Is the Resurgence of Vinyl a Fad?

A couple months back, Ken Pohlmann asked whether the renaissance of vinyl records is “just a hipster fad” or a "long-term business opportunity." And just the other day Noel “Paul” Stookey of the ’60s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary called the resurgence in LPs a fad in an interview with the trade publication CE Pro. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with Stookey? Cast your vote and tell us why you feel the way you do.
Is the Resurgence of Vinyl a Fad?
56% (733 votes)
44% (572 votes)
Total votes: 1305

dnoonie's picture

I think the resurgence of vinyl records is a reaction to poor quality MP3s and poor quality mastering. I've replaced a few vinyl records with CDs and it sounded like the CD was made from an MP3 that had been re-compressed by an email client cause someone hit the button to do so, very bad quality.

So vinyl records sound better than MP3, I can believe that easy.


People forget that the most important factor of vinyl resurrection, so that the sound of vinyl should have a true vinyl sound, is that any recording to this support should be fully implemented in analog mode from the beginning, otherwise I see no point in listening to a recording through vinyl that was originally made in digital equipment or MP3 compression or any other. All the imperfections of the digital world will always be present in this fake vinyl record, and any supposed improvement that we think to be hearing is pure urban legend.

Ovation123's picture

Respectfully, I disagree. If excellent sounding digital format releases can be sourced from original analogue recordings (and there are many, many such examples), then a well-recorded digital effort can be transferred successfully to vinyl with an excellent SQ. The question becomes, how good is the original source? If an mp3, I see no reason to even bother making a vinyl release. If a top-quality lossless file, I see no reason not to offer a vinyl version.

More generally, though, I voted "fad". I think the current fascination with vinyl is fuelled by two things, neither of which will have long legs (I don't think vinyl will disappear entirely, but it will be the very definition of a "niche product"--there is no going back to the days when vinyl was the primary audio delivery format). The first is nostalgia from many people my age (45-55) who may have dropped out of vinyl in the 80s but remember it fondly and also have the coin to drop on the various turntables out there. The second is the "hipster" factor--and that is notoriously ephemeral. I believe vinyl will subside before the decade is out and won't be nearly as popular in the 2020s as it has been in the past 10 years.

But my prediction and a few bucks will get you a latte. (And I too will be joining the vinyl gang, with a specific purpose in mind--archiving a large stack of 78s currently languishing in my parents' home. Otherwise, I'd likely sidestep the vinyl world altogether.)

vqworks's picture

On the surface the question appears simple until you are aware of the venue and the fragmented state of the current consumer market.

It's no surprise that most S&V readers would answer yes because most of its readers are home theater or digital audio enthusiasts. After all, that's what S&V caters to. Ask the same question on The Analog Planet, The Absolute Sound, Stereophile, Positive Feedback, or Audioholics and you will have significantly different results. Again, it results from the fact that these publications cater to different consumers.

To get a more accurate statistic, you'd have to have the same question asked in as many venues as possible.

But back to the question. It's a fad for a relatively small and young crowd. It was always a passion for another relatively small group of dedicated audiophiles.

Although the total vinyl sales amounts to a blip of the total sales volume of all music formats, vinyl sales have been growing at an astonishing rate for several years now. This is not something to be taken lightly. It certainly could indicate that vinyl will be a niche market but not a fad, especially when new pressing plants (the latest in New York) are being restored. There are quite a few plants by now.

If you count the sales outside of the U.S. the sales are staggering.

Billy's picture

I am 55 years od and us old timers forget the problems with vinyl, the pops and clicks, the warped ones that wouldn't play (esp. after leaving in a car rear window like I did to my White Album!), the ones that came that way new from the store. In the waning days of vinyl, the vinyl quality got worse and worse and many of us left for CD then, and have not looked back. We oldsters remember being young, the good times, often playing records(which we all thought were cool, but there was little other entertainment options out there). What many of my friends who recently got back into vinyl finally had to admit, was that a decent digital file properly played back, beats vinyl in all ways. What they really were trying to do was relive their youth, but in the end, the initial enthusiasm wore off, and the turn tables are gathering dust. I am guilty as well, I picked one up about ten years ago, even bought one for my then 18 year old son. We both no longer use them, but they are a decent conversational piece. In my deepest mind, I now realize what I really wanted was to be young again. A time when my knees didn't ache, my eye sight was 20;20, when there was a whole big unexplored world out there that was full of shining possibilities and I had decades to do it. A time when I had few responsibilities and the world hadn't weighed down on me so hard. Playing a record will not do that, but they are pleasant memories. The kids who buy in, not sure. Just wanting to be different, I suspect they will grow out of it, again, just a fad, like getting a tattoo.


Now with respect to temporary fad of a small niche market for vinyl, whatever that is true or false, I have to say that, for an enthusiast of this format, who wants fully enjoy its sound reproduction qualities it is necessary to have a truly high-end equipment such as well-built turntable, magnetic cartridge that cost over a thousand dollars, finest preamplifiers, etc., and all this will cost you a lot of money, whereas a true immersion to the high-quality digital sound can also be made with cheap and excellent equipment that any customer can buy, and with the great advantage of never hear hissing, noise, clicks, distortion by tangency error from turntable arm, and other reproductive disorders that exist only in the wonderful analog vinyl.

Loser's picture

It seems that people who want to believe vinyl is a better sounding more accurate format will ignore its multitude of mechanical limitations. RIAA equalisation curve, truncated frequency response, limited dynamic range. it's like a cult, if you haven't fallen for the message it appears ridiculous.

Puffer Belly's picture

The RIAA curve is no more a problem for vinyl playback than MLP is for DVD/BD playback or encryption is for SACD or DVD-A playback. All are just part of the mastering and playback processes for the physical medium.

Vinyl has a frequency response of over 50 kHz or else CD-4 quad records wouldn't have been possible in the 1970s. 24/96 digital files have a frequency response of 48 kHz, comparable to vinyl, and CDs have a response of just 22.05 kHz with lots of phase distortion in the audio range.

Are there any recordings that make use of a 16-bit dynamic range these days, except some classical recordings? Most recordings have a dynamic range that is lower than vinyl's limits (the equivalent of 10-12 bits). For mastering reasons, most vinyl releases of an album have more dynamic range than the digital versions because of compression used for the loudness war. Vinyl mastered that loud and compressed couldn't be tracked by a phono cartridge.

It's the CD crowd that joined the perfect-sound-forever cult.

JennyArcade's picture

Vinyl is still very relevant. I work in a record store that has been around for 17 years. The amount of CD's we sell goes down every year and vinyl sales are up. Almost all electronic music is only pressed on vinyl. Everyone's a DJ now too and a lot of DJ's play only vinyl. Vinyl keeps it's value. Records sell for hundreds of dollars on websites like Discogs and Ebay. Vinyl never went anywhere folks.

K.Reid's picture

For music enjoyment, one does not need the finest six figure turntable and accompanying preamp, amp, cabling and speakers. FLAT OUT WRONG. A person can get a nice set up at budget prices. Stephen Mejias, former columnist for Stereophile would agree as would Michael Fremer of Analog Planet. Your statement serves as an impediment to those novices looking to enjoy some quality music on vinyl. You go tell Pro-ject, Rega and Music Hall engineers that their budget offerings aren't good.

krgoodwin's picture

Didn't think much about it until I began to read that all of the remastering being done today was with analog (master tapes). Vinyl is as close as I can get to the resolution used for hi-res audio. Plus my Sony PS-X800 turntable hadn't been used for a long time.

Traveler's picture

It's a micro nitch.