Friday, March 02, 2018


Vinyl is making a comeback. Unlike cassettes and then CDs which are being replaced by streaming, a music LP has a certain panache added onto the value of its inherently “warm” sound. Think “bigger is better”, especially when it comes to cover art and the loads of space for proving details about the music inside the slipcase (not to mention the room available for inserts and added materials).
Producing sounds from grooves on a flat disc might seem very 20th Century (in fact these discs first came into being around 1912), but their popularity has only increased since the 2000s, with new record pressing machines having been made to fill the demand (just two - one in California and the other in Japan). Records have their roots in Thomas Edison having created the phonograph — a rotating cylinder upon which a needle engraved sounds as they came through what was sort of like an attached megaphone. Here the master recording (once recorded on tape, now digital) is taken to a rotating disc called a lacquer which is placed on a record cutting machine. Electrical signals travel from the master recording to a cutting head which holds a stylus which etches a groove in the lacquered that circles the disc. Once this is done, the lacquer is coated with metal to form a metal master, now with grooves. This is then used to “stamp” onto a vinyl disc (process heavily abbreviated for brevity).

If the process sounds much like how you play a record, it should. The commercial record player used in clubs, homes and elsewhere spins the vinyl LP, with a stylus lying on it to translate it back into sound. Of course there is a lot more effort involved in playing here: the quality of the playback relies on many things, from the physical condition of the LP (that it’s not warped or scratched or dusty), the stability of the record player’s motor and quality of the stylus, to the connections going to an amplifier (in most cases) and then to the speakers playing the monophonic or stereo sound (surround sound was attempted back in the day with dual tracks on the record that had to be decoded and played through a special amplifier but it was heavily derided).

 So for those looking to get back in touch with their record collection of years past, or for those trying it out for the first time, a proper record player is the first and most important step. While the record player’ technology hasn’t radically changed, there have been additions not thought of just a few years ago, such as Sony’s PSHX500 Hi Resolution USB Turntable (built in Phono EQ and a new Tonearm design) which has the ability to digitally capture the music being played and transfer it for playing on compatible Hi-Res Audio players.
Who would have thought that today there would be such an interest in playing records? For some it may be nostalgia, but for a new audience the smoothness and warmth of listening to vinyl awaits.


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