Marrs Plectrum

Why choose vinyl records?

We’ve read so much pretentious prittle prattle about vinyl recently. So let’s get something straight from the get go - it’s just a format that plays our music. It’s the music that we love around here. What we need is the right format to deliver our music at the right time.

These days we're drowning in sources and formats. Music is coming at us in every direction except, sadly, High Street record shops. It's in our phones, computers, cars, TV's, shops etc. Music is just as omnipresent as our attentions are distracted.

On those occasions when we get to choose what we hear, it makes sense to choose the right format. At Marrs Plectrum HQ, when not working, it's the Radio whilst knocking around the house (BBC 6 Music or Radio 4), CD's in the car and MP3's through headphones when on foot, bus or train. Still not found a need for vinyl…

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Ownership...

That little stash of 45's? They're yours. They'll always be yours and then they'll be your kids. Ownership is a huge issue in digital music. When you download a track how many devices can you have it on? If you spend a lifetime buying music what happens to it when your life hits the runout groove? With vinyl, music ownership remains something tangible and transferable.

You also own a piece of artwork. Ever since Peter Blake's Sgt. Peppers gatefold sleeve many of the most talented artists, designers and photographers have made record sleeves. Andy Warhol, Peter Saville, Damien Hirst, Robert Crumb, Roger Dean… like the beat, the list goes on. These are some of the most iconic images of the last 50 years. Is this the case with CD covers?

Comparing like with like…

If you've spent a few hundred pounds on your widescreen TV, it's not unreasonable to say you're happy to spend a couple of hundred on your music source. This is where digital vs vinyl gets interesting. At this price point your going to be looking at some pretty taste items. I'm more than happy to wager that a decent turntable, properly setup, is going to blow any CD/streamer out of the water. If you went second hand on the table and kept some money aside for a new stylus, you're heading out of the water and into the stratosphere!

You can expect a warmer, fuller sound. The sound stage, where you hear the instruments position between the speakers, will be clear and accurate. The recordings will have depth, with some instruments appearing closer to you. Vocals will be more natural. The more you spend the better all this gets, but this is a diminishing return on your spends as you reach the higher end.

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Between the speakers...

So then we have those golden moments when all we do is listen to music. That's vinyl time. When you're sat in your favourite chair, between the speakers, the convenience of digital becomes irrelevant. That's when the vinyl ritual of playback begins because it's not a case of disc out press play.

Firstly there's that satisfying feeling of sliding the record out of the sleeve. Those records in anti-static poly sleeves are particularly joyful as the record feels almost reluctant to leave it's home. Give the stylus a brush and dust the record while it spins. Drop the needle onto the groove (always side A track 1) and be back in the chair before the music starts. Ideally a glass of what you fancy will be in reach.

The Vinyl Conclusion...

So while it looks like CD has had it's day, digital music is clearly here to stay. Vinyl has also seen eight-track and cassette tapes come and go. There's room enough for digital and vinyl, but when music is the nights choice of entertainment, the heads fragile late on a Sunday morning, I'll still be dropping the needle on my vinyl.

And you know what? After Steve Jobs founded Apple, gave us the iPod and iTunes, he went home listened to vinyl…

History, soul and ownership…

So now we have digital on the ropes so far as home listening is concerned, let's unleash the three knock out blows.

History...

For say £20 you could get yourself a tidy little collection of 45's going. Some Elvis, Beatles, Stones, Marvin Gaye, Kinks, T Rex, Sex Pistols etc. Right there you have a slice of history. Chances are a few of them are going to have a name written on the sleeve or centre. Many records where branded by their owners when taken to their mates house. It's almost impossible not to try to picture the scene when these were first played some 40-50 years ago. You grow to love this element of vinyl collecting. For all the fanfare of The Beatles on iTunes, you had no sense of their place in the world in the 60's, just the irony of their late arrival.

Soul...

It's a tired old cliche, but for a reason. There is soul deep down in the grooves of a record. Those records changed our society beyond recognition. They created the teenager and split them into mods, rockers, hippies. By the end of the 60's Rhythm and Blues blurred the divisions between black and white music more than at another time. All with an affordable 7" slice of vinyl.

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Not CD vs Vinyl, it's digital vs vinyl...

Of course, you can enjoy music on a CD or digital file too. It's worth remembering that the CD is just the first successful digital format. It's not really CD vs vinyl, rather digital vs vinyl. With the CD originally marketed for durability and portability it's now looking dead in the water. It's hard to imagine who will mourn their passing. A rack of CD's now sits comfortably inside the phone in your pocket.

It's widely understood that digital formats are lossy. By this I mean that some of the original music is lost between recording in the studio and playback in our homes. How much? Well most modern studios record at a sample rate* of 96K-24bit. By the time they reach us they've usually been mixed down to 44.1K-16bit, the Red Book CD** quality. That's half the detail gone. That doesn't mean you're missing every other high-hat, but certainly some of the nuances.

There are plenty of articles on the internet looking to conclude the digital vs vinyl debate. Many argue that science shows the missing music to be inaudible to the human ear. Many of those studies were commissioned by the music industry. When you read the opinions of musicians, musicians who can spot a violin string 1/4 of a step out of tune in an orchestra, the human ear is worth listening too. To be fair though, science has put more men on the moon than musicians ears have.

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Marrs Plectrum Records (C) - 2017 all rights reserved

Tuesday - Friday 10am - 4pm and Saturday 11am - 2pm

Buying, Selling and Trading Vinyl Records

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07884 357021

387 Fulbridge Road, Peterborough, PE4 6SF.