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What’s up with millennials' vinyl attraction?

The Audiophiliac ponders the LP’s ongoing appeal to people who grew up with digital music.

Getting down with vinyl!
Steve Guttenberg/CNET

I love meeting young audiophiles who play LPs at home. 

They may stream music on their phone and in their cars, but at home they hunker down with their turntables and LP collections, and listen only to vinyl. For them music isn't just something they play as background, music is in the foreground.

They may have just bought an inexpensive 'table or found one in the attic of their parents' home, and one thing led to another, and they started their audio journey. They went on to buy an amp and speakers or headphones. They all found that listening to LPs was a very different, more satisfying experience than streaming music.

Read: Best turntables under $300  

Over at the Turntable Lab shop in New York's East Village, most customers are in their 20s, with a smattering of folks in their 30s and 40s. The bulk of the turntable sales are walk-ins, and customers who already have one are buying phono cartridges.

Justin Yu is one of those young audiophiles who's always on the prowl for more LPs. We knew each other from my appearances with him on The 404  podcast, but he didn't show much interest in audio for the first five years we knew each other. But then he got a turntable from a relative (I think), and after that Justin fell hard for vinyl. From then on we talked about audio frequently, about speakers, receivers and best of all, local record shops. 

My encounters with new vinyl converts like Justin usually occur at audio stores or at shows, where they're eager to tell me all about their "digital-to-analog" conversion. They grew up with digital music, and didn't set out to become analog converts. Their vinyl fascination is based on their experiences, plain and simple. Once they hear what a decent turntable could sound like there's no going back.

Most aren't (yet) hardcore audiophiles, so they don't use audio jargon, or talk about "transparency" or "soundstage." Music on vinyl just seemed to make a much stronger connection than CDs or files. In my experience the act of playing an LP means you're more likely to actually listen to it; digital music is much easier to ignore.

Each of us takes a different course to analog nirvana, but the common theme is involvement. Young listeners I've met say they get more out of music when they play vinyl. For them it may not be directly related to sound quality per se, but more about how the music makes them feel.

If I've made you vinyl-curious, the good news is you can get started for as little as $100 with the Audio Technica AT LP60. Who knows, it could mark the beginning of your own vinyl conversion.