Let the Vinyl Spin: My Journey Into Record Collecting

by A Manly Guest Contributor on October 10, 2012 · 75 comments

in Travel & Leisure

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Cameron Schaefer.

“Is it wrong, wanting to be at home with your record collection? It’s not like collecting records is like collecting stamps, or beermats, or antique thimbles. There’s a whole world in here, a nicer, dirtier, more violent, more peaceful, more colorful, sleazier, more dangerous, more loving world than the world I live in; there is history, and geography, and poetry, and countless other things I should have studied at school, including music.”
― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

I’m sold on vinyl. Like other passionate music lovers, ever since I was a kid I have eagerly followed the major leaps in recording technology, starting with the cassette tape all the way to the mp3. Until a year ago, I never considered pushing back against the evolutionary trend, but now here I am, completely hooked on a medium that seemingly flies in the face of decades of technological progress. And I’m not the only one.

After slowing to a trickle in the early 2000s, sales of vinyl have been making a sizeable comeback over the past six years, and were up 39% in 2011 alone (3.9M albums sold). This is happening while CD sales declined by 12.6% in the same year. While it might be tempting to chalk up the new wave of interest in vinyl to the aesthetic trends of smug, hipster culture, such a quick dismissal is suspect. I’ve spent the past year on my own journey into the world of vinyl and can truly say that there is something entirely unique and significant about the medium, something greater than simple nostalgia, image, or even sound.

Raise a Child Up

Music has always held a prominent place in my life. Growing up, a typical night in the Schaefer household included my dad, a professional jazz trombonist-turned-lawyer, digging through the small, dusty library of vinyl he had built up over the years, and selecting the night’s soundtrack. I can still hear him letting out a sigh as he would bend down on one knee to delicately drop the needle on the record. After a long day of legal work, this was his therapy.  For me, it was an education and an adventure. I sat there anticipating the “pop” as the needle hit the grooves, beginning its sonic dance.

The three Schaefers would sit in the living room, my dad in his leather recliner, me seated near my mother, who was cross-stitching with one eye on her work and the other watching me eat grotesquely large ice cream sundaes. Flowing through the speakers like water were the sounds of joy, sadness, regret, anger, love, and hope — life’s ingredients filtered through the treble and bass clef. It was during these nights I was introduced to such names as Tchaikovsky, Pavarotti, Coltrane, Davis, Joplin, and McCartney.

While my dad usually played DJ, my mom was no musical slouch either. She was an accomplished pianist and had purchased vinyl since her high school days, amassing an impressive selection of 50s and 60s rock in addition to a comical amount of obscure 45s with everything from sing-along children’s music to Italian opera. She passed away during my freshman year of college, and my subsequent inheritance of her record collection eventually served as the rekindling of my own vinyl journey.

The Inheritance

For years, her records sat in our garage. I said I’d get to them soon enough, but buried beneath that thought was the reality that going through her records might be a more intimate experience than I was capable of handling at the time. Finally, while cleaning out the garage last summer, I saw them again, and knew it was time. I brought them into the living room and began going through them one by one, the experience just as personal as I’d imagined, but also far more enjoyable.

I wasn’t just going through my mom’s music; I was unearthing the tangible reflections of her life, a personal art gallery of tastes and experiences filled with the good, bad, and ugly. I laughed at certain album covers, trying to think of what must have been going through her head when she purchased them (she probably thought the same about a few purchases I had made in my earlier years). In many cases the records still had the original shrink wrap on the outside and I could tell by the stickers approximately when in her life she bought them — apparently a mythical time when you could buy 12″ studio albums for $3.67.

Tuesdays With Levi

Around this time, as if on cue, an old college friend of mine moved to the neighborhood. His name was Levi, he loved vinyl, and he had no one to share his thoughtfully curated 500+ album collection with. Missionaries are trained to be ready at all times to share their message, as one never knows when a person is at a point in his life when it’s exactly what he needs to hear. Levi was a vinyl missionary and he couldn’t have found a more able and willing proselyte. My musical soul had already been tilled, seeded, and watered by the experience of un-crating my mom’s vinyl — all he had to do was reap the harvest. His sickle was a Technics SL-1210 MK2 turntable and some insanely good speakers.

In the following months I spent hours and hours planted on his couch poring through his collection while listening to him explain the ins and outs of turntables, pre-amps, speakers, vinyl care, quality, where to buy, etc. You could see the joy in his face as he laid it all out for me…he wasn’t doing it for any other reason than his love for this musical medium. I didn’t yet own a turntable so I stored all of this information away knowing that my days of living without one were numbered.

The typical ritual during those times together, which I began referring to as “Tuesdays With Levi,” involved me scanning his shelf looking for bands I recognized (even when I found bands I considered my favorites, I realized I’d only consumed their music in bits and pieces and had rarely, if ever, listened to their albums in full, as most were created to be heard), Levi methodically placing the record on the turntable, me pouring a round of wine or beer, followed by several minutes of silence while we actively listened to the day’s selection. We really listened. The sound was engrossing, warm, round, and far more life-like then anything I had heard on a CD or mp3. I’d often close my eyes and picture myself seated in the front row of a concert. It required very little imagination.

It Just Sounds…Better

Some records, a cold jug of milk, a plate of cookies, and your best gal. This is heaven.

Whether or not vinyl sounds better than its digital counterparts has been hotly debated for as long as the mediums have coexisted. The real answer is: it depends. Because records produce an analog signal (real sound is analog) and CDs/mp3s produce digital signals (close approximations or snapshots), vinyl is able to produce a richer, more accurate sound. The problem lies in the myriad of ways the analog signal can break down before ever hitting the ear of the listener, mainly due to dirty vinyl or low quality audio equipment. However, assuming clean vinyl and mid to high-level audio equipment, most people favor the sound of vinyl, noting the warmness and fullness of the sound as opposed to the harshness of a CD.

As I sat on Levi’s couch I found that the sound of vinyl enveloped my ears in a way that was incredibly satisfying and made me want to listen more. Albums I’d heard hundreds of times on CD or mp3 felt completely new on vinyl. I didn’t know all the science or sound theory behind it at the time, but I didn’t care — it sounded pure. I loved it.

In the end, this ritual, or practice of actively listening to music, was what pushed me over the edge into purchasing my own turntable and records. Ask yourself, when’s the last time you sat down and listened to an album from start to finish? For most, even the idea causes a sense of discomfort, “You mean just sit there for, like, an hour…just listening to music?” Sure, all of us have our iPods constantly shuffling through songs like a deck of cards, or Pandora playing in the background at home or the office while we attend to other things. It’s music, but it’s different.

The Medium is the Metaphor

Music as background noise has become the typical listening pattern for the majority of us. Streaming services have made a fortune off this phenomenon, creating a delivery system that bends itself around our tweet-sized consumption habits. And while this isn’t all bad, it deprives many, even self-described “music lovers,” from a much deeper relationship with music, one that can only come, like most good things, through a certain amount of attentiveness, care and, most importantly, time.

In the 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman argued that society’s move from the spoken and written word to television as its primary information medium didn’t just mark a new way in distributing information, but a fundamental change in the nature of the information itself. Echoing Marshall McLuhan’s, “the medium is the message,” he proposed the slightly modified, “the medium is the metaphor.” No longer could news and opinion be eloquently laid out, reflecting both sides of an argument and containing a depth that propelled the reader or listener to further thoughtful examination. Now the “news” had to fit into a short burst of visual entertainment, with background music, graphic imagery, and angry talking heads involved in some sort of heated conflict.

Music has followed a similar trajectory. Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of Nibelung), the four-piece opera written in the mid-nineteenth century, required four straight nights of attendance for opera goers, the final cycle lasting over five hours. About one hundred years later, the phonograph record helped cement the idea of breaking music up into albums, with most holding anywhere from 30-60 minutes of music. The digital age, with the introduction of the mp3, brought about a radical change in the consumption of music, much like the switch to television culture in decades prior. Now it was possible for listeners to purchase individual songs completely separate from the album. While few would argue against the utility of such a move, it nonetheless changed not just the way we listen to music, but the very nature and purpose of music itself.

Dying of Musical Thirst in an Ocean of MP3s

During my college years I amassed quite a collection of mp3s. Yet, as I sat scanning the vinyl collections of both Levi and my mother I was startled by the difference in emotions conjured in my spirit by the two mediums. When I held an album in my hand I was holding a piece of art, a musical story with physical and metaphorical weight. With my mp3 collection, I was swimming in an ocean of songs and dying of musical thirst. Somewhere in the tearing apart of albums — the slicing, coding, and repackaging of music into “byte”-sized morsels — the spirit of music was weakened and in some cases lost completely. The context once provided by the narrative arc of the album was gone, replaced with the promise of cheap convenience. Vinyl, I was realizing, wasn’t convenient, but it was real.

It was with this final revelation that I set into the wilderness on my own vinyl journey. I purchased a turntable and soon was spending time deciding which albums I wanted on vinyl, reading about how the album was made, fishing through discussion boards for information on different pressings…I was all in. So were my wife and two kids, even if they didn’t realize it immediately. It wasn’t long before each was being hounded for vinyl picks of their own. If my childhood had taught me anything, it was that the happiness that would inevitably flow from this hobby wouldn’t be complete unless it was shared.

I’m not calling for the death of the mp3. Such a call would be futile; it is a format that meets our society exactly where it is – instant and portable. Besides, being able to exercise to your favorite songs or tune out during a long ride on the subway is something I certainly enjoy. But, to really experience music at a deep level, to exercise the same artistic, philosophical, and aesthetic muscles one uses when reading Tolstoy or Dickens, there’s no substitute for vinyl and the participatory listening experience that it demands. The feel of the cover in your hands, the smell, the warmness of the sound, the hisses and cracks that inevitably come after heavy use, all unique to the owner — all of it combines to form an unmatched musical experience. It is a medium that provides weight and texture in an increasingly vacuous and texture-less world.

Today if you walk into our living room you’ll see my mom’s records displayed proudly, along with some of my dad’s sprinkled in. But there are many new additions to the collection as well. Some from myself, some from my wife, and even a couple picked out by our two young children. Each has a memory attached to it, each has significance, and each tells its own story. To me, it’s not just music, it is the substance of a full life. Friday nights now consist of our family gathering in the living room for “Friday Night Dance Party.” The soundtrack for the evening is selected, all of us dance until we’re tired, then collapse into in our usual listening spots. It’s not forced — it’s a refuge. Who knows if this tradition will make it to a third generation? I love it, my wife loves it, and the kids seem to be enjoying it judging by the looks on their faces. So for now we let the vinyl spin.

If this article piqued your interest in vinyl, then stay tuned. Over the next couple of months, Cameron and Levi will be tackling “How to Buy Your First Turntable,” and then “25 Essential Vinyl Albums.”

_________________

Cameron Schaefer, pilot and early AoM contributor, has spent the past few years raising his two children with wife Marelize, hacking away at his backyard vegetable garden, knocking out an MBA and most recently venturing deep into the world of vinyl records.  Along with his friend Levi, the two recently created Vinyl + Cocktails, a blog where they pair their favorite albums with good cocktails.

 

 

{ 75 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David October 10, 2012 at 10:52 pm

There’s a practical aspect to the rebirth of vinyl. Now that mp3s have replaced CDs, there is no need for your media to be portable. You can carry an infinite number of songs on your mp3 player/smart phone, but have a stack of wax at home to get the most out of the music. You can truly have your cake and eat it too.

2 nearsyx October 10, 2012 at 11:29 pm

wow great, really looking forward for the next articles about this! :D

3 JJ Flores October 10, 2012 at 11:40 pm

Damn! The timing on this article is amazing! I dug out my vinyl for my year old son to see just this weekend and really got a kick out of holding the physical album, taking in the album art, and telling him about how these things are played. I have been without a turntable for many many years and have begun some research into that purchase. Thanks!!!

4 Micah October 11, 2012 at 12:10 am

Thanks for writing this! Many of these thoughts have been on my mind for the past few months and it’s glad to see someone else has been as well. I myself purchased my first vinyl last month and I am looking for a turntable and system to play it on. Looking forward to the following posts.

5 Ian October 11, 2012 at 12:44 am

Good article. I have one thing to nitpick, though. Saying vinyl is able to reproduce sound more “accurately” is just plain wrong. Not only are there a number of ways flaws can be introduced through warping, dust and overuse, but dynamic range in vinyl is worse. Sure, vinyl might not have a “sample rate”, a quantization level, but considering CDs sample at 44,100 times a second, the level of error is so low you will never notice. Objectively speaking, vinyl has less fidelity.

I understand that’s a very small point of this article. There are plenty of reasons why one might like vinyl, and there’s nothing wrong with thinking the sound is subjectively better, just as long as you know it isn’t more “accurate.”

6 belligero October 11, 2012 at 1:28 am

Ian’s right, there’s absolutely no increase in fidelity with vinyl; it’s a downgrade in every aspect.

I like vinyl for many reasons, but sound quality is not one of them. Or portability, for that matter. I enjoy the process of putting needle to groove and not messing around with a computer to hear my music sometimes.

You can make a CD-quality digital format sound as “good” as vinyl by adding distortion if you want. But please don’t repeat the false statement that it sounds better than CD, because it doesn’t, in any way.

7 Heath October 11, 2012 at 4:39 am

I liked this article a lot, even though I don’t have records or don’t plan to start. I do remember that my first two albums (Thriller and Purple Rain) were records that my dad then copied to cassette for me.

Anyway, I do have to make it a point to listen to albums from start to finish on my iTunes because this is still important to me. I do miss holding a liner note in my hand and reading it, but I also live overseas and love the freedom to leave CDs behind and just have it all on the hard drive.

I also liked the line about “swimming in an ocean of songs” since I have been known to add loads of music from friends or others and sort it out later. I’m working my way through it all and chucking the stuff that won’t last.

Music is the best!

8 Matthew October 11, 2012 at 5:26 am

This article was great. I can’t wait to read the next article on what turntable I should buy as my first. I think this may be the beginning to a beautiful relationship. Thanks. :)

9 BBinKC October 11, 2012 at 5:39 am

Great article. I think the tactile aspects of listening to records is what really makes the experience so wonderful along with the commitment of listening to an album and hearing the songs in the context the artist intended.

I added a turntable last year and got some vinyl. In multiple A/B comparisons I preferred the sound MOG streaming at 320kb and my cd collection ripped to Apple lossless. This is on a fairly high end setup. For vinyl I am using a Dual CS 5000 (woodgrain baby!) with a Grado gold cartridge that was completely serviced at my local stereo shop. For digital I am using MOG or iTunes on my Macbook Pro running through a Foobar USB DAC with their Supplier power supply. Both systems run into:Onkyo Intergra P-304 preamp -> Aragon 4004 amp -> Klipsch Chorus I speakers. I have also used my Anthem Integrated 1 tube amp with the same results.

The digital has a far lower noise floor, is more dynamic, has better soundstaging and sense of space. This is an incredibly unforgiving amp and speaker setup (I spent 2 weeks using tape on the floor and a laser level to fine tune speaker placement) and no matter how much I clean my albums there are always annoying pops and clicks and overall they simply do sounds as good.

I am adding this just to make clear that anyone who is thinking of jumping on the vinyl bandwagon might find themselves underwhelmed by the sound quality in the end. Listening to vinyl is fun for other reasons but there is a reason why all the guys with tube amps and turntables switched to CD’s and solid state when they became available.

10 Carnivore October 11, 2012 at 5:44 am

Pffft! Amateur! Check back when you start collecting real records – 78′s – like the ones in every single picture in this article. Shellac rules, not vinyl!

11 AjaxHarper October 11, 2012 at 5:49 am

Accuracy isn’t everything. While its true digital reproduces accurately it doesn’t translate the soul of the music. Thats not to say I haven’t rocked out with my mp3, but its not the same. I get antsy when just listening to music I stream or play over my mp3, like I should be doing something else while listening. However, when I pick up a record and place it on the turntable, it just feels right to sit down and listen. The notes are warmer, by the second or third song it feels like they have made a coccoon around you, the soul translates into the notes. If accuracy is the cost, then I’ll gladly pay it.

12 Dino October 11, 2012 at 6:19 am

Great article Cam. Cant wait to read your other articles and check out the Vinyl + Cocktails blog! What a cool idea. An app for that would be sweet ;)

Bravo Cam. Go away Ian.

Dino

13 Andrew October 11, 2012 at 6:44 am

I’m in absolute agreement with David, vinyl’s regaining popularity thanks to, rather than in spite of, portable digital music libraries. I’ve been collecting vinyl since my mid 90′s high school days, but, since then, I’ve noticed how much easier and how much more popular it’s become. I love that people are actually starting to pay attention to what they buy and how they listen, and I’ve even managed to convert some of my friends over to the listen-on-vinyl side.

Great article on a great topic.

14 Bruce Williamson October 11, 2012 at 7:03 am

The only real drawback with vinyl is that the needle wears the groove thus degrading the sounds after many plays. The laser turntable overcame that problem.

Vinyl does sound better and the reason is that the frequency response of vinyl is from about near zero to 35kHz. Even though you cannot hear that high some of the frequencies interfere and create beat frequencies which you can hear.

CDs were just a trade off as are MP3s. MP3s are even more of a tradeoff as the standard was designed around the psycho acoustic model of the ear (meaning it only reproduces what the ear can hear).

Of course all the above assumes good quality equipment.

15 Sgt. Mustache October 11, 2012 at 7:15 am

I too have been listening to vinyl since early childhood…memories of dad putting on bagpipe music on the Motorola cabinet model would fill the house. Even earlier was my mom’s Victrola with her 78s, stashed in the basement…I regret our not having it after we moved to the ‘burbs.
Now I have a small (700+) album collection, mostly pristine, but I seek to upgrade copies as I find them in yard sales, etc., and pass on my lesser copies to friends with ‘the bug’.
I also have a Victrola, found on Craig’s List from the second owner: made in 1925, he bought it from it’s first owner in 1976, with the manual, original album books (that’s why they’re called albums!), and a supply of needles. You have NO IDEA how excited I was to get it…I was one of 75 or so people asking for it!
Sure, I need to replace a needle after every play of a 78, but that’s part of the ritual. Heck, I even have bamboo needles, and the difference in sound they give develops an entirely different sensation, experience.

I find turntables all the time, and massive speakers now that everyone is going with the little ones….most folks have lost the overwhelming sensation of turning the dial to 6 or 7 (I have a hell of an amp, I can blow up windows if I turned it to 10), and listen to GODZILLA…did I tell you I got EVERY Blue Oyster Cult album at one yard sale for $6?…..ALL of them! YEE-HAH!

Look around. Turntables can be found for as little as $1, usually for $10-20 at yard sales, flea markets. Do a little research, find some decent speakers. There are places out there that sell used equipment at fair prices, too.
Don’t be surprised if you have to change needles or even the cartridge, as they probably have a lot of mileage on them.
And don’t forget a set of decent headphones if you can get them…they lend a different experience to listening that sometimes speakers can’t translate to your brain.

GOOD LUCK, AND ENJOY!

16 David October 11, 2012 at 7:19 am

@Ian

While I would not argue with you about the technical “accuracy” of digital media(CD), I would agree with the article assertion that the “perception” of listening to vinyl is more “accurate”. “Accurate” in the sense that the music feels more tangible, more present, warmer, etc.. Perhaps language fails us when trying to describe the difference in the experience of listening to Vinyl vs. CD. However, “accurate” works for me. :)

17 Jonathan Sheldon October 11, 2012 at 8:06 am

I just started collecting vinyl about a year ago. However, I haven’t actually listened to any of my albums. I do love to pull them out and read the liner notes and look at the cover art when I listen to the mp3s though. I haven’t listened to them because I don’t have a record player and my uncle borrowed my dad’s. Luckily enough I found one in my cousin’s basement and he told me to take it. Now I just have to buy a needle and I’ll be all set.

18 KP October 11, 2012 at 8:35 am

Great Article! I just inherited my dad’s old vinyl collection as well as his “broken” record player (just needed a new band) and I’ve been enjoying everything from Ravi Shankar to the Beatles White album and everything in between.

Looking forward to more articles on vinyl, particularly vinyl care and turntable/needle care and maintenence!

19 Mike October 11, 2012 at 8:38 am

I’ve been collecting vinyl for about 3 years now and its probably my favorite hobby. I love my phone and the convenience of my music library on it but my once a month visit to the record store is my favorite thing to do with my time and money

20 Stephen October 11, 2012 at 8:45 am

This is a great article! I have loved vinyl for years and agree with everything in here. Every weekend when we have friends over I turn on the vinyl and you can really see how the digital age has affected how people listen to music. Some of my friends say “I don’t want to listen to the whole album, I don’t know many of the songs on this album.” Well that’s why you sit and listen to it! There is definitely a different feeling listening to an album from start to finish than listening to shuffle on your iPod. Thanks for the awesome article! I’m going to go home and listen to an album tonight!

21 Corey October 11, 2012 at 9:46 am

The sooner the rest of the articles in this series come out the better. I’ve been eyeing a quality record player at my parents house for some time now, and more guidance would be greatly appreciated. In addition, Ian I believe when the author says vinyl produces a more “accurate” sound I believe he means accurate in the sense that this is how the artist intended the music to be heard. As is stated vinyl brings a warmer, more real sound. It’s analog, i.e. real life, as opposed to digital which is synthetic. Is it not the same as comparing a tube amplifier to a single state for the guitar? Of course I could be way off base with all this, but this is what I interpret from the article. Not trying to be an arse.

22 Caleb S. October 11, 2012 at 9:49 am

Beautiful article. What an eloquent expression of the wonderful power of music! It seems like listening to vinyl on a turntable is almost a ritualistic, deliberate act, unlike our current music trends of “background noise,” as you call it. It is important to consider music as something created to be appreciated and not just to fill silence. I’m looking forward to the other articles.

23 Matthew October 11, 2012 at 10:16 am

Great article! Looking forward to the other posts, too.

I plan to forward this to the Missus … See if she won’t let me get a turntable for Christmas! = )

24 Meh October 11, 2012 at 10:29 am

Basically, what I got out of this article is the following: you like vinyl because you have fond memories attached to it. You like the experience of really listening to music instead of just consuming it, and that’s fine.
However, maybe my age is showing here, I’m always fascinated when vinyl enthusiasts trump up the drawbacks as features. There is a reason CDs finally allowed us to skip tracks without having to get up: because, quite frankly, some songs are crap (before someone calls me a troll: this is a subjective matter, no song will appeal to everyone). Maybe the times are changing and finding real artists is harder than ever, but I have personally never heard an album on which I liked every single song. I consider an album to be good if I like around 80% of the songs on it.
No, I don’t care if Roger Waters wanted me to listen to The Dark Side of the Moon in one sitting, I’ve got stuff to do. I can’t stand Money and will skip back to Time on my own accord, thank you very much.
Sure, you might say that I’m doing it wrong. But IMO, life is too short to be wasting it on listening to music you don’t like, even if it ruins the “experience.”
Just my two cents.

25 mark October 11, 2012 at 10:33 am

I’m with JJ, perfect timing. Where should one go about looking for old vinyl? Because of the uptick in sales, are newer releases being put on vinyl?

26 knowbetter October 11, 2012 at 11:07 am

If you have a decent playback system, vinyl has a magical tangible quality digital cannot touch. Listen to great vinyl setup in person and you will hear it and it will not be subtle. I listen to hi-rez FLACs for convenience and vinyl when I really want to feel the music.

27 pcoq October 11, 2012 at 11:10 am

I share the love of music and I know the pleasure from reading the notes, having the lyrics and feeling a contact with the music!

However, I am so happy that I dumped my 3000+ LP collection in 1990. As a music lover, the constant irritation of having to deal with scratches, static, fingerprints, grime and wear became an obstacle to the enjoyment of the music. LPs have a very short life before they begin to sound crackly. And the sheer size and weight of the collection!

I have a glorious CD collection of a few hundred choice albums, many of which date back to the early 1990s, and they are still in immaculate condition, despite countless playings. My investment has paid off.

I also rip songs from my collection onto my Sony mp3 walkman for use when not at home, but I love the sounds of nature too much to really make use of it as much as I might. I agree with Ian about the fidelity of the Cd versus the LP.

28 Darin October 11, 2012 at 11:26 am

Great article. I also grew up listening to vinyl and have a collection myself. My Dad had a collection of reel to reel albums as well and He introduced us kids to the likes of Percy Faith, Herb Alpert, and such. He was a classical music guy and growing up I got to appreciate that type of music as well as my personal likes of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Boston, etc.

I’ve been guilty of neglecting my collection of vinyl in favor of my iPod but recently I got my hands on a brand new Bruce Hornsby album. I knew this was going to be a very special listening experience on the turntable. I got my turntable out of storage and hooked up to find it didn’t work anymore :-( I’m now on a search for another on.

Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I can relate to it myself.

29 Garrett October 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm

This article covers one of the main reasons I advocate vinyl. One day I was looking at my vinyl and CD collection and I realized that I knew every vinyl record I had better than I knew about 90% of my CDs. I feel that when you get a record you’re almost forced to play it and listen to it, where CDs and MP3s are so cheap and easily attainable that it’s easy to accumulate a vast collection and be unaware of its contents. Buying vinyl not only helps your desire to actually listen to it, it makes you want to listen to the WHOLE thing. Skipping to one particular song isn’t very easy on vinyl. We live in a singles based music world, where entire albums are never listened to in their entirety as they should be. The thought of listening to only one song from an album like Pet Sounds or Revolver disgusts me. Listening to only one song is like reading one line or chapter from an incredibly well written book. What you see may be great and you can recognize that, but you can’t get the full experience, context, and power of the book unless you read the whole thing cover to cover.

30 JD Fozee October 11, 2012 at 12:19 pm

No one likes a smart aleck Ian…

31 alfred October 11, 2012 at 1:08 pm

is that joe louis?

32 Carnivore October 11, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Pardon my previous ribbing. Regarding dust, dirt, fingerprints, etc., I’ve had excellent results (both 78′s and vinyl) with a record vacuum and cleaning solutions by the Nitty Gritty company. Google Nitty Gritty. There are a few other manufacturers as well.

33 John October 11, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I relate directly to Levi, I just wish their were more that were open to being converts. Thanks for the article, a good read.

34 John October 11, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Oh and on another note, I take my portable turntable to my high school history class and my students really get into it. Well, the sound that is, Bob Dylan isn’t really their scene.

35 dannyb278 October 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm

I can attest to the fact that even new bands like “The Black Keys” sound better on vinyl than digital. Plus, blues and jazz just need to be played on vinyl

Another nice thing to point out is that many new bands (like the keys) include a digital copy with a purchase of a vinyl record. for a few bucks more than the full album download you can get the digital copy for when your on the go and the Analaog copy for home.

36 Henry October 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm

When my step-father passed away a couple of years ago, I inherited his vinyl collection. My Mom also gave me her collection. Mixed among these were records my sister and I had when we were kids and vinlyl or tape were the only options. As others have pointed out here, the memories attached to these have more impact than the quality of the sound.

I have more than 300 CD albums and do listen to them beginning to end rather than through shuffling and random selection. What I discovered I missed from the days of vinyl were the album covers. A CD cover or MP3 player postage stamp sized image have no comparison to an vinyl album cover. And the album covers are full of descriptions of the music, sometimes an music education in themselves.

37 Matt October 11, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Good article. Just sitting down and listening to music is definitely something worth doing. I would add something though: try and cut back on the amount of “background music” you listen to. Sitting down to a proper listening session is even better when you haven’t already had music on in the background all day.

And JD, Ian’s not being a smart aleck, there’s an important point to be made here. I have a turntable and a pretty good hi-fi but I know of no other hobby that’s so fully full of snake oil and outright false claims. When you’ve heard someone claim that that a new, $2000 power chord (yes, two-thousand dollar power chord) makes a improvement in the sound of their hi-fi that is “not subtle”, you start to get a little twitchy. But this warrants a article of it’s own.

38 Kenyan October 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm

This was a great read and came at the perfect time. The last month or two I’ve really been thinking about getting myself a turntable. I’m looking forward to your next articles because I have no clue as to anything about what makes a good turn table. I just started my vinyl collection this year and my opportunities to listen to those records has been very limited, and by limited I mean zero. Hopefully around Christmas time I’ll be able to remedy this problem.

39 RobSanDiego October 11, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Listening to an MP3 of a song is like reading an excerpt of a book, listening to an album is like reading the whole book.

I agree with a previous commentor, vinyl can carry frequencies that are felt rather than heard, enriching the listening experience.

40 Lee October 11, 2012 at 6:35 pm

My father was an avid record collector and audiophile his whole life; he has a massive collection of great music and some real rare gems all in great condition thanks to his meticulous (some might say obsessive) care of his treasures since the day he got them. I have had the merits of vinyl (and real to real, and 8-track and pretty much anything pre-digital) preached to me for as long as I can remember. Though I don’t see myself dropping the cash to match the ludicrously priced equipment he has, Im happy to be starting my own vinyl collection. In fact, I rarely buy music anymore unless it can be had on vinyl.

41 Alain October 11, 2012 at 6:50 pm

@John,

My high school history teacher also used to play vinyls on his turntables during his classes, too! All of us just loved the richness the sound, and some of us enjoyed the music too!

I fell in love with The Doors because of that class :)

42 Steve October 11, 2012 at 9:51 pm

I love my vinyl. I listen to ’53 – ’67 or so jazz almost exclusively, but I think it does take a pretty high-end system to really get the benefits of it. I use a VPI turntable and tube amps from Rogue Audio (phono preamp > preamp > power amp) and a couple of big speakers with 12″ JBL drivers that were made by a friend in his garage. I also have a nice headphone setup. I don’t buy into the expensive cable snake oil, though (especially when it comes to power cables – that’s just insane). I’m also mostly listening to Blue Note remasters that have been released recently on 45rpm vinyl. I couldn’t be happier, but all this cost a LOT of cash – probably more than most sane people would spend on music (plus I don’t have kids, either). It’s my primary entertainment, though…I’ll spend at least a couple hours every night just listening to music. I give myself one night of TV per week.

Digital also a wonderful format, but there is no reason to settle for crummy mp3 or other lossy files anymore – you can easily rip your CDs to full quality FLAC files. Hi-def 24/96 is also an option, but it’s questionable how much difference it really makes.

Of course, if all you want is background music or music on the go, none of this applies at all. This is just for people (nuts?) like me who spend hours on end with their eyes closed listening to every nuance.

43 Ryan October 12, 2012 at 9:00 am

Great article, But I feel the type of people who buy single songs listen to mainstream stuff that most likely doesn’t have many good songs on the album as usual and benefit from this greatly, I also believe these type of people never have listened to full albums and never will and are not the type of people into vinyl anyway.

44 Mark October 12, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Enjoyed the read, and as my day job pertains to digital music library software for academic libraries and archives, I think about these issues a lot. One design decision we made early on is to digitize whole albums and present the digital playback as albums, not just as “tracks”. Our current system at my university has 22,000 or so digitized albums, some of which are from vinyl, magnetic tape, and shellac.

A couple of quick points I didn’t see in the comments yet.

1. The social dimension described in this article is less about vinyl and more about device ubiquity. When I grew up, we had one record player in the house. So we all listened to what one person wanted to listen to. Now, we probably have a dozen or more audio playback devices in the house, with no need for any shared experience. But if you go back even further, there was a time when even record players, I mean gramophones, were uncommon. I remember reading the journals of CS Lewis’s brother Warnie. He bought a gramophone and would put on concerts every Sunday afternoon, inviting his friends and relatives. They would sit in silence, listening to the concert as designed by Warnie, and then discuss. Once we got to one-record-player-per-household, this shared experience went away. Times, technologies, economies, and thus social experiences change. People texting video URLs to each other via smartphone is yet another means of sharing w/o co-location. We gain some things and lose some things.

2. The pops and scratches in vinyl are data, like the ratings in Spotify. They tell you which tracks (bands) the owner most wanted to listen to. Just think of it as applause at a concert, before a favorite song is performed!

45 BigE October 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm

My son loves it when we “play the big black CDs”. He especially loves the big over the ear headphones in a dark room. Journey -Esacpe is his fave so far.

46 Daniele Rossi October 12, 2012 at 8:01 pm

I may be the only one on the planet who enjoys hearing a pop or crackle in vinyl. It used to bug me so much during the 70s and 80s because it means the record was deteriorating. Now the sound is a form of nostalgia that takes me back to carefree days.

47 Aaron October 12, 2012 at 11:13 pm

I recently had the pleasure of listening to a friend’s super high-end vinyl system, probably in the $15,000+ range. Each channel had it’s own dedicated tube amplifier, power conditioner and two six-foot tall speakers towered over a beautiful leather couch. A gorgeous turntable that looked like it was from the future was located in a separate room filled with thousands of records.

It was like being transported back in time to the venue where the piece was being recorded. Truly, the most immersive musical experience I have ever had.

48 Bryan October 13, 2012 at 12:32 am

Great article. Much agreement.

One thing left off the discussion seems to be the actual performance as compared to the faithfulness of the recording. This is the point of the recording — to reproduce the performance.

As such, seems to me, the alleged “accuracy” of digital may not be so important. When was the last time you listened to a live band that sounded as sterile as a digital recording?

49 Bob S October 13, 2012 at 1:54 am

These guys for turntables and record cleaners: KAB Electro Acoustics
http://www.kabusa.com/frameset.htm?/ttables.htm

50 elly October 13, 2012 at 7:26 am

I started collecting in 80′s. Everybody wanted their vinyl gone since the cd came in every household and was promised to be better. From that date my partner and me collected about 80.000 lp’s. I threw away my cd player and the 2 cd’s I had. With finding a lot of nice albums we decided to start a shop in 2000. The last couple of years we see their is a new interest in vinyl and special the young people who are downloading first en buying the vinyl later when they like to have it… It is the total of having the art of music and the cover what makes vinyl more interesting than cd’s what has become only entertainment in stead of being involved with real listening to music.
http://www.facebook.com/Vinylarchief

51 78-microgroove-CD October 13, 2012 at 8:45 am

“Vinyl” sounds so modern a word to me. I will take a 78 r.p.m. record [last ones were vinyl] in excellent condition played on a tube Newcomb classroom player with a proper size truncated elliptical diamond stylus over any other setup. To each his own. I am not interested at all in the 25 albums preferred by the Writer.

52 Edwin October 13, 2012 at 9:01 am

One interesting little bit of trivia about vinyl. There are moving boxes, available from U-Haul and other places, that are approximately 12″ x 12″ x 18″, perfect for storing record albums in. When one of those is filled up, it weighs in the neighborhood of 80 pounds. Not for the faint-hearted.

53 Edwin October 13, 2012 at 10:50 am

Another comment about vinyl, one advantage that it has over CDs (mostly) and MP3s. You can actually WATCH it work. You can watch the record rotating on the turntable, and read the label (well, maybe not with 78s) while it is doing it. And you can WATCH the record changer operate, the needle slowly plop down into the groove, and shut off when it is finished. This is also something that was fun about the old jukeboxes that played 45 rpm records. There are some CD players (these CD jukeboxes are the only ones I know of) that will let you watch something happening. But it ain’t like watching your record player, and those who never experience records are definitely missing something.

54 Wim October 13, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Started my own little collection 2 years ago, currently own somewhat around 200 vinyls (50′s-60′s Jazz, 50′s-60′s Rock and Country, Disco, Metal, Grunge, Hard Rock, New Wave and Alternative Rock (think Foo Fighters/Pearl Jam)). I’m really proud of my little collection and I’m building on it (have 100+ vinyls incoming currently) so I love this article. I currently own a C.E.C. Direct Drive Fully Automatic ST 530 and a vintage Lenco L76, not bad, right? Just place the vinyl on the turntable, get a glass of Scotch and just sit down and listen; perfection!

55 PaulB October 13, 2012 at 8:34 pm

You make a lot of good points, particularly concerning the breaking up of records into discrete songs, but as one who grew up with vinyl, the solution to that problem is to buy the whole CD or whatever. Vinyl is romantic, but I happily gave away my collection of 70′s rock and of classical music (a fair percentage of them warped) and never looked back. Never again to figure out how to get dust out of grooves, or to worry about the stylus chopping off the peaks in a very soft medium…

56 Jon October 13, 2012 at 10:28 pm

The difference between vinyl is that it’s essentially, a (non-linear) filtration and/or modulation of the original recording. It’s very subtle, but that’s what vinyl enthusiasts are looking for.
While vinyl may sound more “real” (subtle variations each time it’s played), it’s certainly not objectively better.

57 Aaron Daniel Williams October 14, 2012 at 10:14 am

Excellent article, a recommended read for some of my friends who are also vinyl enthusiasts.

I started collecting vinyls about 5-6 years ago, and none of my friends could understand why. At the time I just new that I thought they were cool, and was fascinated by the way the technology worked. But as my love and collection grew, I realized that I appreciated artists more if I owned one of their albums on vinyl. I paid more attention to their lyrics, albums, artwork, and music.

Now I’ve got 5-6 of my friends starting collections of their own, and I am so excited to see that vinyl is catching on all around the country!

58 Fred October 14, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I am 18 years old and got my mother’s old stereo receiver with record player and a lot of her records, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, lot’s of 80′s rock, Now I’m collecting increasingly more records from recent artists as well as classics, this article has opened my eyes as to how listening to Vinyl can be a whole experience instead of like having a track playing in the background. I love to sit and listen, close my eyes or wonder over the magnificent album art and lyrics..

59 Martin October 15, 2012 at 9:13 am

When I was young I used to watch my dad, at nights, in a dark living room, sitting on a Louis [Some number here] chair, smoking his pipe and hearing vinyls and I couldn’t understand how that was fun. Today I’m all over vinyls, they have some kind of magic that digital formats don’t. Looking forward to hear more from you soon!

60 morbore October 17, 2012 at 10:06 am

For me, vinyl and MP3′s are basically two separate things. MP3′s have made music from all over the world more accessible, portable and also disposable. I have GB’s on GB’s of music and they could all be erased with a few mouse clicks, yet being able to download music has allowed me to explore my musical tastes in a way that would not have been possible with vinyl or CDs.

I have only been purchasing records for the last 6 months, but i feel like playing records is a much more physical and involved experience. Even the act of having to go flip the record over and change records makes listening much more participatory than just putting my iTunes on shuffle.

Basically, whether i am going to listen to vinyl or MP3s depends on my mood and what else i am doing. Being able to selectively buy albums on vinyl or MP3 is a nice luxury. I don’t think going to solely one form or the other is the right answer.

61 Damien October 17, 2012 at 11:15 am

Thanks, I really enjoyed this article. I’ve been looking at getting another record player for the first time in years, in part inspired by meeting a new friend from Germany (I’m in Australia) who is a big rockabilly fan and collects 50s-60s classic rock and roll records. I was before getting into a range of old jazz and swing (Sinatra, Dean Martin, Julie London, Sidney Bechet, Nat King Cole, lots of others), but getting them on CD or MP3 was just not really the same. Something was missing. I’m going to start hunting them all down on vinyl now.

On the subject of which is better, I think more of the issue is that CD is a precise sampling, turned into discrete steppings and turned back into an analogue signal suffers the distortions and degradations that accompany any such modulation/demodulation process. The transition from one form into the other is flat and precise and is based on a logical algorithm. It’s created by mathematical modelling and has precision as it’s goal, with warmth and naturalness added in after, again through a mathematical model. It’s also created as a generic algorithm designed to try to handle different kinds of sounds. Glitches and errors are points where the natural sound moves outside the bounds that the algorithm’s designers modelled potential sounds and usually results in “sharp” edges; much like artefacts in visual image stills and videos.

Fully analogue vinyl though is a different beast. There are inconsistencies and errors too, discordances and glitches, but they are made from the limits of a natural not a logical space. They are more like the oddities made by echoes from the corners of rooms and other quirks of a physical space.

There is also the the fuzz and warm hiss of the working of the device itself, but this is part of the experience. Much like there are times when experiencing the full reality of something would make it lesser (full lighting at night in a pub/bar/club and there are times when smoking bans make you wish there was something else to mask the smell) digital reproduction can sometimes make things a bit plain and clinical.

Another issue is the way music is mixed and mastered for CD/download, it’s compressed and flattened in a different way to how things used to be mixed. There was a great article in Rolling Stone in 2007 that described the problem very well, there is a PDF copy of it here: [http://www.electriccity.be/Images/The%20Death%20of%20High%20Fidelity%20_%20Rolling%20Stone.pdf] well worth a read.

62 Jeremy C. October 17, 2012 at 11:00 pm

What I like about vinyl records is that sometimes you just can’t find some music in digital format. I like 60′s and 70′s prog rock and psych rock, and you try finding an old album on iTunes (you can’t) or on CD (usually it’s a low pressing export that costs ridiculous amounts of money).

Also, I like to look at the boxes of old records at garage sales and swap meets and pull out the ones that have the really scantily clad women on them, and then see what the music is like. I have a small collection of records of just what I like to call “sexy women records”. It’s pretty hilarious how sensual the covers are, but then the music is crap.

63 Jonathan Young October 19, 2012 at 9:05 am

great article! I have amassed over the past 4 to 5 years 500 plus records… Your thought are in line with my thoughts on the format. I would like to add that independent record stores are one of my favorite parts of acquiring a collection. The connection with like minded music geeks is lost in the age of MP3′s. One more place I can not recommend more is the Goodwill or an other thrift store. The hunt for great vinyl is part of the experience digging through dusty ass records hunting for things that you would have never listened to. Or finding a great cash of vinyl from a dead guy with wonderful taste… and reviving there records for a new generation. These are antiques you can use on a daily basis. History in your hands! Happy diggin Ladys and Gents…………….

Jonathan R. Young
Mortgage Consultant

64 Paulo October 21, 2012 at 7:38 am

Great article. I loved vinyl back in high school and was disappointed in the fidelity of CDs. They simply didn’t sound as good, I don’t care what anyone said. As a lifelong audiophile, I’m glad to see that people are rediscovering this media. As for me, I went to a record store here in Houston yesterday and picked up some more of the good stuff. I also have over 500 CDs in case anyone thinks I never gave it a try. But I’m returning to my roots of a great amplifier, a turntable, and a record.

65 kyle October 23, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Two things: First off, I think LPs sound better because they are not overproduced and punched-up like CDs and MP3s. The music is clear and sonically honest — unlike the bass and other crap that’s been distorted and amplified.

Secondly, a few months ago, I bought a copy of Abby Road on closeout at Best Buy for $2. I couldn’t resist. The clerk who rang up the sale had no idea what I had in my hand, and asked if it was a calendar.

I weep for the youth of today.

66 Andrew Short November 7, 2012 at 9:47 am

This article brings back a whole host of memories for me… When I was a younger man I used to collect records. Drum and bass, old school hardcore, rage groove, anything I could get my hands on. If you look at the stats from the UK there is still a strong collective of people who get their fix from a vinyl (and has been since the 90s).

I also had 1210s and loved to spin with friends, this was a bit of a Friday night ritual. Go and play tunes and just sit their listening to them enjoying the sonic journey.

But what was really the highlight of me week was going to the record shop and picking up a few promos or a new album. There where two specialist dance music shop in my area, and it was a great place to find out about raves and new music. I used to save my dinner money to buy the latest 12″. Then could not wait to get home and play it!

Yes there are arguments about the sound quality and maybe I psychologically fool myself in some way but there is a richness of sound and something extra a CD just does not have.

Problem is space and upkeep… And that is such a big problem today.

Now much collection is gathering dust, and my 1210s are lying dormant. While I’m in Brazil and don’t want to pay the fees to have something shipped I have no space for – alas my life in vinyl has ended and been replace by something cheaper and of less value.

67 Tom November 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm

What a fantastic article- you’ve convinced me to finally buy a turntable and spin some records!

68 Levi April 26, 2013 at 8:27 pm

I am so jealous of your enthusiasm in record collection! You’ve come a long way! How I wish I started doing that when I was still a kid so now that I’m 17, I could use a room to stock my records! But now I’m having a hard time starting my own vinyl collection and even buying a turntable in the Philippines! My parents kind of moved on from this medium so I’m all left by myself! It’s a good thing I’ve come across your article to boost up my spirits! Keep posting articles like this because beginners like me become inspired! :)

69 David July 10, 2013 at 12:28 am

I have just about the same feeling as you do, but I have never actually heard an LP playing on a turntable. I do have one LP though, but no turntable. I have Daft Punk’s new album Random Access Memories on LP. I can wait until I can listen to it on LP. Music is a big interest in my life too; I listen to music just about everyday.

Just for your information, LP or record is the correct term to use. Vinyl is just the material that is used to make the LP. Source: my dad.

70 mci September 3, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Though I love vinyl, I cringed at the “snapshot” description of digital music. The fact of the matter is that sampling rate is not a factor. As long as the sampling is done at at least twice the highest frequency component of the music, then there is zero information loss, and the original signal can be reconstructed with perfect fidelity. This is MATHEMATICALLY PROVABLE (the Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem) and a basic principle of information theory. The original signal goes through a low-pass filter that cuts off frequencies above 20K (which are inaudible) prior to digitization. Therefore a sampling rate of 44K is a non-issue.

This isn’t to say that digital doesn’t introduce some other distortions — quantization noise for example — but they are not due to the sampling rate. And analog reproduction introduces distortions as well.

So please stop with the nonsense about digital being a “snapshot” or analog being “more real.” It’s complete bullshit. Neither is “real.” They are both approximations of the original signal.

71 J. Adams September 20, 2013 at 6:10 pm

I’m 28 and I been collecting records for over 20 years. I’ve got every original Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Ramones, Surf Punks, Queers, some Dick Dale, Chuck Berry, Ventures…only the best rockNroll-
NOTHING beats vinyl, only the real purists stick with it, fuck mp3s!

72 JeffM October 30, 2013 at 7:24 pm

I’m not about to get involved in the donnybrook over vinyl vs. CD except to say they are both better and more durable than cassette tape or the old 8-track cartridge.

The CD boom has been a good thing for music collectors as, frankly, the scent of money has encouraged record companies to dig into their vaults for unreleased tracks, alternate takes, and rarities previously impossible to find (or afford…)

On the other hand, a lot of older material has little or no commercial value for re-release, and vinyl is the only way you’ll find oddball personality or novelty recordings, or those “sexy women” covers Jeremy C. mentioned.

I’m old enough to have started with vinyl (and a 4-speed turntable with the little-used 16 2/3 rpm speed which revealed the secret of David Seville’s Chipmunks!) and added cassettes and CDS over the years, but managed to avoid 8-tracks, Quadraphonic sound, minidiscs, and other eventual failures. Who knows what the next big thing may be?

73 Colin November 12, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Ian is wrong. Vinyl is more accurate at reproducing sound and this article was going off of the assumption that there is no dust or wear or tear on the vinyl and that the turntable and sound system is good. Analog is an infinite sample rate and CD’s and mp3s are a lower finite sampling of sound so therefore far far less accurate. I am not sure if Ian knows what digital and analog is but by definition, analog is more always more accurate than digital and its not even up for debate. It’s a fact. Now whether or not you can hear the difference in sound quality between CD’s and vinyl is one thing but a lot of people can hear the difference. The reason vinyl feels like you are actually there listening to the music live is because it is exactly what the live music would sound like as an analog representation minus the wear, tear and dust of course.

74 Pete November 21, 2013 at 6:39 am

I have listen to and bought vinyl for just over 45 years. Yes I have a reasonable system and a reasonable size vinyl collection. I actually have sold high end remastered copies to buy ridiculously expensive original 50′s and 60′s pressings of my favourite Blues Lps and no remastered CD or vinyl sounds as good to my ears as my own copies of Zep, Free etc that I bought in high school. I find the vinyl more involving than CD’s and MP3′s well they are great for commuter travel. Who cares about a few pops and crackles. When you have Howlin’ Wolf and a nice bourbon, Miles and decent red, the sound of rain in the background late at night with Tom Waits for a friend or Zeppelin in the morning just as you get of out of bed to kick start the day. Just spin the black circle and enjoy enjoy enjoy.

75 Matt December 31, 2013 at 8:41 am

I just stumbled upon this article while perusing this excellent(but oft-neglected by Yours Truly) website.
I’ve been collecting records since about 1980 when I was five years of age and my parents got me my first little Lloyd stereo/hi-fi setup. Led Zeppelin II was my first record purchase, and since then it’s been a musical cornucopia from AC/DC to Hampton Hawes, from the ‘Oo(as my Dad calls ‘em) to Steely Dan, lots of hardcore, punk, ’70s glam, early reggae, classical, too…
Somebody commented way earlier about how they have no interest in listening to whole albums because “some songs are crap”(sic). I never looked at it that way– and somebody alluded subsequently to it being like chapters of a book –the LP is a complete body of work in and of itself. The order of the songs, while not necessarily sharing a cohesive lyrical concept song-to-song, do tell a musical story, or paint a sonic landscape. As a musician(loosely-termed) who has been recording for the past twenty-four years, I know first-hand the way bands/artists obsess over the song order of an LP. Which is to be the first song, which is the last, what is the last on side A, etc. In listening to an LP front-to-back, you’re hearing it exactly the way the band or artist intended it to be heard, as an expression of their souls.
I bought my first CD player in about 1994. I’ve amassed a small collection(2-300) CD’s and only play about fifteen of them. The ones I do play are the ones that aren’t available on vinyl, such as the Thin Lizzy BBC box set or some obscure French Oi! that I don’t want to pay foolish prices for on vinyl. For me, these days CD’s are only good for loading a billion songs onto for long car rides, and then it’s usually an MP3 player for “convenience”… There is very little enjoyment to be had from sitting and listening to a CD “front to front”. I actually don’t know if I have ever done so, except for listening to recording mixes.
As far as the analogue/digital argument, it seems as though the MP3(et cetera) age has made music a disposable commodity that has detached the listener from the source, much like the grocery store has detached us from the farmer’s soil. Is digital music more convenient? Certainly. Is it more enriching? Hardly. A record is a performance(especially those early recordings where most or all instruments were recorded live with very few overdubs)
Another comment above spoke of vinyl conveying sub- or supersonic tones that are out of our range of hearing. To concur with somebody else, yes you do feel the music when hearing analogue. It has a different effect on you than digitally recorded music does. Do I have the technical expertise or vocabulary to put it into words? No, but that certainly doesn’t make me wrong or off-base. Science just hasn’t caught up with proving a truth to be a fact. It’s like a naked fire: It might not be the best or most efficient way to heat, but sitting around a campfire is something that just “feels” right. Why? Is there some deep-seated psychological reason for it? I know I couldn’t give a toss– it just IS more satisfying than sitting around a radiator. I listen to my iPod in the kitchen when preparing meals(yeah as background music but also as active listening) for the sake of convenience, but when I put a record on in the cellar, I always find my dog sitting in front of the speakers. Kinda funny.
I had never had anything that would have been considered crazy high-end audio equipment until recently. For years I had the Lloyds stereo, then upgraded to a Techniques something or other entry level record player, then a Dual from ’82(which broke, haha). After that I used a Rega Planar 3 turntable through an Arcam solid-state setup through Cambridge Soundworks Tower II’s for years. Now that I can afford such luxuries, I go between a VPI Scoutmaster II and a Techniques MKII > E.A.R. phono stage > Macintosh 2102 > Monitor Audio RS7′s.
Yes I now am able to listen to jazz and classical LP’s in good condition with an almost-silent background, which is all well and good to the trained ear……… but my point is that I felt just as much satisfaction from listening to Zep II or Flick of the Switch LP’s on my crappy Lloyds record player as a kid as I do Blue Turk a la Rondo on my current system.
So vinyl neophytes, don’t be intimidated by stories of prohibitively-priced systems. Get a nice little setup and get your feet wet, and upgrade if you want to or can do. You certainly don’t need to have the best or loudest system out there to enjoy the linear sound of analogue playback.
A wise man once said to me, in a discussion about the merits of analogue and digital playback, “your EARS are analogue!” It just makes sense.

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