VinylLPI know a lot of you.  If we’re not talking about some rock band, or some new reissue, or some new band release, we’re talking to each other via email.  So, in a funny kind of way, I know a lot of you and the way you like your music.  Which leads me into this small thing.  I already know that more than a few of you are not as pleased at the resurgence of vinyl LP.  But I, for the life of me, can’t understand.  Let me tell a story:

For years, I have been going to the Orange County LP show, picking up an album here and there.  This has turned into a kind of new obsession.  Basically, my current goal is to regain as much of the old vinyl I had (and I’ve had tens of thousands through my life).  It is so much fun revisiting the thrill of finding that beloved album.  But the story…

I was soon joined by a friend who didn’t have a turntable.  I just convinced him to come and enjoy a lunch at the show (they serve great sandwiches).  He’d leave right after the lunch and I would fall into perusing and buying, ten discs at a visit.  The following day, he would ask what I found.  I’d tell him.

One day, he decided to look around “for a bit”.  He ended up buying a few LPs despite the fact he had no turntable on which to play them.  But I think he had already resolved to getting one soon.  Very quickly, he stayed the duration with me usually buying as many as I did.  He eventually got that turntable.  And his reaction was as expected…the sound coming from his speakers were pretty incredible.  He was hooked.  He now comes to every show.  We have recruited a few pals and every once in a while, they come too.

The underlying part of this story is that LPs really do sound great.  Perhaps greater than they should but there it is.  Analog trumps digital.

Not long ago, Wired magazine ran a piece on a bit of research they undertook.  They compared every kind of music playback to the method’s counterparts.  MP3s, Flacs, CDs, LPs, etc.  And in every case – EVERY CASE – they found that LPs trumped the other formats.

Now, if a new band releases in LP, I will picked that up as the preferred media.  I especially like 180g (or heavier) weight LPs.  And I have so, so many to acquire – and reaquire –  between now and the day I go to see the Great Band.  And there are those I have never had in vinyl, those I list and look for jealously, like The Sundays’ three albums (as an example).

Yeah, I still get CDs, and the occasional MPs or FLAC.  But it’s LPS I desire most of all.  I’m very, very pleased to have vinyl available to me, more so now than any time since the mass acceptance of the CD.

So now, let’s hear what the TAP community at large has to say on this subject of vinyl LPs.  Past history?  Or a welcomed reentry into our world of music?

By MARowe

13 thoughts on “The Age of Vinyl…Again?”
  1. I have nothing against vinyl and I think it sounds great. I bought my first LP in 1966. I collected for about 12 years. My problem is more about convenience. It’s extremely rare for me to sit and listen to music in a room for 30 minutes or more. I listen a lot in the car and with headphones on the move. I try to listen to lossless rips or 320 Kbps because I recognize the sound difference. But for me it’s just not worth collecting vinyl if I’m just ripping everything anyway. In the ideal world I’d have a $3000 turntable and 200 gram high-fidelity vinyl copies of everything, and lots of time to sit and listen. But that’s just not my current reality. So better to enjoy the next best thing.

  2. I have no problem with the resurgence of vinyl either, and maybe the sound is a tad better (very subjective matter there once the lp has been played 50 times – no clicks, pops or other extraneous sounds on a cd after 100 plays), but I’ll still stick with my cds.

    For those that prefer vinyl, go for it and more power to you. I actually think it’s a good thing that vinyl is finding its way back for a niche market. It is an indicator that the music industry is willing to supply niche markets which means a higher probability for more 5.1 surround sacd, dvd-audio and bluray product which is also a niche market.

    I guess my attitude is, been there, done that. I made my choice to go digital in the late 80’s and I’m sticking to it.

  3. I will “third” the statements of the others. I loved LP format, but I found trying to find an unblemished copy of an LP almost impossible. I could never stand the pops, hissing, skipping or warping and all the best equipment couldn’t disguise the faults. I, too, think it is great that the niche markets are being catered to – and like Bill, I hope this brings even more remasters, SACD or whatever to the market. But I also can’t let these so-called comparisons of CD/vinyl/mp3, etc. go by without commenting. In every case I have seen, they are always comparing apples and oranges. You have a turntable which tracks sound physically from a wax groove and CD, that uses a laser to record bits which are then converted to sound. You would have to have every component somehow calibrated to be equal, never mind the quality of the DAC, the cartridge and stylus, the turntable, the speakers, the amplifiers, the interconnects. I know vinyl by nature can be warmer than CD, but given a really good CD player with a top DAC, those warm waves are now very close in output. I would not go back to fighting for clean sound again, but hey, everyone has different tolerances. Long live all formats I say!

  4. I hve very mixed feelings. To my upper left sits a turntable. On my lower right a PC full of ‘lossless’ iTunes tracks. Scatterred throughout the house, thousands of CDs, hundreds of LPs, and more than a few SACDs, DVD-Audios, blu-ray audios, and even cassettes. There are two issues for me. First is the equipment. I’ve spent a lot on the media, but not so much on the equipment. So I don’t believe I get the most out of ANY format. I have middle of the road quality on all fronts. I believe that many of the comparisons rest on testing done with upper tier equipment, and I don’t get there with mine. I’m happy with all of them. I can hear differences (surround sound King Crimson in the Living Room!!) of course, but when I’m in the car? I’m faced with road-noise competition and it’s just not going to be the same. So that brings me to the second issue. Convenience is what really drives the decision. Shuffle Play All is great. I made mix tapes in the ’60s on open reel tape decks because I’ve always had a DJ lurking in me. I like listening in the car; with my later roles as a husband and father, I don’t get to dominate the house with speakers and amplifiers, so the car is now my refuge for listening (the only reason I can survive commuting!!) closely to my music. Of course, quality matters, which is why I still seek out QUALITY LPs. I’m lucky to have a local brick-and-mortar vinyl shop nearby, so I can check out the discs before buying them. But on the whole, vinyl has been disappointing over the years. As Bob pointed out, there are quality problems there too! But the occasional gem shows up (I found a copy of ZZ Top’s Deguello that sounds so good I’m stunned!) and I have some old Japanese pressings of the Beatles, the Stones and Pink Floyd that blow away any remasters on CD. So I keep an open mind and keep looking. I tend to ‘rip’ my LPs into digital format (at as high a resolution as possible, which beats CDs) and add them to iTunes, but I still give them a spin when I’m sitting at my desk. Bottom line is that I’m happy with the diversity of options, and I’ll continue to exploit them all!

  5. Well, I’m writing from Spain, where old vinyls used to be crap. Scratching and hissing from the very beginning. Things have changed, and today we can buy 180-gram editions, which provide the best sound ever. What’s the problem now? Instead of paying 20 euros or more for a brand new LP, you can have CD’s at half the price, with the bonus tracks and stuff. So vinyl is only for collectors and the truly dedicated.

  6. I couldn’t agree more strongly with Matt. I was exclusively ‘digital’ for over 26 yrs and bought nothing but CDs in that period. About 1.5 yrs ago I decided to dust off an old turntable and since then I’ve put together a very decent vinyl system. Fortunately I never threw out my old vinyl and was always anal about keeping it clean when I was younger. There is simply no better sound to my ears than sweet vinyl. It’s open, warm, and alive. Now I buy my music exclusively on vinyl. Of course I still listen to digital formats and also subscribe to Spotify. But when I want to chill with an adult beverage and get lost in the music, nothing fits the bill more than spinning an old copy of some Zep or Floyd or Stones while relaxing on the couch. If you really love music and have never heard what a decent vinyl system can do for the sound, you really owe it to yourself to explore the Vinyl Universe. Thanks, Matt, for the post!

  7. Just lost my entire collection of vinyl LPs that I have been collecting since my 10th birthday to super storm Sandy, I’m done. No more collecting, my CDs survived in a different part of my home, that’s all I have now and don’t plan on replacing the records, had all of the Beatles, Dylan, Zeppelin, etc. I enjoyed them very much but that chapter of listening is gone.

  8. I feel the same way as several people here. Vinyl done very well sounds amazing but it can be a real pain to find copies of old albums that aren’t trashed. Even some brand new records I’ve bought have been very noisy, scuffed, scratched, warped, or pressed off-centre and it’s really frustrating. Given all of these issues, I still prefer and collect vinyl because the amount of dynamic range compression on cds, dvd-audio discs and digital downloads is sickening. I’m very sensitive to the muddy, muffled, flat, lifeless sound of compressed music and I absolutely can’t stand it. I’d rather buy an old album 4 times before finding a decent copy and spend countless hours ripping my records to put on my ipod than listen to brickwalled dreck.

  9. It’s CDs and vinyl for me. I have everything between VG+ to NM. Took alot of hunting down to do so. The Police and Styx albums sound better on vinyl than CD so I made transfers from LP to CD. I have quite a few Pink Floyd albums on LP (they sound great still), Genesis (original mixes which were discontinued on CD), The Who (original mixes also long discontinued on CD), The Eagles, The Beatles, Steve Miller Band and quite a few others. The rest of my collection are CDs.

  10. I remember the good old days of vinyl. I had a Linn Sondek LP12, with top of the line head and stylus, and pretty good amplifier and speakers, then to put a brand new LP on that, and hear clicks, pops and buzzes really put me off all the potential audio advantages. Also the storage space to take up some 4000 LPs, was prohibitive, when you get married. I now have about the same number of records, mostly CDs at Lossless, but also SACDs, studio quality 96/24, and even 1 or 2 192/24. I have them on a NAS, which takes up the space of about 20 LPs, I can play the music anywhere in my house via Sonos and Synology, listen to stuff at a very reasonable quality from Spotify and on iPods, iPad and iPhone. Sorry (I remember the days of a record player in the car we were so keen to listen to our own music!) but the convenience of digital music heavily outweighs any (subjective) advantage of vinyl. To achieve the improvements Wired and co talk about, you need to be listening on top-end kit, and I know they are using similar kit for SACD/Studio masters etc, but if you play vinyl through the average listeners kit, you are not getting any big improvement over digital.
    This does lead me to another of my bugbears. Why did the Pink Floyd Immersion sets force you to buy vinyl and blu-ray? Surely you’re either one or t’other?? The Steven Wilson solo you could buy whatever you wanted.
    Anyway, as John Lennon said, whatever gets you through the night, and if a demand for high-quality vinyl leads to general high-quality audio releases, I’m a fan!

  11. As a professional recording engineer and music producer, I have a few comments to make. I am not a vinyl hater, but also agree with some other commenters that to really get an accurate comparison between vinyl and CDs, you need to make sure that EVERY item in the chain is perfectly calibrated relative to each other, which is nearly impossible with consumer gear, especially considering the RIAA EQ curve – frankly, a dodgy technical method to attempt to achieve frequency response linearity playback with vinyl. If people spent as much money on their digital signal chain as they do to make their analog vinyl sound good, I contend they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference with a well-mastered CD, except of course for vinyl’s many deficiencies, and it has quite a few of its own! One of the things you simply can’t get around is the degradation of sound as you get closer to the end of each side – the vinyl travels past the needle more slowly towards the center – it’s simple physics! And so often it seemed my favorite songs were at the end of the side!!! I can hear this on every vinyl record I’ve ever listened to. CDs get around this circular phenomenon by changing the revolution speed depending on where the laser is reading off the disc – the data stream rate is always the same.

    I also think it important to distinguish between AUDIO compression and DATA compression. DATA compression is not applied to CDs, only digital formats like mp3 and iTunes AAC files. The aural effects of each are completely different from each other. And it’s one thing if you’re buying a vinyl copy of an album from 25 or more years ago – but you are sadly mistaken if you think a vinyl copy of the majority of releases that have come out in the last 15 years or so has not gone through a digital stage at some point or avoided a certain amount of compression (or to be more precise, brick-wall limiting. This is the actual processing that most music releases go through today to make them “louder”). There may be a few esoteric releases where the mastering engineer has applied completely different limiting to the vinyl master than the CD master, but those are few and far between.

    So, I too dispute many of these listening tests. I know from first-hand experience that music I produce in the studio can sound indistinguishably close when I listen to a well mastered CD or especially a high bit rate digital version.

    1. Thank you, Tim, for your insights. I knew that there would be digital processes involved in today’s vinyl issues. I’m so glad that most of the vinyl I go after are the ones recorded in analog, and processed as such. Thanks again.

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