Many musicians are releasing vinyl records again like it’s the 50s. Famous artists like Lady Gaga down to the badass indies are selling limited edition vinyl records on their websites… and they’re all selling like hotcakes! From the start of the year until now, Unified Manufacturing, an LA-based media replication company, had inquiries on their vinyl pressing service daily, which really surprised us because everyone has access to streaming and we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Although we see the trend of vinyl sales rising, they did not anticipate that they will have more vinyl orders than CD this year. What we experienced is just a reflection of the music industry. According to RIAA, in the first six months of 2020, vinyl records had $232.1 million of music sales whereas CDs have only brought in $129.9 million. Vinyl outsold CD for the first time in 40 years!
So why are people listening to vinyl records again? Is it really much better than streaming or CDs?
Here are some good reasons why many people prefer playing music on vinyl:
#1 LOSSLESS SOUND
Some say that the difference when you listen to vinyl compared to digital is indiscernible but for audiophiles, you can actually notice and feel the difference. With vinyl, audio is transported to the speakers without the complications of digital conversion so you get the sound that is the closest to what the artists intend for us to hear. Because data is not compressed, we can enjoy a full-fidelity, lossless listening experience. It would be as if you’re listening to your favorite band live, except in a warm, comfy way.
#2 HAS MORE INFORMATION
A vinyl record contains more musical information than an MP3 file. With digital files, the information is compressed to make them small enough to be easily stored and uploaded on your phones and streamed by thousands of people. This is not the case with vinyl at all. You can hear every instrument very clearly.
#3 JUST THE RIGHT LOUDNESS
Depending on the music tracks, sometimes digital music can be too strong and harsh on the ears. There’s a trend called the loudness war where increasing audio levels in recording and mastering music are considered cool. But this greatly reduced audio fidelity. If during recording, there’s a use of extreme dynamic range compression and other measures to increase loudness, it can result in clipping and other kinds of audible distortion. Sound quality might suffer because of loudness.
With vinyl, you can rest assured your ears will not experience much strain and the listening experience won’t stress your ears. Tracks with very high volume are not recommended for vinyl pressing and if there are loud ones, they are leveled so there would be no loud “surprises.”
#4 THE “IMPERFECTIONS”
Aside from not being too harsh on the ears, we love listening to the surface noise and crackles and pops of vinyl. It creates this warm, cozy feel that is, I believe, a sort of ASMR. It makes us feel like we’re listening to something from the past, a real piece of music that’s in our living room. There is a charm in imperfection and it’s something we want with the good ole vinyl format.
#5 THE VINYL EXPERIENCE
The vinyl format can generate other issues: crackles and pops, records that skip and the whine of a needle against the LP, all problems that the CD advertised itself on solving decades ago. But for many, these sounds are just part of the vinyl experience, adding to the charm of a format that takes some extra effort — and often rewards it.
#6 IT’S VALUABLE
MP3, streaming, CDs…while these may be cheap, it won’t cost anything much if you sell them if someone buys them at all. But vinyl? Definitely. You can sell them fast and at a much higher price especially if they’re limited editions. It is a physical item…an item we can touch, smell, look at, display, and collect. It is something that can even be a piece of art. It is something that you can give as a gift. Even if you spend more on a vinyl record, it’s definitely worth your money compared to digital files or CDs.
Vinyl, as superior the sound may be, is not necessarily better compared to CDs and streaming because music listening preference varies from person to person. Many of us, of course, still prefer the convenience of streaming. However, it is now safe to assume that it will not die in the years to come because there are people like me who like streaming but LOVE listening to music on vinyl. As long as there is music, there will always be vinyl records.