WSJ asks Why Vinyls Boom Is Over 2017-07-23 02:55:57 Wall Street Journal says Vinyl's Fad is over:By Neil Shah July 22, 2017 7:00 a.m. ET https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-vinyls-boom-is-over-1500721202?mod=e2tw"Ms. Welch and Mr. Rawlings have gone to extreme lengths to solve a problem many music aficionados say is an open secret in the music industry: Behind the resurgence of vinyl records in recent years, the quality of new LPs often stinks."Old LPs were cut from analog tapes—that’s why they sound so high quality. But the majority of today’s new and re-issued vinyl albums—around 80% or more, several experts estimate—start from digital files, even lower-quality CDs. These digital files are often loud and harsh-sounding, optimized for ear-buds, not living rooms. So the new vinyl LP is sometimes inferior to what a consumer hears on a CD."The WSJ article contains obvious falsehoods as statements of fact. It's a black mark on the WSJ's otherwise enviable reputation. The first sentence in the article has two glaring faults: "Old LPs were cut from master tapes, that's why they sound so high quality." The first problem is that the last 10 years of LP production prior to the introduction of the CD (old enough?) were increasingly cut from digital masters, not analog master tapes. At the time, many music lovers applauded this because it did have a great potential for improved sound quality. The second problem is that in general, CDs simply sound better than LPs because they are generally more accurate, technically speaking. No tics and pops, for openers and that is just the beginning. This does not have to be true because of the application of mastering, which involves making changes that may reduce a CDs sonic accuracy in the interest of being louder.For a more balanced view:Why CDs May Actually Sound Better Than Vinylhttp://www.laweekly.com/music/why-cds-may-actually-sound-better-than-vinyl-5352162"Even purely digital music is now marketed using the trappings of vinyl. When U2 distributed 500 million digital copies of its new album to iTunes users — a reach unimaginable when the band released its debut in 1980 — the artwork depicted a vinyl record inside a sleeve with the initials "LP" scribbled on the exterior. And when Neil Young launched a Kickstarter campaign for PonoMusic, a digital music player and online store, his company's stated mission was to "re-create the vinyl experience in the digital realm."Baked into the vinyl resurgence is the suggestion — fed by analog apostles such as Young and White — that an LP's analog playback produces honest, authentic sound, while digital formats like the CD compromise quality for the sake of portability and convenience. Young articulated this sentiment earlier this month at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where he told Rolling Stone's Nathan Brackett that the vinyl resurgence is due to the fact that "[vinyl is] the only place people can go where they can really hear."...In 1968, a 23-year-old audio engineer named Bob Ludwig at New York's A&R Recording was asked to create a test pressing of The Band's debut, Music From Big Pink, so that the producers could hear what it would sound like on LP. During the process, he especially tried to preserve as much as possible of the deep low end of the band's sound, which he believed was critical to its music.But when he heard the final LP that was released, he was stunned. "All the low, extreme low bass that I knew was there, was chopped right off"Years later, when Ludwig was hired to provide the final edit (known as mastering) for a greatest-hits package for The Band, he got the album's master tapes back from Capitol Records. On the box was a note from the cutting engineer who'd made the original vinyl master, saying the album's extreme low end had to be cut out.Of vinyl's inherent deficiencies, reproducing bass is one of its most glaring. The other is that the last track on each side of a record sounds worse than the first, due to the fact that the player's stylus covers fewer inches of grooves per second as it gets closer to the centerThe vinyl disc is a steadily collapsing medium," says Ludwig, who went on to become a Grammy-winning mastering engineer, with credits on Patti Smith's Horses, Steely Dan's Gaucho and White's Lazaretto, among many others. "The closer it gets to the label, the more the information is getting compromised, the high frequencies getting lost."Ludwig's colleague Bob Clearmountain is one of the industry's most respected mixing engineers, responsible for setting the levels of a band's performance before it's sent to the mastering engineer. He has worked with everyone from The Rolling Stones and David Bowie to Ricky Martin and Lenny Kravitz.When Clearmountain mixed vinyl albums for Columbia Records, he says the label required the test pressing of each LP to play on an old, cheap turntable without skipping, or it would have to be mixed again. Too much bass in one speaker could make the needle skip out of the groove, as would too much sibilance — a harsh "s" — in a singer's voice.Clearmountain, who now works out of Mix This! in Pacific Palisades, says that when he heard the vinyl test pressings of the albums he'd worked on in the studio, he always felt the same way: depressed."I'd just listen and go: 'Jesus, after all that work, that's all I get?' It was sort of a percentage of what we did in the studio," he says. "All that work and trying to make everything sound so good, and the vinyl just wasn't as good."Not only did records provide only a sliver of what he'd done in the studio but they also came with plenty of sounds that hadn't been there in the first place: ticks and pops."If you're a musician like Bob and I," Ludwig says, "and you get to do a mix and you listen to it and you love the way it sounds, and then it's transferred to vinyl and suddenly it's got noise and ticks and pops, for me that's an extremely unmusical event."