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CE Pro Millennial Blind Music Challenge: CD vs. Vinyl

CE Pro asked a few of EH Media’s Millennial staff members to take part in a blind listening test to see if they could tell the difference between CDs and vinyl.

When it comes to physical media, it appears Millennials are receptive to more than just streaming audio.

Robert Archer · April 10, 2018

Growing up with a wealth of entertainment choices, Millennials are unlike previous generations—Baby Boomers and Generation X—because they aren’t limited by technology.  Looking to gauge these consumers’ opinions on home audio, CE Pro conducted a Millennial Blind Music Challenge to find out whether they could tell the differences between the CD and vinyl formats, and their general thoughts on where the formats fit in today’s streaming-centric world.

It seems that almost overnight, Millennials have become a highly coveted demographic to corporate America as the marketing world transitions from the buying power of Baby Boomers to the potential of this young group of consumers.

The home audio market has been slow to embrace Millennials, lagging behind other consumer product categories. 

In this blind challenge video, CE Pro asked EH Media staff members Andrew Nichols, web editor, CE Pro, Adam Forziati, web editor, Commercial Integrator, and Jessie Steinberg, marketing manager, RoboBusiness, Robotics Business Review and Robotics & AI Summit, if they could tell the difference between CDs and vinyl, and if it is worth integrators’ time and effort to offer these formats to the Millennial generation when installing new audio systems. 

CE Pro Millennial Blind Music Challenge Provides Perspective

Outside of a vintage Thorens TD-160 turntable restored by Vinyl Nirvana, we used a setup that is representative of any system a professional integrator may offer their clients. Our system included an Onkyo A/V receiver, Skywalker A/V Saga loudspeakers, and a Toshiba disc player. 

Going into the comparisons, all three of our Millennial staff members were expecting to hear some differences between the formats.

“I don’t think my peers have technically given up on the idea of downloads, after all Spotify still has a download option,”
— Adam Forziati, Commercial Integrator 

Following the questions on their expectations, we asked their opinions on whether physical media formats such as vinyl and CDs still have a place in today’s world of music consumption.

Related: What Millennials Want in Audio? CE Pro’s Youngest Editors Respond

Summarizing their responses, all three were adamant that Millennials haven’t given up on purchasing music.

“I don’t think my peers have technically given up on the idea of downloads, after all Spotify still has a download option,” points out Forziati.

“I’d say that I definitely stream music a lot more than anything else, but I do still buy CDs and vinyl—when available—for the bands I want to support,” says Nichols.

“I mostly stream music, but I do download albums when they are not available on a streaming service. Occasionally, if the album isn’t even available through download I will purchase a CD or record,” states Steinberg.

Providing an explanation on why physical media sales have dipped in greater detail, Steinberg emphasizes that the reasons aren’t easily defined, but they do make sense from a financial perspective.

“I’d say that I definitely stream music a lot more than anything else, but I do still buy CDs and vinyl—when available—for the bands I want to support,” 
— Andrew Nichols, CE Pro 

“I think there are a lot of reasons, but the fact that we all carry around a computer in our pockets has a lot to do with it,” she adds.

“Carrying around a Walkman with three to four CDs with 12 to 15 songs [per disc] on them or maxing out your phone memory with downloaded songs isn’t necessary anymore, especially when you can stream millions of songs for $9.99 per month virtually taking up no space on your phone.”

Surprising Results

Perhaps with all of the hype that vinyl has received over the past several years, the group went into this comparison thinking vinyl would sound warmer and “more musical.”

Surprisingly each listener was stunned at how good CD sounded in direct comparison to vinyl.

Unlike older, hardcore audiophiles who are wed to preconceived ideas regardless of circumstances, the three were ultimately just as open to buying CDs after this small listening comparison.

It’s important to note that all three still find vinyl an exciting format, and have no plans to give up on the technology. 

The video shows the 20-somethings participating in the comparison, which featured a track from the album Moving Pictures by progressive rock band Rush, and a track from the album Helplessness Blues by indie folk-rock band Fleet Foxes. 

Here are the results of the challenge. If you would like to put on a pair of headphones and see if you can tell the difference between the vinyl and CD recordings to "beat the Millennials," go for it.

Vinyl vs. CD Answer Key 

​Content ID: 

  • Content 1: Rush, Moving Pictures
  • Content 2: Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues

First Listening Test:

  • Format 1: Vinyl
  • Format 2: CD

Second Listening Test:

  • Format 1: CD
  • Format 2: Vinyl

Next in the CE Pro Millennial Blind Music Challenge will be CDs vs. streaming media.



  About the Author

Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at [email protected]

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View Robert Archer's complete profile.



  Article Topics


Speakers · Loudspeakers · In-Ceiling/In-Wall · Wireless · Audio/Video · Distributed Audio · Media · Videos · CD Player · Millennials · Onkyo · Skywalker · Stereo · Thorens · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by bobrapoport on April 11, 2018

Its not really surprising they would choose CD over vinyl, with 30 dB more dynamic range that vinyl, CD’s can be played at higher volume and deliver sound thats much closer to the original master recording as a result. The same thing happens when comparing CD to Blu-ray, the BD adds another 30 dB dynamic range for a one to one copy of the original master recording, the holy grail of high fidelity.  Many vinyl lovers forget what the words “high fidelity” means, true to the original.

Posted by bobrapoport on April 11, 2018

Its not really surprising they would choose CD over vinyl, with 30 dB more dynamic range that vinyl, CD’s can be played at higher volume and deliver sound thats much closer to the original master recording as a result. The same thing happens when comparing CD to Blu-ray, the BD adds another 30 dB dynamic range for a one to one copy of the original master recording, the holy grail of high fidelity.  Many vinyl lovers forget what the words “high fidelity” means, true to the original.