The return of vinyl

by Rob Horning

23 June 2008

 

This was a predictable development: People (music snobs, mainly, I’m guessing) are starting to buy vinyl albums again, despite the ubiquity of low- to no-cost MP3s. Some of these folks may have the kind of hi-fi setups necessary to take advantage of the higher audio fidelity of vinyl, but I think a fixation on sound quality is secondary. The appeal is likely in the thrill of physical ownership, of having a cultural object that gets personalized, acquires a patina, through one’s personal pattern of usage. It becomes something that can’t be duplicated, and digitization has made all such unduplicatables rarer and therefore more valuable to us.

There is also a totemistic appeal to albums. I can remember sitting in people’s dorm rooms listening to records, staring at the covers, held in thrall by the object itself. And the ritual of picking a record to play from a shelf of by flipping through records in a box simply conjures an entirely different feeling than selecting it from what’s essentially a spreadsheet. The article notes “Whether it’s inspecting a needle for dust or flipping the record over at the end of a side, LPs demand attention. And for a small but growing group, those demands aren’t a nuisance.” These may be the sort of voluntary limits we impose on our cultural consumption to make it more managable, to keep the avalanche of digital culture from burying us.

(Via PSFK)

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