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Thread March 19, 2016 editorial: comments

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1 March 19, 2016 editorial: comments

A Pressing Issue

The tired cliché “Everything old is new again,” popped in to my head this week when I read an article in Digital Music News reporting that a patent has been filed by an Austrian company called Rebeat Digital for a high-definition vinyl record format.

Although the idea of high-definition vinyl, which Rebeat is calling “HD Vinyl,” initially struck me as a bit oxymoronic, the new format will supposedly offer double the fidelity of a standard vinyl album, produce up to 30% more volume, and have a 30% greater capacity. The key point is that this is not digital audio — it’s still analog. As I understand it, HD-Vinyl is basically a more accurate way to manufacture vinyl records. It uses 3D-topographic mapping technology and laser etching to produce the LPs, and I assume the added precision is what makes for the increased fidelity and capacity.

There will be HD Vinyl turntables eventually, but fear not, you’ll still be able to use your current turntable to play HD Vinyl albums. However, according to the Digital Music News article, “enhanced features will be better realized on upcoming, HD-compatible turntables.” Hmm. Well, we’ll see. The hope is that both LPs and turntables using the new format will hit the market in about three years.

HD notwithstanding, the scope of the vinyl resurgence over the last few years seems to have  taken the record industry by surprise. But now that vinyl seems to be a serious format once more, the major labels have jumped on the bandwagon big time. Not only is a vinyl component now de rigueur for new releases, the labels are making vinyl versions of the albums in their catalogs — some of which, I guess, had originally been in vinyl, were later were re-released as CDs, and now are coming back to vinyl. Crazy.

The result is a ton of demand for pressing of vinyl albums and not nearly enough manufacturing capacity. That has led to long waits to get vinyl copies of an album made. Plenty of artists have had to push back the release dates of new albums because of the vinyl backlog. When and if HD Vinyl comes out, it should help ease that backlog, because it doesn’t rely on the old-style vinyl manufacturing plants that are now in such short supply.

I have my fingers crossed that these new-fangled HD LPs will not be prone to the scratching and crackling and warping that plagues conventional vinyl. Those are the problems that made me happy to leave the vinyl format behind when the CD first came out. And I may be in a minority, but I don’t miss vinyl from a fidelity standpoint (although I do miss album covers, with all their room for imagery and information).

Based on the preceding paragraph, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that I haven’t had much trouble resisting the vinyl revival. What’s more, I don’t have a working turntable, and I have no albums left —I sold or gave them all away—so I’d have to start from…ahem…“scratch,” with a vinyl collection.

But hey, let’s see what happens (if anything) with HD Vinyl — it does have intriguing possibilities— and even a vinyl skeptic like me might be interested. But I’ll tell you one thing, if they invent an HD cassette, that’s where I draw the line.

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I have hundreds of vinyl records, and I still have a turntable. I do listen to them from time to time, but I don't miss the fidelity of vinyl. I think CDs sound better - they're much clearer and less prone to wear and tear from playing. Like you, I miss the cover art and liner notes. Even when they're reproduced in the CD format, it's not the same thing. It's great that HD vinyl will be coming out, but I don't plan on buying any. I guess the "younger generation" will buy them - we "old guys" have been there and done that.
3
I've been thinking that this vinyl "craze" is just that and will die away fairly soon once the inconvenience, un-portability and audio limitations of the format have worn through the thin veneer of novelty currently enjoyed by its new, late adopters.

Whilst some may perceive some tonal "magic" in the transmission of a scratched representation of sound in plastic versus the chopping of the same into cold bytes and bits, I think this is largely imaginary, as my own limited A/B tests, on modest equipment have shown. Myself and friends could not reliably distinguish between CD and vinyl, with the same content played at the same volume.

Additionally, vinyl has always been more limited in dynamic range, with content having to be specially mastered (read compressed) onto it, as too much bass power will cause the needle to jump, compared to its digital counterpart which has a greater dynamic range. It will be interesting to see if this new HD vinyl addresses this issue.

I am more surprised that higher definition digital formats, such as FLAC have not taken off more than they seem to, since these should address some of the issues of the limitations of the CD and should "put back" that which has been removed by the lower sampling frequency of earlier digital formats.

I suspect that much of this craze is driven by nostalgia, and maybe as a reaction to the increasing devaluation of all that is good and sacred in the audio arts by the unstoppable advance of digitalisation, virtualisation and something-for-nothing culture. It is, perhaps an attempt to put back some kind of solidity and substance into what has become a free and disposable resource.

Thus if this trend continues, and brings back some sense of value, and possibly hard cash into the pockets of creators, then it may be a good thing (though probably not for the environment).

Therefore I would prefer that society rediscovered it's value for music in a way that looks forward, instead of backward. How that happens though, is perhaps a discussion for another thread.

4
Just started the vinyl collection up again.
Quite a bit of fun. Forces the brain to remember the old albums.
Sounds interesting..
5
It's funny how people say this is a fad that will die but it has been getting stronger every year. Vinyls are a powerful comeback and the only reason is that digital simply doesn't sound better otherwise no one would buy vinyl. The excitement of putting that needle on the record and waiting for the first riff to Blair out is unparalleled. You simply don't get that with CD's.
Also the idea that cd's never wear out or scratch is a fallacy. I have had to replace many, many of my cd's due to wearing out. Ok so do vinyls but no more than cd's
6
Yes Mike, the large album artwork, even the single/EP cover artwork is great to see.
Some albums are memorable for the music, but even moreso for the cover artwork. The
attention to detail in some artworks even warranted poster-size prints to appear on
the market...Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon' being just one example, but that is
better left for another discussion.
I recall walking into CD music stores, where the CD cover artwork is placed for the
viewer to see it all...when I squint my eyes a little, it all turns into 'pizza', except
for the odd one which stands out of the pack, whereas displays of the old vinyl album
covers were more like mini art exhibitions.
The onset of HDVinyl should be interesting from the DJ point of view: whether it will
also bring on a resurgence of live vinyl 'scratching', even though now DJs are doing this
with CDs...
I've just inherited a stack of vinyl albums and am considering the option of purchasing
a player, or letting the stack go. I have the works mostly on CDs already and with limited
storage space, cannot see why I should return to use something I'd let go of...
7
I think that you've hit the nail on the head with what you've said below, Mike. With the advent of the CD, I too have never missed hearing the crackling of vinyl which to me spoils the music no end. After all, even in the analogue tape recording era, when you played back your song in the studio, you didn't hear snap, crackle and pop! Vinyl was an extremely imperfect medium.
I also agree that CDs don't allow for the full artistic creativity provided by the large vinyl album cover. This is a pity but I suppose there are other ways to express this aspect with booklets and posters, etc.
I wonder actually whether the trend towards and enthusiasm for vinyl is more of a kind of nostalgic wishful thinking; that if you go back to using the previous audio medium you will in some way recapture the magic of that era when music was so wonderful. People pine for the music and feel of the 60s, 70s and even the 80s. Probably, all we'll get in fact is a pile of inartistic, automated, contemporary noises - which some people now call music - being played back on crackling, hissy old records... ;)

Quote:
I have my fingers crossed that these new-fangled HD LPs will not be prone to the scratching and crackling and warping that plagues conventional vinyl. Those are the problems that made me happy to leave the vinyl format behind when the CD first came out. And I may be in a minority, but I don’t miss vinyl from a fidelity standpoint (although I do miss album covers, with all their room for imagery and information).

Astra: Lead Guitarist, Singer-Songwriter.

www.astramusic.org

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Quote:
Like you, I miss the cover art and liner notes. Even when they're reproduced in the CD format, it's not the same thing. It's great that HD vinyl will be coming out, but I don't plan on buying any. I guess the "younger generation" will buy them - we "old guys" have been there and done that.

You make a good point. For those who are too young to have experienced vinyl the first time around, it's more of a novelty, and has more mystique.
9
Quote:
Also the idea that cd's never wear out or scratch is a fallacy. I have had to replace many, many of my cd's due to wearing out. Ok so do vinyls but no more than cd's

Well, I'm not sure I'd agree with you on that. When I was listening to CDs a lot (I barely do now), I did run into some that skipped if they had been severely mistreated. But they didn't get messed up with near the regularity of vinyl, in my experience. But I'm not arguing against vinyl. If you like the experience, more power to you. I just am not a huge fan.
10
Quote:
I wonder actually whether the trend towards and enthusiasm for vinyl is more of a kind of nostalgic wishful thinking; that if you go back to using the previous audio medium you will in some way recapture the magic of that era when music was so wonderful.

I think you're spot on with that observation.