Today is the 30th running of the Los Angeles Marathon. It would have been my 6th consecutive running of the “Stadium to the Sea” course from Dodger Stadium near downtown to the Santa Monica Pier…but I can’t get my lungs back to normal after my bout with pneumonia back in January. No kidding, apparently I’m clear of the infection but still hacking pretty regularly. As I walked into my audio recording class last week a few minutes late, the students were chuckling. When I asked them why, I was told they could tell I was close because of the telltale coughing. How pleasant. I’m back on some new medications and trying to make an appointment with a pulmonary specialist. Missing the race was pretty disappointing…but it was incredibly hot and humid today (upper 80s) so maybe it was for the best.
I’ve been spending a lot of time working on the new AIX Records 2015 sampler, which I hope to have completed and manufactured in time for the AXPONA Show in late April. It’s going to be the best one yet with 70 individual tracks each with three different mixes. The best part is that it reflects the entire AIX Records catalog…not just productions from recent years since I’ve been shooting in HD-Video. The disc is complicated and the production has been a challenge. I think I’m getting close but maybe that just wishful thinking.
There is an article at the Oregonlive.com website titled, “Does vinyl really sound better? An engineer explains“. With all of the claims that vinyl LPs are gaining in popularity and is making a rapid comeback, the fact remains that only 2% of music industry revenue is generated by vinyl LPs. The writer of the article stated, “As compressed MP3 files and digital streaming services from YouTube to Pandora have become the norm for music listening, vinyl sales have skyrocketed from under a million in 2007 to potentially more than 8 million this year in the U.S. alone — in part thanks to the thinking that vinyl just sounds better.” The hyperbole over this highly compromised format is yet another try by artists and labels to extract more money from music lovers. So I read the piece guessing that an engineer would be able to get the basics right. But I was wrong.
David Greenwald interviewed mastering engineer Adam Gonsalves of Portland’s Telegraph Mastering about the realities of vinyl LPs. Here’s what he said under the heading The Good, “Vinyl is the only consumer playback format we have that’s fully analog and fully lossless. You just need a decent turntable with a decent needle on it and you’re going to enjoy a full-fidelity listening experience. It’s a little bit more idiot-proof and a little bit less technical.”
I’m sure that Adam has heard of analog tape. I know it’s not nearly as widespread as vinyl but it is a consumer format for many and it does a much better job of delivery music fidelity than vinyl LPs. And the comment about vinyl LPs being “lossless”? The term applies only to digital formats that must convert from one representation of audio to another…and then back again.
He continues, “The analog format allows for artists to transport their music from magnetic tape to LP to your speakers or headphones without the complications of digital conversion. This, ideally, is the closest one can get to what the artist intended — if the artist recorded on tape and sent the reels over to an engineer like Gonsalves to cut a lacquer master from.” Should we compare the complications of “digital conversion” to the “complications of vinyl mastering and production”? I’ll give you one guess which format is easier to work with and delivers better fidelity.
Any discussion of vinyl wouldn’t be complete without the requisite mention of “that warm vinyl sound”. And yes, the Oregonlive piece didn’t miss that claim. “I think this is what people like about it: it pins very closely to the way that human beings hear music organically,” Gonsalves said. “It’s very mid-range-y and very warm,” a sound that flatters the fuzzy guitars of rock ‘n’ roll.” No argument from me, if that’s what you like.
The author finishes the article with numerous bad things about vinyl LPs…chocks them up this way, “these sounds are just part of the vinyl experience, adding to the charm of a format that takes some extra effort — and often rewards it.”