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Vinyl set to outsell CDs for first time since 1986 (nme.com)
545 points by ValentineC 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 405 comments





Is anyone working on a reasonably priced turntable to play vinyl discs without degrading them? In the mid '80s, Finial Technology announced such a turntable, and had a working unit at CES in 1986.

It had a stylus that contained laser interferometers that could very accurately and precisely measure the distance from the stylus to the grove walls. It kept the stylus near, but not touching, the groove, getting the audio signals from the variations in the distance to the groove.

In addition to not causing any wear, I remember reading an article back then in one of the audiophile magazines that said it also made records that had already been played many times on regular turntables and were degraded sound new, because the Finial could use a part of the groove farther down than had been used by the regular stylus, and so was not worn.

It was going to be pretty expensive, around $8000 at today's prices, so was probably only going to be affordable to radio stations, archivists, and high end audiophiles. Then they got hit with the double whammy of a major recession and the rapid replacement of a large chunk of the vinyl market by CDs.

Finial was liquidated in 1989, and their patents ended up at a Japanese company. Development continued in Japan, and eventually resulted in a product [1]. They seem to be around $15000.

The Library of Congress and a couple of other places have a system that can recover the sound for vinyl records and old wax cylinders what works by photographing the grove through a confocal microscope. The thousands of photographs are then analyzed to figure out the audio signal. This is still research level stuff, I believe, not aimed toward producing a commercial product, and so would be even farther out of reach for consumers than the laser interferometer turntables are.

[1] http://www.elpj.com/


If only there were a durable music format that had absolute perfect quality, didn't need special handling, no DRM, no compression artifacts, was stereo, and handled frequencies all the way down and all the way up to where humans can hear. Oh, the CD!

CD quality isn't that good (sample rate is fine, bitrate isn't) and it definitely has compression artifacts at the low end but that's a nitpick. That said, the biggest problem with the CD is that good CD transports are few and far between and pretty much all CD players have garbage-tier DAC implementations.

edit: to be clear, a CD will have far more resolution and technical capacity available than a vinyl ever will, I'm just saying that CDs have their own issues and aren't perfect.


You'd have to come up with a good source to convince me that 16bits per sample is not good enough for consumer audio (or that you could tell the difference even in perfect conditions. So might be able to hear it, the vast majority of people won't) but beyond that it doesn't really matter in this discussion because vinyls have a much worse fidelity. If you sample vinyl audio at more than 16bits you'll just be sampling noise anyway.

>pretty much all CD players have garbage-tier DAC implementations.

A true audiophile I see, anything consumer-grade is "garbage" in order to justify the purchase of ridiculously overpriced equipment. The truth is that it's very cheap to design a decent quality DAC or ADC these days, mainly thanks to digital processing and the fact that those chips are made in huge quantities. Digital filters are high quality these days and the use of oversampling makes it a lot easier to design good analog filters.

Audiophiles are very hard to take seriously because the hobby is 95% snake oil and 5% reasonable engineering. I'm sorry if you're part of the 5% and I overreacted but it's one of these hot buttons for me. I've spent so much time arguing with people that, no, it made to mathematical sense to want 32bit samples or 160kHz audio...


> A true audiophile I see, anything consumer-grade is "garbage" in order to justify the purchase of ridiculously overpriced equipment.

Actually I'm rather fond of the $80 SDAC and it stands tall among other, more expensive stuff I have (I'm listening to it as type this in fact). It's miles ahead of any CD player DAC. Seriously, a CD transport into a cheap DAC will sound very noticeably better. Admittedly I've only sampled about a dozen or so supposedly good players and eventually lost interest so it's not a big sample pool.

I'm with you in that I also agree that it's dumb how most amplitude-signal DACs market "32bit/768khz" despite that sample rate being effectively useless and the noise floor in DS chips being at around ~20 bits worth of resolution and that's a best case scenario.

edit: honestly when it comes to amps and dacs, in my experience, there is no spec or measurement that correlates with how good it sounds so with those I pretty much gave up on anything other than my ears.


I don’t think anyone has ever heard the difference between DAC’s in a double blind test.

I have a thought it’s the composers’ intention to how listeners will hear. There was once I spent a long time tweaking frequencies to my taste, it’s clear we have too many parts to just to get the right pitch and nuance details.

> Audiophiles are very hard to take seriously because the hobby is 95% snake oil and 5% reasonable engineering.

I bought some half decent speakers by my standards around a year ago (Creative T40s for what its worth).

As a test I tried some MP3 tracks at various bitrates sitting on my hard drive to see if I could guess the difference. Most of the time I thought the 192kbps sounded better than the 320kbps.


To be fair, speakers are the component in your signal chain that actually has a major impact on audio quality - it is by far the most important factor and it should take up the majority of your (audio) budget.

Not to sound condescending but those speakers you mention don't seem very decent at and probably don't warrant any conclusion towards the benefits of various compression settings or audiophile configurations in.


Yes, I am not an audiophile. They still sound a lot better than the TV speakers the sound was coming through before and they are more than good enough for me. Some kids listen to music through the speakers on their phones.

While it is ‘easy’ to make good DACs nowadays, the market is full of bad implementations that shoot themselves in the foot. And it’s not strictly correlated with price, as one might expect. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, check out audiosciencereview.com for a lot of good analysis and review of specific products.

Source: Section 3.5 (page 9) of this peer-reviewed meta-analysis days “it is well known that the dynamic range of human hearing may exceed 100db. Therefore, it is reasonable to speculate that bit depth beyond 16 bits may be perceived.”

https://qmro.qmul.ac.uk/xmlui/bitstream/handle/123456789/134...

Additionally, this is purely talking about loudness dynamic range, not even including resolution or JND (just noticeable difference). I will demonstrate to you below how even 20 bits per sample is insufficient in some cases.

Imagine for a moment that you could argue that the human hearing threshold of quantization error is only 4 bits (only 16 discrete values!) at the sound level of a pin dropping (10db). Now, I think we can all agree that’s absurd; we need a lot more than just 16 discrete amplitude values to represent the sound of a pin drop indistinguishable from reality to a human ear. But for the moment, let’s be really really generous to your point and assume it’s enough!

Now, let’s suppose we want to extend the recording so sounds at 110db appear later on (say, an intense bass explosion in an action movie after a quiet scene early on). To do this without clipping, what range of discrete values do we need? 110db-10db = 100db = 100,000x greater amplitude than the pin drop. This means we need to be able to represent peak amplitude values of 1,600,000.

This exceeds the ability of 16 bits to losslessly represent the quiet 10db pin drop and 110db explosions within the same movie’s audio track! You would need at least 21 bits in this example. And I’ve been generous with my assumptions here, making the extreme assumption that even 4bits per sample is enough to record a 10db pin drop, which is clearly not enough.

If you think 110db is unrealistic for brief periods, it’s not, even for music: bass frequencies in particular can reach extreme amplitudes that might surprise you. I recently played an extremely well recorded orchestral piece at reference volume on my equipment and was so impressed by the dynamic range, I later measured the decibel levels (C-weighted). The quietest moments are around 65-70db, increases to 80-90db at times, and peaks several times momentarily to 105db when the bass drum hits (you feel it like a punch of an air wave)! It turns out this is exactly how real bass drums measure. Yet, the drum hit doesn’t sound unbearable loud (as treble would be at that decibel level), so much as tactile, because much of that energy is subsonic.

If you do much research into perceptual psychology studies, you’ll see just how surprisingly difficult it can be to completely pin down the limits of human perception on average, let alone including outliers among the human population. In that sense, it’s entirely reasonable that a durable high fidelity recording format that holds up to time should be over-engineered, so there’s at least no worry that some study will prove it’s missing something later.

That said, I don’t really agree with the parent post that most DACs are horrible, but I can’t comment on CD player DACs since I don’t use physical media. Most phone DACs are quite good. Most PC DACs are horrible not because of the DAC but because buzzing noises from system clocks and other sources always appear on my speakers (it’s very loud and noticeable), so I’m forced to use a cheap $20 external DAC, which quite frankly is nearly as good as anything else you’ll get at any price.


Last I checked it is 14bit. Very long time ago, but I'm very sure it used to be 14 and not sure if it is 16 now. Regardless I'm sure a lot older CDs have a quarter of the fidelity as a result

"There was a long debate over the use of 14-bit (Philips) or 16-bit (Sony) quantization, and 44,056 or 44,100 samples/s (Sony) or approximately 44,000 samples/s (Philips). When the Sony/Philips task force designed the Compact Disc, Philips had already developed a 14-bit D/A converter (DAC), but Sony insisted on 16-bit. In the end, 16 bits and 44.1 kilosamples per second prevailed. Philips found a way to produce 16-bit quality using its 14-bit DAC by using four times oversampling.[9]"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_Disc_Digital_Audio#Aud...


CDs have better fidelity than vinyl.

Vinyl sounds more like vinyl than CDs do, until a specific piece of vinyl is reduced to a shambles by time.

People who really like vinyl have a bad habit of equivocating between the above two statements, using "better" to mean either "greater fidelity" (which is wrong) or "sounds more like vinyl" (which is a tautology) without signalling which meaning they mean.

https://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=Myths_(Vinyl)


The other aspect is that, especially for older music (say anything recording over 30 years old), the CD master is often different than the Vinyl master. In some cases this difference in mastering can lead to people preferring the vinyl over the CD and claiming vinyl "sounds better", when in fact all it is is they prefer the way the vinyl was mastered.

The vinyl almost always has better mastering. CDs and digital audio in general still get mastered for the loudness war while vinyls are often mastered to have higher dynamic range. That'll make the CD sound better for radio or club play but the vinyl will sound better when you're listening at home.

IIRC that was one of the huge consequences of the loudness wars: you can't really master loud vynils, so they've avoided clipped mastering.

I agree that if we’re pursuing sheer audio fidelity, CD quality is objectively superior to vinyl in every way. However (as others mention), many vinyl listeners are not after objective sound fidelity perfection: For them, the flaws are part of their “retro” charm.

However, one note about CD quality — it may not be as perfect as you think! A peer-reviewed meta-analysis has shown that humans can hear the difference between CD quality (44khz/16bit) and “high-res audio” recordings (e.g. 192khz/24bit)! The perceptual difference is relatively small, but measurable (assuming high quality speakers and signal chain):

https://phys.org/news/2016-06-people-difference-high-resolut...

I doubt 44khz sampling rate is a problem, but fixed point 16 bits per sample does seem fairly constraining, given how our perception of linear audio loudness corresponds to exponential increases in signal strength.

Also, if anyone tries to test it yourself, beware that it is actually quite hard to do so properly:

1. Any listening tests in a web browser will just resample to CD quality automatically anyway, because they just play into your OS’s shared audio mixing system, which mixes all audio sources before they reach your DAC, which usually resamples them all to CD quality in this process.

2. The above point applies to ANY app that doesn’t take exclusive control over your PC’s audio output capability, and even then there are many pitfalls where you can almost accidentally trigger a default CD quality resampling stage somewhere in the pipeline.

3. Be careful to ensure the audio file you’re playing wasn’t just a regular CD quality file that was simply upsampled to 192/24 or whatever high res rate it claims to be. Sadly, this happens a lot. Your audio file MUST be recorded AND mastered (edited) in the studio at every stage using high res formats.

4. Make sure your audio signal path doesn’t have any components introducing dynamic range (loudness) compression (many default to this, these days), or any other resampling, equalization, etc. stages.

5. Your DAC may not even support anything higher than 44/16 data streams, so resampling may be inevitable!

6. Make sure you played the audio samples on extremely high quality speakers (often costing many thousands of dollars, making this whole point moot/irrelevant for most people anyway). The vast majority of consumer headphones and speakers can’t render a low vs high bitrate MP3 very differently, let alone the subtle differences we’re talking about here.


In addition to this, audio engineers mastering albums often have different masters for vinyl vs. CD resulting in different dynamic ranges.

It's not just a matter of reproduction. Humans make the products different.


THIS. A super crappy master mix for a CD vs a good mix for vinyl is the reality.

Look at the bottom of this page:

http://brianstagg.co.uk/p_t_a_clipressed/


16 bits per sample can provide 96dB dynamic range [0].

If you were listening to music at that volume, it would generally be considered unsafe, and you would potentially have hearing loss beyond 37 minutes [1]

16 bits is plenty.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_bit_depth [1] https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/default.html


You miss an important part of the sentence in the second link: "The NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) for occupational noise exposure is 85 decibels, A-weighted".

dB expresses the ratio of one value to another. So without knowing what the other value is, it's rather meaningless. But it is unfortunately an often-made mistake: how many times haven't you heard or read just dB as such? Anyway, this means you cannot simply compare dB dynamic range with dB used to express sound pressure level of which 'A-Weighted' is just one standard which gets used. Those are completely different things. Simply said, you can play 96dB dynamic range music at sound pressure levels which you won't even hear. Or at sound pressure levels which damage your ears nearly instantly.


I think you confusing Range with the loudness here - a good sound card like my Foucsrite Clarett has a range of up to 119 db.

And 96 to 119 is huge improvement.


As others have said, you appear to be confusing bit depth dynamic range for total loudness. They are related in a way, but not in the way you seem to think. (I will demonstrate to you below how even 20 bits per sample can be extremely insufficient.)

First: Bits per sample just describe how many discrete amplitude values (2^bits) are possible at each sample of a recording. The waveform is quantized to these values.

To understand quantization in the context of dynamic range, imagine how many bits per sample are needed to recreate a very quiet sound without loss, and then check how many bits you need to extend that to reach very loud sounds in the same recording file.

For example: How much precision would you need to accurately record the sound of a pin dropping (10db)? 4 bits? 8 bits? 10 bits? 12 bits?

Let’s be really absurd and say we can use 4 bits — just 16 discrete values — to represent a pin dropping sound (10db) cleanly and indistinguishable from the real thing. This is so obviously impossible, given how terribly quantized the waveform would be, but let’s be generous and assume it works.

Now, for the same audio file to reach all the way up to 110db (not uncommon for bass drum hits in an orchestra for example) is an extra 100db of dynamic range, which is 100,000x the amplitude, which is a little over 16 bits in addition to the original 4. So, rounding down, we’d need 20 bits to represent 10db sounds (with quantization down to only 16 discrete amplitudes) and 110db sounds in the same recording.

I think it’s extremely obvious that even 20 bits in this example is far from sufficient. In fact, even 24 bits would be insufficient if 8 bits per sample are not good enough to record a pin dropping at 10db!


> How much precision would you need to accurately record the sound of a pin dropping (10db)? 4 bits? 8 bits? 10 bits? 12 bits?

The absolute minimum threshold of human perception is about -8dB. 1 bit corresponds to about 6 dB of dynamic range, so the sound of a pin dropping at 10 dB can be represented perfectly within the limits of human hearing using only 3 bits.

Additionally, with proper dithering, the effective dynamic range of a 16-bit digital signal is around 120 dB. That's sufficient to reproduce everything from the -8 dB absolute quietest audible sound all the way up to your 110 dB bass drum.

See https://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html#toc_1... for a more detailed analysis.


Claiming that a 10db pin drop can be accurately reproduced with only 3 bits per sample without dithering is a rather extraordinary claim, given that human hearing is sensitive to far more than 8 levels of amplitude <= 10db absolute SPL.

A pin drop contains a continuous and gradual decay of the ringing over time, which most certainly is audible (at least subjectively) in more gradations than just 8 levels before reaching 0.

But this isn’t just subjective: Studies have confirmed that humans can hear decibel differences of 1db quite reliably, and can even hear as little as 0.2db subconsciously (this can be objectively measured)!

So long as you can hear a pin drop ringing at 1db, and also at 10db, it’s therefore obviously true that 3 bits per sample (undithered) is insufficient to express this (keep in mind, these samples are linear amplitudes!)

So I’m not sure how you can possibly claim that 3bits is enough to replicate the continuous amplitude decay of a pin drop’s ringing sound. What am I missing?

That’s said, I will now go read your link. I agree dithering is one viable way to expand the dynamic range, but you also seem to be claiming this 3bit pin drop is true without dithering.


I may be misunderstanding some of the math, but it's important to keep in mind that decibels are logarithmic. Adding 6 dB doubles the amplitude, which is why adding another bit to a digital audio format adds 6 dB of dynamic range.

Since we can't hear any sound quieter than -8 dB SPL, then (I think) we can't hear a difference smaller than the 6 dB between -8 and -2 dB because that difference is quieter than the threshold of human perception. Similarly, the next perceptible change in amplitude would be to +1.5 dB (3x the threshold of perception), then 4 dB (4x), 6 dB (5x), 7.6 dB (6x), 8.9 dB (7x), and 10 dB (8x).

So, since 10 dB is 8 times the threshold of human perception, I think eight discrete values should be enough to represent everything we can hear up to that point.

Of course, I'm assuming we can only hear in discrete increments of the minimum threshold of perception, -- it makes sense to me that we would be unable to hear a difference in amplitude quieter than the threshold -- but this could very well be a mistaken assumption. (It's also worth pointing out that 10 dB is very, very quiet -- the article I linked says 20 dB is the standard noise floor for a soundproof room/recording studio.)

Another way of thinking about this is in terms of quantization error. Our 3-bit pin drop signal can be interpreted as the original analog signal plus a quantization error, and that error is clearly always quieter than the minimum threshold of perception.

Edit: This article [0] contains a table for the minimum detectable difference in sound level. It shows that, at a level of 5 dB SPL, the just-noticeable difference in amplitude is 2.5 dB at the frequency range of peak sensitivity -- which is pretty close to the numbers I found based on discrete multiples of the absolute threshold. So it looks like 3 bits is indeed sufficient for our pin drop (unless I'm mistaken somewhere).

[0]: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/just-notice...


Firstly: I agree that with dithering, properly mastered CD quality should be more than enough in almost all cases. Yet, despite my agreement here, the meta-analysis I posted above clearly demonstrates that empirically we are both wrong! Obviously, it's bad to try to deny robust evidence just because our theories don't fit it; that's the opposite of scientific progress. Clearly, further investigation and possibly even theoretical adjustments will be required here, no matter how much we may believe we have had the math and psycho-acoustics nailed down.

I think there's a lot of subtlety being missed between dynamic range and resolution. For example, I think your JND (just noticeable difference) assumption is incorrect; my understanding of the scientific consensus is that a 1db difference at any volume is consciously perceivable to "normal" human hearing (and 3db to virtually all humans), and a 0.2db difference has been shown to be subconsciously perceivable by most. This places the required bit depth (not counting dithering) of an audio recording spanning all human perception WELL beyond 96db, and probably somewhere in excess of 120-140db! This is consensus, BTW; hence most CD-apologists people defer to the dithering argument :)

Also, I did finish reading that article up to the point about bit depth, and unfortunately there's quite a bit of either bad and misleading data in there unfortunately. While the article does contain some very good true info, it's sadly riddled with enough bad/outdated claims that I can't really recommend it to anyone as a reputable/trustworthy source of truth. It strikes me very much as if the author is unaware of how imprecise our approximate understanding of psycho-accoustics actually is, when it makes extremely overconfident claims like "CD quality will be enough FOREVER".

For example, the point made about near infrared being invisible to all humans is obviously false: most humans can't, but a certain percentage of blue-eyed humans can see near infra-red (including remote control IR). I've known one such person personally, and have tested and confirmed this thoroughly. I agree that it's silly to try to make a TV that emits these frequencies (and cameras that capture them), but my point here is simply: there's a lot of bad info in that article, perhaps shamefully so for an article making such bold and confident assertions under the name of "science".

Regarding bit depth, the article doesn't really even try to dispute the fact that 96db is insufficient; it just says with dithering, we shouldn't have to worry about it. I'd love to agree, but the combination of the meta-analysis that shows it's not sufficient is all I need to prove that your linked article is simply wrong.

There many be a wide range of reasons why the meta-analysis found high res audio to sound slightly better, but none of that invalidates the validity of the results themselves.

For example, maybe most DACs aren't very good at replicating dithered subtleties (I'm just speculating examples here) -- supposing such a common problem exists, then we could debate whether it makes more sense to improve DACs with fancy improvements to dither reconstruction filtering -- OR -- we could just encode at least 140db of dynamic range in the sample bit depth in the first place! The latter seems a far simpler and less-overengineered solution to me.

Dithering is fine when it works, but let's be honest: fundamentally, dithering is a kind of compression algorithm that encodes a greater dynamic range within a signal with an artificially constrained dynamic range (but with the side-effect that not all DACs will handle it equally well). In the modern digital world, there's no need to rely on dithering any more in audio signals, in the same way that we don't see dithered 256-color images much any more. Why don't we leave compression up to the compression algorithms, rather than promoting ACDs/DACs that are glorified compression/decompression hardware? Modern lossless compression algorithms are vastly better anyway, if bitrate savings is the goal.


> I think there's a lot of subtlety being missed between dynamic range and resolution. For example, I think your JND (just noticeable difference) assumption is incorrect; my understanding of the scientific consensus is that a 1db difference at any volume is consciously perceivable to "normal" human hearing (and 3db to virtually all humans), and a 0.2db difference has been shown to be subconsciously perceivable by most.

The Wikipedia article about JND seems to imply that the general 1 dB rule may not necessarily apply near the limits of perception. I haven't found a whole lot of more detailed information; however, the table I linked in the edit to my previous comment seems to indicate that the JND in dB gets much higher at very quiet volumes.

> For example, the point made about near infrared being invisible to all humans is obviously false: most humans can't, but a certain percentage of blue-eyed humans can see near infra-red (including remote control IR)

The article does mention that at some IR remotes can be visible:

> Can you see the Apple Remote's LED flash when you press a button? No? Not even the tiniest amount? Try a few other IR remotes; many use an IR wavelength a bit closer to the visible band, around 310-350THz. You won't be able to see them either. The rest emit right at the edge of visibility from 350-380 THz and may be just barely visible in complete blackness with dark-adjusted eyes. All would be blindingly, painfully bright if they were well inside the visible spectrum.

It has a footnote with more detailed information:

> The original version of this article stated that IR LEDs operate from 300-325THz (about 920-980nm), wavelengths that are invisible. Quite a few readers wrote to say that they could in fact just barely see the LEDs in some (or all) of their remotes. Several were kind enough to let me know which remotes these were, and I was able to test several on a spectrometer. Lo and behold, these remotes were using higher-frequency LEDs operating from 350-380THz (800-850nm), just overlapping the extreme edge of the visible range.

I don't have enough time or knowledge to really dive in to the scientific studies. That being said it's worth noting that a large number of studies that have found no perceptible difference between CD-quality and higher-resolution audio, and (as you mention) there are a lot of ways for minute hardware differences to skew the results either way.

> Dithering is a kind of compression algorithm that encodes a greater dynamic range within a signal with an artificially constrained dynamic range

Dithering does more than just expanding the dynamic range: it ensures that quantization error produces a predicable noise floor rather than input-dependent distortion. This video, by the author of the xiph.org article I linked before, has a good explanation and demonstration of dithering (use the chapter selection menu to skip to the "dither" section): https://xiph.org/video/vid2.shtml


Agreed; The default signal processing and lack of transparency on the sample rate and depth conversions through the whole system are a pretty frustrating aspect.

The dust/scratch factor of vinyl has a much bigger impact than 16 vs 24bit or much of the signal processing issues.


Do you know where to find the actual meta analysis that article is talking about? They mention the journal, but not the title. I'm not really sure what their criteria were.

To me, it would seem that in order to compare the two, you would basically need to resample the 24/192 recording, with dither, and then resample it back to 24/192; and you would need to choose a high quality resampling filter. Anything other than that I wouldn't really consider a comparison.

Furthermore, given that the measured sensitivity is more likely on the frequency front than on the dynamic range front, did they establish a distinction between 44.1kHz and 48kHz?



Thank you! It really is interesting, it seems like there's an opening for a better-designed experiment. Wonder if there's anyone at the local universities interested in that sort of thing.

> durable ... Oh, the CD!

In my experience CD’s are anything but durable.


I think "durable" here means "can be read without physically damaging the media".

Ah, right, yeah, good point, that I can agree with.

I have CDs from the early 90s that still play fine. I have vinyl from the 70s that plays fine as well. I can resurface the CDs, not so much the vinyl.

You can also make an infinite number of perfect replicas of your CDs. You can carry backups of every CD ever made on a flashdrive that fits in your jeans pocket, then recreate any of them at any time with no degradation in quality.

There are some quasi-plausible arguments for vinyl, but arguing that durability is one of them is hilariously myopic.


> You can carry backups of every CD ever made on a flashdrive that fits in your jeans pocket

Gracenote had 3 598 785 CDs in their database in 2005 [1], so I'll take that as a lower bound on the number of CDs ever made.

I don't know what the largest flash drive that will fit in a jeans pocket is, but the largest I was able to find is 2 TB, but SanDisk showed a 4 TB prototype at CES 2019, so I'll go with that.

Assuming lossless compression that averages reducing the size of a song by 75%, a 4 TB flash drive could hold 1 662 149.1 minutes of music.

Unless the average CD is under 27.7 seconds long, that's not even enough to hold all the CDs known to Gracenote in 2005.

Anyone want to do the math if we allow lossy compression to squeeze more in (although I wouldn't consider it a backup of the CDs if lossy)?

[1] http://alchemi.co.uk/archives/mus/how_many_cds_ar.html


If we move the goal post slightly, we could perhaps conceivably fit all 3.5 million CDs (compressed losslessly) on micro SD cards that would fit inside of the volume of a jewel CD case:

https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=177.5+cm%5E3%2F%28%28%...


https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2018/2/20/17031256/w...

That'll fit in my pocket, so that's 240 million megabit, 160 million seconds, or 2.7 million minutes, about 1 million songs. OK not every song ever, but a good portion, and possibly every song that's been in the charts.

I did see one claim that there had been as many as 100 million songs ever recorded, which would mean the density won't be there fore another 15 years or so.

An average person can expect to live upto about 2.5 billion seconds, which requires (for stereo 44.1khz 16 bit), about 220TB - 2.7TB a year. Given the growth of storage, you could record everything you hear from now to forever, keeping it in your pocket.


Storage capacity has been increasing much faster than new CD volume is being created (relatively speaking), so if it isn't true today it soon will be.

Perceptually lossless and mathematically lossless are two different things. I'd be happy with the former.

But for a backup, you’d want actual lossless compression, wouldn’t you? Not for listening, but for re-encoding.

I think it's something I could tolerate sacrificing if the storage gains were substantial.

Sort of - sometimes there's sub-channel data that is very hard to properly replicate; only certain drives even expose that data to correctly extract. Making perfect audio CD image archives is surprisingly hard.

E: Specifically I'm talking about the P & Q channels, but this can also include R through W which while technically unused, still contain data in some form.


What do you mean by "sub-channel"?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_Disc_subcode

Most audio CD extractors do not provide all of this channel data, as only the digital audio is extracted. When a CD is re-burned, the subchannel data is regenerated, but not a bit-for-bit copy of the original. Sounds the same (usually), but sometimes there is metadata, easter-eggs, and what-not that is omitted. Additionally, some copy protection relied on adding corrupted subchannel data which low end CD players would skip, but high end extractors would not. Having the original subchannel data can be key and necessary to determine whether a sector was infact incorrectly extracted or not.



I have CDs from the 80s and 90s that are eaten by metal-eating bacteria. Good luck resurfacing that layer.

Try contacting the original publisher. I did this with the small number of my discs that "rotted" and they were replaced with brand new ones without question. Probably because the industry made such a big deal about them "lasting forever" at the time of release. One disc was not replaceable (it was a weird compilation album that was no longer available) but the publisher let me pick another disc from their catalogue instead.

If we’ve got data, let’s go with the data.

If all we’ve got is opinions, let’s go with mine:

None of the CDs I’ve ever bought still works. I’m probably not as careful with my things as you are, so there’s that.


Your original comment was of your experience, so I shared mine.

Unfortunately, due to manufacturing defects there are discs that will or have oxidized, so the durability of CDs (or other optical media) is not always as reliable as advertised. But as the sibling post to yours points out, CDs provide error correction and along with oversampling provides means of creating effectively bit perfect copies that can be as durable as the current state of the art (redundant, solid state, geographically diverse, etc.)


If you look at the side of a CD, nearly all of that clear plastic you see is the protective layer. You can (or at least could) purchase a device to shave off a very thin layer of plastic to remove all the scratches on the surface to resurrect the disk.

CDs are durable and don't need special handling? Pull the other one.

Sorry, but if you want your music to sound like God, it's analog from mic to speakers or GTFO.

What does this comment add to the conversation here?

This seems kind of counterproductive for the (I think) vinyl target group. If I listen to vinyl, I want the kinda retro feeling "real" analog audio signal, else I'd just get a CD or online download. A mid-range stylus is completly sufficient for a great experience without any noticable noise and next to no real wear on the records.

I'd add that the ritual around vinyl (i.e. manually adjusting tone arm, touching a vinyl and placing it on the platter, etc) is the part that people like the most, not the actual sound. I don't think anyone would be able to discern a new vinyl from a cd in a blind test.

Strongly disagree.

A major reason is that you can't really get away with the crappy loudness war style mastering on vinyl. Just because of that they sound way better than most digital masters.


Well... you can. You just can't make them as loud on the absolute scale. But there's nothing preventing you from compressing your audio to death, then reducing the overall volume before you press it to vinyl. Once people turn up the volume, they still get the compressed audio that was the input of the process.

There's also the well-known effect where the process of recording and playing a vinyl creates dynamic range (as measured by various tools) where there is none. Some vinyls that are known to be from the same master as the CD still get much better scores on http://dr.loudness-war.info/

A very nice technical discussion of this myth is here: http://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=Myths_(Vinyl)#Myt...


This is not the problem of a medium (be it a vinyl or a CD). You can put the same crappy mastering to a vinyl.

I thought vinyls needed to be specially mastered to prevent the needle from basically being pushed to the adjacent grove by an amplitude that's too high on the track.

Yes, but that's no barrier to compression, which reduces the dynamic range. Compressed material is all at about the same level. The reason people speak of the "loudness wars" is that after compression, even the parts of the music that would have been quieter are now almost as loud as the peaks.

It's actually quite ironic, I think, that compression has become such a fad only now that we have digital media with their much lower noise floor. We have more dynamic range available, but we're using less of it.


> Yes, but that's no barrier to compression, which reduces the dynamic range. Compressed material is all at about the same level. The reason people speak of the "loudness wars" is that after compression, even the parts of the music that would have been quieter are now almost as loud as the peaks.

The point is that if you want to make a vinyl sound "as loud as possible", you're best off not compressing it, since you can have higher peak volume in one groove if the adjacent groove is quiet. Whereas when mastering a CD, the way to make it "as loud as possible" is just to crush everything up to 0dB.


This doesn't make sense to me. When I say "the parts of the music that would have been quieter", I'm mostly not speaking of softer passages vs. louder ones. I'm referring to the fact that even within the span of a single measure, the original signal will generally have had significant peaks and valleys. I don't think it's possible, given the number of pairs of adjacent grooves on a vinyl record, for a recording engineer to ensure that no two adjacent grooves have peaks at the same moment.

What makes compressed music sound "loud" is that there's some sound present to the ears at full volume, or nearly so, at all times. It's not that it simply has a higher peak level. Indeed, it's the listener who controls the peak level of the sound that reaches their ears, not the recording engineer — they can always turn the volume up or down as they please. The reason compressed music sounds "loud" is that it has a higher average volume than uncompressed music of the same peak level.


> This doesn't make sense to me. When I say "the parts of the music that would have been quieter", I'm mostly not speaking of softer passages vs. louder ones. I'm referring to the fact that even within the span of a single measure, the original signal will generally have had significant peaks and valleys.

I don't think that can be right - sound is a waveform so even the loudest notes will oscillate around zero. "Loudness" would usually be defined as something like root-mean-square amplitude, but if we zoom in to talk about a single note (sine wave) then the peak amplitude and the RMS amplitude are in a direct relationship with each other. On the scale of a whole piece, yes there's a difference between average and peak, but on the scale of one groove to the next - a couple of seconds - I don't think there's any practical difference.

The complaint I've heard about "loudness wars" e.g. Californication is precisely that there are no soft passages - every bar is pushed up to full volume. I'm not aware of anyone talking about the effects of compression on a smaller scope than the couple-of-seconds scale.


> sound is a waveform so even the loudest notes will oscillate around zero

Sure. When I refer to "peaks and valleys" I'm talking about the envelope of the waveform. I think that's standard usage in audio engineering.

I think you should download Audacity or equivalent and look at some waveforms of both uncompressed and compressed music. I think you'll see that there are loudness variations on a much shorter timescale than you expect, and that compression reduces these considerably.


I'm speaking mostly about compression. It's the worst part of the loudness war: we lost dynamic range even though we have technically superior mediums.

This is basically my position; I buy lots of music on vinyl and I hold no illusions that it's "higher quality" or "better fidelity" or that I could tell the difference between a song played off one of my records and the same song played from a CD with my eyes closed.

But I like the rituals around it: taking the album out of the sleeve and looking at the artwork; placing the album on the table and setting it to spin; lowering the needle. I like how I have to purposefully listen to the music - you can't just set up a playlist and walk away, you have to pay attention to the songs and flip over the record once the side is finished, or put the second disc on.


Why is using a laser not real analog audio?

Since "real" was in quotes, I assume they're talking about the change to sound quality that is caused by the physical touching of the devices. It's not necessarily more clear or better, it's just different, and that's the point of doing something so retro. But if you aren't actually doing that thing, it loses a lot of the psychological value.

It's similar in some sense to the reasons why people go to see live concerts. The sound quality isn't better, it's just different, and feels "more real", although for concerts it is also helped by the fact that you're actually there.


>It's similar in some sense to the reasons why people go to see live concerts. The sound quality isn't better, it's just different, and feels "more real", although for concerts it is also helped by the fact that you're actually there

As I don't have thousands of dollars worth of stage speakers, amplifiers and audio equipment, there's a very noticable difference in sound quality between live shows and recorded music, depending on the venue.

You're also missing out a pretty big part of live shows, there's a difference between hearing a musician play a song live vs a recording. A recording is almost never one single take straight through and, depending on the artist, can be a fairly different rendition of the song.

An example, last concert I went to was cypress hill, they had a different DJ with them that mixed their tunes up pretty differently so the performance was.nothing like listening to one of their albums.


I don't see how CDs, in the abstract, can really be different from records, in that, surely you could apply a suitable filter to a CD decoder to make the output sound exactly like a record. Especially given modern computing power. It's just that, I assume, people have chosen not to.

same reason even the best CRT emulation shaders on a 4k screen still don't look as nice as a SNES game in a good CRT TV

That's largely because no currently available 4K screen can replicate the decay curve of CRT phosphors. MicroLED screens could theoretically manage it.

> The sound quality isn't better

For some bands, I'd actually disagree with that. Both what they are playing is better, and their released material is compressed to hell and back[1], which seems to be less prevalent live (though far from gone).

No doubt they _could_ do that recorded (anything you can do live you can match in a studio), but they _aren't_ doing.

There's also the non-musical elements - there's a difference between just playing some music and putting on a show.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war


In a very concrete way, the inability to apply hard-clipped brick-wall limiting and extreme compression is why vinyl often does sound better than CD - the physics of the needle-in-groove mean that there are limits to the amplitudes you can try to encode without bouncing the damn thing out.

So vinyl masters often (but not always) avoid the loudness war and have a wider dynamic range.


Hmm, this seems to be a common idea, but I don't think it's true. As I said above: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20914699

The problem isn't with the compression part per se, but rather with clipping. The two typically go hand in hand for modern needle-in-the-red CD masters.

Maybe true for rock concerts. Definitely false for classic or jazz live performances.

Which part is false? "Feels more real" or "sound quality isn't better"?

I suspect you mean the latter, though with modern audio tech, well-mic'd and mastered recordings can easily sound ... if not better, then more intense, than live performances.

Though there's nothing like seeing the music being performed live.


Yes, excuse the ambiguity.

To me a philharmonic concert sounds... very different than recorded audio. I'm confident I can double-blindly 100% tell the difference. And so can everyone else. This is one experiment I'd be happy to participate in.


I don't even really listen to music and I could do that.

And the obvious difference: live 'rock' etc. is still coming through speakers.


Steinway Lyngdorf

> To demonstrate the veracity of Lyngdorf's "Is it real, or is it Memorex" claim, Birkelund invited the trio to begin performing. After playing for what felt like, at most, 30 seconds, the musicians began to fade out as the volume of a pre-recorded track of the same music was turned up. Although the much too short demo left many in the room a gasp at how remarkably close the live trio and tuned-to-the-room system sounded, Birkelund failed to mention that the Model D system was never silent.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/steinway-lyngdorfs-elega...


I would guess (could be wrong) that the laser turntable involves some DSP and a DAC.

Normal turntables have a very simple analog signal path, with the needle moving electromagnets which emit the signal.


There's no reason they would have to be digital - Laserdisc was pure analog (until later discs added digital stereo sound)

> "real" analog

Best oxymoron I've seen in a while ("analog" literally means "simulating something else")


Oxymorons aren't based on etymology, but on meaning.

The casual and dictionary meaning of analogue today, in the context of vinyl and music technologies, is the opposite of digital (and technically that which "uses a continuous physical variable like voltage to represent data") not that which is simulating something else.

So "real analogue" just means "mechanism based on the actual use of a continuous physical variable like voltage to represent data" (as opposed to a digital version of such).


Audio recording and reproduction always has to be an analog of the original vibrating air molecules ( unless you can somehow perpetuate that vibrating air by storing it in a jar or somesuch)

The ELP Japan has some pretty back drawbacks other than price...

It doesn't work with coloured vinyl and it's worse than regular turntables when it comes to dust since it just reads it instead of potentially moving it away

There are some videos about it on YouTube and it looks like you have to meticulously clean your vinyl before playing it.


Could they mount an air-jet directly ahead or around their “needle” to solve that problem?

I really like that idea, although the dust on vinyl is generally statically charged so i'm not too sure how effective that would be. Also the noise might be an issue.

The vinyl groove is about 25-100 micrometer, and feature sizes on it go down to about 22.5 micrometer [1]. Lasers are extremely cheap today compared to what they were back in the day, and doing laser interferometry to detect features this small is not that difficult. I imagine a hobbyist with the right skill set could hack together a reader for a few hundred bucks at most.

[1] http://www.gzvinyl.com/About-vinyl.aspx


Not sure about hobbyists, and the price point.

Lasers are cheap, tracking for them is less so. To accurately read these grooves with sufficient resolution, you need 2 lasers (LPs are stereo), both looking at 45 degree inclination from different angles, and focused at the same point. That kind of accurate spatial + temporal sync ain’t trivial to accomplish. CDs/DVDs are much easier to implement. They don’t need similar resolution because digital, and they light their laser along the normal, only need to track 2 axes.

Even if you’ll manage to accurately focus both lasers, another problem is interference between left and right channel lasers.


> Even if you’ll manage to accurately focus both lasers, another problem is interference between left and right channel lasers.

Would aiming the lasers at slightly different spots and putting the channels back together in software work?


Probably yes but it’s not trivial. If lasers are 10mm apart from each other, a radial track curves by 3.8° between them at outer radius, by 9.5° at inner radius. Probably too large difference to neglect. The sensors probably need to rotate around vertical axis too, to compensate for decreasing track radius. Technically doable, just all these precise mechanical parts add cost, and unlike electronics or software they eventually fail due to mechanical wear.

The technical problem is already solved, but the product costs $15k: https://diffuser.fm/laser-turntable/ As you see from the description, they did it with 5 lasers instead of 2.


Would polarization angle have enough signal to be useful ?

Yep, modern optical computer nice have sensors north of 10000 dpi, so ostensibly a hacked up mouse/scanner could read all the data with plenty of room for error.

A colleague was doing this in a decade ago, I wonder if he ever got it working.


I'm not sure I can find the specific project I'm thinking of now (possibly [1]), but I recall that ~10-15 years ago someone scanned vinyl records with a consumer or "small business" grade scanner well enough that the scan could be played back with enough fidelity to be recognizable. Certainly far short of "all the data", but it's a data point for what can be accomplished with mass-market hardware.

[1] https://www.cse.huji.ac.il/~springer/DigitalNeedle/index.htm...


As I read that summary, feature sizes start at 22.5 µm and go down to 75 nm.

As they say, "significantly lower than the wavelength of visible light".


And how much of that 75nm feature is getting picked up by a diamond stylus? The stylii used in metrology grade surface roughness and contour analyzers can't pick up features even remotely close to that size and those are far finer and more sensitive that a turntables stylus.

Why does a laser have to work in the visible light spectrum? Lithography lasers have been drawing at 175nm for over a decade.

Unfortunately I don't have a link since I don't remember the name of the device or company, but I read about such a device that was using five lasers to do the tracking etc. The problem with this tech was that it was too accurate and would reproduce every tiny particle of dust in the groove as audible cracks or pops, where the traditional stylus would just have pushed the particle out of its way.

I remember reading an article about somebody 3D-printing vinyls a couple of years ago. It sort-of worked but it wasn't quite there yet. Still, 3D printing technologies improves very fast nowadays so maybe in the not-so-far future it'll make more sense to just print a new vinyl from the master the current one is too badly damaged rather than spend money on a super expensive turntable?

In either case I feel like it's somewhat missing the point of vinyls in this day and age, people like vinyls because they're simple and low-tech like audio tapes, VHS and Polaroids. If you really care about audio quality and preservation you'll be much better off building a good capture setup and digitize your vinyl. It's easier to protect and backup digital audio samples than a fragile physical object.


Many people swear their subjective experience of the music is better if not digitized. I'm not one of them, but I doubt digitizing vinyl is going to satisfy them. After all, why get the vinyl in the first place?

That's my point, I think what the parent is asking is antithetical to the vinyl experience.

That being said what I propose with 3D-printing is almost certainly what effectively happens with vinyls these days. I doubt music labels maintain a completely separate and parallel analog workflow in order to have "pure" vinyls at the end. Why bother when you can take the digital master and dump it onto the disk and nobody will be able to tell the difference?


I looked into 3d printing vinyl but it didn't make sense for my use case, which wasn't analog temp files.

We have the technology to 3d print records, though the audio-fidelity maybe isn't there (~2 years ago) for music more subtle sounds (jazz or classical). It also did not seem possible on an (affordable) FDM 3d printer and I didn't have access to an SLA 3d printer.

Keep in mind prints would take hours to do, on top of the usual delicateness of 3d printing.

Part of the joy of having a record is the rest of it, the album cover, the notes, etc. I wasn't trying to copy an existing record, so for me there was considerable effort required for those parts as well which made it harder to justify the extra effort 3d printing a record would have required.

Which brings me to my last point. There are numerous services that will accept a digital audio file and mail a physical record, in the $200-500 range (length/size dependent). Depending on your budget (esp compared to gaining access to an SLA printer and your time), that may be more effective.


>It's easier to protect and backup digital audio samples than a fragile physical object.

A fragile physical object has more charm.


A well setup turntable, with a quality cartridge, while it certainly isn't zero wear, isn't far from it. We're talking hundreds of plays.

Turntables that trash records are usually shitty turntables that, if they're even adjustable at all, aren't adjusted properly.


Not being sarcastic but this is very similar to how CDs work...

I know it's not really what you are mentioning, but I remember reading a paper of people being able to playback a vinyl from a high-resolution scan of it.

I can't find back the paper in question but I've found this which is in the same spirit: https://www.cse.huji.ac.il/~springer/DigitalNeedle/index.htm...


A needle would easily push tiny dust particles away while lasers have a problem with that. Also, a scratch might be a much bigger problem.

Now, if instead of a relatively simple one scanning laser beam you would make an image of the record with a moving scanner head, exactly like paper scanners and then used what's today is commonly called "AI" ... that could work.


My very limited understanding after talking to someone who was interested in this stuff, is that people are concerned with quantizing of the signal, which will happen with that laser solution. I’ve heard this is why audiophiles also use magnetic tape. To be clear I heard this second hand and am not directly familiar.

A completely analog laser scanning solution is entirely practical. There's no reason to sample it digitally.

But honestly, this seems like insane overkill. Vinyl has a ridiculously limited dynamic range, and digital recording at 24/48 is practically transparent even with low-end prosumer equipment. At the high end you have to work quite hard to spend more than $4k on a spectacularly clean and neutral studio-grade ADC/DAC. (You can spend more on madly expensive super-fi, but it's not going to sound any cleaner than a good Burl, Lynx, or Metric box.)

So if you spend $4000 on the turntable/arm/pickup another $4000 on studio grade converters, you can capture recordings that will be absolutely indistinguishable from the vinyl source. And your precious plastic disks can stay in their wrappers.


As far as DACs are concerned, you’d be surprised: A few hundred dollars (e.g. Topping D50) can get you drastically better performance than many multi-thousand dollar “audiophile DACs”:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/m...

Now as far as speakers are concerned, yes, you’ll need to spend at least a few thousand for a stereo pair capable of doing justice to this level of precision and dynamic range.


Ah yes, ASR. The place where a DAC or amp having a -100db SINAD means it's a terrible piece of hardware despite it being well below the threshold of human listening and the noise floor of the best recording and tube amps, who have significantly higher distortion, are considered terrible because of it despite the vast majority of people who actually listen to them liking them far more than some of the most beloved hardware at ASR (I'm looking at you THX and Topping hardware).

I belived in their swansong and bought into it up until recently, then I tried "terrible" hardware and dear God it sounds so much better.


For a good introduction to signal quantization and some of the myths surrounding that, A Digital Media Primer for Geeks, and especially the follow-up, Digital Show & Tell, are well worth watching. https://xiph.org/video/

Frankly there’s no saving the people concerned about quantization issues with digital vs vinyl. They clearly don’t understand the basic physics and that mechanical of PVC severely limits dynamic range such that with about 10 bits of signal and some noise you can quite comfortably transparently recreate vinyl. 16 bits is more than enough to record vinyl.

There’s no reasoning somebody out of something they weren’t reasoned into the first place, so usually this isn’t an argument worth having.

A modern laser interferometer could easily get well past the resolution that is limited by the vinyl structure itself.


It should be possible to do a laser system that is analog. As the distance to the groove varies continuously, that would cause a corresponding continuous variation in the intensity of the recombined beam in an interferometer.

I don't think the correspondence would be linear. There's probably something like cos(2 pi d / W) in there somewhere, where d is the distance to the grove and W is the wavelength of the laser. So you'd need some sort of equalization circuit on the output, but audiophiles are OK with that--they are used to RIAA equilization on vinyl already.

I assume that the variations in groove distance are much larger than the wavelength of the laser, which would mean that there are several plausible grove distances that give the same intensity output of the interferometer. I'm not quite sure how to handle that. I have a feeling an integrator would be involved, but details elude me at the moment.


Magnetic tape is still used in recording, but for the distortion it adds rather than concern about quantization. In fact, the audio is simply routed through the tape machine, then into a computer for storage.

Distortion here means both extreme distortion (e.g. clipping) which is what people often think of when they hear the word "distortion", or the more technical definition of any alteration of the input signal. The pre-amps, compressors, and so on will all add their own distortion to the signal. However this is desired distortion. Tape offers some of this, although I'm not familiar with what its exact characteristics are.

Clipping (when the input signal amplitude exceeds the limits of the storage medium or output device) is a type of distortion that can sound great or absolutely awful.

Digital clipping sound awful. The max amplitude is all 1's in the digital storage medium. When a signal exceeds this, for the duration of it exceeding every sample will have that same value of all 1's. The waveform will basically have the top lopped off. There will be sharp "corners" where it starts to clip, and where it stops clipping. Those corners create "pops". It makes that part of the recording unusable.

Analog clipping can be a very sought after sound though. The max amplitude on tape is when all of the poles of the magnetic material are aligned. This isn't perfect though and it's not instant, so you get a slower compression of the signal and some variation. The waveform will look like its top has been squeezed downward. This can sound amazing.

The quality on youtube is pretty bad (spotify or elsewhere is better), but this song has a great example. You can hear his voice distort in many places, but it sounds wonderful (particularly starting around 2:20 - 2:40 and 3:10). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAGS8UL9b6A


If you play the sound through the air, which is an analog medium connected to your ears, haven't you un-quantized that nasty digital information before you can hear it?

These types of "audiophiles" don't believe in the Shannon-Nyquist-theorem, there's no reasoning with them.

I don’t really see why you’d need such a thing (apart from marketing to audiophiles—who are willing to pay the buck—or for research/archiving purposes—who are also ready to pay the buck).

If you want supreme sound quality you don’t play from a vinyl. A CD (or even FLAC file) will always “sound” better, even from first play. I, at least, don’t really care about the minor degrading my mid-range turn table does to my records. Almost all of the new records I buy come with a download code, so if, for some reason, my record becomes degraded beyond listening—however many listenings that would take—I always have the option of listening to the higher quality FLAC file.


Disclaimer: I don't actually mean the following seriously. But one almost wonders if you could "play" a vinyl record that came with all the accessories of a vinyl record like sleeve/album art/etc., but the actual audio was coming from a "lip-synced" digital copy.

Again :-)


That's been done as a tool for DJs.[1] The vinyl record just has a time code. That feeds into a unit that has the song in a buffer. The time code is used to address the audio data in the buffer.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinyl_emulation_software


I've been looking at the possibility of using high speed cameras and image processing. I suspect this is a hackable problem using just open source libraries, off the shelf camera modules and cheap single board computers.

Look at Audio Technica's LP series

If you have a higher budget, check out Pro-Ject or Rega Planar


I think there’s some confusion in here that everyone buying vinyl is repeating the habits of our parents and grandparents. I think there’s this misconception we’re buying records of whatever the latest hit band is with only 3 good songs and mostly filler.

Vinyl today is very much about the collecting of good music and taking part in the physical ness of that collection. The b-side is just as good as the A-side, even if the sound quality isn’t as perfect as the original studio recording. It doesn’t need to be, and it has its own unique sound.

What I most love about the experience of owning vinyl is that it’s annoying to pick one song. So you almost have to expect to put it on the first track and listen to the entire set. It’s listening in the moment, since you can’t skip and you have to be ready to flip the album over. I love it.

Also the experience of going to second hand stores to chat with fellow music lovers and discover new artists feels very human to me. Even if Spotify can recommend with precision, it mostly acts as background music since I don’t have to pay attention.

Not saying this is everyone’s cup of tea, but as a music nerd, I’m happy with my hobby.


> Also the experience of going to second hand stores to chat with fellow music lovers and discover new artists feels very human to me.

It's really fun to buy .50 cent records because you like the cover. I've discovered some good music that way.


> The b-side is just as good as the A-side

For me this is really important, When I used to collect vinyl I'd seek out 12" special editions of songs simply because of the obscure gems that the artist/label would put on the B-sides. Even now I'm sure that a lot of those B-sides still haven't made it into the digital domain.

I also loved picture discs along with great album art. Both of these things seem to now be a relic of history now that digital music is the de facto method of consumption.


Some artists do special masters for vinyl, though. For Devin Townsend's new record, Empath, he spent an extra month (I believe) just mastering the vinyl version, not to mention the tremendous effort for extra artwork. This intentionally different sound offsets the technical inferiority of the format.

Wholeheartedly agree with your comment, though. My house as a "music room" without any screens for that purpose. Some people might say that's a bit excessive, but I too enjoy my hobby. :)


Vinyl is still super popular in the punk/hardcore/DIY scene. Hell, cassettes are still pretty popular too, but basically take a look at https://triplebrecords.limitedrun.com/store or https://deathwishinc.com/ - and these are just the relatively "bigger" bands, lot of local-level bands still do it too.

Vinyl is one of the best examples I have found of "worse is better".

By revenue, not by units sold.

Still interesting, and not really surprising based on my anecdotal experience of artists I follow. Streaming audio is good enough for most sound systems commonly in use.

Vinyl serves as a better collectible from a favorite artist for a few reasons.

  - more room for cover art

  - physical analog medium (superficial, but has value to some)

  - requires more care than CDs (proves the owner’s dedication to maintaining the collection)

  - limited production runs make it more scarce than easily copied CDs

I think the "good enough" phrase you used really touches on the reason vinyl still exists.

Streaming is "good enough." But physical media is a different experience. It's more intimate. You can touch, feel, and examine the music and the packaging. Some bands (REM is one) even put Easter Eggs in their physical media that can't be reproduced by digital.

Streaming is fine for when you want to fill your space with sound. Physical media is for when you want to really enjoy the music. Read about what you're listening to, see the artwork and photographs, and experience an album of music on the order it was meant to be heard.

As one of many examples, a streaming service can play "Home by the Sea" by Genesis. But I've never encountered one smart enough to then follow that with "Second Home by the Sea," which is how the music was made to be heard. Some services will even play "Second Home" on its own, which is jarring.

Music is one of the increasing number of areas where people are figuring out that abdicating human curation for machine selection just isn't the same thing.


> Physical media is for when you want to really enjoy the music.

Wow this is some condescending, pretentious nonsense. Also, every streaming service I've ever used is perfectly capable of playing an album in order.


At a minimum they're different experiences.

Sitting down and listening to an album is different to playing your mp3 collection on random. You're listening to a collection of songs, as intended. You're listening to songs that perhaps aren't your first choice and in other circumstances would just skip over, but those songs often turn out to be the 'best' songs. I think there's also something to be said for having the physical disc. It just makes it more deliberate.

I don't think it's a limitation of streaming technology. If anything it's a limitation of physical media. Infinite, zero friction choice doesn't necessarily make us happier though.


Nothing is stopping anyone from listening to whole albums with streaming. I do. It's cultural, not media carrier dependent.

Agreed. I think you're understating the importance of culture though.

You're discounting the value of physically experiencing the media you're consuming. Pretentious or not, it really is a different feeling, something that streaming can't replicate.

For you maybe. It gets pretentious and condescending because obviously it's an important and strong sensation for him, maybe not as important to others. Diminishing someone else's experience of music as being less whole than your own is nonsense.

Enjoy the pleasure's you've found in life, but recognize they're not universal. I would also argue that the experience described has to do in part with nostalgia, since my young nephews feel very passionately about music and have never owned a physical album and I wouldn't dare tell them that an album they've loved or experienced and been moved by was some inferior experience because they listened while staring at their ceilings in their beds rather than looking at a gatefold.


I don't care about physically experiencing musical media. I grew out of that in the 80s when I moved around a lot and had to keep moving multiple boxes of vinyl up and down multiple flights of stairs.

If my FLAC collection was on vinyl I'd have to buy it a house of its own. Moving would require a military budget and a series of strategic planning meetings.

That would rather more physical experience than I care for.


I'm not saying one should listen to vinyl exclusively, I agree that's ridiculous. But it is important to maintain and curate a physical collection of music -- wthether it's vinyl, CDs, FLAC, or MP3, and that is something that streaming makes impossible.

Important to you. Not me

Physically experiencing? You mean the act of placing a record on the player, or something else?

So only the person who touches the album gets the full experience?


Not quite so literally, but yes. Placing the record on the player, admiring/flipping through the album art, passing it around amongst friends, actually caring/worrying about the state of the record player, all sorts of things.

Why the mocking tone?


I wasn't trying to be mocking, just more incredulous. I grew up with albums as our primary source of music, but it was always just put the record on and listen. It was purely functional, being the best way we had to listen to music.

When CDs came out, it was so nice because it was easier to handle and care for.

I guess it is just the strange feeling of someone describing something that was just the functional way of doing something in such a romantic way.

It would be like if someone in the future invents a device that perfectly cleans your teeth in seconds, and someone describes a toothbrush as being this great thing because you can physically scrub your teeth with it.

I only used it because I had to, and was happy something easier came along.


There's definitely a happy medium here which involves all of CDs, streaming and vinyl. I like listening to vinyl records (as I am right now http://oirase.annexia.org/tmp/20190908_183833.jpg) but only because it's a lazy Sunday afternoon. There's a joy (really) to the ritual of getting up and changing the record over, and admiring the 12 x 12 inch artwork. But the rest of the week I'm busy and listening to MP3s off a USB stick.

Exactly. Those of us who grew up with albums aren’t buying them now. We’re intimately familiar with the limitations of that medium. I have zero interest in going back. And this from someone who still buys a lot of music.

I grew up with albums (plus learned to DJ with vinyl) but I also strongly believe in physical ownership and find this rental/streaming model abhorrent. It boils down to feelings and one's relationship with their music

Those of us who grew up with albums aren’t buying them now

I grew up with albums. I even played vinyl on the radio for years. I still buy vinyl now.


Speak for yourself.

This reminds me of the moment where there's always one person in a group who realizes that they are the only one in the group who wipes their ass standing up.


It's a tactile feedback thing, very similar to how physical keyboards are completely different in experience than touchscreens with a keyboard.

I have some newly-released vinyl and cassettes I bought partially for the novelty, partially to support the artists (one artist I listen to releases only on digital and cassette).

I also thought there would be more nostalgia and fun in listening to vinyl, but after 30 seconds I'm now lost in the music and there's absolutely no difference in the medium it's being played on.

Until I hit the end of side A and have to turn the disc over.

(of course I don't want to diminish anyone's enjoyment of what they like - I have the stuff I enjoy doing that others find a waste of time - your statements just come off as too absolute - it's definitely a personal preference!)


There's a middleground: I'm a music collector and enthusiast that maintains a lossless, digital-only library. All the benefits of truly owning music, including rare releases not available on any streamign service, with the convenience of a digital medium stored on my NAS and online (as a backup).

Obviously when it comes to rare music I have to buy and rip vinyl and CDs from time to time, but I couldn't care less about the physical medium or romanticizing nostalgic rituals. I care about the music. If I want to read background information and liner notes my iPad is always close by.


> Physical media is for when you want to really enjoy the music

You seem to have confused me with yourself.


Plenty of steaming services will play entire albums in track order.

How well do they do on albums with no gaps between some tracks?

Spotify used to not handle this well, but now it works perfectly.

They also support special-case DJ playlists for EDM etc: you can listen to the full track if you play it individually, but cue points and fade duration are stored in the playlist metadata such that the cross fade happens at the right point in the song so everything blends seamlessly. As far as I can tell you can’t configure this in user-created playlists though.


I haven’t paid attention, but from searching around it looks like they generally do this fine.

Yes, listening to Sgt. Pepper's from the Beatles this works fine in streaming.

SAGA: Goodbye / Once Upon A Time

...is another example.

Side note: That Genesis tune is amazing and I have not thought about it in years. I am off to have a listen.


Yeah, vinyl has a lot of love behind it because it has "object appeal" for the reasons you cite. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's a niche thing. As are cassettes (which ALSO are making a comeback of sorts, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EbJ4ZX4RIw)

None of these physical media are remotely comparable in terms of market-share to streaming, I expect.

It's just a thing, It won't last forever.

Good turntables are expensive and, let's face it, it's a pain in the ass to queue an LP.


I don't see it going away to be honest.

There will always be fluctuating amounts of people coming and going through enjoying records and record players. It's a hobby, and not even a particularly niche one. Plenty of inner city yuppies enjoy it.

They aren't exclusively buying records, they're collecting their most cherished works on LP and specially listening to them. It's not an all or nothing thing, which makes the pain in the ass aspect an important part of the hobby.

You want to listen to a specific song? Cast to your Chromecast with spotify.

You want to do a focused album listen? Chuck on a particularly cherished album? Show off to a friend? Then you switch to the Vinyl and do it.


Anyone know the environmental impact on the rise in vinyl? Probably so small it's nearly inconsequential but still (to me) a shame to see an increased focus on consuming physical items ultimately destined for the trash bin.

>physical analog medium (superficial, but has value to some)

I dissagree that vinyl medium is superficial. It is different entirely. Vinyl has a unique sound. Dynamic entropy is added during the playback from imperfections, many favor this outcome, not all.

Audio sources for vinyl duplication will undergo a seperate mastering process that is taylored for the vinyl version. Even if you do not request another mastering any good vinyl shop will have some adjustments they make before duplication.

All these variables will produce another version of the audio at the end. This will change propective and therefore put a perfect digital copy above or below the other in their mind.


‘Dynamic entropy’ - you mean ‘noise’, right?

You don't think all of those differences can be simulated digitally? I would be curious if people can't be fooled in a double blind test.

The sound is irrelevant. Taking out the record, putting it on a record player, placing the needle, and not being able to skip tracks without effort is a different experience than digital. Simulating the sound differences would be like cars that have the stereo speakers play exhaust sounds. It may sound the same as what you want, but it's inherently fake and viewed as a waste of effort by many.

The ritual of electromechanical device has some appeal. The arm, the spin up, the pops. Even CDs had some ~groove (yes intended), the tray and interface.

That's something digital media reduced almost to zero (I guess younger generations had the bliss of the ipod wheel).


I've sometimes thought about setting up my Shuttle Pro jog wheel to act like an iPod wheel...

While streaming is obviously the revenue king, the apples-to-apples soft-media comparison point for vinyl and CD is not streaming but digital downloads, which isn't covered in the OP article but is in the linked RIAA report. tl;dr: Currently digital downloads see about twice as much revenue as either CD or vinyl, but trending downwards while CD revenue is holding steady and vinyl experiencing mild growth.

Personally I like DRM-free digital downloads (as opposed to streaming) as they provide the best advantages of soft media while also being mine to fully control forever.


May I recommend Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior from Geoffrey Miller? Having a vinyl collection tells something about you...

Vinyl is one of those old-school technologies that seems like it's from the future. Somehow we turned sound into a disk. You can see and feel the sound and then a tiny needle will reproduce the original sound just by touching the disk. And in very high quality!

Blows me away every time I think about it. And we could have kept going: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitance_Electronic_Disc


Could have kept going...

The CED offers one hour of VHS quality per side that rapidly degenerates. I own a sizeable collection of them, and while sorta neat, it’s also sorta terrible.

The vinyl offers quality superior to most consumer tape equipment rivaled only by 11 ips reel to reel. CED had no quality advantages, decays rapidly and is non recordable. It was a non-starter.

The fact is that CED was in the works since the 50s when it may have had a short successful life, but RCA couldn’t get off their ass. In fact CED was the last consumer product ever released by RCA. (The RCA of today is just a badge on various crap after being divested by Thomson Consumer Electronics)

Also even though CED uses a stylus, the similarities end there. You can literally run your nail in a phono groove and hear the sound. It is a literal imprint of the sound wave. Video cannot be encoded in such a straightforward manner, NTSC and PAL are not trivially. Also the CED is not vibrating the stylus. Rather the stylus sits on ridges and the signal is depth encoded (therefore varying the capacitance, hence the name). It is much closer to a crappy laser disc in operation (which also encodes in analog.. not digital)


An old boss of mine worked on that beast! From the sounds of it, it barely worked in the lab. He told a story of getting so frustrated one day that he literally shoved his ‘scope off the back of the bench in frustration and walked out for the day. In his opintion, it is a good thing that it is dead and buried.

I have dismantled the players. Truly a marvel of electromechanical design. So many hand soldered and assembled parts. It is incredible they made it work mass produced. Too bad it was 20 years too late.

We kinda did keep going, except we put the grooves onto foil as little dots, and read them with a laser. Also, the whole thing is encased in polycarbonate.

You need a computer of some sort to decode that, whereas vinyl _is_ engraved vibrations.

It's possible that you could get sound out of a CD with just a shift register and maybe a PLL circut to sync up the boundries of the PCM codes, and a way to skip over the error correction data (which would be harder to make dedicated hardware for but probably not impossible.) The audio data on CDs is still just uncompressed PCM which really doesn't need a computer.

Engraved vibrations that have been transformed with the RIAA curve so that they will fit. It can be played raw, but most of the bass is missing. This is what pre-amps are for.

The frequency-dependent amplification performed by RIAA eq is in fact a simple analog computer!

Stands to reason it wouldn't have been impossible to make an analogue medium using similar technologies. Imagine the refraction angle varying continuously and some wide-range pickup that converts to electricity.

_why_, of course, is a different question


Laserdisc was an analog implementation of that technology. Eventually it also carried digital audio a la CD but the video and the original audio encoding were analog.

Are you sure that's not this RCA CED thing they're talking about?

I'll second it - LaserDisc was an analog medium - not digital. CED was analog also, but used a "stylus" to pick up capacitance changes from the "groove" depth. There's plenty of information out there on both processes; very interesting to see, you should check it out...


Very cool! Thanks for sharing.

Many years ago at a ham swap meet (used to be a thing pre-E-bay) a guy was selling an old record lathe that had come out (years earlier) of one of radio network affiliate stations in SF. It was used to record the network feed so that it could be time shifted to West Coast time. It had been hooked up to a leased telephone line and the live shows from the East Coast were cut into vinyl, and later played back over the air.

Obviously, tape recording evenually obsoleted that equipment.

Luckily, I had earlier that morning burned through my ham radio budget getting a HAL ST-6000 RTTY modem and associated goodies, so I was saved from the fate of adding that particular boat anchor to my collection.


So I've been thinking a lot about this video recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZ2czFuIYmQ

It talks about, demonstrates and measures the air quality around vinyl. Apparently the things are leaching dangerous compounds into the air constantly, especially when being played. It made his air quality measuring device give an alarm, instead of just reporting the number of particles or something.

I'm not sure, maybe it's just one of those thousands of every day life things which are technically carcinogenic, or not. It made me pause personally though, having recently lost a friend, who worked at a record store, died at a young age to cancer, had otherwise always been a strong healthy man. I'm actually more comfortable talking about this here, semi-anonymously, I don't think it'd be wise to bring this up IRL with anyone, on account of it possibly not having to do with anything. I kind of half-wish I hadn't seen the video.


I lost my dad to cancer last year, and I think it can be maddening to try to unwind the causes. I think when you lose somebody, the natural impulse can be to reach out for a cause, at least so you can understand it, and there's a tendency to seize on any evidence or theory, no matter how weak, just to have somewhere to lay down the blame.

So you might be right that vinyl records are dangerous, or maybe that had no impact. In my opinion it's best for one's mental health to trust scientific inquiry to tell us what's dangerous or not, and to leave everything else as an open question.


And considering carcinogens specifically, they're so ubiquitous in modern life in various tiny quantities that eliminating credible risks becomes an exhausting goose chase.

I just watched the GP video, and science does seem to support that vinyl records are likely dangerous.

The video creator uses an air pollution meter[0] to find out that his records are causing very high PM 2.5, VOC, and formaldehyde. The vinyl records seem to only need to be taken out of their sleeves.

The results look shocking. There have to be some HN users who have the knowledge and equipment to attempt to replicate this experiment. Please do that and share!

[0] https://youtu.be/aZ2czFuIYmQ?t=553


CDs are dying, but they are mostly being killed by streaming services, not by vinyl. Digital music formats are still the king by far. The vast majority of people don't even care that their streamed music is lossy and they lose out on high frequencies that their ears can't hear and their headphones can't reproduce.

Vinyl appeals to hipsters and dumb audiophiles (there are smart audiophiles, but they aren't buying vinyl), both communities that are prone to buying into hype. Hipsters move on as soon as something becomes mainstream, and dumb audiophiles will move on as soon as there is a more expensive option with newer/cooler buzzwords attached to it. Cassette tapes could replace vinyl someday as the hip alternative to digital music- it's retro and analog, plus they are portable and don't skip/lose track during heavy movement (which a record player would do if you could go jogging with one).


> Vinyl appeals to hipsters and dumb audiophiles (there are smart audiophiles, but they aren't buying vinyl), both communities that are prone to buying into hype.

I think enough people have commented about how obnoxious this statement is, but I'll go ahead and throw another couple of cents into the conversation

I think there is genuine value to artifacts. When you buy a record, you get:

* The record itself

* An 12" x 12" piece of art accosiated with the album

* A booklet of bonus content and anything else the artist wanted to include.

Not only is there added extra value in that (larger than a CD), but it can feel like an occasion to get.

But beyond that, there can be an interesting satisfaction in holding the literal physical interpretation of the sound you enjoy. There's a connection there for some people, and it shouldn't be discounted.


Your conception of vinyl buyers is very negative. I think there's another category of people that buy vinyl. If you really love an album and want to support the artist you can purchase the vinyl version of the album. Apart from supporting the artist you often get additional treats like a nice booklet with the lyrics or additional art/imagery.

I really think there's extra value in buying vinyl apart from it being hip.


If you want to buy a physical medium then CDs are the obvious option because objectively they are superior to vinyls in every aspects and they can also come with nice booklets.

I think that the hip-value of vinyls is extremely important.

I write that as someone who had no choice but use vinyls and tapes until I got a CD player...


CDs are just... awful. Nice booklets? You mean small booklets with tiny pictures and even tinier text. And they come in what I consider one of the most horrible containers of all time: the ugly and easily-broken jewel case.

Like vinyl, CDs can be scratched, but they sure don't degrade gracefully: the nice pops of vinyl becomes jarring skips on a CD up to the point where the CD just becomes unplayable.

Nowadays I have all my music on my computer, as files on the drive or from a stream. But when it comes to wanting something physical, something I can hold and look at (from the cover and extra material that comes with an LP to the wonderful spinning of a record as the sound emerges), vinyl easily wins.

But maybe I'm weird, because even in the mid '90s as a teenager I thought vinyl looked cool and was fun and fascinating to interact with. I hated CDs and their cases so much I even converted all my CDs to minidisc! Happily I kept them around until I ripped them to FLAC files.


Unless you happen to have scratched your CD really deeply to actually damage the data layer (which requires grooves of 1mm in depth), it's fixable though, a scratch in a vinyl is not.

Also, the last few albums that I bought did not come as jewel cases but instead "fancy" cardboard cases.


When I worked as a DJ back in the 1990s I observed that if a 12” or LP skipped you could momentarily turn off the tone arm bias and the extra inward force would usually ride over the scratch as of it wasn’t there. With CDs you were toast.

If a CD skipped then there was nothing you could do except stick another on ASAP.

CDs are a very fragile medium. Especially so if you scratch the top printed surface.

These days you’d do it all off a laptop with no moving parts and no skipping.

Protip number 2: always run your club system in mono. You can’t hear stereo in a club and combining the L+R channels cancels out most feedback coming through the stylus. Happy days.


I was a teenager in the mid 80’s, mostly with tapes, but with some vinyl. The first CD I heard (1987) was far superior sound quality. Vinyl has nice cover art, but that’s it. I’ll stick with CDs. Eventually those will become hip.

CDs for sure sound better then vinyls. It is also nice that you don’t need to turn them over half way through the album. However, when buying new albums, they almost always come with a FLAC download code. So you really have the best of both worlds when you buy the vinyl.

ps. The copy of “Von” by “Sigur Rós” I bought recently even came with extra CD instead of a download code.


My partner and I have our favorite albums in vinyl with the covers framed on the wall. You can't do that with CDs. Or you shouldn't.

Just bought some of these "vinyl frames" for our living room. It's wonderful being able to express your favorite albums in art form.

I disagree with the original comment parent strongly.


Records are much bigger though. In reality you probably aren't buying physical media to actually play the music so the asthetic becomes the most important thing part and records are better in that aspect

CDs are far from objectively superior, considering that there are many CDs which are completely sealed but suffering from disk rot due to poor quality control rendering them completely useless. A lot of older CD-based game systems are going through this problem where they're becoming unplayable despite no wear or tear.

The best of both worlds in my opinion is a vinyl + code for a digital copy, which seems to be the direction most have gone for.


And [literal] tons of vinyl has suffered warping from heat, being stored incorrectly. Or degraded from just being actually played on a record player more than a few times. Despite not being impervious, CDs are far more durable than vinyl records.

You're making a false comparison here.

Vinyl, when stored properly, will be fine. Yes, they suffer from wear and tear when used frequently, but you would have to use it quite a lot for that to happen.

CDs, even when stored properly, never used and still wrapped, will suffer from disc rot due to quality issues. This renders them completely unplayable. Calling CDs objectively more durable ignores that there were A LOT of poorly made CDs which have a considerably shorter lifespan.


You can also support artists by going to concerts and buying merch. If you're buying a lower quality audio option that degrades with usage, then you are buying into the hype at least a little bit.

There’s no evidence that vinyls are of lower quality than CDs. Moreover, vinyl masters are often far superior to thst of CDs. Comparing old classic rock vinyls to the new masters, the olds ones sound so much better because of the loudness war.

It's just a matter of what's available to buy.

People just want to buy mementos to support their favorite artists. It's not that hard to understand.

I'm pretty sure that if someone comes up with an album that's a flash drive + booklet in a vinyl-sized package then a lot of people would buy it. Something like that probably exists already.


> If you're buying a lower quality audio option that degrades with usage, then you are buying into the hype at least a little bit.

I buy them, I don't listen to them. I don't even own a record player, but I have like a dozen of titles I really like to listen to. It's the same with books, I've personally never opened the physical copies of the majority of titles on my bookshelf. I've read them on an e-reader and liked them so much that I wanted a copy that I can actually lend to people.


There's extra value and there's nostalgia and a shared-ness. But the question is, who's still going to buy them when there's a huge carbon tax proportionate to having a quarter-gigabyte of data on ten ounces of plastic shipped across the planet... that's when a lot of people will realize they haven't bought a record in years but still listen to music every day imho.

I'm a smart audiophile. I listen to digital sources. But I like vinyl because I like the aesthetics of it. It doesn't sound better.

I'm also 56 years old so I grew up with vinyl. There's nothing "hip" about me.


There's obviously nothing wrong with that, but I think the parent was more referring to those who buy into "analogue-woo" (if you will). It's bad enough in audio gear, but in synthesizers it's near-universal - "Analogue Warmth" at the expense of price, reliability, noise etc.

Perhaps you should spend a bit more time around music junkies before making such authoritative statements about the market for vinyl :). I am personally close to two communities who still consume vinyl for neither of the reasons you've listed:

1. Underground enthusiasts who enjoy digging for hidden gems that are difficult to find or don't exist on streaming/digital services

2. DJs who prefer vinyl as a medium for mixing


I think vinyl has a lot of understated advantages. Vinyl records are large physical artifacts that contain your music with nice, big covers that provide a great medium for artwork. And you have a cool physical ritual of placing it on the turntable. All of that gets lost with tapes and CD's.

There is plenty to enjoy about vinyl without buying into foolish ideas about fidelity. Nostalgia, the effect, the sense of occasion, the large variety of interesting old recordings, the artwork. Streaming is obviously “better” in any objective way, but that doesn’t mean it’s more fun. Same reason I’d get a Miata to enjoy driving even if my daily is a Tesla. Not for everyone but not wrong either.

True in that there are less die-hard CD fans compared to vinyl, which is always on a perpetual resurgence in some field or another, be that DJ's, wannabe DJ's, hipsters thru to audiophiles. It's always has a strong and following. CD's, not so, as digital, switch to other digital mediums just removed the negative part and that was having to take it out of it's caddy and placing into a player.....An experience less exciting than vinyl on many levels we could all probably agree upon.

So I'd say that this was inevitable and not a swing or sign of things in any way. Though perhaps how some formats, whilst simple, still excell. Which with analogue and digital in many area's, still seeing divides for quantifiable reasons. Photography would be another area in which has its own bastions of the film format camera's.

But vinyl has managed to carry on and not on the back of core users, it's had wave after wave and removing any single group, be them hipsters who move onto something else, won't suddenly kill off vinyl as many fashion born resurgences do.


I only buy vinyl because, funnily enough, it lasts. CDs scratch and become unlistenable. I’ve also had multiple name brand players crap out on me. Record players are much more reliable - and much easier to fix.

Also, in my favorite genre - electronic music - artists no longer put out CDs. So I pretty much don’t have a choice.


On an automatic 'table, maybe. On a manual 'table I find the styli too easy to damage with it is mishandled or falls off the edge of a record.

I just like having a physical copy of my favorite music. It is similar to how there's a greater appeal to rows of hardbound books on shelves compared to a Kindle loaded with epubs, even if the latter is more practical/portable/etc. I'm just going to stream the album anyway. If I'm going to go as far as to directly support the artist by purchasing it, for me it feels more substantial to buy the vinyl.

>Cassette tapes could replace vinyl someday as the hip alternative to digital music

That happened a few years ago


As it happens, I own several freshly printed cassette tapes from the last year or two.

Ditto. I found two of them at a local flea market, indicating that there's at least one more hipster out here on the countryside where I live.

Also, mix tapes are still awesome at parties; it gets rid of the fight about who gets to connect their phone to the stereo.


> Cassette tapes could replace vinyl someday as the hip alternative to digital music

well, there is DAT ...


Vinyl is one of the best ways to feel like you actually "own" music in today's streaming first world.

It's also a way to support underground artists who make art you appreciate - from the music itself to the cover art and the arrangement of the tracklist.

In hip-hop there's been a few small vinyl producers making super high quality vinyls for underground artists. They've gained a cult like following and can continuously sell out of 1500-2000 records at $60 per within an hour of release.

Those interested should check out...

Daupe https://daupe.bandcamp.com/music

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.factmag.com/2018/02/08/daup...

De Rap Winkel https://derapwinkelrecords.bandcamp.com/music


Vinyl's growth is somewhat limited by the world's pressing capacity. Old pressing machines are being brought back online where possible: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/dec/10/record-demand-... [2017].

When Jack White (of the White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and more) opened Third Man Pressing in 2017, he had the first vinyl pressing machines built in over 35 years. The machines were build by NEWBILT in Germany [1].

Third Man Pressing's about page also has a great video about the process: https://thirdmanpressing.com/about

[1] https://newbilt-machinery.com


As much as it pains me to say this, I think I'm a hipster.

I put a lot of attention and care into my audio and vinyl setup, but now that you can find albums at Walmart, the hip factor has been sucked out of it like a vacuum.

I've recently been downsizing, and this might be something that doesn't stay with me. I'll keep my signed albums, but maybe not the rest.


You could switch to cassettes, they are the new hipster format, and are at least 5 years away from Walmart.

> Discogs actually says cassettes are the fastest-growing format of the big three sold on its website — the others being CDs and vinyl.

https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/music/cassettes-and-cd...

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/feb/23/cassette-tape-...


Fastest growing is a synonym for smallest

Don't worry. If the music you listen to is sold in vinyl format at a Walmart, then you're not hipster enough to call yourself a hipster. :P

You misunderstood parent. He is worried that the vinyl format is sold at Walmart. Nobody cares what music is on that vinyl, it's all about the format.

The music matters too - you can only put hit albums from the 60s - 90s next to checkouts for $5 - $10 or the savvy shopper won't recognize they're an audiophile.

I was born in 1960, and I think I became a hipster when I graduated college (Berkeley) in 1982. That was when I moved to Portland because the only San Francisco jobs used Cobol. I didn't like SV and car culture.

But I always had trouble with vinyl. I lived in buildings with creaky wooden floors and the needle would jump when I walked by. I welcomed CDs.

My dad, however, was more hipster than me. And so I've just inherited 1000 vinyl albums.


I advise against selling your collection. I sold almost all of my vinyl in the late 80s and really regret it.

Also, one of my favorite vinyl albums ever was a cutout Flying Lizards record that I got for a dollar at some very un-hip store. Provenance has nothing to do with it, it's the album itself.


Records from the mid-70s through the 80's were pretty terrible quality.

Thats an interesting take... I have a mix of original and new pressings, and typically any re-release version Ive had has numerous flaws. Even those "180 gram audiophile pressings".

Heres a short list: 1) skips in the track/mastered too loudly 2) uses the CD master and not Vinyl master(anything current may just be that way because the original wasn't released on vinyl, so it sorta gets a pass) Probably the most disappointing re-issue Ive purchased was Led Zeppelin IV. sounded bloody awful, and... 3) the center hole is either a) too small b) too large 4) not so much the pressings fault but since people forget how to store and keep vinyl they usually sit horizontal in a hot warehouse so they are convex/concave depending on what side you play. Does not bode well for tracking even on nice turntables. 5) are usually released on "fancy" clear/colored vinyl which is for lack of a better word, dogshit. It wears more quickly and sounds bad.


My comment is a bit of an oversimplification.

During the oil embargo in the 1970s, US record manufacturers started to cut a lot of corners to keep their costs under control. Then when the price of oil fell, quality didn't come back very quickly.

Japanese and European imports were generally of very high quality virgin vinyl during that time and the quality in the US varied from label to label. The big labels were turning out a lot of very low quality records.


How long until future "hipsters" start seeing CDs as nostalgic? Although I kind of doubt we'll see a CD revival in 2035 or 2040.

I just got back into CDs :)

My daughter got a turntable and when I took her to the record store (Waterloo Records in Austin) to buy some records I felt like I had stepped out of a time machine. The experience was exactly as I remembered it when I was a kid. It's awesome.

I ended up buying some CDs then realizing I didn't have a CD player. So I bought one, hooked it up to the home theater receiver and was blown away by how good it sounded.

I ended up buying a desktop stereo system for my office and I listen to CDs as I work. The playing time is just about perfect as a reminder to get up, stretch, take a short walk, make a coffee or get some water, put on a new disc, and get back to work.

So now I'm buying CDs again and couldn't be happier. They are very inexpensive these days.


Linux floppy-disk edition for installing from a $300 thunderbolt3 3.5" or 5 1/4" floppy disk drive.

Admitting to hipsterism is the first step on the road to recovery. If you enjoy it, don’t throw it out just because it’s mainstream!

Why does it matter at all if they are sold at Walmart? That’s very shallow honestly. Either the vinyl gave you joy or it didn’t. It shouldn’t matter if others have easy access to it.

> I put a lot of attention and care into my audio and vinyl setup, but now that you can find albums at Walmart, the hip factor has been sucked out of it like a vacuum.

I don't think the hunt can be discounted. Part of the collector mentality is that the journey is as enjoyable (if not more so) than the destination.


Here I am listening to Daniel Barenboim's Beethoven Piano Sonatas spread over 24 sides of vinyl, purchased for under a tenner in a charity shop. A CD would be more practical, but the set of records is a real experience, even the getting up to skip the occasional scratch and turn over the records.

Edit: downvotes over 20 minutes. Do you doubt that I'm really listening to it (I am, before I read this news)? Or that vinyl is a real experience? Or that I'm some kind of "hipster" (I have thousands of records, and an equal number of CDs, collected over 30 years). Please reply, I'm interested what you have to say.

For the doubters, here's a photo: http://oirase.annexia.org/tmp/20190908_183833.jpg


These are good years for listeners of classical music picking up the occasional vinyl in charity shops and flea markets. In my experience, classic big name rock records get cherry-picked from everywhere by the proprietors of upmarket vintage stores, but classical music is left alone.

Demographically speaking, lovingly collected vinyl collections are steadily entering the market due to the generation that bought them dying of old age. Lots of great recordings available for bargain prices.


Yes exactly! I've also been collecting prog rock on vinyl for many years, but that is usually so expensive that getting CDs or youtube rips is far more practical. However classical/operatic box sets are the sweet spot of well preserved (incredible sound quality) and cheaply available. For example I have a second hand box set of Verdi's Aida which has probably bought me more joy than virtually anything else I own, and I'm not even really a huge fan of opera.

> A CD would be more practical

Actually most practical would be a streaming service where you can enjoy the entire work of art without interruptions.

Tongue in cheek so don't get riled up.


Sure :-) I guess by "CD" I should have said "digital format" or "digital stream". Having said that is there even a streaming service which would play an entire set of piano concertos? This thing must be 8 or more hours long. I've been listening to it in fits and starts over several weekends.

Also for the doubters, here's a photo: http://oirase.annexia.org/tmp/20190908_183833.jpg

As you can see I have CDs and a Squeezebox so I'm hardly opposed to digital :-)


I just looked and Daniel Barenboim's Beethoven Piano Sonatas is on Google Play Music and Spotify, so yeah unless something is pretty new/indie/remixy one of the two is going to likely have it

> Having said that is there even a streaming service which would play an entire set of piano concertos?

Classical Archives or Idiago are probably your best options for streaming classical music.


Any decent streaming service will let you build a custom playlist and play it in order, if it doesn’t already have the entire work as one “album.”

Thank you. There's an experience of owning, holding and playing a vinyl record which is quite different from clicking on a stream. It ties you to a place, forces you to pay attention at least when changing sides, has quirks, crackles and pops, and beautiful artwork you can hold in your hand while listening.

The digital stream is certainly more convenient and quite obviously available in more places. I don't say this as someone who is in any way "opposed" to digital music - I own and play a lot of it myself. In units of "minutes listened" probably much more than vinyl.


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