Vinyl is so back and it will be here to stay forever. But what is it with vinyl that makes it so special?
Table of Contents
#1 They’re the bane of my fucking life!
I love records but they’re also the bane of my fucking life. As to why I still buy vinyl – many, many reasons. Some sensible, most not!
I love them as objects. I love the way they sound. I love the equipment I play them on. I love searching for records!
I love that I just dropped anywhere between $10 and $100 on this record and I’ll listen to it. Actually listen and not just skip to the next thing the moment I’m not engaged.
I love that there’s still a secret world of music only available to record people. Mountains of garage/punk and reggae/dub 7″s. Warehouses of techno and house 12″s. Weird private press prog and kraut and psyche and outsider music.
#2 It’s more collectible
Personally, simply because it’s more collectible.
CDs come with a little booklet of art and lyrics and linear notes but it’s roughly the size of your hands, and downloadable music comes with nothing at all.
With records you can fully appreciate the cover art in its smallest details, as opposed to looking at a tiny jpeg on your phone or ipod or a relatively small CD cover.
Modern vinyl releases also often tend to come packaged with a foldable poster or extra art as well.
Also going crate-digging at some indie record shop is a joy in its own. There’s nothing else like finding some absolutely obscure record by an old band or artist that never made it on Itunes or even CDs or cassette and is otherwise lost to the sands of time.
#3 It’s something tangible
It’s something tangible, something I can read and flip over in my hands as I lie back on the sofa and listen. It’s a ritual, and rituals are important to me because I am a physical being.
I feel more connected to the music if I can interact with it in this way. And when one side finishes, I have to get up, take the needle off, flip the record, and carefully put the needle back down.
It’s a very loving action, in my opinion. It keeps me focused.
#4 It’s like experiencing a piece of art
I love owning the definitive version of my favorite albums. There are so many aspects of a record, from the album artwork both in regards to the cover & whatever is added inside, liner notes, lyrics sheets etc. that come together to make you feel like you’re experiencing this piece of art in its most complete form.
Also in the age of being completely inundated with digital media & distractions. It’s nice to have a physical collection of music that you own, same sort of deal with visual art and books.
Sure I can read a book or look at paintings on my phone and it’s still the same content but there’s a connection I form with things that are present that i can’t make otherwise.
#5 Crate-digging, is possibly my favorite activity in the world.
A number of reasons:
- I’m a (now very casual) DJ. A lot of the music I purchase on wax does not/will not ever get a digital release, so the best files I can ever find online will be compressed rips of other peoples copy of the vinyl
- For the records that are readily available online, I find its a mix of a lot of the other answers–the tangibility, the ritual, the display of cover art
BUT most importantly, the reason I buy custom vinyl records is because the actual process of buying vinyl, of crate-digging, is possibly my favorite activity in the world.
There is absolutely nothing like the joy of picking up a random white label from the bargain bin and finding some incredible deep cut that few people will ever listen to again
#6 I like being physically connected to my music
Like a lot of people in here, I enjoy the tangibility. There’s something I appreciate about being physically connected to my music.
I enjoy the ritual of getting up to flip the record over. I experience my vinyl a lot differently than anything I stream or listen to digitally.
I’m forced to sit through the entire album without skipping tracks–something I find impossible to do when i’m sitting at my computer or listening in my car.
#7 It’s a ritual
Listening to vinyl always comes with a little work for me and I really like it.
Taking the record out of the sleeve, looking at the artwork, putting it on the turn table, giving it a quick brush and finally putting down the needle.
A ritual almost.
Makes me more attentive to the music.
#8 I’d rather drop $20 to support my favorite artists
I’d rather drop 20 bucks to support my artists and label and get something that is limited, coloured, tangible and pretty to look at and read, than drop 10 bucks for a CD I was going to pirate anyways.
#9 I am less tempted to shuffle through songs on a record than on stupid Spotify.
To listen to and to look at. I love album artworks, sometimes just seeing an artwork can take me back to a time and an experience, like a smell memory.
I also love listened to music I’ve overplayed on vinyl, to hear the different sound of the voice and the instruments
I believe albums were constructed with the intention to be listened to in their entirety. I am less tempted to shuffle through songs on a record than on stupid spotify.
I actually have friends that will not even make it through whole songs. They get high off of the best parts of their favorite songs and then switch songs. It KILLS the experience. I also try to only buy old vinyl to avoid digitally remastered. Analog just sounds so nice.
I have also found myself listening to albums I never would have if I only used itunes or spotify. I have gone into record stores or Goodwill and gotten whatever looks interesting and ended up with something cool.
#10 It really is a ceremony!
It really is a ceremony. starts with picking a record by looking through your collection, appreciating the art, pulling it out of its sleeve, maybe cleaning it, starting your turntable.
You’re involved with the artist’s process of creating the art and what goes into it. Vinyl’s are really physical pieces, they really showcase the album art, it is that ceremony, it makes you appreciate an album as an album.
Second, there’s the sound. My dad has a lot of opinions on this, and I have some of my own. So we’ve gotten into debates, and we’ve listened to a CD and an LP of the same album, and it’s a subtle difference, but there is a difference.
The vinyl does have a bit more depth and detail than the CD.
#11 Needle Reverb !
Playing a record at decent volume will generate slight reverb on the needles itself.
This effect can make music sound MUCH more “alive” for all sorts of reasons!
For instance, the natural acoustics of your room will also play into this giving your music characteristics that you are accustomed to hearing (In your room, some people even go as far as to “tune” their turntables to whatever rooms they are using them in).
Bass frequencies can generate even more interesting reverb as they may vibrate the actual record, and of course this will all depend on how your turntable is constructed, what type of furniture it is set on and the construction on the room etc, It’s alive !
Contrast this experience with listening to songs on your iPod headphones, it sounds the exact same every damn time.
#12 Serendipity at its finest.
For me it’s the time capsule aspect of it. I mean that in a few ways:
Finding a record that maybe no one you know even realizes exists and hearing something awesome on it, gives such a remarkable excitement that must be what it’s like to find buried treasure.
A lot of my favorite song I’ve found didn’t have any acknowledgement of their existence on the internet until I added the albums to Discogs.
Understanding that each one of these records has spent years–decades–living as a prop in some stranger’s life, moving around to who-knows-where from who-knows-where-else is really fascinating.
Finding something you’ve been looking for forever is great. Knowing that it’s taken some infinitely unlikely journey you’ll never know about to eventually cross your path is really enjoyable to consider. Serendipity at its finest.
The fact that the sound waves being created are the exact same decades ago makes it literally the closest manifestation we have to traveling back in time.
Our ears are feeling almost precisely the exact same sound waves that were vibrating off the instruments and through the air in time past–frozen in time into wax, then molded into metal, then plastic.
#13 It’s a cheap way to discover new music!
It’s a cheap way to discover new music!
I’ll take a Saturday morning and go to an estate sale or the thrift store and buy the weirdest or most interesting-looking records I can find. I hardly ever pay more than $1 for a record!
About once a month, I’ll take a Saturday morning and go to an estate sale or the thrift store and buy the weirdest or most interesting-looking records I can find. I end up with a lot of stuff from the 1960s and 1970s.
I hardly ever pay more than $1 for a record and sometimes people will just give them to me for free.
I agree with some of the other posts here that the sound is fuller than digital, but my reason for liking vinyl is probably different than most vinyl listeners: it’s a cheap way to discover new music.
#14 Vinyl is the only way to get ’em!
And on a related note, there are many obscure albums that have never been reissued in any digital format. Vinyl is the only way to get ’em.
#15 You will get those boomin’ kicks and bass without the high frequencies straining your ears.
It’s not really about direct sound quality. Sure, vinyl has “inifnite” bitrate, but the noise floor is -50dB, compared to -80dB for a CD. The infinite bitrate will provide inaudible enhancements.
It’s more about dynamic range. There is a limit to what you can drag a needle through. Try to press some brickwall-limited EDM to a record, and the needle will jump out of the groove. Albums that release on both vinyl and digital often have different mixes for vinyl.
Turntables tend to have better amps and other electronics. A tube amp might even provide some nice-sounding softsat distortion. Music on vinyl might just sound better due to things downstream in the audio chain. Cheap digital players might be turning off people to digital due to no fault of the format.
People like to collect the artifacts. You get a huge piece of album art. Lots of records come with auxilliary art prints you can hang on your wall. Sometimes special colored vinyl is used. I’ve seen a UV-reactive orange record before.
It’s better for DJing. It will also sound better in a club venue due to the greater dynamic range mentioned earlier. You will get those boomin’ kicks and bass without the high frequencies straining your ears.
#16 The ritual of listening has an ‘aura’ in a way digital music (and even CDs) simply cannot.
Aesthetic philosopher Walter Benjamin says that objects can have an ‘aura’, something he defines as a “unique existence in time and space” that gives the object something more than its immediate existence.
A vinyl record, with all its imperfections, the time and effort spent to acquire it, and the ritual of listening has an ‘aura’ in a way digital music (and even CDs) simply cannot.
Each of my records is unique both in the little hisses and pops you hear when they’re play and in the story behind how I got them. Listening to them is an experience that goes the beyond the immediate presence of the object.
How about you?
Why do you love vinyl?
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD, custom vinyl records and merch company in LA.