Vinyl is our HD.

I was just sitting on the toilet, perusing the newspapers before I left the house for a doctor’s appointment, and I came across an ad for Panasonic Viera HDTVs.  And I started to wonder.  As the image gets better and better, why does the sound get worse and worse?

Do we blame portability.  Did the iPod kill good sound?

Or did 5.1 make the new high quality audio formats nonstarters?  You had to buy a plethora of equipment, sit in one place. it was all too complicated and not too useful.

Then I’m thinking how HD started out exclusive.  I remember going to Jake’s house in T.O. where we watched the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on his plasma set.  We’d watch anything.  Just to see those incredible images.  Just like we used to go to stereo shops and listen to the lame records they had in stock, just to experience the richness, the clarity.

Maybe the price was too high.  You had to not only buy the equipment for SACD and DVD-A, you also had to buy all new software.  At an exorbitant price.  This is one reason Blu-Ray’s going to be a nonstarter.  Unless disc prices drop dramatically.  Not that people don’t want good images, but what they’ve got is good enough.  You don’t need Blu-Ray if you’ve got DVD, the jump just isn’t that big.  Hell, you can watch it on your computer monitor, which is…actually, in my case, HD.  So, there’s still a high quality solution.  I love watching movies on my computer.

But there’s YouTube, that’s not high quality.  Just like the home demos in the music business didn’t used to compare with the expensive major label productions.  When major label productions were indecipherable from the home-brewed stuff, when everything was compressed and playing through earbuds, the playing field was leveled.  And for the engineers trying to justify their jobs, I’ll say that "Satisfaction" isn’t a work of audio art, but when you heard it pounding out of the speakers…

And that’s when it hit me.  Vinyl was our HD.  It was perfect in its original form.  It was warm, the sound penetrated you like at a live concert.  You spent a fortune trying to get closer to the original sound.  You invited all your friends over just to listen.  And then the industry killed it.  By replacing it with the low quality cassette and then the brittle CD.  If everybody could have perfect sound, why did they need a big stereo rig?  You no longer needed a quality system to get close the music, and when you did get close, you didn’t like what you heard.  The only stuff that sounded good on CD was the bass-heavy tracks on Top Forty.  Singer-songwriters, expansive prog rock, even extended jams…what we loved on our stereo systems, sounded positively awful on CD.  Over time, improvements in mastering were made, after we purchased inferior discs and then had to repurchase them ad infinitum, every few years, when the label said they were better.  Which they were, but only marginally.  And never as good as the original vinyl records.  They could be that good if we went to SACD, but after being burned so many times, the great middle that eventually jumped on the HDTV bandwagon when the sets dropped in price, weren’t interested.  As for DVD-A, who wants to listen to a record through one’s video system?  It’s like the merger of television and the computer, which still hasn’t happened.

Funny how live music is burgeoning.  It’s the only place you can truly hear it!

It’s not about record company economics, big box retail or files.  It’s about sound.  No one cared about the sound.  Except for audiophiles and kids, who’ve snapped up vinyl.

Vinyl’s not coming back.  It’s too fragile.

But people do want good sound.  Who’s going to lead the charge?  Show the electronics industry money can be made?  Issue software at a reasonable price?  Get the public hooked on aural greatness?

It’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when.

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