Since the dawn of the millennium, the age of the MP3 has been upon us. Sound files are now inexpensive, convenient and can be shared and transported extremely easily. But a renaissance is also underway. The vinyl record has a mystic prominence that somewhat defies logic while harkening back to a forgotten way of listening to music.
Sure, the long-haired aficionado at the local independent record store will tout the grandeur of vinyl. He will tell you it is the most authentic way to experience your favorite albums. But is he right? Or are we all merely falling under the spell of the warm crackle of the record player and atmosphere derived from an experience that is sheer novelty?
To consider this resurgence in interest for the record player, a number of factors must be considered. Firstly, when CDs were the cutting edge of music listening no one argued with the sound quality. It was only when MP3s appeared on the scene that the price of your dad’s records appeared to go up. There is a fair amount of evidence to argue that MP3s do not do the music justice, but I can’t help but wonder if our affection for vinyl is a direct result of the sound file. An MP3 is a small bit of information that can be gotten and shared many times over. The static quality of a dusty record is a reminder of tangibility and an age perhaps of perceived simplicity.
Secondly, the ways in which we listen to music since the arrival of vinyl records has changed immensely. Now music can be played on stereos, phones, tablets and computers. It’s like cameras, once a treasured item in the family is now a function on a mobile device. Thus, our opinions of sound quality vary with the innumerable ways in which we consume music. A vinyl record offers nostalgia, an MP3 although perhaps reductive in quality, can offer a great deal more.
Lastly, let’s consider the fashion-ability of record players. In laying aside sound quality and theories on exceptional listening, it is possible most vinyl customers are enjoying the trend of a once-standard-now-charming fixture that heightens the yesteryear quality of a comfortable mid-century modern living room?
So sure, that long-haired fellow is probably right. Vinyl is likely more than just a taste of a bygone era. But for an average listener like myself, that hardly matters. It’s not perfection I seek. Instead it’s an alternative to the sleek Apple product and the quest for the future of sound. Simply put, it’s difficult to beat the soft imperfections that waft from a spinning record as I sip a good drink.