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Ryan Cooper

The science behind vinyl proves that scientists don't know much about listening to vinyl...

By November 14, 2012

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On Humans Invent, writer Harry Sword has attempted to break down the technology behind analog recording, and what it is that makes vinyl recordings so special.

He interviews a pair of vinyl mastering engineers who talk about the actual science behind it, breaking down that the grooves cut into a vinyl record are a physical object that will be played mechanically, while digital music is just an encoded representation of music - songs that are an arrangement of 0's and 1's in a certain order the reproduces the sound of the song. The science is sound, but I think it gets too far removed from the emotional attachment that a music lover has for vinyl records, especially as the delves deeper.

Vinyl engineer Christoph Grote-Beverborg seems to brush off the warmth of analog sound as bit of a myth, saying only that "With vinyl you get a certain kind of saturation and added harmonics that you don't have with digital. The sound has a 'body'; it's just more physical." His argument goes further awry when he discusses that the majority of home listeners just don't have and can't afford the types of turntables that allow one to hear the true quality of vinyl.

I think that, in recruiting and interviewing experts so close to the science of vinyl production, Sword has utterly removed the emotional and organic part of listening to records from the equation. He has removed the experience of sliding an album or 7" from its sleeve, placing it on the turntable and setting the needle on the record. He has ignored the experience of having that album artwork in your hands while you crank out the music from whatever sound system you have.

The pleasure of listening to music on vinyl is about the sound, sure, but its also about the experience, and when the experts get involved, they tend to let the science behind it all get in the way of the sentimentality. And while science is great, music is about emotion.

Except crunkcore. That's just about being horrible.

The full article is here.


November 21, 2012 at 3:07 pm
(1) Harry Sword says:

Hi Ryan,

Just a quick note to put you straight on a couple of points you raise. I’m not a ‘scientist’ – I’m a music writer, (all vinyl) dj and passionate long term record collector.

Nor were any ‘scientists’ interviewed for the piece, just vinyl mastering engineers. Both of whom also happen to be dj’s and record collectors.

The article was written for a tech site, hence the focus on the tech! I don’t feel it’s fair to say that ‘Sword has utterly removed the emotional and organic part of listening to records from the equation’.

Not sure how closely you actually read the piece? Did you see the quote below? Kinda says it all…

‘‘The magic of a record, digital can’t compete with. When the DJ pulls out a 12″ from his crate, puts it on the deck and mixes it, it creates such an amount of joy and energy on the dancefloor, even people who are not into this vinyl thing and are not staring at the DJ can feel it. I mean, is there ANY other peace of technology that can bring so much instant joy & pleasure? I don’t know of any…’

Christoph runs Dubplates and Mastering in Berlin, and dj’s reggae (amongst other things) under the name CGB-1 check the link for one of his excellent mixes.

Trust me, you will not come across a more passionate advocate for records – the man has devoted his working life to vinyl culture.




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