As one other poster mentioned, the CD master is often compressed to play LOUD for earbuds, cars, radio, etc. The music is too loud and there is a loss of dynamic range. Listener fatigue sets in quickly. I listen to a lot of alternative rock and most of it sounds like crap on the CD.
I got back into vinyl a year ago. I NEVER thought I would. But I learned that the master used for many (but not all) vinyl releases often have more dynamic range in the music. This plays less loud and I'm able to crank the volume on my preamp and enjoy music without fatigue because loud is loud and quiet is quiet - it's not loud from end to end. You need to give it a listen to hear.
This is an unfortunate situation because the vinyl format is not superior in any way to CDs and high resolution downloads like 24/48. I won't argue that. Vinyl is far too tweaky and there's room for error all over the place if not set up correctly. I'll take a superbly clean digital playback over some pop/hiss etc anyday ONLY IF the source material on both formats have the same amount of dynamic range. (Eg. I'll never by Pink Floyd on vinyl because the original album CDs have the original dynamics intact, and the CD will sound cleaner through my system).
BUT... most of new rock is compressed to play loud. Ouch on my home audio system. Bleeding ears set in. If I play the same album on vinyl - does the mix ever sound different! Vocals aren't in my face and there's far more space between instruments in the mix. Given this huge advantage, I'll take the compromises of vinyl any day over a LOUD CD mix. It's the mix that's far more musical, not the vinyl format.
Here's something you can look at, it's a user Dynamic Range Database. Daft Punk's new album Random Access Memories
. Take a look at the dynamic range values on the vinyl versus the CD and even HDTracks. I've got the vinyl and the CD. There's no comparison - the vinyl is the hands down winner when comparing the two. It doesn't take a superb hifi system to detect the differences. I have other albums on vinyl that sound no different in content than the CD, thus the CD is the preferred choice. Now I sort of use the DR Database site to check out releases before I buy one format over another. It doesn't tell everything about a recording, so use it with caution and let your ears be the judge.
The glimmer of hope? The new Nine Inch Nails album, Hesitation Marks. You can read the thread here
if you haven't done so already. It seems this is the first album released by a mainstream band with two versions for two different audiences in mind:
1) The mainstream LOUD version for iPods, cars, etc. that was created after the studio mix was made and sent off for mastering.
2) The Audiophile Mix which is not just a high resolution version of the loud mix, but the original studio mix that's less compressed. It's aimed for people with HiFi systems who will appreciate it.
For $12 from the Nine Inch Nails website only, you get the download of both versions. I can support that!
If all albums were released this way - with both versions in mind - I'd ditch my vinyl in a second and favour the high resolution audiophile mix in digital.