OK. As an engineer, I REALLY don’t get this. I honestly do not understand records at all…
I know the math, and could calculate the noise present in a digitally sampled signal – and it is very low for 16-bit PCM (CD format). You could get slightly lower noise by going to non-linear sampling (a-law or u-law, for example), but the average person would have a very hard time being able to tell the difference.
Really, the ONLY think that I can think of is that records are not as accurate and introduce distortions, but ones that people happen to like. When making the master record, the needle has mass and introduces frequency-dependent attenuation and group delay. Same thing for the needle reading the signal. ADC and DAC converters suffer from none of these limitation.
I can understand some frustration with MP3 music – it is lossy. However, people who really care about such things and can hear a difference are free to go to FLAC, which sounds exactly like the original CD. With modern cell phones and computers able to handle FLAC with no problem the only issue is increased storage space, but even 64GB micro-SD cards are not very expensive.
Vinyl is also more fragile, cannot be backed up, and is not very portable.
Do we have any vinyl fans who can enlighten me?
That’s part of it. I think it’s also being able to get more goodies with your album, record sleeves can have much bigger, nicer graphics or goodies stuffed inside them then the equivalent CD case could.
They’re also immune to the Loudness War mastering problems that CDs, MP3s. FLACs, and any digital music can be prone to, because you physically can’t master vinyl records like that, the needle can’t read it right.
In my case, it’s pretty simple. I’ve had a turntable since I started. By the time CD became established, I had too many LP’s that I valued to throw away, take the time to transcribe to CD, or spend the $$ to replace with CD equivalent (and not all were reissued on CD).
I have bought few new “180 gm vinyls” (the term LP seems to have been discarded). They are very fine. Mind you, I played a 1965 LP the other day that was also very fine. Better than CD in general? No. Different? Yes; I can notice some small differences in a few cases where I have both formats. I don’t have the technical expertise to figure out the source of the differences. Could be remastering, could be inherent format differences, could be a lot of things.
The packaging of LP (when well done) is more satisfying, and I will admit to occasional pleasure in the playing ritual.
But to address your question more directly - if I were starting over, would I get into vinyl. No.
It’s a collector’s item. It’s a way for me to support artists I like beyond my spotify subscription.
These studies only mention “new album sales,” and never mention used record sales, which account for the VAST VAST majority of the vinyl record market.
Used record sales are much harder to quantify as the stores which sell them don’t really report their numbers.
Humans are nostalgic.
And they like to accumulate material culture.
Used record sales also don’t impact the industry in general, as they don’t create revenue for musicians, labels, or manufacturers.
I’m not sure how much new vinyl is sold used, though.
I personally think the biggest advantage that vinyl has over its competitors is that it’s so overtly analog. It’s huge, the vinyl is an analog reproduction of the music, and (in my opinion) it’s not as chinzy as CDs (plastic, easily chipped cases, small discs that are read by being sucked away into a device, etc.).
CDs are a commodity, while vinyl is a niche. People will pay twice as much for vinyl, despite it being the same music. Therefore, it seems logical to me that people see vinyl, and its associated packaging (primarily its packaging?) as something worth paying extra for.
Wow. I’m actually a bit amazed that people are still buying physical CDs, let along vinyl albums.
In a post-apocalyptic future, it is reasonable to presume that I will be able to DIY a rudimentary record player. I won’t even need electricity.
It’s not “vinyl vs. CD” if it is in fact any kind of battle - it’s more like “analog representation of music on vinyl vs. digitized representation of music on any media capable of holding digital files”.
I supposed the grooves can encode some music that some people can hear a difference in, but the 44KHz sampling rate for CDs means a pretty accurate representation up to 22KHz (Nyquist’s Law) which is 2KHz above what they say the average human ear can detect. For me the digital version is indistinguishable from a vinyl version - unless I bought a CD to replace an LP I had, in which case the digital version doesn’t have the noises that were put there by my poor handling of LPs as a teen.
There are some important reasons why I prefer digital:
- I can’t scratch the digital copy(ies)
- I can make backup copies of the digital files
- I can put the digital files on whatever digital media I need it to be on, so if it needs to move to a MicroSD card for whatever new device I bought, it’s easy to do
- If I saved the original digital files from the CD (.wav files) I can switch formats from MP3 to FLAC to 23rdCenturyAmazingFormat without having to play the music in real time, or handling the files one at a time. I can let the computer do the work
- Storage space! a large LP collection takes up several cubic feet in a house; a large digital file collection does not
That said, it is and always has been a personal choice, and you can choose to do it however you want.
As others have mentioned it is a combination of tangible and intangible attributes, which Vinyl has over streaming services, digital copies and to a certain extent CDs, that has renewed its popularity in some circles.
You mentioned the distortion some people seem to really like and others have mentioned the value added aspects to vinyl packages (the article above mentions the Jack White album that is ridiculously pack with cool stuff). We like physical things so the desire to own a physical version of something that you connect with makes sense. A gatefold LP is luxurious when compared to a standard CD. The collecting impulse, taste and the desire to define oneself through the objects you keep.
The intangible appeals of vinyl are harder to pin down. In the records stores I’ve been in what I’ve noticed about the people buying vinyl, this is completely unscientific I know, is that it is both men and women who are buying (more men then women but still more than I expected). The age range, as mentioned in the article jives with what I see, folks in their 20’s and Boomers. For Boomers I imagine there is a component of nostalgia to vinyl purchases but for the 20 somethings? I’d say no. I’d guess that it was searching for something that was more authentic (whatever that means). For many there is a ritual to listening to an album that is fundamentally different then listening to your digital music player.
When I can buy my music in DRM-free FLAC format I will stop buying CDs.
Remarkably, 62.9 million in 2014!
Oh, I still buy them (CDs) too. Usually from the musicians themselves, or from their assistant at the table at the back of the performance.
It’s object fetish. It’s collecting. It’s not about the sound (no matter what people tell you :).
Two reasons why I still buy CDs:
- I like sound quality, and some artists’ work isn’t available as lossless downloads. (David Bowie, please get with the program.)
- Often CDs are far cheaper than the FLAC release, because lots of people aren’t buying CDs any more.
for me it is almost entirely psychological. i love the look, feel, and ritual of playing vinyl with a small 8 watt tube amp. i love futzing with the balance and weights, and i love that when i put on an album i have invested purpose into listening to it. by no means would i argue it is ‘better’ or digital is inferior in any way. however flipping through a vinyl collection, and taking care during the music just makes me smile.