Vinyl: Not just for audiophiles?

Yeah, vinyl's having a comeback, but why's that? How much of that can be attributed to the sound, or is vinyl just inherently cool?

Steve Guttenberg

Vinyl is back, big time, but the fact is most folks, probably close to 99 percent of the under 40-set, haven't heard records.

For them, music is about portability and vinyl is a stay-at-home deal. Vinyl has more of a hands-on work ethic: you've got to cue the tonearm, lower the "needle," and when the side's over, turn it over or play another LP. Digital requires almost nothing from you; no wonder it's dominated the music scene for the last couple of decades.

Me, I'm having something of a vinyl fling right now. I've always owned a turntable, but there were times I played only CDs for months on end. I guess I didn't want to deal with the extra work of playing vinyl. Sad, but true.

As for LP vs. CD comparisons, I didn't do any. Trust me, you don't have to be a golden-eared audiophile to notice the two formats sound very different. Records are "warmer" and sound more like the sound of real instruments and voices; CDs almost always make them more detailed and brighter-sounding than they are in real life.

But if that's all there was to the story, LPs wouldn't have made it this far, more than a quarter of a century after the debut of the perfect-sound-forever CD. No, music seems to draw you in more when it's coming off an LP. It's more engaging. So it's not exclusively an audiophile thing, I know lots of non-audiophiles who play records. They "get it" without any prodding from me. It's not that CDs sound bad, just less interesting. MP3s? Even less going on there.

I recently changed turntables, from a Linn LP12 to a VPI Classic, and the VPI reignited my vinyl fixations. I'm still using the same phono cartridge, a Van Den Hul, but the VPI is more fun to listen to than the Linn. Watch for my full VPI Classic review soon.

When the CD came out I knew it would eventually kill the music business. And so it is: Music now serves as background to other activities, music by itself can no longer hold most folk's attention. With vinyl people actually listen!

Have I made you vinyl-curious? It's your move. If you've recently converted from analog to digital, tell us all about it.

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