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Vinyl - it ain't dead yet

My own senseless ramblings on why I stay with viny

By Gary Markowitz

Yup, I've heard all of the arguments before. Tracking error, surface noise, high distortion, rumble, wow and flutter, wear on records, wear on styli, warped records, feedback. To one extent or another, they all accurately describe the problems with vinyl playback in general. Some can be solved, and some can only be minimized. But that's not what it's all about, to me at least. It's about music.
First off, I can't stand CD's. I can only listen for about 15 minutes or so before the urge to turn the music down gets real bad. Another 15 minutes and I've got a headache. It really doesn't matter which CD player I use, as I've had about 2 dozen in my system for at least a week over the past 10 years. Krell, CAL, Sony, JVC, Denon, Nad, the list goes on. Aside from the headaches, my main beef with CD is that it just doesn't sound like music.
By that I mean live acoustic music, like you'd hear at the symphony, an acoustic guitar, a string quartet, or a concert choir. No amps, no PA, just a bunch of musicians making real music. Don't get me wrong, I love rock, jazz, blues and lots of other forms of music, and I listen to them at least as often as I listen to classical. But well recorded classical will just rip apart your system if it isn't just right. My favorite acid tests are violins, female voice, tenor sax, and string bass. If a system can get those 4 things right, I can pretty much live with most of the other deficiencies.
Which brings me back to vinyl. Something about LP's that just bring out the music in a recording. I get more of a feeling of the concert hall, and more "correct" sounding instruments. There's a sense of the music flowing from the system that I just don't get from CD. CD sounds sterile and detached in comparison, and I just don't get to ride that emotional rollercoaster that is music from CD. Now, LP's give me that good ole emotion that I crave when listening to music. The right recordings can make me laugh, cry, sad, happy, or just plain want to get up and dance. LP's answer that good old question "Does it boogey" with a resounding "Yeah Man!". CDs, IMHO, just fill the silence with some noise in comparison.
Yeah, yeah, I know, CD's - Perfect sound forever. Almost immeasurable distortion, no wow and flutter, they don't wear, they're more convenient, flat frequency response, they're almost impossible to damage. Problem is, they sound like fingernails on a chalk board and they sure don't boogie.
Sure, you gotta take really good care of your records. I'm in the process of finalizing a design for a DIY record vacuum that costs about $40 bucks including a wet vac (when I'm done, I'll put up a page detailing it). You have to clean and care for your stylus, and you've got to have your 'table set up just right.
Still not convinced? Think about this. Vinyl can be had really cheap. Go to almost any garage or yard sale, and you'll see perfectly good vinyl selling from anywhere from $.10 US each on up to about $1 US. I can't tell you how many records I've picked up in the last year or so. Shaded Dogs, Mercury Living Presence, London FFRR, Columbia Masterworks, Blue Note, Impulse, and a bunch of just plain good rock, blues, jazz, and classical on the regular labels. Visit any junk shop or thrift store, or Church rummage sale. If you're looking for something specific, a lot of small "Record Shops" still handle some new and used vinyl. They're a bit more expensive, but some of the shops near me have used stuff for as low as $2 US.
Yup, you can still get turntables, cartridges and tonearms. Everything from junk still being made by the likes of Sony and Kenwood, to mid-range stuff like the Project from Sumiko, the Regas, Denons, and Thorens, on up to the ultra hi fi that you'd have to get a second mortgage (or sell your house) to afford, and everything in between. There's even a fairly healthy used market.
I'll keep my turntable, thank you, and I'll give up my record collection when they pry them out of my cold dead hands. Give me a call when they come out with a 96K 24 bit consumer digital media. Maybe then digital will make music.
If you think sticking with vinyl is crazy, ask me about my vacuum tube gear ;-).
Gary Markowitz
You can email me with any comments, but I won't guarantee I'll answer them!

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