Back to the Groove
With all the technological advances in audio formats over the lastÂ few decades vinylÂ is stillÂ going strong,Â recordÂ collectors and dance music enthusiasts have been keepingÂ the sound format alive when major record labels lost interest in the late 1980′s along with the general public. More recently record labels in Japan, North America and Europe are getting back into the groove by releasing special limited edition Albums and 45 records by popular demand.
Disc Jockeys came about in the U.S. during the 1930′s but beatmatching didn’t arrive until the late 1960′s and early 1970′s through Francis Grasso of the Bronx.
One of theÂ first people to use twin turntables for continuous playÂ was British DJ and T.V. personality Jimmy Savile. In the late 1940′s Jimmy paid a metalworker to weld two domestic record decks together, this was the very beginning of ‘twin-deck’Â DJing, allowing two records to be played back to back continuously.
Hip Hop DJs in New York took vinyl record playÂ to a new level with scratching and beat jugglingÂ in the 1970′s, vinyl records have since become an intrinsic part of the dance music scene.
SomeÂ DJsÂ nowÂ useÂ laptop computers or
purpose built digital modules to mix.Â Beatmatching software is designedÂ toÂ beat-matchÂ digitalÂ tracksÂ with greatÂ accuracy.
The software can effectively beat-match for you, if you need it to, some working DJs now openly admit to having never bought a vinyl record inÂ their life.
At some point in the future some night club owners are going to question the need for a DJ? – when you canÂ programme a computer to do the jobÂ for you and still promote the night as live mixing. Some people embrace the new technology 100%Â for its ease of use whereas others regard this style as untrue to the roots of DJing, others simply work between vinyl and digital by burning downloadedÂ digital filesÂ to CD, however copyright licenses should be respected.
DownsidesÂ of vinyl include theÂ large amounts of spaceÂ they take up,Â the weight,Â scratches,Â specks of dust and wearÂ to the disc which can be heard as noise or static.Â Records should always be placed back in their sleeves avoiding touching the vinyl surface with greasy fingers.
Cd’s that areÂ lightly scratched become totally unplayable and are prone to jumping whereasÂ vinyl records that are scratchedÂ often still play, the CD is just as fragile if not more so than the vinyl record. Record collectors accept light surface noise on certain records as it allows the audio a unique history and can indicate years of loving play.
VinylÂ can be placed on the turntable in an instant, you can pin point exactly where the needle should fall accessing any part of a song immediately with no forward tracking, there is a physical response from the needle to the groove, through the turntable into the mixerÂ and then into the amp and then out again through the speakers,Â 100% analog.
Channels are grooved into the vinyl disc when an original sound’s waveform is recorded. No information is lost, the sound is mirrored. Record players emit sound as analog, they feed directly to the amp with no need for conversion i.e. analog to analog rather than analog to digital and then back to analog.
In an image conscious worldÂ musicians can create detailed artwork and fit a large graphic on a record’s jacket or sleeve. Also, you can choose the colour of the vinyl rather than having to settle for a silver CD or non-tangible MP3,Â put simply digital formatsÂ lackÂ theÂ aestheticÂ benefits ofÂ vinyl records.
MP3s are easy to store onÂ CDR or on your P.C. and work for many people as their only sound format, with the development of the I-Pod, portability is digitals forte.
Digital recordings don’t degrade over time, however if yourÂ computerÂ is not backed up, any crash or virus that effects the p.c. could result in total loss of your record collection, it’s the equivalent to your house burning down in vinyl terms. Backing up your digital music collection is time consuming but can save you time and money, this will need to be done whenever you upgrade your p.c. Downloading music files can also be stressful, some files may become corrupt or damaged, like any download, bugs and errors can be inherent, this is then compounded by time wasted trying to contact the download source to resend the download (check download forums for examples).
MP3s can be burned to disc but CD-Rs often have aÂ much shorter shelfÂ lifeÂ than both vinyl and normal Cd’sÂ depending on quality and storage conditions, It also takes time to copy the art work, this is essential otherwise you will end up with a pile of anonymous looking blank Cd’s in your rack that will never get played.
A down side of MP3 is reduced sound quality. Original sound isÂ analog by definition, vinylÂ doesn’t sampleÂ sound it records it in a natural state as a vibration.
Digital recordings take approximate snapshots of anÂ analog signal at a certain rate, this means that, unlike vinyl, a digital recording does not capture the complete sound wave, it makes up the bits in between so you will get a less true sound of the original source.
A stereo, computer or CD player simply converts a digital recording back into an analog signal which is then fed to the amplifier, the amp then increases the voltage of the signal to drive the speaker.
Digital sound is sometimes described as narrow, flat and compressed for these reasons, whereas vinyl is often described as sounding more analog, a deep, rich, wide sound, the qualities of the original recording are more audible on vinyl.
Vinyl’s strength has always been it’s superior sound quality. DanceÂ music DJs and record collectors have helped keep vinyl a cool format.Â Â Other music formats and electronics manufacturers have simply chosen to workÂ with vinyl rather than against it ensuring the formats longevity.
Record labels are releasing popular records on vinyl again, from DJ Shadow toÂ the Klaxons, thin plastic discs remain and intrinsic part of the music industry, in fact the music industry has built its reputation on them.
Vinyl recordsÂ will neverÂ be as popular as they were in the 1960′s, butÂ ifÂ used in conjunction with other modern formats, vinyl will continue to reign as a champion sound format.
Records are now over 100 years old and still going strong – praise be to the plastic disc.
(CNN news clip on record labels pressing vinyl again)