Blue Tracks on Vinyl

Classic jazz and blues sound better on vinyl. The tracks really come to life when a diamond stylus extracts them from the grooves on an LP.

Photograph of a vinyl LP record and turntable needle.

I know what you’re thinking… but don’t try to talk me out of this. I worked in electronics and computers, including a long stint at a company that wrote audio software used by big name studios and musicians. I’ve seen the comparisons of frequency response, sign-to-noise, distortion, and that hilarious comedy duo “Wow and Flutter”. They all show, conclusively, how analog recording and playback can’t possibly match digital technology. And they’re all irrelevant, because the equipment that matters is my ears and my brain.

Sure, vinyl recordings can’t really deliver 10 Hz. But neither could the instruments and amplifiers that made these recordings. The E string on a bass fiddle or Fender electric (which I once played) is about 40 Hz. Back in the day, amplifiers with 15 inch paper-cone woofers could deliver that note, but anything you felt below it was just the floor rumbling as a bus went by outside.

Nobody but kids and dogs hears tones above about 12,000 Hz, and vinyl can go well beyond that. Yes, I know: harmonics, subconsciously perceived, interacting with audible frequencies, Fourier transforms, Nyquist criteria, yada yada yada. It doesn’t add up to a hill of beans, musically speaking. I spin an LP and it sounds real. End of discussion.

I tried to capture my affinity for vinyl and turntables in a photo. It turned out to be tough to get what I initially had in mind because of the way the tiny grooves reflect light – not in the way, or the direction, you might expect. I used an extension tube to get really close, a white light and a little blue one, a “focus stack” of about 40 images (for extreme depth of field) and some tricks with layers. I wanted this cool technology to look modern, not ‘vintage’. In the end I got something I was happy with. Hope someone likes it.

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