Skip

Promoting A Record Using Vinyl, A box, and A Smart Phone
June 30, 2013 5:52 AM   Subscribe

To promote their latest dance record, the record company mailed out a 12" single. But how could those who received it play it? This is their solution. [Warning: this is technically a promo for an artist and a small record label - I just think its an interesting use of technology]
posted by marienbad (79 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
An iphone app that plays music? OK.
posted by ryanrs at 6:03 AM on June 30, 2013


None of that makes sense. The phone sits still and somehow still manages to read all the progressive grooves in the record?
posted by dubusadus at 6:07 AM on June 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


dubusadus : I think the music is just streamed or stored in the app. The actual record is just a show piece (and a QR code is linked to the person it is sent to).
posted by leviathan3k at 6:08 AM on June 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I (and it seems others) were expecting the record to play a bit more of a role in the actual music production. Like either an actual small needle/cartridge/speaker you would fold out of some bits in the package, or at least a motorized turntable allowing the record to be read through the camera in the iPhone.

Still.. I suppose it is an eye-catching piece of advertising.
posted by leviathan3k at 6:11 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


What a waste of packaging, manufacturing, etc. Why use a record and a huge envelope if none of it actually does anything? Unless, perhaps, the record can also play analogue on a real record player? At least that way they have two options, but the whole thing (while cute) seems like a waste of money and resources.
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:18 AM on June 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


"But how could anybody play it?"

They could play it on their record player, if you sent them a real record.
posted by distorte at 6:19 AM on June 30, 2013 [15 favorites]




Why use a record and a huge envelope if none of it actually does anything?

As they pointed out in the video, the response to this LP was much better than their traditional mailings. Marketing!
posted by chunking express at 6:32 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


distorte : They could play it on their record player, if you sent them a real record.

Group 1: People who own record players.
Group 2: People interested in indie dance music
The Venn diagram illustrating these two groups: OO
posted by pla at 6:33 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like either an actual small needle/cartridge/speaker you would fold out of some bits in the package

The thing about vinyl is that it doesn't sound all distorted and horrible like all that digital rubbish.
posted by flabdablet at 6:35 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry if this is daft, but they have a real vinyl record that's playable on a record player too, yes?
posted by iamkimiam at 6:38 AM on June 30, 2013


For all of the actual playing that record is getting, they should have mailed out a wax cylinder with a paper Edison phonograph and a little paper Nipper to sit and listen at the horn.
posted by pracowity at 6:38 AM on June 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Many new vinyls sold these days come with download codes so you can get a perfect digital copy along with your imperfect/"warm-sounding" vinyl. I guess this is a new invention now that an advertiser discovered it.

@pla Lots of "indie dance" enthusiasts have record players. Advertising executives, however, generally don't.
posted by sixohsix at 6:41 AM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


This video is making my head hurt. The record executives "listening" to a static disc on a piece of paper, while the music projects from their smartphone's tinny little speakers. There's is a word I'm reaching for here: not quite "kitsch", but something like it. An object that is false, lying, facile, diversionary. Laughable if it didn't appear to reflect something of the digital age's values.
posted by distorte at 6:42 AM on June 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


Much cooler application of the idea: the paper record player.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:55 AM on June 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


distorte - the word you are seeking is Skeuomorph. They can't actually spend the few dollars on each and every mailer it would take to make a working mechanical record player, so they simulate it.
posted by MikeWarot at 6:55 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Group 1: People who own record players.
Group 2: People interested in indie dance music
The Venn diagram illustrating these two groups: OO


You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Seriously, you are so out of your depth here its insane.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:57 AM on June 30, 2013 [46 favorites]


Sorry if this is daft, but they have a real vinyl record that's playable on a record player too, yes?

Looking closely at the video, I believe that the record they mailed out is, in fact, a real record. The whole iPhone-app-and-turntable-graphic thing is simply a playful hook to involve the recipient to actually play the music.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:58 AM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Group 1: People who own record players.
Group 2: People interested in indie dance music
The Venn diagram illustrating these two groups: OO


As to sir with millipedes points out, you're clueless as to how clueless you are.
posted by dobbs at 7:07 AM on June 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


If that's a real record, then this campaign is BRILLIANT. Seriously. The song gets a listen, the album/artist is memorable by association with the gimmick* (which isn't a gimmick at all if you actually own a record player, which I imagine most these people do anyway for nostalgia or authenticity purposes?) and the PR that represents the artist comes off as obviously having their shit together. Lastly, aside from being huge, it's really hard to throw that in the trash. So it goes, alongside other more treasured albums in their personal collection.

*I imagine that many of the record-playing execs won't see this as gimmicky, but rather a down and dirty way to listen to the tracks in an otherwise busy day.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:08 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the record is actually a record, then yes I see this as a fairly solid advertising gimmick for people who otherwise wouldn't bother taking it home and listening at length when they've got a thousand other things to get to.

On the other hand, it's pretty generic indie house.

I dunno. Good for them, I guess? This didn't really need to be a part of my life. Oh well.
posted by solarion at 7:11 AM on June 30, 2013


Neat gimmick. Shame about the music.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:11 AM on June 30, 2013


MetaFilter: "This didn't really need to be a part of my life. Oh well."
posted by stbalbach at 7:14 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


At 0:56 the promotion says "no downloading".

How then does the app which contains the song get on the user's phone?
posted by fairmettle at 7:15 AM on June 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


The thing about vinyl is that it doesn't sound all distorted and horrible like all that digital rubbish.

What's great is people believe this even if the music is recorded and mastered digitally before it's released on vinyl. It's like the people who buy $10,000 power cables for their amps and gold-braided "directional" speaker wires etc. without caring that the studio where the music was recorded didn't bother with any of that crap: so if "dirty power" were really a thing it would be lovingly encoded in the original recording.
posted by yoink at 7:16 AM on June 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


Group 1: People who own record players.
Group 2: People interested in indie dance music
The Venn diagram illustrating these two groups: OO


More like NOO.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:26 AM on June 30, 2013


If you want to save some money just spray paint a bunch of empty toilet paper tubes black and mail them out as phonograph cylinders.
posted by orme at 7:26 AM on June 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


As soon as it was obvious the mailing did not include a real record player, I was left to wonder why the hell I would care about this. It's basically a vinyl record with a QR code on the sleeve. How is this even novel? Agency creatives must be particularly stupid or particularly susceptible to the illusion of novelty.
posted by chrominance at 7:28 AM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was amused to note that the new 2nd and Charles is selling brand new USB turntables for playing their vast selection of secondhand vinyl records.
posted by localroger at 7:28 AM on June 30, 2013


(Also, are you kidding me? "How would anyone play the record?" With a RECORD PLAYER. That tons of people now have because vinyl is cool again, and never really stopped being cool if you're into DANCE MUSIC, which this is. What the hell?)
posted by chrominance at 7:30 AM on June 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


What's great is people believe this even if the music is recorded and mastered digitally before it's released on vinyl. It's like the people who buy $10,000 power cables for their amps and gold-braided "directional" speaker wires etc. without caring that the studio where the music was recorded didn't bother with any of that crap: so if "dirty power" were really a thing it would be lovingly encoded in the original recording.

I like vinyl (I am currently listening to some lovely Stanley Clarke) and while I firmly agree I feel obligated to mention some caveats.

Vinyl records cannot have massive brickwall compression; the bass would cause the needle to skip. Consequently they're often mastered more reasonably than the digital versions, which can give a superior sounding recording (although it's not as "punchy").

I also tend to think that the technically inferior quality of records can sometimes be more pleasing to the ear. Witness the indie fondness for degraded sounds, tape, crackle; it's not done out of pure nostalgia.

Incidentally, I would be surprised if these advertising executives didn't have record players, if they get so much promotional music.
posted by solarion at 7:32 AM on June 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Back when I was a music journalist, Autechre put out their latest pre-release promo on cassette tape. This was back in the days of the flipfone and the ROKR, so no iPhone fun for us — we had to walk five miles uphill in both directions to find a dusty cassette deck. So this is pretty clever.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:33 AM on June 30, 2013


MAD magazine did this years ago. And the payoff was farting noises. And we liked it.
posted by hal9k at 7:58 AM on June 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Group 1: People who own record players.
Group 2: People interested in indie dance music
The Venn diagram illustrating these two groups: OO



Oh, I think you have the wrong illustration.

That's the picture of the two turntables that a good percentage of the dance music enthusiasts of my acquaintace own, for their own personal old school DJ pleasure, if not for professional reasons.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:00 AM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is an advert about marketing types marketing marketing to advertising types. And you wonder why it may not closely approach Platonic ideals of representational integrity?

However, a rose may grow from dung - even the vacuous representation of dung. Back in vinyl's last fling as a mass medium, there were a number of cunning novelty players - the Sound Burger, the Tamco Sound Wagon VW (YT), and even recently some DIY efforts.

These all distort and main the records they play, to some extent, and thus are ideally suited to marketing generic indy dance music - which may, in the short time it has to live within these devices, burn out in a tiny burst of transmogrified glory as a BoC pastiche. It is profoundly to be hoped.

It doesn't take much brainpower to think of some variation of the above that does actually work with a smartphone, and blah blah Kickstarter blah Boing Boing blah blah profit.
posted by Devonian at 8:05 AM on June 30, 2013


What a waste of packaging, manufacturing, etc. Why use a record and a huge envelope if none of it actually does anything? Unless, perhaps, the record can also play analogue on a real record player? At least that way they have two options, but the whole thing (while cute) seems like a waste of money and resources.

The point of this video is not the turntable itself. This is the point:

71% of the 900 turntable QR codes activated
That's 64% more than the average response
42% followed the link to the Kontor Online Store


This is a marketing piece for a marketing firm; they couldn't get those stats with an analogue device. Those clickthroughs are the only thing they care about.

So, to summarize, we have:

- A video posted online by a marketer marketing a marketing agency
- showing the marketing agency advertising the record company gimmick
- the gimmick being a throwback to a predigital technology
- that is primarily designed to appeal to get a specific group of tech saavy people to use the predigital device to access the content digitally
- all of this is designed to market a band (?) whose music seems to be kinda "techno" (aka digital)
- the ultimate goal being this group of people to get other people to access the Online Store and download this music.

errrrgh call Eco, this shit go deep
posted by Think_Long at 8:51 AM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's is a word I'm reaching for here: not quite "kitsch", but something like it. An object that is false, lying, facile, diversionary.

"Advertisement".
posted by flabdablet at 9:00 AM on June 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


With a RECORD PLAYER. That tons of people now have because vinyl is cool again, and never really stopped being cool if you're into DANCE MUSIC, which this is.

At least that's what the marketers keep telling us. I'm not seeing any compelling evidence for this, like stores full of vinyl, reasonable-quality turntables for non-DJs in other than high-end sound shops (does not include USB turntables sold in full-page magazine ads), or replacement parts for my turntable/cartridge. If this idea is based on the market for Hop-Hop/Indie dance music, aren't those the folks who like to drive around playing their beats out of very loud car stereos? Where's the advantage of vinyl to them? Even people who have sizeable vinyl collections recognize the convenience of digital. I still use my turntable because I'm too lazy to do the mastering part of making a good FLAC, and I still like vinyl, but that's the only reason.
posted by sneebler at 9:05 AM on June 30, 2013


dobbs : As to sir with millipedes points out, you're clueless as to how clueless you are.

Perhaps, then, one of you more enlightened souls could clue me in as to the nature of the problem from the FP that needed solving?

I get it. Some suckers will of course fall for the hype that, by some feat of magic and in a way no objective measurement can detect, digitally produced music sounds better on vinyl. Pretend that Venn diagram has a one pixel dot for the overlap, if it makes you feel better about owning an obsolete antique. ;)
posted by pla at 9:21 AM on June 30, 2013


At least that's what the marketers keep telling us. I'm not seeing any compelling evidence for this, like stores full of vinyl, reasonable-quality turntables for non-DJs in other than high-end sound shops (does not include USB turntables sold in full-page magazine ads), or replacement parts for my turntable/cartridge.

Which part, the "vinyl is cool" bit or the "vinyl never stopped being cool if you're into dance music" bit? For the latter, yeah, I do think it's more for the people who DJ and the people who want to get into DJ-ing or music production or whatever, but that's who I figure would be into indie dance music in the first place (because everyone else is too busy being all PAUL OAKENFOLD DAWG). That said, I only have a dabbling interest in dance music and definitely don't know much about the scene except for the people I know who DJ, so I'm willing to backpedal on this.

As for vinyl in general, most of the music stores around me are slowly phasing out their CD selection (much to my chagrin) and any new record store that goes up either focuses on or only stocks vinyl. I don't know what you mean by "reasonable-quality turntables for non-DJs," because the hi-fi shops around here push the low-end Pro-ject tables, which start at $300; below that there isn't anything besides the crap Crossleys, so normal record stores aren't likely to stock them. I HAVE seen record stores maintain a selection of used players, though. Plus there are projects like the U-Turn Kickstarter that may or may not lead to decent turntables starting at $170. It might turn out to be a giant bust, but it does imply there's a demand for cheap and cheerful players.

I'm pretty comfortable in saying that at least in Toronto, vinyl is indeed a Thing.
posted by chrominance at 9:26 AM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


At least that's what the marketers keep telling us. I'm not seeing any compelling evidence for this, like stores full of vinyl,

Toronto had six record stores open up in recent memory. Six vinyl-only record stores. Another is opening at Bloor and Bathurst in the next month or two, right across the street from the city's current largest record store.
posted by dobbs at 9:32 AM on June 30, 2013


Perhaps, then, one of you more enlightened souls could clue me in as to the nature of the problem from the FP that needed solving?


The problem, as I believe others have already explained, is that the recipients aren't necessarily "interested in indie dance music" per se; they are advertising executives who are being enticed to use this music in ads.
posted by sriracha at 9:32 AM on June 30, 2013


Pretend that Venn diagram has a one pixel dot for the overlap, if it makes you feel better about owning an obsolete antique.

Y'know, it's possible to make your points without being an asshole about them.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:07 AM on June 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Vinyl does not sound better. One might prefer it, but from a purely objective standpoint, assuming identical recordings played through the same setup, it's significantly worse than digital. That said, I like it.

I think a lot of the resurgence of vinyl has to do with its physicality. In a world where audio seems to emanate from nothingness through some kind of magic, it's kind of nice to be able to experience it in a way where you can see this big tangible disc of plastic doing a simple job in a simple way, like a typewriter or a bicycle or, I don't know, a butter churn or whatever. It's an elegant simplicity.

And that's why this gimmick is so confusing. Their use of the vinyl record just makes the whole process much more complicated. Look at all the extra hoops the recipient is forced to jump through--for absolutely no reason (the same result could be achieved with a postcard)--just to get to that shitty, shitty music. It's definitely a memorable mailer, but obnoxiously so; if I were the person on the other end, I'd treat it like a Tobias Fünke glitter-bomb.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:10 AM on June 30, 2013


Pla: Perhaps, then, one of you more enlightened souls could clue me in as to the nature of the problem from the FP that needed solving?

The problem:
Advertising execs receive plenty of marketing efforts from artists of all kinds. Illustrators, musicians, photographers etc. This is because it's highly desirable to be "in" with an ad agency. Commercial exploitation of your art is a really significant way for artists to make money, and can potentially result in a massive pay-day if you're used in a big international ad.

Because of this, advertising agencies receive lots of unsolicited mailouts. They may get glanced at, but usually end up in the bin fairly quickly. There's no way to tell if they've been engaged with. Then you have the hordes of unsolicited emails. They obviously can have analytics, but mostly go straight in the bin.

The solution:
The record label thought that this track was highly suited to advertising (for whatever reason), and engaged an design & marketing agency to market directly to other ad agencies. They came up with a novel, attention-grabbing solution which achieved a really high rate of engagement. Even better (for them), it's been shared socially - as on this very page.

To be honest, you're not the target market for either the mailout or the video. This video was created by the design & marketing agency who came up with the mailout/webapp idea. They're showing off what they consider to be an innovative and effective solution to a common problem. This is a fine display of problem-solving, which is highly desirable in the design and marketing businesses. They hope that this will gain them more business and bigger clients.
posted by Magnakai at 10:12 AM on June 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Btw, it's curious how they don't mention if it's a real record or not.

An anecdote: While I was working in a (big) press organisation, I once once received a mailout from Absolut Vodka, promoting a new disco (or something) special edition bottle. It was a 7" record with a really neat shiny foil cover. The record's label was inviting me to a launch party (which I didn't go to (I know! Free booze! What a fool)). I excitedly took it home, assuming it was going to contain some disco gem. When I put it on my turntable, I realised the disappointing truth that there was nothing on there at all. Obviously they hadn't wanted to spend the (considerable) money to license some music that almost nobody was going to listen to.

It was a sad waste of vinyl. I kept it for a few years, because the cover was quite neat. Eventually it went to a landfill, like all these gimmicks must.
posted by Magnakai at 10:19 AM on June 30, 2013


I thought this was fairly clever, nice looking, and full of gee-whiz tech. And a mostly pointless Rube Goldberg solution to a simple problem countless steps removed from anything useful in the real world. That’s pretty much what we do now.
posted by bongo_x at 11:04 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing is, you actually can play a record optically. If you could get it to work with a cheap laser like those used in CD/DVD drives you could potentially create a real record player mostly out of paper and only a tiny bit of really thin electronics. (the biggest part would be the two motors to control the arm and spin the record)

I almost want to try it as a project - can you create a $5 record player, primarily made of cardboard as thin as normal record sleeve?

In fact, if a record spins at 33rpm, and plays for 45 minutes, that's about 1500 rotations right? You could potentially use, for example, a band of 3000 tiny fiber optic cables to cover the surface of the record, each terminating at the every half groove, so that every grove gets seen by the ends of two fibers, and then use electronics or electro-optical circuitry to select the data from the grove you want.

That way you could build a very thin record player with no moving parts, except for the record itself. It would be pretty expensive at this point, but in the future it could be much cheaper.
As they pointed out in the video, the response to this LP was much better than their traditional mailings. Marketing!
Yeah, it was marketing. And not only that, they were marketing to marketing people. Who enjoy creative marketing. I think the idea was they might want to license those songs for commercials and such (If I understood that right). So amount of money people might spend after listening to this is a lot more then a typical music customer.
This video is making my head hurt. The record executives "listening" to a static disc on a piece of paper, while the music projects from their smartphone's tinny little speakers. There's is a word I'm reaching for here: not quite "kitsch", but something like it. An object that is false, lying, facile, diversionary. Laughable if it didn't appear to reflect something of the digital age's values.
Right, but they're mailing this out to marketing people creating vapid, empty and usually false experiences is their job.
To be honest, you're not the target market for either the mailout or the video. This video was created by the design & marketing agency who came up with the mailout/webapp idea. They're showing off what they consider to be an innovative and effective solution to a common problem. This is a fine display of problem-solving, which is highly desirable in the design and marketing businesses. They hope that this will gain them more business and bigger clients.

Yeah, that's a key point here. The point of this wasn't really to market this album I mean, it was in a sense - I'm sure they were hoping to get some licensing for their client, but really this was just about marketing themselves to other marketing people. They wanted to show off how cool and creative they were to their peers, and they put out this video to do so even more and also show off to potential clients.
posted by delmoi at 11:07 AM on June 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


It was a 7" record with a really neat shiny foil cover .... When I put it on my turntable, I realised the disappointing truth that there was nothing on there at all.

It's almost like Jesus decided to tell a parable about advertising.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:08 AM on June 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'll see your iPhone app and raise you a record made of ice.
posted by Rangeboy at 11:10 AM on June 30, 2013




I can’t see how it’s any mystery that vinyl sounds different no matter what the original source. It’s a highly idiosyncratic physical playback medium. Would people have the same confusion if they were trying to figure out why things sound different played back on wax cylinders, even if they were originally digital?

You can buy sample sets of digital drum machines from vinyl. Because it sounds different.
posted by bongo_x at 11:26 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


@railhan_, there's a reason why digital audio quality *might* be worse in a DJ setting. Unlike typical playback (which goes right from 44.1 kHz audio rate file to DAC to amp to speakers) Serato and Ableton have to "warp" an audio track so that it can be beatmatched.

Ableton can do pitch-corrected warping, meaning the playback speed can be changed while the pitch stays the same. There are various algorithms to do this, and they all add artifacts to the sound. Usually not enough for people to care, but definitely audible.

If you just do "regular" warping and change the number of samples fed back per second (which does alter the pitch) even there you can have artifacts. There are a number of algorithms to do this, none of which I really understand, but they can add noise.

Even if the culprit is neither of those, it might be that the way that vinyl degrades the original signal might be musically nicer sounding than exact digital signals.
posted by sixohsix at 11:28 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Serato's response makes an important point: the digital to analog conversion is going to matter. With PCM audio you're technically supposed to use Shannon interpolation to recreate an audio signal, but that technically requires using all prior audio samples to calculate the current signal level.

The problem, though is that in order to do that you have to literally recalculate the sinc function coefficient of every single prior sample for each output sample. The farther back you go, the less of an effect the older samples have. You should get a really high quality output if you use 10, 20 or maybe 100 samples.

But most DACs probably do nothing like that. From what I understand, they basically just set the sound level whatever the current sample value is, and hope for the best. At 44Khz, that should sound pretty good by itself anyway. But it won't be quite right.

It's entirely possible that analog recording of a digital file done with a proper high quality DAC would sound better then that same digital file played through a cheap DAC.

If Serato and Ableton are just putting out digital audio data, the guy's hardware is likely to blame.
posted by delmoi at 11:30 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


@bongo_x > You can buy sample sets of digital drum machines from vinyl. Because it sounds different.

Somewhere I downloaded an 808 drum machine kit that was fed through a reel-to-reel tape recorder at near saturation. Sounds lovely!

Someone once told me the best way to get a fat drum kit sound is to feed it through VHS tape. Never tried it, though.
posted by sixohsix at 11:31 AM on June 30, 2013


Perhaps, then, one of you more enlightened souls could clue me in as to the nature of the problem from the FP that needed solving?

The problem was that marketing executives, even though they may or may not own a record player, are unlikely to have one in the office.

For the marketing executives that own record players, and I would imagine that many do (especially because we're talking about marketing executives who purchase music for ads here), this promotion creates a strong positive association with the record company.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:35 AM on June 30, 2013


At 0:56 the promotion says "no downloading".

How then does the app which contains the song get on the user's phone?


I'm guessing the QR code is a link to a webpage that does the whole thing in HTML5.

That would also explain the part where "it's for all types of smartphones!".
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 11:44 AM on June 30, 2013


@railhan_, there's a reason why digital audio quality *might* be worse in a DJ setting. Unlike typical playback (which goes right from 44.1 kHz audio rate file to DAC to amp to speakers) Serato and Ableton have to "warp" an audio track so that it can be beatmatched.

Oh, I didn’t realize they were talking about digital time stretching compared to varispeed with vinyl or tape because that’s just not something I would even consider. There’s just no comparison. If you’re changing the speed and analog source will usually sound better.

I guess I still don’t understand what those tweets are trying to say.
posted by bongo_x at 11:51 AM on June 30, 2013


Vinyl does not sound better. One might prefer it

You must be using some definition of "better" that I don't grok. For me, "preferred" MEANS "better".

Audiophilism is a disease, and it has nothing to do with music. Music has nothing to do with "sound quality", whatever that is. If you prefer vinyl, then VINYL IS BETTER. Objective standards? No such thing. And I wouldn't be interested in them even if they did exist.

Note -- I have over seven thousand records on vinyl and CD, which I play on a fancy stereo with a lovely rosewood Yamaha turntable and also on a portable battery-operated one that SOUNDS FANTASTIC for the simple reason that it sounds on the patio where I am sitting in the sun. Much mo' bettah than someone's $50,000 setup in a dark basement, I assure you.

This thing with the bogus turntable and the phone might be great for someone who loves to play with his phone, but it's not going to work for me at all. I don't see the point of it.
posted by Fnarf at 12:18 PM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, so much needless GRAR on this thread: marketing sucks, house music sucks, vinyl-is-better-oh-no-it-isn't-eff-you-it-is. I make house music semi-professionally but don't own a turntable (though I do have lots of classic dance records left over from the days that I did). I think that, in an era where I have to do backflips just to get a measly hundred purchased downloads on Traxsource/Beatport/iTunes, these guys are doing something right.

So, in other words, an indie label pulled a marketing move and it worked - is it asking too much to be happy for them or do we have to look at this through 8 different layers of recreational outrage???
posted by tantrumthecat at 12:43 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, some background on the tweets::

Kev is a (fairly-prolific) mastering engineer, who also started and built out the sound system at the (kinda well-known?) club night Low End Theory, so he's seen a sound evolve from live takes and stems in Ableton/Logic/Pro Tools to the dance-floor bruisers that they eventually become. He's wondering why tracks that are built digitally (100% in Ableton or some other DAW) still sound better when they come off a fully-analog source (vinyl).

Time-stretching and resampling might have something to do with it, but I think we can rule out faulty hardware, since he's getting units directly from the manufacturers.
posted by raihan_ at 12:58 PM on June 30, 2013


an indie label pulled a marketing move and it worked

That's not what we're seeing here.

What's actually going on is that an advertising firm pulled a stunt and then bragged about it in order to further their own brand. It's advertising for advertising.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:58 PM on June 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, it only worked because it's a novelty. If the recipients start getting fifty of these a day, they're going to start discarding them too. As for whether we should be happy for them or not, it's hard for me to tell, but my enthusiasm for the achievements of marketers is quite limited.

Speaking of dance music and vinyl, I just picked up a couple of items from DJ Masa's collection, which Seattle store Silver Platters just acquired. Thousands and thousands of records, probably 75% of it dance stuff, which doesn't interest me much, but the other 25% is all over the freaking place, and is great, great, great. No phone required.
posted by Fnarf at 12:59 PM on June 30, 2013


(There's plenty more "Look at our ingenious marketing stunts! Please hire us!" on that Youtube channel.)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:02 PM on June 30, 2013


> You can buy sample sets of digital drum machines from vinyl. Because it sounds different.

Oh, dear.

Don't get me wrong - people do really like the pleasant second-order harmonic distortion you get from vinyl, even though overall much of the signal you put into a vinyl record simply vanishes due to the (standardized, unchangeable) ballistics of a tone arm - see this curve for details.

But $50 will get you a digital simulation of the distortion of vinyl that's basically indistinguishable from the real thing - and you could apply that to every sample you ever had.

I used vinyl as my primary music source for the first 25 years of my life, so I'm baffled why people are going back to it today (except for dance music DJs, where the ability to physically interact with the vinyl is key, of course - though I'm seeing a lot more Serato these days).

The key issues are simple:

* The bottom two audible octaves (between 20Hz and 80Hz) are more or less missing (and unlike the upper end, old people can actually hear that range).
* Even with the best equipment, the record audibly deteriorates with each playing - the needle simply scrapes away the peaks on the vinyl.
* Even with very best care, scratches magically appear on your LPs, sometimes at key moments. I still can hear the scratch that appears at the beginning of Jimi's solo on "Who Knows" from Band of Gypsys - even when I hear the CD!
* If someone hits the table that your turntable is on, it's fairly likely your LP will be seriously damaged.
* You need to flip the record over every 20 minutes or so.
* Turntables have issues that digital has never had, issues like wow and flutter that dirty the pitch of your music. The human ear is extremely sensitive to variations in pitch, but is extremely good at ignoring noise. (A good direct drive turntable will have wow and flutter that's undetectable to the human ear - IF you regularly maintain it.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:03 PM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Kev is a (fairly-prolific) mastering engineer [...] He's wondering why tracks that are built digitally (100% in Ableton or some other DAW) still sound better when they come off a fully-analog source (vinyl).

Despite the Wikipedia discussion of this(*), there is in my experience a generally accepted reason in the industry why analog devices like vinyl and tubes sound "warmer".

The primary secret is even-order harmonic distortion - which is simply pleasant to the human ear, perhaps because it results in asymmetric waveforms.

There's a secondary secret, and that's that there is an absolute maximum to the amplitude levels on a CD, whereas the upper amplitude level limit to vinyl is quite fuzzy and depends on the program material and the disk.

This is compounded by the fact that everyone tries to make their CDs as loud as that absolute maximum, so if you play a lot of CDs in a row AND you don't ever vary the volume, then you're going to get bored...

But that isn't the fault of the CD format. Learn to TURN DOWN sometimes, guys, and you'll be perfectly OK.



(* - the article suggests two reasons - second-order harmonic distortion, where the second-order harmonic is by far the most important even-order harmonic; and non-linear clipping - but non-linear clipping also results in even-order harmonic distortion, so I don't know why they're claiming the cause is mysterious...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:16 PM on June 30, 2013


It took a little work but I found a clear enough image containing the QR code. It works like shown in the video when loaded on a smartphone; on a computer screen it shows an iPhone, and the mouse serves to move the stylus. Warning: plays music until you close the window/tab, or until you click through to KontorTV (which then automatically plays a video).

http://backtovinyl.kontorrecords.de/turntable.html
posted by 1367 at 1:17 PM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Heh, and I forgot what I came here to say.

This is bullshit because:

1. The video tells a blatant lie. There IS a download, and isn't just an app, the whole track is being streamed from the Internet. There is simply NO WAY for a cell phone to read an entire record by putting its camera on top of one little area.

2. It generates huge quantities of waste and packaging.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:21 PM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Eh, "Download" has a somewhat narrower meaning to most people than it does to us technical types. To most people, if it doesn't get stored locally, it's not a "download".

What bothered me was when they referred to their mobile website as a "device".
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 1:43 PM on June 30, 2013


It's advertising for advertising.

That's so meta. Pepsi Gray?
posted by radwolf76 at 1:53 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


> To most people, if it doesn't get stored locally, it's not a "download".

I might accept that quibble IF it wasn't in service of a great big deception - that you are actually playing the vinyl disk that you got with your cell phone.

No, they don't quite say "You're playing the vinyl with your phone," but they are trying as hard as they can to give that impression and I'll bet they succeeded.

Indeed, since it seems that they're doing this by using the QR code to load an HTML5 website (because otherwise there would be an app, which is a definite "download" even if you don't know what the word means), I would believe that there isn't even a way that they can detect that the record is there because they couldn't access the camera.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:56 PM on June 30, 2013


there's another reason to prefer vinyl to CD, or vice versa, that has to do with music and not with arcana like frequency response: whether it's available. Yesterday I bought a Jack Jones record, Write Me A Love Song, Charlie, which is only available on CD in a Japanese release from a decade ago that changes hands for $80 nowadays. The LP was $4. Sounds great -- because it's got the Jack Jones LP in the grooves, which is what I wanted. Conversely, I also picked up a CD with a couple of scarce soul-jazz organ records on it, Bill Mason's Gettin' Off and Gary Chandler's Outlook. Chances are slim that I will ever see these LPs in the flesh, and if I do, they will be $70-100 each. The CD was $15.

Now, I can't tell you for certain which octaves I'm missing out on, or what kind of distortion is being undergone, but I can tell you these are great, great records and my heart is bigger for having heard them.
posted by Fnarf at 2:00 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fnarf: sure, every serious music collector should have a turntable for just this purpose.

Heck, I have literally a thousand LPs, probably a third of which have never been released on CD - and some of these pieces don't even seem to get a mention on the internet, including the totally fantastic "Wagner Prècis" where the entire Ring cycle is divided into short (four minute?) chunks, all of which are played at once. (For the record, it sounds fantastic - recognizably Wagner, and you are constantly hearing those soprano swoops... John Cage was quoted on the cover saying something like, "I've heard Wagner many times, but never as well as this version." I wish I had access to these LPs right now...)

But music collectors are always going to be a small subset of the music listening public.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:26 PM on June 30, 2013


So, in other words, an indie label pulled a marketing move and it worked - is it asking too much to be happy for them or do we have to look at this through 8 different layers of recreational outrage???
Metafilter: 8 different layers of recreational outrage???
Time-stretching and resampling might have something to do with it, but I think we can rule out faulty hardware, since he's getting units directly from the manufacturers.
I'm not saying the hardware is 'faulty', just that the digital - analog process might not be as precise as the one use to... master the records (I was about to say 'burn' :P). The key thing to remember is that most DACs are not doing what they're actually supposed to do, and most people would never notice.

But it could be the time stretching too, obviously with a record you can perfectly stretch time without losing any information at all, doing it digitally there might be some loss somewhere.

Think about it this way: Say you have a 100 pixel image and you stretch it out to 110 pixels, there's going to some loss. On the other hand, imagine projecting an image on a wall, and moving the projector closer and farther away from the screen (or using a zoom lens) Obviously the analog process isn't going to change the image at all. At least if you have ideal analog hardware. That's where the audiophile stuff comes in.

On the other hand, if you have crazy high sample rates, you can mess around with audio a lot more without ever generating noticeable effects, just like you can stretch out a 4000 pixel image to 4400 pixels without inducing noticeable distortion when you look at the whole image.
posted by delmoi at 2:31 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


So it begs the question: if a song starts out as a digital file, why does it sound so much better after being made into vinyl?

Look, I don't doubt this Kevin guy's got some good ears, but:

1) I'll be a lot more interested in what he thinks if he comes to the same conclusion after running some double-blind trials, and

2) If he can put it all together in a longer, more coherent form than a series of tweets. I mean, c'mon, honestly, man; there're no "stats" there - they're Some Random Dude On The Internets' Opinion. It's not exactly overwhelming evidence.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:02 PM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


the one use to... master the records (I was about to say 'burn' :P)

I believe the common verb for this is 'cut'.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 3:39 PM on June 30, 2013


But $50 will get you a digital simulation of the distortion of vinyl that's basically indistinguishable from the real thing - and you could apply that to every sample you ever had.

I have not experienced this.
posted by bongo_x at 3:59 PM on June 30, 2013


Vinyl and other analog media and processes aren't "better" if by better, you mean more accurate to the sound source. They're often considered "better" in that they impart a coloration of the sound that human ears tend to find euphonious.

Many pro recording engineers working in a nearly 100% digital "In the box" production environment will still introduce tape machines, analog compressors, tube mic preamps and tube/optical channel strips, EQs, etc. into the signal path, because these impart 'rich sounding' harmonic distortion and/or benign transient clipping that can be achieved through slightly overdriving an analog signal.

This isn't more accurate by any stretch of the imagination, but it can (and does) make your digital source material sound "fatter, richer, deeper, smoother, warmer," etc.
posted by stenseng at 1:57 PM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


delmoi: I almost want to try it as a project - can you create a $5 record player, primarily made of cardboard as thin as normal record sleeve?

Here is something similar as a wedding invite - when I clicked the link I expected something as cool as this, rather than just a lame gimmick.

Still, it did one thing right - I don't think I've ever seen that high of a percentage of people who actually scanned a QR code.
posted by Mchelly at 5:33 AM on July 2, 2013


« Older The Cars-in-a-barn Urban Legend that is Real   |   broken . Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post