Greetings, fellow vinyl enthusiasts! My name is Tim Hibbs and, as a by-product of a friendly Facebook dust-up with TVD shopkeeper Jon Meyers, I am now the Nashville editor for this fair site.
I won’t bore you with my resume other than to say that my dad was a record collector and, therefore, I became one as well, practically from birth. I’ve spent my adult life working in various precincts of the music business, all the while building and maintaining a vinyl collection. It never entered my mind to purge it during the rise of compact discs or the subsequent digital file deluge.
Don’t get me wrong, I own plenty of CDs and more than a couple of iPods but the experience of listening to music on records always felt superior. Even though vinyl has made a much-welcomed comeback in recent years, I still find people who regard it as “quaint” at best and can’t understand why I just don’t download and be done with it. Invariably, their question to me is, “Why vinyl?”
The answer is multi-tiered, but at its simplest, it is, “Because it sounds better.” Really? Can a vinyl record truly sound better than CD or “lossless” digital file? Yes, I honestly believe it does and I’ll try to explain.
Records use analog technology. Analog, derived from the Latin word analogus, refers to data which is delivered by continuously variable physical quantities. In other words, when you set the tonearm down on a record and the stylus finds the groove, the sound emanating from your speakers or headphones is continuous. That’s important, because that is how our ears are built to hear sound: as a continuous, uninterrupted wave. By contrast, when analog sound waves are stored as digital audio files, they are converted into a series of samples. Between those samples are tiny, imperceptible spaces which our conscious mind can’t discern. However, I think that our subconscious CAN tell the difference. When you listen to a digital music source, you are hearing an approximation, admittedly an often EXCELLENT approximation, of an analog sound wave. When listening to a record, no approximation is needed. Margarine vs. butter.
The most common characteristic vinyl lovers note about record listening is “warmth.” That warmth results from the union of analog sound to human ears, ears that connect to the brain in an uninterrupted stream. Add to that the visual pleasure of viewing full 12” x 12” artwork when playing an album and another sense is engaged in the experience. Physically taking a record from its sleeve and placing it on the turntable brings the sense of touch into play as well. No matter how great the music, the digital shuffle can’t replicate all of that.
Again, I am not advocating against CDs or digital files, or even remotely suggesting that you should banish them from your music library. All I am saying is that when you really, REALLY want to be engulfed in a transcendent listening experience, play a record. Tape breaks, CDs rot, digital files crash: vinyl is the only format that’s been around for over 100 years, and perhaps the only one likely to be around for another 100. Now, hand me that stack of 45s…
Stay tuned for all manner of music and vinyl-related happenings around Music City. If you have an event you would like me to mention, please forward it to me here at TVD with at least a week’s lead time. Coming up on Tuesday, November 13th, I’d like to invite you down to The 5 Spot (as seen on TV!) for a little vinyl spin session before Derek Hoke presents another of his tremendous “$2 Tuesday” extravaganzas. Enjoy a full night of live music for a wallet-friendly $2 cover, as well as $2 Yazoo beer and $2 hotdogs.
I’ll kick off the record playing at 8:30 PM and roll until the bands start at 9:30 PM, revving up the tables again between the acts. The theme will be “Sweet Memphis Soul” and I’ll have a stack of 7” beauties to spin, both familiar and obscure. Please come up and say “hi” and let me know what themes you’d like to hear in future Tuesdays. So it’s up to you: stay home and watch the latest episode of The Biggest Voicer or come out and enjoy some vivacious vinyl and live licks for two Washingtons.
Until next time, stay well and remember: friends don’t let friends say “vinyls.”