The soft hiss. The quick static pop. The unmistakable crackle. The rich, almost palpable tone.
The needle drops on your favorite record, and nostalgia surrounds you. Something about that vinyl LP — no matter your age — transports you to some past memory.
Maybe you remember your dad’s old collection. Maybe you secretly listened to records in your room past dark. Or maybe the music itself reminds you of another time.
CDs just don’t have the same feel.
The world of vinyl, as some refer to it, has many aspects that benefit both listeners and collectors.
There’s the sound.
Vinyl LPs, short for “long-playing,” when played through a proper stereo, produce a crisp, warm tone that CDs can’t match.
Manufacturing plants originally crafted records to cater to the human ear; how the music sounds replicates just what the musician intended.
The digital conversion to CD erodes the sonic quality of the music.
There’s the hunt.
Finding an original copy of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue or The Beatles’ Revolver on vinyl doesn’t just happen. Scouring the Internet doesn’t always work. Seekers must often venture to one or more record stores, make several phone calls or enlist the help of friends to track down a desired LP.
Even the hunt for a record store can exhilarate. Locating a shop by way of phone book, Internet or word of mouth can frequently result in a mini-road trip—an adventure.
Not true with CDs.
Any average Joe can go into a chain music store at his local mall and find the CD he desires. Even if the store doesn’t have it in stock, it can put in a special order, and the disc will arrive within a week.
There’s the physical presence.
A record just looks substantial. A 12-inch LP, measured by diameter, has a distinct aura. Just looking at it feels meaningful: The jumbo-sized artwork, liner notes and other special inserts all add to the rich flavor. And a collection appears even more impressive.
CDs look inferior by comparison.
Nearly a third of the size of an LP, a CD might seem more convenient. And it does satisfy a portability niche. But the appearance and tangibility of a record collection remains unrivaled.
There’s the nostalgia.
Something a bit inexplicable encircles vinyl LPs. Collectors can’t exactly place it. Record store owners can’t exactly place it.
They say it could be a combination of the sound, the hunt, the physical presence and the nostalgia, but many things could play a role. For some, the desire to try something different led them to favor vinyl. For others, the mystique got them.
Regardless, vinyl pleases in ways digital media cannot. A record allows for the truest experience of music. And isn’t that the point of listening: to enjoy?
Zack Witzel studies journalism and mass communication and English at St. Bonaventure University. He writes in his free time, in his not-so-free time, and probably in his sleep.