Friday, February 22, 2013

The Resurgence of Vinyl

The resurgence of vinyl

                                                new vinyl releases at HMV, Toronto
In December I was invited to play with the National Ballet of  Canada.  In my off time  I rejoiced in finding a music store HMV.  Not only did they carry cds and the usual but they also had a substantial collection of new releases on vinyl.  How can this be?   Turns out vinyl has been making a comeback slowly but steadily.  It's not only the baby boomers rediscovering their old vinyl collections, but apparently a whole new generation (raised on digital alone) are discovering the joys of the turntable and vinyl.  In the age of digital downloads, 3,000 tunes in your pocket and emphasis on convenience and quantity,  people are finding the joy of LISTENING to music again. 

Think about it.. you have to actually be engaged to put  a record on.  One might actually sit down and have a listen rather than walking  or rushing about.  Also lets face it, Vinyl, (to many of us) just sounds better.  

Cds for better or worse are the same technology that they have been from the beginning (that's 16 bits of info http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_bit_depth).  16 bits in theory gives us all the information "humans can hear" but it's actually truncating info that would normally be present in analog recordings. Mps3 are even "worse" quality than cds.  The sonic information is reduced even further. That's the price of convenience and quantity. They say we can't  hear those missing bits but you know what?  You can hear them and feel them when they are present. I think that's one major reason we are seeing a resurgence in turntable and vinyl sales.

         I have recently setup a turntable and purchased some used vinyl as well on a recent trip to SF.
                          Vinyl is alive and well on Haight St SF. Amoeba Music carries new and used vinyl
                                             and they even sell turntables!!  COOL!

Why has CD technology seemingly languished?  Well, actually it hasn't.  We now have "24 bit" quality cds such as  SACD  but that requires more expensive hardware to play on.  There is another alternative called the XRCD put out by JVC.  These can be played by your existing cd player.  I have heard these and they are excellent sounding and a good alternative to vinyl if you want to stick with cds.  Why these formats haven't taken off is probably because they costly and hard to find.  The industry as a whole just has not pushed for higher quality music rendition in the avalanche of  iTunes/mp3 downloads takeover. 

Maybe with the comback of vinyl we will see a demand for higher quality musical formats in the future.  In the meantime, dust off your old turntable and spin some vinyl!!


I leave you with a couple of examples of my setup filmed only with my iphone.


A short clip of Stephane Grappelli.  Even with the limitations of the iphone video you can clearly hear the bow on the strings of the violin




This clip of Return to Forever sounds rich and warm.  The instruments all have their own space. You can clearly hear the bass, guitar, keys and the drums sound glorious.  Lots of sizzle on the cymbals and you can hear the skins of the toms.  Love it!


Here are some links to my favorite music websites:
For XRCDs,  SACDs, CDs and VINYL turntables etc
http://www.elusivedisc.com/
http://www.musicdirect.com/

For reading about audio, reviews discussions etc
http://www.stereophile.com/
http://www.audiokarma.org/
http://app.audiogon.com/


Hope this leaves you inspired to listen to more music....

5 comments:

  1. Reading your thoughts on this and listening to those vinyl clips immediately summoned up my joy of listening to favorite records as a kid--not to mention the pride I felt when I was finally deemed responsible enough to use my dad's fancy turntable on my own! I look forward to your future posts, especially knowing how detail-oriented and finely-attuned you are to all things related to sound. Happy blogging!

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  2. Yes...a bunch of us are jumping back on the wagon, sharing vinyl and helping one another set up our 'tables. I'll vouch for the engaging presentation of Cenovia's vinyl system (featured above). I'll also recommend as good sources for vinyl the Princeton Record Exchange (www.prex.com) and J&R Music (Park Row, NYC), especially the former for which you'll need a day to browse through everything. Looking forward to what others share here.

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  3. For those that might be reviving an older turntable I'll recommend www.vinylengine.com/ as a source for free operation and service manuals downloads.

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  4. Thanks for the helpful info Ray. I was at Target yesterday and was filled with joy to see they are selling all in one turntables. They even have "travel" turntable with speakers built in. AWESOME!

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