I Seem to Have Entered the 1960's: First Impressions of Music on Vinyl

I'm a techie. For my grad school classes at Brandeis I tend to take notes on my Microsoft Surface Book. I use a Nexus 6P phone for that "pure Android experience". I very rarely buy DVDs or Blu-Ray discs anymore, streaming most of my video watching. My comic book reading is electronic, as is my reading. Which is probably why the surprise expressed by family and friends was understandable when I picked up a TEAC Vinyl Turntable and purchased the first vinyl records since picking up the 45 single for Debbie Gibson's "Lost in Your Eyes" back in late 1988/early 1989 - my musical tastes have hardened rather considerably since then and I seem to have misplaced that single and everything else from my rather small vinyl collection of high school. As I recall, most of my music in high school was on cassette tape, with the occasional 45 or 33 record for singles/remixes. And then in 1988 I got my first CD player for Christmas. No one I knew in college had a record player - there were a few CD players in 1989 and by the time I graduated in 1994 most people had CD players in their room but portable music was still almost always a Walkman or similar device.

Over the past several months I'd been reading quite a bit about what I've seen described as a Vinyl Revival, with vinyl record sales increasing every year since 2006. There's been a variety of explanations - hipsters buying albums they never listen to, superior sound quality, preference for the tactile experience of spinning a record. Having saved some pennies over the past few months I took the plunge myself to try it out. I've started off with a TEAC TN-300, John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, Miles Davis' A Kind of Blue, and the mono editions of the Beatles Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Bands. I wound up getting the mono Beatles' recordings after reading how the bulk of their albums were recorded with mono in mind.

What's the early verdict? Well I of course assumed I'd enjoy it or I wouldn't have laid out the money for the experience. But I' surprised how much I enjoy it. First off, I will state the sound quality is amazingly good - far more than I'd expected. My brother, who is a bit of an audiophile, tells me a large part of that is likely due to having listened primarily to MP3 music over the past several years and I'd likely get an even superior audio quality from a modern CD or other lossless audio such as a FLAC recording. I also suspect escaping from headphones (even good quality headphones such as the ones I usually use) has something to do with it - though it's not the whole story, as I did some experimenting in streaming audio out the same speakers. I've heard people refer to the "warmth" of vinyl and it always sounded like an odd choice of words but it actually fits rather well.

The experience of listening certainly is neat. It made me really appreciate more what goes into an album - how good albums have a certain flow that needs to take into account reaching the end of a side and flipping over. It also makes me appreciate an album on its own, without jumping around or including a song on a playlist. And there's the fact that changing position is a bit of an ordeal. Yes, I could emulate that aspect of it by streaming and being disciplined... But I know I won't.

The tactile experience is interesting - taking the record out of its sleeve, putting it on the turntable, starting the turntable, positioning and lowering the needle. And the artwork of the albums - I've seen Revolver as a small icon for so long that I'd forgotten just how... odd it is. Must be a sixties thing...

Long-term... No I'm not going to cancel my Google Music account. Tomorrow I'll be going to the public library to work on my grad school classwork and I'll be armed with a well-stocked Android phone carrying thousands of songs. And I'm not going to be getting everything on vinyl. I might try digitizing the records I picked up - my turntable does include a USB output. It's definitely something I'll continue experimenting with - I'm thinking it might be time for some Led Zeppelin. But I think it'll be a bit of a luxury.

Oh - regarding the title of the post - I know vinyl records predate the 1960's But all the music I picke up, aside from A Kind of Blue, is from the 1960's. And even that is from 1959.

Image Credit
Vinyl is too Mainstream image from Get It On Vinyl: Debunking the Myths of the Vinyl Resurgence


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