Streetlights Records, one of a couple of places in town where you can buy vinyl records, has this great window display quoting Steve Jobs and his distaste for the sound of digital music.
Jobs, like many audiophiles, including Neil Young, was a vinyl guy. To hear the full flavor and depth of music, he believed, the old way was best.
Yet, he changed the music business and popularized a method of listening that is convenient, but not necessarily the best sounding.
Have you ever done a blind test between vinyl and digital music?
I was lucky enough to do one at Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs and it was a sad awakening. They switched between an LP and CD on the same songs and everytime I picked the vinyl.
The vinyl sounded three dimensional, warm, full, like music. By comparison, the digital sounds were flat and bland, like Taco Bell compared to a real down home Mexican joint.
Listening to vinyl was like walking through a forest, the music was all around me, like trees. The digital was like looking at a picture of the forest.
And sadly, MP3, the format in your iPod, is a step down from that.
Yet, few people get to hear both together. We've become a digital world, one of convenience over quality. Jobs knew, although he made a fortune off of it.
I admit, I am almost all digital now. I bought a device that warms up the sound of my iPod, a Wadia transport, and while it's not nearly as good as vinyl, I can put my iPod on it and fall asleep listening to music and not have to get up and move the needle off the turntable.
Yup, a compromise.
I wish I could invite you all over to do a blind test to hear the difference. With a decent turntable, I'm sure you would pick the vinyl every time. Audiophile and writer Michael Fremer has said that he thinks record stores got vinyl off the shelves as fast as possible so that people wouldn't know they were getting something of a lesser quality with CDs.
The hype at the time was "Perfect Sound Forever," but anyone who did a head-to-head comparison would know otherwise.
I still have all my vinyl and some 10,000 CDs. I still pay for all my music and have never illegally downloaded anything. I compare that to stealing from a store. I don't do it, although my students at Cabrillo College laugh when I mention CDs, like they are something alien. Forget talking about vinyl.
It's like when I showed a record album to a kid and she said: "How does that fit in a CD player?"
What do you think? Have you tried both forms of recording back to back?
Check all the pictures here of the window display for more information on Jobs.