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The Comeback of Vinyl

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I like technology, but sometimes I get a little too much of it. In the day and age when you are bombarded with cellular calls, text messages, e-mails, and pop ups, sometimes too much is too much.

Even music has gotten high tech. A recent study pointed out that 48 percent of teens didn't purchase music CDs in 2007, instead opting for music downloads through stores such as iTunes and Napster.

Amidst all this smattering of 1s and 0s (that's a digital reference, by the way) an old technology is seeing a resurgence. Vinyl it appears is making a comeback. Even among teenagers. From the Atlantic Journal Constitution:

On a recent afternoon 15-year-old Graham Saylor popped into Decatur CD to check out new releases. But he sprinted right past the CDs, stopping, instead, at the six bins of vinyl records.

Saylor prefers to listen to his favorite new acts, such as TV on the Radio and the Black Keys, on the black 12-inch platters. Some classmates at Decatur High School have become vinyl fans as well.

So what attracts the teens to a musical format that was proclaimed landfill fodder years before they were born?

"I just dig vinyls more. The tone is warmer. I'm not much of a digital guy," explains Saylor.

Building his collection since sixth grade, he bought a turntable on eBay for $60 and inherited audio equipment from his dad, Lance.

Saylor, according to last year's Nielsen SoundScan numbers, is hardly alone. The retail sales service reported that 990,000 vinyl albums were sold in the United States last year, up 15 percent from 858,000 in 2006. That accounts for about 2 percent of all music sold, compared to CDs and downloads. Still, its impressive for a format that began a sales slide in 1983.

For Christmas I received a Crosley 4-1 record player. It sounds great for its size and most importantly it plays the old LPs that usually collect dust in our basements and attics. I inherited a rather large collection of albums from my grandfather many years ago. Until recently I had no way to listen to them.

After listening to some of his records, mostly quirky polka recordings and an odd smattering of pressings by people like Knuckles O'Toole, I decided to expand my horizons and get some recordings that were a bit more contemporary. What I found surprised me.

Not only are vintage LPs relatively inexpensive, they are easy to obtain. You can get them at thrift stores, through eBay, and even on Amazon, where they have a section of their store dedicated to LPs. Many are vintage used albums, some groups such as The Beatles re-release their old music, while others such as The White Stripes and Norah Jones, release their new music on LPs!

Vinyl is different. When I put a vintage pressing of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon on my turntable and gently placed the arm on its shiny spinning surface it was as if I was listening to the recording for the first time. The warm and rich sound of a vinyl is unsurpassed. No CD can capture it.

In fact some LP pressings of popular artists are ONLY available on LP. I just mentioned Dark Side of the Moon. If you really want to blow your mind pick up a Quadraphonic LP of that title. Only available on LP. It is the best you'll ever hear.

Granted LPs are prone to scratches, dust, and dirt. A properly maintained and cared for LP will sound great for many years.

There is something tactile about pulling a piece of vinyl out of its sleeve, looking at the gleaming surface tracked with grooves, placing it on the turntable and gently placing the needle to it. It is something to truly be savored.

So fire up the turntable, sit back and listen to the warmth and enjoy the detached attitude of an old technology making a comeback and here to stay.

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About Tom Bux

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    And don’t forget about reading the liner notes! The print on CDs is so damn tiny! Good article.

    -Glen

  • http://kevineagan.blogspot.com Kevin Eagan

    I personally buy LP’s, CD’s and MP3’s. But I prefer vinyl, because of the larger artwork, the romance of the spinning disc, the division between side A and B (giving the album a different conceptual feel I think), and I like the warmth, and it just sounds better when played on headphones. Also, one interesting thing about buying vinyl is that it’s not only the same price in most places as a CD, most modern vinyl releases come with a mp3 download voucher or a bonus CD, so you have more portability with your music. You can’t go wrong with that. Plus, I went through and mp3-only shopping phase and I regret it, because I’ve missed out on the physical artwork and liner notes of so many great albums, and I really don’t want to have to re-purchase them. I don’t think these old technologies are going anywhere fast, especially with the impersonal nature of the mp3. Thanks for the article.

  • Tom Bux

    There is something romantic about Vinyl. It is so tactile. It almost forces you to listen to the whole album, or at least sides of albums.

  • http://kevineagan.blogspot.com Kevin Eagan

    Its “romance” was something tape could never reproduce, and the CD was about purity rather than romance, so yeah, vinyl has a Romantic (big R, the whole Wordsworthian sense of the word) quality that makes album listening a much more rewarding experience. I know that a lot of the other writers on this site agree with that too.

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    it’s funny, sacd was supposed to be the “next big thing”, and that never really took off despite better sound.

    so yeah, there are tons of vinyl outlets out there including Dusty Groove and Acoustic Sounds

    there’s definitely something more involving about listening to records. you’ve got to pay attention.

    oh, and for interesting writing about vinyl and associated stuff, check out the column at Perfect Sound Forever called The Vinyl Anachronist

  • Howling Rabbit

    Every five years or so it’s declared that vinyl is making a “comeback”. Really, give it up, people.

  • Joanne Huspek

    I still have my vinyl, and I’ll still buy it, too.

  • oldfolks

    Not only do I prefer vinyl LPs, I also prefer the warmth of analog radio. I have a 35w/channel Sansui receiver from the early 80s, and a Luxman radial turntable from a few years later with a Grado cartridge. Yes I do have CDs, and MP3 for portability, but I much prefer a good 33-1/3 LP.

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    what’s to give up? the fact of the matter is that vinyl is the only physical medium to have increased in sales over the past several years.

    this doesn’t mean that it’s going to overtake new formats.

    on the other hand, if it gives a person an avenue for discovering music (old and new), why not?!

  • http://www.aol.com Nicka

    Collecting vinyl has been a favorite (to say the very least) hobby for the past 28 years. I just picked up a Quadrophonic copy of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” on vinyl. It blew my mind! There is so much more to hear in this classic recording. You’ll have to listen for yourselves–you are all in for a treat! Just picked up some Les Paul & Mary Ford in Duophonic (two-channel). There is so much more out there. Definitely a hobby worth enjoying!

  • Chris

    The biggest selling point of CD’s is convenience. But MP3s and downloads now win hands down in that department. Therefore with CD’s fast reaching the end of their life, and MP3 style downloads replacing them, I suspect that Vinyl has established itself as the choice of audiophiles looking for high quality sound. Audiophile digital technologies do exist but there are too many to choose from (with more standards on the way) and none of them have enough titles to be worth investing in. Conclusion is – if you like to collect music then collect vinyl – it will be here long after many digital formats will have come and gone.

  • graham saylor

    graham saylor is a faggot