Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

REVIVING VINYL; New Generation Discovers Joys of the Turntable

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

REVIVING VINYL; New Generation Discovers Joys of the Turntable

Article excerpt

Sam Wolter, a freshman in college, returned home to Kirkwood for the holidays, determined to go back to school for his second semester with something he had left behind.

A record player.

"I missed it too much," Wolter said, while sifting through albums at Vintage Vinyl in University City on a recent Sunday. "All my friends are bringing theirs, too."

A record player? That plays vinyl records? A college student?

Despite drastic changes in the way the world consumes music over the last 30 years, old-fashioned vinyl is making a comeback, thanks mostly to a new generation of vinyl lovers. In 2011 vinyl record sales in the U.S. shot up to 3.9 million, a nearly 40 percent climb over 2010, and by the midpoint of 2012, they had climbed another 14 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Turntable sales are up, too, sellers report, with some shop owners and dealers sending scouts to estate sales to scrounge for old record players, which are now a hot commodity. Old records that once seemed like useless relics are now in demand, and new vinyl records are being released by current-day artists who are luring new buyers with retro appeal.

"We're going forward into the past," said Lew Prince, a co-owner at Vintage Vinyl. "It's really weird. We went through a period in the '90s when records were probably down to 2 percent of our business. This year it's up to 30 percent. Now we're selling them to people who are college or high school age."

While record buyers never totally went away, the current-day buyers are mostly in their teens and 20s, many of whom say they're drawn simply by the sound quality of vinyl.

"The fidelity is better," Wolter said, holding a copy of "Celebration Rock" by Vancouver-based duo Japandroids. "With mp3s, they cut out the highs and lows. With vinyl, you get a warmness. I'm not even an audiophile, and I can tell the difference."

Prince says it's all about the grooves in vinyl, which have gotten deeper, particularly with the heavier, higher-quality vinyl now being used.

"They're big heavy platters with big grooves," he explained. "The more groove you have, the more music fits in. The range in a record is much more dynamic."

Prince remembers listening to one of the first CDs he got at the store a recording of Beethoven's 9th Symphony by the Cleveland Orchestra and being somewhat dismayed by the sound.

"The quieter parts were harder to hear, and the loud parts were much more dynamic than any orchestra ever sounds," Prince said. "Listening to the vinyl version of that performance on a really good stereo is like sitting in a middle seat, row M, at Powell Hall. It sounds like a really good orchestra as opposed to a collection of digitalized instruments."

But the attraction of records goes beyond just the sound, and many latter-day vinyl lovers confess to not hearing much of a difference between CDs or mp3s and vinyl anyway. …

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