World record store day is this Saturday and with countless record stores joining in for the celebration, this month has seen many re-embrace the beauty of all things analogue.
But as with most everything, there are those in staunch opposition. For the past few weeks I’ve been hearing murmurs of criticism from those who believe that vinyl records are superfluous in an increasingly digital world. So here goes: in defence of vinyl…
I get it. I really do. Records are inconvenient. There are start up costs involved, they can be hard to find and even harder to take care of, and there’s a level of pretence involved which few can tolerate. So why is it that in spite of this more and more people are embracing vinyl?
Because it’s better. Science says so. Basically, no matter how high a sampling rate is on a digital recording, it can never contain all of the input that’s present in an analog groove.
Science aside; most can agree that analog recordings genuinely do sound different and one of the main contentions between those who love vinyl and those who don’t is whether said sound is better.
Fans of vinyl will tell you that the sound you get from a record player is richer and warmer. Lovers of vinyl will tell you that the sound is innately nostalgia inducing.
So, why do records make us feel all mushy inside? Because they’re flawed and we humans like to connect to objects that remind us of ourselves. Records don’t sound perfect and no two copies are ever alike after the first play. Each record holds its own idiosyncratic story. A story, which it tells every time you put it on a turntable.
When you own a record, whether it’s first hand or otherwise, you own something that nobody else in the world has because a few plays in that baby starts to have it’s own personality.
By contrast, when you buy a song on ITunes, you’re buying data. It’s binary, all 1s and 0s. And there isn’t anything wrong with that. People still connect to music and will continue to do so regardless of the way in which they choose to listen to it.
Also, we’re increasingly connected to data. We keep emails from years past, we store thousands of photos on our computers and we download and purchase thousands and thousands of songs. There is a very real connection shared between humans and their data, but there’s still a very important place in the world for the tangible and that’s where records come in.
Being able to see and touch and smell something is special. The feeling you get when you slip a record out of its sleeve, carefully put it on the turntable and let the needle glide across the grooves is something you could never get from double clicking on a file name.
It’s not all Beach Boys LPs and hall of fame releases, either. Contemporary artists see the value of records and are on board and releasing their albums on vinyl too meaning that jumping on the analogue bandwagon is increasingly accessible.
Sure, there are those traditionalists who wont even touch a re-mastered record on vinyl. Those are like the vegans of the devoted audiophile world. But we’re not all like that, I promise. Go into almost any record store in the country and you’ll find friendly, devoted people who wish there were more people just like them.
This weekend is the 15th annual record story day so please get down to your local and show your support, it’s important.