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New study finds younger listeners are driving the vinyl revival

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By now you’re likely aware of the big resurgence in vinyl sales that’s taken place in recent years. But who are these rabid record consumers pushing the needle in one small corner of the declining music industry?

Largely, music fans under 35.

A recent study from MusicWatch (via Billboard) found this younger crowd is responsible for 72 percent of all vinyl sales. The figure is significantly higher than the age group’s overall music spending habits: fans 35 and under make up just 44 percent of the “music marketplace” according to The NPD Group.

As we reported in January, 2014 vinyl record sales were at their highest since 1990 amounting to 9.2 million, according to Nielsen Music. The revival is so significant that vinyl demand has outstripped pressing plants’ capacity, resulting in months-long backorder for new pressings, and spawning new and expanded record pressing plants.

There are several hypotheses as to why vinyl is on the way up in an increasingly digital world, including nostalgia, the longing for a physical medium, a unique listening experience, album art, and of course, the perception that music sounds better on vinyl.

But, does vinyl really sound better? While we have our own opinions on the matter, a recent interview by The Oregonian asks Engineer Adam Gonsalves of Portland’s Telegraph Mastering — who has worked with artists like Sufjan Stevens, and Steve Akoi — for some elucidation of the subject.

Gonsalves explains that “vinyl is the only consumer playback format we have that’s fully analog and fully lossless,” offering an affordable high fidelity experience. He also touts music that has been mastered directly for vinyl for its dynamic extension, free from the heavy compression that often comes from music mastered for digital formats, or radio play.

But he notes some downsides as well: vinyl releases from digital masters that are limited to CD-quality audio (16bit/44.1kHz) won’t likely sound any better than CDs, or WAV files. Instead he recommends master recordings with a minimum of 24 bit resolution to achieve a higher quality sound. Gonsalves also claims that due to the constraints of the physical medium — grooves and needles — Vinyl can struggle with highs and lows. And, of course, the introduction of surface noise is inevitable.

Regardless of why the younger generation buys records, it doesn’t look like the trend will be stopping soon. If you haven’t already, now is as good time as any to bust out that dusty record player.

Chris Leo Palermino
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Chris Leo Palermino is a music, tech, business, and culture journalist based between New York and Boston. He also contributes…
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