Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Vinyl Feature: 3 Inches of Blood/Angelus Apatrida's Self-Titled Split


Recently, I found myself in deep discussion with a friend about the supposed merits of vinyl, specifically modern vinyl. Some portray the medium as the path to nirvana, proudly proclaiming that every record sonically outperforms CDs, while others realize that it depends, largely, on mastering. And don't even get me started on poorly pressed vinyl with low bitrate MP3s slapped onto the wax--it sounds like total shit, as you probably expect.

Well, that got me thinking. Sadly enough, I'm no stranger to truly poor sound, because I've added a number of records to my collection over the years that I, quite literally, wanted to toss out of a window upon first listen. Thinking back on one in particular, it was a good learning experience and taught me a valuable lesson--to approach 7-inch records with caution--but I never quite got over the trauma. Yes, it's been languishing in my collection, and there's no urgency to play the damn thing ever again.

The record in question, 3 Inches of Blood and Angelus Apatrida's split, is a hot mess. It's fuzzy, grainy, and generally not an enjoyable listen, so, if you're one who values the extolled virtues of vinyl and "perfect" sound quality, this won't be up your alley. It doesn't help, either, that it's a 7-inch record. More often than not, those aren't particularly good examples of sound quality, anyway.

As my friend put it--in a text message, no less--people seem to flock to records like this, despite the awful sound because it's, well, vinyl:
"They're probably caught up in their ideals of vinyl, and what they think it was. It's more of a worshipped form, rather than taken seriously for what it's worth, sort of like religion."
3 Inches of Blood's side of the split.
Again, that got me thinking. I could take a poorly mastered record and a wonderful sounding CD, and I have no doubt that brainwashed vinyl lovers would pick the wax every single time. Of course, it goes both ways, too. A poorly mastered CD against a nicely mastered vinyl? Hell, yes. Give me the vinyl.

The point here is to avoid 3 Inches of Blood and Angelus Apatrida's split, right? Obviously, but it's more than that. Not all vinyl sounds better than CDs, even though vinyl addicts would like you to think otherwise, and not all CDs sound better than vinyl. In the end, it varies greatly depending on mastering, production, and a myriad of other odds and ends.

Just some food for thought.

-TMA

3 comments:

  1. Very good, thoughtful piece. Having made a few, the mastering process matters but the source is key - the record can never sound better than the original file sent to the vinyl mastering source. I would venture that nearly 100% of these are now submitted via digital file and, as you know and experienced, quality can vary wildly. I'd go a step further and speculate that many, many, many of vinyl's devotees do not even own a turntable but instead listen via free downloads that accompany most record purchases. I love to hold and admire the format but when it becomes more of a possession than an active, audible experience it loses a hell of a lot.

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    1. I can always count on your expert insight. The original files, above all, are the most important, vinyl or CD.

      Good point re: vinyl being more of a collector's item nowadays. Far too many colored editions and weird gimmick. Gotta get back to the basics: great sounding, black records.

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  2. I bought CROWPATH's 'Red On Chrome' - mainly because I like the album and the band sort of fizzled out a while back. I was thinking, hey, its a vinyl on 200g too - something I'd never experienced before. I thought that it'd sound decent. Boy, I was wrong. The album somehow is completely flattened to hell sound-wise, converted to Mono for some reason (only something I experienced on lathe) and I just didn't know what to say about it. You are right though, I'd probably pick Vinyl over CD anyhow - any day. Just because I like the physical merits of it. Fells more substantial.

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