Sunday, January 1, 2012

LPs and CDs are Just Install Discs for Music

Rather than being crushed as a relic of the past, vinyl can be an active participant in the digital music future. Let me explain.

Before I embraced my inner Detroit-ness and got into the automotive business, I worked for a CAD software company.

When I started, our products were mostly delivered as "shrink-wrapped software"—a sealed box containing a CD and a manual. You used the CD to install the software, then put it in back in the box and stored the package in a closet never to be seen again (barring the need to re-install after disaster).

In later years it became more common for customers to download an installer and purchase an authorization key to enable use. Today many software products have now been replaced with cloud-based software services, requiring no local installation.

The parallel to music is obvious. The industry has evolved from physical media to digital downloads to cloud-based streaming.

Now that dematerialized play is the norm in my house, my preferred delivery mechanism for music is a download in lossless format. If a lossless download is not available, I reluctantly purchase a CD. The CD is used exactly once, to "rip" its content to the Library, then stored away in a cabinet never to be seen again.

Basically, the audio CD has been reduced to an install disc for music.

If you enjoy the sonic characteristics of vinyl but want the cool features of dematerialized play, the LP can just as straightforwardly be a music install disc for a given title, using a high-quality digital transfer process. For me, that covers all music purchased before 1985 or so. But an LP can be used to install new releases from artists like The Black Keys, She & Him, Leonard Cohen, Wilco, and the late Amy Winehouse — all available on vinyl.

While ripping a CD is a mindless install operation — a background task — the LP install process requires your full attention: recording at high resolution, carefully repairing old wear-and-tear, meticulously isolating and labeling tracks for export, and studiously suppying metadata. An LP is "decidedly invonvenient, which is the very reason it appeals." (Eric Felton)

Another example of how CDs and LPs are fraternal, but not identical twins.

               Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #2              

Title: A Charlie Brown Christmas
Artist: Vince Guaraldi Trio
Genre: Jazz/Christmas
Year: 1965

There are two CD copies of A Charlie Brown Christmas somewhere in my house. But when it came time to install this title in my dematerialized Library, I decided to dub the old LP copy rather than ripping a CD. Like the homely Christmas tree selected by Charlie Brown, all the LP needed was a little love to make it shine.

© 2012 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Do you keep your CDs out or put them in storage after ripping their content to your dematerialized library? Please leave a comment.