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August 11, 2005

Could Leaving Vinyl (Records) Behind be a Mistake?

I got my first CD player in 1987, after having amassed a large collection of vinyl records. In 1990 I left home and access to a record player. For the past 15 years the records have been at Pete's house and I've gradually moved from listing to CDs live to having them on the iPod.

A few months back Heidi got me a new record player for my birthday, and Pete bundled up a chunk of the records (~75) and sent them (media mail makes it a reasonable expense).

The first album I put on was U2's Wide Awake in America. I can't describe how stunned I was by the sound. I've heard and read about vinyl fanatics who are clinging to this medium for it's superb sound quality. I couldn't have imagined how noticeable the difference is. It was a full sound like I can't remember ever experiencing. Having the quality of CDs and MP3s (m4a too) pounded into my ears for 15 years makes it easy to hear the difference.

We then moved, and the records and player got packed up . . . until last night. I had a few free hours and got it unpacked. Again, stunned by the sound. Last night I started with The Police's Synchronicity. It's almost an emotional experience to hear the full sound of the chimes/bells/keyboard that start the album off in Synchronicity I.

Since Wide Awake and Synchronicity are albums I only have on vinyl (haven't listened on CD), I put on R.E.M.'s Document. Again, listening to Finest Worksong was such a different experience from listening to it on my iPod. I listened to most of the album and noticed things I had never noticed before (I'd estimate my listen count for the Document to be in the hundreds).

When I first got the record player and records my intent was to use the record player as a transition to getting all of my LPs onto CD. I've done that with one song, but the quality once it gets to MP3 (even at high bitrates) is just like every other MP3, lacking full sound quality. I've decided that the record player is most valuable for live listening. Yes, I will likely also transfer some of the records to CD but plan to enjoy a lot of listening hours.

As I was listening last night I thought about the generations of music lovers now and in the future who won't get to experience the sound of a record. Perhaps I can hope for a future medium that will do better than our current digital sound options.

The cool thing about records now is that you can pick them up for $.75 in any pawn shop. Watching eBay too, would love to pick up a huge collection from some person who's moving or just wants to be rid of them.

If only vinyl were more portable . . .

Posted by mike at August 11, 2005 7:57 AM