In normal times, today would have been record store day, in which lovers of the premier analog music format would have flocked to the streets to visit their favorite local record stores in search of deals, special releases, and to socialize with brothers and sisters of similar musical persuasions.
Which is why today, in these extraordinary times where we’re all stuck in our houses and cannot by law participate in the festivities (especially considering that record stores are closed), it seems fitting for me to finally put finger to keyboard to admit something that I’ve been struggling to admit for going on two years now:
I’ve fallen out of love with vinyl.
It started a year-and-a-half ago when I had my thrice-broken ankle. I was unable to get into my house for months, and even when I was able to do so I couldn’t venture upstairs to the record player that lived in my office. Even when I got to the point where I could venture upstairs, anytime I moved from my chair I had to strap my leg into my CAM walking boot, so getting up every twenty minutes to flip the record over was a considerable point of frustration for me.
Even before that incident, I must admit that the luster had begun to wear off. The pops and hisses that I once enjoyed began to start bothering me a bit, especially for albums where such defects were particularly noticeable. They took me out of the listening experience. Of course I brushed the record with an appropriate record brush before each play through, and on occasion even bathed them with distilled water in a SpinClean, but there’s only so much you can do.
Which brings me back to being stuck back in my parents house with only my computer and a set of headphones. I began to dive deeper into the world of lossless audio, and slowly but surely came to appreciate a few simple truths:
- No matter what anybody tells you, a lossless audio file (especially a high-resolution audio file with both a larger sample rate and a larger bit depth) can more accurately record an audio wave than physically etching it into a physical medium. Sure, it’s not a “continuous” wave, but when you take each second of sound, split it up 192 thousand times, and measure the point in the sound wave at each interval and record it in a 24-bit value, the product you end up with is simply closer to the source in terms of pure accuracy.
- Being able to have your entire music collection with you everywhere you go, no matter where you are, is absolutely magical. As much as I do enjoy being able to hold an album in my hands, place it on the platter, and set the needle down in the groove, at the end of the day I primarily just want my music to be accessible to me. Broken limbs be damned.
- Having the ability to keep a digital library saved on multiple devices is really nice. My library is with me in my car, it’s with me in my office, I have it on my media center to play it through my living room spakers, and it’s with me on every device I have.
- It’s safer because you can always keeps multiple, perfect backup copies. In the event of a fire you don’t have to worry about your music melting away, as long as you have a copy with you.
- It can be more easily shared with friends, and is cheaper to obtain. Various legal issues aside here, the bottom line is that whether you legally purchase music or obtain it through more dubious methods, it’s cheaper and easier to obtain, and sharing with friends (assuming your music is available under a permissive copylefted license which permits redistribution) couldn’t be easier.
Plus I’ve never had to wash a FLAC file.
I still love indie music stores, and being able to buy a physical copy of an album you love is still one of the best ways to support the artist, so I’m not saying that vinyl still doesn’t have a place, nor have I completely abandoned it. But let’s be real here, if you had to pick one over the other, a high quality digital recording is almost always the right call.