Just the title of this article alone will surely get some audiophiles bent out of shape. How can decades old technology of a diamond needle scraping across vinyl be doing so well in this new millennium of digital technology? Of course those looking for ease of use, like microwave "cooking", want it hot and fast. Why bother with all the hassles of that crusty old analog technology? C'mon, haven't you heard about the great sound coming from the new "high-resolution" DVD-Audio and SACD discs? Besides, who in their right mind would want some fifty year old vinyl LP for three dollars at the second hand store when the shiny new digitally remastered disc version is also available? Ahhh, maybe being an audiophile or a "proper" music lover are different beasts? As we have a few reviews of analog gear in this issue, it seems appropriate to discuss this topic.
Be honest, most of us have read about the newest "high-resolution" digital formats and hear how they are compared to other formats. Not really compared to 16-bit/44.1 kHz compact disc, but how DVD-Audio and SACD compare to vinyl! That's right, the decades old format still garnishes praise and comparison to the newest of digital formats. With such limited availability of new music on these new formats, as most seem to be rehashed to death remasters, this seems to have the music loving public thinking. The good news it that it gets us all thinking about investing into getting new audio equipment and software. The kicker is that it seems more and more people are not buying those newfangled DVD-Audio or SACD players. They are instead realizing how good vinyl is! The upswing to all this?
Vinyl sales have shown an increase for the first half of 2001 as compared to the first half of 2000 as seen in the chart above. Yes, the 16-bit/44 kHz compact disc is doing quite well and selling at a rate of approximately 400 to every vinyl LP sold. Think about it this way, an aged format like vinyl is still on the market, let alone seems to be making a good come back. As for After talking to various dealers they seem to be universally saying that turntable and cartridge sales are doing quite well. Well, can i let you in on a little secret. Shhhh, now come close to your computer screen as i will say this softly...
There are more new and reissued software coming out on vinyl than on DVD-Audio and SACD... combined!
Heresy you say! Just look at what Analogue Productions, Classic Records, DCC, Reference Recordings, Super Analog Disc and many others are happily doing. They are still making available top quality vinyl discs. Analogue Productions has released a few direct to disc vinyl records! What's old is new again! While vinyl sales in the chart above also includes DJ vinyl and CD singles plus the usual popular titles, it is obvious that there is much life left in ye ol' vinyl LP record format. In fact CD single sales have gone down dramatically (19.4 million to 11.7 million which is a loss of 39.5%) while LP single sales are going up (2.3 million to 3.1 million which is a gain of 30.9%). Of course singles are generally the realm of DJs and not the general public, yet it still seems interesting to not the differences.
One can not help but read reviews concerning new turntables, tonearms and cartridges mixed in with the usual fare. In fact one person recently accused one of our sister magazines, the great Listener, as being analog heavy. While this was indeed not the case, it does go to show how audiophiles are well aware of vinyl in this modern day and age of broadband Internet and high-speed computers... plus DVD-Audio/SACD. So what makes vinyl so great anyway?
Can you say software. We all need to face up to the fact that without software our music reproduction gear in nothing more than expensive paper weights. For it is software that makes a system worth listening to. Sure there are some great titles on the new "high-resolution" DVD-Audio and SACD format, but not even a small fraction of 1% of that available on vinyl. As for costs, reissued vinyl can be had for near the same price as the new digital formats, yet great condition used vinyl by such great companies as Mobile Fidelity, Nautilus and Sheffield Records can be found in many places. Dare we mention the coveted old Decca and RCA recordings, let alone Everest and CBS?
In the end DVD-Audio and SACD have been very helpful to music lovers worldwide. It has made them realize that maybe another front-end piece of gear is needed within their system. Maybe it is indeed time to consider buying a new, or bargain used analog rig. After all, what is not to like when you can find many hundreds of thousands of recordings spanning over half a century... and some for only $1 each! SACD and DVD-Audio FANatics will surly hate this article, though CD had much more acceptance and many more releases after two years on the market back in the 80's. Maybe it is indeed time you consider a new front end for your system. So what format will you choose? Of course in the end what really matters is that you...