My Experiences With Vinyl Media

As far as my experiences with vinyl records are concerned, it is hard to know where to begin, but all of those experiences were memorable.

At 59, I am old enough (and hopefully wise enough) to understand that nostalgia and memories from one’s youth tend to positively bias your feelings about many experiences.  So I will attempt to keep my feelings about vinyl records even keeled.

None of today’s youth will ever experience the excitement of riding one’s bicycle down to the local record store to purchase the latest 45 RPM release of that song that you had been listening to on the AM radio for the past month.  It was the 1960’s, and a mere 25 cents could fulfill this experience.  But wait!  Before you actually purchased this 7 inch wafer of vinyl, you could take it to a private listening booth equipped with a record player and “preview” the two songs.  Some patrons would misuse this privilege and never buy the record, others might damage the unsold records from mishandling.  I, on the other hand, wished to perform some QA/QC on that particular record prior to commitment.  Then, I would race home to play it on my parents Magnavox mono console.  Although two-sided, the A side usually contained the hit song, and I would play it over and over at elevated volume until my parents protested.  If there was evidence that several songs in a collection were popular, then I would purchase the 33 RPM LP instead.  If you could get your hands on a jukebox version of a 45 record, then both sides A and B would be popular hits, sometimes even different artists.

Whether it is a 130 year old wax cylindrical record from my Edison antique phonograph or a modern 180 gram vinyl LP, there is nothing like the tactile experience of holding something “physical” that contains not only information, but memories, pleasures, history.  There is no electronic media created today that will last as long as a vinyl record, at least not without some conversion or transformation process.  You cannot compare a flash memory card with that beautiful LP record with its center label, printed inner jacket, and colorful outer jacket.  Some of those albums even came with a small poster.  And not all vinyl records were black in color.  I have a Beatles 45 in clear green and an Elvis Presley 45 in bright red.

OK, before you label me as a dinosaur, I should tell you that I have a pretty decent collection of music CDs and MP3 files.  It is not that digital music is bad, it is just that most digital forms of music have not been deployed properly.  I use the word “deployed” because the technology is out there, but is not utilized because of society’s preference for quantity over quality.  Media like compact discs actually sound pretty good, but media like Sirius/XM, HD Radio, and most MP3 type files suffer from compression, lack of dynamics, low sampling rates, and psycho-acoustic manipulation.  If you think that this compromise does not matter, or you cannot hear the difference, then you need to get your hearing checked.  A well-kept vinyl LP record will have a distinctly better sound than Sirius/XM, hands down.  It is interesting how some people can notice this, and some cannot.  I am always up on my soapbox preaching this issue.  I do not think that much of the younger generation even know what true high-fidelity sounds like.  And I am talking about high-fidelity from older technologies, let alone new!

Most readers will know that recording companies are still pressing vinyl records, mostly the higher quality 180+ gram versions.  These records sound fantastic.  Not as convenient as a CD, but a lot of fun to listen to, and with that warm analogue sound.  My interest in vinyl has been renewed as of late, and I invested in a decent modern turntable and phono preamp to add to my vacuum tube stereo.  Yes, vacuum tube, i.e., hollow-state (versus solid-state).  I went as far as to partially restore a 1952 Seeburg M100C Jukebox, which holds fifty 45 RPM records (100 titles).  That jukebox simultaneously captures three of my interests at once: vinyl records, vacuum tube electronics, and electro-mechanical devices.  It is amazing to me how engineers in the early 1950’s managed to design a device that performed some pretty complex maneuvers using only mechanical parts, including memory function.  The design, colors, and lighting of that jukebox lure you into its grip, and after perusing the catalog of song titles, you are prompted to press those selection buttons, and be fascinated by the precise mechanical movements of the record selector in anticipation of hearing your favorite artist.  Can you think of any modern-day manufactured electronic device that can still operate flawlessly after 62 years?  Good luck…

I like vinyl.  I know that it will not be around forever, but I bet that it will outlast all of the other newer media combined.  I also hope that this recent revival in vinyl records continues to escalate.

 

Martin Minnicino

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