July 16, 2007

Just goes to show...

by Chris Randall

...that you never really know what the hell is gonna happen in this industry. Case in point. While this wouldn't come as a surprise to people that are actually interested in music, it is kind of humorous in a general sense.

It's worth noting that, as a format, vinyl kind of sucks, for the following reasons:

(A) It is incredibly delicate. "Kind of Blue" sounds better on vinyl, but "Kind of Blue" with a big fucking nick in the beginning of "So What" can ruin your day.

(B) Storage is annoying. Storage of any sort of quantity is really annoying. Trying to keep the records from destroying themselves is essentially impossible.

(C) The master for vinyl and the master for a CD have nothing to do with each other. That's why early CDs that didn't have their own master sounded like complete arse. And that's why a lot of vinyl released now sounds like complete arse.

(D) Aside from the inevitable "cool" factor, my digital music collection is quite a bit more versatile, easy to store, and permanent than my vinyl record collection.

But all that said, "Kind of Blue" on 180-gram vinyl on a good turntable, with a good preamp, a good amp, and a good set of speakers, makes life worth living, while an MP3 of "Kind of Blue" sounds not bad in the car. Discuss.



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Jul.16.2007 @ 6:37 PM
There's one interesting difference - vinyl has that noise in between cuts. I've heard that without that noise (as in a CD) the gaps between cuts need to be shorter.

The thing that I miss about vinyl was just that albums were shorter. You didn't have 74 minutes to fill up, you had around 45 minutes. And even in the vinyl days there would often be a song I didn't like, but these days there's usually a solid hour plus of some good stuff and a lot of filler. Factor in the "flipping the record" break from the old days, too. You didn't end up losing interest quite as fast.

What I like about CDs is that there's less screwing around with cleaning, with worrying about wearing the damn thing out, etc. Wonderful when there's a good CD with just enough material for the concept, versus having to fill up the 74 minutes.


Jul.16.2007 @ 7:41 PM
I'm a whippersnapper, but I've owned a lot of vinyl for various reasons. I don't prefer it, mostly due to the maintenance. I have worn out a lot of records. I also like the convenience of just leaving a CD in the player. That becomes an integrity risk if you're leaving records in the player I'm told.

People speak a lot of the cracking and such. I just don't like it. There's not cracking coming from the instruments, I don't want to hear it. If I want background sound to bleed into my music, I'll listen to it when there's background sound.

Flipping a record is also an irritation. Often I want a solid hour of music, or even more.

I'm also strange though, I prefer to keep music that I want to listen to in the immediate on a small jump drive on my keychain. Most of the time, a gig of stuff handles me, it plugs into my car, my work computer, my home computer, and it transfers well to a friend's if we're talking about music and I need to give a quick example of something. And I don't have the additional gadget of the iPod there to be stolen, broken, or lost.


Jul.16.2007 @ 8:46 PM
Porco Rosso
I dunno.

I still remember the disappointment of hearing the Clapton Beano Bluesbreakers's album on CD for the first time. It was just kinda meh.

On vinyl it was a religious experience. And that was with a crappy pioneer direct drive table.


Jul.16.2007 @ 8:48 PM
another reason vinyl as a format sucks:

(E) As you play back each side of a record, the fidelity gets lower and lower as the needle moves towards the middle. What other format offers this bug/feature?

I'm always amazed at how this is overlooked by those who tout vinyl as the peak of playback fidelity. I don't care if you press your shit on 180 gram platters, and use $20k of needle, cartridge, preamp, etc... there's no getting around the fact that the first groove is roughly 36 linear inches, whereas the last groove is about 15 linear inches (circumference = pi * diameter). By the time you reach the end of a side, the needle is traveling over less than half the length it was when you started.

The only time this worked well as a feature was when rock bands would bury the bass player's song in the increasing scratch and hiss at the end of a side.


Jul.16.2007 @ 9:46 PM
good thread. i will say that

1. it's awesome to buy used vinyl. to get shit like random paul simon records and all the crazy stuff people get rid of at goodwill for 59 cents a pop is amazing. i just stockpile copies of Thriller at that price. but i don't buy "new" vinyl for basically the reasons that CR asserts.

2. certain music sounds better on vinyl? i was blown away i heard my dad's copy of Hot Rats from the record. it sounds ridiculously different from any digital version i've ever heard. crazy. i also bought some dubstep records the other day and they sound mad with what the cut does to the bass.


Jul.16.2007 @ 10:10 PM
Great thread indeed.
I'll also weigh in on the fetishization of the physical object part of the divide... Since I'm on the later side of my 30's, I grew up with vinyl, so it could be nostalgia like anyone else my age, but I also have an obscene number of songs in my iTunes library so I'm no curmudgeon -- but to me, owning a CD is worthess, and I don't remember the last one I bought. First, the sound quality doesn't grab me, and vinyl, to my nostalgic ears, sounds like the cliche goes -- warmer and just more pleasant. But subjective issues aside, in the year 2007 the idea of purchasing digital files and having it delivered on a 700mb piece of plastic that sits around after being offloaded to a hard drive just feels silly. Generally, when I hear something I really like, I go out and buy the album on vinyl, and get copies of the digital files from someone with the CD so I don't have to sit around ripping the LP and worry about how good my converters are and whether my levels are just right.

Of course, In terms of convenience, compared to CD's and files LP's will always suck. I'm lucky enough to have the space to collect; for those who don't, MP3's are a blessing, and the 7" thing is sort of a funny compromise.


Jul.16.2007 @ 10:19 PM
"the medium is the message" and/or "certain music sounds better on vinyl."

personally, i'll take a scratchy old vinyl version of 'kind of blue' over the pristine cd. not because it sounds better, but because the entire experience is more in line with how i think it should be. (being an old bastard who's pushing 40.)

a dieselboy 12" sounds better than the same song on cd. no idea why.

i've often wondered if the mastering process for vinyl (which, if i understand correctly, removes tons of bass, and also makes the low-end monophonic) followed by the eq curve in the playback preamp (which adds the bass back in) results in the thing that "makes vinyl sound good."


Jul.16.2007 @ 10:32 PM
First time poster, long time lurker, but I thought I'd weigh in on this issue as it's close to my heart. I think for many listeners who are still buying vinyl, myself included, it comes down to having a tactile experience with the music in which you are forced to be an active listener. In the interests of disclosure, I also own a small (small) record label which has released several albums on vinyl, and I am actually about to send another release off to be mastered for a vinyl pressing this week. I'm not a purist, I buy LP's and yet I also download music from eMusic and iTunes. I have an OK turntable running through an OK stereo, but it's nothing to write home about. So for me, the debate about whether something sounds better, or to use more annoying terminology, more "authentic" on vinyl vs. CD isn't really the question. As for the gradual degradation of sound quality as the needle advances towards the spindle, it's a quantitative factor, yet the last songs on the each of the 4 sides of Zen Arcade sound just as good to my ears as the first tracks. Storage isn't much of a legitimate question either, as I have 25 guitars and basses that take up more room than my LP's and are much, much more finicky about the environment they are stored in. I just like vinyl. Much the same as the fact that I like a cetain type of swiss cheese- it just tastes good to me. In the end it's just a personal preference. I think people debate about the issue in so many academic terms that it loses sight of the fact that some people just plain like playing records. Maybe it's a bit anachronistic, and sure, they can be unwieldy, but since when are people expected to always enjoy the most efficient option available in every situation more? Do you ever take a different, perhaps longer route to visit a friend for no other reason than you personally just find it to be a more pleasant drive? If efficiency trumps something that you find enjoyable for whatever reason, everyone would be conducting thier lives very differently. Let me pull on the reins here for a second and get back to the question-do I think the music industry is going to get back into the habit for pressing mass quantities of vinyl? No, not at all. Vinyl pressings will probably die off at some point, however it's still got a little more life left as a format it than many people imagine. Vinyl was supposed to die back in the 80's when cassettes started flooding the market... I want to make it clear, however, that even as someone who loves vinyl, I don't feel the need to buy all my music in that format- some things are perfectly fine as digital files. I'm totally happy to put on Monolake while I'm making dinner and zone in and out of it for an hour, but I do just enjoy certain things more when I listen to them on vinyl. The bottom line, however, is that I buy vinyl not because of the (tedious) sound quality debate or the hipness factor- it's just something that I prefer doing if I have the option. But hey, I also still get a newspaper delivered to my home every day, so apply that lens when thinking about my post...


Jul.16.2007 @ 10:56 PM
Frankly, I'll be happy when vinyl is gone. I still maintain that albums will mostly be a 20th century phenomenon. And as bits, data rates, storage and bandwith increase way beyond the human ability to perceive a difference between analog and digital, analog won't matter. So culturally and technologically, vinyl won't matter one bit.

As for the cool factor, nobody's crying over wax cylindars or piano scrolls. Ok, maybe somebody is, but even DJs will stop using vinyl eventually, and then it won't be cool.


Jul.16.2007 @ 11:24 PM
I personally think that vinyl sucks, and it has been kept alive far too long. If you don't have an audiophile system, it doesn't sound better... but mostly I hate DJ culture that has kept real live performance of dance music! Why should Jeff Mills perform anything live when all he has to do is carry a crate of 12" records and collect a $50,000 paycheck?

That being said, there are far too many good tracks that can only be purchased on 12", so I must begrugingly accept vinyl as a medium.


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