Vinyl records have a kind of magic aura about them-they live in a world of dreams where they are better in our memories than they were in our reality. As with film, there are some people that just don’t want to admit that new technology is better than old technology. As a photographer I met old guys who say with absolute conviction- film is better than digital. If by ‘better’ you mean it costs more to use, is harder to work with, and is unreliable, than yeah, film is better than digital. Much the same can be said about vinyl records.
When I was growing up, vinyl record LPs and Singles were better than the only alternative we had, which were cassette tapes. Tapes have a nasty habit of getting caught in the guts of the players and turning into silly string. Vinyl had the habit of skipping, getting easily scratched, and breaking. It was possible to get a brand new, fresh out of the package LP and have it not play correctly. Even with new needles and better quality turn tables, it was very easy to scratch a vinyl record and pretty much ruin it for life.
There were a couple of cool things about LPs vs CDs. For one thing the artwork was large enough to be seen and appreciated. Then there were the picture discs, which first popped up in the 1940s or so on 78 rpm vinyl records. I had a couple of those at one time, one of them featured an apple pie that filled the disc. In the 1970s and 1980s picture discs made a bit of a comeback and I owned a couple of them as well. They sounded just as crappy as a regular LP, but looked a whole lot cooler.
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab was one of the first companies to champion vinyl records and started to make top-of-the-line vinyl records with better materials and original studio tapes. The older MFSL Vinyl Records are collector’s items now. They often came with a little wrench to align the needle on your record player to insure the best possible sound. On a slightly odd note, many of the MFSL recordings are available for download at file sharing sites.
I still have a small stack of LPs floating around the house, but don’t have a turntable and have not had one for years. If you want a turntable check, out the advice of Audiojunkies. One of my old vinyl records is God Bless Tiny Tim, an album I felt sure would never be avaible digitally, as I must be the only person around that still likes this kind of oddness. But then one day I was wandering around Rhapsody, and there it was. I now feel that it is only a matter of time until every LP ever recorded is turned into an audio file available for quick and easy download.
If you love vinyl records, more power to you. Listen to the music by candlelight-and don’t forget to toss a bale of hay to your horse and fetch some water from the well..