Author Topic: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?  (Read 6311 times)

mgriffin

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Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« on: December 21, 2010, 01:56:17 PM »
Every time we discuss the subject of vinyl (you know, as in records, not the tight pants you wear out to the clubs) it seems to end up one extreme against another.

In this corner, the digital audio crowd who think vinyl is last year's (OK, last century's) technology, and have absolutely zero use for it. They like the higher dynamic range, and the infinite playability without wear and tear. Besides, CDs are newer, and they're like, digital. Which means they're perfect, all those ones and zeroes.

And in the other corner, the vinyl apologists, whose records never warp and play back perfectly without surface noise. These guys love the bigger surface for artwork, and swear the sound quality is so vastly better than CD that even an ancient, worn-out record fills with pops and clicks is just so... gosh, warm and organic, you know?

I would love to find room for a discussion of music released on vinyl (not just ambient-ish music, but especially that), and the format in general. Any thoughts from those of you (like me) who were previously closed yourself off completely to the idea of music released on slabs of plastic, but more recently decided to start exploring what vinyl has to offer?

I got rid of the last of my turntables many years ago, and at various times over the past half-decade I've tried to resuscitate or refurbish some piece of low-end hand-me-down turntable junk, just to explore those very few records I still on hand. Those turntables were such junk they didn't do anything to re-connect me with that old enjoyment of records. They sounded terrible and fell apart, so I junked them. I finally decided it's time to get a decent (though not high-end by any means) turntable, partly to check out the cool pieces of vinyl people send me, and partly to start checking out cool & interesting vinyl releases that are starting to become available.

I've also been mulling over the idea of doing a vinyl release of some kind of Hypnos, not necessarily the start of any kind of new direction, but just something to try at least once. I wonder how other labels' vinyl releases are doing, and I guess I'll have to ask around a little bit. It seems many people are willing to pay a fairly premium price for a nice, heavy-gauge vinyl pressing in a nice package.

Can't wait to get my hands on that Vidna Obmana box.

OK, so... that's a variety of angles on the same subject. Anybody else out there been buying vinyl lately? I guess I'm more interested in newer, premium vinyl pressings, rather than the 75-cent, scratched-up garage sale or Goodwill stuff.
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hdibrell

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2010, 02:12:52 PM »
I, too have a warm spot for vinyl. I miss the feel and look of the package and the excitement of putting it on the turntable for that first listen. I held off buying into cd's until the late '80's even though I worked for a retail electronics company and could purchase cd players relatively cheaply. I still have a fairly good turntable, but rarely use it. In my case I think it is mostly nostalgia that gets me to play my records. My rather large record collection has been moved over the years from the living room to the garage. I don't buy new works on vinyl, although I am thinking seriously about the Vidna Obmana box.
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mgriffin

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2010, 02:17:51 PM »
I have some real positive feelings about vinyl but I think a lot of vinyl enthusiasts have this weird blind spot about surface noise. They'd never in a million years stand for a CD release filled with crackling sounds, but somehow the snaps and pops of their record collection are no problem.

There may well be some nostalgia at work in my recent decision to rediscover the world of vinyl. For me, the most appealing factor is the big, colorful, fold-out package.

I guess we'll see, a few months after my turntable arrives, whether I'm listening to my old Peter Gabriel and Depeche Mode vinyl, or newer Vidna Obmana and William Basinski and Beta-Lactam Ring and Infraction releases.
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mystified

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2010, 02:24:48 PM »
As an artist who has released on vinyl, I can attest that it is pretty exciting. I remember getting the test pressings, then the first batch of 12" from the label. Sonically, I was very happy about how the medium helped to render my somewhat digital-sounding experiments into something with warm, analogue qualities. I still break out my turntable on occasion, though it is clunky.

I think the idea of a Hypnos 12" is really exciting.

Some drawbacks: vinyl can be expensive to create and ship, and there is a certain audience (obviously), that is not as big as cds.
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mgriffin

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2010, 02:32:48 PM »
Yeah, vinyl is very, very expensive to press. The first few places I checked out for high-quality 180 or 210 gram vinyl pressing and nice-quality packaging definitely helped me understand why labels charge $20 or $25 or even $30 per release.

It's so funny to me how vinyl and CD have reversed from the early days of CD, when vinyl was seen as a cheaper, has-been format, and CD was the "more expensive to produce, but so worth it" medium everyone was excited about.  Now people are turning up their nose at CD (and mp3) and willing to pay a premium for a nice slab of vinyl.
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hdibrell

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2010, 02:34:54 PM »
I have some real positive feelings about vinyl but I think a lot of vinyl enthusiasts have this weird blind spot about surface noise. They'd never in a million years stand for a CD release filled with crackling sounds, but somehow the snaps and pops of their record collection are no problem.
Surface Noise!! What Surface Noise!  ;)
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sraymar

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2010, 05:12:36 PM »
I restored a few vinyl albums a few years back and although they didn't turn out well in digital form because the albums had too many scratches I have to admit the sound really jumps off them compared to CDs. The music is mainly fusion and classical stuff recorded in the 70s and 80s, plus one Andreas Vollenweider album and I think they took a different attitude for the medium.

Maybe a new recording method will develop that makes the best of both digital and analog worlds. We live in a world of modeled analog synths and amp sims that are very convincing. Perhaps vinyl modeling is on the horizon that gets most of the vinyl mojo minus the scratches and gradual vinyl deterioration.
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einstein36

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2010, 06:15:43 PM »
I feel that with the right mixing, mastering and engineering and if one was to do a blind test with the aforementioned techniques, I think no one would be able to hear the difference...
personally, I think the mastering techniques have switched to a digital mindset as to if we switched that mindset to a ananlog thinking mastering job on a digital product, then they will sound the difference....
of course, also, this could be due to the loudness wars we have had going into digital, but with the older stuff, it was more natural sounding levels..:)
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Bill Binkelman

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2010, 07:54:02 PM »
I've stated before that, IMO, if one owns higher end audiophile playback equipment (i.e. good turntable, cartridge, etc.) than a decently recorded vinyl album will sound "warmer" and more natural but mostly within certain genres, particularly classical or orchestral soundtracks (my "test" record would be the soundtrack to The Man from Snowy River which sounds amazing on LP on a great system). Electronic music...I dunno, as I sold my Thorens during the early ages of EM (late 80s). For me, one of the reasons I may get back into vinyl again, even with my current mediocre turntable is because I am lucky enough to live in a city with used record shops. I can pick up all kinds of great stuff from the 60s, 70s, and 80s...albums that I still "like" but not enough to spend $10-$20 bucks on a remastered CD...If I can get a "VG" or NR MINT" (Cheapo's ratings, last time I looked) LP for less than 5 bucks and hear the 3-5 songs on it I want to hear, great. I have bought some 60s and 70s albums in remastered CD versions and, sure, they sound tremendous and all, but I realize "Shit, this music was groovy back then but now its kinda lame except for a song or two." So, for me, it's a cheap alternative to reacquire music from my youth that I am still fond of but I also know after 2-3 playings, that might be about it for a few years!  ;D

Also, I love going to the semi-annual record collectors convention here and seeing what's available, too. OTOH, I can't believe the utter gonzo stuff that STILL merits a CD release from back then. I mean, who in their right mind ever even heard of 50 Ft Hose's Cauldron but me??? But you can buy it at Amazon, as well as Vanilla Fudge's totally non-commercial and utter sales failure of a pseudo-progressive experimental album The Beat Goes On (yeah, I had that one too). Both of these would be worth $5 but $15-$20 - I don't think so.

Sorry for the long-winded story
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ffcal

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2010, 09:51:59 PM »
Besides scratches, there can also be problems with variable pressing quality, and the mastering can be a different kind of challenge, since you are dealing with limitations in overall dynamic range, at least in terms of the extremes of the frequency spectrum.  Despite my fondness for vinyl, I do not buy a lot of it these days.  Cleaning albums is kind of a ritual in itself, and requires a certain amount of patience.  Over time, albums that are accumulate dust can cause distortion that is especially pronounced, the closer you get to the hole in the center.  In the 70s, because of oil shortages, there were some pretty lousy pressings out there that incorporated recycled vinyl that contaminated the playing surface.  Ironically, towards the late 80s, when the CD started to take over, there seemed to be a big step up in LP pressing quality.  Pressings using direct metal mastering sounded great, as did some of the fine pressings that came out of the Wakefield plant.  80s ECM pressings are particularly quiet.  I have a fairly good turntable (a B&O) and a fine receiver (Rotel), so it is worth pulling out some my vinyl periodically and cranking it up.

Some of the quieter vinyl-only ambient pressings like Mirror, I have converted to CDR, because I found the surface noise too distracting.  A vinyl Hypnos release sounds interesting, but I think if the recording is too quiet, that might create surface noise issues.

Forrest
« Last Edit: December 21, 2010, 09:54:56 PM by ffcal »

Wayne Higgins

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2010, 07:12:19 AM »
Here we go....!!!

About three years ago, I dived back into vinyl.  I started finding things in antique stores, like Walter Carlos "Switched on Bach", Chicago at Carnegie Hall, Led Zeppelin "?@$#".  The album that snagged us was the original soundtrack for "A Fistfull of Dollars."  I got a Stanton turntable and cartridges and within a few months, I had about 20 lps.  I was told about a device called a phono preamp, which made everything sound spectacular.  Seems like the Sony surround sound digital system isn't made for vinyl, but with the preamp, it works better than any stereo I ever had before.  (I don't qualify myself as an audiophile, I can tell the difference between a $500 stereo and a $10,000 stereo, I just can't get that excited about it.)

In the following years, I have accumulated around 1000 albums.  I got 1400 in one shot for $150 when an antique store closed.  Granted, most of them went to Goodwill, but when you find things like 3 complete sets of Beethoven symphonies, stereo, mono and recorded on 35mm film, to The Shocking Blue, whoa!  I hit Goodwills and antique stores constantly.  It's amazing how many bad albums are out there, but when you go through a pile of crap and find The Beatles "Second Album" mono, in mint condition, it's worth it.

Most interesting thing that has happened to me is that, due to the rebirth of my vinyl addicition, I have also gotten into opera.  I had never given that world a chance, but I started finding operas recorded up to 60 years ago in mint condition for about $2 a shot, I couldn't help myself.  Opera is a world I had to study to get into it successfully.  In March, my wife and I are going to Boston primarily for two concerts, The Dropkick Murphys and Handel's "Agrippina".  I have about 25 operas on vinyl now, my favorite being Handel's "Xerses."

So, as far as vinyl sound, it depends on what you want.  A good example is that I wound up with two copies of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's first album.  I kept the one with the "pop" through "Take a Pebbel". Nostalgia rules.  There have been some great 180 gram audiophile releases recently,  The Rolling Stones "Exile on Main Street" and Derek and the Dominoes "Layla" for example.  It's the old electronic stuff that's hard to find.  I did get Tangerine Dreams 'Rubycon" and "Bil Nelson's "Chance Encounters in the Garden of Light".  But to close the statement about vinyl...  It's not that I dislike cd's, or like vinyl more, it's just different.

And, BTW, there is a reason Tomita's "The Bermuda Triangle" didn't come out on cd, there are frequencies on that piece of vinyl that digital just can't deal with.
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zzzone.net

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2010, 07:59:09 AM »
Tape

1.  Born to lose: will deteriorate and break at some point and may take the playback device with it
2.  Tape hiss always present
3.  Hard to access specific songs: fast forward, listen, rewind, etc.
4.  Take up a fair amount of room to store
5.  Tape players harder and harder to find including portable ones

Pirate potential: very low for obvious reasons: copy of hissy tape = hissy copy.

Vinyl

1.  Fragile, often damaged when first played, and deteriorates over time
2.  Large covers and lots of information
3.  Heavy and hard to store
4.  Musical fidelity is good with a nice pressing, good record player and electronics
5.  Fairly expensive these days
6.  Must flip the record to hear a whole album
7.  Playback device (turntable) increasingly available
8.  Usually have to purchase an entire record to get one song
9.  Impossible to play on a portable music player
10.  Record stores are wonderful.  There's a definite cardboard/vinyl smell, and it's nice to see all the vinyl lovers.  Discogs.com and gemm.com allow access to almost anything but more limited than CD.

Pirate potential: low.  Too much trouble to rip vinyl (I know that's what USB turntables are for) and you still get the vinyl noise.

CD

1.  Damage/deterioration is fairly rare if one takes reasonable care (CD "rot" appears rare, thank god)
2.  Jewel boxes are large and take up a lot of room (there are alternatives, of course) - jewel box info is often quite good and extensive
3.  Fidelity is good with even low cost equipment
4.  Equipment is readily available for playback
5.  Usually have to purchase an entire album to get one song
6.  Portable music players available but are subject to skipping if the listener is exercising
7.  CD stores are still wonderful.  It's great to see other music lovers surrounded by music.  However, you do have to drive over and they may not have what you want.  
8.  The vast online CD store collective is nice.  Via discogs.com and gemm.com you can find almost anything.  Specialty stores like Hypnos.com are not possible in the brick and mortar world except possibly in cities like NY and San Francisco.

Pirate potential:  high.  Easy to rip to MP3 or lossless files.

Files

1.  No damage or deterioration but must have backups on some sort of physical media
2.  Fidelity is good with even low cost equipment
3.  Home music servers (Sonos, Squeezebox, etc) make accessing files from multiple rooms easy and in a variety of price points for the equipment
4.  Space for music storage is minimized (e.g., 100,000+ lossless .flac files on a couple of two terrabyte external hard drives)
5.  Necessity to purchase an entire album to get specific songs is decreased or eliminated
6.  Music info is often limited - sometimes a .PDF file and album art included
7.  Files with increased fidelity beyond CDs available (hdtracks.com)
8.  Access to files is increasingly available
9.  Easy to play on portable music devices even while exercising unless the player has a hard drive (older iPods)
10.  May be less costly than buying physical media and delivery is instant (I particularly like the latter point).  You can read about an album, locate it, purchase it, and be listening to it in 10 minutes.

Pirate potential: high.  Easy to copy files.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2010, 10:41:43 AM by jimzzzak »

jkn

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2010, 08:45:06 AM »
I don't really have a "bucket list", but releasing a 12" has been on my list for ages.  Minimal techno is what I would prefer to do on vinyl though.

More thoughts later.
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einstein36

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2010, 09:40:10 AM »
I am just wondering if like anything else, this is just another fad, for example, bell bottoms made a come back a few years ago, along with the 60's go go boots women are notarious for wearing these days:)...This goes along with the current fad of movies, everything being made 3D as of late...
soooo....what next then???
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mgriffin

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #14 on: December 22, 2010, 09:54:02 AM »
The Sony Cassette Walkman is due for a comeback.
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Wayne Higgins

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #15 on: December 22, 2010, 09:58:35 AM »
Please, not that! :o
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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #16 on: December 22, 2010, 10:00:51 AM »
The Sony Cassette Walkman is due for a comeback.

Indeed.  Especially on this forum :)

Some players might provide enough hiss and speed variation that they might be considered ambient music generators.

Wayne Higgins

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #17 on: December 22, 2010, 10:08:17 AM »
The only draw back is that 45 minute limit.  I'd have to edit everything.
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mgriffin

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #18 on: December 22, 2010, 11:47:15 AM »
I think a big part of why people are fed up with CD audio lately isn't that digital audio is inherently "bad," but because the general trend in mixing and mastering is toward compression and loudness maximization.

That's not to say there aren't aspects of analog sound recording and playback that are superior to compact disc, just that other factors not necessarily inherent to the medium are clouding the picture.
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jdh

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Re: Can we have a serious talk about vinyl?
« Reply #19 on: December 23, 2010, 12:23:53 AM »
So many points. First thing,junk in junk out all the way down the line .I said this before but no question vinyl on proper playback sounds better than cd. If you are using some rubbish turntable you found used in a garage sale forget it .Cd sounds great and is preferred for the reasons mentioned,no noise,turn the disc over,etc.. On proper playback equipment- most recent progress being in the d/a convertors. Download- that is the future and the future is here.I-pod on proper playback with a dock to proper gear using lossless- impressive. I use lossless and wav and even iTunes sounds half decent. have all 3 and use maybe 15 percent vinyl,50 percent cd,35 iPod ( ripped from CDs )
Vinyl- look at pro-jeck turntables. We have several vinyl stores in Montreal and all are doing well.why,not sure but it is the younger crowd who never had records in the first place so maybe nostalgia.for me,I am still a cd person but not for much longer,downloads are the way.I think it would be cool for hypnos to release one 12 inch record more as an art project than for any sound reason. Yes,mike,the mastering of recent has been a real problem with the younger bands,sounds bad to me..