In the past ten years there has been a large resurgence in vinyl records. Yes, those old discs that your parents probably have stored in an attic are making a massive comeback, but why? What is so great about vinyl records, and why are the making a comeback?
In a world where music has become a digital leisure, vinyl records appear to be a breath of fresh air. For one, it is a physical medium. There’s something very special and unique about holding a record, watching it spin, and reading the album liner notes and all of the goodies that come inside of the jacket. Maybe a lyric sheet is there, maybe there a leaflet about how the album was made or a blurb about the artist. Run The Jewels provided stickers and a poster for those who bought either Run The Jewels or Run the Jewels 2, while on the back of Dave Brubeck’s Bossa Nova, a description of each song is there. This strongly differs from digital music, where there is a lack of physical content, although a digital booklet might be given. Plus, the physical jacket is personally more appealing to me than a standard jewel-case that CD’s come in.
The second aspect is audio quality. Many state the audio quality on some records is better than their digital counterparts. This is due to the fact that when music is released digitally, it is compressed. When a song is fully recorded and mixed properly in the studio, it is usually uncompressed until the producer compresses it. The compression algorithm removes sounds and frequencies it deems unnecessary in the song, thus making the file size smaller and providing the ability to store more music onto a CD or digital release. The frequencies that are lost do not ruin the music and make it unbearable to listen to (to most), but the song completely uncompressed can sound fuller and sound more dynamic. It should also be noted that a lot of the songs from the 60’s and prior, such as jazz, was recorded in mono, meaning that instruments would come out of either the left or the right speaker (excluding mic bleeding). In doing this, the music is completely heard in a different manner. A song that has the bass panned mostly to the right or drums panned left is going to sound strange, but in some cases, it can be good. The Beatles recorded a lot of music in mono simply because it was the only option at the time. Later on, the music was remastered and provided in stereo, but a lot of people like the mono recordings more.
Quality aside for a brief moment, is there any clear difference between hearing By The Way by the Red Hot Chili Peppers on vinyl as opposed to CD or Spotify? Not necessarily, but it does make you do one thing that the other formats don’t; listen to the album. Ever since digital music stores have blossomed, we have become a ‘single’ culture. We thirst for the next hit single, the next Thrift Shop or the next King Kunta, but we hardly listen to albums as a whole. We ignore what we think is/will be bad and just listen to the soon-to-be outplayed single. There is no track skipping on vinyl records, you listen to the album as a whole and then flip the record when it’s time for Side B. There’s something really special and important about that. In doing that, you are honoring the hard work the artist and all of musicians and engineers did to make that record. That is not to say that you can’t listen to a CD from front back, but the option to skip is always there.
Vinyl as a whole is a very interesting piece of audio medium and I recommend everyone try listening to an album they really like on vinyl to hear the ‘difference’. I personally love the medium and everything it has to offer. It just makes the music feel more personal and I enjoy that thoroughly.