The Great Vinyl Debate

Vinyl record prices are out of control. Their quality is also lacking: Too many poor pressings and cheap packaging (paper sleeves and cheap card stock outer sleeves) don't justify the price. My question is why is this happening?

I refuse to buy re-issues when used originals can still be had cut from the original analog sources to those that love to search for them (I get that some folks don't care for hunting/waiting) and ultimatly find them.

The trouble I have is with the price of "new vinyl." It varies of course, but both indie and major label vinyl records are grossly over priced IMO. I have no qualms about supported an artist whatsoever, however the average price for LPs both single and double and box sets are outragous.

Labels, distributors et. al. appear to be taking advantage of an inflated/exaggerated supply and demand equilibrium more so these days than ever before. Why is this? Even tho I've been hearing and reading about the vinyl resurgance since 2007 and the plethora of other documents stating that it's on the rise - even that vinyl is killing the compact disc - only 3 people where I work have turntables (that includes me) but I'm the only one that actually listens to, and buys records. In my world, I don't see the resurgance at all. But I do see inflated record prices along the lines of $46 for double LPs and $35 dollars for single LPs! These aren't re-issue inflated prices either - these are new music prices. And most if not all don't include "free MP3 downloads" (who wants MP3's anyway?)

Perhaps the recording industry believes that if they have a customer base that will pay $2000 for one foot of power cord or $10K+ for turntables (sans tonearm and cartridge) - we won't balk at $30 150 gram records or multi-hundred dollar box sets.

I'm a music lover not a sucka. Hey music industry mad men I'm on to you - the revolution is now....
Back in the 1970s, MoFi reissues cost $14.99 for a single LP. What would that translate to in 2010 dollars? There were many who complained then about the cost. As they do about the cost of cars, hi fi gear and houses.

Interestingly, many MoFis from that era now sell for multiples of their original selling price. Even regular issues cost $4.99-$6.99. So really, your issues with the cost of LPs are unfounded. The cost has not kept pace with the increase in inflation.

As for quality issues, you clearly did not live through the dark years when recycled vinyl and schemes to cheap out LPs resulted in such technologies as RCAs Dynaflex. Records from the majors were much worse in the late 1970s and early 1980s. No question about it.

If you want perfection, get CDs, or music servers, or open reel tape, or 8-tracks, or Elcasette. Or just listen to the radio.
US inflation is a valid point. As is operational costs of manufacture (there are less plants making LPs these days - as well as people that know how to do it well (speaks to quality)). However, indie labels like DISCORD are selling LPs from their stable for $15 (up from $10 when they started) and have be profitable for 30 years. Proving that an agreeable pricing model is possible, so I don't agree that as you say "my issues with the cost of LPs are unfounded."

Greed is still my point with the majors (nothing new).

So MoFi's been rippin' off music lovers for 40 years. Nice.
record pressings today are 'a fraction of a fraction' of what they were 30 or more years ago. its a boutique business, and will not get cheaper. with all its quirts and problems, it still is radically fun...and 20 to 30 bucks is far less than a night out.
Jaybo- Does the 30 bucks include Tunes, food, beverages AND an hourly girlfriend?
I'm with you on new vinyl prices and quality. Even the "Audiophile" 180g pressings, can and do in many instances suck. Also, if you buy from a local store, they really can't take noisey or poorly pressed recordes back, if they do, they eat the cost. The record company does not reimburse them. That sucks.

I have returned many to MusicDirect and Amazon who have both been great about taking them back, but I have started to just buy vintage Japanese pressings from some dealers in Tokyo I found on eBay. As long as I buy multiple records the shipping is not bad, and the quality is extremely high, and since they are not new, if they guy says they are mint, they are mint. No surprises.

Waiting on a Chris Isaak "Heart Shaped World" from Japan now, can't wait.
if only it did...
I bought many from Japan too. In 99% their grading was accurate. Not cheap but worth it.
Its supply and demand. Simple economics of manufacturing. The more you produce the more you can discount by volume. The smaller the production the higher the costs. Boutique is a good way to describe what was once a massive market.
As far as price in the very early seventies wages averaged around a dollar an hour and albums were 4.99 for current releases. So even 55 for a double 45 reissue at todays wages is still less then they were then.
Quality is an inherit problem but even in the heyday those same issues were present.
Have to agree with Macdadtexas on the Japanese pressings. I have been buying them from Japan for over 20 years and have over 250 japenese pressings shipped EMS from Japan and not one dud.
Two reasons for it, they use FAR superior virgin vynil and albums in Japan were ridiculously pricey for the Japanese to buy so they looked after them with greater care than we North Americans did in general.
I hear ya. New vinyl is not really analog anyways. It is mostly digitally mastered. So, the question is why would I take a digital source, and try to convert it to analog? Seems silly to me. I like the old tape hiss of old recordings. Record cutting is also an art and very few know how to do it well. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I still listen to records but they are all older originals. They do sound great, but all suffer some from Inner groove distortion. No turntable, I do not care how much one pays for it will track the inner grooves as well as the first three songs or 3/4 of the record. Most of the music I listen to suffers from this because the last 1/4 of the record is where the most demanding passages of the record are. If you have an average quality pressing, the inner grooves will track even worse and sound like mush. It does not matter how good the alignment of the cartridge is, it is an inherent problem of the medium. You can try to get it as good as you can but it will never be perfect. I buy records for the quality of the first 3 tracks because it can be pretty amazing. The last track is almost always disappointing. I have heard some pretty good tables and at first I think it sounds great but then when I get used to it, it is still there. CD player are getting pretty good and I am now listening to more CD's than vinyl and I never though i would say that.
"I buy records for the quality of the first 3 tracks because it can be pretty amazing. The last track is almost always disappointing. I have heard some pretty good tables and at first I think it sounds great but then when I get used to it, it is still there."

Good points. I think this is why some reissue labels are 45 rpm only and cut to two slabs so that they can have 1-2 tracks/side and essentially "waste" the vast majority of the inner grooves.

I agree that most new vinyl is digital sourced and sound poor.

Arm/cartridge setup is critical, and I personally hear "NO" inner groove distortion on any records. You do not know proper arm/cartridge setup!
I refused to take the vinyl route once more because of what you are saying, even though I admit a very few of my old CDs sound worst than the original LP.

Lately, I found out that the master "tapes" used for some vinyls came from CDs. Seems like in the old days when master "tapes" used for CDs were LPs.

I´m still using as a main and only source an Esoteric UX-1 player as a transport and a Yamamoto YDA-01 DAC and I couldn´t be happier.

One more note, also I wouldn´t go the computer audio road until is more mature and I would get real evidence that it sounds better than CDs.

Best to wait for the audio Blu-Ray which will go for $25. The sonics beat anything on vinyl. Yes, I am still into vinyl, close to 8,000 lps, but I do not buy new vinyl as it is not a good value. Knowing the business model of new vinyl I do not think it is overprices, just not a good value.
I expect the arm and cartridge to track the same throughout the record from the first track to the last and I have never heard that on any table I have heard regardless of cost. I am talking about $20,000,00 tables. It is better on these tables and the resolution on the first 3 songs is fantastic because of the incredible engineering that goes into the tonearm. You can try to convince yourself that it is tracking perfectly, but it is an inherent flaw in the designs of turntables and records. Many used records are damaged especially in the inner grooves which does not help either. I am also waiting for audio Blu-Ray which I have heard on video tracks and as it is phenomenal. Then I will have another version of my favorite albums. I must have 2 to 3 copies of some stuff. lol Right now my tonearm and cartridge tracks pretty good after a year of fiddling, but it is not perfect.
This is such a funny debate. You guys are right vinyl sucks and cd's are great. Long live cd's. Like I said you guys are funny. Oh and you wait for the blu-ray audio. I hear it will be bigger then SACD. Do they still make them? Vinyl is all HYPE anyway, right?
I have no issues regarding inner groove distortion with any of my turntable/tonearm/cartridge combinations.

For those experiencing a problem, in virtually every case, it's a combination of poor hardware, poor matching, and improper alignment.

As far as new vinyl pricing is concerned, nobody is forced to buy. If the cost is prohibitive, buy used vinyl or fire up the cd player.


Dealer disclaimer
I agree with Audiofeil, sadly, on both points. Every time I have had inner grove problems, they were cured when the correct geometry was finally set on the cartridge (thank you MintLP).

On vinyl, don't buy it! Let the free market work it's magic. If it's too expensive, prices will come down, or if there is not enough margin at lower prices, they will stop being produced.
Has anyone adjusted the prices mentioned for inflation compared to the sixties and seventies ?
IME, the biggest contributor to tracking error is the tonearm/Cartridge combination. Alignment on my table is as good as it will get. I have the MintLP and it has greatly aided in my alignment. However, I think a great tonearm is needed to take it to the next level and still I have not heard a table/cart/tonearm combo track a record perfect. Don't get me wrong, I love vinyl, but I have become disenchanted that after a year of screwing around, I still cannot get it right. I have tried everything and talked to everybody regarding this issue and spent countless hours aligning my table. I will not believe it until I hear it for myself.
Who cares, about inflation? It is what ever the market will bear. If you feel the price is to high don't buy. Me, I am willing to pay for quality music, quality sound, quality vinyl and quality packaging(in that order). The more of the 4 involved, the more I am likely to buy. And, it is always, vinyl!
Tzh21y, I do not know where your info or experiance comes from? But, all I can say, from my point of view, you have no clue of what you speak.
Koegz, I can only go by what I hear and have heard and I have heard quite a bit in the last 25 years. If I am wrong, why do they make newer records with tracks only to about 75% of the record surface? I have been at it for over a year and I still have not figured it or heard it to this day. Don't get me wrong, I love vinyl, the decay and the naturalness of the sound. It cannot be beat, for the first 75% of the record surface, then inevitably, stuff starts to happen. It is called physics. You have a great setup and I have never heard a Walker. Maybe if i did, I would change my mind. I do know what I hear and I am not just talking about my table. So what you are saying is that nobody in any of the audio shops I have been in know how to set up a table. I cannot remember ever hearing a table without some deterioration in sound as the stylus moved across the record and the closer to the spindle, the more the deterioration in sound quality. Maybe I hear different than you. That is my experience.
>>10-24-10: Tzh21y
I cannot remember ever hearing a table without some deterioration in sound as the stylus moved across the record and the closer to the spindle, the more the deterioration in sound quality<<

I listen to various combinations of tables/arms/cartridges for 6-10 hours per day and do not hear any of the deterioration of which you speak.

Quite frankly, you are severly limited by your hardware.

As far as new vinyl pricing is concerned, nobody is forced to buy. If the cost is prohibitive, buy used vinyl or fire up the cd player.

Unfortunately, we are "forced" to buy "new" vinyl. And since we are in this unfair pricing model aka "prohibitive prices" set by the four major corporate labels which dominate recorded music - waiting a year or five to hear the new music when it is relegated to the used bin defeats the purpose of "new" right out of the gate.

Consider all new vinyl prices coming from independent labels - all well under $20. Most are $12-15 USD. Is the quality better coming out from the likes of Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI? I don't see that it is. If it has what Koegz mentions:

Me, I am willing to pay for quality music, quality sound, quality vinyl and quality packaging(in that order). The more of the 4 involved, the more I am likely to buy.

then at least it's more palpable for me to hand over my money to these racketeers.

And I'm not saying the indie labels have better quality either. Everyone needs to improve here. However, spending $24 total on a second LP because it was warped or had too much surface noise etc., is easier to digest then spending $60 to get a record one can enjoy fully.
Audiofeil, I do not disagree with your comment regarding my table, but I hoestly cannot remember listening to a table that was set up to the point where there was no degradation in sound. I have heard a few that I could certainly live with, but they were not perfect either. That has been my experience. If it is possible, I would love to hear it.
I'd like vinyl better if my collection was in better shape, if more was available on the market, or if I didn't
have to clean the stylus all the time. Tzh21y: do others hear the degradation on your system?
Tzh21y, you are kidding with that question? You know what, I had a long response written out, which I just deleted. I do not wish to debate the subject with you. Believe what ever you wish. I give in to your 25yrs of research and all the knowledge you have amassed. Enjoy them cds.
A lot of LPs are out there used.
I have four good local sources for used LPs, (and a half dozen more poor ones IE: Goodwill, St Vincent.. I never bother with anymore)
I see a lot of new ones at local shops for from $11 to $22 with a few up to $40.
The 45rpm are very expensive, and no one near me carries those.
I buy mostly used LPs.
The inner groove distortion is an 'audiophile disease' and does not bother me, since I am actually LISTENING TO THE MUSIC, and not listening for traces of distortion when I listen to LPs.
Feel free to bash me for my opinion in this matter.
$2 or $3 per LP at thrift stores should , for most, be a no pain AS IS price.
>>10-24-10: Notec
Unfortunately, we are "forced" to buy "new" vinyl.<<

OK, I'll try again. This time slower so you grasp the concept.

Go digital if prices are prohibitive.
I feel the whole reissue problem has suffered from a variety of problems:

1) the actual plant capacity is strapped again, so quality can suffer as they try to meet production runs. Vinyl has always suffered when the actual pressing time is less the optimal. I find small press runs tend to sound better, especially with the Japanese and European labels.

2) the record labels may not actually hold the original "master tapes" and new reissues are pulled off a second or third generation master

3) the new "producer" readjusts the original mix to his vision

4) the new bluray and HD digital files are stunning, and with the right DAC, rival the best vinyl.
Elizabeth, you ask for punishment each time you post.
Koegz, what question is it that you are referring to? It seems like I hit a nerve with you which is unfortunate. All I can say is I hope to God that your Walker tracks much better than what I have heard listening to music in this hobby of ours. It seems like if that is what it takes, something of that cost to do the job, linear tracking and all, then many of us probably should stick to Cds or be satisfied with the first 3 songs of an LP. You should not have to be a hi fi engineer to set up a table. I am sure you just about have to be close one to set up your table.

Don't make it sound like I do not know what I hear. I bet there are many that read these threads that can identify with me as well as yourself. I know that I certainly do not have equipment of the caliber that you have. You do have a great setup. I guess I just expected a little more from my table. It was after I started listening to my table that I really started to hear the tracking error in more expensive tables. The one table that I did hear that was pretty decent was a Basis but even that was not perfect to my ears either. It tracked great, but it certainly was not the same at the end as it was in the beginning of the side. It did sound great though, something I could probably live with, still fairly expensive. CDS are sounding much better, even to the point that many are selling off their analog gear. I am not to that point as I can hear the difference, I just wish it was better and did not take $$$$$$ of analog gear to do the trick.
Last response, Tzh21y you hit NO nerve. You are simply, a waist of my time and typing! As I said believe what you will.
Guys - (Koegz/Tzh21y) the inner groove thing is not the debate here. Thanks for your comments but lets move on as Koetz has done.

The last discounted LPs that I purchased at the dawn of the CD era were mostly marked $5.99-- about $15 in 2010 dollars. Today most of the discounted new issues at the indie store are very close to this price, and some are cheaper. Not bad considering the limited economies of scale today as compared to the early days of high-volume pressings. Audiophile labels are another matter...a new market.

Generally speaking SQ of new pop issues is good. Moreover the playback capability of an average TT rig and audio system today is better than an average rig in days of yore. Thus the overall quality of the LP experience is generally higher today regardless of pressing. The greater problem is that as the mainstream has deserted the LP, the vinyl phenomenon has been ceded to a smaller group of audiophiles whose obsessiveness with equipment sometimes tastes like sucking lemon juice.

Tzh21y, There are several high-quality linear arms(e.g. Trans-Fi and ET)that will solve your inner groove problem at reasonable cost. At RMAF I did not hear a single pivot arm that markedly surpassed the experience of my linear arm.
I have never used or heard a linear arm but I have heard that they track much better than pivot arms. I have also read that they are a pain. Why is that?

Also, is there an audible difference in fidelity with regards to outer grooves and inner grooves? I have read that even if you can get the table/tonearm/cartridge/stylus to track a record perfectly that there is an audible difference in fidelity regarding the inner /outer grooves. I have never really made it beyond the inner groove distortion to be able to clearly hear the audible difference in outer and inner grooves. I just know that the records I listen to do not sound uniform as they get to the inner grooves. They sound great to about the end of the 3rd song usually based on 4 songs on a side, always deteriorating as the tonearm tracks across the record. I have been thinking of getting a new cartridge with low output and a better phono pre but I am trying to justify the expense. As I eluded to earlier, a Walker table with a linear tracking arm is probably getting close to as good as it gets in LP playback. It is just not in the realm of possibility for me.
Apparently, the thread has spawned The Great Turntable Tracking Debate. In the realm of pivot style tone arms, is there any manufacturer who makes a pivoting cartridge joint
to offset the decreasing groove circumference ? Would this solve the problem ?
With a linear arm it is critical for the air manifold to be exactly parallel with the plinth and wand length to be set so the stylus will obtain perfect zenith. If this set-up is not achieved then the linear arm will perpetuate a constant tracking error all across the LP and sound worse toward the center as the radius of the groove tightens. With exacting set-up the arm will sound the same all across the radius.

IMO it is amusing to hear staunch advocates of long pivot arms claim that you can hear the roughly 1% reduction in tracking error that a 12" pivot arm achieves relative to a conventional pivot arm, while also maintaining that the further reduction of .3%-1% down to zero available with a linear arm is unremarkable.
good question garn
"is there any manufacturer who makes a pivoting cartridge joint
to offset the decreasing groove circumference ?"
Garn 509, yes there is! The Sakura RS 1 has just that feature. Have heard one and it sounded incredible all the way through the album side. But at 1400 bucks for an arm that is not fastened in place ,has no adjustment and wires more delicate than an 85 year old womans bones, is a pain to install a cartridge on and just does not look worth the price. Although not for the squeamish or the fiddling tweaker its abilities heard with ones ears defies what ones eyes see. Myself personally I just could not bring myself to put out 1400 bucks for it.
Maybe audiofeil could chime in here as he may have more insight and knowledge of this arm through his experience. Put down the bong Bill!
has2be --Could the cartridge pivot from above on the mounting bracket?
The cartridge is mounted to a small bracket for lack of a better term . The bracket swivels as it is mounted at one spot or a pivot if you will to the arm. I still cant beleive how good it sounded or how well it tracked,but as I said before I just could not see 1400 bucks worth of product and quite fragile wiring by its design.It is not mounted either it literally is just set in place. The actual arm wand is very strong and stiff as it is actually a small I beam to eliminate flexing leaving that to the swivel. However if I was wealthy enough that 1400 was nothing to me I would undoubtabley buy one. I have a freind who uses it while his 4000 dollar arm now sits idle. He has had to rewire it twice at 250 a pop yet it does not deter him. Its kind of eclectic, and cheap in appearnce, big on price in my opinion anyway ,but it sure sounds like its worth more. Google Sakura RS1 and you can see it and read a review on it.
Garn 509, the model is actually RS A1. I missed the A in the model # ! Cheers
funny, i was just reading how cassette tape is making a comeback because it is a less costly way to do analog. many (ok a few) artists are also fed up or locked out of doing a lp vynal release because of cost, so they are returning to the lowly cassette- anyone on board? i know i am not !! lol
Has2be- I agree that the RSA 1 looks flimsy. $1400 is not extreme for a tonearm; it may be extreme for that tonearm. Have you clicked up Wilson Benesch ? I hope these arms help those seeking perfect tracking. !
I will check it out
I bought the bulk of my over-1000 LP collection during the 80's and early 90's so I can just sit back and utter a deep Lewis Black-like "BBWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA"-sorry!