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Hug Vinyl, Not Trees

Francis Vale

Much has been written and said lately about the great vinyl resurgence.   Pundit theoreticians are falling all over themselves to explain the buzz: Users believe analog vinyl sounds better than digital; it's more tangible than ephemeral, fungible bits; listeners like to hold the large record jacket covers and ogle the album art, and so on.

Me? I think it has to do with a deep-rooted sense of security coming from clutching a favorite record to your chest. An iPod is so much miniscule musical memorabilia that comes and goes with each battery failure. You really can't trust it to always be there for you.   And with so much of our emotional memory tethered to our music, it's wrenching to consider its continual Jobs-driven obsolescence.

But vinyl you can hug. You can spin it on your finger. You can store it away for 50 years and come back an old man and find it still waiting for you. It's the closest thing we can have to a personal emotion time capsule. Better than old family photos even.

How you choose to spin up your vinyl and listen is a matter of choice and pocketbook. As a general observation, the more dough a person drops on a vinyl playback rig, the less they seem to use it and enjoy it. An expensive rig becomes a personal religious totem, surrounded by all kinds of nervous habits and user tics.  

A distressing number of vinyl high-enders, typically older men, only own just a few records, which they play for impressing their friends, and not too much else.  

Younger users, new to the vinyl game, and with less money to drop and eager to build up a record collection, could care less about totemic spindle worship. They just want their music full on, unleashed, and in their face. Truth said, as much pleasure can often be had from a $500 record player as from a $5,000 or $50,000 setup, with several state of the art rigs costing considerably more than that.

So why bother spending more than several hundred bucks?

Once you get past your initial surprise of just how much has been waiting for you in vinyl, an urge often comes over you to learn what else is waiting to be discovered in those deep, dark vinyl gorges. So you become a musical spelunker, donning the right stuff and go off exploring the vinyl caves.

Think of the record cartridge as your line, cleats, and flashlight. It can drop you deep down into the musical abyss, firmly anchor you, and shine a light on things you never knew existed. The better you're anchored from being tossed about in the billowing grooves and the more powerful the light, the more you will hear.

But good adventuring gear costs good money, be it for trail bikes or parkas. Ditto for phono cartridges.

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21st, The VXM Network, http://www.vxm.com

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