I didn’t grow up with records. Sure, there were a few in the house, but they never would get any play. They were banished to one corner of the basement where they were easily forgotten. The ’90s were a time where a kid was surrounded by cassettes. I look back, and there were maybe a handful of CDs kicking around in the living room. All the cars were outfitted with cassette players, I had a Walkman and a little fisher price player; tape was king. As a teenager in the new millennium, everyone would be quick to assume that I have a evolved with technology, and sport a substantial CD collection consisting of all the latest and greatest bands. Staring over at my stack of fifteen dusty CDs, I can’t say that I would agree that this particular mold fits me. For some reason, I tend to flock towards vinyl records.
There are numerous reasons why I choose vinyl. Up front, I would tell you that I enjoy the quality. I’m not necessarily saying that vinyl is far superior to CDs in terms of sound, as I have heard both sides of the argument. Records are of course analog while CDs are digital. There are numerous arguments about digital recording versus analog recording involving losslessness, compression, overall sound quality, etc. Honestly, it all seems to vary from recording to recording because of differences in recording hardware, and general human influence. One thing that seems to be consistent however is how music mastery has changed throughout the years. Vinyl mastering is thought to take much more care as modern mastering seems to focus more on loudness than other aspects. If some of today’s masters were put directly onto vinyl, the needle would jump around and the record would be unplayable making vinyl a far more delicate format. When I say I like the quality of records, I don’t imply that I think vinyl is always a crisp format offering the best possible sound. To me, vinyl offers a warmer sound that I don’t think I get from CDs. Sure, there are cracks and pops and hisses, but this all just adds to the experience and brings out character from the audio.
Another thing that I enjoy about records is the price. CDs brand new seem to hover around fifteen dollars, while used ones may situate around the ten dollar mark. Vinyl on the other hand, can be had for limited money. While there are, strangely enough, reproductions and new vinyl selling for around the same prices as CDs, older vinyl is cheap. I can go out to a flea market and fill holes in my collection for ten cents to 2 dollars a record. So not only am I able to get titles I’m after, but for the price I can also experiment. Something looks interesting, I don’t feel bad putting down another dollar to bring it home.
Records also seem to have some interesting history that makes them appealing. Going around from vendor to vendor, you strike up conversation. Sometimes it’s about how the records came from a radio station, or maybe you get wrapped up in someone’s memory of a concert, or just a recollection of another time and place that fits perfectly with the music you are buying. Every record has its own personal story. Every scratch or scuff has its own place in history. Doodles line the faces off The Beatles on their Let it Be album, telephone numbers are scattered all over the back of Billy Joel’s The Stranger. No two records are the same, even if the music on them is.
There is also plenty of stuff you can get on records that you cannot find on anywhere else. There are some pieces in my collection that I know will not be released on CD, there are some things that were brought to CD, but are remixes of the original tracks, etc.
I don’t remember exactly how I got into collecting records. I probably saw a copy of Dark Side of the Moon or something equally as substantial for one dollar and decided if anything, it is at least interesting to have around. This has grown, however. My collection increases almost weekly, and I now have over one thousand individual albums on the medium. All that can deter me at this point is where to put them.
A wall of my records
My stereo and a few more records