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Have you joined the vinyl records revival?

Vinyl

Vinyl records show no signs of stopping in their ascent from an underground niche to the heights of mainstream cool. So what’s persuading us to get back into the groove?

The ‘vinyl revival’, it’s happening as I write – more and more of us are returning to the turntables to get our music fix. Some are merely coming back after a digital hiatus, rediscovering their hidden gems tucked away in the attic. But there are also many young people who are discovering vinyl for the first time.

Last year in the US, vinyl sales eclipsed revenues from ad-based free streaming services such as Spotify Free and YouTube. But what’s fascinating about the vinyl revival is the variety of reasons driving people to buy records.

Vinyl revival

This may or may not surprise you, but it did me. An ICM poll of people who’d bought vinyl in the last month found that 48% of those surveyed hadn’t yet played their recent purchase. And a further 7% admitted that they didn’t even own a record player.

Presumably these people are drawn to records because they can display their music collections in a physical and tangible way. Or in the words of one young student quoted in the linked BBC article:

‘I have vinyls in my room, but it’s more for decor. I don’t actually play them. It gives me the old-school vibe.’

If this quote irritates you as much as it does me, then you might be part of the remaining 52% of people who would only buy a record so that they could actually listen to it.

Of course owning the physical disc and looking at the artwork is nice, but there are sound reasons to choose the vinyl listening experience too (pun intended).

Audiophiles will tell you that the distinctive ‘warm vinyl sound’ is real. The sound is caused by the way turntables deal with bass frequencies which gives a slight fuzz. There’s also the inevitable surface noise which some people prefer over the sharp, ruthless accuracy of a high quality digital file.

Sound reasoning

Personally, I love my record collection for all these reasons. Records are not just nice objects to own, but I also enjoy the ritual of playing them and subjectively like the sound too.

So have you joined the vinyl revival, or did you never abandon it in the first place? What is it that attracts you to records, or what keeps you away? And have you found any hidden gems stashed away in your attic?

Comments
Member

I still listen to vinyl records, most of which were bought in the 80s. There is something more satisfying about a record than a CD or a download, though I moved to CDs when they became cheaper. As I write, I’m listening to Brahms Piano Concerto No.2/Ashkenazy. Excuse me while I turn over the record to listen to the third movement. 🙁

Member

I have not joined a “revival” but have a small collection of classical and jazz from the late 50’s onward. They include World Record Club issues when my father was a subscriber. My favourite is probably a collection of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies presented by the Hungarian Embassy.

The problem with vinyl is clicks from scratches.

I have been given a number of very interesting 78s that I am looking forward to playing for the first time. I don’t have a suitable turntable and keep on the lookout for something at a sensible price. Anyone got a recommendation? It is a pity many did not survive – I well remember one use suggested for them was heating in the oven and forming them into plant pots. What a waste.

Member

You may have friends that are happy to pass on a decent quality turntable that has been stored for years. It will probably need a new drive belt and to be checked by a competent person. A lot of 70s/80s hi-fi equipment was not earthed to lessen the risk of mains hum.

I don’t know about playing 78s but a wind-up gramophone might be the answer. One of my earliest memories was playing single and double-sided 78s on my grandmother’s Dulcetto gramophone.

Member

I do have a decent turntable for the vinyls, but not for 78s wavechange. An old record player might do the job – I’m keeping my eyes open occasionally. Our old radiogram played them but that was the size of a small sideboard, and mostly empty space.

Member

Turntables that played 78s as well as LPs were always a bit of a compromise because the tracking weight was probably too high for the LPs and low for the 78s, but one of the Which? ‘Best Buys’ will play 78s if you want new rather than secondhand.

Member

I have a loft full of old vinyls but sadly nothing to play them on.

I recently found myself browsing in an antiques store and came across an old Hermes typewriter in good condition which I very nearly bought as I had just spent a whole morning attempting to connect Office 365 to my computer and thinking how much quicker I could have typed that all important letter in about ten minutes flat on an old typewriter for the price I paid for access to my WP.

Returning home I checked it was still possible to obtain replacement ribbons online so I may return to the antique store in the hope it hasn’t been snapped up by someone like me who can still find a use for the golden oldies without having to endure the frustration of modern technological advancement.

I hope I haven’t veered too far off topic!

Member

When typewriters suffered the same fate as gramophone records, Hermes was redeployed as a god of parcel delivery. Before investing in the secondhand Hermes it is worth checking for correct working of the operating system, particularly for sticking typebars. Open Office provides a free alternative to supporting Microsoft.

Member

Hermes “god of parcel delivery ” wavechange –not in this lifetime rated the worst in the UK on several,UK customer complaint websites ,owned by a French lady who pays here staff a pittance ,uses third parties in private cars – self employed contracts . chap your door with a feather and run away ,throw your parcel,over the garden wall -clunk-Crash !!! Yes I know all about them.

Member

We have 700+ vinyls – almost all of music pre-dating 1950 – and I’ve carefully digitized them and added them to our large digital collection. The discs themselves are stored safely and away from sight.

For me, anyway, AAC is the best compressed option and beats the crackly, uneven quality of vinyls hands down. I watched someone from a dead ’60s group playing one and eulogising over the crackling. He must be mad. CDs were the best thing to arrive for audiophiles, even if so many are unwilling to admit it. In orchestral terms the reproduction is close to flawless and their digital successors, AIFF and Mpeg, have delivered superbly recorded music for years.

Member

Agreed, it’s very hard to beat a high quality digital format for accuracy, but I think there are certain charms to the vinyl sound.

Member

The first couple of CDs that I bought were historic recordings and I was very disappointed by the artificial sound created. For example, in removing background noise, the natural sound of the concert hall had been suppressed. It did not take long for more intelligent and sympathetic remastering to arrive and of course modern CDs are very good indeed.

About 15 years ago I did buy some hardware and software to digitise my my modest record collection and remove the imperfections but I soon lost interest and realised that the imperfections did not concern me.

Member
George Roy Forman says:
19 April 2016

I Agree that digital copied music is superior to vinyl.
As a musician / recording artiste , and ex radio presenter, I still
use Sony’s Minidisc for backing tracks at live music venues.
Sadly, it has been overtaken by iPad and the like .For me, these
discs are miniature marvels that can hold around fifty pop length
songs, ( admittedly in mono,..less in stereo ). Easily edit each track,
cutting off unwanted pieces of music, changing the running order
is a doddle, as is programming a running order, and titling each track.
Vinyl ?..nah,..you can keep the hiss,..the clicks, and the occasional
needle jump. Warm up the audio with a nice valve mixer !.

Member

Agreed Ian. . . .My ears are far too full of noise here with wifey and her endless country music and it gets worse because she moves to UK/IRL supposed country and when the vinyl starts I’m outa here. . . .Crackle crackle sounds to me near as bad as listening to radio Luxembourg on MW decades ago
No digital every time, , there is so much less noise yet one can hear the music

Member

I have just treated myself to a pair of Sony wireless and noise cancelling stereo headphones as I recently celebrated my umpteenth birthday, together with a Taotronic wireless stereo transmitter which converts my existing old TV, iPad, radio etc to Bluetooth. The sound is brilliant and I can play all my favourite music as loud as I want without disturbing anyone else. I can also clearly hear the TV whilst it is in mute mode without using the sub titles, being a little hard of hearing now and can also use them in silent mode to cut down on any unwanted exterior noise.

I am fortunate that I have a technophile son to set it all up for me as I didn’t have a clue so the old vinyls will sadly remain gathering dust in the loft, at least for the time being anyway.

Member
Richard says:
19 April 2016

Some of us never left the vinyl arena. I have LPs going back to the 50s and to my ears they mostly sound better than the CDs I replaced them with.

There is no doubt that CDs and digitalised music is convenient and sounds OK but it’s lacking something. For me it’s the ritual in carefully taking out an album, putting it on and letting that needle down. It may be just in the mind but for me it’s much more satisfying experience than putting an mp3 player on shuffle. It demands your attention in a way that a little shiny disc doesn’t.

Digital for the car and background music but vinyl for when I really want to listen.

Member

I’m in the same boat, I spend most of my time listening to digital but I’ll choose vinyl when I really want to focus on listening to something.

Member

I am on CD now tried listening tom downloaded music using WAV and a £200 audio card with 0.001 THD through high quality speakers from the 80,s and amp from same era .Sorry not the same as my English built (Nottingham ) DAIS turntable -belt drive -Reag RB 300 arm (original issues from 1984 ) high quality mc cartridge- 15 watts RMS – class A own built monoblock power amps with separate -own built – stabilized power supplies with star earthing checked on my scope for noise . JLH shunt feedback separate pre-amps -own built ( to Wireless World / Electronics World design ) feeding Cyrus CD player -platform only + Power supply feeding the latest Chord electronics -English designed and made with special CPU chip to own design -” 2 Qute feeding stax electrostatic energiser into stax omega 2 MK 1 earspeakers (electrostatic ) . Sounds way better than ipods etc sounds like “living ” music . I like blues /rock-n-roll (50,s ) classical / doowop / and most music with feeling in it. Large collection of Buddy Holly -eddy cochran- gene vincent – little richard etc original LP,s + the Beetles = other big names all original LP .s . Any body needing help setting up their record deck -amplifiers etc I can help. Even if it is the old “gram ” position in valve wirelesses can help with info on valves .

Member

Duncan please simplify!

Member

Beryl -I am not usually a person who asks for advice but “je ne compren pas ” I am not very good at simplifying ,I know this sounds stupid but could you explain how to do it ?

Member

I like the reference in the article about people buying vinyl when they don’t (yet) own a turntable. When I finally got around to buying a CD player (a Marantz CD52 MKII SE hand-tuned limited edition) to go with the rest of my kit, I already had a number of CDs ready to listen to. It makes perfect sense to buy the music you want when it comes out. My Acoustic Research turntable also had very many LPs to play when it came home. Why not?

Member

That’s a fair point, I’d personally never do things that way round!

Member

We still have a large collection of vinyls and luckily a good hi-fi system to play them on. I suppose it does look a bit old-fashioned now but it was bought in the days when stuff lasted …….

Many got transferred to cassettes for playing in the car and are long obsolete but still around somewhere and will follow the VHS tapes to the tip at some stage.

We always intended to copy them to CD but never got around to it as we never quite had the setup for it but most favourites have already been rebought on CD and given as birthday presents.

We haven’t needed to progress beyond CDs yet……….

Member
Spacekid says:
20 April 2016

I still have my many LPs from the 70s. However I still prefer listening to CDs.

The sound from vinyl could be superb, if it did not contain pops, crackles background hiss and low frequency
Rumble ( vibration noise transferred from the turntable motor through the stylus )
All my LPs were purchased brand new, but all have background hiss, probably due to low quality vinyl being used containing recycled material.
Rumble problems can vary from bad to acceptable, usually dependent on the cost of the turntable.

I understand that being digital, CDs only contain part of the original music information that was recorded ( if it was recorded in Analogue form. )
Presumably, all recent recordings are made with digital electronics. So I am not sure that modern vinyl would sound any better than CDs. If this is the case. Theoretically, todays vinyl would not sound as good as 60s/70s LPs.

Maybe, most people can’t hear the difference between CDs and LPs, or don’t care ?
Perhaps people are looking for a new physical music format. Surprisingly, CDs have been around since 1982 ?
Or maybe they like to see where the music is coming from ? ( watching the LP spin on its turntable )
You can’t see CDs or MP3s playing !

Member

Yes you’re right that the vast majority of modern recordings will include at least some digital processing somewhere in their production. However, this will typically be at a much higher sample rate and resolution than ‘CD quality’, so detail will still be lost between the final studio mix and the CD master. In theory you could still keep all this detail in a vinyl master, although of course there are other factors that affect sound quality too.

Member

If I knew the answer Duncan I wouldn’t ask the question. The problem I have with high tech is you can’t communicate with it when it refuses to work, and all those wires with strange sounding names! Strange as it may seem I don’t have such a problem with the myriad of neurons and their chemical transmitters in the brain but “JLH shunt feedback pre amps?” As you say we are all unique but thank you for your kind offer to help set up people’s record-deck amplifiers.

I understand it is possible to purchase a Floating Record Vertical Turntable to play your old vinyls on, which will set you back $399.99 if you log onto gramovox.com. Not sure about the timing of the advert though!

Member

But you have answered me Beryl , you have given me your thinking on technical matters and that I should put it into more simple terms , its because I have spent my life doing technical things and would need training in how to express that to the public . I am very scared of being seen to patronise people by making things sound too simple ,you would get those “up to tech”, coming on and complaining –“do you think we are stupid, or words to that effect. JLH stands for that (now passed away ) John Lindsay Hood electrical engineer who designed many outstanding audio power amplifiers / pre-amps / FM radio circuits etc etc and who had many articles in Wireless world / Electronics World from the 50,s onward and was well thought of . Shunt feedback in an audio pre-amp for vinyl (equalisation ) provides a superior audio signal rather than the normal method . I will check out gramavox to have a look at it but Beryl UK audio ,IMPO, is better than many other countries ,there are UK companies who make. design, build their own equipment Cyrus Audio(made in England ) being just one , I am all for promoting -British is best. How about the LInn Sondek(record deck ) a Scottish company known worldwide and was for decades “as good as you would get ” .

Member

You can never make things too simple for my untechnical mind, Duncan.

Member

Now we are getting somewhere Duncan. It’s good to learn JLH was an accomplished and renowned electrical engineer who excelled in his ability to design audio power amplifiers and radio circuits and was not a mechanical device!

I agree Britain, as history illustrates, is capable of producing the best, but only in America would you want or even need a Floating Record Vertical Turntable. Nevertheless it would be interesting to hear your comments on it if in fact it really does exist!

Member

Beryl-I looked through all the serious hi-fi UK mags ,not one comments on this turntable . On the other hand it is big news on the web as regards an advertised product, it is being heavily advertised by US business sources , to me its another gimmick ,another “must get ” that will look good in your home for a year or two till the fashion wears off . It is in reality lower end hi-fi in real terms , yes it has quite a good cartridge and tone arm and if you like to listen to background music well and good , but compete with the serious stuff ,no chance . If you love classical music avoid this deck at all costs , high quality hi-fi gives you a sense of reality ,you hear every string being plucked on stringed instruments along with the harmonics the same with other musical instruments . The singing voice has all the emotional attachment in real hi-fi which combined with the musicians give you a spiritual uplift a sort of electric shock of musical beauty and perfection knowing you are listening to as near the real thing as you can get, that is totally lacking here , a reproduction of a Proms concert it is not , nor of an opera house . Buy it if you like mediocrity but you will never be listening to real musical reproduction.

Member
ian m says:
20 April 2016

I have not bought a CD in years. There is no reason now, as if you buy vinyl then the majority of them come with a digital download card. You are getting best of both worlds, vinyl for the house and the download for the car or when outside.
I originally bought vinyl when i was a kid as you couldnt get CD’s. When CD’s appeared I was all over them as I thought this new digital audio was the bees knees. After quite a few years of being disappointed with the audio quality of CD playback I ventured into the vinyl world again and haven’t looked back. It is a great time to be listening to vinyl again as the sleeves are of excellent quality now. Still I think the vinyl pressings could be better on some new records as some vinyl I have from the 70’s has far superior sound quality.

I don’t agree with what Which has stated in the above about the slight fuzz on bass frequencies. You shouldnt get that if you have your system setup properly.
We have to remember that as human beings we hear audio in analogue, so if you can get a vinyl record that has been recorded in analogue all the way then its not like listening to a recorded piece, it sounds ‘live’.

Member
Geoff M says:
20 April 2016

Vinyl do you mean LP’S ? .Well I have about 300 of them dating back to the fifties. I was and am a jazz buff who also likes a great deal of classical music and the music of the so called Great American Songbook you’ll probably guess I am no spring chicken. I purchased my first LP SORRY VINYL in about 1954 it was a 10 inch album very thick vinyl but for the time very good sound. And then came the avalanche of 12 inch albums often in beautiful packaging many became iconic because of the superb music and wonderful photography that was part of the product. Many still are iconic and original albums can fetch a very decent price. There is an old saying what comes round comes round and apropos the vinyl surge it seems to be true. I purchased my last vinyl in about 2009 it was part of a luxury boxed set celebrating one of the greatest jazz albums of all time Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. It came with with 2 CD’S a DVD LOTS OF ARTWORK AND PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE SESSIONS AN ILLUSTRATED BOOK AND A BEAUTIFUL DEEP BLUE VINYL RECORD OF THE ORIGINAL RECORDING. The sound of the vinyl was stunning more than a match for the CD that was part of the set. However I do have some very expensive turntable equipment far beyond the price of the recent Which best buy. Am I now going back to vinyl and spending silly money on new disks ? The answer is no. The point is I like music there are so many ways of listening to music best of all real live music. CD’S are hardly state of the art music technology these days but for me technologically speaking they will suffice. However for those of you who are intrigued and interested in try vinyl you will get a beautiful tactile object that can have stunning cover designs and very learned notes with them. But again oh those prices. Speaking of prices you really do need to spend the sort of money that was the Which Best Buy turntable. Oh by the way the WHICH best buy was BRITISH MADE NOW THAT’S NICE. Enjoy your music

Member

I often put on youtube, via the television or computer, in order to entertain when on caring duty. Fortunately I can play Bach or Mozart without any protest and so get to hear some pleasant music in between Bing and Nat King Cole. The point of this comment is that the television sound is not hi fi, but the music speaks for itself and can still be enjoyed. When alone, I can use my “posh” reproducer and listen to everything that my CD’s have within them. This too is an enjoyable experience. For me the CD was the first occasion, in a life of collecting music , when I could play something without any extraneous noise from the reproducing system or the record/tape. Some early CDs were a shade metalic but this soon improved and I haven’t wanted to listen to anything better than a CD. I can tell the difference between the CD and the MP3 and to a lesser extent beween CD and Mini Disc, though, in isolation, both of these make pleasant listening as does the £400 Sony system in the kitchen. It is the music, and the way it is played, that matters provided there’s more fidelity than a wasp trapped in a tin can. I have spent quite a lot of money on equipment and am satisfied with what I’ve got. Someone else will spend a great deal more to gain that satisfaction, others are happy to bop along to an i phone and headphones or a stereo from the supermarket. Thus the difference between analogue and digital is a personal preference and my vote goes to the CD, which I can hold in the hand and not something that exists somewhere on a hard drive or a cloud. I do have eleven days of music in the car on an i pod, but iTunes drives me nuts. Symphonic movements are “songs” and it decides which order to store my CD tracks in all by itself, leaving me to sort out the mess. I have managed to buy about eighty percent of my old vinyl recordings again on CD and, of course, since the eighties there have been a huge number of very talented musicians who have made memorable recordings which I also cherish. The sad thing is that though I love my collection, there are many of them that will never be played again – but it is nice to dip and rediscover old friends.

Member
Anita says:
28 April 2016

I work in a record store and I can see that people do ask for more vinyls day by day and they are willing to wait long so that they could only get for specific albums. I personally like some covers so much that sometimes I only buy them for decor as well:)