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Vinyl spins to mp3?

post brought to you by: dyson

Vinyl_by_traanceimage by traance

I’m hoping to get some help on this subject. I have a question I’ve been wondering about for some time now. What the hell is the benefit of converting an album on vinyl to an album of digital files??

I understand the basic reasoning that an mp3 is MUCH more portable than a vinyl record. I understand that sometimes there are older releases that you can find only on vinyl. But besides that I am at a loss for words. This just goes against the whole point of vinyl releases. Right??

Listening to a record pressed on vinyl is an experience. One that is somewhat sacred and is an unique experience that can’t even be put into the same category as downloading an album from iTunes or any other online media distribution site and loading it into your media player of choice.

In the audio recording world it is fairly common to cut your basic tracks to tape (analog) and then transfer them into an audio editing program (digital). I completely understand the logic of this. You get many of the benefits of analog tape but get all the benefits of something like Pro Tools to edit everything together without the use of destructive razor blades.

The difference with this is that the source was analog to analog. The musicians are the analog and the medium capturing their performance is analog. High quality digital gear is used carefully during the conversion to retain many of the great sounds hit to tape.

But with a vinyl record (that has possibly already been through many many A/D conversions, what is the benefit to then convert it back with some encoding program to an mp3?

I feel I know my fair share about audio. But this one stumps me. Please someone, help me understand. I will be eternally grateful.

12 Responses to “Vinyl spins to mp3?”

  1. Meghan says:

    I agree with you and think you are on the right path. The only common sense reason to rip vinyl into mp3s is to make it easy to carry around. A lot of older people are very excited about the idea. I worked for godforsaken Brookstone and the older people were very impressed with the converted they came out with because somehow they hadn’t been able to listen to their Heart albums in twenty years.

  2. Meghan says:

    Also people like to collect things on their computers. Like mounds of mp3s and show you and go “Look at the 782 GB of music I have on iTunes!” and you want to ask, yeah, but what have you listened to?

  3. Ellie Becker says:

    I’m not technologically knowledgable, but I have a few ideas that may shed some light. Vinyl to MP3…Portability for sure. It’s pretty hard to maintain turntable equipment, too, in a digital world. And vinyl being a fragile medium there’s a desire to preserve. More than anything, I’ll bet that the wish list is to have a portable, protected medium that might carry with it the ‘warm’ sound of vinyl. From my perspective that’s vinyl’s best feature. I have a friend in Brazil who restores vinyl and transfers it to digital via a tube recording studio set-up. I don’t pretend to understand how it works, but he’s sent me samples — a copy of the commercial CD re-release of a classic jazz album, and his restoration from vinyl to digital. The difference in the sound is day and night with his restoration preserving the sound quality of the original analog version. As just further evidence of the desire for that warm vinyl thing, check out guitarist Jake Langley’s self release Here and Now, played and recorded on vintage equipment. That does it too in the warmth dept. This is an interesting discussion and I hope that my anecdotes add to it.

  4. Derek Peplau says:

    Here’s why I would guess someone would do it if they had a large vinyl collection.

    1. Sunk Cost: You’ve already invested an inordinate amount of time and money amassing this collection. I personally don’t see the need to re-buy it all just for the sake of portability and then have to deal with the DRM issues and (frankly) sh!tty sound quality which comes with buying songs from the Apple store or wherever. In my view, you’ve bought it, it’s your music in whatever form you choose.

    2. Props: It’s simply cooler to say (from vinyl). Especially since the advent of the compact disc, people who buy vinyl do it for audiophile reasons, but there is undeniably something of an elitist quality to saying you own it on vinyl. What was once the norm has become a sub-culture with the advent of new technologies. I always have slightly more respect for someone who has a massive amount of vinyl (not to mention envy).

    I never started down this path and for better or for worse, I’m married to the cd format. My great fear is that these will become unplayable one day (as is rumored to be inevitable). To that end, I have slowly (and I do mean slowly) started to collect vinyl editions (when available) of some of my favorite records. So far these include the first four Connells albums (“Ring” was sadly never pressed to vinyl), The Wedding Present’s “George Best”, “Bizarro”, and “Seamonsters”, My Bloody Valentine’s masterwork “Loveless”, and a few choice New Order singles. To reproduce my collection on vinyl would only be something I would even consider attempting if I had the time and funds which go along with winning the lottery. And even then, I have many singles and EP’s from my college radio days which were promo-only and never put to wax.

    Bottom line is, I see no problem (if you have the time) with converting to digital, but here’s the key point: it’s an adjunct to your vinyl collection, NOT a substitute. Ripping your vinyl allows you to bring your music with you on your music player of choice, listen to it in your car, back it up in case (God forbid) your vinyl is stolen or damaged, and it also allows you to, say, make a compilation cd, or a mix on iTunes or similar for a party which relying on spinning vinyl would not permit unless you spent the entire party manning the decks.

    Listening to vinyl and the ways in which (serious music fans) listen to mp3’s are vastly different. The former is something you make a point of doing, and it may be something you focus your singular attention on. MP3 listening is a largely disposable event. You do it to fill gaps in your day when you have time, while grocery shopping, or whatever. When I listen to a favorite album on CD (my equivalent of vinyl), it’s not in the background, it’s sitting down on the couch, taking the screens of my Paradigms, and letting myself absorb the record. I did this just the other day with “Loveless”. It’s the only way to listen to that album.

    If you’re fortunate enough to own vinyl, you’d be insane to rip it all to mp3’s and then hock the lot of it. But on the flip side, you’ll get to listen to more of that music than you would if you had to make the effort to be near your turntable which we can’t always do.

  5. Gradon Tripp says:

    Derek’s absolutely right. To listen to music on vinyl is a participatory experience. A record is only 20 or so minutes per side, so you’re listening, up, flipping, and back to listening again. My iTunes can play for over 23 days straight. Hardly the same experience.

    As for why you’d transfer from vinyl to mp3, I think it’s a combination of what you, Ellie and Derek have said.

    And my vinyl collection? It’s mostly 7″ records of local and regional punk and hardcore bands from the early and mid-90s. Musically, nothing spectacular. My father has some amazing classic rock on vinyl — or did, before he moved to FL; not sure if he kept it or not. Meg’s father has a collection of jazz records that any music fan would covet.

    • Ellie Becker says:

      There’s a generational component among our replies. Your comment made me remember getting up and turning the LP over every few minutes — or succumbing to laziness and risking record damage by stacking a bunch up so that we could listen longer before turning them over. Frankly, when that was the only option, it was a pain in the A. One of the joys of CD’s was the longer play — listening to an entire album play non-stop without interruption. We gave up certain yummy sound qualities of vinyl, but it’s interesting to check in with why trends trend and everything old becomes new again. My friend Bruno in Brazil is trying to create the best of both worlds. Long, long play with warm yummy sounds. But I also fondly remember the focused experience of listening to a side on the couch.

  6. dyson says:

    You all are fantastic. So many great angles as to why this is done.

    There are two sides to my personality that made this so hard to rationalize (yet should have been so easy). I’m an audiophile who routinely checks that his monitors and speakers are balanced and in phase. I also have a schedule to replace the needle on my turntable. Yet, I collect and have transferred all of my CD library into mp3s (well, AAC 256 to be exact because it sounds the best ;)and have them stored and able to be streamed from any location with an internet connection.

    I completely understand the benefit of having a portable library. And to be honest, it’s starting to sound like a fun hobby to transfer everything I have over. Someone just needs to add a few more hours in the day for that to happen though.

    But you all have helped add in great reasons about why folks are doing this as much as they are. So thank you!

  7. Brad says:

    Yeah, there are a lot of great reasons already stated (for me, portability is the main one), but I’ll add this:

    I lost hundreds of albums, 12-inch singles, bootleg vinyl, and 7 inches in a fire… nothing left but a fused pile of melted slag when it was over. So yes, anything I own on vinyl that isn’t available digitally I usually transfer to my computer, and I’ve got it all backed up on a drive I keep at work. Paranoia, probably, but peace of mind, for sure.

  8. Ryan says:

    There is no wrong way to eat a tootsie pop. I would be careful though not to pigeon-hole how people choose to consume their music. Inevitably, it all goes obsolete. Then it comes back. Then… Well. You get the idea.

  9. Dexter Edge says:

    As someone with at least one foot (or perhaps hand–I’m a pianist) in the classical world, and as a former musicologist, there’s also the issue of preservation. LPs (and 78s) wear from use and are easily scratched or broken. Many classical LPs and 78s never made it to CD and are unlikely ever to be released in that format. So it’s important to digitize old LPs and 78s purely for the purpose of preservation. If I had a collection that I was digitizing for this reason, I’d use flac for archiving.

  10. Chris Bracco says:

    I own a turntable that can do this, but I have yet to convert anything to mp3. I guess the whole vinyl to mp3 process can benefit some dude with an absurd collection of records who is looking to start digital collection on their computer…I have some cool stuff on vinyl that isn’t on my computer, but I would like it to be there. So when I rip those songs to mp3 and throw them in my iTunes, I can listen to the songs while I’m traveling/not by my turntable.

    Obviously quality suffers from the conversion process. But each format serves a different purpose. When you want an optimum listening experience, spin the vinyl. When you are out with your laptop and just wanna impress a friend with your obsure music collection, mp3s get enough of the point across. 😛

    Great blog by the way, I love your writing style. I subscribed to RSS.

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