by Kristin Holloway
Why do I prefer vinyl over CD’s or digital downloads? Let’s start with the facts: Vinyl is a clunky medium that’s virtually impossible and definitely impractical to carry with you. It scratches and warps easily, too, yet any audiophile worth their weight in salt prefers it over any other music medium.
Part of it has to do with the physical satisfaction of playing vinyl. Sure, you can’t take it on a road trip with you and you have to awkwardly supervise anyone who wants to look through your collection to make sure they don’t stack the albums on top of each other or pick the bare vinyl up by anything but its sides (both infractions can cause warping, which leads to ruining, the sensitive vinyl), but it’s an experience like no other. There’s just something about admiring the album’s artwork as you pull the vinyl from its dust jacket, picking a side to play, and finally dropping the needle. It’s a very tactile experience on top of the usual audio one. Listening to vinyl produces a level of interaction that CDs and MP3s just can’t touch, pun intended.
Furthermore, with CD’s or MP3’s, it’s easy to skip over songs that don’t readily grab your interest, but with vinyl it’s harder. You have to count the grooves in the vinyl and guestimate and mess up and finally accept the fact that you’re going to have to persevere through a song you don’t like. With vinyl, you learn to increase your palate and patience. It becomes almost like a challenge for you to understand why the artist felt that song was a valid choice for their album. Was it just filler or do you not understand the artist as well as you thought you did? Do you really understand The Dead Kennedy’s venomous view on politics, or did you just think you did?
Also, the resurgence in vinyl is partly due to increased moral concerns about artists (especially non-mainstream ones) not being paid for (or even credited for) their work. MP3 and CD files can be illegally shared which cuts into artists’ profits and potentially limits them from touring or creating new music. While buying vinyl (or just music in general) can be expensive, it’s the right thing to do to in order to support the artists.
Moreover, there’s a certain level of “warmth” to vinyl that is nearly impossible to recreate with updated mediums like CDs, MP3s, and even remastered versions of vinyl. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly the “warmth” is, but most audiophiles presume it is the scratching combined with the bass that comforts us and produces the sound equivalent of hot tea on an irritated throat.
Lastly, there’s the collecting element. Considering most people are not aware of the revival of vinyl, it’s easy to score highly collectible vintage albums for nearly nothing at places like garage sales, flea markets and thrift shops. (I bought my first pressing of Joni Mitchell’s Blue for $50 cents at a yard sale and its worth $50-100.) Likewise, older family members are likely to have held on to a few, too, and there’s nothing as amusing as exploring a loved one’s music tastes. For instance, you start to discover out how much your aunt really loved John Cougar Mellencamp and suddenly it clicks as to why your cousins’ names are Jack and Diane, but I digress.
Vinyl is nothing new (In fact, it was first introduced in 1948 by Columbia Records), but yet it’s managed to set a new standard for music. The resurgence has heightened awareness of the tactile aspect of music, the artist as a whole, the sound quality, and the collect-ability feature of albums and people love it. Music is finally an experience again.