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The Tough Realities Behind Vinyl's Comeback
July 29, 2014 10:05 AM   Subscribe

If we’re talking about vinyl in 2014, we have to talk about Jack White. In April, rock‘n’roll’s self-appointed analog evangelist celebrated Record Store Day by teaming up with United Record Pressing in Nashville to put out the “World’s Fastest Released Record.” At 10 a.m., White and his band recorded a live version of his new album Lazaretto’s title track at his own Third Man studios, then drove the masters to United, where it went immediately onto a 7” press, before ending up in fans’ hands at the Third Man store. From start to finish, the process took 3 hours, 55 minutes, and 21 seconds.
posted by josher71 (82 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jack White's boosting of United is really weird/funny because their quality control reputation is terrible. I don't know anybody who's happy when they find out a record they want is being pressed at United. They've got the history, sure, but not much else.
posted by anazgnos at 10:09 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Almost no dance music. How odd. I guess most of that stuff comes from Germany or the UK?
posted by 1adam12 at 10:23 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


> Jack White's boosting of United is really weird/funny

Jack White seems to be a big fan of novelty cuts, and United will say, "Sure man, we can do that," where other record plants will say, "Um, we could, I guess, technically, but we sure don't want to."
posted by ardgedee at 10:32 AM on July 29


These scratch holograms look pretty cool. If you can't sit through the artist's lecture, someone else has an explanation.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:33 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


The real novelty at this point would be a well-mastered, well-cut, well-pressed record on normal vinyl, but who wants that?
posted by anazgnos at 10:41 AM on July 29 [7 favorites]


I've been reading "vinyl is back!" articles for about ten years now. At what point does it stop being a revival? (See also: "Biff! Pow! Comics aren't just for kids anymore!")
posted by kaisemic at 10:42 AM on July 29 [10 favorites]


At what point does it stop being a revival?

If that happens, it will be time for a...revival
posted by thelonius at 10:52 AM on July 29


The numbers don’t show cassettes catching on widely just yet

I sometimes peruse the recording and music subs at Reddit, and there's a question about releasing cassettes every week (some people even want to record on cassette portastudios, which is another discussion entirely). I understand that you want to provide something tactile at a reasonable price, and CDs are dead as disco (oh wait), but nobody wants to talk about how bad tapes really were. Of course a lot of the kids planning tape releases didn't live with them, but there seems to be a very head-in-the-sand mentality about the audio quality of a homemade tape.

Tapes will always sound like cheap boomboxes to me--it might be an interesting idea, actually, to release an album dubbed full-fidelity onto a tape, but with the digital downloads processed through an impulse response of a cheap boombox with slowly-dying D-cells so listeners can get the right experience.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:58 AM on July 29 [3 favorites]


Tapes will always sound like cheap boomboxes to me

You say that like it's a bad thing!
posted by escabeche at 11:00 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


No one really believes vinyl is going to make a full-on comeback. No one ever did. It has managed a renewed level of appreciation by hobbyists. That's as good as it gets, though.

Because in the end, the push to digital cannot be stopped. Digital will almost certainly continue to narrow the deficit it has in audio quality versus vinyl, but there really isn't anything vinyl can do to close the deficit in production costs it has versus digital (whose costs are just this side of "zero.") And that's not even touching on the difference in portability.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:05 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


To me the tough reality behind the vinyl resurgence is all those thirty-dollar records getting worn to death on those crappy Crosleys. It doesn't take long for your vinyl collection to be worth way more than your record player, so it's best to protect your investment.
posted by in278s at 11:07 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Digital will almost certainly continue to narrow the deficit it has in audio quality versus vinyl

There really isn't one, in any practical sense. Streaming is another story entirely--even "high-quality" streaming is dreadful--but as far as CDs and downloadables, mission accomplished.

The guy with gold-plated pyramids on top of his hi-fi speakers might tell you otherwise, though.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:13 AM on July 29 [8 favorites]


The guy with gold-plated pyramids on top of his hi-fi speakers

Gold-plated? Amateur.
posted by xedrik at 11:13 AM on July 29 [11 favorites]


Digital will almost certainly continue to narrow the deficit it has in audio quality versus vinyl

Digital audio has no quality deficit versus analogue, much less against vinyl. What sonic improvements a vinyl release may exhibit compared to a CD of the same album are entirely the fault of the producers/engineers of the release, not due to any shortcomings of digital audio in general or RedBook audio in particular.
posted by Bangaioh at 11:15 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


Kinda disappointed they didn't reach out to Marc Maron for comment.
posted by Old Man Wilson at 11:16 AM on July 29


Recently my husband and I got his record player out of storage as well as his dad's reel to reel tape player. After a little work and cleaning, both were up and running and we were listening to our old records and his dad's "mix tapes" from when he was stationed in Korea.

Two things that stand out to me from the cultural history side of reviving these older methods of listening to music. First, almost every single track on the reel-to-reels was recorded from records his dad checked out from the base library. Those few that weren't are from the Clarksville Public Library and were created when he was on leave. His dad took very good notes on where the tracks came from and so forth, so it's neat to see this early form of music "piracy" in action. Second, regardless of the format, vinyl or tape, we both listen more intently to the music than we do just listening to things from the iWhatever or streaming. Instead of being background noise for our lives, the records and tapes cause us to actively listen to the music. That may be the novelty of the thing at the moment, but it's been a real treat.

I was also surprised at how absolutely transported I felt, sitting in the basement, listening to records. It was like I was 15 again, so much so that I felt guilty for having a boy over with no one home. We've since gotten some new records, Jack White's is among them, and that feeling of time travel remains, even when it's a brand new record.

Also, the hologram is freaking cool.
posted by teleri025 at 11:25 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


The advantage that vinyl has is that it is incapable of being brick walled in the same way that CD and digital releases routinely are. If you turn the loudness up to 11 on vinyl the needle will jump out of the groove. So it kind of enforces a standard of at least minimally sensible mastering.
In theory digital audio could be mastered like vinyl and would sound just as good if not better, but in practice it almost never is.
posted by Lanark at 11:34 AM on July 29 [3 favorites]


Shitty digital-to-analog converters and earbuds or bad computer speakers are a bigger quality issue, I think, than digital audio as such
posted by thelonius at 11:40 AM on July 29


In theory digital audio could be mastered like vinyl and would sound just as good if not better, but in practice it almost never is.

In practice digital audio in genres not involved in the Loudness Wars is noticeably better than vinyl was. Blaming "digital audio" for bad production/playback practices is silly.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:43 AM on July 29 [3 favorites]


I agree with pretty much all of that about digital vs. vinyl.

If I'm being honest, I don't see any deficit between high end digital and vinyl, but I was trying to be magnanimous since so many people do say they hear a difference, and a derail didn't seem worthwhile.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:43 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


I wonder what role the loudness war has played in making tapes and instapressed vinyl suitable to market. If you're used to CDs that are mastered for shitty stereos and smart phone speakers, of course tapes and hastily mastered vinyl will sound fine.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:44 AM on July 29


Tapes sound like... tapes. Heavily compressed with a wide bottom end. There is nothing inherently terrible about the sound unless your idea of quality relies on a high-spec S/N ratio. People love tape for the same reason they love Instagram filters or the PS2 version of Shadow of the Colossus: imperfections add character. Vinyl appreciation, at least for me, is less about sound quality and more about an antidote to the ADD track-skipping tendencies that mp3s and streaming amplify. These are tangible hunks of music that defy the digital age, and that makes them cool.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:51 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


There is nothing inherently terrible about the sound unless your idea of quality relies on a high-spec S/N ratio

Well ... yeah. I mean, you turn up your Anthrax dub-of-a-dub loud enough to hear over the road and wind noise and it's mostly hiss and rumble.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:15 PM on July 29


Jack White uses his privilege to release world's fastest released record and delays production of independent musicians' releases by yet another day. Jack White wins.

My bad: RingTFA now and saw disgruntled indie label quote in the third paragraph.
posted by GrapeApiary at 12:24 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


When I read about people stocking up on vinyl records - people who are not DJs but simply consumers - I keep asking myself "Why?" Qualitatively, vinyl's no better than digital audio that hasn't been compressed for storage purposes. They take up a lot of space, collect dust and require some upkeep. I guess it's just an object fetish. I like printed books and magazines, even though oftentimes a digital equivalent can be found. But is it really the same thing? A vinyl record has sound imprinted on it but other than the record sleeve, it's just a circular disc. Books and other printed matter, however, come in all different sizes, shapes, paper quality, designs, typographic features, etc. They are portable, and can be displayed on a shelf whereas vinyl records are generally stored in stacks so they require removal to view. To me, a vinyl record is just a slab of plastic - not really distinguishable from other vinyl records except for the sticker label - and a pretty large one at that if it's an LP, that's simply holding information that could be stored in a much more convenient and less wasteful way.
posted by ChuckRamone at 12:39 PM on July 29


other than the record sleeve, it's just a circular disc.

Pretty big "other than" there.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:47 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


Digital audio is a lot more convenient but as a music maker I see the appeal of physical analog media: No one is going to plug their record player into some shitty white earbuds or laptop speaker.
posted by yonega at 1:00 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


When I read about people stocking up on vinyl records - people who are not DJs but simply consumers - I keep asking myself "Why?" [...] To me, a vinyl record is just a slab of plastic - not really distinguishable from other vinyl records except for the sticker label - and a pretty large one at that if it's an LP, that's simply holding information that could be stored in a much more convenient and less wasteful way.

There's not really a coherent argument here. It just seems like you're entirely in the dark about why record collecting, which is fair enough. You're saying that vinyl has no aesthetic value because of the uniformity? You're aware there's music on there, right?

I can say now after 20-odd years of collecting that vinyl has held up way better than most of my CDs, and certainly better than any digital format. Assuming that a record is well-mastered and in good shape to start with, vinyl's far and away the best archival format, there's no question there. As long as I physically own that record and it's intact and safe, I've got that album - everything else, through hard experience, has been shown to be ephemeral.

Now, the constraints on collection size and storage are always there, but beyond those immediate concerns I can't imagine the value of chasing "efficiency" as a goal unto itself. Nobody wants to constantly be migrating to smaller devices or more efficient compression. Convenience is not the end all. These objections about efficiency and waste seem specious to me because I don't believe everyone who raises them is some kind of utilitarian lifehacker chopping every bit of waste out of their life...rather, it seems like they just don't get the appeal of this one thing, which is fine.

I have zero issue with admitting that I love the vinyl object, or the mass of objects, but to wave that off as "just" a "fetish" gets my goat. I would assume anybody who loves any kind of art has some area where they're willing to admit some amount of "inefficiency" into their approach to it or how much space they give it in their life, because they enjoy the whole experience. It's like somebody in gallery going "oh, I get it...you're not really looking at the painting, you just like the smell of the canvas" without appreciating that it might be both, or neither, or either in any combination.
posted by anazgnos at 1:25 PM on July 29 [6 favorites]


You basically just contradicted everything I said, i.e., no aesthetic value, no improvement upon storage or sound, maintenance required, etc. It's not that my argument is incoherent, it's that you disagree with me.
posted by ChuckRamone at 1:37 PM on July 29


I can say now after 20-odd years of collecting that vinyl has held up way better than most of my CDs, and certainly better than any digital format. Assuming that a record is well-mastered and in good shape to start with, vinyl's far and away the best archival format, there's no question there. As long as I physically own that record and it's intact and safe, I've got that album - everything else, through hard experience, has been shown to be ephemeral.

Doesn't the information erode every time you listen to it? That doesn't seem desirable in an archival format.
posted by yonega at 1:43 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


It's not that my argument is incoherent, it's that you disagree with me.

Sorry, but you can really say everything you said about records about books; it's just your interest is books, not records, so you pretend not to understand.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:48 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


A lot of these BUT WHYYYYY WHEN YOU CAN JUST STORE EVERYTHING ON 'PUTERS discussions (and for some reason, this is the only discussion that happens whenever vinyl comes up on Metafilter) assume everyone has fast internet and a stable computer with unlimited storage that's hooked up to quality speakers.

I use a first-gen iPad the speakers are broken on, a dying hand-me-down laptop full of someone else's music collection, and a stereo system cost me about $150 used at Decibel. The vast majority of records I buy are from artists I care about supporting, either because I love their music, or because they're friends of mine and I love their music.

So, yeah, records that I can play on a decent pair of speakers that have awesome cover art and liner notes and photos and drawings and pretty pretty swirly colored vinyl have a distinct aesthetic advantage over some FLAC files d/l'd off Bandcamp and played on some shitty laptop speakers. Maybe they wouldn't in a perfect nerd world, or whatever, but I'm going to keep using this shitty technology until it dies on me, and spending the money I save on more records.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:57 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


The metafilter slant has always been that book collecting, up to and including "object fetishism" (i.e. rhapsodies about how books smell, the tactile delights of yellowed pages, fingers stroking worn leather covers) is seen as noble, or at least acceptable, and I never see anybody seriously say "eh, just get a kindle". Everybody seems to grasp the idea that the convenience of digital doesn't necessarily trump everything else about reading a book or having a library, but no such luck when records come up. People happily advance the idea that streaming/digital has supplanted every other way of listening to music, and anyone who wants something not provided in that form is "just" a "fetishist".
posted by anazgnos at 2:00 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Doesn't the information erode every time you listen to it? That doesn't seem desirable in an archival format.

Maybe a little, but I don't play them on a Crosley, so I don't expect to see a very noticeable degradation in performance over the scale of my own lifespan. After that it's not really my problem.
posted by anazgnos at 2:05 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


[books] are portable, and can be displayed on a shelf whereas vinyl records are generally stored in stacks so they require removal to view.

My head asplode
posted by the bricabrac man at 2:13 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


here are some records i bought recently that are prettier than most books i own

campo formio - here comes...campo formio - DUDES JUST LOOK HOW PRETTY THIS IS

tacocat's nvm - couldn't find photos of the liner notes, which are all super cute girls with dyed hair and doodles and glitter, but here's a high res shot of the amazing cover

warm soda - young reckless hearts - i have this on black wax myself and the inner sleeve that edition comes with is really cool - it's printed with a full color collage of all the sheets of notebook paper matthew melton wrote the lyrics in, scratch-outs and alterations and all. you can see a little bit of it at the bottom of the page here

the yolks - kings of awesome haven't had a chance to pick this up yet BUT i did get to see the original cover art live and in person; it's actually traditional hand-lettered sign painting, enamel on metal, and i can't wait to hear the album, the yolks fucking rock
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:24 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


oh no now metafilter knows all about my love of lofi garage pop noooooooo
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:25 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


I can say now after 20-odd years of collecting that vinyl has held up way better than most of my CDs, and certainly better than any digital format. Assuming that a record is well-mastered and in good shape to start with, vinyl's far and away the best archival format, there's no question there. As long as I physically own that record and it's intact and safe, I've got that album - everything else, through hard experience, has been shown to be ephemeral.

I have the opposite experience. At least every 8-10 years, I'll buy a new computer, send the files from the old computer to the new, and every last piece of thousands of pieces of music and sound all remain as shiny as the day they were created. Meanwhile, moving apartments, storage, searching, accidents, physics, time, the years take a physical toll on the physical media.
Meanwhile-meanwhile, the future has arrived, and all that music, still as shiny and perfect as the day it was born, is now not just on my computer and the computer before it, etc, but also mirrored on cloud servers who-know-where, and available to every gadget I own.
It's reached the point where even my entire house could be burned to the ground and the digital format music would still be as new and shiny as the day it was born. And all this just kind of... happens. It doesn't take a noticable effort.
posted by anonymisc at 2:44 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


If you've never had a drive crash, a single file get corrupted, or had a backup fail, then I salute your ironclad backup scheme, or possibly your luck.
posted by anazgnos at 2:51 PM on July 29


My husband and I acquired a good turntable and good speakers about 18 months ago, and have been slowly building up a collection of vinyl, old and new. There's a number of reasons why I enjoy vinyl, despite also subscribing to a streaming service through which we can hear almost any music I can conceive of through those same good speakers.

1.) The experience is much deeper - this has nothing to do with the sound quality. Having to carefully extract a record from its sleeve, carefully place it on the turntable, carefully position the needle, etc. focuses the mind in a preparatory way for the listening experience ahead. I'm much more likely to listen closely and attentively after going through a ritual like this. Turning the record midway refreshes this sense of ritual.

2.) The album is experienced as an album, not as a collection of modular songs which can be rearranged, skipped, deleted, etc. There may be something a little sadistic about this ("OH GOD THE ONE BAD SONG ON THE ALBUM!") but it's also enjoyable to a.) try and listen to the less-liked songs and think about why someone might enjoy them, b.) try to think about what place they have on the album - if the album has a grammar, where parts relate to each other to create sense, then what role does this song have in that grammar? and c.) try to think about the album as a single artistic statement.

3.) The album art! Album art is not really best enjoyed in CD form - the packages are just too small. And there's practically no point when that same art is reduced to a thumbnail on my iPod. But a good album cover is really part of the listening experience. I stack it up by the turntable when the record is playing and it becomes like a temporary poster. It really enhances the experience in interesting ways, sometimes. For example, the recent St Vincent self-titled is supposedly meant to evoke a near-future cult-leader sensibility; you really get that loud and clear if this image is staring at you as you listen.
posted by erlking at 2:57 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


As a vinyl collector I agree that it's an outdated format, lesser quality than a decent FLAC, certainly less portable, more prone to destruction, degrades, so on. Doesn't stop me; I can and do buy music digitally too. It's not a thing I put into a logical accounting.
posted by solarion at 3:11 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


I like the idea of Lazaretto, but in my opinion the more gimmicky the release, the more it's likely to sound like muddy garbage. Maybe that speaks more to my tastes though than the merit of bands who (no judgment!) mix vintage confetti into their records. I haven't bought any brand spanking new records lately, but Merge used to have some of the most reliably good sounding indie rock on vinyl. Their Spoon releases are shiny examples of the aforementioned "well-mastered, well-cut, well-pressed record[s] on normal vinyl." I believe they were pressed by RTI, the company responsible for a lot of "audiophile" labels like Classic Records or Pure Pleasure. The endless permutations in source and quality and correlations thereof are both incredibly vexing and all part of the fun of collecting.

The real bummer is not how much time United might spend indulging the Jack Whites of the world, but how much time the old masters are wasting on special editions of Steely Dan.
posted by Lorin at 3:23 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


The real bummer is not how much time United might spend indulging the Jack Whites of the world, but how much time the old masters are wasting on special editions of Steely Dan.

QFT. A lot of the dismissive "fetishist" talk is driven more by well-heeled Luddites buying their fourth version of [insert AOR staple here] than it is nice people who just like the way My Morning Jacket sounds on a turntable.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:28 PM on July 29


I'll call people who amass tons of vinyl "hobbyists," but I'd feel weird calling them "fetishists" when I can gaze lovingly at the hard drive array and HTPC setup that drives my digital collection and briefly forget my own name.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:34 PM on July 29


Every time I hear about Jack White and his vinyl releases, the emphasis always seems to be "look at the crazy, weird, bizarre, unique thing we've done with vinyl records this week!" that, for the most part, have nothing to do with the music. The most intriguing thing about the Lazaretto release was how, depending on where you dropped the needle, a different song intro would play, but that still feels kind of gimmicky.

On the other hand, I do think it's a tacit recognition of what vinyl (and cassette tapes, for that matter) mean to a lot of people nowadays: they're totems. Symbols of music you appreciate that don't necessarily have to serve any practical purpose, but look damned good on your shelf. The big reason I think Jack White's releases are gimmicky, after all, are because I don't care much for his recent output. (And because I'd be terrified that the liquid-center record he put out would one day leak all over my apartment.) But I totally get the tactile and visual appeal of coloured vinyl inside big, flashy cardboard sleeves with pretty cover art, or specially coloured cassettes with neat labels and fun liner notes. It's about the only reason I can think of to buy vinyl, really.
posted by chrominance at 3:40 PM on July 29


If you've never had a drive crash, a single file get corrupted, or had a backup fail, then I salute your ironclad backup scheme, or possibly your luck.

Sounds like you're doing it wrong. I haven't found a need for much discipline - that would be too much like work, and I'm too lazy. Data security just happens. I (eventually) get a newer computer, and I set it up so I can use it. Boom, a backup just happened at the same time, for free. I buy a music player, and I use it. Boom, another backup just happened. I find the cloud convenient for my work files, so I decide to use the cloud. When checking the check boxes, I also put a tick on the music library. Boom, another backup is now happening automatically, every day, with no oversight required.
None of these backups involve me setting out to back up my files, they're just the natural course of eventually acquiring a new device every few years. I've had hard drives fail and flash-drives fail, etc, it hasn't mattered (other than being a royal annoyance).
posted by anonymisc at 3:41 PM on July 29


If you've never had a drive crash, a single file get corrupted, or had a backup fail, then I salute your ironclad backup scheme, or possibly your luck.

But this can be compensated for with redundancy.. RAID arrays, multiple copies of the data in multiple locations, keeping and verifying checksums, copying to offline solid state media.

The physical structure of a record changes every time you play it, so you can't listen to them if you're preserving them. For redundancy wouldn't also you need multiple copies of each record that are stored in different locations where whatever environmental conditions favor long-term storage of vinyl records are maintained?
posted by yonega at 3:43 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


As a vinyl collector I agree that it's an outdated format, lesser quality than a decent FLAC, certainly less portable, more prone to destruction, degrades, so on. Doesn't stop me; I can and do buy music digitally too. It's not a thing I put into a logical accounting.

Actually, I think you just have put it into a logical accounting; vinyl doesn't need to be superior to still be beautiful. Cars are better than horses, but horses are still loveable. Ok, I drive a car, but I love mechanical orrerys, and those clockwork orrerys are shit compared to what digital ones can do. But they're still beautiful in their own unique way :)
posted by anonymisc at 3:51 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


Data security just happens.

Uh....OK. That's a pretty novel take. I wish your data all the best, may your cloud storage company never unexpectedly go belly up; may your every future device remain universally compatible with the storage format you chose years ago.


But this can be compensated for with redundancy.. RAID arrays, multiple copies of the data in multiple locations, keeping and verifying checksums, copying to offline solid state media.


Now, that I agree with, but now we're certainly past the point of "it just happens" without "noticeable effort".

The physical structure of a record changes every time you play it, so you can't listen to them if you're preserving them.

This is basically vinyl concern trolling. We need to move past this myth of vinyl virginity. I'm not going to play every record I own 1,000 times between now and when I die. I have had some records that were 20 years old when I bought them, and are pushing 40 now, that still sound great. Some may degrade more than others, but we're not looking at universal entropy here.

For redundancy wouldn't also you need multiple copies of each record that are stored in different locations where whatever environmental conditions favor long-term storage of vinyl records are maintained?

Well, yes, but I think in the absence of perfect redundancy (which basically requires unlimited time/money/resources/attention) I think everyone just chooses the level and type of exposure they're most comfortable with.
posted by anazgnos at 3:53 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Heh, I'm listening to a 1977 LP of Brian Eno as I'm reading this. I've multiple music playing formats and they offer differt experiences. Yep, digital is nice, but it also devalues the value of music-in-general for many people. Yay I, litteraly, have tens of thousands tracks of music and am glad of it, but any emotional attachment to any given track is stretched pretty thin. Digital potability is fantastic and has sparked a remarkable explosion in music delivery.
Intentionality of physical media can't be blithely dismissed, nor the ability to interact with it and learn about it via liner notes without having to turn on your computer, which difusses your attention... LPs are fantastic, digital is fantastic, but in different ways, there is no call for spitting on either or affecting a superior attitude because I-don't-understand-how-anyone-can-be-so-dumb...
posted by edgeways at 3:56 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Uh....OK. That's a pretty novel take. I wish your data all the best, may your cloud storage company never unexpectedly go belly up; may your every future device remain universally compatible with the storage format you chose years ago.

It sounds like you don't get it or you're not interested in getting it or you're concern trolling. Why would it matter if the cloud storage company goes belly up? Why would it matter if future devices change? Answer: It wouldn't matter. It doesn't matter. It hasn't mattered. That's exactly why the data is secure.
posted by anonymisc at 3:58 PM on July 29


The big reason I think Jack White's releases are gimmicky, after all, are because I don't care much for his recent output.

I don't know...I think I would find that level of gimmickry annoying even if it were somebody I really loved. The parallel grooves thing was cool when Monty Python did it, but they were actively trying to fuck with people. Trumpeting that you've done it defeats the purpose

Gotta be clear that there's no kind of music delivery that I would refuse to interface with...I have tons of CDs, I have a Spotify account, I own an ipod. I just don't see any of them as permanently supplanting any of the others.

Why would it matter if future devices change? Answer: It wouldn't matter. It doesn't matter. That's exactly why the data is secure.

I think you have a surprisingly blithe attitude that is out of the mainstream of thought about the permanence of digital data. I think it's generally accepted that you can't expect every piece of data to remain permanently integral and accessible across all devices and all formats forever without any effort on the part of the user ever in perpetuity, and if you're not being naive you're at least overstating things to make a point.
posted by anazgnos at 4:04 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I've had data security just not happen on a number of occasions. One of the reasons I prefer books to Kindles. And printed photos. And etc.
posted by grumpybear69 at 4:14 PM on July 29


I think it's generally accepted that you can't expect every piece of data to remain permanently integral and accessible across all devices and all formats forever without any effort on the part of the user ever in perpetuity, and if you're not being naive you're at least overstating things to make a point.

The X-factor that I have going for me is more technical understanding (and copyright political-technological understanding) than the average consumer. I take paths that work without much ongoing effort later down the road. But I expect a vinyl collector has similar above-average knowledge of their pursuit, so I think it is fair to put my experiences in contrast with yours.
posted by anonymisc at 4:14 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


I don't know...I think I would find that level of gimmickry annoying even if it were somebody I really loved.

Maybe a better way to put it would be that I would happily put up with the gimmickry if I really liked the music. Parallel grooves are not a selling point, but if I already like the band a lot I'm happy to shell out for something that will likely spend 99% of its time on a shelf, just because it's a little bit extra-special. Hell, despite my general aversion to vinyl, I just pre-ordered an LP from a British band I really like AFTER already ordering the CD because it's my default and it's the only way I can get a FLAC version reliably.

One day, when I have the wall space, I'll probably just turn a wall into a giant vinyl collage using all the vinyl I didn't really need to buy.
posted by chrominance at 4:29 PM on July 29


It seems, generally speaking, most record collectors chiming in on such threads are more than willing to admit the virtues of other formats. I have a huge digital collection myself, and am always grateful when a new release includes a download code. So, anyways, I'm curious, and I ask this in all good faith, for the ardent digital enthusiasts out there, how did you form your opinions on vinyl as a format? Do you just look at the spec and go "this is empirically inferior," or did you collect records and see the digital light, or did you listen to a few records at a friends place, or what?

Personally, I have many duplicates in my digital/analog collection on which I base my particular preferences for whether I want to relax on the couch and listen to an album-album, or throw on a playlist of uptempo stuff to clean the house, or whatever.

As far as entropy the far bigger danger is that my living room will sink into the depths of hell. So yeah, I see the downside to vinyl as a physical reality.
posted by Lorin at 4:31 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Yep, digital is nice, but it also devalues the value of music-in-general for many people. Yay I, litteraly, have tens of thousands tracks of music and am glad of it, but any emotional attachment to any given track is stretched pretty thin.

That's purely a personal emotional choice, you know. I for one do not share it - a piece of music is a piece of music; rituals of how it's stored and deployed (assuming good audio quality) are irrelevant to my enjoyment of and appreciation for the content itself. If that's not true for someone else they're not wrong, but I can definitely say that they're listening to music very differently from me.

In short: De gustibus non est disputandum, and arguments about whether vinyl or CD or digital are "better" is a losing proposition all around. We pays our money and we takes our choice.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:32 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


I'd much rather hear about what records people are buying: what sounds good, what labels, which artists. Reissues, new releases, whatever! If I can't buy vinyl I can at least live vicariously. Most sites that offer reviews of records-as-objects tend to focus on a narrow band of stale material. Maybe I'm not visiting the right sites, I wanna know about those too.
posted by Lorin at 4:53 PM on July 29


So, anyways, I'm curious, and I ask this in all good faith, for the ardent digital enthusiasts out there, how did you form your opinions on vinyl as a format? Do you just look at the spec and go "this is empirically inferior,"

Yes, in part. Apart from the minor (for me) disadvantage of artwork size, CDs are physically smaller, have indexed tracks, longer running time, and, most importantly, can be played repeatedly with no further degradation of sound quality. The ability to be easily duplicated (if you know what you're doing) and thus the ease of archival is the major advantage of digital audio for me, be it CDs or lossless files on a hard disk. The higher fidelity of digital is just the cherry on top of the convenience cake.


a piece of music is a piece of music; rituals of how it's stored and deployed (assuming good audio quality) are irrelevant to my enjoyment of and appreciation for the content itself

Exactly, I prefer listening to the music, not the medium, so the pops and crackles of vinyl are not for me.
posted by Bangaioh at 5:19 PM on July 29 [4 favorites]


Bangaioh: The higher fidelity of digital is just the cherry on top of the convenience cake.

For me the higher fidelity takes precedence, but otherwise I'd say "me too".
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:46 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


For context I should also add that I grew up with vinyl and tape. They hold no magic for me whatsoever, they were just what we had at the time, warts and all. I've also been kind of a hi-fi enthusiast since I was a teenager, as well as a musician; so whatever gets me the closest to "the real thing" with the least medium-related audio shortcomings has always been my choice.

By which I mean to say, the day 8-track has a "comeback" will be the day I don't want to live on this planet anymore!
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:21 PM on July 29


That makes sense. My attachment to vinyl is mostly because of my father, so there's really no logical argument to be made. I imagine I never would've started collecting without inheriting his records first. He did own an audiophile quality CD player though and it sure changed my idea of how good digital can sound.
posted by Lorin at 7:10 PM on July 29


A lot of old music is only availalble on vinyl. Until somebody digitizes it (and puts it on YouTube, thanks!) you have to collect records in order to hear it.
posted by bonefish at 7:20 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


>can be played repeatedly with no further degradation of sound quality

>whatever gets me the closest to "the real thing"


This points up something interesting to me, because these things seem to be just as much about the subjective psychological benefit as the vinyl listeners who are saying they get something out of the ritual, but are presented in this case as though they were just raw fact.

I have a hard time believing anybody is turning to CD because their records are straight up disintegrating on them, and vinyl and CD - even assuming ideal mastering stages - each entail certain specific compromises to be made to the original audio. You can prefer one set of compromises over the other, but to assert that one is objectively closer to "the real thing" is step beyond that.
posted by anazgnos at 7:21 PM on July 29


I really don't get all the one-or-the-other bickering in these kinds of threads. I have over 2500 records (shut up! I can stop whenever I want!) and a couple terabytes of mp3s (albums) and flacs (live stuff). At home I thoroughly enjoy the immersive experience of flipping through records, selecting something appropriate, admiring the cover, reading the liner notes, and sitting through at least a full side. I love the way an album side recontextualizes over-played songs or under/overrated eras of an artist's career. I like the fact that some of these albums were in my father's collection for 50+ years, and I get an almost tactile sense of nostalgia that the same music on my iPod can't provide. I have decent equipment because I want to take care of my records and get a reasonable level of quality from them, but I don't obsess over the mythic purity of analog sound because there's not much ROI there. I hang cool album art on my walls, and make my friends listen to '60s folk that has never seen a digital release.

A man can't live on vinyl alone though, if for no other reason than the woeful state of hip-hop on wax. If you're not into 12" releases, there's precious little out there. Reissues are often terrible (looking at you, 4 Men With Beards "De La Soul Is Dead") and key albums are unavailable or available only as fantastically expensive promo copies. I've still managed to assemble a decent shelf of hip-hop, but I'd guess that at least 10 of my top 20 favorites don't exist on wax, and another 5 are out of my price range in any quality I'd want to spin.

In conclusion, music is a land of contrasts.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 8:58 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


4 Men With Beards

I'm really pissed at their pressing of The Story of Moondog which was missing the whole last song.
posted by anazgnos at 9:37 PM on July 29


4 Men With Beards "De La Soul Is Dead"

Seriously. That pressing was so bad I gave it to the Salvation Army lest someone else spend good money on it. I was shocked because all the 4 Men With Beards stuff I'd heard up to that point was pretty good, like all that Nina Simone. Gilded Palace of Sin was another good one. Inconsistencies abound. The Blueprint is one of the finest sounding rap records in my collection, but The Black Album is one of the worst. I bought some Biggie albums because they were pressed in the UK, often a good indicator of quality but ... no. Stones Throw has some nice stuff, but mostly instrumental I guess.
posted by Lorin at 9:42 PM on July 29


Maybe I'm alone in this, but I kind of like that my vinyl deteriorates, warps, pops and crackles over time. Similar with my books, you get a torn page here, a coffee stain there, what's that!? Oh, that's from the time I lent it to a friend and her puppy used it as a chew toy.

Me and my media, we're on a journey through this life together. (Of course, I also own an ipod and an e-reader - oh the options for consumption!)
posted by mannequito at 9:48 PM on July 29


If we're talking degradation in quality from regular playing, I just can't hear it. If I could, I'm not sure I would care. Philosophically the idea is not unappealing to me but then I practice astrology, and believe in the Tarot, and consult the I Ching, and enjoy all kinds of weird shit that is not empirically verifiable.

For me the big distinction is between brand new records and old ones. Old ones, I don't care. For example, I collect Yazoo blues compilations and there's so much noise on the source recordings that quality doesn't matter. But a brand new record with quality control issues, surface noise, skips or the like, that drives me crazy.
posted by Lorin at 10:06 PM on July 29


... to assert that one is objectively closer to "the real thing" is step beyond that.

Preference is subjective; accuracy is not.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:10 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


> If you turn the loudness up to 11 on vinyl the needle will jump out of the groove.

But it is impossible to turn digital up to 11 - there's a very specific maximum signal and there isn't even a way to represent a signal greater than that. New digital recordings are "loud" because they use compression techniques to crush a lot of energy into a lot of audible frequency bands - you could do exactly for an LP and get the same effect.

> If I'm being honest, I don't see any deficit between high end digital and vinyl, but I was trying to be magnanimous since so many people do say they hear a difference, and a derail didn't seem worthwhile.

Actually, there's a huge aching gap between compact disc digital audio and LPs, and that's the low-end bass.

The ballistics of a tone arm are fixed and cannot be changed. This is the price we pay for "all records being playable on all systems". Because of this, there's something called the RIAA rolloff curve that defines the energy transfer ratio of a vinyl record at different frequencies.

That curve is at -6dB at about 120Hz - which means that at 120Hz, right smack in the middle of the bass guitar's frequency band, you are losing 50% of your signal on the vinyl. Of course, the EQ on playback tries to compensate for this issue, but once there is almost no signal on the vinyl, all the EQ in the world isn't going to make it reappear.

CDs, on the other hand, can faithfully reproduce signals right down to 20Hz, the lower threshold of hearing (you can perceive notes lower than this but at that point your perceptual system can hear individual cycles and interprets them differently - here's a Great piece of music that demonstrates this very clearly).

So CDs are MUCH better at reproducing the bottom two and a half octaves of audible frequencies than a turntable could ever be.

Frankly, as a pure audio medium, I think that CDs beat LPs completely. Of course, an LP sleeve is much nicer to read and hold...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:48 PM on July 29 [5 favorites]


So CDs are MUCH better at reproducing the bottom two and a half octaves of audible frequencies than a turntable could ever be.

It's weird then then pretty much every time I replace an album I had on CD with an LP, the first thing I usually notice on the vinyl is like, slammin' bass. I just bought the The Clean 4xLP Anthology on Merge, and this is, somewhat exasperatingly, the third or fourth time I've bought that band's back catalog on various media, but there once again, the basslines are suddenly just, pardon the cliche, leaping out of the speakers. And that's stuff that was not recorded in a hi-fi way to begin with at all.

I don't buy every record expecting or demanding it to sound better or to deliver a "fresh experience" or be like hearing music for the first time, but I'll be damned if it doesn't just keep happening.
posted by anazgnos at 11:04 PM on July 29


1adam12: Almost no dance music. How odd. I guess most of that stuff comes from Germany or the UK?

I don't know about overseas, but in the USA, I don't think dance music is really played on turntables with all that '80s-'90s scratching, speed-changing, and crossfading from one record to another anymore. Even if the DJs at a club look like they're using record players, they're really fancy interfaces to something that's playing digital files.

The vinyl LP hobby is focused on an appreciation of the album as a musical object. You look at the cover art, you handle the physical disc, you listen to one side and then the other as a coherent whole, the album experience. As a result, the genre tends to be Album-Oriented Rock.

EDM is more about tracks than albums in that sense. (This is just my experience though.)
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:21 PM on July 29


At one time while wandering the web I ran across a web forum for old rock critics. It's been closed (some of it's archived as RockCriticsArchives.com but most of it's gone). It was fascinating reading. These writers for Creem and Rolling Stone in the '60s-'70s, whose kids had bought them a computer, were having a grand time reconnecting with their friends from back in the day. They liked to re-hash old arguments, so it was a glimpse into what went on behind the scenes at major music magazines.

One lively thread on the forum dealt with a question that had apparently perplexed critics in the 1980s -- "How should we deal with CD reissues that have extra tracks?" You see, back in the '60s these writers had invented the actual idea of the ALBUM as a musical whole, a work of art that should be treated like a novel (even if its order was merely an accident by the record company). And their view of albums rebounded onto the bands and musicians who responded to the attention by making albums as conceptual units. This is much diminished now, but not at all dead.

But suddenly in the '80s there were 72-minute CDs which added a lot of outtakes and alternate versions to the end of the disc. How should an album-oriented critic judge such a thing? As a wholly new work? Only as the original LP record, with the bonus tracks treated separately? As an inferior album, no longer "genius from start to finish"? This really perplexed them.

I feel like the Vinyl Revival is somehow connected with this classic way of thinking about albums. The discs that are best served by this "fetishization" are those which work as 40-minute musical journeys.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:41 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


The physical structure of a record changes every time you play it, so you can't listen to them if you're preserving them.

Actually, if you aren't using a damaged or very low quality needle or turntable, vinyl won't be damaged in playing. The grooves will flatten a bit but will return to their previous state if a record isn't played more than once in 24 hours. If the needle isn't damaged it won't hurt the groove itself, just change its shape temporarily. However, repeated playings in the same day will eventually wear down the grooves, but it takes many months or years of this kind of use to wear out a record. Cheap portable turntables from the '60s are kind of cool looking, but they are going to do a lot more damage to vinyl than a well balanced tone arm with a decent cartridge, as long as you don't overplay.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:36 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]


In short: De gustibus non est disputandum, and arguments about whether vinyl or CD or digital are "better" is a losing proposition all around. We pays our money and we takes our choice.

Exactly. It's very personal. The process of pulling out a record and putting it on a turntable, etc. is a process I have no love for. The experience is unpleasant for me. For others it's very pleasant.

Same with books. About 30 seconds into getting a eReader I completely stopped reading paper book unless I absolutely had no choice. I couldn't give a fuck about the smell of the paper. Others love that kind of thing. Sure, digital files can be corrupted. Paper can be burnt or damaged or lost.

I would hate to have to use a CD or DVD/Blu-ray Disc now as well.
posted by juiceCake at 6:43 AM on July 30


It seems like convenience can be fetishized just as easily as the physical object.
posted by anazgnos at 7:24 AM on July 30


Literally anything can be fetishized, which doesn't alter the object itself to make it any better or worse. Calling something a fetish to demonize it is a lousy basis for an argument.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:29 AM on July 30 [2 favorites]


I agree completely
posted by anazgnos at 9:22 AM on July 30


but in the USA, I don't think dance music is really played on turntables with all that '80s-'90s scratching, speed-changing, and crossfading from one record to another anymore. Even if the DJs at a club look like they're using record players, they're really fancy interfaces to something that's playing digital files.

I guess. In the last several months I've seen a few DJs using real records in DJ sets, either in conjunction with DVS or alongside CDJs, or on three occasions properly using two turntables, real records, and no computers to speak of. But while that's definitely the exception, if I go vinyl shopping I'm still likely to meet another DJ friend doing the same. We're still buying and using vinyl. I only started that because of twee German labels who did vinyl-only releases, but it's turned out to be a fun addition.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:04 AM on July 30




The grooves will flatten a bit but will return to their previous state if a record isn't played more than once in 24 hours.

I think it actually takes more like 10 minutes, and given that one side of a LP is around 18 minutes thats unlikely to be a problem.
posted by Lanark at 4:05 PM on August 26


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