Skip

Listening to vinyl makes you better than those who don't listen to vinyl
April 2, 2014 1:02 AM   Subscribe


 
I've just come to terms with the fact that I am a fraud, so now i must kill myself.
posted by greenhornet at 1:12 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Two things:

I want his apartment.

I may also sometimes stroke my bookshelves, though not in that sexual a way.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:12 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I have three records.

In a few days I will have 179 records.

With Ebay all things are possible. Overnight I will become 2 orders of magnitude better, human-being-wise.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:33 AM on April 2


Makes me realize that I'm getting middle aged. It's a little funny to think that there are people who find out about LPs as a new thing.
I still have my entire LP collection and am keeping my record player in trim to listen to them, like, often…
posted by Namlit at 2:05 AM on April 2


Making fun of hipsters is so original.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:18 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]


I jettisoned much of my collection - probably 500 or so albums - about 3 years ago. Sold it all at Amoeba Records. The buyer at Amoeba said my collection was extremely unusual and paid top dollar. I had some great international records, classic rock, classical, jazz, and experimental music. Why did I sell? Because I didn't listen to the records that often. I still have a great 1970's sound system - really classic stuff. I"ve kept about 100 albums, but I don't listen to them enough to warrant the space they take. That said, there is something beautiful; something visceral about vinyl. I think the difference between vinyl and digital music is greater than the difference between paper books and eBooks. Certainly, the album art alone is worthy of praise, as compared to what CD offer, or what one gets from the iTunes store.

My cousin is a jazz vinyl collector; his apartment - every room - has walls lined with vinyl. He specialized in pre-50's jazz and it's a large part of his life. One of the more peaceful and balanced people I know - so maybe vinyl does make you a better person. Who knows?

btw, that "warm" vunyl sound is the distortion one's ear becomes accustomed to. Analog vinyl is not as crystal clear as digital.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:18 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I would like to see a listening test that compares good vinyl recordings to good digital recordings of those same vinyl recordings. Just record the LPs straight from the turntable to digital, so any noise in the vinyl system is transferred to the digital recordings. See how many vinyl fans can hear the difference between their own vinyl and digital recordings of their own vinyl.
posted by pracowity at 2:37 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


My understanding is that the digital cds cut out background noise, which is essential to understanding the physical space of the recording. I am no audiophile, but I do hear a difference.
posted by xammerboy at 3:01 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


This is gonna be one of those times when the Youtube comments are smarter than the Metafilter ones, isn't it?
posted by cincinnatus c at 3:02 AM on April 2 [9 favorites]


No, the youtube comments are waist deep into the big muddy of the vinyl sounds best, no digital is better debate.

I got a couple of hundred elpees myself, but nothing to play them on and most of them digitised and on a harddrive that takes up less than a 1/100th of the space these feckers take up. Only reason I haven't got rid of them yet is nostalgia.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:23 AM on April 2


A friend of mine once created lots of "fake CDs" that were essentially pieces of cardboard with RFID chips and hid an RFID reader underneath a small socket. With some simple programming and electronics, this made it possible for him to control his MP3/FLAC based music setup with a physical representation of the record.

You could do something like that with vinyl, if you're more about the act of putting music on a turntable than any difference in audio quality. Also, no scratches...
posted by pseudocode at 3:26 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]


A friend of mine once created lots of "fake CDs" that were essentially pieces of cardboard with RFID chips and hid an RFID reader underneath a small socket. With some simple programming and electronics, this made it possible for him to control his MP3/FLAC based music setup with a physical representation of the record.

That's one of those things that's so silly and useless yet so awesome.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:29 AM on April 2


That's... that's just awesome in its obsessiveness.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:29 AM on April 2


Making fun of hipsters is so original.

I see it more as an opportunity to recognize and laugh at our own obsessive tendencies. I'm no hipster, but when my niece asked me to describe my listening habits once, I drafted email after email, and finally gave up because it was just too nuanced and complicated to describe without coming across as kind of scary.

Incidentally, I deliberately didn't add a hipster tag to this post.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 3:40 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


I have a great turntable, plugged in to a 70's-vintage Yamaha receiver -- the kind with the big huge tuner knob, where if you spin it hard, will roll the little lighted station indicator all the way from one end to the other of the spectrum window, and it's plugged into 70's vintage 3-way speakers with 10 inch woofers.

It doesn't sound as good as a CD playing on my computer through my firewire interface & Alesis M1's at all.

*kills self*
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:33 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


Are there really still people holding out that vinyl (also known as "plastic," sorry romantics) actually sounds better than modern 24-bit digital through a quality DAC?

Or is it just about collecting cool old stuff and telling folks you DJ?
posted by spitbull at 4:48 AM on April 2


While listening to vinyl does make one a better person, "better" is a relative term. If you want to ascend to a much higher plane, listen to shellac. Even then you will fall short of those who listen to wax. But let's be brutally honest here. There is only one true, pure listening experience. Tin foil. A gossamer-thin sheet of tin foil lovingly wrapped around the mandrel of a phonograph hand-built by Thomas Edison himself, and powered by a hand crank. "Mary Had a Little Lamb" changed my life. Changed. My. Life.
posted by Longtime Listener at 5:02 AM on April 2 [21 favorites]


Stop calling them CDs; they're compact discs. "CD" is a nickname, and nicknames are for friends, and compact discs are not your friend.
posted by logicpunk at 5:11 AM on April 2 [16 favorites]


I don't miss the cleaning, the expensive stylus fits, the look out where you're walking or it'll bump the turntable, the feedback, Mr Wow and Mr Flutter, degrading my purchase by using an intrinsically destructive process to play it back, or waking up after a particularly stoned listening party with permanent scratching on my LPs.

LP covers are great for rolling joints on, I'll give them that, plus the artwork and lyrics/liner notes you can read without a microscope. I keep my several hundred LPs purely as artefacts, but if I lived in a smaller house I doubt I'd bother.
posted by Wolof at 5:18 AM on April 2 [5 favorites]


In the 70s, when vinyl (we just called them "records" back then) was the normal mainstream way of listening to music, true audiophiles had reel-to-reel tape machines and boasted about their sonic purity.
There will always be a need for some people to separate themselves from the herd and claim superiority. It's human nature.
posted by rocket88 at 5:23 AM on April 2 [12 favorites]


Ha! We watched this clip yesterday in my material culture class. The topic was on the psychology of collecting.
posted by Calzephyr at 5:26 AM on April 2


Longtime Listener, I think you'll find the sound of the earliest recording (made by scratching soundwaves onto paper blacked by smoke) has an emotional effect on the listener (when someone tells her it sounds like a bee trapped in a jar).

Vinyl is clearly better due to the size. If I look at the cover of an LP it can have a life size image of the artist's head on it, or indeed a fold-out poster with a life size image of the artist inside. The images on the CD of the album are much smaller and the best you can hope for is an A6 flyer fold-out. Likewise the lyrics. Lyrics printed on vinyl inner sleeves are bigger, therefore they have more meaning.
posted by asok at 5:29 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


> I would like to see a listening test that compares good vinyl recordings to good digital recordings of those same vinyl recordings.

That would complicate the potential objectivity of the test, since you'll just wade off into the argument of what qualifies a good digital spec, what equipment and method you used for the digital rip, and so on. "Digital" is not, itself, a pure quantification process.

Vinyl *can* be better than digital by ear; but that's predicated on the quality of your (analog and digital) playback hardware, and especially on how well you maintain your records and equipment. There's also the convenience factor: Keeping redundant data backups of my entire digital audio collection is easier than cleaning a couple vinyl records, and they don't sound worse if I scuff up my iPod.

It's still early in the adoption curve of high-resolution digital audio, but I think once that becomes economical and easy accessible (currently, the going rate seems to be $20-30 per album, and only available from specialty online sellers or direct from the labels), and the audio hardware can keep up well... most people aren't going to notice much difference. But those who care will notice and like the improvement.
posted by ardgedee at 5:31 AM on April 2


I really don't know why records have to be treated as either a fetish or something to sneer at. I have been listening to records since, well, birth, but 1964 in terms of my actual memory. I still listen to records. I like playing records. I also like playing CDs and the occasional mp3. If you get a 77-pound turntable, then even a pack of dogs trotting across the spongy wooden floor won't disturb it. Or just play FLACs or whatever. No skin off of my nose.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:40 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I find the humor in this awfully weak, because the whole hipster-hur-dur instinct is just another sign that we've become a culture that actively roots against the brash, the playful, the outsider, and the underdog. Yeah—screw those precious pretentious entitled poseurs! It's not like when we were young! [See also: what you were actually like when you were young]

That said, I hate the word "vinyl" almost as much as I scowl at the noxious "film," which are the kind of horrible credentialist tags of curatorial overreach that we've always gone to whenever we want to be clear that we are very serious about the things we enjoy.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
posted by sonascope at 5:41 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I liked the song at the end, that begins "Candy says... stop writing songs about me." Seemed somehow perfect.
posted by edheil at 5:45 AM on April 2


My records sound better than my iPhone. There's a test and the records passed.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:46 AM on April 2


BTW it's silly to say vinyl sounds "better" for any other reason than that you like a tiny bit of crackle with your music or you like the sound of the needle being placed onto or removed from the record. CD quality is good enough to reproduce any nuance of music which is audible to human beings. Any differences between the two are either illusory or else due to affection for *flaws* in audio reproduction from vinyl (e.g. the aforementioned crackle).
posted by edheil at 5:49 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


> I find the humor in this awfully weak, because the whole hipster-hur-dur instinct is just another sign that we've become a culture that actively roots against the brash, the playful, the outsider, and the underdog.

I dunno. I feel like... well, not like I was targeted, but the ordnance landed on my camp, I guess. I got rid of my vinyl albums years ago but still miss the music on a few of them, because they'll *never* be legally reissued for various reasons, and some of 'em are too obscure to be likely to show up on any MP3 site.

The sketch was a little weak, but it was also fairly good-humored. I was left with the impression the people who made this were making fun of themselves rather than looking down on others.

Also, the first time I saw this video a couple days ago it was shortly after I'd played that one Labradford album. So rawk.
posted by ardgedee at 5:51 AM on April 2


I find the humor in this awfully weak, because the whole hipster-hur-dur instinct is just another sign that we've become a culture that actively roots against the brash, the playful, the outsider, and the underdog.
Yeah. For all that they may be hipsters, vinyl collectors are such recognizable geeks that this sort of feels more like geek-bashing than hipster-bashing. OMG, look at that weirdo who likes to collect and sort and obsessively categorize obscure, old-fashioned things! Let's all laugh at that pathetic weirdo. And I mean, fuck that. There's nothing wrong with whole-heartedly embracing the hobbies that make you happy, whether they're hipster hobbies or collecting glass railroad insulators. The world needs more people who are unashamed of their passions.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:59 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


When it comes to record collecting (and probably other types of collecting, too), there seem to be two types; completeists who want as large a collection as possible, and curators who endlessly add and subtract from their collections. Fortunately for my mental health, I'm the second type. This is my entire collection; about 600 records. When those shelves are full, I have to get rid of something if I want to add something new. It keeps my collection to a manageable size and keeps it from feeling overwhelming (in ways I wrote about in this blog post about record collecting and my relationship with it). Why do I collect records? Because I enjoy the randomness of searching for records in thrift stores and flea markets, because I like the physicality of the LPs and because I enjoy tinkering with my collection the way some people enjoy messing about with car engines or renovation projects. What it's not about is accumulating Cool Points, although I suppose if I were younger it might be more about differentiating myself.

> Ha! We watched this clip yesterday in my material culture class. The topic was on the psychology of collecting.

If this subject is of interest to you, I heartily recommend To Have And To Hold, An Intimate History of Collectors and Collecting, by Philipp Blom.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:21 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


It reminds me very much of this: https://vimeo.com/70877686
A much drier and better done iteration on tape cassettes!
posted by cicadaverse at 6:26 AM on April 2


Reminded me of a movie idea I had a few years ago - a record show mockumentary. The camera just roams around one of those Holiday Inn ballroom record shows, eavesdropping on conversations between vendors and customers. I used to love hunting for stuff at those shows, but they now seem pretty funny to me.
posted by davebush at 6:29 AM on April 2


Stop calling them CDs; they're compact discs. "CD" is a nickname, and nicknames are for friends, and compact discs are not your friend.
posted by logicpunk


But you, LP, are my friend.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:30 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


A record is neat because it is such an obvious physical manifestation of that Heraclitus saying: "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."

I keep my vinyl collection because most of my records belonged to my father. I own about 65 LPs and 20 singles. I have a list of records I want - musicians I like and appreciate - that were also part of my dads original collection, the one that got stolen out of the back of a friend's van back in the 60s or 70s before I was born. He is still talking about that loss. I love taking out an old album from his youth and thinking about him spending his tiny sum of change for working in the town park down at the record store on the corner while I listen to the music. It's neat how this experience ties me back to his past (or my imagination of his past as it was told to me) while firmly anchoring me in the present.

I'm going to go put on Surrealistic Pillow and get my groove on now. Thanks for the neat thread.
posted by sockermom at 6:39 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


When those shelves are full, I have to get rid of something if I want to add something new.

Just like Metafilter.
posted by sneebler at 6:53 AM on April 2


iirc, a lot of classical music people never really bought in to CDs. They may have been assimilated eventually, because of convenience, but they didn't like it.

With rock, I really thought that the so-called vinyl revival was going to be a short, faddy trend, when I learned of it about 15 years ago: wrong again.

One cool aspect of this is that it gives record labels an alternate revenue stream. For example, Don Was, who has also put most of the Blue Note catalog out on Spotify, also can sell 45 rpm reissues of classic Blue Note LPs for $50. And people scooped them up!
posted by thelonius at 7:06 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I have lots and lots of records and plenty of emotional, iikely illogical reasons for loving them. I also hold similarly illogical, contradictory opinions about the resurgence of vinyl and why kids (a surprising number of them do not own turntables, by the way) are buying LPs at all when most of them have/have had iPods since childhood, University-provided free wireless and Spotify accounts. Personally, I think it's absolutely hilarious that kids born in 1995 are spending upwards of $30 bucks on vinyl "legacy" reissues of the same records I used to find a bajillion copies of in the .10 bin at the Salvation Army ("Moondance," James Taylor's Greatest Hits, Led Zep IV, etc). But really the only salient point here is this: if your favorite local record store has (improbably) managed to stay in business over the last decade (and the last 4-5 years in particular), it is because of vinyl records.

So people, please keep buying records. Buying vinyl will not make you a better person, but it might allow a few of us buggy whip manufacturers to keep the lights on for another day.
posted by thivaia at 7:26 AM on April 2 [8 favorites]


For a second I thought when he said that one record was terrible, he was holding Songs in the Key of Life. Thank goodness it wasn't, because joke or no joke, you don't play like that. He also held up Rappers Delight while saying he wasn't a DJ but would like to be friends with the DJ.
posted by cashman at 7:31 AM on April 2


A friend of mine once created lots of "fake CDs" that were essentially pieces of cardboard with RFID chips and hid an RFID reader underneath a small socket. With some simple programming and electronics, this made it possible for him to control his MP3/FLAC based music setup with a physical representation of the record.

You could do something like that with vinyl, if you're more about the act of putting music on a turntable than any difference in audio quality. Also, no scratches...


That's basically the concept behind Serato Sratch Live...vinyl controllers for digital files. But in this case, scratching is a feature, not a bug.
posted by malocchio at 7:36 AM on April 2


"If your favorite local record store has (improbably) managed to stay in business over the last decade (and the last 4-5 years in particular), it is because of vinyl records."

A point I like to try and make to the vinyl-haters in my life.
posted by jeffen at 7:41 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


true audiophiles had reel-to-reel tape machines

Man, this is so true. I've always been amused by the current generations of Audiophiles arguing that LPs are the "better", "warmer", or more "authentic" sound, whatever that meant, considering what the Serious Listeners of 30 years ago used. Now it's vinyl vs digital and "everyone change chairs please!"
posted by bonehead at 7:45 AM on April 2


I only listen to 192 kHz/24 bit FLAC rips of vintage vinyl, myself...
posted by mikelieman at 7:52 AM on April 2


FWIW, the 'better' in "Vinyl is 'better'" often refers to the individual mix and mastering done to the vinyl album, which can be subjectively preferred to that of a later remastered digital product.
posted by mikelieman at 7:54 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I listened to my mom's records a lot during my teen years in the 90s. my mom had all but abandoned her collection, leaving it on the bottom shelf and letting the cats sharpen their claws on the spines. i rescued them because, while mp3s were just starting to gain traction, we weren't to the point where we could go on the internet and listen to any song you wanted with just a few clicks.

I too was swept away by the future of mix CDs, the wonder of YouTube videos, the magic of mp3s and now, the spectacular of streaming.

but somewhere along the way, I got tired of listening to mix CDs and playlists. It felt like musical ADD, jumping around.

so I picked up the record habit again. I like it because I put on a record and that's it - it just plays through one side. and sure there's a well-known hit buried in the middle but you've gotta listen to ALL the songs, and you get a real sense of what that artist created as a whole. putting a record on is a great timer for me - do the dishes until side A runs out. it's a testament to love when my boyfriend comes into the living room to flip the record so I don't have to move out of my comfy working-on-the-couch position. it becomes a bonding experience for a couple, where we spend a whole Friday afternoon holding hands and flipping through LPs at the four (FOUR!) record shops in a three-block radius from our apartment.

but most importantly, it makes listening to music an event again, where you are forced to pay attention to ONE album, forced to sit there and listen to what this artist had to say for 20 minutes or so. it's not just background noise while you're at work or driving in your car.

I'm not a person who obsesses over colored vinyl though I do think it's quite pretty. I don't really care about record store day. I don't care about Japanese imports. I just wanna walk into a goodwill and see a stack of Prince LPs that are playable.
posted by kerning at 8:18 AM on April 2 [10 favorites]


I only listen to 192 kHz/24 bit FLAC rips of vintage vinyl, myself...

Dilettante. If you understood the listening experience, you'd be ripping your vinyl to Ogg Vorbis.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:23 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


God, I just love the way Ogg Vorbis sounds....the name, not the format.

"Curse you Ogg Vorbis! We shall meet again, and the advantage will be MINE!"
posted by malocchio at 8:32 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


"Commander, the Ogg Vorbis is hailing us and requesting clearance to dock."
posted by griphus at 8:55 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


There's something wonderful and visceral about setting a slab of plastic on a big, clunky-yet-elegant device that turns it into your favorite music electromechanically. Same goes for diving through dusty record bins, trying to find something you love while crossing your fingers that it hasn't been damaged by time and carelessness. There's something about an old, well cared for record that's kind of melancholy and beautiful, thinking about the unknown former owners listening to it for however many years, and what their listening ritual was like, even if they were never the type of person to recognize it as a ritual, and thinking about what that record was the background music for in their lives. Vinyl's fun.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:15 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Is there something besides the really un-funny anti-hipster rant that I should be taking away from this?
posted by humboldt32 at 9:20 AM on April 2


Is there a consensus that this is "anti-hipster"? It's clearly making fun of vinyl enthusiasts, in a similar manner to High Fidelity. Was that film (and the book it came from) "anti-hipster" too? Also labeling something that gentle in its satire as being a "rant" seems hyperbolic.
posted by jeffen at 9:26 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I have about 400 albums (including all my albums from my youth) and probably 500 CDs and I continue to buy and listen to both. I seem to divide along these lines - if I know I'm going to want to listen to something both at home and in the car, I go with CD. If I know I'm going to want to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and do nothing but listen to an album, I'll go with vinyl. So my vinyl collection tends to be more either nostalgia stuff or jazz or leonard cohen or singer songwriter stuff or classic rock while my CD collection tends to be stuff like The Soft Boys, Television, Iceage, Queens of the Stone Age, Waylon Jennings, etc.
posted by spicynuts at 9:27 AM on April 2


To hold my own against the vinyl proponents, I have prepared some comments of my own regarding the superiority of 7.5 IPS reel to reel tapes. Bring it, hipsters.

I waited in vain for the guy in the video to say, "This record changed my life—and this one changed it back."
posted by Flexagon at 9:35 AM on April 2


God, I just love the way Ogg Vorbis sounds....the name, not the format.

That's because, as any fule knows, it was named after two Pratchett characters. One was of course Nanny Ogg, but who was the other? (No cheating!)
posted by MartinWisse at 9:43 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


Shepherd has been accumulating records he likes--or finds weird and intriguing--for years, well before we got married. Now I don't really have a dog in the "which is better" fight, but I do like that it is now a tradition in our marriage that Sundays are Vinyl Sundays, where we choose what records we'd like to start our lazy morning with. Usually pancakes are the Vinyl Sunday breakfast of choice.

(I do love that he is trying to buy me as many as Tom Waits records as he can because he knows how much I love Tom Waits.)
posted by Kitteh at 9:54 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I used to have a huge collection of physical media. Now I have a shelf with a half dozen hard drives on it and an uncluttered home. I started by ditching my CDs. Then my vinyl. Then my VHS tapes. Then my DVDs. At this point, I'm even losing my patience for books, a thought which would have horrified me only a few years ago. Today, they're just one more fucking thing to have to find a place for.

I don't mention any of this to slag people who still love records or any other physical media. I don't have a stake in what anyone else does. But the more I give myself over to ones and zeroes, the less sheer physical stuff I have in my home. And the happier I've become.

I still read. I still listen to tons of music. I still watch an absurd amount of movies and shows. But I no longer arrange my entire home around bits of plastic, paper, and cardboard. I no longer spend tons of money on storage solutions for archived media, most of which I go years without futzing with. I use my shelves to display beloved mementos and travel souvenirs instead of warehousing stuff for later. My closets have clothes in them instead of heaps of movies. The only thing under my bed is my slippers.

And I still have all of the same media on hand. More, really. If someone wants to call out to me from a fortress of discs and cardboard that they're better than me, that's cool. I will stay off their lawn. Whatever makes them happy.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:11 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Many years ago I went to a super high end "stereo" store and listened to their über system.
I then walked down a walkway to a small local symphony performance. It was unreal. The live music was so subtle, not flashy, just... perfect.

Therefore I developed my first law of music:
Any recorded music isn't even close to the real thing

My second law is equally brilliant, developed when listening to AM radio in a 1970s Vega, then having the radio break:

The difference between the best and the worst music reproduction pales in comparison to the difference between any and no music.

© GreatThoughtsByMe, 1972
posted by cccorlew at 10:26 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


I once saw an argument about digital vs. vinyl come to a complete halt when one of the debaters asked: "Which do you think is more likely: digital finding a way to match or better vinyl for sound quality, or vinyl finding a way to approach or reach 'zero' for production costs?"
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:26 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


BTW it's silly to say vinyl sounds "better" for any other reason than that you like a tiny bit of crackle with your music or you like the sound of the needle being placed onto or removed from the record. CD quality is good enough to reproduce any nuance of music which is audible to human beings. Any differences between the two are either illusory or else due to affection for *flaws* in audio reproduction from vinyl (e.g. the aforementioned crackle).

Regardless of ones opinion in this tired and aggravating debate, I'd like to question your listening skills and how refined your ears are. Just as someone with no knowledge of music theory will not understand how and why a certain harmonic progression works (even if it sounds good to them), then someone without a refined ear will not hear the subtle differences in the distinctions between digital and analog music. Many record listeners listen to shitty old vinyl from the dollar bin, on a cheap record player with a crappy amp sending the wrong power to the speakers which are using different length speaker cables. As I've written in previous threads, the true audiophiles out there who sink 10's of thousands of dollars into their systems do so because they want to drop the needle and hear absolutely no cracks, hisses and pops, only clean audio. What you describe as flaws are indeed flaws, due to dirty stylus, caked dust in the grooves of the record, a bad tone arm, etc.

At the same time, to get the most out of digital files, ESPECIALLY from a computer, you need a good DAC ($600), a third-party digital music player because iTunes sucks for this (anywhere from $70-$150), high-quality hopefully handmade cables to connect the DAC to your amp (depending on length anywhere from $60 on up to the hundreds.) Not to mention the best audio files you can find from HDtracks.com for example.

The point is, anyone who cares seriously about the quality of their listening experience will have to invest, no matter WHAT medium they choose. If you're perfectly satisfied with plugging a wire into the headphone jack of your computer and using iTunes with your Sony boombox, then let the music play and enjoy!

I'm just sick of the "I'm better for this or that reason.", and so, in addition to my small but nice record collection of almost all near-mint records, I use Audirvana and a Dragonfly DAC to listen to all my digital files. Without question, after years of listening and many a stoned night doing side-by-side tests in ALL formats, comparing mp3 to FLAC, mp3 to vinyl, FLAC to vinyl, and even the different quality FLAC to vinyl, with the DAC, without the DAC, using iTunes, using Audirvana, I still maintain that vinyl usually wins out.

The point when my ears no longer hear the distinction as "better or worse" is when listening to 24/96 FLAC files through the DAC, versus near-mint vinyl. The distinction becomes more about personal preference. Neither sounds better, they only sound different. And that's only when you can click a button to switch instantaneously, and the difference is SO subtle. Upgrading your audio listening is a rabbit hole down which you can throw thousands of dollars. It's all arguing for the sake of arguing. Figure out your style, collect your media, get your system balanced and for crying out loud, shut up and LISTEN!
posted by ReeMonster at 10:28 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


I've been naming characters in video games "Ogg Vorbis" for years, I highly recommend it.
posted by Kwine at 10:30 AM on April 2


The psychology of collecting is really complicated and even though the clip targets a lonely hipster, it could easily substitute Granny and her snow globe collection. It's only making fun of hipsters because it is a social role that is visible and comes with a uniform look that makes it recognizable. It really zooms in on why people collect - an ordinary object becomes sacred, collecting is a self esteem boost, a chance to be an expert at something. Even the display of the object is important. Then there's the privilege of who gets to see and touch the object. It even hints that the hipster's sense of self is fused with the seemingly bland collection - the camera can't see what's special about it. The one thing the clip misses is that collecting anything is a very social activity - collectors love meeting other collectors.

Material culture is really fascinating - all y'all would be surprised at what your possessions say about you.
posted by Calzephyr at 10:35 AM on April 2


I'm well aware of what my possessions say about me. They talk about me behind my back when they think I can't hear them. But they know better than to say that shit to my face.
posted by cashman at 10:40 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


I love listening to records and I've figured out why:

I love music. I want more of a relationship with it, not less.

Records give me a way to spend a different kind of time with music, more intentionally, more physically, more viscerally.

The overall quality of the listening experience feels better with records. The sound quality is only one part of that (and really at its best it's just nicer, warmer, not 'better').
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:45 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Personally, I think it's absolutely hilarious that kids born in 1995 are spending upwards of $30 bucks on vinyl "legacy" reissues of the same records I used to find a bajillion copies of in the .10 bin at the Salvation Army ("Moondance," James Taylor's Greatest Hits, Led Zep IV, etc).

I defy you to find someone who paid $30 for "James Taylor's Greatest Hits" who didn't already own it. These are records that used shops don't accept because they can't sell the ones they already have. Those $0.10 copies are still there. Well, they're $0.50 now, but still. Inflation.

That said, I don't know which sounds better, but vinyl certainly more economical, even with the occasional expensive-repress purchase.
posted by rhizome at 10:46 AM on April 2


It seems clear that the entire "legacy" vinyl re-release market came about as a way of staunching the blood flow of the critically wounded non-digital sales market by coming up with reasons why people who'd already paid for music at least once before would feel compelled to pay even more to buy the same songs again.

There's some nice re-releases. And I sincerely don't doubt they sound great. But we all know why they really exist.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:50 AM on April 2


I love seeing people argue with the satirical video.

I don’t think anyone ever mentioned "hipster". Coming in here to the hipsters defense is sort of like saying "another video hating on white people".
posted by bongo_x at 10:53 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


So people really do seem to favourite Expedit for storing vinyl. Heads up: IKEA is phasing them out and/or renaming them and/or changing the dimensions. Or all of the above.
posted by maudlin at 11:11 AM on April 2


IKEA is phasing them out and/or renaming them and/or changing the dimensions. Or all of the above.

They'd better not try and fuck with Billy, or stuff will burn down.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:51 AM on April 2


Music is fun. Hi fi is fun. Record players are fun. Records are fun. Arguing about hi fi is particularly fun. Making fun of record collectors and audiophiles is fun. Being a record collector or an audiophile is fun. These are all different, though interrelated, ways of enjoying music, technology and culture, and arguing about them is the best part. Have a beer and enjoy!
posted by sfred at 11:56 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


These arguments always revert to the "refined ear" argument. It's like talking to homeopathy proponents...no matter how much measurable data is presented against them it always gets dismissed because the true difference is something unmeasurable, some mysterious quality that we can hear but you can't.
I'm an EE. I know how DACs work and I know how electrons flow in wires. I know how dynamic range relates to bit depth and how frequency response relates to sample rate. I know that once it exits the DAC digital music is just as analog as what comes out of the phono preamp.
CDs at 16-bit 44.1KHz are amazing. Vinyl is very close (for practical purposes they are equally good). Digital ages better and requires less equipment investment. 24-bit 96KHz adds almost nothing except cost (the exception is during mixing, where higher resolution is more necessary). Poor quality MP3 sounds like shit.
(But hand-made cables the same length is a new one. I'd love to hear the explanation behind that)
posted by rocket88 at 11:59 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


(But hand-made cables the same length is a new one. I'd love to hear the explanation behind that)

That was a sly throw-away gag which I'm glad you picked up on. I'm sure there are factory made cables that are very good but lots of shitty cables (Monster) are just crap wire at an obscenely marked up cost. My friend brought over some cable he ordered from some dude on Long Island who makes it himself and I really was stunned at the difference it made. Night and day. Take that for what it's worth.

And for speaker cable, an old audiophile friend would tell me it's important to have the same length of wire going to each speaker, but really it would only matter if you had like, a 500 foot difference. I'm assuming there's a totally insignificant degradation over a longer wire. But who the hell knows. I'm in a small apartment so everything is compact, that is, my speakers are not 500 feet apart. But damn if they were, those old stereo separated Beatles tunes would sound seriously effed up.
posted by ReeMonster at 12:10 PM on April 2


And also, when someone presents the ignorant argument that people only like vinyl because they like hisses and pops, that tells me they do NOT have a refined ear. Ears can undoubtedly be refined, as anyone with 4-6 years of ear training can attest. Nobody can instinctively listen to a piano cluster and identify exactly all the notes which were played. Hell, I can't. But plenty of people can. And they usually turn out to be excellent orchestrators.
posted by ReeMonster at 12:14 PM on April 2


It says "1,782 vinyl records" as if they considered that a high number.
 
posted by Herodios at 12:25 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


an old audiophile friend would tell me it's important to have the same length of wire going to each speaker, but really it would only matter if you had like, a 500 foot difference.

Think more "same length cabling avoids a potential 'delay line' issue and promotes proper phase alignment in the temporal domain"... Those ns add up to ms, you know...
posted by mikelieman at 12:28 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


Oh, and while we're at it, DBX > Dolby ....
posted by mikelieman at 12:33 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Actually, I was just waiting for the shelves to teeter forward and crush him.
posted by TDavis at 12:36 PM on April 2


Signal propagation in speaker wires is on the order of about 2 nanoseconds per foot. 500 feet would introduce a delay of about one microsecond, so the phase delay between speakers would be about equivalent to moving your head <1mm to either side while listening.
posted by rocket88 at 12:38 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


Clearly, we need to get Michael Lewis on this.
posted by malocchio at 12:57 PM on April 2


... moving your head {1mm to either side while listening.

That's why I bought this Hammacher-Schlemmer TruLok pro-listener's head clamp ($7,000 for steel, $10,000 for their patented NaturAudio oak but if you're not getting the oak you may as well just listen to music through a tin can and a string, IMO).
posted by griphus at 1:00 PM on April 2 [9 favorites]


Any recorded music isn't even close to the real thing

Let's not forget that not all recorded music intends to document (or duplicate) a performance. There's nothing inherently better about either live or recorded music.
posted by davebush at 2:42 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


One was of course Nanny Ogg, but who was the other? (No cheating!)

Santos "Knees" Vorbis.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:13 PM on April 2


If you're chasing after 100% pristine clarity, you're probably not getting the point. If you're analyzing things from an electrical engineering perspective you might also be missing the point. Simply put, human ears find a certain amount of harmonically interesting imperfection pleasing in a recording. This is outside of the compressed / lossless discussion, or other ways of chasing after audiophile clarity - it's about minor, almost imperceptible variabilities, frequency response shifts, harmonic overtones that alter the listening experience. It's a question that can best be addressed, hypothetically, by someone who studies the way music and audio signals are perceived by the brain.
posted by naju at 3:40 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


If you understood the listening experience, you'd be ripping your vinyl to Ogg Vorbis.

Vorbis is lossy!
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:52 PM on April 2


Is there something besides the really un-funny anti-hipster rant that I should be taking away from this?

You? No. Close the tab and enjoy the rest of your life.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 5:09 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I think a point that many here are kind of missing is that for a certain probably-not-insubstantial subset of people purchasing records isn't a statement of anything, it's just how you get your music now. Every one of my friends/peers buys records and pirates digital, or uses spotify/pandora or what have you (We get annoyed when they don't come with download cards, but it doesn't really matter because we've had it since it leaked two months before release.). If we want to support a band, buying a record and going to shows is the only way we're going to do it.

I don't own any CDs, I don't own a CD player, and I don't know anyone my age (28, many of my friends are young FWIW) that does. When I bought the newest Bowie album it came with a CD -- I was mystified. I walk into my local record store and the only people buying CDs are moms and dads re-purchasing Beatles albums. Most people I know who still have functioning ipods have them stuffed in a drawer somewhere, because we all have smart phones now.

Sound quality has fuck all to do with it.
posted by hafehd at 5:12 PM on April 2


I own a record store and can say the vast majority of vinyl buyers are not at all like this person. Sure, a small percentage is, and they generally talk louder and longer than the others, but, mostly, people who listen to vinyl are normal. Really.

Personally, I love the artwork (self-link) and the tactility. My ears are too shot to notice much of a difference in the sound.
posted by dobbs at 5:14 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Old vinyl is noisy and cruddy. But it has a warm low-mid-range.
posted by ovvl at 6:09 PM on April 2


hafehd - I get the logic, but I'm genuinely curious - why is vinyl your physical medium of choice, rather than CD?
posted by davebush at 7:50 PM on April 2


One thing I've noticed since I started paying attention in the early 70's: the set of musicians and the set of audiophiles do not overlap much in a Venn diagram. All of my fellow musicians had pretty crappy hi-fis. (Or whatever we called turntable-amplifier-speaker set-ups. I guess hi-fi is a 50's term.)

Just as I did not predict that coffee, smoothies, or cupcakes would become a "thing," I never in my wildest dreams predicted that vinyl would save some of our local "record stores," to use a term from my childhood.

I remember the first time I heard a CD. I had heard that binary music reproduction existed, but it was a moment in time when I was walking down the street in Nagoya that I heard it, live, tinny and obnoxious: they were playing a CD!

Now, I suppose, CD's sound as good as LP's. I have some LP's I play now and then, after twenty years of neglect - and this would be after selling two collections of LP's! - and they sound plenty good to me. And I buy CD's. Antiquated, I know, but I like the concept of an album. And, as a older musician, I don't listen to music as obsessively as I did in my youth, so I don't need many albums. I just listen more intently.
posted by kozad at 7:50 PM on April 2


the set of musicians and the set of audiophiles do not overlap much in a Venn diagram

I agree. Why? Maybe gear siphons off all possible cash that could go for audiophile stuff, cash for our pedalboards that cost more than our cars, maybe we're all deaf anyway, or maybe we're all beyond that shit because we know that music is in the air, man.
posted by thelonius at 8:39 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Vorbis is lossy!

But it's a warm lossy!
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:45 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


Aiffs!, Like Wav's but with metadata. As any library worker will tell you, it's all about the information. So despite the Pratchett reference, and the die hard vinyl junkies and et frickin cetera, Aiffs.
posted by evilDoug at 9:51 PM on April 2


When I was a kid, I noticed that my records sounded worse and worse. I wished for a record player that used light to read the grooves so they'd never wear out.

The gods heard me and delivered. I would never do a thing to anger them.
posted by Twang at 10:05 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


he set of musicians and the set of audiophiles do not overlap much in a Venn diagram.

Know what secret I discovered early on that saved me probably hundred of thousands of dollars?

Used Pro-Audio gear is superior to Audiophile gear in any context I've seen. There was a time I used a DC-300A for a headphone amp.
posted by mikelieman at 4:22 AM on April 3


> I wished for a record player that used light to read the grooves so they'd never wear out.

Here you go. Prices start at US$15,000. The main challenges underlying an optical record player are tracking and noise filtering. Tracking is a problem because records don't have standardized groove spacing, the spindle hole might not even be centered, and "optical" means you aren't allowed to have any device physically keeping the sensor centered over the groove. Noise filtering is a problem because the sensor has to be able to ignore dust and minor surface flaws. Unlike CDs, records don't provide checksums to allow the player to compensate for momentary errors. The vinyl record archives for, say, music companies with immense back catalogs, tend to prefer good ol' needle-in-groove style record players, albeit ones that look like military-spec lab equipment and cost about as much. A record isn't incrementally damaged simply by playing it, as long as you do it right, to some extremely obsessive degree of "right".
posted by ardgedee at 4:22 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but nowadays wouldn't we just 3-d scan the record, and simulate the needle in code?
posted by mikelieman at 4:24 AM on April 3


I know it's been attempted, but iirc the problem is getting good enough resolution. I'm not up to doing the math but I'd bet a 5,000 PPI scan of the outer groove of a 33rpm record would amount to a pretty poor sampling frequency compared to the CD standard of 44.1 KHz.
posted by ardgedee at 4:36 AM on April 3


Digital Needle
posted by griphus at 6:08 AM on April 3


« Older Can you inflate the balloon in the form of a...   |   At least they don't follow... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post