Stunningly, vinyl is back. And according to industry analysts, it's killing CDs.
As counterintuitive as it may seem in this age of iPods and digital downloads, vinyl -- the favorite physical format of indie music collectors and audiophiles -- is poised to re-enter the mainstream, or at least become a major tributary.
Talk to almost anyone in the music business' vital indie and DJ scenes and you'll encounter a uniformly optimistic picture of the vinyl market.
Why is vinyl so popular? The superior sound quality:
Although CDs have a wider dynamic range, mastering houses are often encouraged to compress the audio on CDs to make it as loud as possible: It's the so-called loudness war. Since the audio on vinyl can't be compressed to such extremes, records generally offer a more nuanced sound.
Another reason for vinyl's sonic superiority is that no matter how high a sampling rate is, it can never contain all of the data present in an analog groove, Nyquist's theorem to the contrary.
"The digital world will never get there," said Chris Ashworth, owner of United Record Pressing, the country's largest record pressing plant.
And since CDs are neither as portable as MP3 files, nor do they have the sound quality of vinyl, they may be on the way out:
And the vinyl-MP3 tag team might just hasten the long-predicted death of the CD.
San Francisco indie band The Society of Rockets, for example, plans to release its next album strictly on vinyl and as MP3 files.
"Having just gone through the process of mastering our new album for digital and for vinyl, I can say it is completely amazing how different they really sound," said lead singer and guitarist Joshua Babcock in an e-mail interview. "The way the vinyl is so much better and warmer and more interesting to listen to is a wonder."
So welcome back to vinyl, world. I never left. Does this mean there's hope for my betamax, as well?