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Are vinyl records overrated?

Illustration: Carter Klassen · The Sentry

Records are an experience

Opinion by Sam Weigel

Since the so-called “vinyl boom” a couple of years back, the skinny black disks have been unfairly criticized as they regain mainstream appeal. 

While the high level of sound quality is cited as the more pretentious appeal of vinyl, it should certainly not go unmentioned. A nicely mixed classic vinyl has that deep, rich tone that beats a digital version every time. Sure, vinyls of last year’s big electronica album that got printed a month ago may be basically indiscernible from the digital version. But between a solo piano recording from 1963 in pretty fair condition and its digital remaster, the comparison is drastic. 

A solid vinyl also has the ability to capture a more experiential listening of a piece of music. The constant Spotify playlist recommendations can make navigating the digital music realm tiring and frustrating. Being able to delve into the catharsis of listening to a full album, in order, all the way through, is refreshing and offers appreciation and reflection of a full work.

While list price vinyls can and usually do end up on the expensive side, local stores contain a full treasure trove of classics in good condition rarely for more than even the digital version of the same album. And if a full-price vinyl isn’t too off-putting, tons of groups love to put out special editions or prints with designs or patterns on the surface of the vinyl itself, like a special little bonus that makes playing the record that much more enticing. 

No, vinyls are not the end-all be-all of music listening, but the bottom line is that they are fun. It’s fun to put a dear album on the player with all the pomp and circumstance, and it’s fun to go to the record store hunting for some hidden gem or long-lost favorite. It can be a communal experience, shared with friends or with other vinyl fanatics, finding group interests and common enthusiasms about favorite genres or new discoveries.

Records are pretentious

Opinion by Amanda Blackman

While records once held a definite purpose in the world of music, they are now supremely overrated. There are many other ways to listen to and enjoy music that are far more convenient, cheaper, and less pretentious.

It’s impossible to deny that back then the only method to listen to music was though a record player. In fact, they were necessary. CDs didn’t exist, and of course, neither did the streaming services used today, so vinyls were the only form of portable, ownable music that people could buy.

But that era ended years ago. Today, people are able to subscribe to any music streaming service and can carry an entire discography of hundreds of their favorite artists right in their pocket, all for a minimal monthly fee. To do that with vinyls, it’d be impossible—only if the world’s largest pockets were available.

Jokes aside, vinyl records are easily damaged and that just isn’t convenient. Records are made out of actual vinyl, which is a synthetic plastic, and this man-made surface is easily gouge-able from the slightest mishandling or can be warped by just simply stacking them.

Contemporary artists also have no need to press vinyl versions of their albums. The cost of creating a metal stamp and additional operating costs are unnecessary and costly. Independent artists who are living paycheck to paycheck would take home less money for living expense when the cost of creating records is so high. 

Beyond the factual realities of the unreliable format of vinyl records, they’re just pretentious. Having the ability to choose to listen to music on expensive and unreliable records is a privilege. Most people can’t spend at least $90 for a flimsy record player and another $30 per record. 

What’s cheaper and far more convenient? Anything but vinyl. Digitally streaming an album provides the same listening experience as vinyl, only enhanced. Playlists can be personalized, compact, and shared for the communal experience.  Some vinyls, like original presses from when vinyls were the only ownable music format, can be justified, but for most people, spending obscene amounts on an outdated, damageable, and pretentious item is just not worth the hype.

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