I’m a hypocrite and I admit it, at least on principle. You see, I have no problem whatsoever to drop the famous “it just sounds better” explanation when it comes to music and vinyls. Because it does, it sounds better. The sound is just so much more alive, more real, more natural.
Which is bullshit, at least most of the time these days. Because although you can digitally remaster any album and claim that it is the best sounding version yet, that is part of the problem. Classic albums from the vinyl years were recorded and mastered for the format, not for super-crisp CDs or hardly compressed MP3s.
Vinyl music sounds better because it is made for that particular format. That’s why it carries more life and feel more real. Well that and that rasping needle that you probably need to blow off, but that’s part of it. Just like swapping sides is, and the incredolous looks you get from your friends when you start playing your vinyls. Granted, listening to music on vinyl is as much of an image and a thing, that it is about the music, but that doesn’t take away from it. You can Spotify your ass off, but Pronounced ‘Leh-‘Nerd ‘Skeh-‘Nerd will still sound better spinning on my turntable.
That doesn’t mean that anything published on vinyl will sound better. On the contrary, a lot of the limited releases of today’s bands will be far worse than their CD or digital versions, for the same reasons Guns n’ Roses sounds better on vinyl. You see, today’s albums are mixed and mastered for high quality digital, not old school vinyl. And although the good vinyl editions will be mastered for the format, it rarely is the same. Sometimes good enough, but chances are the CD will be better equipped to carry the music. That’s fine, if you release a vinyl today then you’re catering to the hardcore crowd, and treats the vinyl release as a collectible. I’m fine with that, I buy them sometimes, as if I needed more clutter in my life, despite already having paid for the album on iTunes, and listened to it for free on Spotify before that. That’s just me, I like my music and I don’t mind paying for it.
Vinyl does sound better, but only if the music is made for vinyl in the first place. That’s the important thing to take away from this slightly intoxicated essay.
And with that, I give you my top 5 vinyl albums of all time, which is to say the ones I feel the most for at this given moment. Buy them on vinyl if you can, and if you’re not into that stuff, well then tought luck – you’ll still enjoy them digitally at the very least. It just doesn’t sound as good.
- Killer by Alice Cooper
- Use Your Illusion I and II by Guns n’ Roses
- Blood On The Tracks by Bob Dylan
- News Of The World by Queen
- Nevermind by Nirvana
They all sound better to me.
Photo by Thomas Weidenhaupt (Flickr, CC)