Vinyl is making a comeback
For most of us, music on vinyl is a thing of the distant past.
I remember when I got my first CD player back in the early 1980s. The first CD I had was Fleetwood Mac's "Tango in the Night" and I remember how crystal clear the highs were, playing on my giant old AR4a speakers. And the lows, coming through those speakers, shook the room.
Even as audiophiles debated the true clarity and "warmth" of CDs vs vinyl LPs, I found CDs to be more convenient. You could program it to skip tracks you didn't like as much, or you could scramble it so tracks would play in random order, just for variety. And with a 5-disc changer, you could sit back and relax for hours without having to get up to flip a record over or put another on. And, you could play them in the car.
The only problem was what about the hundreds of vinyl albums I already had collected – especially a really good jazz collection. I still had my Dual turntable, so I could listen to my vinyl albums.
As the years went by, my amp lost its punch, as did those great speakers. But by then, I found myself listening to music on CDs on the sound system we bought for the big TV. The sound system has a CD/DVD player built in, and the surround-sound speakers, small as they may be, somehow pump out a pretty decent sound, buoyed by the sub-woofer sitting on the floor behind the TV.
I gradually stopped listening to my LPs. In the cabinet are some fantastic albums – a lot of great rock and all that jazz… stuff by Coltrane, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Oliver Nelson, Billy Taylor and lots more. Most haven't been listened to in a good ten years… maybe more.
Even as I and most of us ditched vinyl way back, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), which tracks music sales with Nielsen SoundScan, says sales of vinyl records jumped by more than 33 percent through the first half of this year, compared to a year ago. That's still only 2.9 million records, but it represents the continuation of a steady growth trend since 2006.
Ironically, the CDs that knocked vinyl out 30 years ago are being replaced by digital downloads. People can now buy only the specific songs they want, rather than being forced to pay for an entire album.
A story in Advertising Age notes that some big retailers like Whole Foods are experimenting with vinyl record stores within its grocery stores. And Amazon says vinyl is its fastest-growing music medium, with sales up by 745 percent in the last five years. That's from a tiny base, but it's still real growth, even though vinyl now accounts for only 2 percent of total music sales.
But for something that most had left for dead over the past 30 years, two percent and growing is still something.
Several months ago, I got lonely for some of the jazz I have on vinyl. Many of the jazz LPs I have just aren't available on CD. So I tried hooking up the turntable to the TV sound system, but somehow it doesn't work. Maybe the impedence doesn't match, and the best I get is very soft pickup of what's on the album, barely audible even when you crank up the volume.
But I'll get it figured out one of these weekends. And once I do, who knows... maybe I'll buy an album on vinyl.