September 11, 2017

Why Vinyl Records Are Making An Even Bigger Comeback


Despite an explosion in digital and streaming music platforms such as iTunes, Spotify and Pandora - consumers are still spending money on vinyl records. Most amazing is the fact that vinyl buyers are not the nostalgic baby boomers but millennials, who have never used records before.

Music lovers, apparently, still want something physical and real and that's where vinyl comes in. This old audio format is taking over the role that CDs played for the last generation. Some say that the vinyl experience is intrinsically linked with the love of un-sleeving the record for the first time, as well as the excitement of the original album artwork. So far, vinyl has largely been the preserve of collectors and connoisseurs with a passion for high-fidelity sound, which is lost in compressed digital formats.

Sony Music Entertainment announced in June, that it will begin pressing vinyl again, ending a 28 year hiatus. Sony wants to keep up with demand not only for the older generation but also younger people who might be discovering vinyl for the first time.

Sony’s production will start in March 2018 at a plant in Japan run by a subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment. The last vinyl record Sony pressed in-house was in 1989, when CDs were beginning to replace cassettes as the dominant format.

However, Sony's biggest challenge is the lack of engineers experienced in making records. Former engineers are now returning to the company in advisory roles to pass on their expertise to younger employees.

Vinyl vs. CD

While vinyl, being an analog format, is an exact reproduction of the original audio wave; CDs, due to going through a process of conversion to digital format, suffer a loss of information that prevents them from storing all the sound wave.

One of the arguments used by the biggest vinyl advocates; however, it’s proven that due to physical limitations on playback, vinyl cannot accurately perform the sound as it was recorded i.e. the sound itself is stored as it is, but it doesn’t reach us in this way.

In order to avoid distortion, vinyl requires a more limited dynamic range (the difference between the highest note and the lowest), which causes a loss in treble levels. Fans of this type of support define the sound as ‘warmer’ and pleasing to the ear, while the CD can be colder. Another characteristic attributed to vinyl is that it provides a ‘fuller’ or thicker sound. This is due to distortion and vibrations that cause sound waves from the speakers and the sway of the needle on the grooves.