Tag Archives: vinyl

The Importance of Objects

Given the increasingly sorry state of the planet there is a an increasing importance to the actions encompassed in the phrase “reduce, recycle, reuse.” Less stuff is arguably better.

A Google search of “minimalism” comes up with “about 873,000,000 results”—ironically maximalist, I think—with the characteristics of the 3Rs foremost, not the works of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, La Monte Young, or Terry Riley.

But even those who are associated with a comfortable but minimalist lifestyle, like Marie Kondo, aren’t full-on 3R mavens. Kondo writes of her KonMari approach:

“One of the reasons the KonMari Method™ is associated with minimalism is because many people discover while tidying that they’ve been living with items they no longer love – or never did. And they suddenly feel empowered to let them go with gratitude.”

Objects are OK—as long as said objects provide the individual with what can be considered personal “joy.” And arguably, much music is associated with the joy—or even sorrow—in our lives.

Artifacts of a life are certainly not as important as family, friends and, certainly, life itself, but those objects are in many ways definitive of the person’s movement through time: Perhaps it is a collection of stubs from concerts seen (in a pre-scanning age) or the first Wilco LP bought when the comparative obscurity was in its own way important.

They may be things that haven’t been looked at or used for some years, but at the time of acquisition they were certainly notable and they carried that importance, although perhaps diminished over time, forward.

Another phrase that’s heard is “Get experiences, not things.” But things acquired during those experiences (e.g., a concert T-shirt or a Fillmore West postcard from a visit to San Francisco) can bring the memories back in a powerful way. (One could gloss the famous literary manifestation of this: the madeleine cake dipped in tea that gave rise to Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu: no physical cake, no memories evoked, or at least not to such an extent.)

Which is a roundabout way to get to the recent “RIAA Mid-Year 2023 Revenue Report,” which has it that first-half U.S. retail revenues hit $8.4 billion, the highest take in a six-month period.

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Numbers, Numbers & a Few More Numbers


According to Luminate, entertainment data accumulator and analyzer, there were one trillion streams globally in three months this year. January to March. A trillion. A one followed by 12 zeros.

Super Fly Fan

Luminate definition of “super fan”:

“a music listener aged 13+ who engages with an artist and their content in multiple ways, from streaming to social media to purchasing physical music or merch items to attending live shows. More specifically, the super fans who were identified in the studies referenced in this report were participants that self-reported engaging with their favorite artists in 5+ ways.”

Seems that there is a lot of them in the U.S.: 15% of the general population 13 years old and above. Roughly 50 million.

How You Can Tell

A field guide to a probable super fan: “people who purchase CDs, cassettes, or vinyl, are more than 2x as likely (+128%) to be music super fans.”

Why Does This Matter?

“They also spend more than 80% more money on music each month than the average music listener.”

Physical Graffiti

Super fans like things that are more manifest than, say, NFTs (what has happened with them, by the way?).

Luminate describes them as “collectable-loving.”

As such, the vinyl boomlet, which, according to stats from the RIAA, has grown for 16 years running.

The RIAA found that in 2022 there were sales of $1.7-billion of physical musical media in the U.S., of which $1.2-billion was for vinyl. Which doesn’t leave a whole lot for CDs and the rest.

(“The rest?” you wonder. The RIAA includes music videos purchases, which accounted for $19.9 million, and “Other Physical”—CD singles, cassettes, vinyl singles, DVD audio, and SACD–that garnered $14 million.)

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Sight & Sound

While there is considerable attention being applied to the Apple Vision Pro headset—”Revolutionary dual-chip performance. Our most advanced Spatial Audio system ever. Responsive, precision eye tracking. More pixels than a 4K TV. . . “—what is arguably more interesting and less gizmo-like is something that Jony Ive—who led Apple design from 1997 to 2019 and as such is the man who probably had more influence on product design than anyone since Raymond Loewy—has been involved with through the company he established post-Apple: design consultancy LoveFrom, [yes, there is a comma as part of the name]. It would seem appropriate if the name was “LoveForm,” as that is clearly a focus of what Ive exhibited during his career.

As the firm’s website proclaims,

is a creative

We are

[They could have probably used some commas there, but. . .]

You may
know us
by our
past work.

[Well, Ive’s, anyway]

We are
obsessed with
the traditions
of creating
and making.

devoted to


We collaborate
with leaders
and founders.

We work on
projects for joy.

[Presumably Ive is at a stage in his career when projects that are not joyful are not going to be part of his portfolio.]

We develop
our own ideas.

[Something of a weak close, but there is it. Would “We develop and insist on our own ideas” turn off prospective clients?]

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Casual or Committed

One of the things that is missing from the music experience is a certain level of commitment. To be sure, there are still people who are engaged and perhaps even obsessively loyal to performers. But there is a large number who most certainly are fans of particular performers but this is more about attentiveness than it is engagement.

This all goes to the primary means by which media is now consumed: a few taps on a screen and voila! When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPod in 2001 he made what then seemed to be an unimaginable claim: the device, which was about the size of a pack of cigarettes (yes, in 2001 even people who didn’t imagine themselves to be ironic or gloomy smoked), would put “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Now it isn’t a matter of containing songs on a hard drive as 1,000x are available, as it were, through the digital ether.

To be sure, this situation is one that was created by technological determinism. Its give way to bits.

Whereas it once was a commitment to owning artifacts—as in physical objects that house recordings, be it polyvinyl chloride discs or magnetic tape—it is now essentially about rental of the content without the container.

And the container once had resonance in a way that seeing an image on a screen simply doesn’t. Album jackets, sleeves, labels, and even the vinyl itself (there were sometimes easter eggs found in the space between the last groove and the paper label). Musical artists collaborated with graphic artists: one thinks of Frank Kozik, who died a couple weeks back: he worked with bands including Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Offspring, and more. There was an exponential increase in the experience, the physical art working to enhance or even explicate the audio art.

Continue reading Casual or Committed

How to Remember

“Somebody loan me a dime. . .”—Boz Scaggs

The Museum of Obsolete Media has some rankings of germane media that are worth pondering.

There are the Media Stability Ratings for various types of audio formats. The ratings are from one to five with the assessments:

  1. Stable
  2. Low Risk
  3. Moderate Risk
  4. High Risk
  5. Very High Risk

So, for example, the acetate/lacquer discs that were used for recordings starting in the 1920s rate a 5. It isn’t simply age that matters: 10-inch 78 rpm records that were in production from 1901 to 1960 are ranked 1.

The 12-inch LP format that we are all more familiar with is also at 1.

Compact cassettes and 8-track tapes are both rated 4. Audio CDs are at 2.

If you have concerts or movies in VHS or Betamax formats, good luck: they are both at 4, High Risk.

The curators have also devised Obsolescence Ratings. This goes to the point of whether there are the means by which the media can be played.

Again, similar rankings:

  1. In current use or low risk
  2. Vulnerable, or some risk
  3. Threatened, or moderate risk
  4. Endangered, or high risk
  5. Extinct, or very high risk

Perhaps it is the addition of works to the descriptions, but these seem more ominous than the Media Stability Ratings.

Continue reading How to Remember


As Ron Burgundy would end his broadcasts, “Keep it classy,” and arguably that’s what Dolly Parton, whose exaggerated presence is such that it provides a whole extraordinarily level to that state of being, proved she lives in that manner as when, this past week, she gave a pass to her nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The first definition for “Hall of Fame” in the Cambridge Dictionary is:

“a building that contains images of famous people and interesting things that are connected with them:

You really know you’ve made it when they enshrine you in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” [italic in the original]

Which seems rather unusual from the intuition that numbers Stephen Hawking, Lord Byron, Charles Darwin and Sacha Baron Cohen among its alums.

You might think that they would have had it “when they enshrine you in the UK Music Hall of Fame.” The problem there is that the UK Music Hall of Fame, founded in 2004, ceased to exist in 2008. However, it wasn’t a real building on the Thames or the Cam, but, rather, simply an awards show that was broadcast on Channel Four.

Perhaps the Brits know something that those in Cleveland don’t.

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Salmagundi: Random Bits


I recently had the opportunity to spend some time in a 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It is, in a word, grand.

One of the striking things about it (no, not that it has 4×4 capability that allows the vehicle, which has civilized comfort, to drive the Rubicon Trail, which is something that is simply unimaginable unless there is a certain level of desire for potential catastrophe that one has) is the fact that it has a McIntosh audio system with 19 custom-designed speakers (including a 10-inch / 25.4-cm subwoofer), 950 watts of power and a 17-channel amplifier.

All vehicle manufacturers, nowadays, have high-end audio companies providing equipment for their vehicles. Many of these audio systems come from Harman International. Brands like: AKG, Harman Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Lexicon, Mark Levinson, and Revel. (And Samsung owns Harmon.)

But Jeep is now the only auto brand on the planet with McIntosh.

What is interesting about the deployment in the Grand Cherokee is that on the 10.25-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard you can see a simulated image of the classic McIntosh dial with the needle sweeping up and down across the face.

Because of that recent experience, while flipping through The Absolute Sound, looking at audio equipment I’ll never afford, I spotted an item titled “McIntosh Announces MC35000 Vacuum Tube Amplifier Mk II,” which is a contemporary execution of “McIntosh MC3500 Vacuum Tube Amplifiers that exclusively powered the sound system used at Woodstock.”

Yes, that Woodstock.

Some quick math puts it 52 years ago.

Who knew that vacuum tubes would still be used today? While it might be like a carburetor in a 2022 Jeep, apparently it isn’t.

Continue reading Salmagundi: Random Bits

Cars, Turntables & Physical Objects

Last week I had the opportunity to drive a 2022 Honda Civic. It was the top-of-the-line Touring trim. It is an all-new, 11th generation Civic. It has leather seats, Bose audio with 12-speakers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an array of sensors for safety, moonroof, 180-hp turbocharged engine. . . and a lot more stuff.

It is really an impressive vehicle, and being a Honda Civic, I would imagine that whoever buys one is likely to have it for some years in reliable operation. A value play.

This morning I read piece by Jacob Heilbrunn in The Absolute Sound about his quest for getting a custom reference stand for his turntable. He contacted the chief engineer at a Buffalo, New York-based company, Harmonic Resolution Systems, about getting the company’s VXR stand. As things went, Heilbrunn obtained a custom VXR Zero stand.

It cost $52,000.

The Civic has an MSRP of $28,300.

I suspected that I was missing something.

So I looked at the turntable that Heilbrunn needed this very specific stand to accommodate.

A TechDAS Air Force Zero turntable.

According to Hideaki Nishikawa, who designed the reference turntable, “The goal of the project was to develop a truly groundbreaking product, building on our expertise and knowledge and incorporating new ideas and insights. To achieve this goal, the project had to be cost-no-object. And it had to have whatever technologies would be best suited for sonic performance, no matter how much it would cost.”

The result is a unit that weighs 727.5 pounds and measures 35.5 x 26.6 x 13.2 inches.

According to a recent review in Stereophile, the TechDAS Air Force Zero has a base price (i.e., there are models above it in the TechDAS lineup) of $450,000.

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The Model 500 and the Physicality of Music

Western Electric invented the Model 500 telephone. That’s the telephone with a handset cradled on the top of the device and a rotary dial on the front. It is the telephone that is the pre-21st century dictionary image of what a “telephone” would look like.

It brought the Model 500 out in 1950. The classic desk phone.

But Western Electric also invented something that is more pertinent to this space: the method by which music could be recorded with a microphone, amplified, then used to create records. Columbia and Victor licensed the technology from Western Electric and began producing records with it in 1925.

And in time, the recorded disc, which became commonly known as “vinyl” became the dominant musical recording medium.

Then it suffered the fate of the Model 500.

However, unlike the Model 500, the vinyl disc is having a resurgence. Last week Sony Music announced that for the first time since 1989 it is going to begin pressing records again.

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Vinylology 101: How to buy Boston’s debut LP

Vinylology 101: Boston’s debut LP, 1976, Epic Records

When you listen to the celebrated first LP by Boston, it’s obvious that the band’s leader Tom Scholz was a studio geek and a major control freak, which anecdotal evidence seems to bear out.  The songs are perfectly constructed; not a note is out of place.  The guitars chime with crystalline precision, and the massive amount of echo and reverb that they were able to apply never comes off as contrived or artificial.  It’s a miracle that the music sounds as natural as it does, considering that the album also seems to be so obsessively crafted.  The album is chock-a-block full of timeless classics; it boasts “More Than A Feeling” and “Foreplay/Long Time”, as well as “Peace Of Mind” and “Hitch A Ride”.

Since Boston cared so obsessively about its sound, here are some tips to help you find the most ideal LP copy of Boston’s debut LP, so you can hear for yourself the album as it was originally intended to sound.

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