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ISSUE 120 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/20/2007

Vinyl records please on the cheap

By April Wright
Variety Editor

Friday, April 20, 2007

Get ready for some basement and attic raiding, because vinyl records are making a comeback.

I suppose you could argue that they never went away, but in recent years, there's been a surge of both wide-release and limited edition vinyl hitting the market, making them the hot item for music-lovers.

And you have got to be prepared.

Over the past couple of years, one of the big arguments against vinyl records is that it is hard to get the music from the disc to the computer. That's not really true. With a traditional turntable, conversion kits that come with a cord and software can be purchased cheaply. Conversion software takes the songs from the record and converts them into MP3s. The files can then be imported to iTunes and put on an iPod, played on the computer, burned to a CD or used with another music device.

For a bit more scratch, USB turntables are a good option for the record-collecting novice. The price tag of around $150 for most of the products on the market might frighten some off, but they're worth the investment. USB turntables plug directly into the computer, allowing you to not only rip the record to your computer, but to play it through your computer's speakers.

Some of you are probably asking yourselves, why even bother with such an outdated music format? Well, there are two answers. The first is money and the second is sound. If you like any music that came out before the early 90s, you can probably get it in the bargain bin at a thrift store, used book store or music store. If you were planning to buy albums as CDs or as MP3s off of iTunes, raiding the bargain bin (or even your parent's attic) will pay for itself in the long run. And, on top of it, 7" records, called 45s, often come as free promotional items with CDs and LPs.

The cost of older releases on vinyl versus newer formats doesn't weigh as heavily in favor of vinyl. Buying a vinyl of a new release is, in most cases, about equal in price to buying a new CD, which is almost always marginally more expensive than buying from iTunes. Personally, I don't really buy new vinyl since I don't feel like spending extra money to take up storage space. But if you like to have a tangible connection with the music you listen to (or even just something to show off), vinyl LPs are a pretty sweet way to go.

And, of course, there's the age-old question of what sounds better: vinyl or CD? I'm not a true audiophile, and I don't really notice the difference. Some argue that records tend to sound a little less harsh than other formats, while other audiophiles claim that these sounds are inaudible within the human range. Many, myself included, like the hisses and pops ubiquitous on vinyl recordings.

All of the above benefits ignore the fact that vinyl records are, in fact, awesome looking. No one can deny that sweet cover art looks good when blown up, in completely sharp form and bold color, to 12 inches. And the records themselves look cooler and are a tactile joy compared to the smooth impersonality of CDs. Records have, and always will have, a definite aesthetic and sonic edge on all other forms of music. They're certainly worth the initial investment.

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