Vinyl – A new hope

Vinyl – A new hope

Seemingly moribund with the onset of CD, vinyl, especially audiophile vinyl, is now enjoying, says Paul Rigby, both a cultural and marketing renaissance.

Vinyl was supposed to be finished. As a mass medium, that much was true. However, like any mature industry which has experienced an initial, gold rush grabbing, pile ‘em high-sell ‘em cheap frenzy, what remains are specialists that serve the niche. Take the UK as an example and look at everything from clothing to bicycles, from handbags to pottery. Once a mass market is bled dry, the money men either change the product (from vinyl to CD to downloads) or they change the territory to lower production costs (UK to China) or they go up market (Bags to Burberry). Often, the shock of an industry collapse: the media headlines, the job losses and the industrial change in direction dominates public awareness, leading to a perception that that industry is no more. Such was vinyl. The dramatic format change in the early ‘80s from vinyl to CD caused a shock that many music fans have yet to recover from. Just about all populist media references to vinyl are made in the past tense. However, that is far from the truth.

Tim Livingston, Sales Director for US-based Sundazed (www.sundazed.com) referred to his company figures, “Sales are going up at a steady pace every year for the past five years or so and a lot of younger people are getting in to vinyl now. The audiophiles are part of the market but younger kids, 18-25, are really into collecting vinyl now.”

German vinyl specialists, Speakers Corner (www.speakerscorner.de), also declared that, from its inception, it has never reported a growth in turnover of less than 10% compared to the previous year.

 

“…2008 was the best year ever for us,” reported company boss, Kai Seemann, “more than 20% above 2007 which was the best year up till then.”

Despite the current financial crisis, which has slowed sales somewhat, “2010 will be close to 2008 and then we will have the increases in turnover we are used to again. This is not because of new customers or new markets (although we note a new, considerable interest in South America) but the existing customer base is willing to spend. I believe in a constant growth of customers who are disappointed by the digital offerings and want to buy a high resolution, physical product,” Seemann added.

It seems, however, that, as a vinyl label, you don’t need to be already established with a loyal client base to survive in today’s market. Even in these harsh financial times, there are still plenty of people starting vinyl-based companies. Take the newly launched Music On Vinyl (www.musiconvinyl.com), based in Holland. According to the head of its UK office, Mike Gething, “[Vinyl] is a viable business. It’s a niche market but it’s a deep niche. There are people who grew up with vinyl and people who are becoming converted to vinyl which means that it’s a niche market that will continue for a long time.”

Vinyl reissues cover many categories. Major labels, such as EMI and Universal, and mid-sized independents, such as Ninja Tune and Warp, still produce new and contemporary vinyl of new releases as well as reissues of older works plus 12” and 7” singles.

Independent specialist companies tend to focus and specialise on reissues of classic or long forgotten albums and they do so while promoting an ‘audiophile’ standard.

The term ‘audiophile vinyl’ has, historically, encapsulated a somewhat negative and elitist image. Some music fans are even afraid to be associated with the term for fear that they will instantly turn into a serious, chin stroking academic.

In fact, a piece of audiophile vinyl is more a badge of quality, a Rolls-Royce of records, a class of product that gives you both value for money and, most importantly, a gateway to some of the most enjoyable music you have ever heard. So, what is audiophile vinyl?

The term is, actually, rather nebulous as audiophile or high quality vinyl encompasses many factors. Current reissues will cater for one, some or all of these supposed audiophilic prerequisites.

To begin, audiophile vinyl pressings tend to appear on thicker than normal vinyl, referred to by their weight: 180gm, 200gm, etc. The benefits of thicker vinyl are somewhat contentious. The theory is that you have the ability to cut a deeper groove into the vinyl that affords the possibilities of a greater dynamic range. However, many enthusiasts declare that there’s no audible difference. More, some users who own turntables with a built-in clamp (that sits on top of the record spindle and secures the record to the deck) prefer thinner vinyl. They say that the clamp couples the thinner, more pliable vinyl to their deck more successfully, improving sound quality that way. Whatever the truth, heavier vinyl does lessen the chances of warping and offers a psychological effect of better value for money.

Often, heavy weight vinyl is advertised in conjunction with the term ‘Virgin Vinyl’. This refers to vinyl that has not been used before and recycled. The audible benefits result in a much quieter playing surface.

Another major aspect of audiophile vinyl – arguably the most critical element – is the source. The better the source (that is, the original medium that the artist recorded upon), the better the chance of a great sounding LP. The preferred source is the analogue master tape: it offers no sonic limits and can produce stunning aural results. Other ‘lesser’ sources can still produce startling results, however, including acetate (for those pre-tape era recordings), vinyl-to-vinyl dubbing (often utilised for ultra-rare albums and private pressing reissues), even cassette tape (listen to some of the Vinyl-On-Demand box sets for proof, www.vinyl-on-demand.com) and even – dare to say it – digital (most modern recordings).

The mastering itself is another critical variable. Of course, any mastering engineer can make any form of recording shine and, on the flip side, he can absolutely ruin it. However, for an audiophile recording, one that arrives with a gamut of top-of-the-line specifications, the fine line between success and failure is that much more critical. It’s no surprise, therefore, to find that many audiophile record labels take a lot longer to produce their records than a standard LP as more care and attention is required. The audiophile genre is also the only recording sector where the top mastering engineers themselves become minor celebrities, featuring their own, largely online-based, fan clubs.

Finally, the process of cutting the record grooves to maximise sound quality is just as essential,  “Back in the heyday of vinyl, the ‘50s and ‘60s, vinyl cutting was very much an art,” explained Bob Irwin, founder and owner of the US-based audiophile outfit, Sundazed – whose audiophile releases include Bob Dylan and The Byrds. “There were people who cut records magnificently and there were people who didn’t. This is why there are collectors who will chase after original pressings such as Columbia 1As or Blue Note Deep Grooves. They are chased because of the superior sonics. Not because different master tapes where used, they probably used the same tapes, but a more experienced engineer tended to take more care and utilise more skill for that first pressing. Someone who regarded the cutting of the laqueur as an art form.”

Some companies have even attempted to push the technology further with varying degrees of success. Mobile Fidelity (mofi.com), for example, produces ‘Half Speed’ vinyl. This is a sub-genre of the audiophile standard. It refers to the album’s master tape which is physically played back and then recorded to vinyl at half the normal speed,  “This solves many inherent ‘tape playback’ problems,” commented Abbey Road, half speed expert, Miles Showell, “At half speed, the signal is cleaner as it passes through the system, especially for brass instruments. Also, it is not apt to cause any kind of power supply or slew rate distortion.”

Which gives you a glimpse into the complexity of creating a top quality audiophile record.

The ‘Half Speed’ followers are not the only splinter group in the audiophile market. Other successful technological improvements have been implemented by Classic Records (www.classicrecords.com) in the USA via its Clarity vinyl editions. Changes that make up this standard include alterations in the recipe of the vinyl itself, how it is pressed and modifications in the groove guard shape (the thick lip on the outside of the record). It also includes the implementation of a completely clear vinyl that the music arrives within. The milky-blue tone represents the total absence of Carbon Black, the substance that makes all vinyl black in colour. Carbon Black features metallic, magnetic impurities. It’s this magnetism – small though the reading may be – that can produce harmful effects on a sensitive turntable cartridge. It is noticeable, for example, how much more focused a ‘Clarity’ disc is during play when compared to a standard black version which sounds almost diffuse on the edges of the soundstage, in comparison.

One of the problems of the audiophile vinyl sector has been the comparative lack of variety and scope in the catalogue. This is not the problem of the independent but the outright miserly behaviour of the major labels who often refuse to grant a license for use on swathes of their precious archive. The independents are nothing if not persistent and ingenious, however, chipping away at this stubborn, culturally stultifying, behaviour.

Music On Vinyl, for example, has just managed to secure a deal with Sony/BMG, “Sony will reissue certain titles but, where they don’t, we now have the option to bring those titles into our catalogue. This means that, before the end of this year, we will have released around 20 titles from the Sony back catalogue. During 2010, in addition, we would hope to add a few independent labels to our roster to enable us to release a total of 50-100 records.”

Another advantage with this particular company is that it also owns its own vinyl pressing plant (the ex-Sony plant, based in Holland, in fact). Hence, the increasing catalogue, says Gething, will always remain ‘active’, far in the future because, “we can print little and often”. Unlike other companies who only press single, limited quantities and then delist them which only frustrates collectors.

Another new UK vinyl outfit, Three Black Feathers (www.threeblackfeathers.co.uk), which will start its existence by releasing a range of classic British folk albums from the likes of Martin Carthy and The Watersons, features heavyweight vinyl, remastered at Abbey Road by two of the engineers who recently worked on the recent Beatles box set remasters, featuring newly written liner notes. Each have been mastered with quality in mind so that some single albums, packed with music, have now been expanded and released as a double album to reduce the amount of tracks per side to just three. The reason being that, the fewer grooves on a vinyl side, the better the quality of the music therein: another audiophile trait.

The new Nic Jones’ English folk reissue, Penguin Eggs, illustrates the extra effort. Label owner, Chris Heard, had to approach the British Library to access the masters. The album is currently viewed as an artefact and is stored ‘for the nation’.

“We had to get permission to get the masters from the library. In fact,” added Heard, “we were not allowed to take them ourselves. They were sent, by taxi, by the head of the label, directly to Abbey Road. When the album was remastered, we even used the same console that Pink Floyd used to record Dark Side Of The Moon.”

The future of vinyl is especially healthy and, bizarrely, threatens to see out the CD and become the last physical format available for sale. As Heard himself states, because of the digital culture and downloads, “…people want something tangible, something that they can touch and feel. Never underestimate the hunter/gatherer urge in any male. A bloke needs something to collect. It’s something innate in us all and I don’t think that it will ever go away. It’s also a lifestyle choice: you either go the minimal route and store your MP3s in a digital space or, in this multimedia age, you can buy a heavy record that’s been pressed with care and love and you have all the sleeve notes, done to a high standard and with passion.”

Similarly, Sundazed’s Bob Irwin is extremely upbeat about the future, “I’m very optimistic about it – and I’ll take on anyone who isn’t!” whilst UK label, Pure Pleasure’s MD, Tony Hickmott, continues to believe that vinyl is the receptacle of the very soul of music, “As Ray Charles once said ‘The CD, it don’t got no balls’”

ALL OVER THE WORLD

One of the most remarkable features of the current vinyl market is the formation of a loose world confederation, almost a global cottage industry. Small, dedicated companies working on a small scale, each tending to find its own sub-niche of quality product. Here’s just a small selection of the companies involved.

The UK, of course, features a range of specialists including blues and jazz from Pure Pleasure (www.purepleasurerecords.com), heavy rock from Devil’s Jukebox (www.lamf.biz) and 80s classics from Vinyl180 (www.vinyl180.com)

Germany provides hard rock from SPV (www.spv.de). Spain can offer a selection of very rare Krautrock releases via Wah Wah (www.wah-wahsupersonic.com) or rare world folk – including British folk – via Guerssen (www.guerssen.com). The USA is chock-a-block with labels including Audio Fidelity (www.audiofidelity.net)  offering classics from a range of genres including rock, psychedelia and singer-songwriters. Italy provides classic 60s releases and exotica via Vinyl Lovers (www.abraxasrecords.com) while Russia’s Lillith can offer everything from 80s new wave, 70s prog rock and 60s classic rock. There are even respected, audiophile, labels in the likes of Greece (Missing Vinyl; www.veamusic.com) and Japan (Venus). There are many more that I’ve missed.

A tip for the future? The Chinese market is currently packed to the gills with dozens of specialist HiFi companies, 99% of which you and I have never heard of, offering niche products such as valve pre-amps and turntables of professional design and construction. Watch and wait for the Chinese and other Asian territories to break out in a rash of reissue record labels.

SPECIAL EDITIONS – FOR ALL

One of the joys of vinyl is the special, limited edition. That category often presented within a box set format containing multiple slabs of vinyl plus plenty of extra goodies. Newly released examples including Paul McCartney’s 4LP Good Evening New York, REM’s 4LP Live At The Olympia and Tom Waits’ 7LP collection, Orphans.

One of the experts in this field is the UK’s own Vinyl Factory (www.vinylfactory.co.uk) which focuses on new, chart-friendly, records. The company releases them as luxurious vinyl box sets, emphasising both design and artwork for an average £50 price point. They’ve already released Primal Scream’s latest album, Beautiful Future and the Damon Albarn, Monkey project.

Bidder dismissed the notion that luxurious vinyl is aimed at the 40+ market and that teenagers are ignorant of vinyl, “The common perception is that young people don’t buy music but only download free tracks,” said Vinyl Factory’s Sean Bidder. “That’s not true. Young people don’t bother buying anything on CD. If they’re going to buy anything it’ll be on vinyl where they want a certain amount of care and detail to the record.

“For us as a company, we are engaging with music that is viewed as ‘popular’ in its broadest context. We also plan to publish box sets which may be viewed as more cult or marginal in their appeal.”

Look out for a special edition 12” single from Massive Attack, Air’s Love 2 and a special edition box set featuring Massive Attack, to come next February.

ON RETAIL

It’s all very well banging on about vinyl and how good it sounds but, with the collapse of the record trade on the High St, where on earth do you buy it from? Top of the list is Diverse Vinyl (www.diversevinyl.com), an online retailer that still runs its own High St. record shop. Despite the recession, business is relatively good, “When that limited edition comes out that the collector needs for their collection, they’re finding the money for it. Our sales are index linked to the amount of releases that come out. As soon as product arrives, then people are right onto the phones,” said MD Paul Hawkins.

Despite a dip in sales, this year, due to a quiet Summer of releases, the company has reported excellent sales previous to that, up 20% over the previous two years, up dramatically from the 5% for the earlier two years. “I would put that down to some impressive reissue campaigns. For example AC/DC put their entire back catalogue out and the Travelling Wilburys box set did really well for us.”

Online business has been, on the whole, a good thing, “Yes, it has robbed us of a lot of shop trade but then it’s given us lots of international mail order trade, in return. We’ve gained more than we’ve lost. In fact, 90% of our revenue comes through mail order channels.”

One startling fact revealed by Hawkins is the current stock of world-wide, new releases and the choice and variety now on offer, “There’s more choice in the vinyl market now then there was in the mid-80s, when everyone was beginning to say that vinyl was on the way out.”

He does reserve his ire for the major labels, however, who, he feels, haven’t helped to create this now bountiful market, “It’s taken an age for the big guys – Universal, EMI and the like – to see the potential of vinyl. And how stupid because they’ve been in it from the start. They react so quickly to trends in the market but they take their eye off what they’ve already got.”

Thanks goodness for the independents, then. Yet, even Diverse Vinyl is getting in on the act with its own vinyl imprint. Two of its most recent releases include Idelwild’s Post Electric Blues and The Duke And The King’s Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Also look out for other retailers such as Stamford Audio (www.stamfordaudio.co.uk) and Classic LPs (www.classiclps.co.uk)

161 Comments

  • jkat says:

    It’s just goes to show you – never throw anything away! I recently acquired a large collection of classical recordings, virtually untouched. Some of the best recorded music I’ve ever heard bought for pennies at a garage sale.

  • p childs says:

    I’ve been buying music for close to 40 years, the only regret I have is getting rid of so much of my vinyl over the years. But,moving a lot made it harder and harder to justify the cost of moving that much weight. I’m down to about 1/2 of the vinyl I used to half.

    There’s a fine tactile quality to an album on vinyl CD’s will never be able to replace. I’m wiling to put up with the pop, hiss and hum in some cases.

  • Chiren says:

    I also have vast collection of vinyl, the sound that vinyl gives as compared to the cd or mp3 downloads always makes one play the vinyl over the others. The vinyl will always come out on top.

  • Jyrki Niukkanen says:

    Vinyl souds great, that’s true. One important thing is also that you’re not only listening music, you take the record from the cover, put it on plate of the player, brush up dust and finally you lay arm and pic up cartridge gently on the first track. That is the point, and also enjoying the music!

  • Sam says:

    . Found my record collection while cleaning out the garage last month and decided to play Pink Floyd’s The Wall album on my 20 year old TEAC HiFi system, as this still had the turntable connected. What a revelation, sounded magnificent it’s amazing how different, fuller and smoother the sound coming from vinyl is. Can’t wait to audition some of my collection on more appropriate equipment

  • J-P Mousel says:

    I grew up with vinyl, and still appreciate it to listen to my collection. But since the new hype about buying new releases on vinyl, i have had some arguments with people that say that vinyl sounds better than CD. I always just say that it has (unarguably) a different sound and that’s all there is about. I will keep my collection in good shape, enjoy listening to it, but will never buy any new release on vinyl, as i prefer the constant quality of a digital support (remember: vinyl is exposed to wear as the needle runs through the grooves)

  • tomaspa says:

    In my humble opinion the problem with CDs is that they were not as good as they told us 30 years ago, when they started and vinyl was still the more common support.

    It is SACD that can offer the quality that we expect from discs. But it has arrived at the wrong moment, when music, or noise really can be compressed and distributed via internet and played with computers. Most people are not ready to pay the difference in price between the quality support format and the nearly-for-free compressed music.

    Anyone agrees/disagrees?

  • ironbut says:

    I never gave up on vinyl and since the advent of better turntables/cartridges/tonearms, I’ve been a strong supporter of it. In fact, it was only since the advent of hi rez downloads that I bothered to listen to digital.
    I don’t think that I’ve spent more than $1k on cd/sacd in my life but I probably spend that much every 6 months on vinyl,.. that is until recently.
    The last few years I’ve listened more and more to reel to reel tape. During that time I’ve become a big supporter of The Tape Project and a subscriber to their master dubs. It is the ultimate if you wish to hear what it sounds like to be in the control room during the actual performance. I realize it’s not for everyone. The tapes are very expensive! But, if you wish to say that you’ve heard the best and haven’t heard these tapes, you’re wrong!

  • Jerry says:

    I was fortunate to be on a number of recordings with the Chicago Symphony Chorus under Solti and others. I got to hear the playbacks between takes so I know the live sound and the taped sound. I have a few of the recording on both vinyl and cd. When I listen to the vinyl I am taken back to the recording sessions. The cds are shinny like a new car. But with vinyl I’m bathed in the warmth and glow of sound.

  • Pete Maher says:

    Interesting from Atane in response to my comment about dust. I have a stack of protective sleeves and sure enough when the vinyl is in the sleeve it doesn’t accumulate dust. The problems start as soon as I take the vinyl out of the sleeve. But anyway my main point is that I personally have never heard vinyl sound anything like as good as CD – I don’t doubt that there are those who have but for me vinyl has never given me as good an aural payback as digital. Living on a smallish island with no hifi retailers doesn’t really give me an opportunity to explore or experiment with either format very much but I am more than happy to have opted for digital.

  • John Hart says:

    When Sony and Phillips released the CD, Pandora’s Box was opened. High quality music reproduction was within the reach of anyone who could afford a few hundred for a player. Music became portable, it escaped the lounge room,. Along came the personal computer that enabled digital copies of CD’s that were mirror images of the original with no sonic degradation. The internet brought about new ways of distributing, listening and sharing music that took everyone by surprise. I can access music from my iPhone, CD player, Music Server, Radio; on the move; music has become a commodity; something to be consumed and traded.

    The Vinyl recording forces me to stop, shut the world out, sit in my lounge chair and listen to the music. Another world opens up, a clarity, dynamics, good old fashioned liquid analogue sound that takes you to another place and time. Its something physical, and experiential that we have lost with our new music delivery systems.

  • Mark Ho says:

    I, for one, would like to add an analogue front end to my system in the near future.

  • Charlie says:

    I like to listen to my old records, I have half master pressings and virgin vinyl pressings. The problem is: quality is hit or miss. Unless you pick those up, most regular records aren’t always well made. Some albums sound great and others are awful.
    I think the record industry suicided. They could have made quality pressings but decided people weren’t that finicky and who cares about a skip here and there – that maximized their profit, providing the music lover with a good recording was way down on the priority list.
    Once they started making CD’s from the original master tapes and not those equalized for phono play back, CD quality took a leap forward. CD’s are portable, take up less space and are more easily moved to PC’s or iPods or whatever. And that format is used by everyone from kids to ‘mature folks’. I have a lot of great records, but at the cost of special pressings, I can have 2 CD’s for every 200 gram vinyl pressing I buy. In the end it’s all about enjoying the music, not the medium. Wishing you good listening!

  • Chris Cubbon says:

    A while back and with regret I started to buy CDs instead of vinyl because it’s cheaper for me to do so. In my opinion there is a significant difference in sound from these two sources. I prefer the sound of vinyl personally but couldn’t say it was ‘better’ After a while I got used to the sound of CDs. After a while I spotted some 45 represses and LPs I needed, they were on vinyl only, so I enthusiastically ordered them. And what a joy it was to play records again. I’ll always prefer vinyl, hands up they didn’t compete with the digitally re-mastered CDs where sound quality is concerned but the clicks and pops of the vinyl were a joy to here on a Big Maybelle 45, just as they would’ve been when the original was released. I enjoy both formats now. CDs because they’re inexpensive, vinyl because, I’ll change my mind, it’s better. Digital, I wouldn’t have it in the house. Or out.

  • Makhdoom says:

    Most people do not bother with formats as long as their music sounds reasonably well, so if there is no distortion, no noise, and no funny business, most people are happy.

    So will certain formats make a come-back, yes definitely, for some. People spend just a little bit more if they think it will make them feel special. So in my opinion it’s more about how certain formats make people feel as opposed to how they sound, and of course music to me is more about how it makes me feel and the rest takes care of it by itself.

    That said some music tends to sound better on vinyl and some on CDs, so it will actually boil down to how a person prefers ones sound. Kind of like picking speakers from various manufacturers they sound different and you pick out those that sound best to you for the money you dish out.

  • Razvan Bestea says:

    I love SACD’s and DVD-A. I also find the 24 bit FLAC appealing, even if I do not have find yet the best way to liten to it. I feel it brings a lot over CD on the same system. But for me the teleportation machine exist! For me, on the play button of the turntable is written BEAM ME UP! Is something phisical, I don’t hear more but I feel more!

  • Jazzfan says:

    Vinyl will out last CDs but not digital music. By digital music I’m referring to music available as a digital audio file, whether low, CD or high resolution. Digital music will continue to rule the roost but vinyl, as the only viable customer fully analog format, will also continue to have an important place in the playback of high quality audio.

  • Dog of the Bay says:

    I like vinyl but think it will remain a niche format – price, bulk, relative fragility and squandering precious hydrocarbons all count against it. On the other hand I can see the record companies enjoying the fact that you can’t make bit-perfect copies of it! The exciting thing about high-resolution downloads is that they’re the first medium since the LP to offer a potential quality increase over its predecessor – and bypass the drawbacks of vinyl. Me, I buy music in all three formats but avoid anything brain-damaged by lossy compression or obtrusive DRM.

  • Paal says:

    I think vinyl will continue to excist and probably grow. The record players, arms and pick-ups have never so good for the money as they are now, and that process will continue as well. New makes and models are seen, which will secure playback in future. That goes for phono stages as well. Quality of the records it self are also improving, as pristine pressings of former and present releases are seen even often. And just imagine the pleasure of lowering the pick-up onto the record and just sit back enjoying the clear sound of a well kept record. And as a bonus – you are able to read the cover without specs as you must on the microprint on a CD cover.

  • Chris Johnsen says:

    I listen to music from CD, LP and music server. They all have their pros and cons. I love the warmth of vinyl playback on a great system, especially when listening to classic albums and reissues of albums from the 60′s and 70′s. When you get into the 80s, 90s and beyond, the recording processes changed and most everything is captured digitally now. Not that an LP of a current artist can’t sound magnificent but I think a certain quality has been lost in the transition from analog to digital at all points in the sonic chain.

  • Jessie says:

    I’m 26, and for the last 4 or 5 years, I’ve been buying primarily vinyl for my music collection.

    However, this has put me in a bit of an interesting position as I still like to have a lossless digital copy in my itunes library / on my ipod. Most new vinyls that are released come with MP3 download links, but I’m hoping to one day see a lossless option as I’m currently buying the vinyl, and downloading a flac or alc via torrents. In some cases I’ve had no choice but to buy both the CD and the Vinyl, only to rip the cd into itunes, and then add it to the stack of discs that never get touched again.

    ” Do you still love vinyl? Or do you feel it’s an antiquated format with no place in a digital
    world? ”

    If anything, there is no longer a place for the CD format in a digital world. It’s my opinion that vinyl is well on its way to becoming the most widely preferred tangible format. Since jumping on the iPod bandwagon, it’s very rare that I’ll actually listen to a standard CD, and with all those files stored in lossless formats on my computer (which can be easily hooked up to any sound system via a good sound card or external usb / firewire DAC) there’s just no need to open up those jewel cases any longer.

  • Vickie says:

    I agree that the demand for vinyl is increasing with certain people. Some people will always be satisfied with 128 bit (or lower) mp3′s. Others prefer higher quality sound – the higher the quality the better in some cases. Some can’t hear the difference between low quality mp3′s and FLAC. Others can. It has always been that way. Some people were happy with radio quality music while others always bought the vinyl.

    Now that more people are retiring with more disposable income and (supposedly) having more time for leisure activities – ie music, I can see the demand for vinyl increasing.

    As for us, we have a large music collection (over 6000 albums in cassettes, CD’s and vinyl) that we are slowly moving to digital (FLAC format). We play the digital collection the most due to the ease of finding what we want to listen to but when we want to have an evening of music listening, we get out the vinyl.

  • Mark says:

    The younger people of today live in an increasingly sterile, digital environment. The boom in social media is proof that we need to have interactions with others in our daily lives. Vinyl takes us back to a time when this was more the norm. Vinyl has, for lack of a better term, soul. Soul is something a CD can’t impart. We feel completely removed from the recording process, and with that, away from the artist.

  • Frank says:

    Best of two worlds.

    as with all technical developments you just have to be patient enough. When the first CD’s came on the market, many people couldn’t wait to get a hand on it. Visiting friends and listening to their new CD players i really could not share their enthusiasm. Okay, there were no clicks and pops any longer but the sound was poor and cold.
    I waited 10 years before I bought my first CD player and that made a big difference.
    Today digital sound can be as good as analogue. It’s just a matter of good mastering and high resolution recording.

    As long as there are people who care about good sound, Vinyl will not die. It captures sound on its most natural way, combined with a good digital recording it will do the trick.
    As for me; I still listen to Vinyl. The most beloved ones go on the computer, recorded in 24 bits 96000 hz and the burned as DvA.

  • Hasse says:

    Vinyl can sound great, unfortunately at a much higher cost than a good digital playback system. Just think of what a decent record player, tone arm, pickup and phono stage costs and compare that to what you need to pay for a high quality DA-converter or CD player.
    Of course it has it’s charm fiddling with a record player, but I have come to a point where I allow myself to be lazy and just click on the computer screen to find and play the music I like, this aware of the fact that I nowdays don’t loose anything in sound quality.

  • Felix says:

    Too me it is very much horses for causes here. I love my old Vinyl and never gave away one which I did not really regretted buying. It reminds me of the discussion over wine glasses. Does one really need 60 or more Euros worth of hand made crystal from Austria to enjoy a decent red one from France? No, but it adds to the overall experience for some of us, and to me the same goes for vinyl. If I however just want some background music controllable from a little device streaming (lossless) music from a hard drive is hard to beat, and while traveling, an ipod nowadays provides a service unheard of before. Therefore I greatly appreciate the variety of devices available to listen to music to with both vinyl and digital having clear advantages depending on what one wants to achieve. But I will certainly not miss the CD once its gone, too much storage space for so little look and feel.

  • Olav says:

    I do support the 24/48 FLAC approach better than re-inventing the vinyl. I agree that sometimes a booklet would be nice. I propose to offer printed booklets by SoS for those who want it.

  • Nass says:

    What sounds better Vinyl or Cd? The truth is (with my 30 year experience of buying vinyl & 25 years of buying cd) You can have a really good vinyl pressing that blows the cd away or a cd mastering that puts the vinyl in the shade. Sometimes the Cd & Lp of a recording sound similar.

    Its a myth that EVERY vinyl version sounds better & there is a lot of people who just plonk a cd player on a shelf (have a cynical view regarding cable) hence them getting a rubbish cd sound. Yes vinyl has that 3d soundstage that cd lacks but unless you got a 12 inch arm & a very expensive Turntable/Cartridge/Phone sited on a VERY STABLE table , you usually find Cd is more consistent across the board ,its pitch & clean background has mass appeal (My Turnatable is a Gyrodec & Cd is a Meridian 507).

    People should not be so quick to write off Cd cos “Download” is a souless experience

  • Boris says:

    I bought a new turntable a half year ago, a very high quality and state of the art product. It cost close to 20K $ and now you can say “are you craisy”, but i think not.

    Because it make me really happy !

    I listen 3 or 4 times a Week music, and since them i hear with 90% vinyls.
    At the first days after buying the turntable, i´m not really sure, if vinyl sounds better than cd´s, but after listening a longer time only vinyls ißm really sure !
    After i switched back to a cd, i image somthing is wrong, but everythink was Ok, it was an other art of sound. And for me, vinyl sounds “Better”.

    I have 98% high quality vinyls e.g MFSL or other Products from Classic Record or SpeakersCorner, and with those Producs you listen with a lot of fun.

    I even hear CD´s but for the future a prefer viny sound.

    Boris

  • Hans-Jürgen says:

    Vinyl creates a very special kind of sound, organic and smooth.

    A relict of the god old times.

  • Neil Arnold says:

    Depending on the occasion, both formats have their merits: There is no doubt about the convenience and simplicity of digital music, and I use it a lot as background music at dinner, at my desk, etc. but when I really want to listen to the music, there is no substitute for vinyl.

    We usually play my iPod through dinner parties and often find ourselves in the lounge in front of the stereo playing vinyl on my Sondek (Akiva / Ekos / Lingo / Linto) after dinner.

    Digital music has convenient simplicity, but for me, it comes with a certain detachment from the artist. Whereas listening to Diana Krall doing “A Case of You” or Eva Cassidy “Fields of Gold” on vinyl never fails to bring on the goosebumps. This has been all the more apparent since I bought new B&W 683s. Last night I played Melody Gardot’s new LP “My One And Only Thrill” and friends commented that they felt as if they could reach out and touch her.

    As for clicks and pops; get a decent record cleaning machine, use it regularly, (I have a Nitty Gritty) and buy some good inner sleeves; MFSL, or Nagaoka.

    So, I guess it’s the old ‘horses for courses ‘ debate but I think both formats have their place. I for one hope manufacturers never stop producing vinyl. For me, it’s the only format that connects me with the music the way the artist intended.

  • Larry G says:

    I grew up with vinyl and my first record player was in 1972 when I was 10 years old. For years I copied my LP onto cassette tapes with DBX noise reduction and listened to that to save my albums wear and tear – I used a Nakamichi tape player that would flip the tape for me. In 1984 I graduated from College and rewarded myself with the newfangled CD player (Technics for $800). By 1991 when my Harmon Kardon linear tracking TT died, I didn’t replace it because it was such a pain to have to keep and maintain the records static free and dust free.

    I only recently picked up a used NAD C555 (Rega P2) and Ortofon Blue M2 cart (Nov 09), and I have not been impressed with my old vinyl vs my CDs played through a nice transport and DAC. I’ve been more interested in hi-res 24/96 downloads, with it’s black background, no pops and crackles, and no LP flipping at the end of a side. I suspect if I invested in a vinyl disk cleaner and nicer phono preamp maybe I would like the newer audiophile pressings, but my LP’s from the 70′s and 80′s just don’t sound good to me. I’d like to enjoy them more, so I haven’t totally given up yet.

  • Rob hyde says:

    All I can say is I tend to be pragmatic. Vinyl is nice and we get nostalgic which is good and lets face it fun. If you have the money and time. BUT Vinyl does not sound the best. If a cd is mastered right and you have good equipment there is no comparison.

    The next thing is lossless computer files which will replace cd s in the next 20 or so years. We all know it. They can sound fantastic better than any cd. The other medium is DVSs or SACD. Perhaps they may make a come back but I feel in my bones it is going to be a computer file of some sort and Ipod. They really are sensational if used right. I have one running through a very nice system and a B and W Zeppelin for the kitchen. Always use lossless files on a large external HD. Easy. Sometime U have to buy the CD to rip it but so be it. My only reservation is nostalgia. I cant change that. But reality tells me….

  • Rob hyde says:

    All I can say is I tend to be pragmatic. Vinyl is nice and we get nostalgic which is good and lets face it fun. If you have the money and time. BUT Vinyl does not sound the best. If a cd is mastered right and you have good equipment there is no comparison. A diamond needle will always wear out a plastic record. Physics determine that. I read somewhere that after about 20 plays a record was finished.

    The next thing is lossless computer files which will replace cd s in the next 20 or so years. We all know it. They can sound fantastic better than any cd. The other medium is DVSs or SACD. Perhaps they may make a come back but I feel in my bones it is going to be a computer file of some sort and Ipod. They really are sensational if used right. I have one running through a very nice system and a B and W Zeppelin for the kitchen. Always use lossless files on a large external HD. Easy. Sometime U have to buy the CD to rip it but so be it. My only reservation is nostalgia. I cant change that. But reality tells me….

  • Sparrow says:

    There does indeed seem to be a general ignorance of the very existence of vinyl today. One does have to look-out for it as it has long disappeared from the High Street and is therefore invisible to the general public.. There are two aspects of purchasing today: new issues and audiophile reissues. Of the former, something like Graham Coxon’s ‘The Spinning Top’ is exemplary and is just so much more satisfying to listen to than the CD or download. Of the latter, the Genesis reissues of original LPs, remixed and on audiophile pressings, are hugely different to both the original vinyl and the CD. Having said all that, listening to vinyl is a static activity but we are all so mobile these days. I also love my iPod. Horses for courses!
    I think the very best solution is the ‘Back to Black’ series of audiophile reissues that come accompanied by a download code. Best of both worlds!

  • Chris says:

    Though all of my collection currently resides in one digital form or another, I have borrowed friends turntables a couple of times. I think I have to agree with what a couple of other posters have said. Vinyl has the ability to have more dynamic range, and a fuller sound than a CD. However, that depends on the quality of the original recording, and the quality of the pressing. I think the interesting comparison may come in a few years when music is released on blu-ray and is more easily available. It should narrow the gap for good recordings as we will be able to use 24 bit storage instead of the 16 bit storage we are tied to with CD.

  • Dan Haskin says:

    Vinyl has the ability to make one feel the piece, not just hear it. Yes, I love vinyl’s sound over digital… of course. Yet, environmentally I prefer digital… no paper, no plastic. I’ll make the sacrifice and take digital for that reason.

  • petert says:

    Vinyl, generally speaking, does sound better than CD. However, it merely sounds different (not better, not worse) than a good high resolution (24 bit) digital file (to my ears).

    What is indisputable is the pleasure that can be gained from not only reading LP liner notes, but also looking for messages scrawled in the lead out groove :-)

  • Peter O says:

    Over the last year or two I started buying vinyl again, sometimes because the music was only available on the format and often because of the “vinyl experience”. The whole debate about CD vs LP is a bit like posters vs paintings. Paintings may require more care and remain more vulnerable, but a poster can never fully replace the real thing. As for sound quality, and double blind testing etc – and changing metaphors – there is a reason why double blind restaurants never really caught on.

  • Apex says:

    Can Vinyl kill compact disc??… it’ s not possible to compare this two format for the completly different approch.
    It is an incredible deep threedimensional smoothy sound with a sourrounding percepsion that is just a little bit disturbed by the scratch of the time.
    It is an intimate confidance with tactil and visual emotion for this cool black “pizza” that run in a slowly-quik sensual way, it’s something that not necessably concern the music only.
    that’s vinyl.
    To the other side the CD no soul!!… but the stranght of support, the possibility to hear music withaut changing LP side and the information on lcd screen are the best confortable tool to listen music in relax with some friend, less binding, more playfull and more powerfull..
    Today I just see vinyl as the best hi-fedelity support but with mp3 and loosless format as the most confortable and muvable, both together media format and vinyl can definetly kill the CD as the very best combination.
    The same music is never the same, we fallow our emotion, we are the music that we listen so we are the format as well, so many time I am an easy CD, or an impressive emotional LP.

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