SPIN CITY

The vinyl re­vival is here to stay.

The Peak (Singapore) - - Contents -

When CDs made their de­but in the 1980s, it seemed that the death of the vinyl was im­mi­nent. And the turn of the mil­len­nium brought along what many thought was the fi­nal nail in its cof­fin – dig­i­tal mu­sic. And yet, some­how, like punk, vinyl’s not dead. In fact, it’s been thriv­ing since the mid-2000s.

Vinyl record sales have been steadily climb­ing, with Deloitte declar­ing global sales would have sur­passed US$1 bil­lion (S$1.4 bil­lion) for the first time in a decade last year. Ac­cord­ing to Nielsen, over 14 mil­lion records were sold in the US last year, mak­ing it the 12th con­sec­u­tive year that sales have in­creased state­side. So much so that the few press­ing plants that sur­vived the CD ad­vent are hav­ing trou­ble meet­ing de­mand.

So now that you know your col­lec­tion of Bea­tles LPs is a cer­ti­fied trea­sure, with new mu­sic be­com­ing avail­able on vinyl as well, a wor­thy turntable is in or­der.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers like Linn and Kronos are high-end favourites in the au­dio­phile com­mu­nity, but then there are peo­ple like Kostas Me­taxas that have ditched the pan­cake-on-wooden-board styling for some­thing far more artis­tic.

The Phono­graphic Per­am­bu­la­tor No. 1 (or PP1 for short) is Me­taxas’ first turntable, though the award-win­ning de­signer and au­dio en­gi­neer from the Nether­lands has been build­ing au­dio equip­ment for the last 37 years un­der his brand, Me­taxas & Sins. Each out­ra­geously shaped prod­uct, from sinewy speak­ers to skull-shaped pream­pli­fiers, is hand­crafted by Me­taxas or his two sons. The PP1 is wrought from air­craft-grade alu­minium and ti­ta­nium, and equipped with an alu­minium plat­ter base, a sap­phire crys­tal tone arm and jewelled bear­ings. Ac­cord­ing to Me­taxas, its sen­su­ous shape is not just for vis­ual plea­sure; it ac­tu­ally helps elim­i­nate the re­flec­tions and re­frac­tions of res­o­nances found in more tra­di­tional turntable shapes. Only five PP1s have been made so far, each go­ing for US$35,000.

There are also peo­ple who are try­ing to ad­vance the tech­nol­ogy of vinyls them­selves. Hav­ing raised US$4.8 mil­lion in Se­ries A fund­ing this year, one Gunter Loibl is in the midst of de­vel­op­ing what his com­pany, Re­beat, is call­ing “HD Vinyl”. To put it very sim­ply, the main dif­fer­ence be­tween HD Vinyl and reg­u­lar vinyl is how it’s made.

In­stead of tra­di­tional cut­ting and etch­ing tech­niques, the for­mer uses 3-D topo­graph­i­cal map­ping and laser in­scrip­tion to make the “stam­per” (the part that stamps the grooves into the vinyl). This method al­lows for more pre­ci­sion and, hence, less loss of au­dio in­for­ma­tion.

And not only will HD Vinyl al­low 30 to 40 per cent more mu­sic to be recorded on each LP, the man­u­fac­tur­ing process is also eas­ier on the en­vi­ron­ment, since it negates the use of ma­te­ri­als like stan­nous chlo­ride, sil­ver and nickel. Re­beat is hop­ing to have its vinyls in stores by next year.

On the flip side and in an al­most re­gres­sive move, Vi­enna-based com­pany Su­per­sense has de­vel­oped a con­verter box that will al­low its records to play both mov­ing pic­tures and syn­chro­nised sounds. It’s not a new con­cept, since the first at­tempt to record video onto vinyls was in the 1920s and was quickly aban­doned in favour of VHS. But, de­spite the crackly sound and stut­ter­ing frame rates, there is a cer­tain geeky charm in watch­ing a video played from a vinyl, and the avail­able Vinylvideo records Su­per­sense sells cur­rently in­clude mu­sic videos from The Courettes, Rev­erend Beat-Man, Frankie Stubbs and Mo­tor­head. You can also cre­ate your own by send­ing them your favourite videos. In ad­di­tion to the con­verter box and Vinylvideo records, you’ll need a turntable and a TV.

It’s a mat­ter of on­go­ing (and heated) de­bate whether vinyls sound bet­ter than MP3s or CDs, but you can’t ar­gue that nos­tal­gia is a pow­er­ful sell­ing point.

VIN­TAGE PLEA­SURE Aus­trian com­pany Su­per­sense has cre­ated a con­verter box in which records can be used to play stut­ter­ing film.

AVANT GARDE EN­GI­NEER­ING The curves of Phono­graphic Per­am­bu­la­tor No. 1 help to keep the sound pure.

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