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Sound Grenade

by Archives March 17, 2009

Remember the walkman, the Discman, the tape deck? Well before those nearly obsolete artefacts were in existence there was this little thing called the record player. In a society where everything is about the newest and latest technology, why is it that music is taking a step backwards rather than a leap forwards?
There is this enduring debate going on between music lovers all over the world; the discussion is not about artists, bands or even illegal downloading. The argument is based on this one question.
Vinyl or Mp3, which do you prefer? Are you a CD, Mp3 lover or a fan of the old school turntable? What is the difference and what is the point of such a discussion during a time when the world is undergoing a technological revolution. Digital is all the rage, and CDs are in the process of being obsolete just like VHS tapes. Technological advancements are inescapable. DVDs are our current source of movie entertainment and now even television has become all HD-TV on us.
I know it may sound a bit improbable, but CDs are becoming archaic thanks to newer more compact technologies. Just think back to the era of the floppy disk. Or even further: the hard drive disk. No one, absolutely no one, carries those things with them anymore. It’s heavy and takes up space. The USB key (short for Universal Serial Bus) has infiltrated that system. When cellular phones first came out, they looked like cordless house phones that had radio antennas attached to them; now they’re all cool and small. You can fit it in your pocket without tipping over from the weight.
According to Wikipedia – the student’s source of somewhat factual information and the university professor’s ultimate nightmare citation – the CD has been on the market since 1982, but only became popular during the nineties even though it had been invented during the 1960s. CD sales have dropped over 20 per cent in the past seven years alone, all in thanks to mp3s.
However, there has been this very recent and very noticeable record revival trend. Bands like Guns and Roses, Metallica and ACDC have all released vinyl albums, all which were more successful in sales than CDs. The phonograph/record player has been around since the 1800s. One reason for this album rebirth is the new wave of DJ/artists who use records to spin electronic and new wave hip-hop tunes. The 8-track and record players are used synonymously. Remixes and brand new beats are invented with the aid of one of the oldest instrumental tools in history.
Deejays are getting increasingly popular, and sound engineering is taking the music industry by storm. In fact, most music producers recommend that artists use multi tracks (an 8-track) when recording a new album, because it includes multiple layers of beats and vocals, which adds to the overall sound quality of a song. The Beatles were one of the first bands to record in multi-track.
Even though everything can be transferred to a computer these days, with programs like Pro-Tools, most DJs still use and prefer turntables to CDs.
I did a Facebook poll, because it is almost as reliable as Wikipedia. I posed the question “CD or Record” as my “status” and I got a multitude of responses, mainly joke ones. But the overall response was mixed. I guess it depends on personal taste.
The debate is between people who think records sound like scratchy noise induced gramophones. They complain the beat skips and there is a lack of base and vocals. They are in favour of mp3s and can’t understand the need for something older than Larry King.
Then we have those in favour of records. These lovers of albums talk about sound quality and how the music has this old school sound that is absent from digital re-mastered copies. The artworks on album covers are better and more time is spent in the overall creation process.
Times keep changing and who knows, maybe music is the new fashion world. We go through cyclical moments and it is only a matter of time until the 80s make a full comeback and we’re all walking around with digital cassette players and preppy fitness headbands.
I’m not against technology, only the idea of becoming a disposable society. Not everything should be forgotten about and thrown away.

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