Thinking about starting a vinyl collection? Asking yourself why would you pay €15 for a 12” disc that you need a speaker system and turntable to play? Well, here are five reasons.
1. It just sounds better
Okay, let’s get this one over with first. There's a lot of debate over the ‘sound quality’ of records versus other mediums like CDs, MP3s, and streaming. In an interview with Decoded Magazine, we think Mastering Engineer, Adam Gonsalves of Portland’s Telegraph Mastering, put it best :
“Vinyl is the only consumer playback format we have that’s fully analog and fully lossless. You just need a decent turntable with a decent needle on it and you’re going to enjoy a full-fidelity listening experience. It's a little bit more idiot-proof and a little bit less technical.”
To make audio files small enough to store thousands of them on your phone, or to stream online, they have to be compressed. If you listen to music on a streaming service like Apple Music or Spotify, you don't get the full picture of the track. When pressing a record no audio data is lost, meaning the sound is more complex. It will sound just as the producer or band intended.
Ace Hotel, Los Angeles. Photo by Travis Yewell.
2. It's an experience
Playing a record on vinyl can be an active music listening experience. From picking out a record (you can’t dig through a crate of MP3s and find a hidden treasure) to putting it on, moving over the needle and sitting back to listen. You have to kind of pay attention. Put on one of your vinyl and you might find yourself glued to your chair for the next hour, just listening and doing nothing else. You can have it on in the background, but you'll still have to be there to flip the record.
3. They come in different shapes, sizes, colours and sleeves
As a special Record Store Day release, Jack White put out a liquid-filled version of ‘Sixteen Saltines’ from his debut album, ‘Blunderbuss’. When the vinyl played, you could watch the blue water slosh around inside the 12” record. In 2014, Emperor Yes, the UK psychedelic pop band, pressed ground-up dust from a meteorite that landed on Earth in the 16th century into 100 copies of the appropriately-titled ‘An Island Called Earth’.
The aesthetic of a record can be provoking and inspiring. For collectors, you can wind up obtaining three or four different versions of a single record.
4. It invites you to listen to a full album
Records take up more space for good reason; they ask for commitment. If flicking on a Spotify playlist is a snatched bag of crisps, vinyl is a Sunday roast. Without the choice to swap between tracks, you sit down and really appreciate an album for what it is, and in many ways form a closer relationship with what the artist was trying to portray to the listener as a whole. The artist may have spent hours figuring out the track order, changing and swapping tracks, stressing over little sections, and even removing songs because they just didn’t fit into the overall sound.
Photo by Annie Theby.
Services like Spotify, YouTube Music, and Apple Music all use algorithms to recommend new artists and tracks to you. This version of music discovery is data driven. If fans of Artist A tend to listen to Artist C, then you'll get recommended those albums.
If you buy your music at a local record store, the knowledgeable staff who work there can recommend albums more naturally and diversely. What can follow is the thrill of the hunt, searching dusty attics and flea markets in search of that final piece to a perfect collection. When you finally take the record home you're more likely to carve out dedicated time to listen to it.
Header photo: White Noise Records, Hong Kong. Courtesy of Surya Urs.