It both pains me and excites me when I come across a piece of Hi-Fidelity stereo equipment or a pristine vinyl album in a thrift store or Goodwill equivalent. A part of me rejoices over the wonderful find at such a low price; yet, another part of me feels a great sadness over the likely replacement of such equipment with a cell phone, and the tangible LP being replaced with a low quality digital MP3.
It’s no news that the vinyl record is a thing of the past, at least to a majority of people. It has been slowly dying since the mid-1980s with the early prominence of CDs and the awful invention of the cassette tape. However, when it comes to a quality listening experience in an album-oriented atmosphere, I have found nothing that matches the warmth and beauty of this bygone analog format.
At one time, it was sacred to listen to an album in its entirety. One would wait until the album came out, and then spin it front and back, again and again, until the LP was almost completely worn out. In our fast-paced, immediate gratification society of today, however, music is a side note to the productivity of our busy days. You listen to songs on your iPod, in the car, or on your cell phone, but rarely sit down to specifically listen to an album all the way through as the artist originally intended. Well, at least as the artist intended years ago, as the single has become the only seemingly sustainable part of an album in this day and age.
How did this phenomena take place? Music is, in my opinion, a gateway to the soul. It can evoke nearly every emotion and is a stand-alone work of art in and of itself. However, no one takes the time these day to actually listen. And no, I will argue that truly listening is not ceasing to check Facebook for three minutes as you listen to a song on your $20 pair of computer speakers from Wal-Mart.
True listening is taking the time out of the day to sit down and be engrossed in the music, with no other distractions. To me, a high quality turntable with a non-scratched, well-preserved LP is the best way to go about this “quality time.” Maybe it’s just me, but I feel I hear more out of the recording on a vinyl LP as opposed to a digital replication. There’s been numerous times that I have been listening to an album on my phonograph and go back to relisten to a lick or drum fill I’ve never heard before, though I’ve heard the particular song hundreds of times on my car stereo in the past.
Furthermore, I feel that a good quality turntable, through a graphic equalizer, through a power amp and into a good set of speakers is the only way to truly hear the stereo spectrum at its fullest. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been spinning an album only to be amazed at how well-thought out the stereo spectrum was devised. Again, this has many times been on a song I’ve heard hundreds of times through my car stereo or a set of headphones on an iPod.
I’m not saying that there’s not a place for digital music. It is incredibly convenient and, for some people, the only way they have time to listen to music is through headphones while walking or working at their desk. However, I implore the general public to take that moment once in awhile and truly listen to the music, as it was meant to be listened to. And if you’re brave enough, go pick up some old second hand LPs and a good quality turntable, and tell me if you don’t hear the difference.