Monday, January 14, 2008

The Vinyl Solution

I was amazed to read a article, Vinyl Gets Its Groove Back, by Kristina Dell. It says that LP record albums are making a bit of a comeback, with one company,Warner Music Group, showing a 30% increase in LP sales last year.

The article cites three primary reasons: sound quality, extra material, and socializing.

Sound quality -- LPs generally exhibit a warmer, more nuanced sound than CDs and digital downloads. MP3 files tend to produce tinnier notes, especially if compressed into a lower-resolution format that pares down the sonic information. "Most things sound better on vinyl, even with the crackles and pops and hisses," says MacRunnel, the young Missouri record collector.

Album extras -- Large album covers with imaginative graphics, pullout photos (some even have full-size posters tucked in the sleeve) and liner notes are a big draw for young fans. "Alternative rock used to have 16-page booklets and album sleeves, but with iTunes there isn't anything collectible to show I own a piece of this artist," says Dreese of Newbury Comics. In a nod to modern technology, albums known as picture discs come with an image of the band or artist printed on the vinyl. "People who are used to CDs see the artwork and the colored vinyl, and they think it's really cool," says Jordan Yates, 15, a Nashville-based vinyl enthusiast. Some LP releases even come with bonus tracks not on the CD version, giving customers added value.

Social experience -- Crowding around a record player to listen to a new album with friends, discussing the foldout photos, even getting up to flip over a record makes vinyl a more socially interactive way to enjoy music. "As far as a communal experience, like with family and friends, it feels better to listen to vinyl," says Jason Bini, 24, a recent graduate of Fordham University. "It's definitely more social."

The sound quality issue is a bit odd. A pristine record may sound wonderful, but the majority of goods you'll get used are going to be damaged goods -- dirty, scratchy records.

Now maybe it's my imagination, but I do think there's something to the "superior" sound argument on a clean record. I've been running my LPs through a stereo pre-amp to my PC's soundcard and then processing the files with some software. With the record noise removed, the raw files do have a richer, warmer sound to them.

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