Vinyl Records

'Round & 'round.Vinyl record on the turntable. Source
The Vinyl Comeback
For some traditionalists, the exponential evolution of digital music over the last fifty years or so, while impressive, is somehow lacking in soul. Vinyl enthusiasts miss the shiny black smoothness of the grooved record, the visual impact of the album cover, even the smell - in short they pine for the whole  feel and ambiance of an actual record. Vinyls have a 'physicality' that just can't be matched by non-touchable mp3's or even lightweight CD's in their crackable cases. Records have substance and according to many LP fans, a richer, warmer sound than their digital counterpart.

1957 Japanese vinyl featuring Yūrakuchō de Aimashō
Crossley Vinyl record carrier
Recently they have also gained a kind of cool cachet, not just within the DJ and Indie scene but with a new generation to whom vinyl is a quaint representative of vintage technology. There are plenty of collectors, vinyls are still being pressed, there are shops that sell them and and there's always the good 'ol Charity shop - which can be a treasure trove of ancient vinyl albums from the 60s and 70s.

While few in the mainstream would permanently relinquish the benefits of the digital age in favour of an anachronism, it's possibly to enjoy both. Like the return of the civilising tea party, recreating the vinyl record evening can be fun, if only to enjoy poring through the often hilarious but sometimes strikingly artistic album covers of the past.

Who wouldn't want "Ken" in their record collection? From The Worst Album Covers Ever

An Imperfect Technology
Of course, in technical terms,  vinyls have their pitfalls. Although they are hard to break (unlike CD's), they are bulky, subject to heat warping, dust damage, scratching etc etc. The background crackle is often part and parcel of the vinyl experience. Arguments rage between audiophiles over whether the analog sound quality of an LP in perfect condition is superior to that of  digital audio. Analog audio is subject to 'wow and flutter' and the vagaries of dodgy turntables which can produce 'rumble', while digital is subject to 'jitter' and  the process of converting audio to a digital format will invariably add some noise to the sound. A more technical discussion can be found here.

Collecting LPs is a passion for some

Listening to a vinyl record is not merely a quick, push button affair - it's a process, a ritual that requires contemplation and action. The record must be slipped from its sleeve,  lovingly  placed on the turntable, the arm gently lifted and the needle blown to dissipate the dust and then it must be rested carefully on precisely the right spot on the LP. To purists, this tactile element is part of the listening experience.