Vinyl record sales in the U.S. have seen a five-fold increase since about 2006. That's, to use the words of a popular electoral candidate, just yoooge.
I know my vinyl collection has grown in the past few years. Boulder shops like Absolute Vinyl (5360 Arapahoe Ave.), Bart's Record shop (1625 Folsom St.) and Albums on the Hill (11128 13th St.) can certainly attest to the rise in popularity of the last remaining mass-produced analog music medium we have: the vinyl record.
Why, in the age of the Pono, Tidal and BlueTooth audio, are we going back in time to embrace an old format?
Many reasons, really. Maybe it starts with the fact that the music is in your hands when you lift a record. You can see the tracks delineated on the surface by their brief silences between. If there's a bit of dust you grab your record brush, or perhaps a roller, like the In The Groove record cleaner. You're involved in the process.
Vinyl love continues to bloom when you realize you start to know your albums by their halves, or in the case of two-record sets, by the album quarter. Many current artists are still producing longer-playing albums than can be contained on one vinyl record, so double sets are common. A recent playing of Glass Animals' Zaba had me replaying the first side of the second record quite a bit.
Audiophiles will say that what draws them in is the fact that vinyl playback is completely analog. Digital music isn't continuous in the way that vinyl is — in fact, all digital music gets chopped up into tiny little slices that, when played back at speed, sound to the listener to be continuous. Big is the brouhaha about how many slices there should be for good sound quality. Those in the know will say the more the merrier, and that's why many subscribers to Tidal's CD-quality streaming service are die-hard audio nuts.
We've progressed from vinyl not just because digital files are more convenient — scientifically they are also able to carry much more sound information than vinyl can. But we'll always have apologists for an analog music medium, because the digital slices do really matter to the way music sounds. Especially to those who've taken the time and care to set up a really good listening playback system.
When you buy a modern record, you usually get a download code so you can have the digital files as well. If you're interested, try your own experiment and see if you can tell a difference between MP3 files, WAV files (many more slices than MP3) and the vinyl record. Make sure you match the volumes of the sources as closely as possible. If you can hear a difference between MP3 and WAV, you're hearing the effect of more slices making the music sound better.
If the WAV files sound better than the vinyl version, you're seeing why the recording industry moved on to the digital age.
For the listener, often that doesn't matter. The upside of vinyl playback is enough to keep record stores busy, and artists making records. And that's yoooge.
Read more Taylor: coloradodaily.com/columnists.