Digital media has allowed us to enjoy our favorite albums virtually anywhere, and the explosion of quality streaming sites means you have immediate access to an unlimited selection of tunes — whether you prefer to dig into the deep cuts from a longtime favorite artist or dip your toes into an entirely new genre. Nonetheless, many music fans remain focused on physical media as their primary way of listening.
Let’s take a look at what makes physical media so resilient in this digital age, and how to ensure you’re getting the best experience from your home audio setup.
The advantages of physical media
In 2017, Nielsen reported sales of 14.32 million vinyl records, marking 12 straight years of growth. That's no surprise for serious vinyl enthusiasts, for whom no other media can measure up to the pure analog audio and warm tone. Along with the great turntable sound that comes from a quality setup, collectors get to appreciate cover art and liner notes in their full-size glory.
Of course, vinyl also comes with serious limitations for how much you can fit on a single record without compromising sound quality. In addition, crackles and pops are an inevitable part of listening to this format, though that's part of the charm for many people.
CDs are often the superior choice for listening to music that was originally recorded and mastered using digital equipment. This format overcomes many of the issues with distortion and durability that can occur with vinyl. High-resolution digital files can beat out CD quality with a higher sample rate, but they also put serious storage demands on your hard drive or device.
For many, physical media is a key part of the experience of listening to music at home. Searching for the next file in your media library is less satisfying than digging through crates for a vintage copy of Sly and the Family Stone's "Stand!," and searching for Pixies lyrics online is not the same as reading along in the booklet that came with your "Doolittle" CD.
Build your system for versatility and performance
Different physical media and digital files all have their own strengths, and each music fan has his or her own preferences. Whether you mainly stick to vinyl or maintain an extensive collection of lossless high-resolution files, the best home audio setup is one that can switch between different formats without compromising performance.
An integrated amplifier like the Marantz HD-AMP1 allows you to make the most of multiple formats. The combination of Hyper-Dynamic Amplifier Modules in the analog section, exceptional digital-to-analog conversion for hi-res files and varied inputs makes this component a powerful foundation for a versatile system. Combine the amplifier with a turntable that provides clear, balanced sound to reliably get the best results out of your physical albums.
To build a system featuring exceptional components for both analog and digital listening, take a look at the full selection from Marantz.