“Awesome Mix Tape 2” was released after “Guardians of the Galaxy” came out, making it one of the first audio cassette tapes to be put out in years. However, an even older musical product is slowly recovering. Vinyl records have been slowly making a massive comeback over the last five years and we wanted to find out why. Is this a fad or is vinyl here to stay for awhile.
Sony Brings Back Vinyl
Sony was the biggest producer of vinyl records through the 1980s. The company decided that the cumbersome pieces of plastic were rendered obsolete by the cassette player and CD. After a 28 year hiatus, Sony announced that it was bringing back vinyl records. Record production has set a record and made a comeback in 2017. CNN Money said that vinyl sales could account for nearly a fifth of physical music consumption (a metric that doesn’t include music downloads). Nor is Sony alone, since Panasonic jumped on the bandwagon by releasing a new record player in 2016. Companies like Copycats Media offer vinyl record production now in addition to CDs and DVDs. But why is vinyl still in demand and making a comeback?
There have been enthusiasts for years who preferred vinyl over 8-tracks, cassettes and even digital technologies. For analog fans there’s the fact that playing the song on vinyl is richer, deeper and “warmer” than music played via streaming media sites without sound engineers trying to retain the character as it is digitally converted. You also get rich music instead of the minimized music engineered to be played loudly on the radio.
Music engineers tend to hyper-compress songs, reducing the depth and vitality of the songs played on the radio and most digital formats relative to vinyl. The better mid-range sound especially flatters guitar music and lyrical singing. Conversely, dub step and high energy music sounds awful on vinyl.
Vinyl records have been around for more than six decades. You can pull out the vinyl records your grandparents listened to and play them again as long as you have a decent turntable and needle. On the flipside, when you buy a 30 year old record, you’re able to listen to history and know that your children will enjoy the same sound as long as someone doesn’t try to imitate a DJ’s turntable sound effects. Conversely, the vinyl trend is so strong that some musicians are releasing songs recorded and mastered digitally to vinyl. These vinyl records by modern artists are not the high resolution formats vinyl fans rave about, but it will sound warmer and sell to a different set of fans. For example, Taylor Swift’s “Red” album was cut on vinyl.
The intimate experience of putting the record on, then flipping it over makes the music listening experience more personal and emotionally involving that playing a CD. It also makes music listening far more personal and deep than hitting a mouse button and passively listening to your playlist.
The side benefit of the technology is its sheer simplicity; put the needle on it and enjoy full-fidelity listening. There’s no messing with speakers, audio settings on a computer or file converters. You never have to worry about digital rights management preventing you from playing a song you downloaded or file types becoming obsolete.
CD manufacturers are getting into vinyl production because the products are selling, whereas CD sales have been declining for years as digital music ate away at it.
Vinyl records have much larger covers, making them ideal for far better works of art than cassettes or CDs. Someone who collects vinyl records may do so for the artwork while seeing the higher quality music as a bonus. Then there’s the fact that a record collection looks nice as a conversation piece, whereas a hard drive containing your seven times larger CD quality music rips is ignored.
Sony is bringing back vinyl records after a roughly thirty year hiatus because it is the only physical music form seeing growing demand. Vinyl fans rave about the improved sound quality, admit to the sense of nostalgia and personal involvement, simplicity of their use, value the long term investment a record represents and appreciate the beautiful covers. Plus, manufacturers like making something that is actually selling.