Eight-track tapes are long gone. You can barely find a cassette tape player, let alone a commercially produced tape.
Yet, at least three stores in Santa Cruz do a good business in vinyl records, selling them used and new, even though they are two media evolutions back, after compact discs and now online digital transfers, such as MP3s.
Students and older people who remember the format as sounding better than digital are frequent customers at vinyl outlets such as Metavinyl, Logos and
Not only are they still here, but local business owners think they won't go the way of the, ugh, bookstore or video shop.
Why? Some say the sound of vinyl is simply better, despite the cracks or pops heard on so many records.
“It really does sound better,” said Jonathan Schneiderman, 30, owner of a record store in downtown Santa Cruz, as he sorted through some records. The shop has been around for more then six years and has a wide collection for all sorts of taste, jazz, rock or classical.
The difference in sound is not just the opinion of the seller, but that of collectors. For some listeners, the musical sound created by MP3s is not worth their purchase, because the translation to digital format loses richness, depth and warmth of the recordings.
“I can hear the difference between an MP3 and a vinyl record, and I don’t like listening to an MP3,” said Harry Baker, a computer repairer and vinyl enthusiast, who was glancing at records at Metavinyl that afternoon.
“I like things to sound the way they sound live, and vinyl is the closest to that."
MP3s have a more compressed musical sound to save space and be able to fit in the vast musical libraries of computers and MP3 players. This compression leads to the loss of sounds and music that are commonly retained in vinyl.
“A lot of information is lost on the digital format,” said Dave Iermini, professional music and book buyer at , a store in downtown Santa Cruz that sells a wide variety of vinyl records, books and other portable music formats.
“It's amazing how much information there is on a vinyl disc then on digital track.”
That being said, technology has come up with digital portable music discs that store large quantities of data, whether they be blue ray or super audio formats. Some vinyl collectors believe these new formats are as good in sound quality.
“They are rivaling vinyl in terms of quality of sound,” said Clinton Blount, 64, an anthropologist and vinyl aficionado about the Blue Ray CDs. Blount was setting aside records for purchase at Metavinyl that afternoon.
He still prefers vinyl and the “dirt cheap” cost of some of the records he buys is yet another reason to stick with vinyl and not go all out with Blue Ray.
The new technology does come at a price—at enough of a price that Schneiderman is not quite worried about his business.
“It's possible to get digital to sound pretty good,” admitted Schneiderman.
However, it takes a lot more money, he warned.
The specialized sound systems required to bring out the best in digital music can cost thousands of dollars. But record players are a lot cheaper, and can provide the same quality of sound as these audio CDs.
“I am definitely anxious to hear about the better side of digital, but I don’t think it’s a threat.”
The idea that vinyl will continue to mature as a niche market product does resonate with vinyl sellers, who see parallels with the book market.
“I think it's headed just for a collectors' market,” said John Livingston, 64, owner of the 48-year-old, Logos, as he sat in a street bench outside his store.
Music sales in all formats at Logos have been decreasing since their peak in the mid-1990s.
"I love vinyl and will continue to sell it for as long as I can, but I think it will be a smaller presence,” said Livingston.
He said he believes that vinyl has and could become an even more serious product for collectors, driving up their overall value—and prices.
He has seen the price of some hardcover books soar to thousands of dollars over time.
“As the collectors market goes up, the value will go up really significantly, as they have in books that we occasionally get,” said Livingston.