CD shoved past vinyl in the late 80's, relegating the survival of the format to audiophiles and DJ's; now, in what might be a "Rocky"-type comeback, vinyl may now be spelling the end of CD's.
Yes, that's right. Those same large black coasters that have existed in your domicile primarily as nostalgic references to a time gone by... are now potentially pushing their commercial successors out of business. For the first time in the last 20 years, sales of vinyl are going up significantly.
How is this possible?
This is how we got here: in the past ten years, people who wanted the flexibility of music in an electronic format have turned to mp3's, which has (for quite some time) been driving CD sales downward. As the convenience that CD's has offered has been supplanted by mp3's, the audiophile vinyl-only purists (living amongst us like recessive genes) have kept the format on life support, evangelizing that a CD could never match the richer sound quality of an album.
So now we've come to the tipping point, where audio purists are becoming a larger segment of the record/CD-buying public. Don't believe me? The next time you go into Newbury Comics, look at the vinyl section. It's growing.
But the proof is in the pudding. Having owned it for six months, it seemed like the right time to finally open the wrapper on the LP version of Bob Mould's Body of Song. I was shocked at how much fuller the sound was than on CD (the song "Paralyzed" in particular). So, a few weekends back, Scott, Bubba, and I got together to take a larger listen for ourselves. Cranking the stereo (with Mrs. Snilch Report wisely taking cover at the Jersey shore), we ended up finding that the music did sound at least as good, and often better, on LP than on CD. A few notables:
- Hüsker Dü - Warehouse: Songs and Stories. (1987) I always wondered how this band went from a small label to a major, yet saw the quality of its mastering plummet. Well, here is the answer: the CD mixes were crap, the vinyl mixes were great. I've been listening to "Could You Be the One?" for 20 years now, and swear it never sounded as good as when I heard it on record. The drums sound much less tinny, the guitar much more rounded and full -- it's almost as if the album was originally "digitally sanitized" for CD. The other Hüsker albums we sampled (Metal Circus, New Day Rising) were also better than their CD counterparts, but not as strikingly better as Warehouse was.
- The Dandy Warhols - The Dandy Warhols Come Down.(1997) This was a complete shock. I've always preferred their self-titled 1995 debut as an album front-to-back, and (confession time) I even made this CD a Sell-back Pile 1 victim. On vinyl, I was finally hearing the album as it should have been presented. It has a much fuller sound and a much better bass response than its CD counterpart, which is key to the their sound. My impression now? It's a totally dynamic album, probably CD (LP?) Car Changer worthy. I'm still in shock. I'm glad Scott brought this along, as it may have been the highlight of the day for me.
- Sleater-Kinney - Dig Me Out. (1997) This is, IMHO, S-K's tour de force in a great catalog of albums, and yet I felt like I was listening to it again for the first time on vinyl. There was great sound separation and a clear bass sound (despite the fact that they don't use a bass, but a guitar with bass pickups). You could really hear the Rubber Soul guitar sound come through very clearly on "Turn It On." A very enjoyable listen.
So I'm sold. Dig out your turntable, hook it up to your stereo, and listen for yourself. Of course, there is one drawback: great turntables haven't been in production for a number of years... I actually only have mine as a result of Sean's leaving for Portland back in the day. And even that is having some issues; I am hoping it's simply a result of not properly grounding it and thus causing my left channel to freak out. (As opposed to being an issue with my receiver, but I'm not sure how to test that precisely.) But when I get that fixed -- it's back to the vinyl. Again.