Yesterday once more
AUDIOFILE - Val A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - May 28, 2016 - 12:00am

After more than 10 years of writing about the beauty of analog music, I can now safely declare that the once-forgotten vinyl is now back in the mainstream.

When I started this semi-monthly column in 2006, I felt like a lone voice in the wilderness telling music lovers that they had been wrong all along in abandoning vinyl records in favor of compact discs. 

At the start, only a few listened. Today, the number of my readers has more than quadrupled, judging from the volume of emails I am receiving from music lovers here and abroad.

The number of Facebook and other social media groups dedicated to the propagation of analog music has also mushroomed. It is worthy to note that most of the members of these groups belong to the generation of millennials.

The introduction of the compact disc as a music format to replace the “noisy” vinyl in the early 1980s, the birth of the mp3 in the 1990s, and the launch of the iPod in 2001 have all tried to change the way people listen to music. Marketing machineries went into high gear to convince lovers that it is chic to pay for non-artefacts or intangible music files that can be ‘miniaturized’ and kept inside a portable all-purpose entertainment device. Music enthusiasts were conditioned to fixate on the value of convenience: that these modern music devices, when pitted against turntables and vinyl records, are just like state-of-the-art personal computers pitted against Jurassic typewriters that should be relegated to oblivion.

But we plodded on. Through this column and our yearly participation in the November Hi-Fi Show, we have convinced audiophiles that nothing comes close to the sound quality of vinyl. All over the world, pockets of audiophile communities continue to swap records, repair, and restore the venerable turntable, all believing that convenience has its price — it kills the quality and substance of the music they love. They never wavered, kept the analog fire burning, and now serve as the guiding force of the so-called “analog renaissance,” which gained ground in the 1990s. The so-called audiophile triangle (turntable, vinyl, and vacuum-tubed electronics) has inched its way back to the mainstream.

If you are reading this, and have not listened to records, your curiosity is understandable. Why has vinyl made a comeback? What appeal does it have? What’s the big deal about all these antiquated machines whirling big discs made from the same stuff as the kitchen or bathroom floor covering?

Aesthetically, turntables and records are simply gorgeous. There is real beauty in the design aspect and turntable builds.  Possessing a physical product like a record, where you can see grooves and visualize where the sound originate, is something really alluring compared to the invisible 1s and 0s of digital music.

But the real attraction — and this is undisputable — is the sound. Whether you listen critically or just let the music flow, the differences are enormous. The sounds a vinyl record produces are vivid and real-life. Voices sound human. This awe-inspiring experience is shared by those who are new to vinyl and those who are rediscovering their old collections.

The renaissance can also be traced to the way many purists have collected vintage audio equipment and memorabilia. Just like other collectors, audiophiles collect vintage audio gears in an effort to relive the past. Audiophiles, however, do not just collect and store their precious finds away. They care for and actually use these “keepsakes of musical history.” Vinyl records produced when the audiophile was young would not only be faithfully reproducing melodies from years gone by. They can trigger poignant memories that may help us remember and understand the past.

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For comments or questions, please e-mail me at audioglow@yahoo.com

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