone by, Chuffleigh had seemed more connected to the modern world, and more vital, yet the clockwork of life within the village seems never to have had a beginning.

The Old Garage stands halfway down the main high street opposite the village church; virtually abandoned. The rusting hand dials which measured out fuel that was delivered by the attended service staff of the past , have not turned for years. The ancient seventies British Leyland signage is still present, but the garage itself has been locked (or so we thought) for years, the interior still visible through its unusual concertina glass doors which were folded back during the day revealing the formerly busy workshop.

The narrow, single road, running through the village connects the small network of village streets forming the fabric of the village itself, is rough and unkempt, and a source of constant complaint to The Parish Council of St Nigel’s.

The river Chuff rises in the millpools at the back of the village, and trickles underneath its single tiny  humpbacked bridge opposite The Old Bakery, eventually finding its way into the dappled shade behind the church of St Nigel on the Chuff, and outward to Felchingham, eventually meeting the sea at Chuffmouth 25 miles further on.

Even the now abandoned railway cutting points to a busier past. Not that there was ever a station at Chuffleigh – the nearest branch line station was down the road at Chuffmore about three miles away. The choice of Chuffmore had been a source of bitterness in the past, since a station at Chuffleigh would certainly have brought more prosperity; in the minds of the villagers this somehow made Chuffmore more important than Chuffleigh. Now, since The Beeching Report in 1963, the branch line has long since been uprooted, and all that remains now is a deep overgrown cutting leading off to Felchingham.

The creation of The Village Shop had been the vicar’s idea. The reverend Colin Hardcandle had taken up his appointment at St Nigels some six years earlier, having spent time at St Collins (no connection) in Felchingham, where he had seen – to great effect, how beneficial a thriving shop can be for the community. The vicar seemingly tries to present himself as a ‘modern’ man of the church by introducing himself to new potential members of his flock, as ‘Reverend Colin’. But, as with many old fashioned village communities, and  oddly – he thought, the younger, mainly unruly lads of the village, he is surprised they prefer using his formal title, ‘Reverend Hardcandle’, usually followed by a quick snort of uncontrollable laughter.

The Reverend lives in the vicarage by himself – well, with the exception of his aging dog Bonker, a small wirey and rather smelly border terrier. It is rather hard to explain why, but Bonker smelt very distinctly of very strong popcorn. Musky, deeply unpleasant, and omnipresent. They say that the sense of smell can trigger memory recall like no other sense; unfortunately for the villagers Chuffleigh, the pleasure of opening a pack of popcorn will be ruined forever. Like many old dogs, his breath was the most eye watering of a number of fragrances he unknowingly emitted; choking – like nerve gas. Bonker had been ‘rescued’ by The Reverend after he’d been told by the local farming family, Giles and Jilly Farmer, that they didn’t want him anymore, and

“If you don’t take him Vicar, it’ll be down to the vets and onwards up to that big doghouse in the sky”, Giles Farmer said, rather matter of factually.

Just before Bonker’s transfer of ownership from the Farmers, the Reverend Hardcandle enquired about Bonker’s unusual name.

“We just called him that because he is a bit mad, didn’t we Jill?” replied Giles rather awkwardly, and now increasingly keen to get the exchange done and dusted as soon as possible.

The truth was that Bonker shagged everything with four legs within his increasingly failing field of view. Such was his enthusiasm for his sport that sometimes, he widened his selection criteria to include two legs. Hence ‘Bonker’. And not because was a bit bonkers, as the Reverend later recalled on very many quiet strolls out, where he was compelled to physically intervene during some of Bonkers more enthusiastic hip-action conquests. Nothing, and no one was safe, he realised.

The Village Shop itself sells everything. Well, everything edible and drinkable that is. Chuffleigh has money, so that is top scoff, and top booze. It is also a Post Office, and outside the shop is a small adverts cabinet. ‘Rageh Scoobs Taxis – We’ll drive you, so you don’t have to’ reads one of the least creative adverts, written by Rageh himself. It is also without doubt the social centre of the village, the big switchboard where scandal is propelled from a single person to the entire village. It is run by four members of the village community, the foremost member being Marjorie Growler, a stern, rather matronly lady who is not to be tangled with under any circumstances.

Mrs Growler and the Reverend Hardcandle have never really hit things off, and that is really not just with regard to the shop. Mrs Growler’s matronliness and general fustiness should not be confused with naivety, whereas The Reverend is no doubt naïve, especially with regard to the more ‘physical’ aspects of his flock’s marital worries, who nevertheless still misguidedly rely on him for dispensing solutions to their marital discord. These are the high and low pressure weather systems of their relationship which frequently collide with such ferocity.

Mrs Growler had fallen out with the Vicar some five years previously after he had introduced the idea of the shop to the community. The idea of a shop had been welcomed as a universally good thing, but rather like an over enthusiastic puppy dog, he had done all of the running himself, including the composition of business plans and researching suitable locations.

Finding a location had been harder than he expected. The first choice should really have been The Old Garage, given that it had lain idle for so long, perhaps thirty years or more. However, the rather hushed up ‘incident’ involving Hugo Farmer, Giles and Jilly Farmer’s dashing but rather naughty 24 year old son some 12 months previously, had pushed it out of reach as a choice for the shop’s location, and it definitely rendered the site unsuitable for any activity involving food, at least in the mind of the Vicar. This state of affairs rather perplexed the rest of the village, who were not aware of the truth and did not understand why The Old Garage was still not on the list.

The Old Garage, ChuffleighThe Old Garage, a favourite for the location of Chuffleigh Union Neighbourhood Trading, but not after ‘the incident’ involving young Hugo Farmer.

Instead, a purpose built site was found next to the old telephone exchange, and built from scratch with funds raised by a seemingly endless run of Raffles and Cheese & Wine evenings, and then built by the local builders, Jeff Hardon, and his son, Ivor at next to no cost.

Mrs Growler, who since retiring to Chuffleigh with her husband Graham had been keen to get involved with the Community, had heard about the shop and decided to find out more. She had suggested to the vicar that she’d like to play a leading part in the shop, and the vicar, realising this could be a way of releasing some of his well needed time, agreed.

They met over tea at the Vicarage, and Reverend Hardcandle showed Mrs Growler the incorporation documents for the shop. She noted with a nod that he had incorporated it in his own name, Reverend Colin Quentin Edgar Hardcandle, so no problem there. Then she noted that the shop had taken on the formal business name ‘Chuffleigh Union Neighbourhood Trading Co.’, which immediately paused her enthusiastic munching of one of the digestive biscuits the vicar had provided, and brought on a an obvious and prolonged stare of disbelief at the black and white print she had in her left hand. There was also a considerable and uncomfortable silence. Except for Bonker, who with what seemed to be a small smile, punctuated the silence with what they all knew would inevitably cause them to gag involuntarily.

“Is there anything wrong Mrs Growler?”, the vicar enquired, trying to keep on-subject despite Bonkers atmospheric contributions.

“Oh no. Definitely no!” Mrs Growler protested, shaking her head repeatedly, distributing a few of the biscuit crumbs which had become loosely connected with Mrs Growlers mouth during the mastication process.

“We can’t use that name for the shop. Look at the acronym the words form vicar!” she pointed out.

Reverend Hardcandle looked. And looked. Eventually, realising his massive faux pas, he instantly turned a deep shade of crimson, and fully agreed with Mrs Growler that the shop could not be called Chuffleigh Union Neighbourhood Trading Co. At the same time he recalled, a year or so previously, a couple of unexplained and baffling incidences of uncontrollable sniggering as he was registering the business name. Now, it dawned on him why that was.

At that point in time, some inescapable truths and some social positioning in the village took place. Firstly, Reverend Hardcandle realised it could not ‘get out’ that he had registered the village shop with a name like this. This in itself meant he had to trust Mrs Growler not to reveal it. To trust her, meant he had to concede fully to her demands of having a hand in running the shop, and at the same moment, she knew she had carte blanche to fix the problem the vicar had created, thus leading to full control of his project.

Chuffleigh Village Shop opened to great fanfare some six months later. Jeff and Ivor were allowed to place a sign on the shop exterior proudly reminding the village who had erected it, something that even Mrs Growler hadn’t spotted the horrendous consequences of. Reverend Hardcandle attended with Bonker on a very tight leash – he had also taken the precaution of ensuring Bonker had not eaten any meat-based dog food that day, just in case. Marjorie Growler wore her best hat, and Rageh Scoobs offered 5% discount on taxi fares to Felchingham all day – something he was surprised nobody took up.

A Scammer Gets A Taste of His Own Medicine

WARNING: Sexual references throughout this post.

Spam, that unwanted noise that comes our way through e-mail is REALLY annoying. Lots of very clever, very busy computer nerds making computer programmes, sending millions of messages every day implying that Viagra will turn us into raging bulls, or that we somehow took out PPI on a loan some years ago that we’d completely forgotten about. The worst example that came my way was via Facebook, knowing my age, and trying to sell me funeral cover. Cheeky bastards!

Anyway, as you see above e-mail isn’t the only way spam reaches us. Facebook, SMS texts, Google+, Twitter and even through the post – we’re deluged with the stuff. Even fax machines when they were around, bless them, were unwitting messengers for crap we didn’t want.

The one I don’t get is Skype. I get contact requests from people I don’t know, usually women in far off countries who, all of a sudden, feel the need to contact me and be my special Skype friend. All these contacts are obviously scams, just like those Nigerian members of the royal family who have to get $100,679,354.54 out of the country, and need a kind person with a bank account so that they can put the money there, and you’ll get half of it. No shit Sherlock!

I do think however that women get more of these than men. Annie certainly does.

Most people block these requests, and discharge them from their lives. Not Annie. She takes them on and plays them at their own game. Even better, this is a form of entertainment for her!

Below is a real Skype conversation between Annie and ‘James’, we think a man, supposedly in the US Army and based in California. In actuality, he’s probably in a hut in Ghana. He is obviously scamming for cash, and looking for vulnerable women to extort it from.

Just read it and see how things pan out for ‘James’. Enjoy!:

[21:33:21] james1: how are you doing today

[21:33:47] annie: Ok except that I just found out I’ve got syphilis

[21:34:23] james1: how was your day

[21:34:43] annie: I just told you

[21:34:59] james1: ok

[21:35:09] james1: what are  you doing right now

[21:35:25] annie: starting my course of antibiotics and pessaries

[21:35:37] james1: ok

[21:35:46] james1: do you have yahoomessager

[21:35:53] annie: No. I have skype

[21:36:07] james1: ok

[21:36:18] james1: i’m james from usa

[21:36:22] james1: and you?

[21:37:28] annie: Wow, you are a raconteur!

[21:37:44] james1: thank you

[21:37:50] annie: Exactly

[21:38:30] james1: welcome

[21:38:54] james1: how is the weather there right now

[21:39:03] annie: Good. Do you like sex?

[21:40:42] james1: i have not watch before

[21:40:49] james1: do you watch there

[21:41:32] annie: Can you send me a picture?

[21:41:52] james1: ok

[21:42:03] james1: how old are you?

[21:42:17] annie: Can you send me a sexy picture. I need to make sure it is worth proceeding

[21:42:31] james1: hehehehe

[21:42:43 | Edited 21:42:50] james1: now you cant see that right now

[21:43:05] annie: No point wasting any more time

[21:43:10] james1: do you love making s*x

[21:44:00] annie: Depends on how your picture turns out. I’m very discerning.

[21:44:29] james1: ok

[21:44:37] james1: where do you work

[21:45:09] annie: Sexy pic first and then we can move onto the trivialities

[21:45:24] james1: no i dont do that

[21:45:40] james1: man like me never do that on site here

[21:45:46] annie: How can romance blossom then?

[21:46:02] james1: can you send me pussy pic?

[21:46:11] annie: Yep ……

[21:46:15] annie: Give me a mo

[21:46:21] james1: good let me see

[21:47:22] *** annie sent ugly-cat-9.jpg ***

ugly_cat

[21:48:50] james1: you did not send the right pic

[21:49:32] annie: That is my pussy. He is called Beryl the Bastard

[21:50:35] james1: oh you know before,you cant send pussy and you want me to send you dick

[21:56:14] *** annie sent me-relaxing-with-cake.jpg ***

me_relaxing_1

[21:57:38] annie: Please come back. I think we’ve got a future together

[21:58:11] james1: really

[21:58:22] annie: Yes you seem really nice and chatty

[21:58:35] james1: ok

[21:58:39] james1: go on

[21:58:45 | Edited 21:58:57] james1: do you have kids?

[22:00:57] annie: Only a few ….. but they won’t interfere with us

[22:01:29] james1: how many kids

[22:02:14] annie: 7. But I have trained them all to do housework and serve us drinks whilst we lie in bed and get to know each other

[22:02:43] james1: ok

[22:02:53] james1: where are you right now?

[22:02:59] james1: i’m from usa

[22:03:18] james1: california

[22:05:01] annie: What the hell are you doing living in that shithole?

[22:05:29] james1: really there is hole

[22:05:37] james1: so where are you living?

[22:05:39] james1: uk

[22:05:45] annie: Are you really poor?

[22:05:59] annie: Yes. I am in the UK

[22:06:23] james1: you dont like poor people

[22:06:34] annie: No. They stink

[22:06:50] james1: really

[22:06:58] james1: so are you rich?

[22:07:05] annie: Yeh. They smell like dead badgers

[22:07:34] annie: But if you live in the USA, poor people probably smell like armadillos because you don’t have any badgers

[22:08:15] james1: hmmm

[22:08:17] james1: really

[22:08:32] james1: so what kind of work are you doing for living?

[22:09:46] annie: Well. I like to think that I work in the ‘Hospitality Industry’

[22:10:02] james1: hmmmm

[22:10:19] james1: whayt kind of hospitality

[22:10:31] james1: of making love

[22:11:00] annie: Yes …… making love ……. I was trying to think of a way to make it sound romantic, but you have nailed it

[22:11:09] annie: What do you do?

[22:11:34] james1: are you sure,is you in that pic?

[22:11:46] annie: Yes ….. you like me?

[22:11:58 | Edited 22:12:05] james1: you look cool in the pic

[22:12:04] annie: I was hesitant to send it because I am quite shy

[22:12:26] james1: not that in your profile

[22:12:46] james1: well i’m united state army

[22:13:00] annie: God no! I have an air of respectability that I need to portray. But you are special. So you got a special photograph.

[22:13:32] james1: i’m united state sergeant

[22:13:57] annie: Wow! What do Sergeant’s do in the army?

[22:14:08] james1: yeap

[22:14:23] annie: Do you get to do really cool things like kill people?

[22:14:36] james1: mmmm

[22:14:45] james1: i cant talk about that here

[22:14:54] james1: how old are you?

[22:15:02] annie: I’ve alway’s wanted to kill people – it’s better than Grand Theft Auto!!!

[22:15:13] annie: Why can’t you talk about it?

[22:15:33] james1: for security reason

[22:15:38] james1: brb

[22:15:44] annie: BRB???

[22:15:58] annie: Do you wear a uniform?

[22:16:21] james1: yeap

[22:16:42] annie: Have you been to Afghanistan?

[22:17:29] annie: (that’s in the Middle East)

[22:22:45] annie: James1! Have you gone?! You have wrenched my heart and all hope from me. And put them in a blender and served them on a lightly toasted Brioche.

[22:34:21] james1: hi i’m back are you still there

[22:35:41] annie: YES! Your return has just made my life complete

[22:35:56] annie: Welcome back my love.

[22:36:01 | Edited 22:36:11] james1: so what are you doing right now

[22:36:34] annie: Well …… the pessary wasn’t as successful as I had hoped, so I had to get a toothbrush handle and do a bit of wiggling

[22:36:53] annie: But all ok now …… 🙂

[22:37:02] james1: ok

[22:37:26] james1: have you been to usa before

[22:37:57] annie: Yes. Why are you asking?

[22:38:12] james1: just asking

[22:38:39 | Edited 22:38:50] james1: if we get marry,i can buy house there in uk for us to stay or you have your own house?

[22:39:40] annie: Darling, darling …….. how can you ask that?!! Of course you can come and live here in my REALLY massive house.

[22:40:09] james1: really

[22:40:14] annie: And my 7 children will take care of all the chores ….. and we can do making love (when I am not doing my ‘Hospitality’ thing)

[22:40:15] james1: i have son too

[22:40:20] james1: just 14years old

[22:40:28] annie: Don’t bring him. He sounds like a sponger

[22:40:52] james1: ok

[22:41:04] annie: Can’t you sell him or something?

[22:41:27] james1: sell my son?

[22:41:59] annie: Yeh. You’d probably get at least $3,435.76 – as long as he isn’t a lazy bastard

[22:42:04] james1: my son study in usa

[22:42:28] annie: Phew ….. what’s he studying?

[22:43:01 | Edited 22:43:15] james1: do you know i have my own  money,how can i sell my son

[22:43:51] annie: Yes …… but as I said ….. what is he studying? If it’s Art his value will halve

[22:44:16] james1: he want to be army like me

[22:44:34] annie: That’s a bit weird that he wants to dress the same as you

[22:44:53] james1: yea

[22:45:12] james1: how much can you make aday?

[22:46:34] annie: How much of what?

[22:46:44] james1: money

[22:46:50] james1: you make a day

[22:47:47] annie: How did you know about my money laundering operation?

[22:48:18] james1: i dont know i’m just asking how much you are making aday

[22:48:55] annie: Phew that was close.

[22:49:09] james1: i can know

[22:49:35] james1: because i want to open company as soon i leave camp

[22:49:54] annie: What company do you want James1?

[22:50:18] james1: estate management

[22:50:35] annie: Doesn’t that just mean you will be cleaning houses?

[22:50:55 | Edited 22:51:20] james1: yes i will buy and sell

[22:52:26] annie: Can I see a picture of you if we are going to get married, live in my house and work in estate mangement (aka cleaning and gardening)?

[22:52:53] annie: My heart is aching to gaze into the deep pools of your eyes ……..

[22:53:04] annie: But first I am going to have a quick sausage roll

[22:53:22] annie: Hang on a moment ……

[22:53:56] james1: ok  baby

[22:54:01] james1: i’m here waiting you

[22:54:51] annie: Finished! I made quick work of that. Just need to recline slightly so that I don’t puke.

[22:54:56] annie: Carry on baby ……..

[09:33:35] james1: good morning baby

[09:33:40] james1: how was your night

[19:40:29] annie: hi baby. A bit sore. It was a busy one

And as quick as he appeared, James1 spirited himself away into Cyberspace, ready to scam somebody else. Still, it was funny whilst it lasted!

Which is better: CD or vinyl?

The past few years have seen the sales of vinyl records grow at a furious rate, but what has caused this rejuvenated interest in an all but dead format? It might be that, for many of us, the prospect of purchasing our music by way of a simple download is a step too far, making us far too detached from the music and the artist. Maybe it is that romatic memory of the vinyl record experience, the whole ritual of ‘turning the record over after side one’, and of course, the famed warmth of the sound. Or is is that, these days, because our music has become so pre-packaged, we yearn for the times when we were part of the performance – when looking after and cleaning our treasured records made a difference to the way they sounded.

playing_ vinyl
Picture 1: Playing records is increasing in popularity again. But why? Is it the sound, or is it the nostalgia?

I managed to find the time a few years ago to digitally capture favourite vinyl records from my own collection. Even today when I play those same tracks they do actually sound warmer. Ironic really, given that the warm sound I heard had been captured digitally!

Compromises certainly have to made to commit audio to the vinyl medium. Infact, at the time when vinyl was king, products from the whole audio industry were optimised sound good for the medium. Amplifiers used to have ‘Loudness’ buttons which gave a lift to high and low frequencies. Bass and treble controls were mandatory. Speakers and headphones where all tonally tuned for the best sound from vinyl.

bass_treble

Today, the same audio industry is optimised for digital audio, with its razor flat frequency response, high dynamic range and effectively infinite channel separation. Amplifiers and speakers face different issues with digital audio. Its ability to go very load, very quickly either leads to broken speakers, broken amplifier, or filled underpants. Remember when you accidentaly left the volume on ‘high’ and then went to play a CD?

So, whats the difference between vinyl and CD?

The vinyl format is a form of analogue recording, where the output is directly analogous to an input quantity. For that reason, this form has quite a few plus points. The first and most important being being that thing called  ‘resolution’, or how finely grained the recording is. We’ve come to be aware of ‘resolution’ because the digital media we consume, and we express it in ‘bits. The more ‘bits’ you have, the higher the resolution. CDs are recorded in 16-bit resolution. Vinyl, because it is an analgue medium, could be thought to have infinite resolution because no sampling takes place, however, the accuracy of its resolution is limited by other effects, such as background noise (hiss), and lack of linearity leading to distortion.

CDs, on the other hand, had their 16-bit resolution set in the late 1970s, when 16 bits seemed a lot. It gives you a resolution of one of 65,536 possible voltage levels for your recording, and a signal to noise ratio of about 96 dB (decibels). Not bad. However, each bit you add doubles the resolution. Today, 24-bit and 32-bit recordings are available with astonishing clarity that are definitely worth a listen. 24-bit recordings give you 16,777,216 voltage levels, and a signal to noise ratio of 144 dB! That’s already a big stretch for all but most incredibly expensive amplifiers and speakers to deliver, but pushes the burden to that part of the signal chain to deliver the goods, rather than the medium itself. 32-bit recordings go further – 4,294,967,296 voltage levels, and 192 dB. To put all this mumbo-jumbo in context, the difference between absolute quiet (all your ear can hear is air molecules, or blood flow in your ear), and a jack hammer at full pelt, is about 120 dB.

CD
CDs. Know your limits!

I did an experiment a few years ago to find out if I could hear individual bits of a CD recording. I made an analogue recording of as close to silence as I could, and burned it to a CD. I played it at high volume, and the result was horrifying. It wasn’t noise any more, and is actually quite hard to describe. But it served to show that, far from being perfect, CDs have their limitations.

To make sense of all of this, lets take a look at the recording process which leads to a vinyl record.

When mastered audio enters the cutting process, it gets split into to two paths. One goes off to a computer which then tells the lathe how far apart to cut the grooves from each other, and the second goes via a high frequency limiter, and onward to the cutter head which cuts the  groove in the record. When observed under a microscope, the groove is actually a complex sine wave. The groove depth varies, and it isn’t straight and actually quite wavy. It also varies in width.

Picture 2: Were you expecting a nice smooth shiney groove? Naaah! They’re all rough, as if they’ve been trowelled in by a very bad plasterer.

All of these variations depend on the audio material itself. An experienced cutting engineer, when he/she observes the cut groove under a microscope, will certainly have a good idea about what is happening in the music at that particular point in time. The groove needs more room to move, the louder the audio is. And the longer the recording is, the lower the volume will be to accommodate the longer grooves, since there is only so much physical width to the record. The more lower frequencies a piece of music has, the deeper the groove needs to be. Filters are usually active at frequencies below around 35 Hz, but could be higher than that for longer recordinings, hence limiting the bass performance of a recording. Finally the more ‘stereo’ or wide, a recording is, the wider the physical groove has to be. The groove is actually a V shape with 45 degree sides, and the left and right sides of the audio are on each side of the V, with the center being where the stylus sits. An  equalizer in the signal chain will remove as much ‘stereo’ out of the audio below a certain frequency. Stereo bass can be very difficult to cut, and so stereo ‘bass’ dissappears progressivly below between 150Hz and 300Hz. Cutters also have a huge problem with high frequencies. Most engineers will put a high frequency filter in the program as well as use a pretty aggressive ‘de-esser’ to limit any problems. Another physical limitation of records is “inner diameter distortion.” As the record needle travels toward the center of the disk it becomes more difficult to reproduce high frequencies because whilst the record is still rotating at 33 rpm, the speed that the groove moves past the needle is significant slower compared with the outside tracks. Hence the first track of a record always sounds better than the last on a single side. The frequency response of a vinyl disk is drastically different at the outer section than the inner section.

Added to these issues with the cutting engineer faces, there are other tricks with engineers use to squeeze the maximum audio out of a single side. Compressing the audio is one of them, where the difference between the quitest and loudest parts of an audio track are reduced. Secondly, all records are subject to RIAA equalisation, where low frequencies are recorded at low amplitude to the vinyl, but boosted again on playback in your amplifier so the audio is balanced again. Obviously, this process has to be balanced on both sides so that the audio is rendered to it’s original form.

Cutting vinyl is a constant compromise. As you can see, there is quite a cocktail of signal processing  designed to get around many of the issues that the medium faces. Many of these are common to all analogue recordings, such as tape recordingings , or analogue radio broadcasting.

Playing vinyl is also a destructive process. The very first time you play a record, the sound performance you get will be the best it will ever be. Thats because subsequent plays always damage the grooves, making the sound progressively more distorted, with increased background noise.

Personally, as somebody who had quite a large record collection, there was nothing as amazing as taking a record from its cover, placing it on the turntable, and playing it for the first time. They looked good and sounded great.

All about CD (Digital)

CDs, and digital sources in general (leaving aside compressed formats such as mp3, AAC and so on for a moment), have none of these limitations. Outside of not being able to reproduce anything above 20 kHz, anything you want to put on a CD will be reproduced with incredible clarity. This includes all the bass you can imagine, the most sibilant thing you have ever heard, and the most extreme phasing effects producable. The CD format permits incredible flexibility, and the audio playback is not compressed as it is with mp3, WMA and AAC, so there are no compression artifacts. The specification for CDs was created in the late 1970’s, and one could argue that both the sample rate of 44.1 kHz and the bit resolution of 16-bit is rather outdated now, but somehow a really well recorded CD still has the potential to blow your socks off when  its done right.

CDs have their problems too. Most people will tell you ‘digital doesn’t sound good.’ In many ways, this is in the ear of the beholder, and might be true in some cases, but there are plenty of vinyl recordings that don’t sound great either. Early CD chips didn’t help either. They weren’t refined enough to deliver a finely honed sound, and were full of compromises due to the high cost of chip making in those days.

The 1980s weren’t an especially good time for audio in general, and especially for vinyl. Digital audio in the form of CDs were becoming popular, and there seemed to be plenty of poor quality vinyl around, as if to push people into the world of digital audio.

What’s better then?

I’m writing about this because audio interests me, and has done for very many years. Personally speaking, the convenience of CD and digital formats generally has the upper hand, but CDs inparticular, and not the compressed versions for playback on portable devices, has many advantages over analogue. Longevity, portability, the ability to move from track to track quickly are all plusses for me. For records, the fact that the outside of the record sounds better than the inside, the susceptability to damage, the tricks that have to be pulled to cut a record, all count against it for me. Thing thing I loved most about records though are all of the aesthetic qualities, the size of the format, the beautifully printed single and gatefolded sleeves, even the smell of the format.

As for what is better, that is an incredibly personal area, and can be argued forever. The newest high resolution digital formats and playback technology is significantly better in performance than the original CD format. The newer releases of vinyl are being mastered very carefully due to the standard being set now is so high, and they’re pressed on heavy, high quality vinyl material. So, there isn’t an easy answer.

These are just my view though. I’ve spiked it up with a few facts and figures, and I’ve tried to show where possible what engineering has to go on in the background to make things sound the way they do. What do you think?