Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Magic of Vinyl

As the cover implies: a literal explosion of funk

Ladies and gentlemen I have discovered a new hobby and that is crate digging.

Yes indeed! I got a new turntable for Christmas with the vague intent to learn enough about scratch technique to make some of my own original scratches (versus finding new ways to fake it on the computer or creative ways to re-use the same 12 decent scratch samples I've got already).

Having owned a real DJ turntable for a grand total of four days, I haven't done much, but I've discovered it's possible to get some cool sounds without really knowing what you're doing. As an instrument, it's very promising.

What I have unexpectedly discovered, is that the experience of hunting down forgotten vinyl gems and listening to them in their entirety on a good system in a chill room, perhaps with an adult beverage or two is epic. 

Is vinyl really better than CDs or downloads? I think it depends on what you mean by "better", honestly. 

Without getting too nerdily pedantic about it, all sounds are pressure waves in air. Digital audio works by sampling the wave every so often and reconstructing it as shown here.

this is pretty much how digital audio works

physical noise (record not moving)
CD's sample at 44.1 thousand times per second, which is pretty damn fast. Vinyl on the other hand is limited only by the physical limitations of the lathe which cut the disk, which is to say continuous, and by comparison virtually limitless.

I set my turntable up through my computer's audio interface, which I've got running at 96 thousand samples per second (more than twice CD resolution) and I can definitely hear a difference. In terms of resolution, vinyl wins hands down. That being said, vinyl has a ton of surface noise, scratches, pops, hisses, etc ... so in terms of clarity, it looses to CD or downloads.

Listening to vinyl is like watching ultra-high-def TV through glasses with some pits and scratches in them, but in the end that aspect is almost irrelevant.

What I mean by "irrelevant" is that vinyl records are fun in a way that CDs and downloads simply can never be. There is a physicality to getting off your derriere, braving the dustmites, mildew and recovering crackheads at a local thrift store and emerging as Indiana Jones from the jungle with hitherto unknown funky treasures to grace the shelves of your musical lair.

Not only do you get the music, but you get large format artwork, and liner notes, and on average it costs less than a dollar for a whole album! Downloading from iTunes or Amazon is a positively sterile experience. It's the difference between going to a night club and going to a dentist's office.

If like me, you are too young to actually remember the era from which this stuff originated, and at the same time, are too old to give a damn about the crapola on the radio these days, then I'm telling you: You need to check this out. You're in the sweet spot for some musical archaeology.

here is some vintage funk I acquired yesterday via the most excellent Vertical House Records down at the Flying Monkey in Huntsville. Best $5 I've spent in years!

The podcast is an uncompressed 24-bit wav file recorded at 96 KHz, but downsampled to 44.1 (otherwise it'd be huge). This is an mp3 (as close to what vinyl sounds like as I can squeeze through the intarwebz) Get out there and hear the real thing for yourself!

Bar-Kays: Attitudes

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