Vinyl's Not Final

Bob loves vinyl, kind of. i i
Mallory Benedict/NPR
Bob loves vinyl, kind of.
Mallory Benedict/NPR
What is it?
Mallory Benedict/NPR

Last week, we posted a photo of the object to the left, an object that serves a very particular, and perhaps slightly antiquated, function, and asked if you knew what it was. If you were among the 34% that didn't know, chances are you'd never seen it in its proper place. Yup, it's a 45 adapter, the tool that made the big hole on those small records fit on a turntable that only had a shaft sized to fit a 16, 33 or a 78.

We also asked for your age, and weren't surprised to find that the older folks who responded were more likely to know what they were looking at. But what was funny, when I started thinking about it, was that I'd be willing to bet that these days more young people listen to a vinyl record on a daily basis than older folks do.

I love vinyl, but I love digital more. Some of it is simply the convenience of digital, but for everyday listening it's also the sound. Yesterday I hooked up a new pre-amp — the ART V2 USB Phono Plus DJ Preamp — to my turntable. All consumer amplifiers used to have a "phono" input that boosted the relatively quiet signal coming from the turntable, but these days few do. Hence the need for a pre-amp, an amp before your amp.

I pulled out a few albums, starting with side two of The Beatles' Abbey Road. The biggest thing I miss from the old vinyl days is that there were two sides to a record. Artists thought about this: it was a chance to have two very different things happen on the same record, and as a listener you could choose which side to listen to. People don't start listening to a CD or a digital file on cut six. Anyway, I digress.

When I cranked up the amp I also cranked up the surface noise, all the clicks and pops. Someone younger might yearn for that stuff, but it's a turnoff for me. Once you put a needle to a vinyl record, it's never as good as the first time, and the more you love it, the more it wears out. I can see there being something romantic and analog about that fact, something that makes this YOUR record, but frankly, I just want to hear the artist's intent and not my turntables imprint on it. My guess is that people buying vinyl these days are buying objects to have and to hold, but more often listening to the free downloads that come with the record.

If you buy vinyl, how old are you? Do you listen to the vinyl more than the download?

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