Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Purest Sound Come from Old Vinyl Records

In an age when MP3 players are the norm and everyone holds their iPods and earbuds as treasures, it is a shock to some to learn that while CD sales continue to fall, vinyl record sales continue to climb.

It can’t yet be said that vinyl is taking over CDs and other digital forms of music. According to the music-tracking system Nielsen Soundscan, in 2007, only about .2 percent of music sales were on records, compared to 10 percent for digital downloads, and 89.7 percent of sales on CDs. But this small slice of sales for vinyl represents more than a 15-percent jump in sales over 2006 — up to 990,000 records from 858,000 the year before.

So one must wonder why people are going back to what many thought to have been a format that “died” more than 20 years ago. For many, it’s about actually owning the record. In the Digital Age when people can have literally thousands of songs at their fingertips with their MP3 players, it’s endearing to have a large cardboard cover — prime real estate for artwork. The somewhat archaic form of records allows for large sheets of liner-notes where lyrics and other cool things can be written.

Records are also substantially cheaper than other formats readily available today. While new vinyl can cost as much as a CD, it’s easy to walk into local shops — like Sisters of Sound Music in Manhattan — and buy five used records in good shape for 10 bucks. This allows college students and others short on funds to really collect music and learn to appreciate great old albums.

Since records are an older form of music, they require a bit of work, of course. To play a record, one must actually take the record out of the sleeve, put it on the turntable, place the needle on the track, etc.

However, this allows for people to really appreciate music. On an MP3 player, so often people skip from track to track, blindly switching genres and styles of music, but listening to a record is more like reading a book — it’s better listening from start to finish.

When people do decide to listen to a record from start to finish, it opens doors to new tracks that people who are only interested in top 40 hits would miss out on.

And when it comes to sound quality, nothing can match the warm soft sound of a vinyl record. The secret is the analog recording. According to electronics.howstuffworks.com, “original sound is analog by definition. A digital recording takes snapshots of the analog signal at a certain rate — for CDs it is 44,100 times per second — and measures each snapshot with a certain accuracy.”

The fact that the digital recording chops the sound wave into a number of steps lessens the quality of the sound and can be heard relatively easily if one was to listen to a digital recording and then an analog record recording of the same song.

So dig through those basements and ransack those attics; get those old turntables out and start playing records again. When you hear the superior sound quality and read the lyrics sheet, you’ll be glad you did.

[Kansas State Collegian]

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