As many of you know, vinyl is taking off. Bands are releasing original material on vinyl. This is good news for the audiophile. Most high resolution downloads have trouble measuring up to vinyl as we have discussed previously. It is just hard to replicate good analogue sound digitally. The human ear is such a excellent instrument for discerning live acoustical music, even if one’s high frequency hearing has rolled off. If we attend concerts, we become quite familiar with live sound. Home audio can only approximate it.
On to vinyl shopping. New vinyl is often expensive. It should be. A lot is required to get a good pressing. Vinyl has some inherent drawbacks, but compensations can be made by skilled musicians and craftsmen. The margins on the price of new vinyl is quite low. Accordingly, today’s vinyl stores do not make very much profit on new vinyl. They make their money on used vinyl.
What is more fun than a yard sale or the Antiques Road Show? Used vinyl shopping! But you say the music is old and uninteresting. Well, the roots of today’s popular music may be found in some wonderful old pressing. Mick Jagger said that the Rolling Stones were trying to play American Blues, but could not duplicate it that well. So they ended up with whatever was left over. The last I heard they were still touring and selling records.
Besides, the best fidelity and resolution is often found in old pressings. The music was recorded without the aid of anything digital. Most early mono recordings did not used anything but tubes in the recording process. The early stereo recording techniques were simplified, minimal miking arrangements without multichannel mixing. This made the music sound more alive. The gold standard of sound is still Mercury Living Presence and RCA Living Stereo.
Buy used vinyl and support your local vinyl shop. Most of these dealers started on a shoestring using their own record collections. They make more money on used vinyl. Don’t try to talk them down in price. Support them. They have preserved some of America’s bests recorded music for us. If you like the Blues, Jazz, and Classical music you will not go wrong with the early masters. Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue is still a classic for a reason. The sound and the playing were top notch.
When it comes to classical music, try to buy European pressings such as Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, Telefunken, Teldec, Harmonia Mundi. and Philips. They are rare to find. However, every now and then some classical music vinyl collectors have foolishly transferred all their music over to digital so they can conveniently and easily play all the degraded sound. (I don’t care what process they used. Do you think it will compare to the originals?)
I have discovered a new type of upscale vinyl shopping at Barnes & Noble, of all places.
Their vinyl is not cheap. They sell 180 gram vinyls of classic recordings by the masters. Many are reissues, but the sound is often as good as the original, if not better. Read the labels carefully, though. Make sure the recording is from the best master tape available. In the case of Dylan and the Beatles, the recordings should be the mono versions.
Good luck in your vinyl shopping. Let us know what are the good vinyl stores in your locale. In Richmond, Virginia it’s Deep Grove and Steady Sounds.