Saturday, January 27, 2007
My Favorite Toy....OF ALL TIME!!
WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME VINYL SOUNDED THIS GOOD?!!
Today, after much searching and research and planning and hoping, I did something that I never thought I would do in the year 2007: I bought a turntable. A record player! How crazy is that?
This is something I've wanted to do for a long time, and thanks to the local Cheapo store, I've been slowly stocking up on classic vinyl records. At first, my plan was to frame and hang them on the wall. Eventually, the temptation became too strong; I needed to play them. So I picked up a Numark Portable Turntable from the local hip-hop store in Uptown Minneapolis (a serious hangout for the vibrant hip-hop scene - I think Atmosphere played here last year).
I also made one last trip to Cheapo, before I became completely broke, and picked up the one album I've sworn to myself to finally listen to on vinyl - Sgt. Pepper. I've never heard it on vinyl before, never. Isn't that a horrible shame? I also grabbed a mint copy of Led Zeppelin IV for - get this - three bucks. Seriously, you can get everything in this place for three bucks. It's insane.
I get home, fix some sandwiches, sit down, plug the Numark in, and pull out Zeppelin. I'm too nervous and eager to go for The Beatles. I'll throw in Zoso and see how it compares. So here's a few random thoughts off the top of my head, after listening to both sides of the album once.
Number 1 - Holy Fucking Shit!
Number 2 - I'm beginning to feel like Dorothy in the land of Oz. Why didn't anyone tell me vinyl sounded this good? The sound quality is outstanding. It's beyond outstanding. I'm overcome with emotion through the whole thing, on the verge of tears. I'm well and truly awestruck by the beauty of Zeppelin IV.
Number 3 - I've listened to the Zeppelin albums on standard CD, on the "greatest hits" CD box set, and on the silver 10-disc box set that sells for a hundred dollars. This is the very first time I've listened to this album on a turntable. Zep IV on vinyl blows everything else away. There's no comparison. We're in a completely different world; it's as though the gates of Heaven were opened up, and you suddenly felt the hand of God on your shoulder.
Number 4 - By the time I get to Stairway to Heaven, I'm on the verge of having outright hallucinations. This is becoming a transcendent experience.
Number 5 - I can finally understand what music lovers mean when they tell you, when comparing vinyl to digital, that vinyl sounds warmer. It's very true. It's more organic, more natural. There's a wealth of sounds that I've never heard before, sounds that are diminished or somehow lessened on compact disc. After finishing Levee on the second side, I clicked on my copy of Zoso on my hard drive, where I store all my old CD's and MP3's. The digital version does sound cold. It sounds mechanical, robotic. You can hear the notes, but the warmth just isn't there. There isn't as much color.
I'm sorry if this sounds a little weird. I really don't know how else to describe it. Zoso on vinyl just sounds a lot warmer. You can almost smell the wood on the walls of Hedley Grange. Also, I should point out that I'm not listening to a newly-released, 200-gram reissue; this was someone's old, beat-up copy of Led Zeppelin IV.
Number 6 - I know, it really has to be said, and it's common knowlege, but still - it's awesome having a big record album in your hands, unfolding it to see the hermit illustration. We really do miss a lot of the scale on CD. Heck, the move towards a purely digital world, iPods and such, will take the album covers away entirely.
The player I'm using is a Newmark PT-01, and it sells for about $100. It runs on batteries, or you can plug into a wall. There is a small speaker built in, but you'd be far better off with a good pair of headphones or some stereo speakers. There are also plugs so you can hook up to your computer, and you could make digital backups of your vinyl record collection if you wanted. Right now, I'm not sure I'd even sure I'd want to.
I'm having a blast with my new toy. It well and truly is the Coolest Thing Ever. You should seriously think about getting one yourself. For the price of one new CD, you could score five or six records, depending on where you get your music. Also, many of the classic albums - Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Zeppelin, Sabbath - and a lot of modern music is still being issued and reissued on vinyl. I've heard this is making a bit of a comeback with the younger kids, the ones who are too young to experience record albums before CD's took over. I sure hope so.
Okay, time for a shower, and then it's time for Sgt. Pepper's! I fully expect to see the walls melting by the time I'm done.