By Jim Fusco:
Hello everyone, I’m back with another article, as I still don’t have my HD camera (that’s what happens when you order internationally) and I’m still inundated with work here at FMP Studios. The Traveling Acai Berries are hoping to get a two-song recording session in on Thursday night, but we’ll have to wait and see. Those, unless I get the camera tomorrow, would still be in standard definition.
Anyway, onto tonight’s article:
Today at lunch, I told my colleagues at work (who are all much older than me) that I’m loving using my turntable. A turntable, for those of you who either don’t know or have forgotten, is a record player. And a record player is a machine that plays 12″ vinyl discs with grooves on them, producing sound.
Everyone at the table looked at me like I had four heads. I heard, “He isn’t 25 years old- take off the mask, Scooby and reveal the real killer old man.” But, I told them how much fun it was- having these great collector’s items and being able to just sit back and listen to some great music of yesteryear.
Then, you should’ve seen their faces when I told them I had bought new albums this year on vinyl. They all couldn’t believe vinyl record albums (or long-players, LP) were making a small comeback. Most of them had gotten rid of their collections or even their turntables. What a shame! I know they take up room, but I’m really loving them. I thought I would write tonight about the options of purchasing and listening to music in 2009 that led me to my old-fashioned choice for music.
Let me start off by saying that, no, I do not believe that they are somehow superior in sound quality. For years, it was all I could do to reduce as much hiss as possible from my own music recordings and I love the sound of clean, digital recordings. I even love when companies remaster albums and take away all the hiss, like they did with Elvis’ #1’s album from a few years ago. Listening to the remastered, cleaned-up version of “Heartbreak Hotel”, you feel like you’re in the room with Elvis. And that’s a place I want to be. 🙂
So, albums are all but dead now. I am in the vast minority of people that purchase full albums rather than individual singles. And, that cross-section gets even smaller because I’m also the type of person that purchases physical albums rather than digital downloads. You see, I’m a person that wants something for his money. And purchasing an album online for ten dollars (from iTunes or wherever else you may buy them) just doesn’t seem right to me- you get a FILE? No jewel case? No CD? Nothing you can put in your collection? Let me tell you something- my father’s vast CD collection is a heck of a lot more impressive than the 10,000 digital songs I currently have on my iPod.
And with physical albums, you actually own something. I can’t feel ownership of a file on my computer. Call me old-fashioned, but I want something I can hold, something I can look at in the future without wondering if it’s compatible with my operating system.
So, there are three main ways you can purchase music in 2009, now that cassette tapes, DVD audio, and Super Audio CDs have bitten the dust. There are digital downloads (mp3’s, usually), CD’s, and new vinyl albums. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of each:
Digital Downloads: Well, the obvious reasons are- they don’t take up any space! Most people don’t want to search through hundreds of CDs to find the song they want, and I don’t blame them. These things are portable and even I have fallen in love with my iPod portable music player. But, for my money, I purchase the physical album on CD or LP and then put it into my iTunes for conversion into mp3 or AAC format. Then, I have a portable copy to take with me, but I also have the physical copy for both my collection and in case something goes wrong with the file. Plus, they haven’t perfected sound quality of these compressed digital files. Sure, mp3s don’t sound bad, but have you ever listened to a song in mp3 and then listened to the CD version right afterward? You’ll really hear the difference. And, they’re coming out with new, higher quality codecs all the time. What does that mean? It means that every time they come out with a better-sounding way of presenting your music, you’ll have to either convert your CD collection again or purchase the songs again in a higher quality. I like to do the job one time and that’s it, so no thanks.
CD’s (Compact Disc): The best part about CDs is the sound quality. They are essentially uncompressed and you simply cannot get audibly better sound quality without moving up to surround-sound audio. CD’s have been our main medium for twenty years now and there’s a good reason. They scratch, but not too easily. They take up space, but about a quarter as much as an old vinyl LP. And they’re really cheap to both produce and to purchase. Stores often offer CDs for $9.99 when they come out and still make a healthy profit. I really have nothing against CDs- they seem to be very archival and I feel great about my collection. There are drawbacks, though- they can skip while playing them if you’re on a bumpy road in the car, they can have digital “artifacts” from not being produced properly, and they’re just a bit too small to reproduce a beautiful album cover with the same effect on a vinyl LP. Plus, they’re portable…if you’re carrying one at a time… You can’t put a CD in your pocket or even dream about carrying 10,000 songs with you at all times. Plus, CD changers are bulky and outdated.
Vinyl Record Albums (LP): “Everything old is new again.” Again, I’m a collector. I really don’t buy too much new music anymore, as my back-catalog collection is essentially complete. So, when my favorite artists come out with a new album, it’s not a big deal to purchase a vinyl copy. Buying four albums a year won’t take up much space and I’ll be able to see those great album covers and read liner notes, etc. Plus, the actual vinyl record albums themselves are a sight to behold. And there’s something strangely serene about playing one- putting the needle on the record and watching it spin while you listen. It just calms you down. Plus, I get a nostalgic feeling when listening to records- like I was alive then. You’d even catch me listening to stuff I normally wouldn’t, like “Sinatra at the Sands”, that I listened to a couple days ago. It just felt right. Of course, records went obsolete for a reason. In fact, most people that used them long ago really don’t miss them that much. They complain about the dust, the needle cartridges, the scratches, and how easy it was to make them skip. Plus, they take up a ton of room when you have a bunch. So, they’re a nice novelty to me right now. And, most new albums out on vinyl come with either a digital download code or a copy on CD so you can still have the clean version of the album and keep the vinyl as a collector’s item.
There’s only one recording medium that’s dead now that everyone agrees was a good idea to kill: the 8-track player. I never had one of these and don’t plan to.
I hope you enjoyed this article and hope that you’ll contribute to the conversation- how do you prefer to buy and listen to your music? Are you considering the switch to vinyl again? Do you think they actually sound better? We’d love to hear from you!