« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Vinyl records have a place among high-tech gadgetry

Crosley records

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas acts as a sort of barometer of what's to come in gadgets and technology. This year, exhibitors were obsessed with 3-D television and open software platforms. But in some areas of the Las Vegas Convention Center last week, vinyl records, a century-old technology, were a hip centerpiece. The vinyl resurgence has been written about before, but it was largely exclusive to hipsters and fogies, not tech geeks or clarity-focused audiophiles.

Yet, after being supplanted by three formats, vinyl lingers.

Crosley, which licenses the name from the legacy manufacturer, drew crowds as onlookers continually recited lines about vinyl being cool again and the peculiarity of Best Buy carrying records. About half of Crosley's sizable booth was devoted to record players of varying types. Some are delightfully retro, with a brown, wooden finish, while others are cutting-edge (as progressive as you can be while still housing those giant Frisbees).

"This is our business," said Crosley spokeswoman Meagan Hardin. "Every singer that releases a CD also has it on vinyl. Stores might not sell it, but you can find it."

Retro lovers and devout music listeners will seek out their favorite bands' records at thrift shops and in the darkest corners of eBay.

ION, which also had a booth at the CES, has built a business on the vinyl revival. It recently introduced a number of turntables, some stand-alone. ION's flagship product converts records into digital audio files.

ION spokesman Winston Eade said astute listeners appreciate having the vinyl versions of their albums. It produces that signature "warmer" sound versus the colder audio of its digital counterpart. And that warmth even comes across in digital conversions.

The ION Profile turntable contains an iPod dock that lets you transfer tracks from the record directly to a portable music player. The ION Profile Flash is the high-end device, containing an SD card slot. It instantly cuts tracks into separate files, so that while the transcoding process is happening, you can "get yourself a cup of tea," Eade said.

The newest product is the ION Profile Play LP, a consumer-entry model that is powered by a computer's USB connection. ION is hoping a cheap turntable will encourage an entirely new generation to jump onto the vinyl fad that's proving to be anything but.

-- Mark Milian

Photo: Crosley's booth at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Credit: Mark Milian / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (10)

Right on! I also think music lovers, consumers, or whatever you want to call them can see more real value in something like vynl.

Whether it is true or not, buying vynl has a feeling closer to buying a piece of art, whereas CD's have a cheap knock-off feel.

As we move farther into the digital age, people really question why someone would charge them so much for a CD, especially when they can run down the road and buy a stack of 50 or download the same quality online.

Vynl has a bit more of a 'craftsmanship' feel to it which carries more intrinsic value.

"The vinyl resurgence has been written about before, but it was largely exclusive to hipsters and fogies, not tech geeks or clarity-focused audiophiles."

Audiophiles never dropped vinyl. As a matter of fact, it took a long time before CDs were accepted as a viable listening source. Hipsters and fogies ain't got nothing on us!

vinyl will never leave because it's the best......

With a few exceptions, the resurgence of vinyl has little to do with any "retro" sensibilities. On a decent turntable (not what you had in the 70s), vinyl simply sounds better than the compact disc, and siginficantly better than the compressed dreck of MP3 or lower-grade iPod. When young people here how much more natural vinyl sounds compared to what they are used to, it's typically a revelation. Remember that the CD was invented in the 70s (although it has made tremendous improvements since its introduction). In the world of audio, most every step forward is also an initial step backward. MP3 and lower-grade iPod is a step down in quality from CD. There are higher-grade digital formats (Super Audio CD, dvd Audio) but they never really caught on in the mass market.

Vinyl is anything but convenient, and we have continued to trade musicality for convenience. But if you can deal with the inconvenience, you shall be rewarded.

Sorry, but vinyl is NOT a fad! It never went away. It is the premier method of listening to music. There are tons of websites where one can purchase vinyl and turntables and cartridges. You can spend $150, 000 on a turntable alone, not including tonearm and cartridge. Whereas there will never be a CD player worth more than a few hundred dollars, because of the quality limitations. And MP3 quality is even farther down the list. Sure, I appreciate the convenience of both the latter media, but when I'm relaxing at home I prefer vinyl.

Vinyl has a "warmer" sound? That old canard has been around ever since digital technology beached the LP. Some people believe in guardian angels but that doesn't make it so either.

Vinyl is alive and well...check out www.theanalogroom.com in San Jose, CA. They have 1,000's of records for sale and a variety of turntables...

Clearly the author of the article is uninformed. Products portrayed as "retro" such as made by Crosley and sold by mail order/internet gadget merchants neither provide good performance nor represent what is available to those interested in listening to vinyl records. An analog to digital converter and USB output may be useful to people who don't care to continue listening to their records, but other products providing significantly better performance are available, albeit for a bit more money.

Had the author ventured out of the Las Vegas Convention Center ("the zoo") to the audio exhibits at the Venetian if not the alternative show (THE Show) at the Flamingo, he would have realized there is whole other world of high performance audio out there and that for many, vinyl has never gone out of fashion nor is a fad.

First off, vinyl records have not been in production for over 100 years. The first records were not made of vinyl, but shellac and other harder materials. Needles were not weighed back then and would have obliterated a vinyl record in one play. The first vinyl record was produced in 1931 by RCA. But vinyl records didn't reach mass audiences until the 60s.

Second off, there is no "vinyl revival". There are a few souls still playing records because they don't like digital music. However, 99.999% of the people in this world are not listening to records.

I still LOVE vinyl. Nothing like holding the record, slipping it out, putting on the table and then sitting back to read the notes and look at the photos. Not to mention the superior sound. If you're looking for high quality new and used vinyl record albums please visit us at www.joesalbums.com.


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Recent Posts

Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: