Slate Article Defends Audiophiles – An author whose book on General Petraeus was a success has written a fascinating Slate article on being an audiophile and being proud of it – partly in response to the recent dissing (some of it highly deserved) of Pono and its adherents.
Another New Vinyl Pressing Plant – Cascade Record Pressing is a new pressing plant open for business and the first in Oregon. It started from a wild idea among three partners originaly raised on vinyl and turned into an economic reality just short of miraculous. Their first idea was a record store, but Portland has plenty of those. The recent demand for vinyl has grown so much that it now exceeds the supply. 2014, for example, saw an increase of 50% from 2013. In 2006 fewer than a million vinyls were sold in the U.S., and last year that number jumped to well over nine million. The semi-annual Record Store Day has been a major factor, but there is also the improvement of the sonics from convenient MP3s, the great artwork and notes, the accessibility, etc. As well as new releases (many are just on vinyl with a card inside to download an MP3 of the music), expensive re-issue pressings of classic rock groups are driving the market (and forcing some small labels out of the few pressings plants).
There are fewer than 20 vinyl pressing plants now in the entire U.S., and they are all using old, no longer manufactured equipment. No one is making new ones. Those which represented the height of American record-pressing tchnology are gone, in fact most all of the equipment made since the 1970s. And it’s not so simple to press an LP either – one press operator said “They think it’s like an Easy Bake Oven – records just start coming out.” Not so. One interesting sidelight on this is that a warped or dished vinyl usually indicates it wasn’t cooled properly after pressing, due to the current demand for a quick turnaround in some pressings plants. One operator sums up why many people are buying vinyl while more modern means of music playback have come and gone as being due to there being “a tremendous amount of humanity in the product.”
Music Lovers Ready to Invest – Only 23% say their present audio system meets their expectations. 82% of those surveyed rated top audio quality as the most important feature of an audio system, and 79% agreed that the sound quality was becoming more important than the appearance of devices. 70% were willing to pay more to get excellent sound quality from their home electronic equipment. 65% say they can tell the difference purely sound quality between a $47 and a $471 set of headphones. 76% have streamed music in the home in the past month.