It's perennially interesting to me that sometimes readers will extract some kind of meaning from articles that they haven't read - and have only surmised the conclusion by reading the title of the article alone.

I have no idea how to combat this bad habit, so I won't. But I will bring up an old marketing line from the distant (ish) past that I hope helps to summarize my feelings about the quality of listening to music through a digital medium.

Back in the 1970's the citrus-flavored soda "7-Up" was having a difficult time selling against the popular cola drinks of the day, namely Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and RC Cola. In the South (especially), any softdrink at all was called "coke" ... that's how pervasive and effective the branding was.

The way that they figured out how to market against cola was to celebrate the difference and called it an "Un-Cola" ... and so they hired the very personable Geoffrey Holder to do a series of commercials that extolled the delightfulness of 7-Up's UnCola-ness:

I think of Digital, generally, as the UnCola to the analog LP. A qualitative choice that I can make when I would prefer to have that flavor.

It's not about better or worse - not these days. Digital is a quite high-resolution format that has plenty of delightful things about it. Theres no reason not to play digital if you like it or want to. There's no defensible philosophy, as far as I'm concerned - although there are folks who are passionately anti-digital (or anti-LP), and there's room for them in the world, too.

But the thing about 7-Up when considering a choice to make between beverages was that it was missing an important ingredient - an ingredient that all cola drinks had as a natural consequence of being derived from Kola nut: CAFFEINE

Likewise, analog has ingredients that aren't in digital. Some of these ingredients are considered flaws. Some of them might be emulated by digital filtering and DSP - although I have yet to hear anything that hits the button in the right way. Regardless - when it comes to the sonic attributes of playing LPs vs playing CDs or downloaded files, the differences are enough to inspire discussion.

Lots of discussion. Usually about things we didn't start discussing in the first place. But let that be for the moment.

There remain those of us who love vinyl for all that it is, warts and jewels and everything in between. We love the sheer physicality of the format, we love the ownership of the object and celebrate it as a work of art. These are dimensions of the art that cannot be emulated by downloads. Perhaps most of all, we enjoy the sound of LPs.

More and more people every year are discovering how delightful listening to records can be, and this has inspired some incredibly courageous investment. A few companies have done the R&D, and have begun building NEW record pressing machines because the demand is increasing. Sony has begun building a new record pressing plant, even as they shutter optical disc manufacturing facilities. Technics (Panasonic) has not only reintroduced the SL-1200, they have also reintroduced the SP-10. I'm sure there will be plenty of news to come from the music industry regarding the re-emergence of vinyl as a physical format for music distribution.

No matter how compelling the argument is for modern digital downloads and streaming - and it is compelling, I agree - it can never be the equal of the vinyl LP because it will never be real. It will always be virtual, and as such it has no actual (fungible, realizable) value except to the people that are selling it.

I truly enjoy listening to digital music on my server, a Clones Audio HOST/ASHER combination that I'm actually in love with. I've ripped all my CDs to the hard drive (well, most of them, anyway), and even put some needle-drops on there. I've transferred some of the digital recordings I've done in high-resolution, and I would like to be able to release some recordings in the future ... hell, I might even release some downloads!

Like I said ... this is not about Philosophy. It's about finding something delightful and valuable about the LP record, and enjoying its unique qualities - qualities that downloads and streams do not have. 

I've argued recently that the LP will be the only remaining physical format. I believe that will be absolutely true within less than 5 years. I may be wrong. But there's no way to know except on the day before the end of the 5th year of my prediction.

Until then:

Be Groovy ...

Chris Sommovigo September 16, 2017