A mechanical watch is so much more than just an instrument that tells the time. It is an expression of style and personality, because let’s be honest, if it were just for time keeping purposes, there are better options out there. The same can be said for people that listen to vinyl records.
In this day and age, where the development of music is focused primarily on digital progress, it is a distinctive choice to listen to music via a needle and vinyl. Let’s see if the parallel between these two items ends there or if there are more similarities between them.
Warm vs. better
Vinyl purists always claim that playing a record on vinyl offers a warmer sound, making it better to listen to. However, is this really true? Not really… at least not theoretically. Digital music offers a bigger dynamic range which means the difference between the loudest and softest sounds is bigger. So, in theory, the potential for digital music to sound better is pretty high.
But is this “warm sound” business complete nonsense? No, it’s not actually. Although LPs will never sound technically better than a CD or high-resolution digital file, their sound is one of the flaws that make people love them so much. The so-called “warmer sound” from vinyl is, in fact, a very subtle distortion effect that many people happen to love. This effect is especially suited to genres like jazz and soul that benefit from a nice, warm sound. In all fairness, the original analogue tapes don’t sound like that; they sound more like a well-mastered CD.
Does this mean that the one thing people love about vinyl is actually a flaw? Yes, and that’s where it gets interesting. It’s not only because people feel the sound is better, which is debatable, it’s the story behind vinyl records that makes people embrace this flaw. It makes them imperfect in a real way and it’s a good story, something we can grasp and something we can relate to. Vinyl records have had remarkable success in recent years. Not only do vinyls come with an authentic story, they also have accompanying rituals that people love. As a result, 2015 vinyl sales were the highest they’ve been in 28 years; clearly people love this story tremendously.
With vinyl, unlike Spotify, Qobuz, or Tidal, you have a true music ritual. Not only can you hold the music in your hands, but you can also choose the speed, smell the vinyl, brush off the dust, turn on the turntable, enjoy the artwork, and read the liner notes properly while listening to the album. Skipping a track is not an option; you have to listen to the album from start to finish to experience the full story the artist has created.
Mechanical vs. cheap accuracy
It’s that emotion that translates directly to the world of mechanical watches. The wearer of a mechanical watch has a direct relationship with the story of the individual watch and the watchmaker that made it. That connection is so much deeper than the simple telling of time. The ritual of putting on a watch, adjusting the time, winding it, and wearing it means that the wearer develops a direct relationship with time itself. If you don’t wear or wind the watch, it stops telling you the time.
Of course, you don’t just look at your watch to check the time. How many times do you look at your watch simply because you love the look of it? You can say the same about record players. These are true pieces of art not only because of the technique, but also because they look great. For watches and for record players, you do not need a big budget to enjoy them properly. Similar to watches, you can choose a budget ranging from a couple hundred euros to several hundred thousand euros. Money doesn’t have to limit your finding a personal connection to a great looking watch or record player.
And who cares if facts suggest some other watch is better than yours? It’s not perfection that defines us, it’s perfection within the human standard that defines us, and human perfection comes with flaws. It’s exactly these flaws that create beautiful stories. As Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, stated, “To hell with facts! We need stories!”
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