In defense of vinyl

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Robert Katz, Staff Writer

It’s no secret that the entire world is being digitized. Our money, our mail, our books, even our social lives are, at every moment, being copied, saved and re-saved to invisible, unintrusive, globe-spanning networks. While there are many perks to this trend, I’d like to speak out against the digitization of something particular: music.

Every Beverly Hills teenager is familiar with digital music; we consume it on our computers, our phones and our MP3 players. It’s incredibly easy to find music from anyone and own it in minutes; many forget to show appreciation to the artists they download from and skip the payment step, too. However, as with other wonders of technology, I fear that we are on the verge of trading another for this one; we are trading away music’s soul, and with that may come the death of the vinyl record.

Music, be it from the tinny-sounding speakers of a cell phone or the massive subwoofers of an audiophile’s $3000 set-up, will always sound just as beautiful at its core. Vinyl, however, does produce a higher-quality sound. Briefly stated, most music is originally recorded in studios in analog form, meaning that the sound waves are stored in a physical format or vinyl. Meanwhile, digital recording, the process for digital files and CDs, results in compression that causes many nuances of recording to be lost to the listener’s ears. As such, it may be said that vinyl is the “original” sound. While certainly not recognizable through a pair of ten dollar earbuds, the difference becomes noticeable on a decent speaker set-up.

On a more sentimental level, of course, vinyl records have infinitely more value than a file streamed over the internet.. Simply, one can develop an emotional connection to something bought and physically held, as we have proof that we truly own it. A newly-bought record is weighty, decorated with wonderful art and requires care in order to be heard in its highest quality, all of which contribute to the magnificent feeling that comes from picking out an album at a record store, marveling at its cover and knowing that it will be yours. Whether we realize it or not, we vinyl-owners develop a real connection to our purchases, just as one would with a car or a lacrosse stick or a book.

Digital music carries over very few of those sentiments. Yes, we buy it (well, we’re supposed to), but then we receive it within moments and with marginal effort on our part. And then, once we have it, we need only double-click on a file name to access it. It’s nearly impossible to become attached to something that has no tangible form. Music streaming services, such as Rdio and Spotify, have completely abandoned the concept of ownership in favor of instantaneous access to any music on a whim, which contributes to a larger issue.

Unfortunately, if streaming is our future, we will never even own another music file, let alone hard copy, due to our increasing apathy toward property. Publishers will have total permission to remove anything from the public’s grasp if ever necessary. On the other hand, other than myself, there is no one to pry the records from my shelves who would not have to physically break into my bedroom to retrieve them. If that still poses problems, well, you might not live in a great neighborhood.

This is not a command that everyone in the school should start buying vinyl, partially because that’s an expensive habit. Singles and LP’s vary quite a bit in pricing and that’s not even taking into account the turntable to play the records on, although an online search will prove that decent players can easily be found below $100. There’s a beauty to vinyl that’s easy to recognize and, for those that can afford to support it, it becomes incredibly rewarding. In fact, a growing number of students at Beverly are becoming collectors, taking pride in the hobby and its rewards. For those that do not feel much of a longing for the charms of vinyl, at least acknowledge that it is still around; people still buy new albums and it might even be having its own renaissance.

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