Pieces of Vinyl vs. Digital Music – Which is Better?
I entered the record store and was immediately bombarded by the sound of Joe Walsh performing live and the faint aroma of mold, mildew, and dust. I exchanged greetings with the owner behind the counter and then made a beeline to the first row of vinyl records.
At the head of the row resided several dozen vinyl records that just recently entered the establishment’s inventory. I began to flip through them looking for classic releases and hidden gems.
The Rolling Stones… Exile on Main St. Gotta have that.
Simple Minds… Once Upon A Time. Need it.
The Blues Brothers… Briefcase Full of Blues. Can’t pass that up.
Then I came across this high fidelity album called Do The Hula. It actually contains a multi-page insert that teaches one how to do Hawaii’s unofficial dance step. Finally, I came across a record of Sammy Davis, Jr. singing Mel Torme’s California Suite. It’s a definite must have.
Later that night, I turned the lights down low and procured a cold beverage. I sat back in my comfiest chair and enjoyed my new vinyl records. It was musical nirvana.
So I guess I’ve answered the age old question—well, a question that’s at least a decade old—what’s better: vinyl records (a.k.a.pieces of vinyl – thanks baba-booey!) or digital music.
Actually the answer to that query is digital music. There’s no way around it. Digital music is ubiquitous, utilitarian, and user-friendly.
Most people already have a computer, laptop, and/or smartphone capable of playing digital music player. Digital music is cheap, and let’s not be naïve, it can even be free. Even better, digital music takes up no space and can be played indefinitely.
Depending on how deep you want to get into digital music you can use it for working out, entertaining at parties, and while you’re driving around town.
Digital music wins the head-to-head battle but that doesn’t mean it’s the only champion in the equation. The true story that began this article could not have happened with digital music. Vinyl records lend themselves to excitement.
Nothing beats the experience of flipping through a stack of records and finding a piece of vinyl that strikes your fancy. And nothing beats putting that vinyl record on your turntable and setting the needle on the groove.
There are pops, hisses, and crackles, but those noises don’t distract from the experience they add to it. They’re charming. The fact that you have to flip the record over is endearing not an inconvenience.
Then there’s the album cover. The album is the perfect canvas for a piece of art. Digital music has no cover, no linear notes, and no inner sleeves. What do you read while listening to a digital piece of music? What do you look at? How do you know who produced the album or who played bass on the opening track?
My love affair with vinyl records isn’t coming from nowhere. According to Nielsen SoundScan, the sales of vinyl records went from 4.5 million in 2012 to 6 million in 2013.
We are in the middle of a vinyl renaissance. And why not? Like I’ve extolled, vinyl records offer a great experience and are a whole lot of fun to listen to. The format also favors artists who are talented and creative enough to fill both sides of a vinyl record with quality songs. Digital music is tailor made for one-hit wonders.
The vinyl records Nielsen counted are obviously new releases, or relatively new releases. The real fun comes when you find that quaint, little record store on some sleepy downtown corner. Inside are must-own platters from the last half of the twenty century; the more eclectic the better.
You don’t need to subscribe to digital music news to realize digital music is a workhouse and vinyl records are a show pony. Digital music is the dependable car that takes you to work every day. Vinyl records are the hot rod you drive on dates. Digital music is the familiar restaurant where you go for lunch every day. Vinyl records are the restaurant you frequent every once-in-a-while, you know the type, the one where they set your food on fire.
You need digital music. You should want vinyl records.
Some audiophiles swear that vinyl records produce a better quality of sound than digital music. I’ve never had the system or the ears to hear if that’s true. It really doesn’t matter. The joy of vinyl records isn’t really the sound quality but the experience.
Vinyl Records & Digital Music Milestones
>>Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877.
>>Twelve-inch records were introduced in 1903.
>>In 1948, Columbia Records developed and marketed the 33 RPM LP.
>>In February of 1949, RCA Victor released the first 45 rpm single.
>>A Japanese-based company sells a turntable that uses a laser to read vinyl discs.
>>On July 7, 1994, the Fraunhofer Society released the first MP3 encoder called l3enc
>>Karlheinz Brandenburg used a recording of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” to refine the MP3 compression algorithm.
>>Winamp was released in 1997 and was quickly downloaded 3 million times.
>>In 1999, the first large peer-to-peer file sharing network was launched. It was called Napster.
>>iTunes was released on January 9, 2001.