We live in an era of revivals. From shopping at vintage clothing stores, to playing Pac-Man in renovated arcades, to asking our parents for music suggestions, teenagers now are obsessed with the recent past. This extends to how we choose to listen to music.
The Internet has opened up a whole new world of music consumption. First there were MP3 downloads, and now there are a multitude of streaming music services like Spotify, Pandora, and Tidal. Digital distribution is now the dominant platform in the music industry.
Yet something unexpected has been happening with vinyl records over the past decade: they have actually been on the rise. Vinyl sales have skyrocketed from under a million in 2007 to more than 8 million this year in the U.S. alone.
Conventional wisdom says nostalgic baby boomers are keeping this anachronistic format alive, but a growing number of young fans are buying records, too. MusicWatch reported that half of all record buyers in 2015 were under 25 years old. Why is this?
Aside from the criticism of some observers saying that kids are following the “hipster” trend and buying records to act cool, it is actually thanks to the fact, which you have probably heard someone say, that “vinyl just sounds better.”
Whether or not the adage is true depends. Most of the music listened to now is stored in a format where details are lost and quality is reduced. This is because the audio is compressed in order to make it small enough to fit on a phone, or to broadcast on the radio.
The analog format, on the other hand, allows for artists to transport their music to your speakers or headphones without the complications of digital conversion. This is the closest one can get to what the artist intended.
Vinyl fans believe that, compared to a CD or MP3, music on a record has a richer, more three-dimensional presence. They feel the process of creating a flawless digital sound removes too much of the warmth of the original recording. To keep this sound, they are willing to forgive the flaws that can be heard on vinyl due to warping or dust.
Another con of vinyl is that the beginning of an album side sounds better than the end. As the album’s circumference shrinks toward the middle, the needle speed changes and it can’t follow every millimeter of the groove.
The pro, though, is that determining where each song is placed on the necessary two sides of an album has become something of an art form; the second side of “Abbey Road” is an example of how artists used to put “sides” of music together. This is why double-LPs are worth the extra flipping.
Vinyl’s biggest pro is the experience. You don’t put on vinyl while you jog or while driving in the car. You put on a record to experience it, not to supplement another experience. Libraries aren’t trapped in phones, so friends can come together, flip through their collections, and enjoy the cover art while listening. Ultimately, vinyl not only sounds better, but it also feels better.
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