Can't Quit the Vinyl
You’d think that after all these years, vinyl would just die already. I mean, come on. Why would anyone want a vinyl LP when you could get something that isn’t a chore to use. It’s kind of a bummer when you can’t take your music with you. It seems like each innovation since vinyl (8 trak, cassette, CD, mp3, kazoo) make music portable. Who even has a record player anymore? Now, you can just plug your phone into your car stereo and listen to everything from Blink-182 to John Coltrane with ease. Or Adele…Oh Adele…
What's not to love?
What about sound quality?
You may not believe me, but mp3’s will never have the sound quality of a record. Seems counterintuitive, right? When you think records, you probably think of the crackly sound a well-used album makes, but that’s more of a testament to the durability of vinyl than the purity of the sound.
It all starts with the difference between analog and digital. Living in the “digital age,” going back to analog seems absurd, but what’s better about analog happens to go in hand with the reasons it’s less practical. When people say digital, they mean that the information (music in this case) is stored in tiny blocks. A digital recording can’t follow a sound exactly, but the difference is so minor that you can’t really hear it.
Analog, on the other hand, is stored using a full range of sound. Since vinyl records are analog, the sound of the recording is closer to actually being in the studio when the recording took place. You could think of it as the difference between a fraction and a decimal. Two thirds converts to .667: No matter how many 6’s you have, you have to round at some point just to be able to write it and work with the number. However, fractions are exact because they take away the necessity to round. In the same way, vinyl takes away the need for “rounding” sound. The beauty is in the precision and the resulting sound.
But vinyl is stationary
Of course! But doesn’t something that’s better always come with a cost? You can’t play an LP in your car or on a jog, but I think that aspect adds something. Since you have to be in one place to enjoy a record, not to mention the fact that there isn’t a “skip” button, you’re pushed to just sit down and really listen to the music. At first, you may feel cooped up in your living room, but the music starts to take the focal point, and you start to hear all the little details you never stopped to notice before.
Vinyl is hip
You may have noticed, but not only is the vinyl LP not dead, it’s in a pretty significant resurgence. New albums are coming out on vinyl alongside the CD and mp3 versions. Actually, most new LP’s come with a free download of the mp3. They also come on 180 gram records, which are thicker and more durable. But let me warn you right now, if you get a record on 180 gram vinyl, the records hold half as much as the old school Ted Nugent album you can pick up at Salvation Army, which means the album will be on both sides of 2 records. Why would this matter? Well, you’ll have to run over to your turntable 3 times to listen to the full album instead of once in the middle like before. You’ve been warned.
Also, new albums on vinyl may not make much difference in sound. Just think about it, artists these days record using computers, which store sound in digital. I’m not sure making a vinyl record of a digital recording will make the vinyl experience any more pure than the mp3. This may be why they give you a free mp3 recording with a new record?
But don’t be deterred from going out there and looking for a classic. There’s a whole world to explore. Don’t be afraid, just give it a listen and follow your heart. And ears.