I’ve always thought there was something more real, more substantial to music on vinyl than in mp3 format. Maybe it’s because in order to listen to the music there are more steps to be taken than simply pushing play on your iPod. Maybe it’s the fuller sound that’s produced when the needle is set on that vulnerable, grooved piece of vinyl as it spins at 33-and-a-third rotations per minute on a turntable. I’m thinking it’s a bit of both.

If you’ve ever been puzzled by someone who said they thought “music lost something” by going digital or simply can’t wrap your head around why anyone thinks vinyl sounds better, I’d suggest an mp3-versus-vinyl comparison of artists Billie Holiday, Muddy Waters and Radiohead. The difference between each artist’s album version and mp3/CD version is subtle, but it’s there, in the meat of the sound.

Why are vinyl and mp3 (or CD) so different? Think analog versus digital waves.

It’s all in the recording

“Vinyl has a sound all its own,” said Jason Fogg, 38, of Lebanon, a long-time vinyl collector. “Original sound is analog by definition. A digital recording takes snapshots of the analog signal at a certain rate. This means that, by definition, a digital recording is not capturing the complete sound wave. It’s just a picture of the sound.”

Fogg’s vinyl lust began as a child, when he says he walked miles to the closest record store to buy an album. He currently has more than 5,000 albums, naming “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd and “Overnight Sensation” by Frank Zappa as two of his top five favorites to listen to, and he’s still collecting.

“Although I listen to digitally recorded audio quite a bit, I still listen to vinyl as much as possible,” said Fogg. “Call me sentimental.”

Varied sounds

Vinyl collections tend to fall into two categories, based on a perusal of the Web and discussions with collectors: nostalgia and value. Perry Morneau, 49, of Auburn, has both.

Albums he bought because he liked the artist — like Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Yes, Emmylou Harris and The Little River Band — fall under nostalgia. He’s kept them in excellent condition, cleaning them and storing them properly to preserve the sound, a practice he began when he first became interested in music. The other part of his collection consists of rare and vintage artists he’s amassed through the years. While he hasn’t listened to many of them, a fair number of the LPs, like Perry Como and artists from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, came from a woman who had put them out with her spring cleanup items.

“I haven’t even had a chance to play a lot of them,” said Morneau. ” I want to preserve them.”

Vinyl appeal

Keeping albums in good condition is key for years of enjoyment. Morneau enjoyed adding components like a high-powered amp, top-end turntable and high quality needles to his stereo system years ago, as well as speakers made locally by Rudy Wallace. Morneau says that with vinyl, he knew at some point there would be value in a collection, but more than for the monetary value, he finds personal enjoyment in having an assortment of music and taking care of it.

Music stores are seeing increased interest in vinyl purchases. Bull Moose music in Lewiston has a sizable selection of classic and new artists in album form. Tia DiBiase, store manager, says that allure of vinyl reaches all ages.

“It’s really interesting to see the different people browsing the vinyl,” said DiBiase. “People who are buying vinyl, young or collector, know it sounds better. Way more epic.”

DiBiase and store employee Alex Jackman, 16, of Leavitt High School, agree that music on vinyl is the way to listen to their favorite artists.

“Lady Gaga — she sounds awesome,” said Jackman. “I think club music like that is meant for vinyl.”

DiBiase says she remembers listening to old David Bowie LPs as a child.

“I remember listening to David Bowie and just staring at the sleeve art,” she said.

Numbers rising

Artists that have come out during the CD era, like Radiohead, Lady Ga Ga and Taking Back Sunday, are now releasing their music on vinyl, complete with the phenomenal sleeve art albums are known for. Vinyl sales nationally — 323 million albums sold in 1980, 12 million in 1990, 2 million in 1992 — appear to be on the rise according to the L.A Times, with projections for 2009 of 2.8 million.

The creation of affordable software, hardware and even USB-capable turntables in recent years has allowed record owners to convert their LPs to digital format — good news for those who enjoy the portability and storage ease of mp3 format. But for the pure, full analog sound, for audiophiles it starts by slipping vinyl on a turntable.

No turntable? No problem. Several local stores and online sites have turntables for sale — and not just any models. Priced from $75 to over $1,000, there is a set-up to meet your music-listening needs. And to find your favorite artists, old and new, on vinyl try Bull Moose and other area record stores, as well as online at Amazon.com, musicstack.com (vintage and out of print) and Tower.com. And don’t forget yard sales, flea markets, thrift stores and pawn shops — always great sources for used turntables and expanding record collections.

Find vinyl:

  • Bull Moose Music
  • Local music stores, yard sales, thrift stores and pawn shops
  • Amazon.com
  • Bestbuy.com
  • musicstack.com
  • Tower.com

Find turntables:

  • Radio Shack
  • Best Buy
  • Local electronics stores
  • On the Web, including at K-Mart, Wal-Mart and other Web retailers

How to care for your vinyl records:

Use a 50/50 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and distilled water, or vinyl
cleaner sold at record stores, and a soft, clean cloth using circular

Dirty or marked up album sleeves? If they have a glossy finish try
using a rubber eraser for pencil, stray marks and dirt. Use hairspray
for ink marks and try a dry-erase marker on dried marker and then wipe
with a clean cloth. Covers with a matte finish are best left alone to
avoid further damage.

Keep your records in good condition:

  • Store them on sturdy shelves out of moisture and heat, and pack them together so they don’t lean and warp.
  • Don’t:

Stack records on top of each other
Leave them out of the sleeves
Play with dull needles
Pack them too tightly
Leave near heat sources

Sources: http://www.howtocareforit.com/how-to-care-for-vinyl-records.aspx and http://vinylville.tripod.com/clean-2.html

Perry Morneau displays his collection of vinyl albums at his Auburn home. “I loved to take care of them,” said Morneau . “I hated it when they got scratched.”

Perry Morneau holds one of his many mint condition LP’s.

Perry Morneau fine tunes his record player in his Auburn home. He was a member of the Columbia Music Club and would get albums mailed to him monthly. He stopped collecting in the 1980’s.

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