Vinyl, CD or digital – which audio format should I choose?

Vinyl, CD or digital – which audio format should I choose?

We know that when you come to buy a brand new jukebox from us here at Rock Ola, you’ll be basing your decisions on more than just the jukebox’s look and style (although of course, those are both very important!). Choosing your preferred audio format is one of the biggest decisions you can make with regards to your jukebox, because it has such a huge influence on its individual sound.

A song played through a vinyl jukebox can sound markedly different from what you’ll hear when you play that same song through a CD jukebox, so it’s important to get that decision right. And what you choose will all depend on exactly what you want from your jukebox. So, you might be asking, why would someone choose…


Vinyl Rock-Ola jukeboxes

Regarded by many as the only ‘true’ audio format when it comes to iconic jukeboxes, the history of vinyl goes back almost a century – and indeed possibly beyond, depending on how you’re defining it. The first commercial vinyl record was launched in 1931, but their forerunners were around for a long time before that, some as far back as the early 1900s.

Now, some of our younger readers might be a little bemused at the deep and enduring love that so many of their elders have for the vinyl format. That’s understandable – it’s a complex and many-layered love, and a lot of it is rooted in how the mechanism itself actually functions.

Essentially, all vinyl record players – including our own jukeboxes here at Rock Ola – are electromagnetic devices at their core, which means they produce music by changing sound vibrations into electrical signals. While a record spins, what it’s doing is creating sound vibrations, which are turned into electrical signals. These signals are then fed into electronic amplifiers, which vibrate and channel the sound to the speakers, thus producing the music you love. All this is based on the patented needle and groove technology that was still around when our founder David C Rockola was still making a name for himself with his Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation all the way back in the 1930s – although naturally these days it’s a lot more sophisticated.

Now, the feeling you get of playing a vinyl record – it’s such a uniquely tactile experience. It’s made up so many tiny little pleasing sensations, from the moment you slide the record from its sleeve. There’s that brief moment when the needle drops down on the record, and then you start to hear that unique vinyl sound.

A vinyl record is an analog recording, which means it’s a continuous recording – not like the binary format of ones and zeros you get on a CD. That gives the sound a soft and warm quality, and you’re more likely to notice subtle sounds and instruments you may not have discerned before.

Another intrinsic part of the vinyl experience is listening to the hum of the needle along the record grooves, and the periodic crackles and pops throughout. Those soft details work to give the music more texture, making it sound more real and authentic.

There’s a certain… purity to it all. You’re appreciating music in exactly the same way that people did in generations past – in other words, you get a sense of literally listening to history. So it’s easy to see why so many audiophiles fall so completely in love with that sound. And when you pair the rich history of vinyl with the unrivalled cultural heritage of a Rock Ola jukebox, it creates a living piece of music history that makes the perfect centerpiece for any interior.

This model really does offer the opportunity to own something authentic, that also benefits from Bluetooth connectivity, so you can hook up Spotify or Apple Music too.

Some of our most popular vinyl jukeboxes include:

CD Rock-Ola jukeboxes

Now, Compact Discs obviously don’t have quite the same sense of history behind them as an audio format, but they’ve been around for a lot longer than many people think. Ever since the 80s, in fact – well over 30 years, more than enough time for millions of us to build up a sizeable collection. And while they never quite built up the cultural weight of vinyl, CDs make up for it in sheer technical prowess.

When they first appeared on the scene back in the 80s, they were hailed as a revolution, as indeed they were. True to their name, they were smaller than vinyl records, and were able to offer more material per disc. But it was the quality of their sound that was the defining factor, and for many people, continues to be so today. As opposed to the analog format of vinyl records, CDs are recorded in a binary format, in a series of ones and zeros. This gives them a completely clean, perfect sound – free from all the characteristic crackles of vinyl.

This remains true today. In short, CDs are still the clearest sounding physical audio format that many people can get their hands on. They’re also able to provide a wider dynamic range than vinyl, and more bass. So if you want to listen to your favorite bands in perfect clarity without those vinyl undertones, a CD jukebox is likely to be just what you’re after. Plus, they lend themselves particularly well to commercial venues like bars and restaurants, and other environments where greater numbers of listeners might care more about the quality of the music rather than the inherent character of the medium.

They also hold a wide range of selections – our own Rock Ola jukeboxes have capacity for 100 CDs, so you’ll be spoiled for choice! Speaking of which, we’ve got CD Bubbler jukeboxes in a huge range of unique styles and special editions. This format also benefits from Bluetooth connectivity, so you can hook up Spotify or Apple Music too. 

Here are some of our most popular CD jukeboxes:

Digital Rock-Ola jukeboxes

That brings us right up to the present day, where digital rules the world. The advent of digital technology allows us to have more choice, accessibility and functionality at our fingertips than ever before. Not all of us have grown up with this technology, but it’s easy to see why it’s such a hit with the latest generation of Rock Ola enthusiasts.

The computing power of a Rock Ola Music Center allow it to become the ultimate storage system for literally all your favorite tracks, offering a full terabyte of free space. That enables it to provide space for the equivalent of 13,000 albums, all of which can be access through the use of a stunning 19” touchscreen monitor.

Besides the musical subtleties, another draw of the Rock Ola Music Center lies in the fact that it’s quite the curiosity in and of itself – an impressive powerhouse of cutting-edge technology, all showcased in a truly iconic silhouette. And while digital jukeboxes may not be imbued with quite the same distinctive character as a vinyl jukebox, they’re packed with a heck of a lot more personality than the average handheld music device that’s small enough to fit into your pocket.

They also represent something particularly important for us here at Rock Ola – as a powerful fusion of the old and the new, they embody our ethos of evolving with the times, adapting our jukeboxes to accommodate the changing tastes of the modern consumer, while still staying true to our roots. It’s a delicate balance, and our continued commitment to it is one of the main reasons why we’re now the last authentic jukebox manufacturer on the face of the planet. So in a sense, Rock Ola Music Centers also epitomize their very own part of music history – it’s just a very different era to that of vinyl!

A sample of some of our most popular Rock Ola Music Centers include:


These are just a few of our favorites – there’s a lot more to explore in our full range of stunning Rock Ola jukeboxes. Whether you prefer a vinyl, CD, or digital jukebox, we promise you that you’ll have no shortage of choice. And if you ever have any questions or need a word or two of advice, that’s what we’re here for at Rock Ola! Just give us a call on 310-328-1306 or email us on,

PS If you prefer the idea of owning a true vintage Rock-Ola dating back as far as the 1950's then check out our range of Vintage Machines!