Classical vinyl? No thanks.
It's time for another shocking, painful admission: I hate vinyl. You know, vinyl long-playing records. The LP. Always have, even before there was a convenient alternative. Always will. I greatly preferred the CD from the moment it arrived, after which I felt not a second of nostalgia for earlier sound-reproducing technologies. To you, this admission might seem ho-hum, and I envy you for that. Because in the world of audiophilia, I have just done the equivalent of touting frozen food over the farmers market, or of extolling the virtues of the designated hitter. It's just not something one says in polite company, and hope to maintain a shred of credibility or high moral standing.
Silly as it seems, vinyl has practically become a moral cause for its votaries. Analog (i.e., non-digital) sound, for them, is "human." Digital is "clinical." Analog is "real." Digital is "artificial." Funny thing, I heard even the widely (sometimes justly) disparaged early CDs as more realistic than the LP right from the start. It's wasn't just the bad stuff the CDs had done away with, like ticks, pops, hiss and rumble. It was the phenomenal transparency that permitted me to listen not just to but through the music for every fine detail. Contrary to analogue fans' insistence of the opposite, I was able to sense the space in which the music was recorded more accurately from CDs than from LPs. And I loved that the CD would sound just as great no matter how many times I played it — that it wouldn't wear out or get scratched. As digital technology has improved, my preference for the CD over the LP has if anything widened. That's the way I hear things; others of course may hear them differently.
So can we agree that it's a matter of personal preference and leave it at that? I wish. Because analog vs. digital has become one of those debates where the general public mostly goes along with what's newest and most convenient, but where insiders and specialists regard the preservation of the old way as a crusade. More than once have I been told that I must be wrong about my preference for digital, since all the experts feel the opposite way. Don't you love it when people tell you that kind of thing? Even better is the way that LP lovers tout the superiority of their medium, then proceed to brag about how much they spent on their fancy gear. The implication is that a poor slob like me, with my cheap audio toys, couldn't possibly know what I'm missing. Thanks for enlightening me; I promise to adopt an attitude of submission and inferiority the next time. Because the LP-loving insiders have greater access to the media, as well as a higher level of indignation, theirs is the opinion that tends to dominate the conversation. But that doesn't make it the majority opinion; nor does it make it right.
By now (if you've made it this far), you may be wondering what brought all this on. 'Twas a spirited article by British classical journalist Norman Lebrecht, in which he takes shots both at a pair of vinyl-only classical albums and at some equally questionable iTunes-only (therefore crappy mp3-only) classical albums. Interestingly, both involve ultra-cool conductor Gustavo Dudamel. C'mon, Dude, give us some good-sounding recordings, will ya? Now, Lebrecht has a propensity to go rather over the top at times. Remind me to tell you of the fist-pounding screed against America's "drug culture" I witnessed at a radio conference several years ago. But when he's good — that is, when I agree with him (wink) — he's very good. Whether you prefer read the article to music with as much snap, crackle and pop as a bowl of Rice Krispies, or music played back with stunning clarity (the kind we favor on WFCR), I hope you find it interesting.