Vinyl vs. CD: listening test 1 (Miles Davis' "Eighty-One")

Last week, I wrote about my acquisition of a new turntable, my first since the early 1990s, and pledged to do some comparisons between CDs and LPs, which is a heated debate in the audiophile community (with most audiophiles, I’m told, favoring vinyl).

First, you should know that I am not an audiophile, nor even an aspiring audiophile. But I do want my home system to sound as good as it can within my budget. Even if you’re not all that concerned about the fidelity of your stereo system, it’s still an interesting discussion, especially since the LP is making a comeback in a boutique sort of way. Just this fall, major labels have begun to issue back titles on high-grade vinyl.

Using those titles, of course, would be the best comparison test against CDs, and the publicist at EMI Capitol tells me that a 180-gram vinyl copy of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds is on its way to me. Until then, we’ll use available materials.

Namely, an old standby for me: Miles Davis. I chose his tune “Eighty-One” from the 1965 album E.S.P., which features his great 1960s band: drummer Tony Williams, bassist Ron Carter, pianist Herbie Hancock and saxophonist Wayne Shorter.

I grabbed a barely-used vinyl copy from my long-ignored closet stash of LPs, and pulled out the CD. Synching the disc and record up was easy enough, but I immediately ran into a problem, which puts a major caveat into this debut listening test.

The turntable produced a seriously audible hum at substantial volume. So, uh, that’s gotta be figured out.

But onward anyway.