It’s the time of year for saving money!
As publisher of AudiophileReview.com, I have been chiming in on Steven’s party lately with some hopefully provocative articles and discussion points designed to stir things up a little in a sometimes stagnant audiophile world. The hobby that I’ve been involved with since the age of fourteen (way back in 1988) is going through a sea change, as the Baby Boomers who pretty much made the hobby what it is today are struggling in many ways with how to pass on their audiophile legacy to the 70,000,000 plus American Millennials out there. The challenge is understandably hard. Millennials have always been big-time music lovers, but they consume music differently from Boomers or Gen-Xers, like me. They do a lot of things differently than the generation before them. They look at assets differently. They value experiences over tangible goods in ways that us old folk don’t always understand. What we do understand is this: the times, they are a-changin–like it or not.
One of the topics I have been hammering on here at AudiophileReview.com is the fact that, in terms of high-performance audio, vinyl is simply not even close to the state of the art for music playback. You’ve likely read it before… Limited dynamic range, high distortion, physical wear from the first time you spin disc. Worse yet, used record sales don’t help support the artists who make the music, and vinyl’s overall sales volume is about four percent of the total $8,900,000,000 of domestic music sales. In comparison (according to 2017 RIAA reported sales numbers) digital streaming and digital downloads make up a whopping 80 percent (65%+15%) of the total 8.9-billion-dollar music industry pie, and digital streaming and downloads are becoming more and more HD, with 96/24 options, MQA via Tidal, and more. But we’ve covered this before. A few times.
A point that I failed to make earlier was made eloquently by a self-proclaimed Millennial in the comments section of my last article. He isn’t saying vinyl is the be-all, end-all of audio, but that it has its place in an often overly digital world. More specifically, he was talking about learning to appreciate the cadence of a classic or concept record in the way the artist, engineer, and producer intended it. I remember when Edelman Public Relations sent me an Apple iPod two weeks before it was to hit the streets. My mind was completely blown. In the palm of my hand was pretty much my entire music collection, with an online store to potentially buy more. I could smash my portable Compact Disc player with a ball-peen hammer now, as this killer game-changer was more than I could ever dream of. I would be on a cross country flight and just hit “shuffle” and “play” and BOOM, I could have the iPod skip from one favorite track to another. It was almost too good to be true, but over time I learned there was a downside–something that isn’t lost on our Millennial reader. Not every album that I love translates well to “shuffle,” and while to this day I shuffle my way through my music all day while working at my desk, I do stumble upon some stinkers in the mix.
Take a double concept album like Pink Floyd’s The Wall and hit “shuffle.” The first thing you notice is that there is no rhyme or reason for why the tracks connect or flow. Roger Waters and the boys worked hard to build a flow, to control (and explode) the dynamic window. There is a carefully defined pace to the entire collection of songs. One might even argue that there are natural pauses in this ebb and flow that only vinyl can replicate, making it a bit more authentic experience.
One of my points that’s been missed by some in the often-active comment section of AudiophileReview.com is I don’t actually hate vinyl. It has its place in the world, just as some (like me!) prefer to read paper books over digital ones. My issue with vinyl is different. Too many audiophiles think that a) it sells well, which it doesn’t; b) it is high resolution, which it absolutely isn’t; and c) it represents the best that the AV industry can do in reproducing music today. The fact is: we live in a world where for $20 per month you can have largely HD access to nearly every record ever made, streaming right into your audiophile system. For true performance junkies, there are $20 digital downloads of some of the best, biggest RIAA certified platinum-selling albums of all time. We have access to better and better version of important music in huge volumes, yet for some reason the elders of the hobby are insistent upon clinging to the low-performance past. Car companies don’t do this. Ferrari, Porsche, and other exotic companies are making supercars with both combustion and electric powerplants. A car with an airbag and ABS brakes is better and safer. Nobody argues about that today. Is a classic muscle car from the late 1960s cool, fast, and torquey? Absolutely, it is. It’s a head-turner and truly collectable. My issue is this: said muscle car just is not the state-of-the-art for automotive design as of late 2018. In the audiophile world, the time has come for us audiophiles to understand what formats are what and where they stand in the pantheon of high-performance music playback.
I type this article with a pumpkin pie cooking in the oven on a gorgeous, 71-degree, crystal clear California Thanksgiving Day. I am thankful for a lot of things. Professionally, I am thankful that we have affordable HD streaming options including HD downloads which present options for people who want to push the limits of musical playback to the Nth degree. That has always been my goal, from the day my buddy and I went to SoundEx, a classic audiophile salon outside of Philadelphia (don’t look for it, it’s not there anymore), and bought a CD Stoplight and painted the edges of my Compact Disc green, to today, when I can use an iPad running a nicely programmed version of the Crestron App to cue up Jimi Hendrix, Yes, or whatever else I might be in the mood for in HD resolutions via Tidal in every room of my home. While analog (specifically vinyl) absolutely have their place in the audiophile world, I am thankful that we live in the salad days of audio. Thanks to digital music streaming and downloads, it’s never been easier, less expensive, or more inclusive to get access to the best sounding, closest-to-the-master-tape music than ever before.
But let’s not forget the point that the aforementioned commenter made. Access isn’t everything. Sometimes it’s about exploring a work of audible art in the way its creators intended. That doesn’t mean you have to do it on vinyl, but do take the time to actually enjoy albums from beginning to end, no matter how you experience them.
I suspect based on my experience, most people listen to music via ear buds or laptop speakers. So in general all music sounds terrible when listened through terrible sources. I mix down bands and I can’t tell you how many times I get “I can’t hear the kick or bass in the mix” and when I ask how they are listening to the final mixes they tell me via their laptop. I tell them to bring up a song on their laptop that they think is an amazing mix and play it on their laptop now, and I get “wow I never noticed but I can’t really hear the bass or kick on this song either?” So before we can critique analog vs digital we need to talk about getting people to buy speakers that don’t have woofers that cost 5 cents to manufacture.
Hmm – I am not sure if I can really express it but I feel Jerry is mixing up many things here that may not really go together
1) I start with the picture in the article above – Is that Jerry’s or AudiophileReview’s image of a millennial? Not sure it is a great choice… a hipster with a Crosley might have helped your point better…
2) While streaming might generate more (the most?) revenue to the music industry it does not do the same for the artist. $5K for a million streams, for, let’s say, a band of four, is not a living wage. The used record market is a consumer right. On the other hand, what Spotify does to the artist is… well…
3) It doesn’t matter that vinyl is not a big (or even not significant) piece of the pie of music industry revenue – Jerry is prbly right on that. But again. It doesn’t matter nor it is the point. The real point is that a vinyl sale allows the artist to get more of that revenue – or any given that the $5K for a million streams thing is true for only a few artists. Most will continue to laugh at their $0.00000000001 quarterly checks from Spotify.
4) Then there is the audiophile factor. I have always believed that (look for Dunning-Krueger here) the audiophiles’ hearing is not as good as they think it is. I am sorry guys, you are not super human. There is a good chance all that good stuff that HD Digital Audio brings it’s beyond your hearing. So vinyl is well… good enough….
5) That said, OF COURSE we know the vinyl limitations. For example, I know that the statement above only applies to good (or even perfect) vinyl playback.
It’s a bit insulting to assume vinylphiles are either stupid or self-deluded. Specially in this crowd – thinking Jerry is addressing the wrong group of vinylphiles by making his argument here in this kind of site/forum. Just too many engineering types and above, qualified even beyond Jerry’s already impressive credentials to make the assumption that vinyl limitations are ignored or not understood. It is a (lifestyle?) choice based on factors discussed ad nauseam elsewhere. You may disagree, but no insults, pls.
And repeating from my post to a previous entry by Jerry, the choice is not even exclusive. Most of vinylphiles have digital in their rigs. And I am willing to bet it is as good as their analog rig. Choice between good digital or bad analogue? Good digital of course. Even over at Audiokarma. Again, not stupid or uninformed.
6) And last.. Well it’s not that it is a bad argument to make – it is poorly made. And not really necessary, in this crowd. It’s just a personal choice. And Jerry himself noted, not even that significant in the market place. So why? personal bias? It’s fine, but think it through. Consider statements like “Audiophile Elders” (made in a previous post). Heck – those guys (and it is mostly guys) are completely misguided whether their poison is digital or analogue – and it’s both – digital audio is not really a new technology, you know…
Well, in the end we are discussing it, aren’t we? what do I know…
All true, and one thing the author came close to is the concept that a vinyl album creates its own intermissions. An album side is about 23 minutes, and then the music stops until the owner flips the record and starts side two. It’s a mental break. It leaves the last song in your head, while you perhaps do something else for a few minutes, or continue your conversation. And then when you are ready — when your mind is cleared and refreshed — you put on the next side. When an entire double album is stored on an ipod, it plays relentlessly for an hour and a half. But it wasn’t originally intended to be heard that way. The Wall is a great example. Listen to how each side has a logical beginning and a logical end.
Well, at least I now know what a CD Stop Light Pen is.
So, here we go again!
Jeez, Jerry, enough already!
We know where you stand, as well as a lot of respondees. We also know there are those who will “go down swinging” defending analog/vinyl. Nothing is going to change.
I have multiple sources of digital in my system, and a turntable. Lots of times I listen to digital because it’s more convenient, but there are those times I can only listen to my vinyl collection because 1) I only have the vinyl copy, or 2) I just want to hear that particular version (almost every CD I have purchased that duplicates an LP is mixed differently or contains a different recording of the same tracks.)
So, “Live and let live”?
So much nonsense in this article. Vinyl records are not “high resolution”; no duh, its analogue signal, high or low resolution have to do with sample rates of digital signals. Sample rates of analogue signals specifically. Streaming gives you access to virtually every album? Popycock! Show me Jah Wobbles entire catalogue on Tidal…
The problem with vinyl is two fold. Laziness on the part of people is number one. Vinyl requires you to get up off your behind, clean the needle, clean the album and then ease the needle down into the grooves, very strenuous! Number two is having a system which can resolve what is in the grooves highly. Most people do not have a system capable of resolving the material in the grooves. I have had more than one high resolving system. Vinyl can be done on a budget, but if you really want to get it all out of the grooves that is there, you need to spend some money. The lazy part is up to the individual themselves. Anyone can sit on their can and push buttons on a remote. It takes a dedicated person who is willing to get off their butt and show some love to the vinyl. No one wants to listen to nasties someone left in the groove because it required an effort to clean it out and the crud off the needle. The rest of the world can sit on their can if they wish. I choose to show the love to the vinyl. Everyone is entitled to listen to whatever media they choose. That is not my call. Don’t bother with vinyl unless you are willing to spend the time cleaning the media and it’s equipment parts involved. The rest can continue as they have!