Lion of the Blogosphere

More vinyl!

Reported by the NY Times (which can have good reporting when they are reporting on stuff that has nothing to do with Donald Trump or other pet liberal issues):

The alt-weekly The Nashville Scene first reported last week that the United Record Pressing plant, a mainstay of vinyl production since 1949, would be expanding its operations to a new 142,000-square-foot facility in South Nashville. In a later article by Billboard, United said that the new facility, estimated to be the size of “two football fields,” would double the plant’s production capacity, and that the expansion would help the country’s largest vinyl manufacturer keep pace with strong market demand.

That the new facility is the size of two football fields reminds us that vinyl records take up a lot of space. It’s not a practical gimmick for people who live in tiny Manhattan apartments. Even finding a place for a turntable (which needs to be a on flat stable surface that’s easy to get to) can be challenging. And on top of that, new vinyl LPs cost twice as much as the same music legally purchased digitally (and the same music can be easily obtained for free, although of course you shouldn’t do that because it’s illegal).

My theory is that the human brain didn’t evolve to understand intellectual property on an emotional level. We have an evolutionary urge to acquire resources (which used to be useful for helping to make sure your children lived long enough to have children of their own), and our illogical animal brain thinks of a vinyl record as a resource but can’t grasp a digital file as being a resource.

Nevertheless, the re-emergence of vinyl records still seems to me like a temporary fad.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 27, 2016 at 10:37 am

41 Responses

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  1. I spent so much time, energy and money between ages 15 and about 30 buying CD’s that I can’t bring myself to go through too much of that again now with vinyl. I enjoy using Youtube as a resource for music more or less whenever I want to hear anything. Plus, I’m a DORF music listener (Dead, Old, Retro, Foreign), and Youtube is the best place to go for that kind of stuff.


    December 27, 2016 at 10:45 am

  2. We like things more when they’re mechanical/physical and have a sense of occasion.

    I rode in a Tesla the other day, and the owner demonstrated the acceleration, which was objectively incredible, exceeding anything else on sale today. But a silent electric car just doesn’t have the same sense of fun as driving a sports car with a LOUD revvy engine. For similar reasons a manual transmission is more fun than an automatic, even if the latter is nowadays technically superior in every way.

    People who love to cook prefer slow, traditional methods where a microwave would work just as well, and so on. Putting on an MP3 is just a thing; putting on a vinyl record is an Event, it seems like a special occasion, with a certain ceremony to it.


    December 27, 2016 at 10:48 am

    • I drove an automatic for the first time in 15 years (rental) and the damn thing was driving me batty. Even on the highway, the slightest change of speed would have it shifting 5 to 6 to 5 to 6 (or whatever). It was just a cheap Hyundai, but still…

      Anyway, there was a period before rampant piracy where the best way to get cheap music was vinyl on ebay. You could get albums for 50 cent each if you didn’t mind them being in bulk and basically random. I have more Glen Campbell than I’d care to admit though.

      One difference is that on some albums the mix is obviously very different than the CD mix, and so that’s (I’m sure) what gave rise to people’s notions that vinyl is “better”. It’s possible–for instance, when Jimmy Page remixed Zeppelin’s catalog for CD, he may well have had a worse ear.


      December 27, 2016 at 2:20 pm

      • Glen Campbell was great. Witchita Lineman timeless.


        December 27, 2016 at 10:40 pm

  3. I seem to remember that when places like Starbucks began to spring up, social commentators theorized that people who can’t afford to buy houses or start families will instead spend money on small luxuries to make themselves feel OK. (For you real youngsters, in 1985 it would have been unheard of for anyone to spend $2 on a cup of coffee). Vinyl records, of course, harken back to an era full of things we can longer take for granted, like safe streets, non-political education, not being hated simply for being white or male. Last night at TJ’s in SF, I said to the cashier that I bet his customers would appreciate a bit less chitchat and a bit more speed. He replied, “I don’t give a shit about speed.” When vinyl records were king, this guy would have been fired on the spot for that.


    December 27, 2016 at 11:06 am

    • There’s been inflation, though. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, $2 in 2016 has the same buying power as $0.89 in 1985. But I do seem to recall coffee not being treated as a gourmet beverage. Coffee was something Grandma ordered at the diner. My parents bought canned Maxwell House grounds; I remember seeing the grinder in the coffee aisle in the supermarket as some exotic thing no one ever used.


      December 27, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    • Didn’t Orwell say the reason the English proles didn’t rise up to murder the plutocrats was because they could afford cigarettes and the cinema?

      And yes, it is annoying to have the clerk at Trader Joe’s ask me about my evening or weekend plans every time I drop in to buy groceries.


      December 27, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      • That to shows a breakdown in social bonds. It used to be your cashier was your neighbor and such a conversation was only natural.


        December 28, 2016 at 3:49 am

      • The Korean family that owns the bodega knows me, but they are very taciturn and not interested in the personal lives of their customers.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 28, 2016 at 9:50 am

  4. Your theory doesn’t explain why people are interested in vinyl records instead of CDs, which don’t take up as much space, nor require a player that takes up as much space or is accessible from overhead. It’s a temporary hipster fad in which records are seen as cool because they’re old-fashioned.


    December 27, 2016 at 11:10 am

    • I don’t see that my theory is incompatible with vinyl being perceived as more cool than CDs. And I did say in the post that I thought it was a temporary fad.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 27, 2016 at 11:32 am

    • Record sleeves look a lot cooler than cd cases. I think flipping through the artwork on vinyl records in sleeves is a lot more enjoyable than flipping through cds. There are also a number of myths going around that analog vinyl is a superior format than digital formats, usually having something to do with avoiding certain digital artifacts.

      CD is a superior format, but it was common to master CDs to be as loud as possible for many years resulting in poor audio quality in a lot of releases. Look up the loudness wars if your interested.


      December 27, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      • Thanks for the reference to The Loudness War. The Wiki article on this is quite comprehensive – highly recommended.

        August LV

        December 27, 2016 at 8:53 pm

  5. Status signalling, plane and simple. .


    December 27, 2016 at 11:14 am

    • Boy is that ever true! I was in a FYE a couple of weeks ago and found in their vinyl collection a copy of The Beatles White Album on sale for $45 (!!!)

      I can’t believe people would blow such $ unless they were virtue signaling. For me the end of vinyl couldn’t have come too soon. CDs take up far less space, are far less likely to skip (unlike vinyl, I still have about 350 vinyl albums, mostly from the 60s and 70s, which still get scratched despite my very careful efforts to preserve them), and last a whole lot longer.

      When I get finished copying all my vinyl, cassettes, and reel-to-reel to digital, I’ll get rid of it all.


      December 27, 2016 at 3:32 pm

  6. I can’t believe you can’t see the connection between Trump and vinyl records. Everything old is new. America is great. Get your kicks on Route 66!


    December 27, 2016 at 11:39 am

  7. And what is your argument for books which also take up a lot of space? Technology has rendered them obsolete with digital files and e-readers.

    People have nostalgia – Let’s make America great with vinyl again!


    December 27, 2016 at 11:55 am

    • Books are a very different experience than e-readers. I read a ton, but I tried and rejected the Kindle. I just don’t like reading that way. I think a lot of old school book readers feel that same way, though Kindle’s etc are good for travel since you can carry a million books on one device. I still don’t use them, even for travel.

      With music, once your player of choice is activated, it’s really the same music experience. Yes, you can argue for vinyl vs. digital musical fidelity, but a lot of that is bullcrap posturing and most people can’t tell the difference (though of course some can) or if they can, they don’t care. How much high fidelity do you need to play the latest Beyoncé tune anyway?


      December 27, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      • I can easily tell the difference, records crackle, digital music files don’t.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 27, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      • With a high end turntable that comes with a stable tonearm and an expensive cartridge, the crackle is kept at a minimum, not discernible if the LP is kept in pristine condition.


        December 27, 2016 at 2:17 pm

  8. Many audiophiles believe that vinyl sounds better than CD’s or other digital sources.

    Ripple Earthdevil

    December 27, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    • But a lossless digital file format like FLAC is objectively better in every way than vinyl records. It’s like manual vs automatic transmissions; enthusiasts feel the objectively worse technology is subjectively more fun.


      December 27, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      • FLAC is just a CD-quality file. There are higher quality digital files.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 27, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      • FLAC is lossless (Free Lossless Audio Codec), which means it’s an exact replication of the master recording, or whichever recording it was copied from. It’s literally not possible to get any higher quality (same reason as real-life detectives can’t “enhance” a blurry photograph any further).

        I think you probably confused FLAC for another file format. There are other common lossless formats you might be more familiar with: WAV and AIFF.

        I’m a software developer so this sort of thing is my wheelhouse.


        December 27, 2016 at 5:00 pm

      • FLAC files on the internet or just lossless copies from the CD. I suppose the standard allows for higher-bandwidth recordings.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 27, 2016 at 5:25 pm

      • One of my many meanderings around the internet got me to this site explaining the differences between FLAC and other files.

        Every time you are copying from one compression format to another, you are losing audio. So, if I copy from mp3 to CD and then the CD back to mp3, the new set of mp3 files will sound worse than the older mp3 files. This is because mp3’s rely on compression so they remove audio that may not be heard to create more convenient files.

        FLAC files do not do that. Audio preservation is at 100%, plus, their compression makes them smaller than .wav files while not losing any sound.

        What’s important to remember is that the format does not determine the quality of the recording, whether it is vinyl, cd, digital, or otherwise. It is the underlying engineering of the master recordings that determine quality…essentially pushing air. A beautifully engineered live recording of a live studio performance where everything is properly miked, mixed and mastered will sound phenomenal on even reel-to-reel tape. The only issue from there is properly mass producing all of the nuances of that recording.

        This is the reason why vinyl has a resurgence. That vinyl record could be the closest thing to the original master recording that everyone raves about.

        Take a look at that HD Tracks company I listed above. Apparently, record companies submit to them high-end versions of their master recordings that exist at much higher bit rates compared to mp3. I’ve seen mp3 as high as 320 kbps. They have files that go as high as 9216 kbps.

        Cool stuff.


        December 27, 2016 at 9:04 pm


        I previously explained that the vast majority of humans can’t tell the difference between a 320 kbps CBR mp3 file and a higher quality file. And even the lower quality 256 kbps VBR mp3 files on Amazon, the vast majority of humans can’t tell that they are any different from higher quality files.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 27, 2016 at 9:27 pm

      • A copy can only ever be as good as the original.

        So there’s no advantage to lossless formats (FLAC, WAV, AIFF, vinyl records) unless they’re copied from the master recording instead of a MP3 [from a CD].

        There’s also little-to-no advantage if the version it’s copied from was mastered for a lossy format like CD/MP3 or cassette.


        December 27, 2016 at 9:28 pm

      • FLAC uses lossless compression, but unless files are super-huge, the data is still truncated.

        CD’s use the uncompressed mp1 format. The data is uncompressed, but still truncated. (“1” because it was the very first digital music standard. Uncompressed because in the 1980s, the computing power required to decompress files on the fly didn’t exist.)

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 27, 2016 at 9:30 pm

      • Huh. Was under the impression that CDs used MP3 files. That said, from my Wiki-ing it seems they use a format called CD-DA, and not the similar but fairly obscure MP1. Like you say, the format is uncompressed at the software level, but it is in terms of the bitrate it samples the master recording at.

        Decompression was certainly a solved problem in the ’80s, but it was probably left out in the interests of keeping playback devices small and inexpensive.


        December 27, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      • “I’m a software developer so this sort of thing is my wheelhouse. Huh. Was under the impression that CDs used MP3 files.”

        Yeah no. CDs are encoded in 16-bit words sampled 44,000 times per second for a data rate of approximately 1.3 megabits per second, or about four times the highest-quality mp3 (320 kbps). There is no compression either lossy or lossless. And CDs contain no data files in the sense of mp3, wav, flac, avi, whatever — the data are physically encoded in pits and lands per the Redbook standard so that any CD player can interpret the physically-imprinted data identically. It’s not electromagnetic like a hard drive, but purely physical, just like vinyl.

        The laser gets a strong reflection from the lands or attenuated reflection from the pits, and this is converted to binary data, which is then converted to sound via wave modulation by the DAC (digital-to-audio converter). This literally microscopic modulation is then amplified by an iWhatever or AV receiver to audible levels. Mp3 and other digital media eliminate the conversion of physical indentations on a spinning platter into digital binary data — the data are delivered pure, straight to the DAC.

        From the standpoint of accuracy, CDs are utterly superior to vinyl. But vinyl, thanks to its many physical limitations, has a greatly reduced dynamic range (no more than 30db), attenuated treble and attenuated fuzzy bass, which together these attributes vinyl lovers describe as “warm.” The accurate treble of CDs is often described as “cold” or digitalitis, but these are in reality accurate timbres not possible on technologically compromised vinyl.


        December 28, 2016 at 1:19 am

    • That’s because audiophiles are morons with too much money on their hands.


      December 27, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    • many audiophiles also think spending $10,000 on solid gold cables for their speakers will improve their listening experience.

      james n.s.w

      December 27, 2016 at 11:04 pm

  9. Vinyl does sound better. Having said that, I sold $400 worth of vinyl records earlier this year. They were in approx. six boxes and were taking up space. I now get my music from an online service. Funnily enough I bought most of them for pennies on the dollar back when people were trading in their albums for ‘superior’ CDs. At the time I preferred the sound from vinyl and was considered a throwback for holding that opinion.


    December 27, 2016 at 2:13 pm

  10. My theory is that the human brain didn’t evolve to understand intellectual property on an emotional level.

    The psychology of consumerism could be an interesting post.


    December 27, 2016 at 2:28 pm

  11. @LotB: our illogical animal brain thinks of a vinyl record as a resource but can’t grasp a digital file as being a resource.

    Yes, from time to time, I’ve had to explain to management at my employer how and when software is considered and asset.

    @Curle: I sold $400 worth of vinyl records earlier this year.

    Back in 1997, as I was preparing to move to a new apartment and getting rid of a lot of stuff, I sold my collection of ’70s AM pop radio 45s to a card & hobby shop for $50.

    E. Rekshun

    December 27, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    • Did you have “Don’t Pull Your Love” on 45? That’s my favorite ’70s pop song.

      In The Maw

      December 27, 2016 at 9:21 pm

  12. That’s fine. What good is more vinyl records if there are few legitimate mastering engineers left who know how to master a song for the vinyl format? Listen to an old Talking Heads record and then listen to a record cut in 2016. The kids don’t have a clue how to cut a record these days. They don’t know how to use a compressor, they always over compress.

    Old 12″ records are one thing (pre 1994 cuts), today’s digital-files-pressed-to-vinyl in order to make a second product are another thing altogether. Total scam.

    morning star

    December 27, 2016 at 6:22 pm

  13. listening to music on vinyl is like watching t.v on a crt set, except worse given that crts are superior to lcd screens on certain visual dimensions while vinyl records are worse than cds or digital music in every way. vinyl fetisihm is driven by the aesthetic of vinyl and status signalling; record players look sorta cool and vinyl record cases look better than cds because they are larger so you can see the art work better. they come in cardboard cases while cds are usually jewel plastic casing and even the cardboard cd cases dont look as nice as a vinyl record casing. lion is right that the vinyl “revival” (which probably still is much smaller than the cd market) will be dead eventually.

    back when i was into music in the mid/late 2000s (late teens phase) i used to buy a tonne of cds i regret this as they are absolutely worthless now and are hard to sell.

    james n.s.w

    December 27, 2016 at 11:02 pm

  14. Vinyl sound can have some imperfections. Digital record consists of nothing but imperfections by definition of being digital.

    My Two Cen.t

    December 28, 2016 at 2:48 am

  15. ” the re-emergence of vinyl records still seems to me like a temporary fad.”

    people like to touch things.

    it’s called millions of years of human evolution.


    December 29, 2016 at 7:35 am

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