Vinyl

Because of the many new compact technologies created to simplify our lives, time appears as compressed as modern music, and it seems as if there is no place for a clunky, non-portable vinyl collection.

But since music is so intrusive in our lives – it often wakes us up, accompanies us on the drive to work, and can even help heal a shattered heart – the quality of how we experience music, and not just its convenience, should play a factor.

To understand the difference between a CD or MP3 recording and a vinyl is to know what separates digital and analog. Since music travels in continuous waves, the reproduction of this sound on an analog vinyl with an unbroken spiral groove, is a more accurate representation than a CD. CDs can only take many samples of the wave pattern, akin to making a flipbook of still pictures.

Even if the sound quality of vinyl contains some surface noise, as the static of records notoriously attracts dust, the imperfection is still welcome to many.

Rich Menning, owner of Atomic Records located at 1813 E. Locust St., said that if records are taken care of, then they are "authentic in relation. It's rock and roll and it lives and breathes, not this harsh plastic horribleness."AM

Since the needle is following an embedded groove and isn't a laser blithely scanning over a flat surface, Dathan Lythgoe, an Atomic employee, AM said of the dust and "pops" on some vinyl's, "I find it romantic."

Just as many writers still prefer feeling their pen touch the paper – the direct contact with their art – so do audiophiles like the analog experience of a record.

"You have to move a needle and flip it over. I make more a night of it," said Travis Whitty, employee at The Exclusive Company on Farwell Ave AM because he doesn't pull his vinyl collection out as often as his CD collection.

He also welcomes the unique sound of records. "The surface noise adds to lots," he said. "It gives it weight."

Under prime listening conditions with a good needle, turntable and record, vinyl should always sound perceptibly better. Skeptics of the noticeable differences between the sounds of modern recordings and older recordings don't have to look further than, well, modern technology. This site (http://youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ) WORKS explains and contrasts the two sounds better than words can.

Two Artists' Takes

Artists are also vocal in the differences, both aural and in their different formats.

"Rock music was most exciting when it was in the 45 [rpm single], when it was disciplined into a single … The 45 is the pure rock to me," Bono told the Chicago Tribune.

On the flipside, while Bono's perception of singles dying may be true, the death of whole albums being downloaded – as artists intend for them to be listened, seems to be temporarily revived. The January Rolling Stone reported that sales of digital albums doubled to 32 million in 2006.

Album length has also grown, which may have contributed to Bono's call for structure. "Music is easier to digest in 15-20 minutes chunks," said Menning. (The length of one side of an LP is at the most 30 minutes.) "The 80-minute CD format has cost many artists to put out everything they have – there's not much of an editing process."

No matter what the length, Bob Dylan can't get past the sound of modern recordings. "You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them. There's no definition of nothing(sic)," he told Rolling Stone in August.

He also expressed distaste for the entire CD format in the same interview: "CDs are small. There's no stature to it."

Since Dylan recorded his latest album on magnetic tape rather than a digital disk, Whitty said, "He's not just saying something, he's doing something about it."

But, Menning from Atomic saw Dylan's statement as being hypocritical once he appeared on an iPod commercial.

Tangible Records

Though digital music doesn't degrade over time like its tangible counterparts (both CD and vinyl), "A lot of people like collecting the artifact itself," said Geoff Worman, owner of Flipville Records on Farwell Ave. AM

The store is representative of the bulkier nature of records, as they are crated and put everywhere they can fit, and is also representative of the organic experience of records. It smells almost like a library – that good musty smell that comes from things worthy of being passed down generations.

Nevertheless, those who do buy MP3s of CDs still lose something, as the album art on CDs is also compressed. As much as iTunes and other online music retailers try to approximate the tangible buying experience by including album art with its downloads, it is in a different format than older bands previously intended.

The Beatles' (arguably) most popular release of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band contained many purposefully placed hints that alluded to the alleged death of Paul McCartney, such as the lyrics "without you" placed near his head on the back cover. While this picture of the Beatles with only McCartney's back turned is included in the CD booklet, the lyrics are not superimposed over the picture.

A sense of pride also seemed to accompany the music store employees' decisions to collect vinyl. As Menning said, "What satisfaction is there in stealing an MP3 vinyl off the internet? I propose that labels release their music on vinyl and include a free CD of the content so that those who still give a damn about music – by paying for it – can have the best of both worlds."

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