Why is CD audio better than that of a cassette? — MK, Baltimore, MD
CD audio is recorded in a digital form—as a series of numerical pressure measurements. This digital recording is a very accurate representation of the air pressure fluctuations associated with the original sounds that arrived at the microphones. During playback, these air pressure measurements are read from the CD and the original air pressure fluctuations are recreated by the speakers. While there are imperfections in the whole process of measuring air pressure fluctuations and recreating those fluctuations, the CD itself doesn’t introduce any imperfections—the information read from the CD during playback is absolutely identical to the information that was recorded on the CD at the manufacturer’s plant.
The same isn’t true of analog recording on a cassette tape. Cassette audio is recorded in an analog form—as magnetizations of the tape surface that are proportional to the air pressure fluctuations associated with the original sounds. During playback, these magnetizations of the tape are analyzed and used to recreate the sounds. But the tape itself introduces imperfections in the reproduced sound. The information read from the tape during playback isn’t quite the same as the information that was recorded on the tape at the manufacturer’s plant. The tape isn’t perfect and the sound that’s reproduced by a tape player isn’t quite the sound that was originally recorded.