Analog-Vinyl Record: The Ultimate Listening Pleasure

For Vinyl and Record lovers: turntables, cartridges, etc.

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Analog-Vinyl Record: The Ultimate Listening Pleasure

Postby patbong » Sun Jan 06, 2019 7:00 am

Vinyl Record: The Ultimate in Listening Pleasure
The resurgence of vinyl records and the decline of compact discs is a good measure of the excellence and popularity of vinyl record. “While CD sales continues to dip year after year, vinyl continue to be the music industry’s surprise success story. On 2015 marked the tenth year that vinyl sales have grown considerably and doesn’t look like it’s forward surge will slow down anytime soon. In the U.S., sales of vinyl grew by astounding 30 percent” (McIntyre). The three main factors that contribute to the superiority of vinyl record over digital format are: 1. the sound quality of vinyl record played on a top-notch turntable, 2. the pride of owning a physical artifact, 3. the increasing value of vinyl records.
To understand the merits of vinyl records, we have to listen to music from an analog source and experience the aspects of owning a vinyl record system. Vinyl records (LP) has been considered obsolete format in the 80’s after the introduction of the Compact disc (CD). But for reasons that baffle music lovers, it’s popularity is coming back. According to David Bakula, Senior Vice President of client development and insights said “his company tracked 4.6 million domestic LP sales in 2012 an 18% increase over 2011. On 2013 vinyl sales are on track to reach about 5.5 million” (qtd in Kozinn).
To learn more about this phenomenon we have to explore the long-standing debate among audiophiles between digital versus analog music source. The reasons for vinyl’s popularity and resurgence cannot be easily answered. Critics of vinyl wonder, “ why ... would somebody spend $20 dollars for a scratchy melted plastic disc of their favorite album that plays only on a costly troublesome turntable; when they can stream the same album in digital clarity on Spotify for free?” (Sax). The simple answer is due to the sound quality of a vinyl set up, in addition to the joy of owning an artwork, and the increasing value of vinyl.
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“Audiophiles described the sound quality of vinyl as warm, airy and natural. Vinyl portrays realistic sound compared to compact discs which are lean and sterile” (Strickland). An article from HowStuffWorks titled; “Is The Sound On Vinyl Records Better than CDs or DVDs?” Explains how vinyl records sound is generated compared to CD.
In a home stereo, the compact disc player takes this digital recording and converts it to an analog signal then feed the signal to an amplifier. The amplifier raises the voltage of the signal to a label powerful enough to drive the loudspeaker. In vinyl records, it has grooved carved out into it that mirrored the original sound waveform. This means that no information is lost. The output of a vinyl record is analog which means it can be fed directly to an amplifier no conversion is necessary.
“In comparing the analog sound to digital the difference is undeniable; the explanation lies on why a symphony sound better live than on a speaker? The answer lies on the shape and form of the sound waves; the live symphony bombards the listener with a wonderful variety of complex and rich waves whereas the digital losses those nuances” (“The Top 5 Reasons…”).
Vinyl is what we call lossless. It sounds as good as intended by the producer, the engineer who pressed it and the band that played the music. Most of the music we listen today are stored and broadcast in a lossy digital format where details are loss and quality is reduced. This is because the audio is compressed to make it small enough to be able to shove in a phone or broadcast in the airwaves” (Hughes).
Digital music has few advantages over vinyl; portability is one, digital music is a suitable format for listening to music while on the move and background music. It is not ideal for critical listening.

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In addition to vinyl records superior sound quality, the pride of owning an artful artifact adds to the popularity of vinyl records. According to; the collectivity value of LPs is an inexact science, and there are many factors in determining whether a given record will bring a lot of money from the collectors or best to be used as a placemat. Here are few of the basis to assess the value of vinyl records:
Old records may have some value, but as a rule, it is not because they’re old. Records
with popular artist will have records with more value than obscure ones. Sealed records
that are still in original shrink wrap will sell for a lot more money than in opened
condition. Autographed records by whole group command higher value than one member
of the group signed it. Promotional records are more desirable than commercial records.
The original label when records were first issued is more valuable than records with a
reissued label. Stereo records have more value than mono records. There are more
factors, like colored and picture discs, picture sleeves, acetate and test pressings, foreign
editions, limited editions, withdrawn releases, counterfeit releases, reissues and falling
prices, and the most important is the condition of the record. (“Vinyl Records Value...”).
The Beatles records have been the most popular records to collect. The original records that were released cost a good sum of money to purchase now; if there are even pristine copies available in the market. Most collectors buy their favorite music genre to collect. The most popular genres are “Jazz,” “Blues” “Rock” and “Classical music.” Discerning collectors carefully select what records they buy; mostly pristine or brand new records with good sound quality. These collectors own the best and most expensive turntables and top quality audio system. There are collectors of records that appreciate the art on the cover and inserts of vinyl records. Some collect the different speed formats; 33.3 (LP), 45 (Single), even the very old 78
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(Shellac) rpm records. Whatever motivates collectors to buy; they are willing to pay the price the market dictates. Nostalgia plays a big role. Many collectors look for and only buy first pressing of some albums. These recordings command top dollars due to the belief that they sound better than the reissues. An audiophile said “he feels that old vinyl was recorded and mastered better than most new albums. He also believes high-resolution digital albums don’t sound as good as old LPs” (Guttenberg). Some vinyl records are just valuable because famous people owned them. “The highest priced vinyl record ever sold was a test pressing of the Beatles White album sold for a record-setting $790,000.00 owned by Ringo Starr” (Owsinski). Recognizing the soaring prices encourages some collectors to look for hidden vinyl treasures and hoping to find some “gems” in attics, yard sales, and thrift store bins.
In today's market, a brand new or mint vinyl record would cost three times the price of a new compact disc of the same title. If the listener doesn’t mind listening to digital music, it is free from Spotify or iTunes but the satisfaction is nowhere near the enjoyment of listening to a carefully set up vinyl system. Vinyl’s high resale value adds to its collectivity and popularity compared to digital format. Many collectors are seeking for valuable records to buy. If a vinyl record owner is willing to part with his collection there are music lovers and audiophiles who are looking for used records to buy from other collectors. “The idea that vinyl drowned by the mid-90s under the weight of compact discs; and their “perfect sound forever” is utterly conventional wisdom” (Hogan). The “perspective of perfect sound forever” has long been debunked. With vinyl’s popularity on the rise, music lovers are buying more vinyl as newly pressed records are released. It is the unexpected resurgence and sudden popularity is what’s driving the prices of vinyl to an unprecedented level. The value keeps on appreciating in response to the demands.
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Utmost care is necessary for handling a vinyl record. Preserving the vinyl in its pristine condition is critical to an optimal listening pleasure. Vinyl is easily scratched, warped gets dirty and sometimes cracked, the fragility can ruin the most valuable treasured album. Keeping it absolutely clean gives the listener minimal or no “ticks and pops,” a sound commonly associated with a vinyl record. Unfortunately, constant cleaning is necessary to maintain it’s condition; vinyl normally attracts dust. For music lovers and audiophiles, this required commitment to the cleanliness of their vinyl adds to the enjoyment of listening to music. The time and effort invested in the care of their cherished records add intrinsic value to their treasures.
To optimize the listening enjoyment of vinyl record a reliable turntable is necessary. A turntable is the device to play the record which integrates the vinyl record system to the amplifier and loudspeaker. To get the best sound from a music system, the turntable has to be on its optimum level of operation. Turntable set-up is complicated. It has many parts that have to work in-sync with each other. The moving parts have to be calibrated and adjusted to very tight tolerances. A turntable is a precise piece of technology, they are manufactured to a very high standard. Not only it does gives the owner listening pleasure, it is also a beautiful piece of “functional art” that enhances the beauty of the room where it is set up. Price can vary, from the cheapest at about a couple of hundred dollars to nearly one hundred thousand dollars. There are lower end turntables but “if you listen to a substandard system, it’s not going to sound very good, the sound it puts out will not be satisfying compared to a more expensive piece of equipment” (Strickland). Nostalgic collectors are buying the same turntable they own when they were young. They favor the vintage turntable to replicate their old vinyl set up. There are brand new turntables to buy on the market but they are not cheap. The cartridge is another important component in the set-up of a good vinyl system. The cartridge carries the needle which traces the
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groove on the vinyl. Every component in the analog chain should work in conjunction with every aspect of the system to sound good. Not only that expensive sound system adds to the enjoyment of listening to music, it’s also a toy they can be proud to own and play. “The Continuum Audio Labs, Caliburn turntable, and Cobra tonearm cost $89,999.00” (Fremer). To own a Caliburn turntable, means total commitment to the vinyl record system.
There is a price to pay to listen to high-fidelity vinyl records. They are scarce and hard to find. The most sought-after vinyl recordings from premier manufacturers like RCA Living Stereo, Mercury Living Presence, Sheffield Direct to Disc recordings and many more premier labels are most likely in the hands of avid music lovers and collectors already. Long before the comeback of vinyl, these collectors have known the merits of vinyl records and had invested a good sum of money and bought the most sought after and excellent vinyl records. These collectors know the value of their collection is appreciating profitably. Vinyl can be a good investment. Another good reason which is driving its popularity.
Many claim the comeback of vinyl is due to nostalgia by collectors, the millennials, and hipsters. “Nostalgia doesn’t cut it, many of the millennial’s parents did not even play vinyl” (Sax). Instead, an audiophile said, “old people like the things they like when they were 18-25 years old. He feels that old vinyl was recorded and mastered better than most new albums. He also believes high-resolution digital albums don’t sound as good as old LPs” (Guttenberg).
In addition to the recognized merits of vinyl over CDs, Uranium Will, a music critic is quoted saying; “there is a certain “magic” and ritual involved with possessing and caring for vinyl that is missing with CD” (qtd. in “The Top 5 Reasons…”). The appeal to audiophiles is the

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invested effort and the attention necessary when playing vinyl record. Unlike digital, the listener can’t change track unless doing it manually. It encourages the listener to play the complete side
of an album rather than picking only certain tracks. To completely enjoy music it is necessary to concentrate on every nuance of a musical piece. The concentration and focus to keenly listen to the minute details in the music give the listener the “ultimate listening pleasure.”
To some buyers “the thrill of the hunt and the joy to find the coveted album draws audiophiles to vinyl” (Lowbrow). The best place to buy used vinyl record is through eBay, thrift stores, swap meets, garage sales or passed-down from previous owners. The quality of used vinyl in used stores might be compromised, but there are still some “gems” to be found. If a buyer gets lucky to find the desired record in a used record store, the cheap price is an added bonus. For buyers of used records, the connection in sharing stories and experiences with fellow vinyl hunters adds to the enjoyment and the excitement of this hobby. Vinyl collecting is a growing culture as evidenced by the strong resurgence of the format.
In conclusion, the main reasons for the vinyl resurgence are its superior sound quality, its collectivity due to the pride of owning an artful artifact and the increasing monetary value of vinyl records. Nostalgia can be a reason to older audiophiles and music lover who buy vinyl to experience their childhood again; some have not even left the format even when vinyl declined in the 80’s. The new collectors are the people who have discovered the sound quality of vinyl. These are the true music lovers who not only enjoy the superior sound quality but also the joy of owning a beautiful piece of physical artifact on the vinyl artful covers and fascinated in the turntable as “functional art.” There are those who buy vinyl records because they have discovered the potential high resale value and see records as an investment that can be profitable.

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Some buyers do not even play their vinyl records and are only concern about the quality and the market value of the records. These buyers drive market prices and also the collectivity of vinyl
Before committing to a vinyl record system, learn and understand that owing vinyl record system needs dedication and time involved in its maintenance; to keep it in optimum operational level to get the ultimate listening pleasure. If the operator lacks the knowledge, and patience in maintaining the analog system, it is better to choose a digital format to avoid wasted time, money and frustrations.
No matter how good a recorded music is; analog or digital, the most accurate and satisfying way to listen to music is “live performance.” It is the only true “reference” to the accuracy of a recorded music.

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Works Cited
Fremer, Michael. “Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn Turntable and Cobra Tonearm.” Stereophile,
14 Jan 2006.
Guttenberg, Steve. “An Audiophile’s Conversion from Vinyl to Digital, then Back Again to
Loving LPs.” CNET, 5 Mar 2016.
Hogan, Marc. “Did Vinyl Really Die in the 90s? Well Sort Of...” SPIN, 16 May 2014.
Hughes, Matthew. “4 Reasons Why Vinyl is Better Than Digital.” MUD, 18 Apr 2015. better-digital/
“Is the Sound on Vinyl Records Better than CDs or DVDs?” HowStuffWorks.
Kozinn, Allan. “Weaned on CDs, They’re Reaching for Vinyl.” New York Times, 9 June 2013. 2013/16/10/arts/music/vinyl-records-are-making-a-comeback.html
Lowbrow, Yeoman. “6 Offbeat Reasons Why Vinyl is Better than Digital.” Flasbak,16 Dec 2013.
McIntyre, Hugh. “Vinyl Surge 30 Percent In 2015.” Forbes, 8 Jan 2016.
Owsinski, Bobby. “The most Expensive Record Ever Sold.” Music 3.0, Hyperbot,
1 September 2016.
Sax, David. “Why is Vinyl Making a Comeback? Nostalgia Doesn’t Quite Cut It.” Los Angeles
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Strickland, Jonathan. “Does Digital Sound Better Than Analog?” How Stuff Works. electronics.
“The Top 5 Reasons Why Vinyl is Better than Digital.” Retrospace, 22 Aug 2008.
“Vinyl Records Value-What are Your Records Worth?” Rare
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Re: Analog-Vinyl Record: The Ultimate Listening Pleasure

Postby patbong » Thu Jan 10, 2019 5:57 am

Hello Wiredstate members,
I posted this research paper, please feel free to comment on it if you agree or disagree with the premise. I am located in California, and I mentioned the thrift store and some stuff not common in the Philippines as a source for vinyl. Commenting will encourage new ideas, to further understand our hobby and passion with music especially with an analog source.

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Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2008 4:14 am

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