The Rise and Fall and Rise of Vinyl

Which of the following statements is false? 1. The sun rises in the east. 2. The hands of a clock go clockwise. 3. New technology is always better than old technology. This last statement, of course, isn’t quite as gospel as the others. Sometimes old technology has advantages that cause it to linger longer than we’d expect, or in rare cases, even make a comeback.

Let’s consider print versus pixels. Conventional wisdom states that printed books and magazines will be obsoleted by digital media, probably within a few decades. Except that’s not what’s happening. From 2008 to 2010, e-book sales rose almost 1,300 percent. Printed books went on the endangered species list. Borders bookstore declared bankruptcy. It was widely predicted that sales of e-books would surpass printed books sometime in 2015. Instead, e-book sales from major book publishers fell 10 percent in the first five months of 2015. It appears, at least for now, that e-book sales have plateaued at about 20 percent. Amazingly, the number of independent brick-and-mortar bookstores, selling printed books, has increased.

This is partly explained by the steep rise in the price of e-books. Thanks to price gouging, a printed book is now sometimes cheaper than an electronic one. Also, e-book subscription services, particularly Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service, skew sales figures. And, these sales figures do not accurately reflect the millions of people reading self-published e-books; in that category, sales are up strongly. But, in any case, Gutenberg’s baby is alive and well.

Now let’s consider music. Conventional wisdom is quite clear on this. Sooner or later, physical media will cease to exist, and all delivery will be by streaming or download. Smart money has already bet heavily on this. For example, Apple paid $3 billion to buy Beats, largely because it wanted to strengthen its foothold in music streaming. It’s a done deal. Or is it?

Vinyl is hopelessly, romantically sensual.

Is there a parallel between books and music? Would consumers ever seriously begin buying physical music media again? Printed books offer readers a direct, hands-on experience that electronic text cannot provide. A printed book offers a welcome time-out from the ubiquitous screens in our lives.

With that in mind, is it conceivable that consumers want to turn back the clock on music technology? If so, how far? If we’re searching for music delivery that is charmingly antediluvian, we have to go further back than any digital media, back all the way to analog media. That is, to vinyl. Essentially, vinyl is to recorded music as a printed book is to text. They are both suitably primitive, yet familiar to us, and provide the perfect antidote to technology.

Vinyl sales have been rising for years; in the first half of 2015, sales were up 52 percent by value and now account for 30 percent of the value of physical media. Independent bookstores are making a comeback; could record shops possibly do the same? It all seems so improbable. Compared to obviously technically superior files, vinyl is bulky and fragile, prone to defects and degrades with use. Vinyl is everything that modern consumers shouldn’t want. But they do want vinyl. Why? Because compared to all other music delivery methods, vinyl is so hopelessly, romantically sensual.

Conventional wisdom isn’t always correct, or at least isn’t always on schedule. Sales of physical music media are declining. But the renaissance of vinyl informs us that more and more people are looking for a more satisfying way to listen to music.

The vinyl comeback, in my opinion, has become significant. Totally counterintuitive. But after dealing with technology all day, is there anything better than putting on a record and curling up with a good book? A printed book, of course.

COMMENTS
dommyluc's picture

I can't wait for those wax cylinders to make a big comeback, too. That recording of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford doing a rap version of "Mary Had A Little Lamb" is the absolute SHIZZLE!
Geez, I lived through the vinyl era, so I really wish people would stop romanticizing it. Lousy pressings on recycled vinyl that looked like used asphalt scraped off the highway, 2nd or 3rd generation master tapes, surface noise, clicks, pops, lousy dynamic range, lousy S/N ratio. But yes, let's all go back to the wonderful world of vinyl (and most of us teenagers and young adults couldn't afford $2500 turntables and $900 tonearms. Hell, I could barely afford the premium prices of the MFSL limited edition pressings that were available). Hey, and to hell with 7.1 channel surround or 11.2 channel Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, too - how could they possibly compare with the absolute purity of MONO?! And while we're at it, let's bring back 240-line VHS, too. 4K video? Bah, humbug!

MatthewWeflen's picture

I get the feeling you don't like vinyl.

dommyluc's picture

I loved vinyl, when it was about the best (couldn't afford a reel-to-reel deck and pre-recorded tapes when I was younger) and about the only quality way to listen to music. Cassettes were really intended for dictation, and 8-Track was an abomination from Hell.
But I also loved my bell-bottom jeans - in 1971.

Michael Fremer's picture

While Ken keeps up with the digits he thinks vinyl playback is stuck in the 70s. Very smart people have been updating it ever since. Ken obviously isn't interested in that. He's happier to be dismissive. Analog playback is not "primitive". Ken's tribal thinking is.

thehun's picture

Vinyl's renaissance has nothing to do with tech, it's a fad a long lasting one indeed, but it will pass.

Michael Fremer's picture

Nor is it a fad. Why are you so pissed off about it? It's not about you. Go about your digital business. You really are among the vinyl clueless who feels a need to lash out at something you really don't understand.

thehun's picture

LOL Talking about pissed and clueless, easy there pops you might blow an o ring.Try a different power cable, it might make you feel better. :D

Michael Fremer's picture

You are very primitive. Now sit back and take it. If you don't think power cords make a difference you are primitive and arrogant and clueless. Now have a nice day!

thehun's picture

I rest my case. LOL

thehun's picture

meant Primitive?

Michael Fremer's picture

You haven't made a case. I went to law school. Trust me, you have not made a case for which you are entitled to rest LOL etc.

thehun's picture

That was my point I don't have to make one you do it just fine for everyone to see.

Michael Fremer's picture

About your "thoughts"...

thehun's picture

So then why are you keep replying to me?

GG Allin's picture

A fad, by definition, is a short-lived trend. Vinyl has been on an upswing with massive year-over-year increases for 10 years already. I now have two healthy record stores in my neighborhood. THere is something much deeper here than anything that would be called a "fad."

thehun's picture

Should have used that like above, but no matter some pettifoggers will emerge nonetheless. Yes vinyl sale is up, but it is still a nieche compared to it's former glory, the same way your neighbourhood record stores are.Yes I agree there is more to vinyl's resurgence than just pure fad, but they will never be "deeper" than subjective "reasonings".

Michael Fremer's picture

Very bitter. I wonder why? Maybe because you are on your umpteenth A/V receiver upgrade and now have speakers in your ceilings and floors to better enjoy explosions and hear drums behind you where they never are in real life?

Michael Fremer's picture

And haven't a current clue.

Deus02's picture

This article is rather timely in that over the last few days I happened to watch a bunch of youtube videos in which quite surprisingly, the esoteric and very, very expensive is still alive and well in the two channel audio vinyl world. Tens of thousands of dollars is still being spent on equipment and speakers whose brand that I, personally, have never heard of along with every so-called room improvement gadget that ever existed. Add to that the enormous sums spent on snake oil cables and wiring which they insist improve the sound. In these videos, it is almost like a religious experience with these people and the owners are so wrapped up in their equipment and telling everyone what they have, I am not really sure that they spend that much time actually listening to the sound and the question sure has to be asked WHY?

To the small percentage who still spend their money on vinyl along with these outrageously expensive systems, it sure beats me.

Michael Fremer's picture

Because you don't understand. You don't understand because you haven't experienced it or don't care to but trust me, the people who do really do spend a great deal of time listening. And you would be very surprised to find out exactly who are "these people". They are not fools or dupes.

Deus02's picture

It seems with your tirade of articles, YOU are the one that has the problem, here. As far as not understanding because I haven't experienced it, just for the record, now at 70 years old, I spent over 25 years in the music business as a musician and later on as a producer so although, unlike yourself and the examples of readers that you quote, I actually MADE the music in recordings, not just listened.

Whether or not vinyl is better or not is totally irrelevant to me, I am not a great fan of any of the current brand of music anyway so my current listening experiences vary considerably on my "piddly" $30,000 system.

Frankly, just from your responses, it just verifies why I don't read publications such as Stereophile and the audiophile snobbery that oozes out of it, of course, you, being the "poster child" for all of it.

Michael Fremer's picture

I have been fighting for decades for what I believe is truth in sound. It's funny you see nothing insulting or petulant or outrageous about calling a very alive and improving technology "primitive" but when I defend it you offer me a self righteous response. I'm glad you actually made the music. I actually supervised the soundtrack to an Academy Award winning soundtrack so bully for both of us.

loudogp250's picture

This is my first post. I don't understand all the hate towards vinyl. I love most digital formats. HD audio files are awesome but when I have a stressful day at work nothing relaxes me like coming home and placing a record on my turntable. I am in my 30's and the vinyl experience has added new life to my love of music.

Michael Fremer's picture

People who don't understand something feel threatened and so they react with hate and bitterness. I too have thousands of CDs and high resolution files and surround sound etc. but like you I find that nothing in the digital domain reduces stress compared to good vinyl playback. I talk to young people all the time who feel as you do. Once they hear it they are there. The more some push back derisively as in the posts here the more the vinyl people push back. That this "fad" keeps growing drives these folks crazy. As it grows, their rhetoric grows more inflamed. Mine heads in the other direction. When I heard hoe awful CDs sounded at the beginning I was inflamed. Not now.

Michael Fremer's picture

Ken embraced CDs when they were introduced and the sound was abominable. I'll cut him some slack and say he was mesmerized by the tech. He obviously still is. However calling vinyl playback "primitive" is both ridiculous and insulting. The individual who designed my pick up arm has Masters Degrees in mechanical engineering and material science. He is hardly "primitive" nor is vinyl playback in the 21st century. Ken stopped paying attention to probably 30 years ago so I understand why he's clueless about the state of this highly sophisticated mechanical science. The fact is vinyl still sounds more musical and more like real music than any digital format. That is what fuels the revival. I know. I talk to the young people way into what is 100% guaranteed not to be a fad. Among my 104,000 plus Analogplanet readers are astronauts, microchip designers and others well invested in modern scientific endeavors and they agree with me that vinyl sounds better. I'll put any of my 40 year old records played hundreds of times against any digital version and the record will sound way better. I do this all the time or skeptics and win every not most of the time. The sarcasm, defensiveness and bitterness in Ken's piece and especially in the snarky (shmucky actually) comments under Ken's post can be found under most such stories. Maybe these people aren't so much enjoying their brave new digital world? Otherwise what accounts for their tone. The reason people don't anymore sit down and pay undivided attention to recorded music much anymore becomes obvious the first time a youn person sits down and listens to a record properly played back. But if you love your digital I'm good with that. Why are so many of you so bitter and angry by what brings us so much listening pleasure?

thehun's picture

The only truly pissed off person here is you, and you've been like that for a long time. Just read your own tirade here and other threads as well, it's all too clear.shmuky?LOL How ironic.
If vinyl relieves your stress as you claim,it's clearly not working.

Michael Fremer's picture

Yes vinyl does relieve my stress but so does responding to snarky posts that obviously bother me more than you so you respond to what I posted but give a pass to people posting things far more offensive than what I posted. As for your personal attack on me as opposed to what I posted, that's expected. The 100,00 plus unique visitors at Analogplanet.com have a different opinion of me and of what I write. You will orobably not excuse me for defending myself against your attack but excuse me for defending myself and defending the so called "primitive" technology.

thehun's picture

You're the one came here charging like a crazed bull, you called people right off the bat all sorts of names, if you're so sure about the superiority of your beloved vinyl you would let dissenting opinions fly, and not acting like a hurt child whose toy just been taken away. I know lots of people who loves vinyl sound yet choose to be civilized about it, why can't you?

Michael Fremer's picture

My comments were in reaction to sarcastic turd slinging so it's pretty funny that you ignore that. I have no problem with "dissenting opinions". I do have a problem with charges that vinyl is "primitive" (it's not) and I have bigger problems with snotty sarcasm, which is what was posted here before I got involved. Why should I be "civilized" responded to what was posted before I posted anything?

thehun's picture

Your initial posts were way below primitive or snotty sarcasm as anyone can see that, except you. I can assure you that you only hurting your case and those who happens to like vinyl as well. If I was one of them I would be rather embarrassed that you appointed yourself to be this foamy, foul mouth spokesperson of vinyl aficionados.Good luck with that!

Michael Fremer's picture

I could care less that you would be "rather embarrassed" by what I wrote. I assure you I'm not the least bit embarrassed by any of it, nor would be many or any of the 100,000+ unique visitors monthly who visit analogplanet.com.

I've been fighting this battle for 30 years and apparently despite my "foamy and foul mouth" I've been quite effective at it—no luck involved.

The tone and substance of many of the comments under Ken's piece were as I described them. Ken's characterization of vinyl playback as "primitive" was inflammatory and insulting.

I'm not sure from where you drew the conclusion that I'd appointed myself to be the "spokesperson of vinyl aficionados". I have made no such "self-appointment". That is your fantasy—one that I'm sure helped you whip up an extra dollop of self-righteousness.

Bosshog7_2000's picture

Ken, young people are embracing vinyl for sure...for several reasons. Firstly, they weren't alive when vinyl was big so it's a novelty. Secondly, vinyl does sound better to them than crappy MP3's of poor quality played through a lousey iPhone DAC. Thirdly, vinyl is cool...my Marantz 6300 sitting on my walnut credenza looks bad ass.

That said, there is a reason why vinyl was replaced and it hasn't changed. Records scratch easily, take up a huge amount of space, and are not portable. Then there's the fact that a hi-res audio file played through a high end DAC sounds better, period.

Michael Fremer's picture

Your analog front end updated or your set up improved.

Bosshog7_2000's picture

Your DAC needs to be improved.

Michael Fremer's picture

I have reviewed three generations of DCS DACs. They are considered among the world's best. I have also had here MSB's best. These are about as good as digital gets and they are very, very good. Sorry, but records still sound better. I was sitting in a neighbor's hot tub last summer talking about all of this with non-audiophiles who couldn't believe I "still played records". They had no idea there's been an vinyl revival. So I invited them over. Everyone dried off and they came over. They were Stones fans. I compared The Rolling Stones SACDs on a DCS stack to original UK British DECCA pressings I've been playing since the 1960s. They'd never before heard a system like mine and the SACD playback floored them. I played them "Aftermath" which was engineered by the great Dave Hassinger at RCA's Hollywood facilities. Great recording. Then I played the LP. Levels matched, etc. I don't play any games. It took about two minutes when one guy blurted out: "I get it. The SACD sounds great but on the record, Mick Jagger was standing 'right there'. That happens not most of the time but every time I do a comparison for a skeptic.

thehun's picture

:D

Bosshog7_2000's picture

Just because you say it is so, does not make it so. TRUE Hi Res audio sounds better then vinyl, when played through a quality DAC. You will never change my mind.

Michael Fremer's picture

Just defending what i know to be true. I have access to more TRUE hi-rez files than I can possibly listen to using very, very good DACs and the records still sound more life-like to me. These are two very different technologies that produce very different results. To each his own...

Michael Fremer's picture

Sorry about the typos above. Written on my phone. At airport on way to yet another vinyl event

lutry's picture

Volume growth has been happening for some years now - and is in fact accelerating. This is an indication that the majority of the people that "joined" vinyl is NOT "leaving". Also, records are not exactly cheap, neither are turntables - so one can suspect the the majority of the joiners will think twice before investing into this. By contrast a hipster's bear has definitely much lower sunk cost.

I listen mostly to digital - in the car, running, cooking - but when I want to disconnect, relax, or whatever, nothing beats vinyl (not even Rob Watt's Dave.

Bosshog7_2000's picture

Mike Fremer you need to sit down and relax buddy....just because people have differing opinions to you does not make them 'uniformed idiots'.

I'm 43 years old so I grew up with records/tapes, then CD's, then crappy MP3's, and now hi-res audio. I own some vinyl and it is fine for what it is...namely a nostalgia format with a nice, warm sound. But I tell you what, hi-res audio tracks played through my Sony HAP-S1 DAC sound LIGHTYEARS better. If you think otherwise you are deaf, period.

matteos's picture

And you are wrong. I've compared redbook, HiRez and vinyl of several albums that I have. In every case vinyl trumps everything. Played through the same system. I've got a $300 DAC and a $300 MC cartridge. the cartridge is so far ahead it is not funny.

With newer recordings that have been recorded digitally there is way less of a gap. Often indistinguishable. But something recorded in analog that has never seen a digit. Night and Day, every album, every time I've compared it to the digital version.

But I really don't care what digital lovers like. Enjoy your music in whatever format you like. I personally love the few DVD-Audio's I have played through my surround system.

But to say digital is better... Yeah, that's a joke. As long as you have a half decent system and not some crappy Crosley and such.

Bosshog7_2000's picture

Sorry, but arguments like 'I've got a $300 DAC' doesn't go far.

matteos's picture

That's not the argument. The argument is that my DAC cost the same amount of money as my moving coil cartridge. If you must know I have around $15k invested in my system. Including a Nelson Pass First Watt J20. A KEF R series surround setup including Dual subs and a rebuilt Lenco L70. Maybe I'd spend more money on a DAC.. but what would be the point since 90% if my listening is fine on vinyl. But thank you for your patronising comment. As if people with less income and less money invested can not have an opinion an audio playback. Should I not be allowed an opinion if I was listening to a pair of Andrew Jones pioneers?

Bosshog7_2000's picture

I'm not being patronizing...read your post, you were the one who brought up your $300 DAC. Based on the equipment you supposedly own I'm sure your vinyl does sound good, and probably is the reason digital doesn't. Invest in a better quality DAC that plays hi-res audio and then buy a REAL Hi-Res sudio track and tell me what you think.

There's nothing wrong with vinyl, I own vinyl too....but to say it's superior to Hi-Res audio is just outright garbage. Most people who claim vinyl sounds better either A) have a poor DAC or B) are listening to poor source files.

matteos's picture

Perhaps I need to spell it out? A mc cartridge turns analog playback into electrical signal. A dac turns digital into electrical signal.. they perform the sane functions. Just with different sources.. the equipment I supposedly own? What is the point of continuing this discussion? I own a great setup. First Watt j2. Denon pra 1000. Kef r500. Kef r200c. Kef r300. Dual Kefr400b lenco l70 with denon r103r.. my digital cubes from a $2k gaming computer with an Asus xonar. Do I've got good stuff.. and vinyl sounds better as long as it was recorded in analog.

Bosshog7_2000's picture

Gee, thanks for 'spelling it out to me' the difference between an MC cartridge and a DAC. You still don't get it, so let me spell it out for you...not all DAC's are the same....some suck, some are good, some are stellar. All things being equal (using same amp, speakers, pre-amp) a TRUE Hi-Res file through a great DAC should sound better through your system.

matteos's picture

And by the very same measure, not all MC cartridges are the same. Honestly. Are you stupid? The vinyl versions I have played through an equivalent costing MC cartridge vs the high rez versions of the same album played through an equivalently costing DAC played through my system... The winner is the vinyl every time. I have maybe 10 albums where I have Hi Rez and Vinyl (And redboo) versions. I have these precisely for this purpose as I wanted to have the best sounding system I could possibly afford and that includes source material. Nobody is going to call a Denon 103r a bad cartridge. And nobody is going to call an Asus Xonar Essence STX a bad soundcard (Powered by a 1000Watt PSU). So all you are doing right now. Is irritating me. Why don't you go plug in your music and stop chiming in with your worthless opinions. You have never heard my system.

Bosshog7_2000's picture

Call me stupid, I'm sure that helps with your frustration with your lack of comprehension. The fact your paid $300 for both your MC cartridge and your DAC doesn't change the fact your DAC is the weak link. Enjoy your records...hope you don't break any in anger after reading my post.

matteos's picture

You telling me to go back to school is rude and offensive. Your opinions are stupid, hence the reason I call you stupid. I'm not angry. I am merely making an observation about your idiocy. Feel free to not talk to me and waste my time.

Michael Fremer's picture

I have a very nice digital system and 4000+ CDs SACD and hi Rez files. I am not deaf. I do NOT like reading that vinyl playback is "primitive" because it is not and so I respond rather strongly for which I apologize to no one especially the sarcastic commenters who I happily attack because they are well deserving of it. One of the reasons vinyl has returned is that I am a fighter and apologize to no one for that.

Michael Fremer's picture

I have a very nice digital system and 4000+ CDs SACD and hi Rez files. I am not deaf. I do NOT like reading that vinyl playback is "primitive" because it is not and so I respond rather strongly for which I apologize to no one especially the sarcastic commenters who I happily attack because they are well deserving of it. One of the reasons vinyl has returned is that I am a fighter and apologize to no one for that.

Bosshog7_2000's picture

Vinyl sounds great...I agree with you there. If you have a decent system the sound is very warm and engaging. That said, the format is primitive, just like the other guy said. It's a very old (primitive) means of recording music and the very physical form of the format is primitive...a huge vinyl disc which is easily scratched and takes up a tonne of room. THIS is what we mean when we say primitive.

Michael Fremer's picture

Really? So The Sistine Chapel is "primitive"? Yes a record takes up more room than does a file. That it takes up space doesn't make it "primitive". In fact it makes it attractive in my opinion. However the "easily scratched" bit really doesn't hold up to scrutiny. In fact, a CD is more easily scratched and more easily rendered unplayable. As for files, better back them up on the cloud or they can be wiped out in a hard drive crash. My records some more than 40 years old still sound better than any digital format I've yet heard. Why don't you go to my Youtube channel and listen to some of the "old 'easily scratched' records" I've transcribed from vinyl and posted with no noise reduction or pop and click remover, because none are necessary.

Bigmule1972's picture

Well, I guess I got it all wrong having a separate mono table with mono cartridge and a separate stereo table with stereo cartridge.... And I thought it sounded good...

I listen to more digital music for convenience, but when I sit in my listening chair, I'm spinning vinyl. Thats what I like. I don't mind spending extra time or money on vinyl...its my hobby....!

Since when is a fad something that lasts as long as vinyl....??? Whitewall tires??? Butterfly collars??? Stone washed jeans??? Etc??? I will always be able to find a record store...

If you like digital better, than so be it....who cares?

Fremer is well studied, honest, and fair...and arguably one of the best voices in this industry and more importantly, another music lover.

You keep arguing, I stop listening...

CJLA's picture

I have a hard time believing this. Two things come to mind. Degradation & one universally excepted format that's easy to use.
I loved the romance associated with LP's. I loved to open them up... especially a double album. Getting a leaflet or poster inside was awesome. Kicking back and reading the lyrics on a 12"x 12" size piece of paper and looking at the cover art while playing the album is engrossing. But after a few spins and hearing the snap crackle pop, having to clean the record with solution and blow clean my needle got old fast. Eventually I got to the point where I would go down to Tower Records and buy an album AND a Fuji cassette tape, unpack the album pop in my CrO2 tape, set it to Dolby C press pause, then Record and Play, adjust my VU meters, drop the needle and record the album. I would then put the album away until my cassette wore out, and then I would redo the process all over again, just to make the album last as long as possible. So why did I (we) do this? To preserve the record, and to be able to play the music in our boom boxes at the beach, and in our Nakamichi's in the car right? Gotta preserve the record right? And don't want to be with out our music, so we needed the portability of a cassette for our car stereos and our walkmans right? So in the end I see vinyl growing, but I can't imagine it getting to 51% of the market share and becoming the dominant player. (BTW I'm not saying that those of you that are vinyl advocates are saying this.) What I am saying, or perhaps reminding everyone about, is the fact that most of us didn't want to deal with the needed upkeep of cleaning fluids, replacing cartridges, and degradation of the record, and we wanted the portability of the cassette... Well isn't that exactly how and why we arrived at digital music? Essentially sounds the same the first time as it does the hundredth time? And you can have it anywhere but even easier than a cassette? Stream it from your 4G, or give it to someone on a thumb drive, etc. Plus when you take up the space taken by LP's, I think most of us will choose digital, and perhaps only a handful will be willing to go down the analog vinyl road. Just one persons perspective.

Michael Fremer's picture

You are correct that vinyl will never again dominate the software market. Had that been Ken's point I wouldn't have commented. Burn neither will gourmet cooking dominate the food market. Fast food is easier. MP3 downloads are easier too! However I think you overplay the hassles with vinyl and underplay the pleasures. My records aren't riddled with pops and clicks as my YouTube channel rips demonstrate and I'm always happy to compare for skeptics their latest hi rez download with my 40 year old original pressing of an old title.

vqworks's picture

In the end, the format of choice is just that: a choice, just a preference.

But as someone who grew up experiencing nearly everything (open reel, cassette, vinyl, MD, HDCD, SACD, etc.) and reading all the major publications (Stereo Review, High Fidelity, Audio, Stereophile, TAS, Sound & Vision (of course), The Analog Planet, Audioholics, Positive Feedback, etc., I have to say that on paper digital formats blow analog formats out of the water. In reality, specs only partially reveal what we hear and if someone hears something that some else doesn't, there isn't necessarily a placebo involved.

Fact: If you ask most S&V readers which format is best, they'll refer to a digital one. If you ask most Analog Planet readers which one is best, it's going to be the vinyl format.

Fact: There is definitely usually a condescending attitude toward vinyl from Ken and most other proponents of digital formats. When was the last time digital formats were labeled "primitive" (not synonymous with "old") on a vinyl website? I can't remember even one occurrence. But if vinyl is mentioned on a digital-centric site, someone somewhere never fails in bringing up a sarcastic wax cylinder remark or the falsehood of ticks and pops.

This just underlines what little exposure some listeners have had to good vinyl equipment or the lack of being informed about any progress for vinyl hardware and software within the past 30+ years (The latest improvement in pressing plant technology deals with a refined plating and pressing technique of Direct Metal Mastering). The vinyl comeback certainly isn't due to some "romantic sensual" emotion.

There's good vinyl and bad vinyl. I've heard vinyl that subjectively dead quiet without the "ocean roar" background hiss and without any other surface noise. So long as your turntable is a decent unit (not necessarily even new), the tonearm is well-matched to the cartridge in terms of effective mass and compliance, and the cartridge itself is a good one (not necessarily expensive), I guarantee you'll hear tons of detail, transient attack, tight bass, great separation (imaging and depth) against a subjectively dead-quiet background even with the volume set to a very high level, all with flat frequency response. All this and it can sound better (or, if you prefer) more appealing than your digital format of choice.

If you don't like it, then fine but tons of people do; it doesn't always involve some intangible emotion or the appeal of a nostalgic format. It can still often be about the sound quality.

thehun's picture

""""Fact: There is definitely usually a condescending attitude toward vinyl from Ken and most other proponents of digital formats. When was the last time digital formats were labeled "primitive" (not synonymous with "old") on a vinyl website? I can't remember even one occurrence. But if vinyl is mentioned on a digital-centric site, someone somewhere never fails in bringing up a sarcastic wax cylinder remark or the falsehood of ticks and pops."""""
Needle in the groove, how would you characterize that, in this technical age? [Of course you not gonna find the label "primitive" for digital on any website, simply because it would be incorrect.] The same would go for internal combustion engines at 100+years after their invention and even though they are actually mainstream, and it will be for a couple of decades, but they are hardly a technological marvel at this point or for a long time now. Yes they are primitive. It's not a sarcastic point it's reality and fact.[ so is pops and clicks] If one want to live in the past and in denial that's one's choice of course.

vqworks's picture

You either didn't read my entire post or decided to cherry pick just the portion for the sake of an argument.

On the surface, your brief response sounds convincing enough. I've heard ticks & pops before and, yes, the "needle in the groove" label can persuade anyone who doesn't look at the current state of the vinyl format to believe it's primitive.

But let me make it obvious: There is great vinyl that is pressed quite often without any audible noise, including the "ticks & pops" you eagerly refer to. There's also quite a bit more than a needle in a groove involved when playing any vinyl. Is it really primitive when you realize that a proper setup involves optimum cartridge compliance, tip geometry, tip mass, tracking force, etc.? If you still think it's primitive, let's avoid the stylus altogether and think about the "ELP" laser turntable that the Library of Congress currently uses. This turntable does not use any stylus; all records are played using an optical laser system, which is NOT digital. Is the vinyl format old? Of course it is! There's no question but I'd hardly call it primitive.

I also have news for you regarding digital formats. Vinyl is not much more primitive than digital. Here's why: You may not be aware that the first D-A converter was built back in 1935 using tubes. It was an 8-bit converter. That's 12 years before the LP was introduced. The design for the first optical digital disc system was done back in the 60s but the hardware wasn't ready until the 1980 in Japan.

The combustion engine works well despite its age. So what?

Do you crave something new for the sake of its freshness? New doesn't always translate to better. The new relay switches that shift between "Drive", "Reverse", "Neutral", etc. in some new luxury SUVs are experiencing switch lagging issues. It's new but it's also less reliable.

There's a sizable and growing segment of consumers that genuinely like the vinyl format for its sound quality (It's currently recognized as a high resolution format and one of the reasons is its ability to reproduce musical overtones over 20kHz). I'm among those that like it. I also like digital formats enough to have those too. In other words, I'm non-partisan.

You don't like vinyl. I get it. But don't impose your preference on other people (I'm not just referring to your reply to my message). I realize Sound & Vision is also a digital-leaning publication but it's nowhere near as impartial as its predecessor's days (remember Stereo Review?).

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