Ian Shepherd, the same Mastering Engineer that claimed Metallica's latest album sounds better on Guitar Hero III, has recently come out and said that even the vinyl version sounds better than the CD. Keep in mind that the heavily distorted tracks on the album are the result of an editing process that sacrifices dynamic range for an increase in volume. This philosophy on mastering CDs is based largely on a self-induced paranoia that sales will decline if the album isn't loud enough. Some have even blamed the popularity of the iPod and its lo-fi earbuds for contributing to this problem.
Unfortunately, the vinyl was made from the same mix as the CD, so the distortion is still there. However, it is fairly standard practice to make separate masters for separate formats, and Sheperd's analysis reveals that the analogue distortion on the vinyl tracks have less clipping (although the difference is minimal) compared to the the CD version. In reality, this is probably a moot point given the fact that a hardcore Metallica fan is far more likely to to dig up GHIII tracks than buy a turntable. However, even the thought of turning to vinyl these days further illustrates the point that record labels need to re-focus their attention back on quality. [Mastering Media Thanks Michael!]