Why Vinyl Records Survive the Digital Age

Original author: Steven Brykman
  • Transfer

Do not underestimate the rituals and tactile sensations.

Ask the audiophile collecting records why the vinyl came back, and you might hear the common phrase: “Of course he came back! This is a more accurate reproduction of the original! It just sounds better than numbers! ”

To this I reply:“ Really? Or is it just that the equalizer is better tuned? And since when did we suddenly begin to bother so much with the ideal quality of recordings? Personally, I grew up on audio tapes, which I listened to on a boombox. They sounded disgusting, but we liked it. ”

I think the reason for the return of vinyl is much deeper than the issue of sound quality. A quote from media analyst Marshall Maclugan, who wrote: “The medium is the message,” became famous. In other words, “the form of the medium is included in any message transmitted by it, and creates a symbiosis in which the medium affects the perception of the message”. And nowhere is this more pronounced than in the recording world.


The whole process of handling vinyl contributes to this appeal. It activates several senses — vision, hearing, and touch — in contrast to digital streaming broadcast services that only activate hearing (offering the joy of instant gratification). Recordings provide tactile, visual, and auditory sensations. You feel the record. You hold it in your hands. The issue is not only the size of the cover image or booklets in the kit (not to mention the unique beauty of color vinyl or color-printed discs). Due to its size and weight, the record has authority, importance, and its size conveys its significance.

For all their fragility and physical qualities, recordings respect the music and the past. They must be handled with care, because the past deserves to be preserved. They are easy to scratch and their quality is reduced as a result of scratches. They are subject to the actions of elemental forces - lying in the sun, they are distorted. They, as living beings, are ephemeral.

Although launching Spotify and searching for a track (any track! You have a choice of 30 million tracks!) Is clearly the most effective way to listen to music, sometimes efficiency is not the most important quality. The albums on the discs are analog, and this is the closest thing we have to sound waves. These waves are extracted from a flat, spinning vinyl disc with a diamond. Diamond rides on record. The bulges on the tracks push the diamond up. Everything in this process is based on tactile physics, which distinguishes it from digital services.

Stephen Bieber, a vinyl fan and author of The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB's: A Secret History of Jewish Punk, summed up the appeal of the recordings as follows: “As in many other cases, the Luddites were right here. Old methods were better. Vinyl has wealth and depth that digital recordings lack; warmth, if you will. And even if not, he still looks cool, spinning on a disc, and he needs to be handled gently so that he plays music correctly - therefore he is also more humane. Everything is like in love - if you want to feel the warmth, you need to take care. ”


Bieber's last statement refers to the main mystery of vinyl. The clumsy process of starting playing a recording is like a ritual; this feeling is similar to how an artist creates his work. First you need to find a record - and this treasure hunt can take 5-10 minutes, depending on the size and organization of your collection. Having found the record, you get it. You release the album from the cover. Or, if you are a true fan, you take the album out of the cover, but the record remains in the inner envelope. Because you previously rotated the envelope 90 degrees so that the plate does not fall out by accident. Therefore, you take out the album in an envelope. Then you gently place the record on the disc of the player: the hole in the disc is made so precisely that you need to push the record to lower it to the end.

Both album and the turntable needle require your respect. There should be no dust on the recording, so you take out your Discwasher D4 + System. You take out a brush with a wooden handle from a cardboard box. You take out a small red bottle of High-Tech Cleansing Liquid for Writing and a tiny needle brush, neatly located inside a wooden handle. You gently wipe the needle with a brush, causing a pleasant sound coming from the speakers.

Then you apply 3-6 drops of liquid on the cloth-covered side of the brush with a wooden handle and rub it with the bottom of the bottle. Then you put the brush on the plate, carefully monitoring the correct orientation of the bristles. You lick the finger of the other hand, put it in the center of the recording, and gently rotate the disc under the brush. At the end of these manipulations, you start the disc and lower the needle - very, very slowly - onto the rotating vinyl record.

And the music begins to play.

The lessons

The thrill of handling the plates teaches interface designers a few lessons.

1) Designing to act on several senses can be more effective than acting on just one sensation. Therefore, mobile applications where there is sound (from pressing buttons and other things) and tactile sensations (tactile feedback) that complement visual prompts are more popular with users than purely visual ones.

2) Always consider media in development.

3) Always consider the mood of the user. Consider every aspect of his physiology and how it can be associated with sensations. For example, one sensation may seem preferable to another person, because it reminds him of his childhood, or because he always did just that (my mother prefers coffee, ground with a manual coffee grinder, because she always did, and not because that she thinks coffee tastes better). In the act of abandoning modern technology in favor of simpler tools that already worked fine, thanks a lot, maybe something from a riot.

In life, not everything is connected with simplicity and speed. Sometimes people need to do something more slowly, especially if the process evokes a memory from the past, satisfies an underlying need, or fills a behavioral gap. If the process is too simple, its perceived value will decrease.

Some people sometimes want the process of listening to music to demand respect, to offer a materialized ritual that takes us out of the daily triviality of our digital existence. Speed ​​has its place, but a certain waste of time can have its own value, creating a pleasant sense of meaningfulness. For this reason, religious rites do not take five minutes, and we should not forget about it, while digital technology continues to control our lives.

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