Our new man Deano is an avid audiophile with a massive love for Vinyl. 

We agree. It’s rather interesting how a generation that never touched a turntable in their lives is falling for the technology. Not Deano though, he is ‘just’ a die hard with a love for ‘warm’ music going way back to his childhood. He’s spilling the love in his first blog. 

We’re wondering: word is that the Vinyl industry is booming, but what does that mean in numbers and how much has the technology changed? 

Vinyl sales have hit a recorded a 25-year high

LPs are at a 25-year high, it looks like the vinyl resurgence is well and truly here to stay.In 2016, more than 3.4 million Vinyl LPs were sold, which is a staggering rise of 53% from 2015. It’s also the highest since 1991 – when a band from Manchester called Simply Red had the best-selling album with Stars.These days, vinyl accounts for just under 6% of music sales. Not enormous, but no longer negligible either. 

In a year that saw the unexpected passing of so many music icons, it’s no surprise that David Bowie’s death led to him becoming the best-selling vinyl artist of the year. His biggest vinyl seller was final album Blackstar – which contains a whole load of hidden Easter eggs exposing secrets within its sleeve that fans are still discovering.

It’s thought that events such as Record Store Day (worldwide celebrating the culture of the independently owned record store) have played a huge part in getting people to embrace vinyl once more. Often the occasion is celebrated with special/exclusive releases. This year, the event will take place on the 22th of April. 

We all know that streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal are booming. Last December became the first time that over a billion streams were sourced in a single week. If the US music sales is anything to go by and we can extrapolate their trends to the rest of the world, then we can say one thing: DSD files, downloads and streaming are overtaking physical distribution of music. Just think about what Joe Bloggs does: he/she streams. It makes sense.

BUT, we believe that physical will never really die, because the tactile aspect of being able to touch the sleeve, smell the paper, enjoy the cover photo, read the booklet that comes with a CD or vinyl is part of the experience that the artists spend all their blood, sweat and tears working on. There is something magical, something soulful about that experience that digital just does not offer (yet). 

Don’t get us wrong, we love our DSD players and the heavenly, goose bump-triggering sensation when hearing detail you have never heard before in music you have loved for over 30 years. We are blessed in this day and age, that we can have both: the extremely high audio quality of DSD and the likes, and the “all senses” experience of vinyl. 

Source: New York Times

Geoff Taylor, The chief executive of the British Phonographic Industry, said: ‘Growth in UK music consumption in 2016 was fuelled by the explosive rise in audio streaming, which has increased 500% since 2013, and relative resilience from physical formats.”

It sounds like the different formats will simply exist alongside each other.  We like it when everybody wins!

The Times They Are A Changing (Bob Dylan)

The previous thinking that vinyl is an extinct format has gone. Vinyl technology is changing and so is the way the fabrication is done. 

Obviously, we have come a long way as far as mastering of sound goes. There is also the whole discussion about remastering of a recording (which is whole different ball game) and what should and shouldn’t be done. But in all honesty, that doesn’t really have anything to do with the vinyl format itself. 

What we’re really interested in is how things have evolved when it comes to the production of the black discs? 

It may come as a shock that the latest vinyl press manufactured until very recently was nowhere near as recent as you may think? Despite the resurgence in Vinyl sales, vinyl record pressing machines were still the same as the ones used in the 1980s. We’re not joking, vinyl albums were still being produced on 30-year-old machinery. I guess everybody was just waiting to see whether this whole Vinyl resurgence was really going to go anywhere.

The result however, was that the remaining 50-ish vinyl manufacturers couldn’t keep up with demand resulting in long waits between the announcement of a release and customers actually getting it in their hands. 

Recently though, a company called Viryl Technologies has produced the WarmTone machine which is said to be able to produce 4,000 records a day due to its better trimming/tracking system and sensors that check everything from temperature to pressure. WarmTone also allows the operator to make important tweaks in real time, avoiding product loss due to all sorts of things ranging from operator error to mechanical failure. It can mean the difference between a successful run and a budget-breaking failure.

Currently, there are only two WarmTone Vinyl manufacturing plants in use: one just outside Dallas and in Vyril’s hometown of Toronto. 

Closer to home, a new vinyl manufacturing facility is opening in Sydney, borrowing both staff and knowledge from EMI. The new plant is expected to open mid-2017 and will have a capacity to press three million records each year.

Rumour has it that Jamaica’s vinyl factory Tuff Gong International -founded by Bob Marley in 1965 – would start pressing records again after years of inactivity.

It sounds like the music industry is finally convinced vinyl is here to stay.

On a slightly different note, over in Europe, Rebeat Digital have filed a patent to develop what would be the world’s first ‘high definition vinyl’ technology, capable of producing records with longer playing times and a wider frequency range that would again potentially cut waiting times at pressing plants in the process. Their website has a ‘coming soon’ page for HD Vinyl so they really must be determined to take it further. HD Vinyl would have 30% greater volume and double the audio fidelity of today’s LPs. Not sure about how the HD Vinyl idea will be received though….

As for new technology in turntables, many old turntable manufacturers such as Technics have picked up where they left off: Technics returned with a brand new revamped SL-1200. Many other turntable brands like ELAC have also re-launched their interest in turntables. Companies such as Luxman have spent millions of dollars in design of their new spinners.

Although not really changed in essence, some innovations did find their way into the turntable world. Most of these seem to involve connectivity to digital audio forms, either through connecting with Spotify, allowing for ripping to MP3 from the turntable, or through easy connection to external digital sound systems. This is probably not entirely to the liking of real audiophiles, but turns out there is a market for this is as well. Ah well…

And finally, although definitely not applying to all turntables, fancy designs such as floating or upright turntables are being introduced. While this may take the ‘look’ into the 21st century, whether this also improves turntable sound quality is a very different matter, obviously.

And with that, we’re off to stick the needle on Dire Straits “brothers in Arms” for the 10,000th time

Sources: Electronics-How stuff works, The Vinyl factory, Mixmag, Wired, What Hifi, Viryl, Rebeat Digital