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Madeline Shalita vividly recalls the moment she fell in love with vinyl. Having grown up with CDs and MP3s, she had dismissed records as old-fashioned. But when she stumbled upon her father’s old record collection and played one on his dusty turntable for the first time, she says, she was “introduced to a sound unlike anything I’d ever heard.”
Shalita (COM’14) is part of a growing number of listeners behind what’s being billed as a “vinyl revival.” Vinyl records sales are up 745 percent since 2008, according to Amazon.com. It’s not just an American phenomenon, either. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry reports that global sales of LPs were $171 million in 2012, a 52 percent increase from the year before. And it’s younger listeners, those 18 to 25, who are leading the charge. This year, top-selling artists like Justin Timberlake, Arcade Fire, and Daft Punk released vinyl versions of their latest albums. All this despite the fact that records are more expensive than downloads or CDs, averaging about $25 compared to $10 for an album download.
What’s behind the comeback? Shalita says listening to a record is a much more immersive experience than listening to a CD or streaming music and is an altogether different experience. “You have to walk across the room and actually place the record on the turntable,” she says. “If you want to skip a song, you can’t just hit a button—there’s a careful needle-balancing act you must do to hear another track. But once that needle drops you’re treated to a sound that’s fuller and warmer than anything the digital world has to offer. The musical sound is cleaner and brighter than digital, especially MP3s, which suffer from compression that can kill deeper, more resonant sounds.”
Don’t own a turntable of your own? Not to worry. There are plenty of places you can experience the pleasure of listening to a vinyl record. Here on campus, Mugar Memorial Library’s music library has a dozen turntables available to students and a whole back catalog of records.
Shalita recommends the following local record stores for audiophiles interested in buying vinyl.
486 Commonwealth Ave., Boston
In Your Ear
957 Commonwealth Ave., Boston
332 Newbury St., Boston
Are you a record collector or a vinyl enthusiast? We’d love to hear how you fell in love with vinyl or about places where you buy records. Share your stories in the Comment section below.