THE MYSTERIES OF VINYL

I recently got a new turntable — I'd been without a functioning one for

about 25 years, long enough, I reckon, to give me some perspective on

the experience of spinning vinyl.

I've heard people say that you can't really appreciate the superiority

of vinyl sound over CD sound except on audiophile equipment, but it's not

true.  I have a decidedly non-audiophile music system and if I listen to a CD

after playing a couple of records I notice a difference immediately. 

The CD sounds thinner, especially on the high end of the sonic range. 

The ability to transmit the high end of a recording in warm, round tones

is what vinyl does best.  And all across the sonic range it imparts a

presence to the music that a CD just can't.



CD mastering has improved dramatically in recent years.  You can hear

the improvement best by comparing the first CD versions of the Beatles

albums with the new remasters.  With the remastered CDs there's a marked

difference in the roundness and warmth of the tone.  They almost sound

like vinyl — but not quite . . . and again it's in the high end of the

range that you notice the difference most clearly.  When John and Paul

hit their high notes, their voices take on a slightly freeze-dried

quality.



The other aspect of spinning vinyl has to do, of course, with the ritual

of the thing.  Pulling a record out of its sleeve, cleaning it, being

careful to set the needle down on it without harming either the needle

or the disc, getting up to flip the record over when one side is done —

these things put you in a certain specific state of mind.  It conditions you to think of the disc as a precious object, and the music you're going to listen as special — an event.



I adore the convenience of having tons of music on my computer and

portable devices.  It allows me to listen to more music, and more varied

music, than I otherwise would.  (Twenty-four hours worth of Christmas music is still not quite enough for me.)  But spinning vinyl encourages me to

listen to music more selectively and carefully than I otherwise would.



I'd never go back to black exclusively, but I also don't ever want to be without it again.

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