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September 2011 editorial

Vinyl comeback on financial newspapers!

The Econimist has recently devoted an article to the fast growth of vinyl sales in Europe and in the US. Earlier this year, even the Italian leading financial newspaper, Il Sole 24 ore, published an article about vinyl comeback (article focused on Records Store Day). And one shouldn't forget Forbes which devoted a very long article to this phenomenon. Titled The tables are turning the long article featured sales data and interviews with musician and music producers.
Now, if three financial newspapers spent (precious) time to report about vinyl sales it means the phenomenon is no longer a niche one...

[Sales of LPs in US]

Indeed, sales figures are becoming relevant and a look at the chart at your right should be quite meaningful: vinyl sales in the US are expected to reach 4 million units in 2011. Of course, this also means that vinyl buyers are not only audiophiles who believe vinyl sounds better! No, there are many plain and simple music lovers who want to rediscover (or discover for the very first time) the joys of opening and playing a Long Playing. For example, many teenagers are discovering vinyl, because of its higher coolness factor (funny, CDs had the same coolness factor in the Eighties).
The good news is that - unlike during the Seventies - there are so many affordable and easy ways to play vinyl correctly nowadays. Even basic, starter turntables are built with care and are sold as plug-and-play packages (Rega RP1, ProJect Debut's etc.), sometimes even a decent phono stage is included. Gone are the days of plasticky turnables of the Eighties, with cheap arms and wrongly installed cartridges! With just 200 € you can purchase an analogue set-up that performs reasonably well and doesn't destroy records. This will help vinyl sales growth. Why? Well, one of the reasons why - coolness factor aside - CDs replaced LPs so easily is was that - normally - vinyl sounded really bad, because it was played on horrible turntables.
Audiophiles knew how nicely could a vinyl sound, but the rest of the World was tired of hearing surface noise, clicks, pops and horrible distortion most of the times. Not to mention the damages caused by unproper cleaning fluids and procedures!
Now it seems there's a higher respect for vinyl and even first-timers try to learn everything about analogue playing: correct set-up, cleaning issues, adequate storage etc. The role of the Web is crucial. Once, vinyl playback knowledge was restricted to the audiophile circles, now everyone can learn all the tricks with a few clicks of a mouse.

There's hope that vinyl will live a second life, better than its previous one. Will it outlast CD? You bet! CD sales will be replaced by digital download while many LP releases already contain the code for legal MP3 content download. So the question is not IF but...WHEN?

For all these reasons I seriously hope to see more integrated amplifiers offering a standard MM phono input, like it used to be in the Seventies and in the Eighties. External phono preamps are fine but they make the analogue set-up more complicated, with more cables and...boxes. They might be good for audiophiles, who are always searching for the ultimate performance, but normal customers and music lovers certainly would prefer something simpler, of the plug-and-play kind. Having a look at the catalogues of the main HiFi Companies just Rotel and Arcam continue to offer phono inputs on their entry-level amplifiers. In order to face what the market is starting to ask, any entry-level integrated amplifier should offer two features: a phono input and a built-in USB DAC for liquid Music. That's all people really need. Why HIFi designers are reacting so slowly?

[Slow reaction]
Ouch! Those old CDs are slowing me down!

© Copyright 2011 Lucio Cadeddu - direttore@tnt-audio.com - www.tnt-audio.com

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