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Old 07-23-2017, 10:20 AM
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Assuming the link will allow readers to view:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-vin...ver-1500721202
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Old 07-23-2017, 10:21 AM
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As purists complain about low quality and high prices, vinyl sales taper off; Gillian Welch and David Rawlings cut their own records.
Folk music duo Gillian Welch and David Rawlings were frustrated by the quality of vinyl LPs being produced today. So they decided to cut their records themselves.
“What people do nowadays is take a digital file and just run vinyl off that,” says Mr. Rawlings, a lanky musician who plays a 1935 Epiphone Olympic guitar. “In my mind, if we were going to do it, I wanted to do it the way the records I love were made—from analog tapes.”
The Nashville-based singer-songwriters, who gained fame with “O Brother, Where Art Thou” in 2000, spent $100,000 to buy their own record-cutting contraption in 2013. The cutting lathe makes the master copy of a record—the one sent to a pressing plant for mass reproduction. The couple’s first LP, a re-issue of their 2011 Grammy-nominated “The Harrow & the Harvest,” arrives July 28.
Ms. Welch and Mr. Rawlings have gone to extreme lengths to solve a problem many music aficionados say is an open secret in the music industry: Behind the resurgence of vinyl records in recent years, the quality of new LPs often stinks.
Old LPs were cut from analog tapes—that’s why they sound so high quality. But the majority of today’s new and re-issued vinyl albums—around 80% or more, several experts estimate—start from digital files, even lower-quality CDs. These digital files are often loud and harsh-sounding, optimized for ear-buds, not living rooms. So the new vinyl LP is sometimes inferior to what a consumer hears on a CD.
“They’re re-issuing [old albums] and not using the original tapes” to save time and money, says Michael Fremer, editor of AnalogPlanet.com and one of America’s leading audio authorities. “They have the tapes. They could take them out and have it done right—by a good engineer. They don’t.”
As more consumers discover this disconnect, vinyl sales are starting to slow. In the first half of 2015, sales of vinyl records jumped 38% compared to the same period the prior year, to 5.6 million units, Nielsen Music data show. A year later, growth slowed to 12%. This year, sales rose a modest 2%. “It’s flattening out,” says Steve Sheldon, president of Los Angeles pressing plant Rainbo Records. While he doesn’t see a bubble bursting—plants are busy—he believes vinyl is “getting close to plateauing.”
When labels advertise a re-issued classic as mastered from the original analog tapes, the source can be more complicated. Sometimes they are a hodge-podge of digital and analog. Often “labels are kind of hiding what’s really happening,” says Russell Elevado, a veteran studio engineer and producer who has earned two Grammys working with R&B singer D’Angelo.
Mr. Rawlings says a Netherlands-based label, Music On Vinyl, used a CD to make vinyl copies of Ms. Welch’s 2003 album “Soul Journey,” getting a license from Warner Music Group. Ms. Welch and Mr. Rawlings, who didn’t have rights to release the album in the U.K., found out when fans saw the vinyl selling on the Internet. They successfully convinced Music On Vinyl to destroy the 500 copies that had been pressed, reimbursing the firm 3,300 euros for its costs. “This is commonplace,” Mr. Rawlings says. A representative of Music On Vinyl could not be reached.
Major labels say they use original analog masters when possible. Sometimes tapes are too brittle to be used to make a vinyl master. Low-quality re-issues may be the result of less-reputable labels that can’t afford to shell out big bucks for engineering and record-pressing, says Billy Fields, a veteran vinyl expert at Warner Music Group. Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, the two other leading music companies, didn’t make anyone available to comment.
Today’s digital files can sound fantastic—especially for hip-hop and dance music. But engineers say they need to be mastered separately for vinyl in order to have the right sound. To meet deadlines for releasing new albums, labels can’t always cut vinyl to the absolute best audio quality, says Mr. Fields, who declined to discuss specific examples on the record because it might alienate others in the industry.
Another culprit for vinyl’s slowdown is cost: Mr. Sheldon estimates vinyl has gone up four to six dollars per album in recent years. So-called “180-gram” or “audiophile” records, marketed as higher quality, can cost $30 to $40. Their heaviness makes them more stable during playing, Mr. Sheldon says, and such records might last longer. But any sound differences are “very marginal.”
As low-quality vinyl proliferates, Ms. Welch and Mr. Rawlings are taking the high road.
It took five years to get their record-cutting equipment up and running. Once they bought their lathe, they found a tech who gave up his job at a particle accelerator for the new job. “The scientists who developed how to cut good stereo were the brightest people in our country at that time,” Mr. Rawlings says. With their trusted mastering engineer Stephen Marcussen, the team customized the lathe for Ms. Welch and Mr. Rawlings’ sparse, haunting acoustic music.
Songs are generally recorded in a studio digitally today. (In Ms. Welch and Mr. Rawlings’ case, they chose to record using analog tape.) A mastering engineer then fine-tunes the recorded music to ensure the album, often the product of myriad studios, sounds consistent. Using a lathe, the music is engraved onto a “lacquer,” the technical term for the master copy from which copies are pressed in plants.
The goal is to put as much sonic information on the record as possible. A high-quality LP can give listeners the sensation of instruments or sounds occupying different points in space—a “three-dimensional” quality that Mr. Fremer says evokes a live performance. Ms. Welch likens it to the difference between “fresh basil and dried basil.”
The vinyl version of “The Harrow & the Harvest” is “mesmerizing,” says Mr. Fremer, who heard a test copy. On Aug. 11, the couple, which often records as “Gillian Welch,” will release a new album, “Poor David’s Almanack,” under the “David Rawlings” name, before re-releasing more old albums. Having launched a label and souped up a derelict Nashville studio years ago, they may cut and re-issue albums by other artists, they said, effectively becoming a full-service, vertically-integrated—if tiny—old-school music company.
Ms. Welch and Mr. Rawlings, whose careers took off as the CD era crashed into the age of iTunes, feel like putting out vinyl now brings them full circle. “It’s like an author who has only ever released an e-Book,” Mr. Rawlings says. “You see a book in print and bound and you feel like you’ve finally done what you were aiming to do.”
Write to Neil Shah at neil.shah@wsj.com
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Old 07-23-2017, 10:55 AM
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Cheers to Gillian and David!
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Old 07-23-2017, 10:56 AM
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Word is out amongst Gillian Welch fans. The first run of Harrow and the Harvest sold out via pre-order
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Old 07-23-2017, 01:04 PM
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I suspect vinyl for the 'fad followers' is in fact fading somewhat. I've said all along why anyone would start out with analog today (other than band wagon jumpers) is beyond me............
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Old 07-23-2017, 01:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikado463 View Post
I suspect vinyl for the 'fad followers' is in fact fading somewhat. I've said all along why anyone would start out with analog today (other than band wagon jumpers) is beyond me............
I had LP's growing up, transitioned to cassettes and then CD's and HD downloads. I am now back into records. Purchased what I think is a nice turntable and new records from the current offerings.

My opinion is that some of my records sounds better then the digital version and some digital versions sound better then records. I enjoy both..........

Where is that wagon again?
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Old 07-23-2017, 01:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pyro View Post
I had LP's growing up, transitioned to cassettes and then CD's and HD downloads. I am now back into records. Purchased what I think is a nice turntable and new records from the current offerings.

My opinion is that some of my records sounds better then the digital version and some digital versions sound better then records. I enjoy both..........

Where is that wagon again?
Pyro, I hear you, I'm well entrenched in analog as well (1000 plus Lp's and counting), been spinning black pizza since the sixties.

My comment was aimed more at those that that are just getting started ..... that's what's called 'jumping on the band wagon'

For the most part I think the younger crowd (and some old timers as well) have decided they no longer want to deal with the ritual of playing vinyl
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Old 07-23-2017, 02:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pyro View Post
My opinion is that some of my records sounds better then the digital version and some digital versions sound better then records. I enjoy both..........
Rob.......I'm in the same camp as you.
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Old 01-02-2018, 07:08 PM
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Great read.
I saw them perform in "Another Day Another Time"
I really enjoy them, the movie is my favorite ever, top performers.

I hope vinyl is here to stay. Remove the argument of which one sounds better and you have vinyl standing in a class of its own. The reason is simple, the tangibility of the medium and it brings back COMMUNITY to music! People go to the record store, they meet, they talk they enjoy music together. Nothing is less satisfying then digital...oooh yes, a new album is on Spotify...I've lost interest before I have hit play.

The industry has an opportunity to lead music in a healthy direction. Producing good vinyl with the free access to digital downloads. People want to own the music and have the digital for connivence sake. I hope the vinyl trend continues, not only for me but for the artists an song writers etc....
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Old 01-02-2018, 07:20 PM
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Vinyl never left, it got super quiet that is all. I have been buying and playing records since the mid 70's. Sure like most I got the digital bug, but purely for convenience, when you start to raise a family flipping records and all that is not realistic, in a normal day. I remember just letting a CD run on forever....I would listen to records at night with headphones once the kids were asleep.

Recording to tape will probably never come back like it was, but I don't think records will really 100% never stop being pressed.
As long as engineers treat a record mastering as it should be, I'll never stop buying records.
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