Although digital CD and MP3 technology has dominated the music industry for decades, a small group of dedicated audiophiles in the country still have an ear for the 12-inch black plastic magic of old-school vinyl records.
While many music enthusiasts think records have been out of production since the rise of digital music, a visit to three low-profile but well-known record stores in Greater Tainan proves otherwise.
The Wien Disk Shop is a record store where vinyl junkies can find titles from all genres, including jazz, classical and pop.
Specializing in classical music, the Hosheng Acoustic Equipment and Vinyl Record store houses between 30,000 and 40,000 high-quality vinyls. Famed for its extensive collection, Hosheng draws not only local vinyl fans, but enthusiasts from all parts of the country.
Unlike the established Wien and Hosehng stores, Keng Che Yu Chi Tien is a relative newcomer to the vinyl scene that opened recently and only sells consigned records.
According to one vinyl collector, surnamed Chen (陳), while the sound quality of digital recordings is said to be “time-resistant,” it is too clean and has an unstable performance when reproducing high-pitched sounds.
“Vinyl albums have a frequency of up to 28,000 hertz, while a CD can only make it to 20,000 hertz at most. It is that huge difference of 8,000 hertz that affects the tonal quality of digital recordings,” Chen said.
Another vinyl enthusiast in his 50s, also surnamed Chen (陳), said vinyl albums had been etched in his memory since childhood.
“In my younger days, I tried to follow the digital trend in the music industry and converted into a CD listener. I only returned to the embrace of vinyl albums, the high definition and warm sound of the black plastic, after a friend of mine brought me back onto the scene,” he said.
“Listening to vinyl records is not just about enjoying high-quality music, but also a way of reliving my old memories,” he added.
Album prices vary significantly and are determined by the records’ quality, with those in poor condition fetching between NT$200 and NT$300, while better-quality records sell for between NT$300 and NT$400.
Vinyl records that are in perfect condition, such as a three-in-one collection of Bach works for solo cello and solo violin, are rare and can fetch as much as NT$20,000.
However, buying the record is just one facet of the vinyl junkie’s habit, as several pieces of equipment are required before they can sit down for a proper listening experience, including a turntable, an amplifier — not the ordinary kind, but one with phono inputs — and styli.
While some CD listeners have attempted to dabble in vinyl, the effort of getting all the proper equipment and a failure to pinpoint the differences in sound quality between vinyl records and digital recordings often result in many halfway dropouts, some dedicated audiophiles said.