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Vinyl records: timeless format or just a fad?

vinyl record

Last week, the amount of money spent on vinyl music in the UK overtook digital downloads for the first time. Records are now firmly in the mainstream, but are they back for good, or is this just a stay of execution?

Ten years ago, the only people buying LPs were a few musty record collectors and the occasional aspiring DJ, but the £2.4m spent on vinyl in the UK last week proves that things have changed.

In a turn of events few, if anyone, would have predicted back then, that figure outstripped the £2.1m spent on digital downloads in the same period.

In an industry that often obsesses over the ‘next big thing’, it seems almost absurd that 15 years after the launch of the iTunes store, we find ourselves returning to a format that’s been around since just after the Second World War.

So why has this happened? Is there something about the LP that makes it truly immortal?

New ways to consume

The latest sales figures do make a good story, but don’t be fooled – vinyl is still nowhere near the most widespread way of listening to music.

According to the British Phonographic Industry, in early 2016, LPs represented less than 2% of overall music consumption.

So if people aren’t really listening to vinyl much, and they’re not downloading music either, what are they doing?

The answer is streaming of course – the UK streamed 26.6 billion songs on services such as Spotify and Google Play in 2015, and the figures from 2016 will no doubt be even higher.

If you include the numbers from free video streaming on sites such as YouTube, it’s over 50 billion plays.

Why vinyl?

In my opinion, this is the real reason that vinyl sales have overtaken digital downloads.

Through streaming, we’re spending more time listening to music we don’t own and can be pickier with what we spend our money on. If we really like a song, we’ll buy it. However, we like owning physical objects such as vinyl – we feel more attached to them, more emotionally invested than we do with something we can’t see.

Why would I buy an MP3 when I can have something lovely and tangible like a record?

We’re also willing to spend more on each individual record because it’s a more occasional and sentimental purchase.

Do you own vinyl? Have you rekindled your passion for it after its recent resurgence, or has your love for the LP never wavered? Maybe you went digital and never looked back, and now you’re waiting for this fad to blow over?

Comments
Profile photo of Ian
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We have a huge vinyl collection, although mostly music prior to the 20th C. I’ve digitised it all, a very long drawn out process, and managed to get most of it approaching the quality of an AAC copy. But now it all sits in a cupboard – or two – and we listen to music on our server or iPods.

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Vynor Hill says:
12 December 2016

I think I’ve written this before, so, very briefly, I like CDs to have and to hold and put on. Streaming leaves nothing in the hand and everything at the mercy of clouds and computers which will eventually fail. Back ups then have to be found and that’s hard work. Besides, I have a good music system which is not connected to any other media and doesn’t need replacing. Vinyl? I thought the silent background and good (if not quite the best) sound reproduction meant that Vinyl had had its day. I can still remember records getting thinner and warping, off centre pressings with real vibrato on every note and a constant battle with dust, static and blunt needles. Perhaps the new vinyl has improved, but for me? No thank you.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I pensioned off my turntable and fairly modest collection of LPs when I moved home, mainly because the turntable and record cabinet would have to be in front of one of the radiators in my lounge, which did not seem like a good idea.

After listening to LPs many times I sometimes get up at the right time to turn over the record – and then realise I’m listening to a CD.

Profile photo of Sophie Gilbert
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I know, I’ve listened to some albums so much (Sgt Pepper’s one of them) I still think, “this is where I would turn the record over” when I listen to a CD, but I’ve stopped short of getting up… so far.

I prefer vinyls because there aren’t any pointless, so-called “bonus” tracks added at the end of the record where I would expect silence after musical bliss. A record is like a painting or a scupture or a film, when it’s finished, it’s finished. I hate having to rush to the hi-fi after the cathartic Day In The Life to that I don’t hear the utterly inappropriate piece of nonsense added after it by some musical vandal somewhere. You can tell I feel strongly about this :0). See another convo on how they are vandalising Buffy.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Not only have I pensioned off my turntable but I still have not set up my HiFi separates since moving home earlier this year. I’m using a micro-‘Hi-Fi’ bought as an alternative to a soundbar for the flat-screen TV. My old Philips CD player, which must be nearly 30 years old , has a ‘favourite track selection’ that can be used to omit selected tracks. I don’t know if this is now a common feature but it is a very effective way of dealing with unwanted tracks.

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You certainly knew your CD players Wavechange buying a Philips 30 years ago , it was good in its day , some of those old models are now prized by aficionados and command “big bucks ” .

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Sophie you have all the attributes of a “top end ” hi-fi enthsusiast.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Its taken a long time for Which to bring this up probably because it hadnt reached a set business level at which bigger entities get interested and want to profiteer from the demand . This started long ago and anybody.like myself who inhabits hi-fi mags that comment and display top-end equipment will have known this at least a decade ago. Decks can cost from several £100,s up to and exceeding £100,000 , arms in the 10,s of £1000,s , power amps ,particularly- valve (tube ) amps using early 30,s enormous triodes costing mind boggling sums . I have spent a lifetime evolved in this hobby from buying old mechanical 30,s 40,s decks with heavy bakelite arms one of which I am holding right now as I type – G.Marconi moving coil -with MADE in ENGLAND , remember that name ? (NOT -made in the land of Built to a Price)– with a steel needle . I progressed up to designing power amps from original designs in Wireless World/Electronic World , making my own versions . I have an extensive collection of 50,s ORIGINAL Rock,n, Roll LP,s and going onto the 70,s . Vynor is quite right , to save money BB reduced the thickness of LP,s causing warping and other audio problems . Now I have in addition a very expensive British made designed-manufactured CD tray only player ( no DAC) with separate power supply + the latest BRITISH -made- manufactured-designed DAC convertor costing “silly money ” + own build mono/dual small signal amplifier-mono/ dual power supply- ( stop’s overhearing via the power supply ) and Japanese Stax electrostatic ear speakers with electrostatic power amp also costing “a lot ” BUT I have now made all my CD,s into files on my PC which has a £200 audio card with 0.001% thd using very high quality audio chips and a good LInux audio programme that converted them into WAV -yes I know it takes up nearly 11Gbits . outputted to an original BRITISH ARCAM power amp but Sony APM speakers . Anybody needing help with hi-fi I can help you. PS Daniel- any relation to the owners of LINN (Scotland ) or know them ? or Alvin Gold ?

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Scottie says:
31 December 2016

So, you’ve taken a compressed format, copied it and using expensive equipment expect it to play brilliantly.

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Uh no ! Scottie-since when has WAV been missing digital musical data.- WAV=EXACT COPY ! Flac= supposed lossless compression I said I copied CD originals not down market methods via the web etc. BUT direct from my OWN CD collection so my recordings are=24bit/96Khz (audio standard/blue book ) and IF I wanted to download from my upmarket British made/designed Cyrus CD PLATFORM + PU + the latest – BRITISH-designed manufactured CHORD -2qute DAC = dis. THD-0.0003% yes thats right no error there , which offers up to 32bit at 384Khz when inputting to my upmarket PC via a separate AUDIO card costing £200 approved by music editors etc. -does that get your approval ?

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robert C says:
22 January 2017

Agreed, CD is WAV and lossless, but they are 16 bit 44.1kHz, so up-sampling to 24/96 does nothing for the music. WAV ripped carefully to disc is as good as that recording will get.

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Robert -you have missed something out –dynamic range -aka- resolution =48db, check out the Nyquist rate audio samples should be sampled at twice the the highest frequency giving greater bit DEPTH -IE- peaks + subtleties wont be reduced or not heard it has room for 256 times the data.

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One of the problems with having very high-specification audio equipment is that the acoustic properties of the listening environment might not match and it becomes necessary to carry out various, and perhaps costly, alterations to provide suitable damping or attenuation in the surroundings to approximate to an anechoic chamber. Good headphones will do it but are not very sociable.

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Good perception John and thats why I have Stax electrostatic “ear-speakers ” nothing is missed due to very high voltage bias and movable mass of about 1 micron and a push/pull configuration in each ear .

Profile photo of banjo
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My vinyl system was built over many years and still lives on the massive cabinet I bought for it way back when. A mixture of manufacturers including Acoustic Research (record deck & speakers), Marantz amplifier & CD player, Denon cassette deck, Kenwood(!) FM tuner. Expensive cables (which DID make a difference in those mostly analogue days). It doesn’t get used much but Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl still makes an impact that the CD fails to do.

A new buyer who might have one of the new, cute, suitcase record players will not get anything like the same experience but hopefully they might get to hear a decent system that is in their price bracket and go on from there. Not many people would pay £30,000 for the Kronos Turntable but we can all lust after it… Or the Pathos Adrenalin Monobloc amplifier at £33,000. Each. And you do need two of them…

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Your talking my language Banjo !

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You’re talking my music Banjo !

Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here are probably my all time favourite albums.

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I’ve been given a small collection of EMI 78’s from the ’50s – opera, brass band, big band if I remember correctly because I cant play them yet. I’m on the lookout for a reasonably priced turntable to play 78 rpm – mine only does 45 and 33. Even an old record player would suit. I’ve written to Father Christmas.

I like vinyl and I’ve also a small collection of mainly classical. Isn’t the problem the hiss and crackle and clicks from small scratches if you’re a bit careless, however good the equipment?

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Malcolm I wont send you to very expensive decks try : http://www,myrecordplaters.com/ best record player reviews | find best turntables 2016 easily -forget crosley -complete RUBBISH scroll down to # 1 best overall or : http://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/gadgets-tech/best-turntables-under-500-record-players-8899911.html I have old Dansettes but the reproduction would never do classical music justice.

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If the 78s were of sentimental value or historically interesting, I would be tempted to buy an old gramophone. I enjoyed my childhood visits to see my grandmother, partly because the house was filled with interesting old objects including a Dulcetto gramophone with a colourful parrot logo inside the case. The speed could be varied with a lever until it sounded right and among the 78s were some single-sided ones.

I have no idea what a 78 would sound like on a modern high quality turntable, but probably not very good if it had been used on old equipment with a high tracking weight. I’m amused that the first recommendation from Duncan’s second link is marked Best Buy – but not a Which Best Buy of course.

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Wavechange “Best Buy ” in this sense is related only to a price range , this is very common in hi-fi because of differences in income . When you reach the top end you are paying for slight nuances in the recorded music , the timbre, the “openness ” , spatial range , not just the FR , but the perceived MUSICAL reproduction , the bowing of the strings on a violin , the solidness of the low frequencies etc etc. Anybody nowadays can do the 20Hz-20Khz cheaply its whats reproduced that counts , some people are happy with what comes out of a£50 player others are more discriminating , and yes , there is some musical “snobbery ” actually egged on in some quarters to make those with the money spend more . I have no idea what Which constitutes as a “Best Buy ” in hi-fi but having a large knowledge of all things “hi-fi ” I would like to critique on it.

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I was just amused by the Best Buy label, Duncan. I try to avoid marketing and was only familiar with Which? using the term.

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duncan, thanks 🙂

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robert C says:
22 January 2017

REGA (which is UK designed and made) specialise in record decks and offer a dedicated 78 rpm player that plugs into most hifi. My father has one. One of the cheapest decks they make. Its 45-33 brother got good reports in Which recently, which I was pleased to see.

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Good British make Rega I bought one of the first manufactured batch RB 300 arms in 1984 -still have it Robert . It was innovative in its day by being die-cast in one piece and engineered on resonances were well down. Even Alvin Gold liked it at the time.

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I statred out with B & O decks, speakers and amps, and we now have several systems around the house, which use Pioneer, Arcam, Tannoy, Cambridge Audio, JBL and even down to Sony. But I’d never return to vinyl, simply because – as Vynor put it rather neatly – it’s an unending battle with dust, needles, static, levels, vibration and just about every other delight of the modern world. As we get older, too, the frequency range we’re able to discern becomes ever narrower, so forking out huge sums on amps and the like is simply a waste.

Profile photo of John Ward
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The Intro seemed to suggest that there was nothing between vinyl records and downloading or streaming, but CD’s have been [and still are] incredibly popular. Purists might not consider them faultless [although to some extent the quality depends on the replay system] but they represent an accessible, visible, versatile, portable and convenient way of storing and playing music while still having the desirable physical attributes.

Having gone through mono, stereo, and quadraphonic [remember that?] on vinyl, with some reel-to-reel and cassette tapes thrown in, and having had a fairly elaborate hi-fi set-up, when CD’s were launched it coincided with a change in my circumstances and I jettisoned all the gear and the albums in favour of a much more compact system and a small collection of CD’s that would actually be played frequently rather than sit on a shelf for most of their existence. Apart from in the computers and the car, the only means of playing the CD’s now is a couple of Bose radio/CD players and a cheap-&-cheerful system in one of the bedrooms but this suits us fine. We are no longer looking for the acme of hi-fi transcription; we listen to music on the radio as much as on CD, and – the same as for books – I have disciplined myself to discard one for every new one that comes into the house. I have never knowingly streamed.

Even if I could afford it I wouldn’t wish to go down the road of the high-end kit that Duncan refers to; I probably wouldn’t be able to appreciate it sufficiently nowadays. Bring back the stereogram, I say; there was a certain sense of style and performance when relaxing one’s guests with the latest Horst Jankowski album while the fondue simmers and the Hock swirls in the tumblers.

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We still have a large vinyl collection that rarely gets played. We always intended to digitise them but never quite got around to it. All our favourites have now been rebought on CDs as birthday presents or stocking fillers so they have become rather redundant.

Profile photo of wavechange
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In an earlier Convo (first link in the introduction), Daniel posted a fascinating observation: 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.

My guess is that people enjoy having something tangible, and even if you listen to music on Spotify etc. it is nice to own the record. Even if vinyl records are not played the sleeves may be on display, like pictures. I know of one pub that numerous records and sleeves adorning the walls. It’s not something I have done.

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Bang on the money with that comment Wavechange your public perceptive psychology is correct ,that s exactly what the public perceive, and its the one area where “digitalisation ” falls flat on its face . Built into people through 1000,s of years is “ownership ” its part of human DNA , there is no sense of ownership of digital music because it is virtual , it can depart in an instant , wiped out by a hacker/virus/ fault in the computer, even those that think–I have it on HDD so its “safe ” –no its not hackers can block it . You cant hold it in your hand , look at it . even love it. That is where “going virtual ” with the money supply will cause a great deal of anger , already there is a violent backlash in India where the “fake news ” via the government was saying -no more real money -we are going virtual due to “criminal activities” guess what after the uproar the Indian government just wanted to go virtual so BB/banks etc India could make more profit out of charges for using it–they admitted it , so Britain –Beware !

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That’s one way to look at it, but the people using streaming services are unlikely to lose access to their favourite music for long. For a monthly subscription you can have whatever music you want, when you want it. No need to look to look after records or CDs and no danger of losing a precious collection. I can see the attraction.

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I was thinking along the same lines. If I were starting out afresh I wouldn’t want a tangible music collection if I could readily access any track from any piece of music either through a download or a streaming service and increase my repertoire without leaving home. The much vaunted physical attributes and proprietorship emotions were only making a virtue out of a necessity. The downsides of vinyl and the apparatus required to play it were not inconsiderable. One could still make a bit of a performance out of selecting and playing a piece of music if that’s the way to impress the neighbours on cocktail night.

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Monthly subscription , not for the poor , they have survival to think about . Once you buy it –its yours , subscriptions in this line only benefits Big Media USA . I wont be selling my music collection of LP,s /CD,s till a week before I die as I can continue to install them as files on my PC if something happens to the virtual storage system—for free.

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I agree, Duncan, but I can also understand the attraction to those who have not built up a music collection.

I’m not going to pay a large monthly or annual subscription to Adobe for the latest versions of InDesign, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Acrobat etc. I don’t need the latest versions and will carry on using the versions that were part of CS4, which I bought years ago, even though I have to use a computer with an older operating system to run the software. I’m also happy to stay with Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2011 rather than pay an annual subscription.

Companies want to maintain a revenue stream, whether it’s with monthly subscriptions, phones that become outdated and washing machines of dubious build quality.

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robert c says:
22 January 2017

I agree the subscriptions are not cheap, but a new one is TIDAL. Like spotify but high res (it really is far better quality, I tried it) and was started by the artists themselves. Worth a listen.

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Owned by an American multi-millionaire .

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Yes, that’s another plus point.

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I like your sense of humor John , now didnt I say that before ? always makes me laugh -don’t stop .

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I have come through all fads in my life , vinyl, cassettes, CD’s and now mp3’s, I do think though that vinyl LP’s with their designed sleeves are still the best if not the most convenient for today’s lifestyles. My LP’s at present are stored away still in mint condition and I really pride myself in my full collection of ‘Beatles’ LP’s [giving my age away now]. What I do miss though is being able to buy these days is the one piece music centre which had turntable, radio, two cassette decks, CD player, and of course 2 separate speakers, which would fit in my home cabinet perfectly.

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I’ve slowly been working on my vinyl collection over the past few years, and I agree with Daniel. I like to own physical products, and I like browsing my shelves instead of scrolling on my screen. But it’s not just the music. I love the artwork, the effort that has gone into the whole product.

Also, as my music taste seems to prefer smaller/independent bands I feel that purchasing their vinyls or CDs is somehow more of an investment in the band… ??

Profile photo of Sophie Gilbert
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I gave up on vinyl when I moved into a tenement flat the floor of which was so bouncy you couldn’t sneeze or a car couldn’t pass by without the needle jumping.

Profile photo of wavechange
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My goodness. Maybe the tracking weight was a bit low.

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Until I got a B&O deck I had the same issue. The B&O deck was balanced evenly through 360 degrees, so could be used in any orientation – even vertically. But most decks suffer from vibration issues.

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Let’s face it, vinyl is an analogue format and whatever else us humans are we are analogue (although I have from time to time come across what appear to be digital versions of humans!). This is why an interim measure needed when changing a digital stream to an analogue one (for us humans to understand) is a converter. As I understand it, a digital format is a ‘sampling rate’, the higher the rate, the more accurate the representation. By definition, this is still not pure analogue- it mainly works because us humans are far from perfect (colour TV works by the eye being tricked into viewing white when presented with a stream of red, blue and green light, but I won’t delve into that). I personally find CDs (as an example of digital) a bit ‘bright’ but convenient. There are many forms of cutting down the size of musical ‘files,’ perhaps the most common being MP3. This works by taking out bits of information that the ear is supposed not to register anyway, plus reducing the bit rate by varying degrees. The higher it is, the more accurate it is. But it still is not total analogue, which a vinyl record is. I personally find a well made, well produced record played on a good system the most satisfying to actually listen to. And I use all systems and enjoy all systems. And I am, after all, a rather faulty analogue human, living in a digital world!

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I agree Ron, I have a Dias record deck -cost £350 in the 80,s ,made in Nottingham with an original issue (1984 ) Rega RB 300 arm , my own build – shunt-feedback pre-amp -straight through no caps in signal path dual/mono and 15 Watts RMS class A mosfet -self built monoblock amps +various quality speakers .

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tony miller says:
17 December 2016

There’s a very simple reason I buy vinyl – it sounds better than all the others. I’ve also got very good digital replay system but when it comes to the crunch you cannot beat a good LP, particularly one of the original early pressings.

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Dave B says:
17 December 2016

Love all the comments. One big factor is that when you get older (yes I bought 78’s before EP’s came out) your hearing loss negates part of the quality of your system. I have a good system with arcam, linn etc and can remember when an LP, oops vynil, sounded better than a CD. I even have some of my old 78’s still both 10inch and some 12inch classical ones of my fathers maybe someday soon I’ll get around to connecting the other deck that does 78/45/33. Might even get around to making some tape copies to play in my classic car too, ah dreams.

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Chris says:
22 December 2016

I have always only purchased Vinyl Records since the year dot (1950’s). I do have CD’s where there were unobtainable tracks in the 70’s that I wanted to listen to at home (pre Spotify days) and would only get any future music if it appeared on Vinyl. To hold, smell (a new purchase) and then place on the turntable is a joy that CD’s and Downloads(?) cannot compare to. The Sound is superior to any other. Sadly, the Valve Amps are not generally available and are the best for Sound Reproduction. Transistors are not as “Alive” as Valves. I have a Valve Amp for my guitar.

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Chris-A man “after my own heart ” I am with you “body and soul” know exactly where you are coming from , you must be a musician to be able to “feel ” the difference in the musical reproduction from the “colder/harder ” solid state in relation to valves , thats why I used mosfets in the outputs of power amps and inputs of preamps somewhat “triode ” like . All the best guitar amps are valve just ask all the lead guitar “heroes ” of the past and check out the prices of some vintage 50,s/60,s valved guitar amps , astronomical.

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Does anyone have any technical information about what records are made of?

‘Vinyl’, I assume, is PVC – polyvinylchloride. Most PVC contains various additives including plasticisers. Plastics often deteriorate with age. Loss of plasticiser and exposure to ultraviolet light are common reasons. We use unplasticised PVC (UPVC) for window frames and this is fairly durable.

What I’m wondering is whether records are made of UPVC, presumably with some colourant, usually black. Whatever ‘vinyl’ records are made of, it does seem to be more durable than most plastics. I have some older records and they have less surface noise than ones manufactured in the 80s, towards the end of the first vinyl age.

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Wavechange : http://www.sheliac.org.org/recording/record5.html . As usual in the business industry , music is no exception , it was decided in the 70,s to save money by reducing the thickness of vinyl records and this has come back to haunt them by terrible reproduction in comparison to thicker records , warping , grainier sound issued from them.

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But do you know that only ‘pop’ records were subject to the thinner vinyl? Serious music aficionados (music pre-20th C) were considered by the record industry to be ‘more discerning’ so their discs remained at the full weight and thickness.

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Didnt know that Ian , although the classsical music LP,s I purchased were all Deutsche Grammophon as German Classical orchestras were considered the top of classical music reproduction and that company the top reproducer of its music . I do have many Russian classical music CD,s recorded by an Israeli organisation which sound very good. .

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DG vinyls are incredibly thick – about 140gm, I think. But pretty good reproduction.

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Duncan – The site you mention does not seem to have any detailed information, but does refer to ‘vinylite’, which seems to be a copolymer of vinyl chloride and vinyl acetate, so not simply PVC. By controlling the amounts of these monomers and making a low molecular mass polymer, the plastic does not need a plasticiser, which I had assumed on the basis of the long life of records. Vinylite has long gone so I still don’t know what is used in modern vinyl records.

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Sorry Wavechange I got the wrong plasic type ,will get back.

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Duncan – Your link resulted in a ‘cannot be found’ message. I suspect the spelling of “shellac” and the duplicated “org” were the reason. Once I dealt with those I found an interesting, if arcane, treatise on record pressing.

There are hundreds of websites about vinyl records but it is almost impossible to find any information on the actual composition of the material. The nearest I have come without spending too much time searching is the following :
The plastic or vinyl for the records is produced by melting plastic powder in a heated mixer. The plastic is melted and mixed until it has the consistency of jelly. It is then fed through a roller press that produces long, thin sheets within strict tolerances for the thickness and brittleness of the plastic. When the sheets are cooled, they are cut into squares called biscuits. An automatic press is fitted with the nickel stampers—one for each of the two sides of the record. The biscuits are reheated to soften them slightly, and they are fed into the press. The operator makes sure the biscuit is seated properly and activates the press. The grooves and the sound pattern are pressed into the soft plastic.
Read more: http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/LP-Record.html

Perhaps each label or pressing plant had their own formulation.

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robert c says:
22 January 2017

In the last popular times, including my 70s/80s LPs, they were 80gm, and the comeback has resulted in initially 120gm (esp for 12″ singles for DJs) but seems to have standardised on 180gm as we are charged £20 each, so they can afford it. As to the UV degradation……. they are kept in a cardboard sleeve, away from the light of day. Some early CDs failed with age as the ink from the printed side affected the digital music side.

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The CD,s failed from ink due to the fact they were RW/R which deteriorate over a long period unlike the different method used by the manufacturer -IE- one stamp to the substrate etc. I have manufactured CD,s of long ago still reproducing as new , not the case in RW/R .

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Well here we go -at last i had to use a special browser to find it , but I take it everybody will accept the renowned, highly acclaimed, well thought of– The Royal Society of Chemistry(GB) , a highly secure website its – chemistry world , Vinyl records, still treasured by audio buffs, are simply black PVC : https://www.chemistryworld.com/podcasts/pvc/6344.article

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I’m well aware of the RSC, which publishes journals as well as the magazine Chemistry World, destined for a wide audience. So it appears that records are simply black PVC nowadays. Thanks for that.

Edit: Here is another news article that refers to records being made out of PVC but goes on to mention the percentage crystallinity, something which greatly affects the properties of plastics: http://cen.acs.org/articles/94/i24/Groovy-chemistry-materials-science-behind.html

I see that John has also identified the errors in the URL you quoted. Out of interest, is there a reason you don’t use copy & paste?

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Alun says:
1 January 2017

Hmmm……I’m suspicious that the resurgence of vinyl is a scam…..with the main target victims being those of us who grew up with vinyl and are thus supposed to see it as a link back to our halcyon days?
I found these interesting reading:
http://productionadvice.co.uk/its-not-the-format
http://www.laweekly.com/music/why-cds-may-actually-sound-better-than-vinyl-5352162

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Alun -no scam , as someone who watched the “downfall ” of vinyl in the 80,s due to an intense CD advertising campaign and then watched the comeback via many high end hi-fi mags where top end vinyl players sell for £1000,s and old players like LInn , Pink Triangle, Thorens 124 .Garrard 301 ( I had one ) -now circa £1000 are in demand . Vinyl sales in -2014 reached a 20 year high in the UK of 1.29 million and sales in first quarter of -2015 up again by 69 % compared to the same period in -2014 . I know this goes against -out with the old -in with the “with it ” gadgets -get modern attitude but reality and pushing products doesn’t always convince many discerning audio buffs in the UK and the US/Europe is no different . After decades of rubbish digital sounding equipment being sold many said -enough already and went back to vinyl. The problem is the usual problem -rip-off merchants punting rubbish decks to cash in on the so called “craze ” for analogue decks, which “craze ” has lasted 20 years.

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Aaah! Memories! Thanks for reminding me. I had a Thorens deck with a Shure cartridge and stylus but I can’t remember whether the tone arm was a different make nor the rest of the set-up. I wasn’t sorry to say good bye to vinyl records, though, in favour of CD’s.

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Halyna says:
6 January 2017

Don’t normally take part in online debates but as a life long music lover the subject of this one has caught my attention. Duncan I am so impressed with the hardware that you have acquired and put together yourself. Envious to say the least. As a child my love for music was so great I was bought a record player and a reel to reel tape. (just given my age away). Spent endless hours lying on my bed with my fingers on play and pause with a microphone held in front of the radio. “Hello pop pickers” and my heart would start racing. Moving on in time to student life vinyl was at its pinnacle. (God bless the student grant). For music lovers vinyl and the hardware you had was a cult in itself. Saving went on frantically to buy good Wharfedale speakers. You learned not to have ‘all in ones’ but to mix and match. I would change a piece occasionally and buy from the high end of Marantz, Denon, Arcan, Technics, Aiwa, Mission etc. The LP and its cover was a piece of art. The amazing artwork of genuine artists, We would gather together to drool over the new acquisition. We would smell it, touch it, glue ourselves to the lyrics and the new poster placed with pride on the wall. I remember the thrill of buying the LP the day it was released. I can still see the amazed looks when we first heard a new ‘Yes’, ‘Led Zeppelin, or ‘Pink Floyd’ album. Needing music in the car brought on the cassette. Now what a laugh that was. Who remembers unraveling lengths and lengths of tape, cutting out destroyed parts and sticking the tape back together, and machines clogged up with ferric oxide? Oh great! we could move on to chrome oxide. Didn’t stop them from eventually becoming tangled though. Yes I have joined today’s world MP3s and I stream a lot of music from spotify and I have a huge cd collection. However the digital world is cold and does not play to all your senses. It does allow you to hear more but if you want to listen to the best at its best have the best equipment and vinyl that you have kept in mint condition. Nothing or nobody would make me get rid of mine.

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Halyna we have spiritual bond in music , the same wavelength, the same thoughts on this subject .Of coarse I remember all those names , who could forget the Mission 770,s ? , loved at the time by Alvin Gold and others , LInn Isobariks , exotic Japanese cartridges , hand made , I still have several Hi-Fi Choice books on best buys of the era and a large collection of original LP.s of the 50,s/60,s I was never out of W.H Smith buying hi-fi mags . The 60,s/70.s was the height of the love of vinyl cities were full of music shops with listening rooms better stop there or I will go on forever. Good”potted history ” you gave . Those eras will never be repeated, you had to feel the atmosphere of that time personally.

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Margaret says:
15 January 2017

I have a Decca deccalian Record player with a separate amplifier giving stereo music….circa1962. Still working but don’t know what I could do if a valve failed.Any ideas ?

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Margaret – Decca were ahead of their time in introducing “the full frequency” Decca cartridge, they were a big company into radar / early mobile communications / supplied the Armed Forces in the days when this country was a proud engineering export country British built -British made , I am glad I lived through it. If its valves Margaret – I am your man ! I live and breathe them started in the mid-Fifties onward and never looked back . If it had valves I repaired it radios -TV,s – communications receivers-oscilloscopes-test equipment hi-fi power amps -fifties Juke boxes -transmitters- you name it . A 1957 Deccalian record player valve line up is= ECC83(2)-EL84(2)-EZ80 I have all those valves , they are standard Mullard /etc valves. I can test any valve with my AVO VCM MK4 ( upgraded by myself ) valves are still easy to obtain , you can even get a needle replacement for your cartridge. Vinyl is big business now so are old record players I have a few including original Dansettes , and “ladies ” versions of portable 50,s record players , don’t sell your deck its worth money Margaret If the valve line up is different for your later model just let me know I can help with any valve (tube ) problem. Have a look at : http://www.radiomuseum.org/r/decca_2_deccalian_88.html Margaret and tell me if that is the model you have ?

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It used a push-pull amplifier, hence the two EL84s. An EZ80 rectifier, somewhat inadequate smoothing and screening and authentic mains hum. All these valves created a fair amount of heat so record sleeves warned against leaving records on a stationary turntable to avoid warping.
Happy days.

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I was always amazed at how companies like Decca made everything from pioneering navigation systems and radar technology to early consumer electronics like records and transcription systems. I think they were also pioneers of quadraphonic sound which required extremely clever cartridges, tone arms and speakers.

English Electric was another such company that made everything from fighter planes and diesel locomotives to fridges and fan heaters. Truly, those were the days.

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Margaret I didn’t know this country no longer has large numbers of valve sellers/manufacturers , after wading through the rip -off merchants at VERY high prices I have found a company that I have dealt with in the past that sells them at reasonable prices (small number of audio ones) – try – rapid on line its a British company . Valves have different numbers but the same characteristics depending on the the company who manufactured them I have equivalents going back to the late 20,s as well as a large number of equivalent manuals.

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eBay traders sometimes offer cheap valves, though you might have to take a chance on condition unless they are ‘new old stock’.

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Reminds me of Ever Decreasing Circles…

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🙂 In the 70s, I remember a friend telling me about end-of-side distortion when playing LPs. He was able to demonstrate the problem, which I had never appreciated. Thankfully I was able to get back to listening to the music rather than the imperfections. A few years later, another friend told me he had several LPs of piano music which he did not enjoy but he had bought them because they were good for demonstrating wow and flutter.

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Many, many years ago I used to record VHF radio broadcasts onto reel-to-reel tapes and one of my recordings was of a Beethoven symphony concert in which, during the slow movement, something that sounded like a ping-pong ball dropped on the floor and bounced its way down a flight of steps, the sound perfectly captured on the live transmission. I would play this tape from time to time and always anticipated the additional percussion instrument’s dramatic entrance. When I bought my first hi-fi record-playing set-up and some LP’s I was anxious to replace this tape with a studio recording. When I played the new disc the ping-pong bongs were absent and I just couldn’t get used to it for quite a long time. My enjoyment of music is better when there are no imperfections to notice.

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I’d avoid anything by Schoenberg, then 🙂

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Yes, Ian, good point; Gerard Hoffnung did it properly with orchestra and vacuum cleaners [although the piece was written by Matthew Arnold and dedicated to president Hoover].

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I watched one of his concerts on tv (b+w). I seem to remember a hosepipe and strings orchestration of Mozart. His festival concerts are still available, I think, on CD from EMI. Will they seem as entertaining now as then?
I also remember him for the Bricklayer’s Lament delivered at the Oxford Union. and his cartoons – the opera singer with his waistcoat buttons labelled “bass”, “treble” etc.

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It still makes me laugh, Malcolm. The Bricklayer’s Lament wasn’t all that funny as a story but the way he told it had the audience is hysterics. From memory, so apologies if not word-perfect : [Bricklayer shifting some bricks to the ground on a pulley] “After loading the bricks into the barrel I went down to the bottom to release the rope. The barrel was much heavier than me and it started to come down. . . . As I was going up . . . (long pause) . . . I met the barrel coming down. . . . When it got to the bottom the barrel broke and the bricks fell out. . . . I was now heavier than the barrel . . . (long pause) . . . so — as I was going down — I met the broken barrel coming up. . . . When I landed at the bottom on top of a pile of bricks I lost all presence of mind . . . and let go of the rope. . . . The barrel was now heavier than the rope. . . . . .”

I remember this being played on good old steam radio, as well as Bob Newhart’s clever half-dialogues where imagination is the key to the comedy.

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It was very funny the first time I heard it but like a shaggy-dog story it’s a bit drawn out and you might have to turn over the record half way.

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As a kipper I was present at a Hoffnung concert, and saw first hand the various bits and pieces he used. Laconic and very dry, his humour, as I remember it, anyway.

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It was the timing…..and the anticipation, I agree. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZUJLO6lMhI

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Derek says:
23 January 2017

I bought my first LP in1952 at cost of £1-19-6, equivalent to more than £50 today. As an apprentice my weekly pay was a little over £3 for a 44 hour week. I played it on a Collaro deck with interchangeable heads for 78s and lps (33rpm). The amplifier was homebuilt, using valves of course. The speaker was in a very large cabinet (also homebuilt). The quality of reproduction seemed marvellous compared with that from 78s.

Music and the means to reproduce it are very cheap today. The quality of reproduction provided by a relatively modest radio/CD player is good enough for all but the most fanatical listener and CDs are much more convenient than lps. The cost of a system to give similar quality to that from a CD is much greater; each time one is played the LP is degraded, and the discs need very careful handling and storage. It should be noted too that in the last decade or so of the LP the production process involved a digital step; the term “digitally mastered” was used as a selling point. The eventual acoustic output is, of course, always analogue.

I would not dream of returning to Lps, but I wish those who do the best of luck. They will need it unless they have very deep pockets!

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Graham Fisher says:
2 February 2017

I have just finished “digitalising” my music collection – 408 vinyl albums and 38 cassette tapes. I acquired a turntable to USB converter from Lidle on special offer about 18 months ago. The project has taken about a year to complete including labelling all the files (artist, album, year, gender), plus after problems with auto imaging I decided to photograph all the albums myself (Galaxy x21 zoom in macro mode) and stamp the images to the music files manually. More recently I acquired a Lenovo Tab2 A10-70 which I have dedicated to playing music after adding a micro SD (I have 33Gb of music). Earlier I acquired from Sharaf in Dubai a Bluetooth receiver that connects to my “old” but brilliant JVC hi-fi via its RCA sockets.

I understand while new collectors want vinyl – my own collection looks great in their made to measure music centre and impresses visitors like a classic car might as some a rare, some forgotten, and mostly 30 to 50 years old. But they are time consuming to play and I worry about wear and tear. But I am now in paradise playing my music with a touch screen complete with perfect reproduction of those old vinyl crackles.

But what about new music ? Well my music centre is fully loaded – everyone will eventually reach their physical space limit, and then the other day a friend persuaded me after listening to a couple of tracks on his iPhone to add the latest Rolling Stones releases (Blue and Lonesome plus Havana Moon) . He lives 10 minutes away but before he arrived home I had already downloaded both albums and was pumping the latest “Paint in Black” through my old hi-fi and sound-to-light unit – how cool is that ?

The only decision that remains now is red wine or white ?