Friday, August 22, 2014

Throw away CDs and MP3s folks, vinyl revival is here!!!

Why vinyl records again ?
This is the digital age, one might wonder why do we need to go back in time. Why do we need to listen to vinyl records again ?  The truth is vinyl records never died but it was just that were a bit distracted. There's a huge difference in terms of audio quality and accurate sounds on vinyl compared to "modern day CDs", not just a nostalgia as many tone deaf thinks.

Is this is just a trend ? is there's a real benefit on records ?

Music lovers, the audiophiles moved away from CDs towards vinyl records over the recent years due to this thing called "loudness war" (also known as loudness madness/loudness mania). The CD manufactures over the years "increased the amplitude in CDs to make the CDs sound a bit louder to compete with other CD manufactures. We call this ugly competition as "loudness war", which killed the dynamic range that the music has. The record companies achieved this by compressing the music "further more" on a CD. 

What does the loudness war mean ?
Ortofon 2M Bronze Cart in action
Well, it's quite simple, record companies increased the amplitude of the lows and brought the highs down to make the waveform even and then increase the amplitude altogether; thus resulting the music sound a bit louder but flatter. You might think this is pretty cool, since you'll get to hear music a bit louder at a lover volume. But unfortunately it is not. This process kills the dynamic range of the music and make everything in a song sound flat, muddy and distorted. The range of the drums, depths of the vocals and the clarity of individual instruments are all gone during this process. This makes all instruments and vocals to sound at the same range/level. The "loudness war" distracted those who listen to real "music". (ie this doesn't have any impact on those who plug their ipods with Apple provided headphones or beats/bose crap)

For an example, if you listen to Sade's original recording of the "Promise" album and the recently remastered CD, the latter sounds a bit flatter and dull. The difference is like day and night. Metallica's "Death magnetic" album known to be the loudest album ever produced, which sparked a protest against the "loudness madness" and many fans requested a re-release of the album with the dynamic range ie without the loudness mania but that never happened.

Why can't make vinyl's sound louder ?

The limitations on the media itself prevent record manufactures applying same principles of the loudness war on vinyl records. That said, I have seen badly pressed vinyl records that aren't distant from CDs. But overall, the vinyl records win hands down in terms of sound quality and there would be no fatigue for long hours of listening to the analogue music since waveforms aren't computed as in digital media. The new vinyl records aren't cut from CDs or digital master copies often but from the analogue sources. The new 180gram pressings sound awesome and promised to last a few generations making record warp a thing in the past. The records do have a higher sampling rate compared to digital media.

Can records last longer like CDs ?
Well, the answer is yes and no. The vinyl records would indeed last for generations. I haven't seen any CDs last the way vinyl records so. My vinyl collection consists records older than 45 years. Recently one of my mates brought a 45 years old Simon & Garfunkle record and it sounded brilliant without any hiss or pop after giving it a bit of clean. The vinyl records however wear out over a period of time but that's insignificant and there are ways to minimise the record wear, which I'm planning to explain in another article. In a nutshell, if you configure correct tonearm height, stylus pressure and anti-skating correctly you could make the record wear to be very minimal. In worst case scenario, the records would still play and generate music no matter how many times you've used it or how badly they have been used. I've got a mate having a collection of records some have been played to death yet sounds great.

I think I stopped buying CDs about 6-7 years back and I blogged my experience here. That said, I bought a few CDs where there's no vinyl counterpart and some were original releases. In general, you need to take a good care of vinyl records to make them last generations. A clean before dropping the needle, a periodic stylus clean are just a few basics steps to ensure a longer life span among many other. One might think this as an annoyance compared to playing a CD. Well, absolutely not. Playing a record involves a bit of human effort, which makes the individual a part of the listening experience. In return, vinyl records have more presence to the music, warmer, natural yet detailed sounds. The dynamic sounds are there to enjoy all day along.


Why should I go through this hassle to play a record ?

It's like using a DSLR camera vs a point and shoot crap; both take photos. The DSLR in manual mode needs a bit of effort at each photo shoot; you need to set the correct aperture, shutter speed, film speed, white balance, configure the focus point etc,. However, the end result justifies the efforts you've put at each click. Just like listening to music over vinyl record. To conclude, if you're given a manual 1987 Ferrari 288 GTO and an a 2015 plated Toyota Hybrid Camry with all the bells and whistles, what would you pick to drive ?

No comments:

Post a Comment