By Noah Hendricks
Audio Engineer at Strings Music Festival
On a recent trip eastward, I spent time with family in a way many city folk do: shopping. While my mother and sister ventured through an endless cosmos of linens and bathroom peripherals, my father and I veered starboard to the bookstore. Through the islands of best sellers and political propaganda, I sought the multimedia section, where I found myself stunned.
A room once loaded with plastic trays, headphones hardwired to song samplers, and a selection so bountiful you could barely find what you thought to buy, large album covers now sprawled. Gloomy or gorgeous, depending on your stance, canvases were twelve inches across, relatively the size of a billboard. Barnes and Noble, the largest retail bookseller in the United States, ditched its compact discs for vinyl records.
According to Digital Trends, 2014 was the first time in twenty years for vinyl sales to cross the nine million mark (9.2!). In 2015, statistics say that number may be even bigger. The top seller of 2015? Taylor Swift’s Grammy-nominated 1989. (Well, of course, until Adele inevitably stole the spotlight with a reprise tale of an ex-boyfriend). But Swift, 26, must be speaking to her peers. Coincidentally, I, almost-26, recently purchased an Audio Technica LP-60 turntable, and with no other way made a duct tape shoulder strap to bike my new toy home.
The debates between analog and digital formats will never end. Maybe that’s because comparing the two is like trying to equate a painter’s brush to a dot-matrix printer. Regardless, audio engineers cherish the character of analog circuits, and in modern days we savor them through downloadable software plug-ins. These mimic effects like reel-to-reel tape saturation and optical dynamics compression to get the rare, vibrant nature of hardware without the need to patch cables and manually restore settings. Even the hard drives containing a career’s journey through downloads have ditched their moving parts for new solid-state chips that provide instant gratification. What has never been up for debate is the ritual. Putting on a record is much more involved than choosing a hot beat via “workout” radio on Spotify.
So, if you had an album in mind, perhaps you should check if it’s being printed to vinyl. Unsurprisingly, all five 2016 Album of the Year Grammy nominations are available on vinyl. As for the season, one might suggest Pentatonix’s That’s Christmas to Me, or maybe the now-classic Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas. No matter which you choose, consider giving one as a somewhat agonizing gift; if you find it opened by the stereo, you’ll know the time they spent. For you, finding vinyl might be easier than you think.
Upcoming Concerts at Strings Music Pavilion
December 20: The Story Pirates
December 22: A Celtic Christmas
January 22: DeadPhish Orchestra
January 30: Cliburn Pianist
March 5: Del McCoury and David Grisman