It started with Thomas Edison’s first phonograph in 1877, which played back sound from wax cylinders coated in tin foil. That quickly evolved into the vinyl record and the turntable, which eventually became a mainstay in most households. Sound interesting? Then we invite you read the following article based on material put together by Ted Goslin on the Yamaha USA website.
In the mid-1960s, along came cassettes and 8-track tapes, making it easy to play your favorite tunes in the comfort of your automobile. It seemed as if recorded music couldn’t possibly get any better (or, at least, any more convenient). And then digital recording was invented, opening the door to CDs and then to digital streaming, which is at an all-time high right now, with individuals listening to more than 32 hours per week in 2017, according to Nielsen Music.
But if you think that vinyl has been relegated to the role of a niche collector’s market, you’d be quite mistaken. The Nielsen Music 2017 U.S. Music Year-End Report states that over 14 million vinyl records were sold in the United States alone that year — the highest level since 1991, according to Billboard.
You’d think that such a resurgence in popularity must have a definitive cause and effect relationship with a market event. But it turns out that the explanation isn’t quite that simple. Here are five possible reasons why vinyl is making a comeback:
1. Tangibles. Sure, subscription streaming services provide unprecedented access and convenience, but something is lost too: ownership. When you play streamed digital files through an app, you don’t own that music. On the other hand, vinyl records are physical items that you can collect, hold in your hands, purchase in person and discuss endlessly with record store clerks and fellow music lovers. Vinyl also offers other tangibles, such as album artwork and liner notes; if these things are even offered by streaming services, you better know where to click.
2. The Cool Factor. Nearly half of all current vinyl record buyers are under the age of 25, according to record industry research site MusicWatch, and with every new generation comes a new outlook on the past, present and future. Some millennials have made an art of taking dated concepts like fedoras and ponytails and making them relevant and cool again. If you doubt this, visit your local record store. Chances are you’ll spot a man bun, a flannel shirt or some other identifiable accoutrement of this popular sub-culture. Clearly, repackaging old albums and calling them retro makes them attractive to trend setters and trend chasers alike.
3. Vinyl Collectors. Serious record collectors are helping drive the rebirth of the medium: There’s something to be said for the thrill of finding a rare LP in a random cardboard box at the back of a tiny record store and being able to add it to your personal collection at home. What’s more, MusicWatch reports that 27 percent of vinyl buyers are 36 or older. That should come as no surprise, since collecting records is a means for people who grew up with vinyl to reconnect with their youth.
4. The Listening Experience. How people listen to music has definitely changed, thanks to the popularity of streaming music. Earbuds and computer speakers have come to predominate, but it’s a fair bet that vinyl lovers are still spending time and money on dedicated Hi-Fi setups in their homes. Yet having a nice set of speakers along with a quality turntable and stereo receiver is only part of the traditional experience. It’s also about sitting down and listening attentively, as opposed to the ease of playing streamed music in the background or while you’re at work. If you put on an album, it’s probably with the specific intent to sit back in your listening room and enjoy it.
5. Sound Quality. Many experts feel that the old-school analog audio provided by vinyl sounds superior to digital audio — especially the lossy (compressed) digital formats used by streaming services. It’s true that there are better digital playback formats available, such as FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec), but you’ll have to search them out specifically (and possibly pay extra for them), whereas vinyl is readily available from online sellers and at your local record store.
Appreciating Vinyl Records … and the Best Way to Enjoy Them
The way we listen to music has changed. Before the digital revolution, people went to retail stores and bought albums one at a time, often not knowing how it would sound until they opened the package and played it on their CD player, cassette deck or turntable. With a variety of low-cost streaming sources available to the world, listening to music today requires only a computer or mobile device and a set of earbuds. But for some people, listening to music via compressed digital files leave something to be desired.
That’s where vinyl comes in … and there’s no doubt that vinyl is making a comeback. According to global measurement and data analytics company Nielsen, vinyl record sales experienced a renaissance in 2017, making up 14 percent of all physical album sales for the year.
Don’t believe it? Just visit your local record store and ask the clerk how sales have been. More proof lies in the popularity of Record Store Day, an annual event started in 2007 to celebrate the culture of independent record stores and the nostalgia of the days when listening to music was a true experience and not just something meant to boost your work flow or accompany your home cleaning chores. This typically happens in March/April and Audio Trends is a participant. So whether you’re just now getting into vinyl or already have a bulging collection of records that’s surging dangerously close to your front door, having the right equipment is just as important to your listening experience as buying a record itself.
Why is vinyl considered a better way to listen to music? Some say it’s because the sound is superior, but there’s a technical reason too: vinyl records produce analog audio, which is a continuous signal, versus digital formats that break down the sound into discrete “slices” of ones and zeroes (bits). And a quality stereo receiver is needed to properly process that kind of signal.
Yamaha have a nice range of Stereo Amplifiers as well as some Stereo Receivers that offer a phono input (which is actually a built-in preamp for turntables that converts their low-level output to a hotter line-level signal), two channels of 100 watt high-power output and a sleek design that works well in any home. For speakers, you might want to check out some of our Bookshelf/Standmount Speakers, which are well-suited for capturing the best of any vinyl record. For a sonic upgrade, consider some of our Floorstanding Speakers which are much larger than a bookshelf speaker but are designed to capture all the subtle nuances of your favourite albums with considerably more bottom end extension.
A Modern Upgrade
If you want to enjoy both analogue as well as the latest in digital music technologies (Spotify etc) then one of the Network Receivers from Yamaha will include both a phono input as well as wireless streaming capabilities. In conjunction with the free Yamaha MusicCast app, these Receivers can send the turntable’s audio signal to other MusicCast-enabled wireless speakers or sound bars in your home. You can also link those speakers together via the app to have your record playing simultaneously in every room where a speaker resides so you can move around the house without missing any part of your favorite song.
Equally important to the acquisition of quality sound components is how they are positioned in your home. If you have limited space to play with, it’s recommended that you keep your turntable in a stable area (i.e., on top of a cabinet) close to your receiver, with your speakers mounted separately on stands so the vibration of the music doesn’t disrupt the needle and cause the record to skip.
You should also position your seats in the centre of the room if possible. Of course, the seating arrangement in most dens or living rooms is configured without speakers in mind, but when you’re ready to listen intently, try to face your chair or couch towards them so as to get the most sound to both of your ears.
Now comes the fun part: Listen to your records! Regardless of how you have your system set up, if you keep these tips in mind when creating a new system or upgrading an existing system, you’ll be able to enjoy music the way it was meant to be heard, while impressing friends with your ever-growing record collection at the same time.