Vinyl

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John F
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Vinyl

Post by John F » Sat Apr 23, 2016 6:46 am

For those born too late for the era of the LP, vinyl is the polymer from which long-playing discs were made. Superseded by the compact disc which is made of a different kind of plastic, vinyl LPs have been making something of a comeback in the last few years. There are actually two recent books with the title "Vinyl" - "Vinyl: A History of the Analogue Record," by Richard Osbourne, and "Vinyl: The Analogue Record in the Digital Age," by Dominic Bartmanski and Ian Woodward. The current issue of the ARSC Journal includes a two-page review of the latter.

Why the comeback of the vinyl LP? Bartmanski and Woodward are sociologists and they analyze this as a social phenomenon. They note that besides a few specialty stores devoted to new vinyl, boutiques and lifestyle retailers like Urban Outfitters often carry a small stock of the LPs and inexpensive USB turntables to play them on. In short, vinyl has become cool.

This began in the late 2000s when the LP assumed "a new dynamic function as a tool, instrument, and sample choice for DJs performing in dance clubs in front of paying audiences." "The DJs holding and spinning the LPs as part of their dance-mix performances have kept LPs alive and functional for people aged 40 and younger. Seeing the LPs held before them, the young club-goers desire to purchase them, as much for how they look and feel and weigh as for how they sound. That the clubs and their DJs are most often in urban centers, and many attendees return home to the suburbs after each club performance, suggests that outward migration of culture from the cities continues to happen, at least in the European cities where the authors conducted their research. Hearing music is not enough, the authors suggest, and many younger people (especially those who can't read notated scores) yearn to hold their music in their hands."

Of course this has zero to do with classical recordings; it's all about current popular music especially for dancing. I'm told that some classical LPs have been issued in the last decade or so, though I haven't seen any. From the above, I imagine they are very few, and the repertoire is such as might appeal to club-goers crossing over into classical. But I gather from the book review that Bartmanski and Woodward have little or nothing to say about this.

The Journal of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) is a scholarly publication whose subject matter is anything to do with recorded sound. In addition to articles that have been peer reviewed, each of the thick semiannual issues includes many book reviews, reviews of historical recordings, and a bibliography of relevant pieces in magazines and journals. Anyone wanting to know more about ARSC and possibly join can look here:

http://www.arsc-audio.org/index.php
John Francis

maestrob
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Re: Vinyl

Post by maestrob » Sat Apr 23, 2016 12:04 pm

Actually, the classical vinyl business is booming on Amazon. If one enters "Beethoven vinyl" into their search engine, 400, yes 400 pages of titles come up, including many new pressings (there's even one title in yellow vinyl). The set pictured below, of HVK's famous 1962 recording of the Beethoven symphonies retails for $199 and is discounted today for $162.

Entering "Bernstein vinyl" brings up 160 pages of titles by the great maestro, including not just West Side Story (original cast)*, but the DGG Mahler titles as well (for $39.98 and up!).

Image

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* Did you know that Marni Nixon had to sue to get her share of royalties from the West Side Story Album?

John F
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Re: Vinyl

Post by John F » Sat Apr 23, 2016 12:28 pm

Goodness! I'd no idea (obviously). What can the market be for this Jurassic Park resurrection of that extinct species? :) Not that I mind, I've still got nearly all the LPs I ever owned and haven't replaced any of them with CD reissues. But it's a puzzlement.
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Re: Vinyl

Post by Chalkperson » Sat Apr 23, 2016 7:52 pm

John F wrote:Goodness! I'd no idea (obviously). What can the market be for this Jurassic Park resurrection of that extinct species? :) Not that I mind, I've still got nearly all the LPs I ever owned and haven't replaced any of them with CD reissues. But it's a puzzlement.
I thought you donated your collection to Lincoln Center?
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John F
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Re: Vinyl

Post by John F » Sat Apr 23, 2016 10:39 pm

Donated but not yet delivered.
John Francis

ratsrcute
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Re: Vinyl

Post by ratsrcute » Sun Apr 24, 2016 4:27 am

I've always thought analog sounded better than digital. And not just "it's prettier," but more true to life. And far higher resolution than most digital on the best systems. This seems to be a matter of taste, but when I was in school (the first time, 25 years ago) I was in touch with a network of musicians and recording engineers in LA who had much experience with analog recording, had done some scientific testing (both measurement and listening), and could demonstrate easily the superior accuracy of analog (like listening in the recording studio, then stepping into the control room to compare digital and analog tapes).

The most expensive digital systems are pretty darn good, of course, but a $1000 turntable is more true to life, in the music I care about, than a $15000 CD player, so analog is economical.

I don't think the folks who buy $80 USB turntables are grooving on the sound, though. I'm sure it's mainly "cool".

Mike

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Re: Vinyl

Post by Chalkperson » Sun Apr 24, 2016 9:29 am

ratsrcute wrote:I've always thought analog sounded better than digital. And not just "it's prettier," but more true to life. And far higher resolution than most digital on the best systems. This seems to be a matter of taste, but when I was in school (the first time, 25 years ago) I was in touch with a network of musicians and recording engineers in LA who had much experience with analog recording, had done some scientific testing (both measurement and listening), and could demonstrate easily the superior accuracy of analog (like listening in the recording studio, then stepping into the control room to compare digital and analog tapes).

The most expensive digital systems are pretty darn good, of course, but a $1000 turntable is more true to life, in the music I care about, than a $15000 CD player, so analog is economical.

I don't think the folks who buy $80 USB turntables are grooving on the sound, though. I'm sure it's mainly "cool".

Mike
i hate to tell you but 'music' comes out of a turntable, even a USB one. So I think the listener has to be grooving on the music, otherwise he'd buy a washing machine and groove on clean hipster clothing.

The advantage of USB turntables is that they play thru a computer or digital system, and, they get ripped to the hard drive.

This means they can groove to the same music on their iPhone or iPod.

Vinyl provides an experience, carrying the LP under your arm as a sign of your taste, flipping it over to side two. Having to get up change discs.

I'm totally digital now, having ripped my 25,000 CDs over the last decade, I finally got rid of 200 bankers boxes of compact discs. I don't regret it for a second.

I have an audio system that costs the same as a car, but I also have a number of other powered speakers in other rooms, it matters little which I use, it's the music that's playing I want to hear.

Snobbery over medium, equipment, etc is pointless. We all are just listening to music, no matter what.

And music is the food of life, no music and the world goes quiet.

Except for traffic noise of course.
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ratsrcute
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Re: Vinyl

Post by ratsrcute » Sun Apr 24, 2016 9:38 am

Oh jeezahs. You have simply misunderstood me. I use the word "sound" for "sound quality." OOObviously they are enjoying the music. They might even be enjoying the sound quality, who knows, but it ain't very good.

I have run into quite a few snobbish and condescending people who think they are somehow superior "music lovers" because they enjoy a variety of playback systems.

(Typed while listening to non-audiophile recording on my iPod with $40 headphones.)

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ratsrcute
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Re: Vinyl

Post by ratsrcute » Sun Apr 24, 2016 10:03 am

Breaking news.

LA Phil to raise money by selling off their instruments, will use donations from elementary schools to replace them.

A spokesman for the LA Phil excecutive board confirmed today that the orchestra, having hit hard times, will be auctioning off their violins, violas, trombones, and other fine instruments. "Look, we'd like to play on good instruments, but there's a major hole in the budget. What's more important is that true music lovers will still enjoy those notes and chords as performed by our excellent musicians, and in some cases the pitches may even be clearly discernible. And we all know that real musicians can make anything sound good. Only snobs would complain about this move, and we certainly don't want any of those down in our audience."

Just before press we obtained word that the orchestra, to save additional money, will be moving to a new home, a hastily constructed gymnasium located next to the existing Walt Disney Concert Hall, which will be converted into condominiums.

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maestrob
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Re: Vinyl

Post by maestrob » Sun Apr 24, 2016 12:08 pm

Vinyl has sound quality problems compared to CDs, including pops, ticks, scratches and general fragility on even the best turntable/cartidge systems. Inner grooves wear out from the pressure of the stylus (diamond) on the groove wall and distort even after just 10-20 plays or so. When I used records back in the 70's, I would tape them first thing to reel-to-reel tape and play the tapes rather than the records, thus preserving the vinyl in pristine quality.

Vinyl always frustrated me. Piano recording especially distorted badly on climaxes (Yes, I had good equipment, my cartridges cost twice as much as my CD player does now.). Then there were the inevitable pops and ticks. Maddening!

It's funny, I'm still emotionally attached to my vinyl (I often use the notes as reference material when I want to check something.), but I don't play them. CDs, to me, are like a breath of fresh air.

Then there's the concept of a "running master tape" which was used to produce the master discs off of which the metal stampers were cast. Vinyl is limited in it's dynamic range, much more so than the CD. That means that the dynamic range on a running master had to be squeezed even more than the studio master tape, and the middle range boosted, distorting the music (I'm talking about classical here) even more. CDs manage to trim 10 db off the loudest peaks and boost the quietest sections by another 10 db, shaving a total of 20 decibels off the dynamic range. Not bad: most studio masters from the pre-digital age were treated that way, and so can be copied directly on to CDs without much intervention: thus the clarity and transparency of CD sound.

I could go on, but by now my preference for CDs over vinyl has been firmly established.

I do not understand the current fashion for vinyl, or for .mp3 downloads: both are inferior sound quality to CDs: why would someone deliberately opt for an inferior product just because it's "cool?" Hmpf. Maybe I should just get out more :roll: .

ratsrcute
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Re: Vinyl

Post by ratsrcute » Sun Apr 24, 2016 5:00 pm

masestrob, way to go, glad you have a preference and a sound reason for it!

The reason vinyl never died in audiophile circles is because enough of them thought it was better than CD. It's hard to know why exactly, as most people don't articulate their preferences. There are two theories: (1) vinyl sounds "pretty" due to so-called "euphonic distortions." (2) on the typical system of the late 80's/ early 90's, vinyl sounded truer to life. Highly trained and sophisticated listeners often believed #2, and my small exposure to the recording studio convinced me I am in this camp also. There is nothing like hearing an ensemble live in the studio, then popping into the control room to compare recordings, to make the situation much clearer.

However I think #1 may be true as well for some listeners. I think that perceptual process varies among people. (This is also true when people discuss what music "expresses.")

I could explain why it is possible that vinyl could be more accurate as perceived by some people in spite of its obvious flaws, but only if you are interested. My theoretical explanation was developed though a combination of musical training, this course in college that exposed me to professional recording, majoring in electrical engineering, and working for many years with scientists (getting a clearer idea how science works). Again, only if you are interested.

After writing the bulk of my prior post explaining that I liked analog better, at the end I attempted to clarify that I don't think resurgence of vinyl in the pop market is due to any unique sound quality, as even people who think it sounds better in general don't think that is evident on a bad turntable. I think it is for other reasons. Chalkperson said they buy those USB turntables to rip them to digital. EXACTLY. Why not download a digital file? It would sound better, and anybody could tell that. This confirms my point.

Mike

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John F
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Re: Vinyl

Post by John F » Sun Apr 24, 2016 9:28 pm

Acknowledging that there's a difference of opinion about the sound quality of analog LPs vs. digital CDs, that's old news and as far as I know it hasn't intensified in the last decade. It's beside the point of Bartmanski's and Woodward's book, which argues that at least in Europe, going vinyl in the under-40s is more a fashion statement than anything else. I think they're right. It's the under-40s crowd that went big for the iPod, whose sound quality with ear buds is poor, and for digital downloads and streaming, which is equivalent or inferior to digital CDs. Can anyone point to a recent surge in the market for high end component audio by this demographic, or any other? I haven't heard of any such thing, but then I wouldn't.
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Re: Vinyl

Post by ratsrcute » Sun Apr 24, 2016 9:55 pm

John F wrote:Acknowledging that there's a difference of opinion about the sound quality of analog LPs vs. digital CDs, that's old news and as far as I know it hasn't intensified in the last decade. It's beside the point of Bartmanski's and Woodward's book, which argues that at least in Europe, going vinyl in the under-40s is more a fashion statement than anything else. I think they're right. It's the under-40s crowd that went big for the iPod, whose sound quality with ear buds is poor, and for digital downloads and streaming, which is equivalent or inferior to digital CDs. Can anyone point to a recent surge in the market for high end component audio by this demographic, or any other? I haven't heard of any such thing, but then I wouldn't.
There is a surge in the audiophile headphone market among young people. Most of them don't own speakers and have always listened via headphones, albeit very poor quality. But audiophile headphone equipment is less expensive and more portable than speakers, and doesn't require a large apartment/house; they are more likely, once they have enough disposable income, to be drawn to that. In the past five years there has been an explosion of quality headphones and portable headphone amplifiers, along with better portable sources (and the use of lossless encoding to replace MP3). Most of the new market represents old audiophile companies getting involved. Unfortunately they don't always have better stuff, but they always have bigger marketing budgets. Smaller companies were the source of innovation before 2010, but now it's almost impossible to enter the market without big bucks.

Mike

EDIT: I forgot to address your point about vinyl. I don't see how sound quality could the reason it's widespread now, so I agree with you. But, some of those young audiophiles are using decent turntables and collect used records which were recorded and mastered in analog, so I think (but am not sure) that the sound of analog is appealing to a wider segment now than ten years ago.

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