I finally indulged my frivolous instinct and bought a turntable... And no, I am not now eyeing eight-track tapes. My excuse is U-Turn turntable are pretty cool. Ok... Anyway, here is one list extolling the the Top Ten Reasons Why Vinyl Is Better than Digital. Reasons 1, 3, 4, and 10 are actually decent even if the rest are a stretch. If you follow the link at the end, there are som good combox remarks as well. Now I have to go lift the needle...
It is quite the trend these days to pay for non-artifacts, for intangible "files" that can be compressed and stored inside of a lighter-sized all-purpose entertainment device. Convenience, it appears, is an ever increasing fixation, and one that has come a long way since the dawn of the first "portable typewriter," laughable now in the era of the MacBook Air. Convenience however should never be prioritized so as to completely omit quality and substance. Inevitably such is omitted when it comes to converting a song, and all its subtle dynamism, to an invisible form that can be electronically ingested through remote means and acquired without stepping foot outside. For those too young to have experienced the vinyl era (or even the cassette and CD eras), there is no reference point by which two vastly different sounds can be compared (digital being vastly inferior in any case), thus standards are inherently low by default. For those looking back in time, in search of days where quality and integrity mattered, all you need do is visit your local record store and prepare for a knee-trembling musical renaissance. To be fully convinced, take a look at these ten reasons why vinyl truly does and will always dominate digital, regardless of the musical industry's obsession with forward motion. Revolution is essential.
1 Heirloom Factor
Simply stated, you can't "hand down" a song file, you can only transfer it from source to source like a virus. Vinyl records however only exist in a single source and thus can only belong to one person at any given time; it may pass from generation to the next or from seller to reseller, but it can't be duplicated and split like a host starfish. That is precisely why it has the capacity to retain sentimental value and resemble the flame of a torch being passed from father to son. Being such a nostalgic format, a tear just might swell in the old man's eye seeing his son take an interest in one of his childhood staples, even if it is a retrotechnology. That box of dusty vinyl finally being brought to light again is almost as cathartic in the act of revisiting old treasures as listening to the undeteriorated sound quality. Should a crackle or two appear here and there, that's just the sound of manifested memories being triggered off.
2 The Beatles
It is an understatement to say that when the entire Beatles catalogue was finally released on iTunes on November 16th 2010, a fuss was made. (Yet in all secrecy, the entire Smiths catalogue was also released around the same time, sans an audible bassist of course.) How wonderfully convenient that for around $150, the entire box set can belong to anyone. However, any half-Beatles fan already likely owns their music, and any true Beatles fan owns it on vinyl. Anyone born into the lattermost chapters of the information age has most likely never heard the Beatles on a format other than CD or cassette, and further still will only become familiar with the Beatles through digital download. This is tragic. And not just because albums will become open to dissection. Seeing as how digital always pairs down some part of a song or other, more than not the low end, even in the so-called "lossless" file types, the Beatles will come to be understood incorrectly and appreciated as something worse than they actually are. What will be heard is the "Fab 3/4", and as a result Paul McCartney's bass guitar will gently weep, or else disappear completely.
3 Aesthetic Factor
There's nothing that comes close to the joy felt when you slip a record out of its inner sleeve, place it on a turntable, and drop a needle on its outermost ring. Being that the record plays for roughly ten to fifteen minutes at a time, it makes sense to be nearby when it comes time to flip it over. There is a definite gratification in these simple obligatory tasks which only further require you to engage in your music. Awaiting that moment of infinite static which signifies the end of a given side, you have no choice but to listen to everything leading up (unless your attention span will have you drag the needle to the corresponding ring of the only song you actually like from the album, at which point it might have been more cost effective to just purchase that particular single). Another nice attribute: no visual component, nothing to distract, take away from, or come between great-sounding music and a spoiled pair of ears.
4 The Musician's Child, an Album Is Appreciated as Art and in Totality
An album on vinyl more or less are commits you to a listening experience in totality: you are obligated to listen to an album from start to finish and appreciate it for more than just the singles some radio DJ decides the public in the largest will enjoy. By listening to an album, you are given the extent of a musician's capabilities. If a musician is credible, as was the case before laptops became instruments (or even existed), it will be proven in the material that lies in the margins, where it seems no one is really listening, where hummability isn't top priority, and where substance most often lies. Listen to any Beatles album and see why they are what they are, beyond the "hits" that make them so endlessly and popular. As it turns out, the Abbey Road "Medley" is far less referenced than "Come Together" because it is too derisive and experimental for radio; meanwhile, the latter is simply catchy (and I do mean simply). Rather than what is most heavily promoted, it is always better to listen to what a purposeful musician will have you listen to.
5 Modern Vinyl Records Usually Come with a Complementary Digital Download
If you are going to pay for music, why wouldn't you want to be able to hold it in your hands. The answer more often than not is the fact that iTunes goes hand-in-hand with butt-imprinted seat cushions. But considering contemporary musicians, especially analog-savvy indy acts and otherwise knowledgeable musicians like Jack White, Phoenix, Cold War Kids, and Arcade Fire, offer a free download of the album with the purchase of a comparably-priced physical album (that can be expediently shipped no less), there is no reason to needlessly pay for less, much less. And how about how iTunes has the gall to raise the price of single-song downloads when they upgrade to a slightly less "lossy" file format. Skip the smoke and mirrors and deal directly with a musician (go to their website), pay tribute to those who deserve it, not the spurious middlemen who interfere with what's righteous.
6 Vinyl Is About People
Music brings people together, whether it be at a concert venue or atmospheric party. Record stores, no less, bring people together who share a similar zeal in music even if it is for separate genres. With iTunes and other online means of sharing, discussing, or downloading music, their is a level of humanity stripped and hidden behind faceless discussion boards and "checkout lines." Record stores are often first a social melting pot of various interacting music tastes, and second a place to acquire good music in its best form. But the degeneration of such a practice, a platform of in-person exchanges, is not strictly the fault of music going digital as much as it is the world going remote. Commerce thrives with alienation.
7 It Tends to Be Reasonably Priced
Brand new releases, reissues, and highly-desirable rarities notwithstanding, vintage vinyl can be really reasonably priced when purchased at a mom and pop used record store (i.e. not Newbury Comics). While you need to pay attention to grading, which goes from good (which is actually really bad) to sealed/mint (brand new, virtually or actually), to make sure your copy is listenable and contains no more than a little static and crackling at best, you can build your collection pretty quick when you only need to shell out single-digit dollar amounts (preteen double-digits if in excellent or near mint condition). Ebay exists for those who lack the luxury of a local record store (though shipping costs factor in and the matter of seller integrity requires a level of definite scrutiny). It is so gratifying to literally possess a wall of sound, a shrine dedicated to a prideful music collection, in lieu of an iTunes library that seriously lacks personality.
8 They Are Virtually Impossible to Steal
You cant download a vinyl record, because teleportation technology a la The Fly doesn't yet exist. Some may find this to be a fault in this torrent-ridden post-shock-of-Napster society. It is easy to steal something that doesn't exist in the first place, as is the case with a digital file, so it should not be treated as a bank heist when these things leak out online, considering burners are sold legally as a standard laptop hardware. That's not to mention the inferior, pig-in-the-poke quality of digital music. A vinyl album, however, retains everything that is worth paying for and deserves proper compensation on behalf of artists that care enough to maintain core sonic values.
9 Vinyl Sounds Better by Design
If music is originally recorded by analog means, reel-to-reel tapes, that purity is lost along with fidelity ("faithfulness" to the original sound) when converted to digital. To fit the contents of a song, certain pieces are inevitably paired down when compressed and converted into a bluntly compacted MP3 format (or WMA, AAC, etc.). Imagine fitting a closet into a single suitcase: as your wife jumps on the outside of the luggage while you attempt to zip it shut, you are forced to discard a few, seemingly-negligible items. A sock, or few pairs of boxers. Then you get to your destination it find that your trip will be lasting a few days longer than your boxers provide (the slimy discomfort in "doubling up" days to compensate). Each seemingly negligible detail is as drastic, when you hear a funky, bass-heavy album on vinyl, only to find that the bass and any discernible low-end is completely absent or else inorganic when squirted out of some earbuds or make-shift home stereo. Vinyl captures every slight nuance as it has the space to spare by way of a physical imprint. While quantity inarguably comes after quality with vinyl(each side holds only about ten to fifteen minutes of material), the quality is incomparable as each groove contains every intended detail captured holistically, every frequency shift perceived. The closest digital comes is a mere forgery of a masterpiece, a synthetic gloss in lieu of a textured canvas.
10 You Actually Possess a Tangible Artifact
With vinyl (and consequently any format predating digital download), you literally get what you pay for music that can be handled manually and kept track of without fear for your hard drive crashing. Granted the MacBook air is about the size of a double album and could hold a record store's worth of music (at least with an external harddrive), and most iDevices can hold an entire collection of music, with vinyl you need not worry about a clandestine virus coming along and draining the entire contents of your archives. The worst you can do is scratch a record if handled like a chew toy or warp it by leaving it in needlessly temperate conditions for a reckless amount of time (the same is true of a laptop, but on a far more drastic, not to mention expensive, scale). Vinyl, comparatively speaking, is far sturdier and more resilient, and lacks the hydrophobic destructibility of electrical components. Not only that, around the vinyl record at all times is a protective cocoon made up of artwork, lyrics, and liner notes, making this self-contained work of art a well-documented one.
And inaugural pieces of new/reclaimed vinyl...